Disney Theme Parks Wiki
Disney's Hollywood Studios


May 1, 1989


135 acres (546,000 m2)

Disney's Hollywood Studios is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. Spanning 135 acres (546,000 m²) in size, its theme is show business, drawing inspiration from the heyday of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. The third park built at the resort, it opened on May 1, 1989 as Disney-MGM Studios.

In 2010, the park hosted approximately 9.6 million guests, ranking it the fifth-most visited amusement park in the United States, and eighth-most visited in the world.

The park is represented by the Sorcerer's Hat, a stylized version of the magical hat from Fantasia. It replaced the Earful Tower as the park's icon in 2001.


"The world you have entered was created by the Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood--not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was--and always will be.” --Michael Eisner, May 1, 1989


The idea that led to Disney’s Hollywood Studios began at its sister park, Epcot. A team of Imagineers led by Marty Sklar and Randy Bright had been given an assignment to create two new pavilions for the park's Future World section. The fruits of the brainstorming sessions were the Wonders of Life pavilion and the Great Movie Ride pavilion. The second of the two was to have sat between the Land pavilion and the Journey Into Imagination pavilion, and was to look like a soundstage backdrop, with a movie theater-style entrance in the middle. The actual attraction is very similar to the plans for the equivalent at Epcot, only, when newly-appointed CEO Michael Eisner saw the plans for the pavilion, he requested that, instead of placing the ride in an already existing park, it should be surrounded by a brand new theme park which extended the showbiz, Hollywood, and entertainment theme.

Production History[]

The Walt Disney Company's original concept of the Disney-MGM Studios was to operate it as a full fledged television and motion picture production facility, not just a theme park. In 1988, among the first feature-length movies filmed at the facility, prior to its completion and opening as a theme park, were Ernest Saves Christmas and Newsies. When the park opened in 1989, the studio/production facilities housed two major components, the first of which was Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, where Disney produced a number of projects, including Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear, and sequences from other 1990s-early 2000s Disney animated features. The second, larger component was Walt Disney Studios Florida, which consisted of three sound stages used for various Disney projects including The Disney Channel's Mickey Mouse Club, Teen Win, Lose or Draw, and Adventures in Wonderland. Several third party productions also used the Studios, including Superboy (first season only, from 1988–1989), Thunder in Paradise, a revival of Let's Make a Deal, special broadcasts of Wheel of Fortune, and airplane interior sequences for the feature film Passenger 57. In addition, a number of music videos and several tapings for World Championship Wrestling (as well as live broadcasts of WCW Monday Nitro) were also shot there. Even The Post Group had a Florida-based post-production facility located on the Studio lot throughout the 1990s. All these production and post-production facilities were constructed to be an integral part of the theme park's Backstage Studio Tour as well.

During the closing credits of the Mickey Mouse Club (later, MMC in its final seasons) and Adventures in Wonderland, the lit Disney-MGM water tower appeared on the screen and one of the cast said, "(insert show title here) was taped at the Disney-MGM Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida." Disney management (including CEO Michael Eisner) decided to downsize Disney's Florida operations by closing the animation studio, laying off personnel, and moving the operations to the main animation studio in Burbank, California.

A radio studio is also located on the lot, appropriately behind Sounds Dangerous. It originally housed the first children's radio network Radio Aahs which rented the studio. Later, Disney founded Radio Disney and essentially drove Radio Aahs out of business. Radio Disney decided it was no longer profitable to operate in Florida so they moved all of their shows from the Disney-MGM Studios to the Radio Disney headquarters in Dallas, Texas. The once bustling Disney Studios Florida radio studios are now used as remote studios for radio shows that are visiting Disney or the Orlando area and need a broadcast facility.

MGM Litigation[]

In 1985, Disney and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer entered into a licensing contract that gave Disney worldwide rights to use the MGM name and logo for a yet-to-be-built backlot studio theme park.

Disney's plans for what became the Disney-MGM Studios theme park at Walt Disney World Resort included working production facilities for movies and television shows and a satellite animation studio, which began operation prior to the park's debut. In 1988, MGM/UA responded by filing a lawsuit that claimed Disney violated the 1985 agreement by operating a working movie and television studio at the Florida resort.

In 1989, the theme park opened adjacent to the production facilities as the Disney-MGM Studios. The only affiliation MGM had to the park was the original licensing agreement that allowed Disney to use the MGM brand name and lion logo in marketing, plus separate contracts that allowed specific MGM content to be used in the Great Movie Ride.

Disney later filed a countersuit, claiming that MGM/UA and MGM Grand, Inc. had conspired to violate Disney's worldwide rights to the MGM name in the theme park business and that MGM/UA would harm Disney's reputation by building its own theme park at the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

On October 23, 1992, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe ruled that Disney had the right to continue using the Disney-MGM Studios name on film product produced at the Florida facility, and that MGM Grand had the right to build a Las Vegas theme park using the MGM name and logo as long as it did not share the same studio backlot theme as Disney's property. The 33-acre (130,000 m2) MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park opened in 1993 at the Las Vegas site and closed permanently in 2000.

Disney was contractually prohibited from using the Disney-MGM Studios name in certain marketing contexts like the free Walt Disney World vacation-planning kit; in those instances the park was called The Disney Studios.

Name Change[]

On August 9, 2007, Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton announced that the theme park would be re-branded as Disney's Hollywood Studios in January 2008. In announcing the name change, Crofton said, "The new name reflects how the park has grown from representing the golden age of movies to a celebration of the new entertainment that today's Hollywood has to offer--in music, television, movies and theater."

The Florida resort later announced that the new name would be effective January 7, 2008, adding that it would take several more months to change all affected signage.

Themed Areas[]

The park consists of six themed areas. Unlike the other Walt Disney World parks, Disney's Hollywood Studios does not have a defined layout; it is more a mass of streets and buildings that blend into each other, much like a real motion picture studio. The layout of the park, however, did have an interesting design characteristic. The plaza at the end of Hollywood Boulevard featured a large Hidden Mickey, which was visible in aerial photographs of the park and on the park's early guide maps. However, construction and other changes to the park have eliminated much of this image.

Annual Events[]

Disney's Hollywood Studios hosts a number of events during the year that often draw thousands of fans to the park.

  • ESPN The Weekend (late winter) features commentators from the Disney-owned cable sports channels as well as sports celebrities.
  • Star Wars Weekends (May - June) bring Star Wars fans and celebrities together for special park events. Running Fridays-Sundays throughout June, they feature the 501st Legion (a worldwide Star Wars costuming group) parading through the park in Stormtrooper costumes, several Star Wars actors appearing each weekend for photos and autographs, Jedi Training Academy classes for younger guests, and other activities.

One former event of note was the ABC Super Soap Weekend. Scheduled in November, the event paid tribute to the legions of fans of soap operas from ABC. Guests could meet stars from All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital. The event's final presentation was in November 2008, with ABC instead planning to schedule multiple, smaller regional events around the country for its fans.

Sources & External Links[]