I’m a big fan of Disney’s talented corps of Imagineers!
When they design the theme parks we all enjoy so completely they do a masterful job. Every aspect of the product they create is realistic and immersive.
The Hollywood Studios park is a prime example. When they began laying out the concepts for the new destination, led by Marty Sklar, they had one overriding goal, to create something that showed “tinsel-town” in its glory days.
Rod Serling says it well in his introduction at the Hollywood Tower of Terror: “Hollywood, 1939. Amid the glitz and the glitter of a bustling, young movie town at the height of its golden age . . . “. That was what the Imagineers were striving to build in Florida . . . a way for us to experience exactly how Hollywood felt during that “golden age”.
They began by scouring modern day Hollywood for iconic examples of architecture and began planning the streetscapes around some of their favourites. An article in the Spring 2005 issue of Disney Magazine focuses on five of the buildings they incorporated in their final design. In the words of Imagineer Eric Jacobson, “Ninety percent of what you see on Hollywood Boulevard is inspired by, a modification of, or a copy of a real building in Los Angeles.”
The first building the article describes is Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, located on Hollywood Boulevard beside the Dolby Theatre and across from Disney’s El Capitan Theatre.
The Florida reproduction of that famous Hollywood building houses The Great Movie Ride.
Compare the picture from the article with a picture of the original building I snapped during a 2006 trip to Hollywood.
Have you noticed the building shaped like a camera on Hollywood Boulevard? It’s on your right as you walk toward Grauman’s Theatre. The picture in the magazine article shows the original building, on Wilshire Boulevard, as it appeared in 1938 and compares it to the reproduction that appears in the theme park.
Here’s a picture of that same Los Angeles building as it appears today. I captured the image on Google Earth, check it out, it’s at 5370 Wilshire. These days the building houses a restaurant, but that unique camera faÃ§ade will be with us for a very long time; it’s protected by the Los Angeles Conservancy!
Next on the list is the Max Factor Building on North Highland Avenue. Once again the illustration in the article compares the original building to the reproduction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a remarkable likeness! Check it out when you visit the park; it’s across the street from The Darkroom.
Thanks to Google Earth and their Street View function I was able to get a picture of the building as it looks today. It looks like Max Factor has gone and this building is also now home to a restaurant.
That building just inside the Hollywood Studios gate, the one with Mickey on top of the tower, it is a reproduction of another Hollywood icon, the Crossroads of the World building on Sunset Boulevard.
Here’s what it looks like today!
The last buildings the article looks at are the two stone building on either side of the entrance to The Hollywood Tower of Terror. In the theme park version the tall tower houses restrooms and the shorter building opposite it used to be home for the FastPass dispensers. They are modelled after The Hollywoodland Gates which in 1923 were at the end of Beachwood Drive. Hollywoodland was a new real estate development being built in the 1920’s and there was a huge sign erected up in the hills behind the gate. The “land” portion of the sign fell down, leaving the iconic Hollywood sign we all recognize today.
Of course Hollywoodland is fully developed these days, but those old stone gates remain. You can find them near the corner of North Beachwood Drive and Belden Drive.
One last structure I’d like to look at is the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That magnificent structure that first greets you, built in the Streamline Moderne style.
It is also based on a Los Angeles building, The Pan Pacific Auditorium at 7600 West Beverly Boulevard.
Once again the Imagineers created a remarkable likeness!
Unfortunately, the auditorium no longer exists, it was consumed in a fire in 1989. Today the property is home to a sports field!
If you want to read more, the entire article from 2005 is included below. Click on each of the three images to read many fascinating details about each of the five buildings.
The Hollywood Studios park is currently transforming in a big way with the addition of new areas based on the Star Wars movies and the Toy Story movies.
While I’m very much looking forward to enjoying each of these new lands, I hope that we never lose that feeling of “glitz and glitter” the Imagineers created along Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. When some of the talented “streetmosphere” performers appear among those classic buildings it makes me want to sing “Hooray for Hollywood”.
I really enjoy the “golden age of Hollywood” feeling I get when I visit the park!