Disney Opened A New Park 34 Years Ago

Hollywood Studios
Credit: Inside the Magic

You wouldn’t recognize this theme Park today. The 1980s were a very different time. Hair was big, Michael Jackson was a rising star, and almost no one had even heard of a cell phone. It was almost like living in the last scene of Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress.


Credit: Disney

The Past

Exactly 34 years ago, on May 1, 1989, Walt Disney World opened Disney MGM Studios.

The original concept began as an idea to include a movie-themed pavilion in EPCOT. But as Imagineers continued to develop plans for the pavilion, Eisner realized they had enough concepts to fill an entire theme Park. Knowing that Universal Studios was in the process of building a movie-based theme Park not far away, Eisner wanted to beat them at their own game. Walt Disney World finished the Park and opened it to the public a year earlier. It was the Resort’s third theme Park in Florida, and although it was only a “half-day” Park, it still managed to keep Guests away from Universal Studios.

MGM Opening

Credit: Disney

The original Park only had a handful of attractions on opening day, including The Backstage Studio Tour, The Monster Sound Show, The Great Movie Ride, The Magic of Disney Animation Tour, and Superstar Television. The Park’s intended theme was to take Guests to a romanticized version of old Hollywood. The famous phrase used to describe it was “a Hollywood that never was – and always will be.”

Sunset Hollywood Construction

Credit: Disney

It was in the 1990s that the theme Park’s attendance and popularity grew with additions such as the Tower of Terror, Beauty and the Best Live on Stage, and Fantasmic.

Related: Fantasmic! Return Date Confirmed; Here’s What to Expect When It’s Back

The Present

Nowadays, the Park has taken on a very different aesthetic. As popular or impressive as Toy Story Land or Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge may be, they seem out of place compared to Grauman’s Chinese Theater and a Sunset Boulevard strip. One may wonder how a recording studio (Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster) or a Hollywood Tower Hotel (Tower of Terror) fits into a themed Park with a 30′ Slinky Dog and a Millennium Falcon.

Toy Story Land

Credit: Disney

The Future

As the Park’s theme shifts away from movie-based attractions and leans more into themed and immersive lands, one wonders what the Park’s future will look like. The Great Movie Ride, the Backlot Studios Tour, and other older attractions have already been removed or replaced. One speculates if this could evolve into a Marvel and Star Wars theme Park. But only time will tell…

RELATED: Disney Confirms Updates Are Coming to This Hollywood Studios Attraction




About Steven Wilk

Steven has a complicated relationship with Disney. As a child, he visited Walt Disney World every few years with his family. But he never understood why kids his age (and older) were so scared of Snow White or Alien Encounter. He is a former participant of the Disney College Program (left early…long story), and he also previously worked in Children’s publishing, where he adapted multiple Disney movies and TV shows. He has many controversial opinions about Disney…like having a positive view of Michael Eisner, believing Return of the Jedi is superior to The Empire Strikes Back, and that Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge should have never been built (at least not at Hollywood Studios). Every year for the past two decades, Steven has visited either Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani or went on a Disney Cruise. He’s happy to share any and all knowledge of the Disney destinations (and he likes using parenthesis a lot…as well as ellipses…)