On May 1, 2019 Walt Disney World’s third theme park will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. This theme park focused on the golden age of Hollywood and all things movie magic has undergone a lot of changes over the past three decades. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to see how far this park has come in its 30 years at the Most Magical Place on Earth!
1989-1999 -- The First Decade
Disney’s Hollywood Studios (originally Disney-MGM Studios) opened on May 1, 1989 with only two attractions, the Studio Backlot Tour and The Great Movie Ride. In addition to these two attractions, the park was also a working movie and television studio and satellite animation studio! Home to the All-New Mickey Mouse Club, where stars like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Ryan Gosling got their start, guests got a behind-the-scenes look at show production while on the Studio Backlot Tour.
As Disney-MGM Studios made its way into the 1990’s, the theme park continued to grow. With the addition of Sunset Boulevard in 1994, guests were able to experience one of Walt Disney World’s most thrilling attractions, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Sections of the backlot tour like the New York streets were opened up to guest access, being renamed the Streets of America. The animation section of the park really started to take off in the 1990’s as well, assisting in the production of several Disney Renaissance classics including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin. The first animated film to be completely produced within Disney-MGM Studios was Mulan which premiered in 1998!
1999-2009 -- The Second Decade
Disney-MGM Studios started off their second decade in a big way with the opening on its second big thrill attraction on Sunset Boulevard, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith on July 29,1999. In 2001 the Sorcerer’s Hat debuted in front of the Chinese Theater inside the park and from that point on it took over as the park icon, replacing the Earffel Tower that previously held that title. Two more full-length animation films, Lilo and Stitch and Brother Bear, were produced at the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio within the park before the Florida animation unit was eventually shuttered in 2004.
The very next year in 2005, the Studio Backlot Tour continue to grow smaller as the Residential Street was demolished to make room for the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. By 2007 a name change for Walt Disney World’s third park was announced, ultimately changing the park name from Disney-MGM Studios to Disney’s Hollywood Studios by January 7, 2008. The final years of the second decade rounded out with the addition of another park favorite attraction, Toy Story Mania opening in the former Stage 1 soundstage.
2009-2019 -- The Third Decade
The biggest decade of change for Disney’s Hollywood Studios had begun and the first step was phasing out the studio and backstage-style attractions around the theme park. The Studio Backlot Tour, an opening day attraction, along with other studio-themed experiences like The American Idol Experience and the Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow closed in 2014. By 2015 the Sorcerer’s Hat, the theme park’s icon for almost 15 years, was removed as well. Since the Earffel Tower disappeared with the closure of the Studio Backlot Tour, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was then left without an official icon for the parks often using the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror as a placeholder.
The closures continued into 2016, removing most of the Streets of America, Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, and all remaining backstage areas to make way for two new lands Toy Story Land set to open in 2018 and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge set to open in 2019. The final opening day attraction the Great Movie Ride was also closed in 2017 to make way for a new experience, the Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. In June of 2018 Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened its first new land, Toy Story Land, which offered two new attractions in the park including a Slinky Dog themed family coaster. Additional family offerings have since emerged in the park including the new Incredible themed area in Pixar Place and an all-new Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy that opened in the end of March 2019. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set to open in August 2019, kicking off Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ fourth decade in a big way!
When Walt Disney created Disneyland, he wanted that park and all future parks to always be growing and changing. I think Disney’s Hollywood Studios has lived up to this request over its past three decades! Between name changes, icon changes, and theming and attraction overhauls, it can sometimes feel like guests today are now experiencing a completely different park. Things are looking hopeful for Walt Disney World’s movie magic-themed park as it heads into its fourth decade! With new lands and new headlining attractions opening in the near future, it’s an exciting time to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios.