Happy 30th birthday to Disney's Hollywood Studios

April 30, 2019, 7:22 PM · Disney's Hollywood Studios opened as Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park on May 1, 1989 — the third theme park in the Walt Disney World Resort. To celebrate, Disney is hosting a live stream of the park's 30th anniversary character cavalcade starting at 9:55am Eastern Time on Wednesday. The broadcast also will include news about new and upcoming attractions at the park.

One of the new attractions the park is debuting for the anniversary is Wonderful World of Animation, a new nighttime spectacular playing on the park's iconic Chinese Theater facade. This show will feature projection mapping and fireworks, honoring classic moments from Disney's animation history. Here's a look at the making of the new show:

Disney-MGM Studios changed its name in January 2008, after the license to use the MGM name expired. But the transformation of the park began even before that, as Disney transitioned from the working movie and animation studio the facility was designed to be into more of a movie-themed park. In its first year, Disney-MGM Studios was home to the production of several upcoming Disney Animation films, as well as the live-action New Mickey Mouse Club, which spawned the careers of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, and Christina Aguilera.

The studio also hosted a future member of the Theme Park Insider family that summer, as recalled in our post honoring the 25th anniversary of the park, On stage the first summer at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Later this year, Disney's Hollywood Studios will welcome the opening of its largest theme park land ever, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. And next year, it will welcome the first dark ride themed to Mickey Mouse, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway.

Update: Here's the new look for the park's logo, as unveiled in concept art this morning.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

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Replies (9)

May 1, 2019 at 12:10 PM

The first time I visited was in January of 1990, just as Star Tours had opened. It was fun seeing it as a studio then and still miss that a bit.

Most notable was the Animation Building thanks to the "Second Golden Age" hitting at that time so got to see advance peeks of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King and more.

Even through the changes, still had an allure for me with Tower of Terror, Rock n Roller Coaster and so many more. Even with the loss of things like Great Movie Ride and more, always a favorite park of mine so glad to see it shifting up for more years to come.

May 1, 2019 at 12:59 PM

My fondest memories of this park revolve around the 50's Prime Time Diner. Anytime I visited the park with first timers, I always made sure we had a meal here. The food is good, but the overall experience is just delightful, especially when you are lucky enough to have a really dedicated Mom or Uncle as a server. The Studio has some great attractions, but the 50's Prime Time Diner is at the top of my To-Do list here. It's wonderful.

May 1, 2019 at 1:23 PM

I love 50's Prime Time Diner and Sci-Fi Drive in! Hollywood Studios is a park with a lot of unfulfilled potential and a terrible layout...and yet there have been some really great attractions there. Here's hoping Disney turns it around and helps it's reach new heights.

May 1, 2019 at 1:28 PM

Oddly, just not a fan of Sci-Fi Drive in. I like the setup and all but lunches are a good time for family to talk and connect and you can't really do that there with the table set-up and the constant screens.

Do like Prime Time Cafe though and Brown Derby.

I think it's suffered a bit from how they wanted it as a real studio at first and only later shifted more to the theme park idea. Plus, the various changes (sadly, the rise of CGI has undermined the need for the classic Animation Building) affecting things. They do seem to be making some good changes and should continue but miss the classic charm of the '90s park.

May 1, 2019 at 1:41 PM

Why doesn't anyone ever miss or mention MY favorite DHS attraction..."Sounds Dangerous"!?!?!

OK, I can't even keep a straight face after that one. But I agree with Rob, 50's Primetime IS the reason we go to that park. Never had a bad meal but have had some lackluster servers. We had our first "Uncle" on our latest trip and he was way more interactive with the table next to us then he was with us. That hurt a little bit...

May 1, 2019 at 1:48 PM

I'm really surprised that the debut of a new park logo was not accompanied by a new park name. The assumed name change was the worst kept secret in the business, and something that Iger had noted was inevitable for a park that was no longer a "studio" park, but DHS still lives on (for now).

The evolution of DHS is quite a story, and by the end of this year will have gone through more changes than any theme park on the planet. It will probably go through even more change over the next 30 years as Imagineers struggle to refocus and balance the park. It was the first Disney theme park that wasn't directly influenced by Walt's vision, yet is the one place in Orlando that recognizes his achievements and life.

It's still clunky and strange to navigate, but possesses an attraction lineup that's difficult to ignore. Here's to DHS, the Disney theme park we didn't think we needed, but cannot avoid on a vacation to WDW.

May 1, 2019 at 2:04 PM

I miss the optimism of that time. MGM studios felt like a park where things were happening. People were creating in so many ways. Movie making and Animation are all about world building. You could see the process, enjoy the results, and imagine the potential. It felt like with a bit of money and elbow grease, you could make anything happen!

I hope we are able to capture that feeling again at the parks.

May 2, 2019 at 3:22 AM

We always visited the Animation Building and did the tour. There is something magical knowing these artists where actually creating the next Disney Animation Masterpiece (before the stories went too generic and the Disney Company killed the studio). In essence it was unchanged from what Walt had started. It's a shame Disney went to by Pixar because there is a warmth in animation that is missing in CG.
The Tower of Terror is hands down the best en unique ride on property and the theming is done to perfection. I hope they don't give it a make-over ever. The rest of the park never excited me, it's not a looking and too show heavy for my taste.

May 2, 2019 at 4:22 AM

That new logo is exactly what you'd come up with if you were trying to smooth the transition to "Disney's Hollywood [something else]". Combined with the laboured use of the word "adventure" in that speech, and I'd say the (eventual) new name looks pretty certain.

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