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Insider's Update: Disney World closes its Studio Backlot Tour next weekend

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 19, 2014 at 10:18 PM

Maelstrom isn't the only attraction closing soon at the Walt Disney World Resort. In a Friday night news dump, Disney confirmed that the Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios would close in one week, on Sept. 27. With that, the final remnant of the movie-and-television-production theme for the original Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park will be whisked away.

Catastrophe Canyon
It all goes terribly wrong in Catastrophe Canyon. Every few minutes, in fact.

Not much is left of an attraction that once dominated the park. Patterned after the enduring Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood (and let's quit denying that, everyone), Disney's Backlot Tour once included a drive through extensive residential and streets and a tour of production facilities, in addition to the Catastrophe Canyon set piece that remains to this day. But Disney never had enough filming happening at the park to justify devoting so much space to those production facilities. I've told this story before, but during the park's first summer, my future wife and the rest of the Disney All-American College Orchestra practiced in one of the Backlot Tour soundstages, simply so Disney would have some activity in it to show tour-goers.

Rehearsing in the soundstage
The 1989 Disney All-American College Orchestra, rehearsing in a soundstage at Disney-MGM Studios. That's then-Miss America and now-Fox News host Gretchen Carlson playing violin, in the middle of the photo.

Those soundstages long ago were converted into the Toy Story Midway Mania building. The residential streets were torn down to make room for the Lights, Motors, Action show. Disney opened the New York Streets to foot traffic and built the Muppets theater and Mama Melrose's there. That left the water tank special effects demonstration, a drive through the boneyard and the costume department, and Catastrophe Canyon as the remaining elements on the tour. (The animation production facilities at the park closed long ago, standing in what's now the The Magic of Disney Animation pavilion.)

The tour's fate was sealed a couple of years ago, when Disney first slated the area for the east coast version of Cars Land. When Disney management changed its mind and killed the Cars Land plan, it was simply a matter of deciding what else would move into this space. The consensus is that Pixar Place will expand into the remaining Backlot Tour area, perhaps with a clone of Toy Story Playland, or a Monsters Inc. ride from California Adventure or Tokyo Disneyland, or one of many other Pixar attraction concepts that Walt Disney Imagineering has "blue skied" over the years.

Toy Story Playland
The entrance to Toy Story Playland at Walt Disney Studios Paris

In other news, Disney's announced that the Legends of Frontierland game will close at Disneyland, also on Sept. 27. Disney's latest attempt at creating a massive, multi-player, in-park role-playing game has been running since July.

Busch Gardens Tampa is now offering a photo package deal for its visitors, along the lines of Disney's PhotoPass and Universal's Photo Connect. Busch Gardens' Photokey will allow visitors who purchase packages to download on-ride and in-park photos, buy prints, and share photos with a Photokey app. Packages start at $29.95.

Earlier this week, before Cedar Point announced the Rougarou coaster, the Ohio amusement park revealed what happened with its offer to rename a roller coaster after basketball star LeBron James if he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, which he did. James declined the opportunity to have a coaster named after him, but Cedar Point will partner with James' foundation to host children participating in foundation programs at the park for a day. In addition, next spring Cedar Point will have a ride auction with the proceeds going to help pay for foundation programs, which support Akron-area public schoolchildren.

What news and rumors are you hearing, from your latest trips to the parks? Share 'em with us, in the comments.

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Theme Park Insider interview with John Murdy: Horror never dies

Jacob Sundstrom

By Jacob Sundstrom
Published: September 19, 2014 at 1:06 PM

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Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 19, 2014 at 11:02 AM

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Cedar Point introduces Mantis' replacement: Rougarou

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 18, 2014 at 3:24 PM

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Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 18, 2014 at 10:55 AM

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Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 16, 2014 at 9:26 PM

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg opens its 16th edition of Howl-O-Scream

Russell Meyer

By Russell Meyer
Published: September 16, 2014 at 11:07 AM

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Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 15, 2014 at 10:07 PM

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Monday Top 10: Disney's Best Roller Coasters

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM

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The Week Ahead: Disney and Universal schedules for September 15-21, 2014

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 14, 2014 at 5:14 PM

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