Disney's Hollywood Studios
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Hollywood Studios Overview
When Disney's Hollywood Studios opened on May 1, 1989, chairman Michael Eisner declared "Welcome to the Hollywood that never was and always will be." Sounds great, doesn't it? Here's what he should have said: "Welcome to the theme park that Disney slapped together the minute Universal Studios announced plans for a park in Florida." They did beat out Universal which opened in 1990, but the then "Disney MGM Studios" was sorely lacking in attractions and was far from a full day park.
At the time, the only attractions were the Great Movie Ride, The Backlot Tour (which was the Backstage Studio Tour), Magic of Disney Animation and the Monster Sound Show (which later morphed into Sounds Dangerous). (Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular was still a work in progress and didn't open until August.) Yessiree, it was a thrill a minute with all of 4 attractions. They did have an evening fireworks show "Sorcery in the Sky" which debuted a year later. By then Star Tours had opened.
Over the years, attractions and shows have come and gone. It wasn't until Sunset Boulevard opened in 1994 featuring Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that Disney's Hollywood Studios finally started to come into its own. This section is also home to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster which opened in 1999. Pixar Place's Toy Story Mania! is one of the best (and busiest) attractions in Disney World.
One great show that has survived since 1991 is the Beauty and the Beast stage show. Unfortunately, the equally wonderful Hunchback of Notre Dame stage show did not last.
Originally, the Earffel Tower was the park's icon, only to be outdone by yet another oversized hat, the 122 ft tall Sorcerer's Mickey's Wizard Hat. You can't miss it, they plunked it right in front of the replica Grauman's Chinese Theater.
Disney's Hollywood Studios is a mixed bag when it comes to attractions for little kids. There's the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid", "Disney Junior - Live On Stage", "Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D" and the aforementioned "Beauty and the Beast" as well as the 'Honey I Shrunk the Kids" Playground. There are also a ton of character meet and greets. On the flip side, the length of most of the shows and attractions will make some kids (including those over 21) start to squirm in their seats.
Speaking of which, Disney's Hollywood Studio's "Fantasmic!" is based on the super popular Disneyland show. Unfortunately, it's not identical and the best scene from the California version is missing from this one. If you've never seen the one in CA, you'll probably think it's fantastic. For those of us who have seen both, I won't spoil it but, in comparison, you wish they left it alone. They also added the "Lights, Camera, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" from Disneyland Paris.
Disney's Hollywood Studios is home to perennial special events like Stars Wars Weekends and the best, Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights for the holidays. Fortunately, the latter isn't just a weekend event but covers the full Christmas season. If you're in town when it's there, you definitely don't want to miss it.
One thing that's consistently noteworthy at Disney's Hollywood Studios are the great restaurants. The Hollywood Brown Derby is a detailed replica of its legendary namesake and is fantastic. At the 50's Prime Time Cafe you're back at "Mom's" (if you grew up in the 50's), with black and white TV's showing highlights of sitcoms from that era. Be prepared as they do give you a hard time if you don't eat all of your veggies or put your elbows on the table. It's all part of the shtick. If you don't like that sort of thing, you may want to go elsewhere.
At the Sci-Fi Drive In, you're seated in convertibles watching clips of some pretty cheesy horror flicks. Then there's Mama Melrose's Ristorante. Just walking in and getting a whiff of the wood fired pizza oven makes you hungry. Hollywood and Vine is a buffet with a character breakfast and lunch. As always, the usual assortment of counter service restaurants are everywhere.
There you have it. A little history of "Disney's Hollywood Studios" from its less than stellar opening to the theme park of today. In this case, it didn't start with a Mouse but with a rival studio opening a theme park just a few miles from Mickey's door.
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