Disney’s MGM Studios was my favorite Disney Park. It contains my favorite Walt Disney World attraction, The Tower of Terror. In the 90s, it was the park that brought thrill rides to Disney as it attempted to fend off the competition. At its best it was just MGM to most of us. Sure it was a theme park born out of a competitive business need to beat Universal Studios to the punch but for me growing up I could care less about those things, I just loved that this Disney park allowed for some incredible adventures, animation that brought me to the core of what the Walt Disney Company was and so many interesting shows and rides, one worthy of the word Great in its title. But like so many things Disney it just froze in time and the changes that arrived weren’t always for the better. Admittedly, I changed as well. I like so many others wanted more, expected more and somehow Disney’s Hollywood Studios stayed frozen right through to the point that it needed a Frozen overlay just to keep the crowds flowing through the gates. Gone were the golden days of MGM and instead Disney’s Hollywood Studios had taken the reigns of what was left.
Though Fantasmic! and Toy Story Midway Mania helped me survive the Mickey Sorcerer hat icon years, it couldn’t prepare me for what the Walt Disney Company was about to do to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Surgery! The kind that most other theme parks wouldn’t even be able to survive. I mean how many rides did they have operational at Disney’s Hollywood Studios last year before the opening of Toy Story Land? It’s a sad rhetorical question for anyone who grew up loving Disney’s MGM Studios and believed in the Walt Disney Company like I did.
Certainly there have been some questionable decisions made of late. Not least of which is to rip out The Great Movie Ride, the soul of the theme park for a signature attraction that you don’t even make sure opens on time. I get it, theme parks are hard, there’s a lot of moving parts to the business and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is in such a tough spot that the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger once mentioned changing the parks name, again. But make no mistake about it, it was the Walt Disney Company that allowed Disney’s Hollywood Studios to wither on the vine the way they left Epcot’s Future World to do the same hence the need for a distinctly Disney reimagining there as well. But all hope is not lost. Because thanks to the boy who lived, Harry Potter, and the competition Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter represents to the hegemony of Walt Disney World market share we got a different side of Disney than in the decade that preceded. We got Pandora: The World of AVATAR. And now we have a new hope. Star War Wars: Galaxy’s Edge coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios later this year.
So as Black Spires’ mountainous terrain engulfs parts of the Studios’ skyline it’s time to let go of the past and look towards the future. I hope it is as bright a future as it was for me growing up, where Disney’s MGM Studios felt like the place to be. So that future generations of Disney visitors can experience the pure joy that comes from Disney Parks at their best. It is my hope that Disney’s Hollywood Studios or whatever they decide to call it in the future can find its permanent identity. I know we live in the intellectual property world of the moment but that’s simply not timeless. This park needs a lot of timeless. The Star Wars infusion will be the first of that but it needs more. I expect whole swaths of this theme park to get completely revamped in the years to come. It should be an exciting time and it begins in earnest today. With a much simpler celebration amongst the opening of a much smaller in scope projection show. But that’s okay, Disney’s MGM Studios was always the loveable underdog until Disney’s Animal Kingdom became that for me. Now though, it is time for Disney’s Hollywood Studios to finally get its theme park legs under it and flourish the way every Disney Park in the world should. After all let us not forget that Disney isn’t just a name you say, it’s a name we all honor. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a legacy to live up to and a future of human imagination to capture. Happy Birthday Disney’s Hollywood Studios and here’s to wishing our dreams for you can finally come true.