An actual miniature lake near near the middle of the Studios, to the left of Hollywood Boulevard, Echo Lake pays homage to its real-life California counterpart, which served as the backdrop to many early motion pictures. It also provides a visual transition from Hollywood Boulevard’s retro theming to Streets of America’s film-set ambience.
The real Echo Lake is a man-made lake near downtown Los Angeles and served as the background for many early silent film comedies. Just like the park's Hollywood Boulevard, the buildings that surround Echo Lake are from Los Angeles. Hollywood & Vine is modeled after a cafeteria that was within walking distance of all the movie-making action before it became the Hollywood Branch Post Office, which burnt down in 1980. The 50's Prime Time CafÃ© is influenced by residential buildings by Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Pierre Koenig. The Streamline Moderne theater and adjacent buildings that house the American Idol Experience are based on NBC Radio City (1938) and CBS Columbia Square (1938).
At that time, Los Angeles was filled with what is known interchangeably as programmatic architecture, California Crazy or a "duck". A building of this type, as defined by architect Robert Venturi, is one whose "exterior is in the shape of the everyday object they relate to" and is "a building in which the architecture is subordinate to the overall symbolic form". The boat you see in the corner of Echo Lake is a tribute to a 1930 film called Min and Bill that won Marie Dressler an Academy Award. The dinosaur at the other end of Echo Lake is Gertie, an animated character who toured along with Winsor McCay on the vaudeville circuit in 1914. His hand painted film was a huge influence on Walt Disney.
As you walk away from Echo Lake you also move away from the architectural history of Los Angeles and into a studio back lot. Things become less real. The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is just a backdrop. The Star Tours faÃ§ade is reproduction of the Ewok Village movie set, with no pretension of being anything other than a stage. And the Backlot Express is a prop storage area.