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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Disney Hollywood Studios at 30 and What Lies Ahead

by Ray Keating
April 30, 2019

I admit it. Disney Hollywood Studios has long been my favorite park at Walt Disney World, to the bewilderment of some family members. So, I understand the act of celebrating the 30thanniversary of Hollywood Studios on May 1st.

When it opened on May 1, 1989, it was called Disney-MGM Studios, with Disney cutting a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to use its logo and name. While the idea for the park had been in the works, it got fast tracked by then-CEO Michael Eisner with the announcement that Universal Studios Florida was going to be a thing. In fact, Disney-MGM Studios opened a year before Universal. The MGM deal came to an end in January 2008, with the park renamed Disney Hollywood Studios.

On May 1, 1989, the park only had two rides – The Great Movie Ride and the Studio Backlot Tour. However, the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular opened in August of that year, and four months later came Star Tours. A couple of years later, Muppet-Vision 3D opened. 

But a big jump forward came in 1994, with Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the new Sunset Boulevard, and reconstruction of the Theater of the Stars. Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith arrived in 1999.

Other changes, of course, occurred. But the next major leap was the opening of Toy Story Land on June 30, 2018. That was the first step in a dramatic series of upcoming changes. Toy Story Land in fact was the largest expansion in Disney Hollywood Studios’ history. As Disney noted at the time: 

“After months of anticipation, guests can now enjoy everything Toy Story Land has to offer – on a daily basis! They can step into the land and explore the fun that Woody, Jessie and many other “Toy Story” friends are having in Andy’s backyard. Guests can glide along with Slinky aboard Slinky Dog Dash, a family coaster Andy built from his Mega Coaster Play Kit that whisks guests high above and around a scattering of Andy’s favorite toys – including Wheezy and Rex. Families can take a spin on Alien Swirling Saucers, play their way through Toy Story Mania!, or stop to enjoy tasty snacks – like Raspberry Lunchbox Tarts and S’mores French Toast Sandwiches – at Woody’s Lunch Box.”

A new nighttime show, “Wonderful World of Animation,” opens on May 1, 2019. Disney describes it this way:

    This excitement-packed projection show will take you on an incredible journey through more than 90 years of Disney and Pixar animation. 
    Watch in wonder as the fa├žade of the Chinese Theatre is magically transformed—displaying this stirring tribute to animation. Behold spectacular sequences celebrating themes like magic, family, adventure, romance and friendship. Each theme is brought to life through unforgettable moments from beloved films—like Sleeping Beauty, The Incredibles, Coco and many more.
    Of course, since we can never lose sight of the fact that it was all started with a mouse, the show fittingly begins and ends with the one-and-only Mickey.

And most anticipated is the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on August 29, 2019, with the “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run” ride, to be followed later in the year by “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.” No date has been set for the opening of the immersive Star Wars hotel.

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be coming to Hollywood Studios in 2020 as well.

Also, on April 30, 2019, Disney announced that a new rodeo-themed table-service restaurant will be coming to Toy Story Land.

So, in a sense, the celebration of Disney Hollywood Studios turning 30 is not just about marking the past 30 years, but it’s also very much about the many attractions and events on the way. Indeed, it’s pretty clear that the best days for Hollywood Studios are in front of us. 

One way to join in the Disney Hollywood Studios celebration would be to tune in to the Disney livestream of the May 1stcelebration, with Disney noting that “we’ll have an exciting ‘look ahead’ at some of the amazing experiences coming to the park as we transform Disney’s Hollywood Studios into a place where you can live your own adventures in your favorite stories.” The livestream can be found at 9:55 EST on Wednesday, May 1, “on the front page of the Disney Park Blog.”

Disney Hollywood Studios arguably stands at the center of the massive investment Disney is making in Walt Disney World, and at least in terms of this particular park, Disney is hitting on all thrusters.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with three books - Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant NovelHeroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story and Shifting Sands: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story published in 2018. In addition, the second edition of Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel was published in January 2019. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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