AttractionsAttractions in FiveWalt Disney World (FL)

Five Things to Know About Echo Lake in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Share This!

Echo Lake is one of the nine lands in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a real lake that pays homage to its real-life counterpart in California. The architecture and ambiance of the area make it a great place to stroll and linger, especially during the holiday season when the decorations are great.

1. It’s an Echo of Art Deco.

Echo Lake in California is a man-made lake near downtown Los Angeles. As such, it served as the backdrop for many early silent film comedies. Disney’s version is an actual mini lake, near the middle of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

When DHS was on the drawing board, it was designed to serve as one ear of a giant hidden Mickey. Things changed, but the lake remained and opened May 1, 1989. With its fountain in the middle and the surrounding palm trees, the open area radiates a sense of peace in the middle of the hectic park. Benches allow you to sit and take in the calm, people watch, and then…turn your attention to the architecture of the land.

The buildings around the lake take their inspiration from buildings constructed during the Deco era throughout Los Angeles. This provides continuity in the park with similar influences you can’t help but see on the park’s Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. The Art Deco façade of the Hollywood and Vine Restaurant is a great example, while the 50’s Prime Time Café takes its influence from The Modernist residences of the 1930s. And the Streamline Moderne theater and adjacent buildings that house the Frozen Sing-along are based on NBC Radio City (1938) and CBS Columbia Square (1938).

2. The Dinosaur is a Wienie.

Walt believed that a guest’s sightlines played a significant role in their enjoyment, anticipation, and participation in the park’s offerings. So, he wanted a visual wienie in every land: something that caught your eye, pulled you toward it, and kept you moving. In this instance, it’s fair to say that Gertie the Dinosaur is Echo Lake’s wienie.

Gertie is Disney’s example of the “California Crazy” movement which gave birth to buildings that looked like something else: a giant donut, a dog, or a coffee cup for example. Here, Gertie was modeled after Winsor McCay’s early cartoon character (1914) of the same name.

Why Gertie? Some say it was the Imagineers way of paying homage to a milestone in the early days of animation. Be that as it may, Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction is a great place to get a refreshing treat on a hot day. (But note that it’s not always open, so there’s that…) It can be argued that the tramp steamer boat you see on the other side of Echo Lake from Gertie is also a wienie, since you can circumnavigate the lake. It’s yet another example of the California Crazy movement.

3. There are some big attractions.

Like the other lands in Hollywood Studios, the Echo Lake area has entertainment and thrills. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue might seem out of place outside Galaxy’s Edge, but its odd location stems from the fact that it was built well before the Star Wars land. An argument could be made that it serves as a transition from the Art Deco flavor of the lake district to the world of a galaxy far, far, away, especially since it seems almost as much a part of Grand Avenue as it does of Echo Lake.

AT-AT outside Star Tours. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Since some of his adventures occur roughly during the Deco craze, it makes sense that the Indiana Jone Epic Stunt Spectacular! is here. After all, it’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios! This is a great place to sit a while in the shade and enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at movie magic.

Looking for an air-conditioned break in your touring day? For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration is just the ticket. Comfy seats and a fun show provide a nice respite. Just around the corner, you can duck into the Mickey Shorts Theatre – also air-conditioned and comfortable – to view “Vacation Fun,” an 11-minute feature that pastes together clips from several of the newer Mickey Mouse cartoons.

4. You can build a lightsaber and enjoy retro dining.

There aren’t many places to shop in the Echo Lake area. Adjacent to the Frozen Sing-Along is Frozen Fractal Gifts where you’ll find a selection of Frozen toys, apparel, and more. A big draw is Tatooine Traders. Built to resemble a desert dome, there’s Star Wars merch inside. And you can build a lightsaber here for a lot less than at Savi’s Workshop!

There are several dining options around Echo Lake, including two of my personal faves. The 50’s Prime Time Café is a table service spot offering classic American fare like meatloaf and fried chicken. The waitstaff will remind you to keep your elbows off the table and eat your vegetables, while you enjoy the nostalgic chrome-filled décor.

The other table service spot is Hollywood & Vine.  Character dining features Disney Jr. stars at breakfast, then Minnie and friends during lunch and dinner.

Prefer a quick service option? Backlot Express is open for lunch and dinner and has plenty of places to sit. The Dockside Diner has limited hours but offers a lot for hot dog lovers! Need a refreshing beverage? Tune-In lounge is adjacent to the 50’s Prime Time Café and serves up specialty cocktails in a retro atmosphere. The Oasis Canteen is a walk-up bar next to Epic Eats; together, they allow you to quench your thirst and enjoy some sweet treats.

Often overlooked because it’s not always open is Peevey’s Polar Pipeline, a personal favorite of mine. I loved the 1991 movie The Rocketeer, and Peevey’s has the helmet and rocket pack tucked back in a corner!

5. Echo Lake has its secrets.

⭐ Behind Gertie the dinosaur is a trail of her footprints in cracked cement and “grass” leading to the lake.

⭐ Above the Hollywood and Vine restaurant is a window touting “Eddie Valiant, Private Investigator,” a nod to the detective in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” The window to the left has the silhouette of Roger himself, bursting through the glass.

⭐ Over Peevey’s Polar Pipeline is a billboard sponsored by Maroon Studios, depicting Roger, Jessica Rabbit, and Baby Herman.

⭐ The address of Hollywood and Vine is 1928 Keystone Street. 1928 is the year Mickey debuted in Steamboat Willy.

⭐ The stenciled addresses on shipping crates outside the Dockside Diner pay tribute to famous movies by naming characters like Rick Blaine (Casablanca) and George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life).

The Bottom Line.

As a fan of the Art Deco era’s architecture, I think Echo Lake deserves a little more love than it gets. It’s far more than just a nice area to walk through on your way to Galaxy’s Edge or Toy Story Land. It’s a quieter part of the park where the rush of touring can take a break and relax, imagining what it was like to live in the area it pays tribute to. Filled with details and beautifully decorated during the Christmas season, Echo Lake may just become a favorite of yours, too.

What do you think about the Echo Lake area? Big fan or do you just pass through? Let us know in the comments.

You May Also Like...

Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs lives in Wisconsin where he retired as Editorial Director for a well-known catalog company. He and his wife Cristie have four children, seven grandchildren and a cocker spaniel named Penny the Dog. They’ve visited Walt Disney World regularly since 1992.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *