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…