A floor-to-floor tour of blue skies, built-in redesign of Disney’s Hollywood Studios



What is Disney’s Hollywood Studios and what should it be?

This question has hung over decades of Disney Imagineers like a dark cloud. Makes sense…after all, it’s worth remembering that when Walt Disney World’s third gate (then called the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park) opened in 1989, its purpose was twofold: to outdoors, taking visitors into the real, behind-the-scenes filmmaking at Walt Disney Pictures, and internally, to scare off Universal Studios competitors from building a version of their famous Studio Tour in Orlando. Long story short: neither attempt was successful.

Picture: Disney

As a result, Disney spent decades working on the park, stuffing it with unique e-tickets to attract guests. The park’s “backlot studio” theme was something of a scapegoat, allowing the designers to abandon the standards they had set at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT and instead crush sketchy IPs in beige studio soundstages, emphasizing promotion rather than tenure. Even by the early 2000s, the “studio” style of the park had deteriorated. In an era defined by immersive, timeless projects like Islands of Adventure and Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios felt like an escape.

In the mid-2010s, Disney began canvassing guests about potential new names for the park, finally signaling that it might veer away from its “backlot”…”Disney Cinemagine Kingdom” origins. “Disney XL Park.” “Disney Beyond the Park”. “Disney Kaleidoscope Park.” None stuck. It’s probably because – especially with Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge announced – it was obvious that Disney’s Hollywood Studios was not a studio… but… what has been this?

Picture: Disney/Lucasfilm

Ultimately, the Hollywood Studios name stuck (with a redesigned logo simply minimizing the word “Studio”, as if it could become obsolete to be replaced with the word “Adventure” at any time). But even with Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge in play, Hollywood Studios remains a confused park. Too many e-tickets. Too little for families. Tons of underutilized space, dead ends, sound stages and mixed IP addresses… If you’ve ever dreamed of what you would do to fix Hollywood Studios, you’ve come to the right place…

Blue-Sky construction

Picture: Disney

So what to do we do you think Hollywood Studios could be? That’s a very good question…and today we’re going to step into our own idealized, dreamy reimagining of Disney World’s Third Gate – a celebration of the magic of Hollywood and the worlds it has created. In Part I of our walkthrough, we’ll explore the first four lots of our ideal, imagined, wheelchair version of this park – two existing lots that we “upgraded” and “built” and two projects from scratch. we imagined.

Along the way, remember that the whole point of a “Blue Sky” build is to dream big… to think outside the box and work with the existing pieces of that park to create something better for everyone. world. Is our version of Hollywood Studios perfect? Of course not! But hopefully, once you’ve visited Part I and Part II next month, you’ll feel like this multiversal, fully matured variant of the park would be on your bucket list.

That said, let’s explore the first half of our lovingly reimagined Hollywood studios, country by country from the real full construction background…

Hollywood Blvd.


Picture: Disney

I truly believe that in the Disney Parks “main streets” patheon, Hollywood Blvd. must be among the best. It really takes everything that makes Imagineering projects so powerful and combines them into one.

It’s livable and historic, but idealized and romanticized; “a Hollywood that never was, but always will be”; in an instant, it transports guests to a place and time they may not even be able to pin down. It does not matter. Hollywood Blvd. is this vibrant, shiny, powerful cultural mirage of what was Hollywood’s Golden Age, with every crack masked; every wrinkle erased, and even a castle at the end of the street: the scale reconstruction of the Chinese Theatre.

If Hollywood Blvd. has one flaw is that it’s too short (essentially as if Main Street USA ended at Center Street) and has too many gaps, where the lanes branch off and reveal the street isn’t very “real” after careful inspection. I didn’t tackle the first, but tried to iron out the second.

Build on

Image: Theme park tourist

I started by plugging the hole in the street that forks halfway to the left, leading to (in the real park) Echo Lake. Why? Mainly because it’s the start of this descending park in the chaos of the way, with random breakaways and outdated squares and frustrating returns to the “studio backlot” aesthetic. Instead, I wanted to emphasize the area in front of the Chinese Theater as the “hub” of the park, from which everything diverges, with as little line of sight intrusion as possible.

The plaza in front of the Chinese theater was designed as a large hidden upside-down Mickey Mouse with Echo Lake as the character’s left ear. Over time this feature has been quite horribly defaced with new planters that have ruined the eyes, “Center Stage” being built on the nose and Sunset Blvd. erase the right ear from existence. So I brought it back (albeit right side up this time) using an ear for an accessory spot.

Image: Disney, via D23.com

Otherwise, I made relatively few changes to Hollywood Blvd. ! Just a new SILVER SCREEN MUSEUM exhibition behind a newly expanded facade along the Hub, and OBI WAN CLUB – a “lounge” style bar paying homage to the Shanghai club as seen in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It struck me as a nice little ‘in-universe’, period-appropriate hangout that might become a favorite with annual passholders. These additions also have the added benefit of helping to box into the “Hub” of the park, which makes it feel like part of Hollywood Blvd. instead of a massive, sunny square. (As it stands, the Chinese Theater is so far from where Hollywood Blvd. ends that it looks like something else.)

Picture: Disney

I also decided to add the STREET CARS ON THE HOLLYWOOD LINE, a version of Disney California Adventure’s Red Car Trolley that would take guests down Hollywood Blvd. and at the corner of Sunset Blvd. As simple as it sounds, a ride like this adds so much life, vibrancy and – yes – ability at Hollywood Studios and makes this gateway land a real must-see. (Granted, part of Disney World’s problem is that operations find it easier to simply pull these kinds of attractions than to navigate crowds.)

Last but not least, I decided to exchange the contents of the Chinese Theater, in particular by returning a new version of THE GREAT CINEMA TOUR. Don’t get me wrong – I actually to like Runaway Railway, and I love putting it in Chinese theater so much that I did exactly that in my build plan for California Adventure. But in this park, in this country, this building calls for something more akin to a “thesis” attraction – something truly epic and a great foundational piece for the world to come.

Picture: Disney

Would I bring the Great Movie Ride back exactly as it was? Probably not. But I try as I can, I can’t think of one better base as “moving theater” with a live tour guide. It’s really no surprise that it began its development as a potential EPCOT hub tower; it was ambitious, thoughtful, heavy and immersive in a way that I’m not sure a trackless dark ride could re-capture, you know?

Would I bring back the Great Movie Ride like the modern Walt Disney Company would? (i.e. like a Disney+Pixar+Marvel+revisionist story star wars?) Of course not. There’s probably no universe in which Disney would consider giving pre-1970s films a tip of the hat, let alone outside of its owned and acquired portfolio… but a tribute to the great movies of the past and how which they laid the foundations of the future looks like a worthy subject and inhabitant of this building.

Picture: Disney

Look how it works? Developing a park means imagining its better form. It is a “Blue Sky” process, not budgetary! In this entirely creative thought process, for a moment we can be a little “unlikely” about what Disney could or would or should do and imagine an emboldened Hollywood Blvd. without the constraints of reality.

And of course, as the Hollywood Line Street Car glides around the corner, we come to the park’s second lot – an expanded and repurposed one from its current state, and a completely original new land, from scratch, that you have never seen before…

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