Disney's Hollywood Studios Gives Visitors a Taste of Movie Life

The third Walt Disney World Resort theme park to be built, Disney's Hollywood Studios opened in May 1989 as Disney-MGM Studios, a pairing between the Disney Corporation and one of the greatest movie studios of the twentieth century. After a long dispute with MGM over the building of a theme park at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, the name was changed to Disney's Hollywood Studios in January 2008 and all ties with MGM were severed.

The park is dedicated to the wonders of Hollywood and was originally intended to be a fully-operating television and motion picture production studio. Several movies and television shows were filmed there in the 1990s but all production facilities were eventually moved to Burbank, California. Radio Disney also originally broadcast from Disney-MGM Studios, but moved their operations to Dallas and then to Burbank in late 2008.

In the twenty-first century, Disney's Hollywood Studios is much more a theme park than an operating production facility and the park has made a number of changes since its opening. The first thing that greets guests entering the park is the iconic Mickey Mouse sorcerer's hat from the movie Fantasia. Not unlike the castle in the Magic Kingdom and the silver geodesic ball in Epcot, the hat has become the symbol for this Disney Park.

Immediately upon entering, guests are transported to Hollywood, courtesy of the replica of Hollywood Boulevard that runs through the center of the park. Actors dressed as budding Hollywood stars and starlets of the 30s and 40s stroll down the boulevard, interacting with guests. The park's first attraction, The Great Movie Ride, sits at the end of the street and takes visitors on a tour of the world's most memorable movies. Also open on Hollywood Blvd. is the American Idol Experience, an interactive stage show based on the popular reality show.

More than two dozen attractions, shows, and themed eateries fill the remainder of the park. Many are live shows and tours. Among the most popular are the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, a long-running, high-energy show that puts guests in the middle of the popular Indiana Jones movies; Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, with high-flying stunt cars; the Studio Backlot Tour, a chance to view how movies are made; the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, featuring characters from the beloved animated film; and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage, a song and dance extravaganza starring Disney Channel pre-school favorites. Other attractions include Muppet Vision 3D, Journey into Narnia, and Beauty and the Beast - Live Onstage.

For those seeking more interactive adventure, Disney's Hollywood Studios is home to the 4-D ride Toy Story Mania as well as two of the most intense rides in the Disney resort, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - a free-fall ride with a Disney twist, and Rock `n' Roller Coaster, an indoor dark coaster with twists of its own.

Dining at Hollywood Studios is nearly as much fun as the rides and attractions. Guests can eat at the 50's Prime Time Caf,, where pushy waitresses dressed like Mom will be sure diners eat all their peas; or they might choose the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, where visitors dine in makeshift cars while watching a sci-fi flick on the massive screen at the front of the restaurant. Additional restaurants and concessions are also available.

This park, like all Disney parks, also hosts a daily parade, which changes occasionally. At night, Hollywood Studios comes alive with the presentation of Fantasmic, a 26-minute hydrotechnic and fireworks spectacular that includes awesome special effects and characters from favorite Disney movies, including plenty of villains. A crowd of up to 10,000 gathers in a specially-built amphitheater for the show, which is presented at least once per night.

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