I was recently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with some friends when lunchtime approached. Since we didn’t have reservations for any of the table-service restaurants, and we really didn’t want to spend that much money anyway, we opted for a counter-service eatery. After a little discussion, we settled on the Backlot Express Restaurant. The Backlot Express Restaurant is sandwiched between the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Star Tours.
The Backlot Express Restaurant is housed in a warehouse/factory. The backstory is that this is the location on the studio lot where movie props are created and stored. Because of this, the atmosphere here is rather chaotic and cluttered.
You enter the restaurant through the primary factory entrance. If you look up when walking through the main doors, you’ll notice signs indicating various departments of the shop.
Through these doors you’ll find the largest dining room of this facility. Although there is a roof over most of this area, there are few walls, allowing for cooling breezes to flow through the shop. This is a wonderful spot to have an alfresco meal when the weather is nice.
As always, there are plenty of details if you take the time to look. One of the largest is the police paddy-wagon used by the weasels in the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.
This area is one of two spots in the building used by the paint department – that’s why it’s an open-air facility. The paint fumes need a way to escape. Scattered around a work table are a number of projects currently under development. For instance, you can see how a small piece of wood has been transformed to look like the spines of several old books.
Also in the paint department is a forklift, carrying two barrels of pigment. If you study the containers closely, you’ll notice the colors are very appropriate for a counter-service restaurant.
Take a look at the ground. In this next picture you can see three different styles of pavement the prop department can recreate.
If you pay attention to the tables and chairs you’ll notice that they are a mismatched collection. This is because this is a warehouse. They are only being stored here until needed for a future film.
An old furnace and boiler sit nearby. These were once used to power much of the factory.
In another section of this shop you’ll find a plastic mold and the capital of a column that it created. This display helps demonstrate that in the movies, what we see is mostly fake and inexpensively produced.
Past the paint department you’ll find the entrance into the food ordering area of the Backlot Express Restaurant. To see the entire menu for this eatery, click here.
There are inside dining rooms to both sides of the ordering counter. To the left we find the Automotive and Stunt section of the warehouse. Since many stunts involve automobiles, it is logical to house these two departments of film making together.
In one section of the shop you’ll discover a number of auto parts and tools scattered around the room. You’ll also find the time clock where workers punch in and out at the beginning and end of their shifts.
Another prop from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” can be found in this section of the warehouse. This small vehicle was driven by actor Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant) when he was driving Benny the Cab. Pictures above the vehicle depict what Bob looked like in real life and then how he looked after Benny was animated around him.
In one corner of the room, the Stunt Office can be found. This is where the stunt coordinator will meticulously plan and choreograph the film’s feats of daring-do.
On the other side of the room, a large chalkboard is used to teach the stunts to the stuntmen and women.
My friend Rob D. pointed out that above the Stunt Office is a prop from the old Horizons attraction. This contraption was the hovercraft seen in the Mesa Verde farming scene.
Scattered around the room and hanging from the ceiling are a number of vehicles used in various action-packed feats of danger. Attached to the wall is a bulletin board with photographs of past stunts.
The beverage and condiment station in this area is designed into automotive tool chests.
To the right of the ordering counter is a large mural painted on canvas. Scenes like these are often used on movie sets to represent the background in a shot.
On the opposite side of this completed mural is another mural in progress. You can see the artist has finished most of the painting but still has some work to do. You will also notice a smaller, similar painting the artist is using as a template.
As you have probably figured out, this area is part of the Paint Department. In the corner of the room is the Paint Department Office. Inside, the busy coordinator has surrounded himself with paint chips, diagrams, and schedules. Next to the office is a sink for the washing of brushes and paint trays.
On the wall are samples of surfaces that can be recreated in paint, a significantly cheaper way of creating textures. Although these samples look unconvincing here, with the proper lighting and through the eye of the camera, they will look quite real.
The beverage and condiment station in this section of the restaurant is located in the paint mixing area. Splatters and drips of color can be seen on many of the surfaces.
The last dining room is found among the many plaster castings that are used in the movies. Similar to using paint to recreate flat surfaces, plaster is an inexpensive way of duplicating three dimensional objects.
Just like the Automotive and Stunt sections of the warehouse are housed together, there is also a reason the Paint and Plaster departments are located adjacent to one another. Paint can turn a boring white structure into a work of art. Take a look at this ship’s masthead and the elaborate Chinese column.
I have to be honest; the Backlot Express Restaurant has never been one of my favorite counter-service eateries. Not because I don’t like the food, but because I really don’t want to eat in a warehouse. However, my opinion has changed somewhat since I took the time to study this location in detail. I have eaten here twice recently with a new eye. Instead of concentrating on the fact that this is a large storage facility, I’m paying attention to the movie magic that is created in places like these at real film and TV studios around the world. There are a lot of details to be discovered here. And it doesn’t take an expert to figure out the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. Anyone who is willing to take the time can find a lot of interesting particulars in the nooks and crannies.
As for the food”¦ On my first “return” visit I had the Grilled Turkey & Cheese – (multigrain ciabatta with arugula and red peppers served with French fries or carrot sticks $8.99). I was very pleased and would definitely recommend this choice to others. On my second “return” visit, I had the Southwest Salad with Chicken (mixed greens, crisp corn tortilla, black bean relish, avocado, and cilantro vinaigrette $8.29). I was extremely happy with this selection and impressed with how much chicken I was given. There was meat in every bite. The dressing was tasty, but didn’t overpower the ample avocado provided. I plan on having this salad again soon.
The Backlot Express Restaurant currently opens daily at 11:30am. Closing time is dictated by the park’s hours. If you want an earlier lunch than the Backlot Express offers, check out the ABC Commissary which often opens at 11am.
When the Walt Disney Studios Paris first opened, it hosted a restaurant by the same name and with similar theming. However, I have been informed by one of my readers that in June 2009 it was renamed and retooled and is now called “Disney Blockbuster CafÃ©.”
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Well that’s it for today’s blog. And it shows, details can make the difference. Because I paid attention to the story the Imagineers were trying to tell at the Backlot Express Restaurant, I have come around and will not hesitate to eat here in the future.
Remember, slow down and smell the roses.