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." The design of the park entrance is based on the 1935 Streamline Moderne Pan Pacific Auditorium façade in Los Angeles, and the entry plaza souvenir and information building is a reproduction of the 1936 Hollywood historic landmark Crossroads of the World.
Disney MGM Studios (as it was named upon opening) was the third park to open at the Walt Disney World Resort. Many feel that it was sorely lacking in attractions and was far from a full day park. At the time, the only attractions were the Great Movie Ride (now Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway), 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.) They did have an evening fireworks show "Sorcery in the Sky" which debuted a year later. By then Star Tours had opened.
Real structures that still stand in Hollywood are paid tribute, including the corner entry of Mickey’s of Hollywood which is based on the 1926 Baine Building at 6601 Hollywood Boulevard (named for the businessman who originated the Hollywood Christmas Parade), and Keystone Clothiers (named for the early Hollywood studio of Mack Sennett) is based on the 1933 Owl Drug Company building at 6382 Hollywood Boulevard.
Other buildings around Los Angeles also provided inspiration – Trolley Car Café, the former location of L.A. Prop Cinema Storage, is derived from the 1907 Mission Revival style Ivy Substation in Culver City, and Adrian and Edith’s Head to Toe (named for costume designers Adrian, and Edith Head) is styled after the Chapman Park Market Building at 3451 West 6th Street in Los Angeles.
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.
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, plunked right in front of the replica of Grauman's Chinese Theater. The Earffel Tower and Sorcerer Mickey's Hat were removed in 2015 and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror became the centerpiece of the park.
Disney's Hollywood Studios is a mixed bag when it comes to attractions for little kids. There's Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy, Disney Junior Dance Party!, Jim Henson's Muppet*Vision 3-D. 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, the show at Disney's Hollywood Studios is not identical to the Disneyland version, but it's still a great nighttime show.
In 2005, they added the Lights, Camera, Action! Extreme Stunt Show from Disneyland Paris, but that attraction was retired to make way for the park's largest expansion to date with the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
On June 30, 2018, Toy Story Land opened. As guests walk into this land, they immediately feel like they are the size of a toy as the setting is in Andy's backyard. This land introduced two new attractions: Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers, along with dining locations and shops. Toy Story Mania!, which has been in Disney’s Hollywood Studios since 2008, was also integrated into the land with a newly reimagined entrance. Toy Story Mania! was formerly part of Pixar Place, which closed with the opening of Toy Story Land.
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, whip out your cell phone, or put your elbows on the table. It's all part of the shtick. If you don't like that sort of thing, let your server know that you just want to enjoy your meal without any of the antics.
At the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, 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 & Vine is a buffet with a character breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 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 opening to the theme park of today.