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Maps! The Disney-MGM Studios, 1989

Map of the Disney-MGM Studios, 1989Click! Enlarge!

Let’s return to the days of yesteryear, when the Disney-MGM Studios had just opened in Florida. Looking back, one thing really stands out – look how small it was! The area labeled “Theme Park” really only consists of three buildings – the Indiana Jones stunt show, the Backlot Express burger joint, and the structure that contained the Monster Sound Show and Superstar Television. Note the barricades preventing guests from reaching the unfinished Star Tours, and cutting off access to the path that now passes the ABC Commissary and Sci-Fi Dine-In.

A vast swath of the park, shown in purple, was off-limits to guest pedestrian traffic. It was intended to be the “working studio,” which guests could only access via the tram tour which can be seen winding through the area. The production areas had actually opened, though not to guests, in 1988. As the frequency of filming decreased over the years, the studio lot was slowly taken over by guest areas; some formerly backstage spaces are now used for Pixar Place, the New York Street, and Lights, Motors, Action!

Also glaringly absent is the Sunset Boulevard expansion that would later bring the park much-needed capacity. Looking at the meager slate of attractions and guest areas, it’s clear that this was the first of Disney’s budget parks. A reaction to Eisner’s belief that EPCOT Center had been far too expensive and ambitious, the initial success of the Studios park led to an immediate mandate to “double” its size and capacity. The throngs of paying customers also gave Eisner the confidence to build the opulent Euro Disney resort, whose initial difficulties would ironically lead to a series of under-built parks much like the original Disney-MGM design.

In any case, we’re still back in 1989 and have an entire theme park and working studios to explore! And remember, it just goes to show that anything can happen in the movies.

One last note: in some of the early park layouts I’ve seen, the post-production building (which now contains, in part, One Man’s Dream and Voyage of the Little Mermaid) was to be called the Roy O. Disney Building. I wonder what happened to that?

OK. Ready when you are, C.B…

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5 comments to Maps! The Disney-MGM Studios, 1989

  • The Hidden Mickey is so obvious in this map. I never realized that the planters also supported that ideas. Thank you.

  • Yes, it was really prominent back then. Mickey actually had a nose instead of a giant hat in the middle of his face :)

  • Another Voice

    One of the reasons the park was so small – among all the budget and time constraints – was that it was also the first to have the “mega attraction” that Tony Baxter has long talked about. The inital Studio Tour was almost 2 hours long. It included a tram tour, a walking tour, SFX stages and even the screening room for trailers of upcoming Disney movies (there has to be a clip of Mickey showing off his Michael Eisner watch somewhere on YouTube).

    I don’t recall anything about a ‘Roy O.’ building at Disney/MGM (I assume it was supposed to be named after the modern administration building on the Disney lot in Burbank). As far as I know, that theater was always meant to serve as the ‘finale’ for the studio tour and a theater for special screenings and event.

  • It’s a good point that the original studio tour did soak up a sizable part of the day. I figured that the scope of the park mostly suffered from time and budget like you say – it had to have had the quickest development cycle of any Disney park since Disneyland itself.

    I guess my bias against the Studios park comes from the fact that it didn’t age well. After the original concept of the studios/park was abandoned, they didn’t really come up with a vision to replace it.

    Which kills me, because I’ve always been in love with the era represented by the front of the park and with film in general. There’s so much potential there…

  • boy-o disney

    Every once in a while, I’ll discover a new blog – like this one – that has been around for years before I ever found out about it. And I always wonder if it is proper blog etiquette to leave a comment on a 2-year-old blog post. But I can shed a little light on a question you asked here, so here goes. As far as I know, that building that houses One Man’s Dream is still called the Roy O. Disney building. In fact, I think it is the Roy O. Disney Production building. What you have to remember is that part of what’s in that building is, even today, backstage – as is the “front door” of that building. Someday, when you are feeling bold, sneak in through that door in the corrugated metal wall near the Narnia queue, take a quick jog out to Stage Lane, turn right, go about another 100 ft, and to your right will be the front of the backstage portion of that building. It used to be – and I assume still is – labeled Roy O. Disney right above the front door.

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