Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Walt Disney first had the idea for a park based on the movies more than 40 years ago, but it wasn’t until May 1989 that the Walt Disney Company unveiled the Disney-MGM Studios, where guests of Walt Disney World could witness the inner workings of living, breathing movie and television production facilities. In January 2008, the theme park underwent a major name change and is now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Through its exciting attractions, like Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, Broadway-caliber shows, and hands-on participation, the Studios not only entertain but educate. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has nearly doubled in size since it opened and it continues to expand.
In October 2001, the Studios became the focal point for the 100 Years of Magic celebration, a 15-month long observance of the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s birthday. The celebration marked the introduction of a new icon, a giant Sorcerer Mickey hat, as well as an in-depth exhibit on the life and times of Walt Disney called One Man’s Dream.
In 2015, the Sorcerer Hat was removed, when Turner Broadcasting entered into an agreement with Disney to sponsor The Great Movie Ride. Later in 2015, the Studios was the subject of exciting news — a new Toy Story Land to be built around Toy Story Mania in Pixar Place (it opened June 30, 2018) and, the biggest news of all… a whole new immersive Star Wars Land (to be known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) will be constructed that will include a cantina, an attraction featuring the Millennium Falcon and more.
In 2017, at the D23 Expo, it was announced that the Great Movie Ride would close to make way for a new Mickey Mouse-themed attraction, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, opening March 4, 2020. The Chinese Theater, however, remains as the park’s icon.
HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD: At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests enter the turnstiles onto the main street, Hollywood Boulevard, where reality blends into fantasy — neon and chrome, art deco and modern architecture dominate the scenery. To enhance the old-time atmosphere, Citizens of Hollywood (formerly known as Streetmosphere) characters like 1930s detectives, starlets and gossip columnists, populate the streets, interacting with the crowds they draw. Colorful shops and restaurants reinforce the feeling of yesteryear — the Hollywood Brown Derby, for example, faithfully recalls the landmark meeting place of the stars, right down to its signature Cobb salad and grapefruit cake.
As you walk down Hollywood Boulevard, immediately in front of you you’ll see a replica of Mann’s Chinese Theater, which formerly housed The Great Movie Ride, but will be the future home of the new attraction, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. In front of the Chinese Theater, you’ll see where numerous celebrities, including Robin Williams, Samuel L. Jackson, Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley have left their handprints in cement.
To the left of the Chinese Theater is Commissary Lane, featuring several dining options, including the ABC Commissary and the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater Restaurant.
ECHO LAKE: The first left you encounter off Hollywood Boulevard takes you past Echo Lake, distinguished by the towering Dinosaur Gertie who serves up snacks and desserts. You pass by a pair of eateries — Hollywood & Vine, home of a character breakfast featuring Princess Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Vampirina and Roadster Racers Goofy, and the ’50s Prime Time Cafe, where the servers treat you like family — right down to scolding you for putting your elbows on the table! As you follow around the lake, you encounter the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, a live show with death-defying stunts. Nearby, Star Tours-The Adventures Continue takes you on an amazing 3D journey to a variety of Star Wars destinations, featuring some of the familiar Star Wars characters. The Hyperion Theater is the location of the For the First Time in Forever Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.
SUNSET BOULEVARD: As you make the first right off Hollywood Boulevard, you come upon Sunset Boulevard, with its specialized shops that feature gifts themed to classic films and Disney characters, especially the Disney Villains highlighted in the night-time show Fantasmic! In fact, the entrance to the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, home to Fantasmic!, is just a little further down Sunset on the right. Light dining and snacks can be found at the outdoor Sunset Ranch Market on the left. Looming menacingly at the end of Sunset Boulevard is the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which dares guests to enter The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Adjacent to the Tower of Terror is the Studios’ thrill ride, the indoor Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Across the street from this coaster is the Theater of the Stars, which houses Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage, a lovely musical stage show based on the hit Disney movie.
ANIMATION COURTYARD: Go through the Studios archway to get to the Animation Courtyard. Here you’ll find Walt Disney Presents, which hosts a character meet-and-greet, as well as an exhibit on the life of Walt Disney and sneak previews of what’s coming next to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You’ll also find the popular Voyage of the Little Mermaid, delighting young and old. Across the Courtyard, children can see their favorite characters like Vampirina, Princess Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins in a character meet-and-greet location. The Disney Junior Live! show closed a few months ago and is slated to open soon with an all-new show featuring Disney Channel characters. The Star Wars Launch Bay, which is currently the primary location within the park for fans to celebrate all things Star Wars, opened late in 2015 in the space formerly occupied by the Magic of Animation Tour. In this multi-sensory space with an outdoor queue area lined with special concept artwork, guests can interact with beloved Star Wars characters, tour galleries featuring treasured memorabilia and replicas of large-scale Star Wars artifacts, and play the latest Star Wars interactive video games, plus have access to special Star Wars merchandise.
GRAND AVENUE: The former Streets of America area in the Studios has been reimagined by Walt Disney Imagineers to become Grand Avenue. The area captures the spirit of present-day Downtown Los Angeles, with vintage office buildings and warehouses representing the different vibrant districts and cultures of the city. The BaseLine Tap House, a cheerful corner pub specializing in beer and wines from California has opened on the site of the former The Writer’s Stop. The former MUPPETS COURTYARD is now part of this area, and the theater has been renamed The Grand Arts Theatre. In the theater, the Muppets star in Muppet*Vision 3D, which combines Jim Henson’s puppets and special effects with Disney’s famous Audio-Animatronics.
TOY STORY LAND: Turn right in front of the Chinese Theater, then make a left to discover the newest land in the park, Toy Story Land. It is home to the extremely popular Toy Story Mania, which opened to the public May 31, 2008. New attractions in the area include Alien Swirling Saucers and Slinky Dog Dash coaster. The Green Army Patrol, Buzz, Jessie the Cowgirl and Woody appear in this area intermittently throughout the day.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens daily at 9 a.m. Closing times vary according to the season, with the park staying open later during summer months and holiday times. Plan to arrive at the Studios about 8:30 a.m., for when the gates open — even though no attractions are accessible until the ropes officially drop, there are usually plenty of characters milling about at the park entrance!
Fantasmic! is shown several times a week at park closing. During busier seasons, Fantasmic! may be performed nightly, or may have two performances nightly. When this is the case, the later show is much less crowded — consider staying for that if it’s practical for you. Or take advantage of the Fantasmic! dining package for special seating, to avoid the long wait. If you don’t mind waiting, though, plan to arrive at the theater early to ensure getting a seat at this popular show.
Visit Shopping the Studios At-A-Glance page for info on the various stores around the park.
Visit Dining at the Studios At-A-Glance for an overview of the main dining options at the park.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has several opportunities for children to meet and greet their favorite characters.
In Celebrity Spotlight, located in the park’s Echo Lake district, Olaf from Disney’s blockbuster film, “Frozen” is living his dream “In Summer,” ready to give warm hugs to all his new friends. On Commissary Lane, guests will find “Mickey and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams.“ Guests first walk the red carpet and step right into a scene with Minnie, where she appears as a Tinsel Town starlet in a ritzy setting straight out of a lush and colorful musical extravaganza. Next, guests can join Mickey in a scene from “Fantasia,” where he’s portraying his iconic role of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. These two meet-and-greet locations opened in early May 2016.
In addition, you’ll find Toy Story characters (Buzz, Woody, Jessie, Green Army Patrol) in Toy Story Land; and the Disney Junior and Star Wars characters in the Animation Courtyard. Consult your daily Times Guide for times and locations.
The HBO series “From the Earth to the Moon”, a 13-part drama, was in production in two soundstages throughout 1997.
Films shot at the studios include: “Marvin’s Room,” “Passenger 57,” “Oscar,” “Quick Change,” “Ernest Saves Christmas,” “Splash Too,” “Separate But Equal” (Emmy-winning TV mini-series, starring Burt Lancaster) and “Instinct.”
Some of the many television shows which have taped at Disney’s Hollywood Studios include: “ER,” “Full House,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “ESPN College Football Awards,” “Talk Soup,” “Step By Step,” “Barbara Walters Special,” and “Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee.”
Among the hundreds of actors, comedians and entertainers who’ve appeared at the studios are: Charlton Heston, Dustin Hoffman, Bette Midler, Warren Beatty, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Hanks, Liza Minnelli, Billy Joel, Christie Brinkley, Michael J. Fox, Samuel L. Jackson, Lou Gossett Jr., Drew Carey, Oprah Winfrey and Susan Lucci.
In July 2017, at the D23 Expo, it was announced that the Great Movie Ride would close on August 13 to make way for a new Mickey Mouse-themed attraction. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be a ride-through attraction in which you’ll step through the movie screen and join Mickey and his friends like never before. The attraction will put you inside the wacky and unpredictable world of a Mickey Mouse Cartoon Short where you’re the star and anything can happen. This zany out-of-control adventure features surprising twists and turns, dazzling visual effects and mind-boggling transformations that happen before your eyes!
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