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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Disney Studios: Then and Now

As we approach the 20th anniversary of Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly called the Disney-MGM Studios), I wanted to take a look back at the Studios of 1989 and compare it to the Studios of today.

To help me aboard this wayback machine (to borrow a phrase from my friend Lou Mongello), is my wife (the DisneyMommy?) who, during her high school senior week, went to the then-called Disney-MGM Studios only a little over two months after the new park opened (yes, we were dating back then). She has since joined me on all our WDW trips with our family, so she can give a then-and-now perspective.

DisneyDaddy (DD): So what were the Studios like when you went back in 1989?
DisneyMommy (DM): There was not much there. There were no thrill rides like today. There was one tour - the Backlot Tour, and really only one ride - the Great Movie Ride. That was about it. There weren't any shows like Beauty and the Beast or the Voyage of the Little Mermaid. If they had a parade, I don't remember it.

DD: What were the crowds like?
DM: The crowds were horrible. It was only two months old, so everyone wanted to see what was going happening. There were only two major attractions, so there wasn't much to do but stand in line. There were some shops, which were interesting.

DD: What were the main attractions back then?
DM: The backlot tour was the main feature. The lines to get into this tour were VERY long and there were no FastPasses back then. The tour took more than two hours, and it covered a lot more than what the current Backlot Tour shows. Back in 1989, this was supposed to be a working studio, so the Streets of New York were used as sets - guests couldn't walk through them. The Great Movie Ride was the other major attraction. Star Tours and The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular hadn't even opened yet -- they opened a few months later.

DD: Which was your favorite attraction?
DM: I guess the Great Movie Ride. It was ok. It's not one I try to ride these days, though.

DD: Did you see some of the celebrities that visited the park during that first year?
DM: If I did, I didn't know it. All I saw were people in line and it was very hot. Really!

DD: What were your overall impressions in 1989?
DM: I liked it, but I thought it needed more. I liked the Magic Kingdom much better.

DD: Now we go forward about 20 years. We first visited Disney-MGM in the summer of 2007. What had changed since 1989?
DM: Everything! There were so many new attractions, shows, restaurants, shops and more! Now it appealed to a larger audience than just those who were interested in how movies were made. Now the park has a much greater appeal to kids.

DD: We've been to the Studios several times since 2007 and have seen some interesting additions. What's your favorite attraction at the now-called Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS)?
DM: Even though it was one of the original attractions, I still really like Star Tours. When we went in 2007, it was new to me because it hadn't opened by June 1989. I also like to see the kids at the Jedi Training Academy, though I wish (actually we both wish) we could be padawans as well!

DD: Do you think the days of Star Wars Weekends are limited?
DM: I hope not, because it's the one thing that Disney and Lucas have in common. It's "Disney with Ewoks." Parents and grandparents can pass along their love of Star Wars with their kids. Seeing Darth Vader is just as much as a thrill as seeing Mickey Mouse. I think my younger son was more excited to see Jedi Mickey than any other Disney character. I mean it's Mickey Mouse with the Force! What else could be better? There are so many people, young and old, who come in costume to enjoy being a Star Wars fan. What a great way to spend time with friends and family. If we can, I know we'll return again to Star Wars Weekends.

DD: How would you rate the Studios of 1989 compared to the Studios of 2009?
DM: Apples and oranges. The old MGM was a great start, but Disney has taken this park to a whole new level. In 1989, I wasn't all that thrilled with the Studios. It was OK, but there wasn't much there. Now Hollywood Studios has so much that the other parks don't have.

Disney has done a great job of giving each park their own identity with unique experiences. It's like trying to pick a favorite child. There's a serenity at Epcot you won't get anywhere else. The Magic Kingdom has an enormous appeal for children and those children at heart.

DHS is more high-test. Hollywood Studios now is my favorite park, mostly because of what's been added in the past 20 years. There's everything for the younger kids in Playhouse Disney to thrill rides and the Tower of Terror to the shows for older guests - and everybody loves Toy Story Mania. There's even Kim Possible at the studios! All they need now is a Bueno Nacho and more Kim Possible pins!

Hollywood Studios is one of the first parks we head to when our family goes to Walt Disney World.

DD: Readers of the blog know about the DisneyDaddy must-do's. What are the DisneyMommy must-do's at DHS?
DM: Star Tours is a must. It doesn't matter if your a Star Wars fan or not - it's just fun! Also be sure to take some time to visit One Man's Dream to learn about how Walt Disney and his legacy made all this happen. Finally, make sure you get a picture with Sorcerer Mickey - you can find him in the Magic of Disney Animation.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I was on the College Program back in 1990. The Disney-MGM Studios immediately became my favorite park. Two of my roommates worked there. One at Star Tours and the other at the Backlot Tour. The thing I loved the most was the Animation Tour. It was amazing to see the animators at there desks drawing. I still like DHS now, but, I wish they'd make this a working studio again, both live action and animation. Also, wish they had the old Backlot Tour was amazing, long, but amazing. And, finally, I really miss the Monster Sound Stage too.

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