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.
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.
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.”
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.
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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.
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…
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