Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios is about to embark on a major transformation. In many ways, that transformation has already begun. The removal of the Sorcerers Hat, the closing of the Backlot tour and the Animation Building may have captured the headlines, but the process started years ago with the disappearance of some of the “hidden gems” of the Studios.
SamsDisneyDiary #59 – Hollywood Studios Hidden Gems, Gone Forever!
Hard to believe but Disney MGM Studios was originally built to be a working television and feature movie production studio, the first of its kind in Central Florida. In 1989 when the park opened, it featured two studios: Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, which produced among others Mulan, Lilo & Stitch and Brother Bear, and Walt Disney Studios Florida. Walt Disney Studios Florida produced The Mickey Mouse Club with Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling and Christina Aquilera. The Studios also produced “Teen Win, Lose or Draw”, Adventures in Wonderland along with tapings of World Championship Wrestling, Let’s Make a Deal and several music videos. The Backlot Tour was built
around and inside the sets, props and backstage area of the “working” studio. Originally, the studio was exactly that, a studio tour, but that identity didn’t last long. The Feature Animation Department was closed in 2001 and the working studio concept never really stuck. Today, summer 2015, the Studios is a shell of what it was originally intended to be; the concept of a working studio has been abandoned. We learned from Bob Iger that the name would be changing, but no additional details. It’s safe to say the working studio concept is gone, and the new name will reflect just that. Hollywood Studios will transform into a working “Theme Park”, and if the changes at Disney’s California Adventure are any indication of what’s to come – we are in for a treat. DCA’s Carsland, Bugsland, Hollywoodland would easily fit into Studios (While World of Color may be a preview of what to expect at Animal Kingdoms Rivers of Light). – See SamsDisneyDiary #60 for World of Color Celebrate.
5 Hollywood Studios Secrets Gone forever….
“The Guard Shack(s)”
One of the earliest signs of “change to come” happened during Star Wars Weekends 2009. One of my favorite “hidden secrets” of the Studios was to the left of the Great Movie Ride headed toward the ABC Commissary. On the right of the walkway there used to be a small building, a Guard Shack. That guard shack was the symbolic passing from the front lot (Hollywood Blvd and Sunset) to the studios backlot – ABC Commissary. All of the attractions and shops on the front lot were built as full buildings for guests’ enjoyment, while sets on the backlot were built for the camera. Residential Street and even Star Tours with only the front facade of the AT-AT Walker constructed. The shack itself was a simple building, complete with incredible details: A Studios jacket with a clipboard and computer monitor. It was removed to make room for the Jedi Mickey meet and greet location and never came back. There was another guard shack near the Backlot Express, that too has been removed.
Sid Cahuenga’s One-of-a-Kind
From the MGM Studios Opening Day Map “Sid Cahuenga’s One-of-a-Kind”: Sid has a house full of authentic Hollywood collectibles he’s willing to part with”. As soon as you enter Hollywood Studios, look directly to your left – just to the right of Guest Relations, you can’t miss Sid Cahuenga’s truck – the truck full of Hollywood props. Sid is fresh back from collecting surplus items from local studios, and maybe even digging through some dumpsters. You see, Sid is a huge movie fan, so much so that he relocated from the Midwest to Hollywood in the 20s and collected everything he could. As Hollywood became more popular, Sid refused to sale his property to any studio. Instead he leveraged the stream of tourists and decided to make some extra money
by selling some of his collection. Well, at least that’s the official backstory. From opening day until November 2013, you could find authentic Hollywood memorabilia here. While Sid wasn’t a real person, from opening day until 2005, you might have met “Sid Cahuenga”.
Sid was actually Danny Dillon, a cast member who took Sid and made him real. You could find Danny’s picture as “Sid” hanging inside the building. Sid’s was my last stop every time I visited the Studios; it was truly unique. Now you know why even today, you see Sid’s truck and a residential style house that looks out of place for Hollywood. In December 2013, the memorabilia from Sid’s was moved to the AFI – American Film Institute at the exit of the Backlot Tour, and Sid’s was reopened as Hollywood Studios “MyMagic+ Service Center”. The outside remains themed, inside you’ll find Fast Pass+ Kiosks. Let’s hope we don’t lose the outside theme as the Studios transitions.
The Writer’s Stop
No, the Writer’s Stop has not closed; in fact, many list it as a Hollywood Studios hidden gem. Described in the Studios map as “Coffee, espresso, muffins, pastries and more”, the Writer’s Stop is a perfect hidden gem in plain sight. Don’t miss the famous carrot cake cookie!! Yum! It’s not the Writer’s Stop itself that I’m missing. It’s the changing of the interior. Inside the Writer’s Stop, when crowd levels are moderate to low, you’ll find a display of various Disney books and DVDs. The high
definition television between a couple of chairs and couch features some of the movies that are available for purchase in the Writer’s Stop. During Star Wars Weekend and the Osborne Lights, the chairs and couch will be replaced by high top tables to accommodate larger crowds. But even then, it’s what used to be there that I miss. In place of the high definition television and DVDs, there used to be a 1950s style console television featuring black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons, along with board games and children’s books. This was a MUST do for our young family, a retreat in the middle of the park. My children immediately grabbed a seat at the couch (or nearby chair) and finished off their afternoon snack while watching classic Mickey Mouse. That homey feeling is a part of Hollywood Studios history – it was a perfect escape from the Florida heat, and always led to conversations about the TV at grandma’s house.
AFI – American Film Institute Showcase
While I understand the closing of the Backlot Tour and re-theming of the park, lost in the shuffle was the American Film Institute Showcase. If you ever rode the Backlot Tour, the AFI Showcase was the exit area just before the AFI Store. This was a great spot for “traveling” exhibits that showcased a movie or movie genre. It was also a great spot to see actual props and film used wardrobe. At its closing in August 2014, the exhibit featured “The Best in Film: AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies,” featuring props and costumes based on AFI’s “100 Greatest Movies” list. It was also a great place to see authentic Star Wars props during Star Wars Weekends.
While the expectation is the return of a daily parade, Hollywood Studios lost its daily parade in 2013 when the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! Parade was canceled. The Countdown to Fun Parade was last in a long line of parades that dated back to 1991 with the Dinosaurs Live Parade. Since then, Aladdin, Toy Story, Hercules and Mulan all had parades at Hollywood Studios. You may remember the Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade that lasted 7 years (2001-2008). While Star Wars Weekends includes a parade and the 2015 Frozen Summer features a Royal Welcome Reception – both lack the Disney Spectacle captured in the Magic Kingdoms Festival of Fantasy Parade. In fact, the floats used for Frozen Summer are mostly recycled “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade” floats. Here’s hoping for a new parade as part of Studios re-theming. The daily parade at California Adventure could be an indication of what is to come.
The Sorcerers Hat?
Actually, I’m just kidding about the Sorcerers Hat…. It should have never lasted as long as it did, but Disney was stuck in a legal battle that lasted until the naming rights of the actual theater in Hollywood was sold to TCL in 2013. While you won’t hear Disney publicly state that was the issue, the evidence is clear. Any way you look at it, welcome back “TCL Chinese Theater”. Let’s hope you make it through the transition…. But that’s a topic for another blog!!!
And all of SamsDisneyDiary Here (www.SamsDisneyDiary.com) Subscribe to the YouTube channel for all of my videos www.youtube.com/samsdisneydiary and follow me on twitter for all of the latest! @SamsDisneyDiary
PHOTO GALLERY BELOW!!
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Red | Little Known Facts About Disney Attractions Loop:
- >> You Are Here >> Sam’s Disney Diary | Hollywood Studios – 5 Hidden Secrets Gone Forever
- Adventureland Pam | Tower of Terror
- Frontierland Station | Expedition Everest
- Heidi’s Head | Cinderella Castle
- Family Travel Escapades | it’s a small world
Photo Gallery – The Guard Shack
Photo Gallery – Sid Cahuernga’s
Photo Gallery – The Writer’s Stop
Photo Gallery – AFI Showcase
Photo Gallery – Studios Parades