Formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios, Disney's Hollywood Studios was hatched from a corporate rivalry and wild, twisted plot. At a time when the Disney Company was weak and fighting off greenmail--hostile takeover bids--Universal's parent company at the time, MCA, announced they were going to build an Orlando clone of their wildly successful Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. Behind the scenes, MCA was courting the real-estate rich Bass brothers of Texas, hoping to secure the brothers' investment in the project. The Bass brothers, however, defected to the Disney camp, helped Disney squelch the hostile takeovers, and were front and center when Michael Eisner suddenly announced that Disney would also build a movie theme park in Florida. A construction race ensued, with Universal and Disney each intent on opening first. Universal, however, was in the middle of developing a host of new attraction technologies and was no match for Disney, which could import proven concepts and attractions from its other parks. In the end, Disney's Hollywood Studios opened more than a year before Universal Studios Florida.
The End of the MGM Connection
So what happened to "Disney-MGM Studios"? Disney purchased Pixar Animation Studios after partnering with the company on a series of highly successful films, including Toy Story; A Bug's Life; Monsters, Inc.; Finding Nemo; and The Incredibles. The cost of continuing an association with MGM, coupled with Pixar's arguably greater popularity, probably convinced Disney to rename the theme park. But rather than replace MGM with Pixar, Disney decided that Hollywood represented a more generic reference to moviemaking. In practice, however, many folks drop the Hollywood entirely, referring to the park simply as "Disney Studios" or "The Studios."
What's Offered at the Studios Today
DHS s soundstages and facilities produced many television shows and films, both live-action and animated, in the park’s early years. The 2003 Disney film Brother Bear was largely drawn—by hand!—in the Magic of Disney Animation attraction, and cinema buffs will recognize DHS’s landscape in the background of Jim Varney’s magnum opus, Ernest Saves Christmas. TV series filmed here span everything from the ABC hit Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? to the Hulk Hogan fiasco Thunder in Paradise.
In addition, DHS once hosted a variety of attractions that explained how TV shows and movies are made. The Monster Sound Show, which ran during the Studios’ first decade, used audience volunteers to show how sound effects were added to films; the contemporaneous SuperStar Television reenacted famous TV scenes using “green screen” technology and theme park guests as actors.
Today, the Studios in “Disney’s Hollywood Studios” is of little significance. Movie production left here long ago; it’s been more than a decade since any television production of note has taken place; and only a handful of attractions remain that offer a peek behind the scenes, such as the Studio Backlot Tour and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! Unfortunately—for those who loved its creative aspects, that is—DHS is now simply an amusement park whose theme is movies and TV.
|Baby Care Center||At Guest Relations; baby food and other necessities available at Oscar’s Super Service|
|Banking Services||ATM outside the park to the right of the turnstiles, by the Echo Lake side of Keystone Clothiers, and on Streets of America near Pizza Planet restaurant.|
|Camera and Photo Supplies||At The Darkroom on the right side of Hollywood Boulevard as you enter the park, just past Oscar’s Super Service|
|First Aid||At Guest Relations|
|Guest Relations and Information||Before you enter the turnstiles: There's a window before the alternate security checkpoint at the far left of the main entrance. After you're in the park: As you face the hat, the far left of the entrance.|
|Live Entertainment and Parade Information||Pick up a park map and Times Guide at the merchandise kiosk after you enter the park, at Guest Relations, or at retail and dining locations throughout the park|
|Lost and Found||At Guest Relations. After park close, all items are taken to the resort's main Lost and Found at the Transportation and Ticket Center|
|Lost Persons||Can be reported at Guest Relations, the Baby Care Center, or to any Cast Member|
|Storage Lockers||Can be rented for day-use to the right after entering turnstiles, on the left of Oscar's Super Service|
|Wheelchair, ECV, and Stroller Rentals||To the right of the entrance at Oscar's Super Service|
How Much Time To Allocate
Whereas it's impossible to see all of Epcot or the Magic Kingdom in one day, DHS is doable: There's much less ground to cover by foot, trams carry guests through much of the backlot and working areas, and attractions in the open-access parts are concentrated in an area about the size of Main Street, Tomorrowland, and Frontierland combined.
One fly in the ointment, however is the park's perverse way of scheduling live shows. A Hoover, Alabama, mom explains:
DHS was a big negative. The way the shows were scheduled and staggered, it was impossible to get from one to another in time.
A West Chester, Pennsylvania, mother of two adds:
If I had it to do over, I’d skip the Studios. The shows were good, but we kept missing showtimes because either all the shows started at the same time or the walk between them was too long with little ones. We missed Disney Junior three times by just a few seconds.
Because DHS is smaller, it’s more affected by large crowds. Our touring plans will help you stay a step ahead of the mob and minimize waiting in line. They will also help with the show-schedule problem. Even when the park is crowded, you can see almost everything in a day.
Disney's Hollywood Studios in the Evening
Because DHS can be seen in as few as 8 hours, many guests who arrive early in the morning run out of things to do by 5 p.m. or so and leave. Their departure greatly thins crowds and makes the Studios ideal for evening touring. Lines for most attractions are bearable, and the park is cooler and more comfortable. The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! and productions at other outdoor theaters are infinitely more enjoyable during the evening than in the sweltering heat of the day.
DHS is the home of Fantasmic! Combining water, pyrotechnics, music, and characters, it's the kitchen sink of Disney's nighttime spectaculars. Staged at least twice weekly, weather permitting, in its own theater behind The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Fantasmic! is not to be missed. Unfortunately, Fantasmic! draws crowds; some guests stay longer at DHS, and others arrive after dinner from other parks expressly to see the show. Although the crowds thin in the late afternoon, they build again as performance time approaches, making Fantasmic! a challenge to get into (or find good seating). Also adversely affected are Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster and, to a lesser extent, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, both near the entrance to Fantasmic! Crowd levels throughout the remainder of the park, excluding at Toy Story Mania!, remain generally light.
Arriving At Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios has its own pay parking lot and is served by the Disney transportation system. If you drive, Disney's ubiquitous trams will transport you to the ticketing area and entrance gate.
Getting Oriented At Disney's Hollywood Studios
Guest services, on your left as you enter, serves as the park headquarters and information center, similar to City Hall in the Magic Kingdom and Guest Relations at Epcot and the Animal Kingdom. Go there for a schedule of live performances/Times Guide, lost persons, Package Pick-up, lost and found (on the right side of the entrance), general information, or in an emergency. If you haven't received a map of the Studios or a Times Guide, get one here. To the right of the entrance are locker, stroller, and wheelchair rentals.
As at the Magic Kingdom, you enter the park and pass down a main street. Only, this time it's Hollywood Boulevard of the 1930s and 1940s. At the end of Hollywood Boulevard is a replica of Hollywood's famous Chinese Theater. Lording over the plaza in front of the theater is a 122-foot-tall replica of the sorcerer hat Mickey Mouse wore in the animated classic Fantasia. Besides providing photo ops, the hat is the park's most central landmark, making it a good meeting place if your group becomes separated. In case you're wondering, Mickey would have to be 350 feet tall to wear the hat.
Though modest in size, the open-access areas of the Studios are confusingly arranged (a product of the park's hurried expansion in the early 1990s). As you face the hat, two guest areas--Sunset Boulevard and the Animation Courtyard--branch off Hollywood Boulevard to the right. Branching left off Hollywood Boulevard is the Echo Lake area. The open-access Backlot wraps around the back of Echo Lake, while Pixar Place's attractions are behind the Chinese Theater and to the left of the Animation Courtyard. You can experience all attractions here and in the other open-access sections of the park according to your tastes and time. Still farther to the rear is the limited-access Backlot, consisting of the soundstages, technical facilities, wardrobe shops, administrative offices, and backlot sets. These are accessible to visitors on a guided tour by tram and foot.