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WDI panel to be a high point of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ 20th anniversary celebration

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WDI panel to be a high point of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ 20th anniversary celebration

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I realize that this is incredibly short notice. But if you’re a theme park history buff, you should really find a way to get down to Orlando next week.

Why For? Because next Friday morning, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. And in addition to the two fan-run events  (i.e. WDWCelebration’s Studio 20 and Magical Mountain’s The Studios Thing) that will already be taking place inside of that theme park on that date, the Walt Disney World Resort has now decided to get in on the act.

“So what exactly is WDW going to do to commemorate this very special occasion?,” you ask. Well, the festivities actually gets underway at 8 a.m. with a special rope-drop ceremony which will kick off this day-long celebration.

Then – at 9:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. – Walt Disney Imagineering will be presenting a panel which will discuss DHS’ development.  WDI executive vice president Tom Fitzgerald will be on hand that morning, as will veteran Imagineers Eric Jacobson & Bob Weis. And these three gentlemen will then walk WDW Guests through the history of the project that was originally supposed to be called the Disney-MGM Studio Tour …

Disney MGM Studio Tour Text
Copyright The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved

… Which – according to the initial plans – was only supposed to be a half-day park. Featuring movie-themed attractions like the Slapstick Stunt Theater and the Disney Film Festival.

Disney MGM Studios Hollywood Blvd Concept Painting
Copyright The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved

Of course, it took a lot of work to turn 40 acres of scrub pine & swampland into the “ … Hollywood that never was - and always will be."

Disney MGM Cleared Construction Site
Copyright The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved

So much work that – even though the Imagineers broke ground on this project back in March of 1986 – this theme park (which – at the midway point of its construction – was then saddled with this incredibly awkward moniker: The Disney-MGM Studio and Studio Tour Attraction) …

Disney MGM Studio Construction Site
Copyright The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved

… fell so far behind schedule that it actually missed its previously announced opening date. Which was originally supposed to have been October 1, 1988.

Disney MGM Studion Construction Photo 1988
Copyright The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved

One of the main reasons that the studio theme park fell so far behind schedule is that then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner kept “plussing” this project. Insisting on additional touches (like slightly elongating the copper shingle roof that sits on top of Disney-MGM’s Chinese Theater so that this nearly exact replica of that world-famous movie palace would then seem that much more magical) that would make WDW’s third theme park seem like a real Hollywood spectacular.

Disney MGM Studios Construction Color
Copyright The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved

And given that Michael had spent so much time pouring over the plans for this theme park … Well, is it any wonder that – when it finally came time for the Disney-MGM Studio Theme Park to officially open on May 1, 1989 – Eisner was front and center? Cutting the ribbon at the park’s main entrance with Bob Hope, helping George Lucas push down the plunger that would then help inaugurate the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!

Disney MGM Studio George Lucas Michael Eisner
Copyright The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved

I’m hoping that – over the course of their two sessions at the Premiere Theater – that Fitzgerald, Jacobsen and Weis will actually touch on these aspects of the Park’s history. Or – at the very least – talk about some of Disney-MGM’s opening day attractions. Like the late, lamented Superstar Television.

MGM Studios Construction Superstar Television
Copyright The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved

Either way, next Friday sounds like a really great day for film fans and/or theme park history buffs to be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I mean, there’ll be a selection of special anniversary merchandise available for purchase. And several of DHS’ restaurants will be recreating menu items that were offered to Guests on this theme park’s opening day.

Mind you, if you’re not willing to spring for a full-blown sit-down meal in honor of Disney’s Hollywood Studios 20th anniversary, you can still get in on the birthday-related fun by purchasing some of the special cupcakes that the Starring Rolls Cafe will be selling on May 1st.

But between those two fan-run events as well as the official festivities that the Walt Disney World Resort will be staging next Friday, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will feature a full array of entertainment on May 1st. So if you can get to Orlando by late next week, be sure to drop by this theme park early that morning.

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  • I'm not a fan of Eisner's, but I have to admit that DHS is a great idea that was beautifully executed. (Although I'm glad the MGM name has now been dropped. Damn little MGM was in the park anyway; where the heck was the Wizard of Oz ride?) DHS is just about my favorite park. And the Tower of Terror is a work of art. DHS - heck, ALL of WDW - needs another traction with that much artful panache. Nice article, Jim. Wish I could make it out there next week, but reality prevents...

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