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A substantial part of the Studios was a film and TV-production facility, although very little actual production takes place these days. Nonetheless, visitors can take a backstage tour to learn about production methods and technologies.
The tour begins on the edge of the back lot with the special-effects walking segment, then continues with the tram segment. To reach the Studio Backlot Tour, turn right off Hollywood Boulevard through the Studio Arch into the Animation Courtyard. Bear left at the corner where Voyage of the Little Mermaid is situated. Follow the street until you see a red brick warehouse on your right. Go through the door and up the ramp.
The first stop is a special-effects water tank where technicians explain the mechanical and optical tricks that "turn the seemingly impossible into on-screen reality." Included are rain effects and a naval battle.
A prop room separates the special-effects tank and the tram tour. Trams depart about once every 4 minutes on busy days, winding among production and shop buildings before stopping at the wardrobe and crafts shops. Here, costumes, sets, and props are designed, created, and stored. Still seated on the tram, you look through large windows to see craftsmen at work.
The tour continues through the back lot, where western desert canyons exist side by side with New York City brownstones. The tour's highlight is Catastrophe Canyon, an elaborate special-effects movie set where a thunderstorm, earthquake, oil-field fire, and flash flood are simulated.
A reader from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, found the tour lacking:
I was extremely disappointed to discover how much the Studio Backlot Tour at Disney Hollywood Studios has been shortened. The tram ride is hardly worth the time, as most of the Backlot is now gone. Catastrophe Canyon is tired and in need of refurbishment. The years of fires have caused significant black scarring on the attraction, which detracts from the realism of the effects. And the special-effects/behind-the-scenes walking tour, which I thought was a great experience when I was a young teen, is also no more.
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