Why do families keep booking a Disney World vacation over and over again? Simple, Walt Disney World is an ever-changing place. Walt Disney himself wanted the parks to be lively and up to date. He didn’t want the feel of a dusty old museum or relic. However, a balance must always be found between the old and the new. Many fans feel that during the dark days of the Eisner years, much that was traditional, classic, and most of all unique was lost in favor of off-the-shelf rides with no real character, simply because they were cheaper to build and maintain. Regardless of personal feelings as to why certain things were done or not done, the fact remains that much has changed in the parks over the years. If you have not visited in some time, you might be caught off guard. Here, then, is a guide to the major changes that have taken place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios since the park’s inception.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios was built during the Eisner era. Many felt that the park was poorly planned and designed, and Disney’s Hollywood developed a reputation as a half-day park at full-day prices. Whether or not that reputation was entirely deserved, the reputation spread throughout the Disney fan community, eventually making its way to the general population. As a result, Disney Hollywood Studios never developed the popularity of Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Many attraction revisions and additions were then designed to address the problems will chronic low attendance and poor guest reviews.
In the beginning, Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ layout resembled an almost perfect upside, Hidden Mickey. However, later the expansion has changed this park design. Nonetheless, turn your park map upside down. Mickey’s head can still be seen in front of the Animation Courtyard.
Beginning your park tour on Hollywood Boulevard, which leads from the park gates to the Chinese Theater, you will see the most obvious change to the park. A giant Sorcerer Mickey hat (from Fantasia) housed a pin trading station immediately in front of the Chinese Theater. The hat was added as part of the Millennium Celebration (the same celebration that brought the controversial wand to the top of Spaceship Earth over in Epcot). The Sorcerer Mickey hat station debuted in September 2001 and closed in January 2015. Pin trading spots are offered all over all four of the theme parks as well as at the Orlando hotels and several Disney Springs locations. Cast Members also wear lanyards covered in pins, and you are free to trade with them as well. An elaborate protocol covers pin trading, particularly with Cast Members, but don’t be intimidated. Any Cast Member or guest who participates will be happy to teach you the protocols.
Perhaps one of the most changed attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the Monster Sound Show, now known as Sounds Dangerous. Fans of the original Monster Sound Show will fondly remember the Foley stations, where park guests were selected to provide the soundtrack to the Martin Short/Chevy Chase film. The Foley stations are now gone and were replaced with a film, starring Drew Carey, which is more of an extended version of the 3D sound demonstration that used to take place in the listening booths of the interactive area. In 2012 Disney did away with the Sounds of Dangers attraction altogether.
The old Soundstage Restaurant in the Animation Courtyard is gone as well. A Bear in the Big Blue House stage show replaced the restaurant, and became Playhouse Disney Live! and now is Disney Junior Dance Party. The building’s purpose has definitely changed significantly since its original incarnation.
The Magic of Disney Animation has changed with the times. Gone is the old Finding Neverland film with Robin Williams. Gone as well are the animators who could be seen working on exciting new projects behind glass walls. Eisner closed the Orlando home of Feature Animation several years ago, as a prelude to his controversial decision to shutter Feature Animation altogether. However, Bob Iger re-acquired Pixar (a feature animation company that was founded by former Disney animators and is best known for such blockbusters as Finding Nemo and Cars). Iger pledged a return to Feature Animation, commissioning several new test projects. Currently, the animation studios are currently being used as backstage offices with the artwork still on display.
Other changes to the park primarily have to do with expansion. Sunset Boulevard is entirely new, and is home to such popular attractions as Rock n Roller Coaster; Twilight Zone Tower of Terror; Fantasmic!; and Beauty and the Beast. Lights, Motors, Action stunt show drew rave reviews, however, was later replaced with the new land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Disney’s Hollywood Studios was originally a fairly small park built on a large piece of property. The original layout made it easy for the park to expand rather than replace attractions. This is exactly what happened at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Check out our list of retired Disney attractions.