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The Making of the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, 1989

Way back in the day, the Disney Channel showed content that was related to the Disney films and theme parks. And so it was in 1989, when the channel created an hour long special to celebrate the newly-minted Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park in Florida. Hosted by TV’s Fred Newman, then one of the adult stars of the new Mickey Mouse Club and known today as a sound effects artist on public radio’s Prairie Home Companion, the special shows the construction of the park while also serving as a tour of all the new attractions and shows that guests would find waiting for them when they visited.

Of special interest are several of the creative staff behind the new park; lead Imagineer Bob Weis was responsible for the Studios park and actually returned to the company a few years ago to lead the creative makeover of California Adventure. A young Eric Jacobson, with a fantastic 80s hairdo-and-mustache, went from leading the team on the Great Movie Ride to his current role as a Senior Vice President at WDI.

Take a look, and remember when the Studios was actually a studio, and there was animation in the animation tour! And – do I have to say it? – no hat!

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3 comments to The Making of the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, 1989

  • Great find! I had not seen this before, though I have seen the “Opening of Disney MGM Studios”, hosted by Jack Ritter (which is also a lot of fun). This oughtta keep me busy for an hour tonight.

  • Yes! That’s a good one too! I need to get that one up here. We watched that a LOT back in the day. This one’s a very different vibe, but has some good info and behind the scenes video…

  • RufusTheGreat

    Thanks for posting it.
    I first visited WDW, and MGM Studios, in 1991 at the age of 17. I have since been back quite often and taken my younger kids along too. I had forgotten so much of what MGM was supposed to be. I had forgotten the “hollywood” theme, which is still there but really only as a decorating direction than anything else.

    It reminds me now of the EPCOT situation (for lack of a better word) and the similarities seem strong. If we ignore the Walt vision of EPCOT and focus on the stuff from circa 1972 onwards, it was the “behind the scenes” angle on technology and progress that was the theme of Future World. That was exciting for many and fresh. But it was not exciting for all, not everyone has an interest in science and technology, and while there were dedicated patrons of Future World, the freshness wore off and many of the attractions, whether behind-the-scenes or regular old attractions, became stale in both topic and presentation manner. They were replaced with rides/attractions that required less background (even though long queues give the perfect opportunity to deliver background, but I digress). Maybe it is a change in the times or maybe it was from a rouge focus group, I don’t know. This same metamorphosis happened with MGM Studios. Not everyone had/has an interest in Hollywood or TV production and many of those original attractions grew stale quickly for those that did. The Great Movie Ride is a great example, there is now 20 years of missing movie references and the show part of the ride just seems old hat now. Indiana Jones falls into the same pile. It seems almost duh that a theme of entertainment would grow old faster and need more constant refreshing than a theme of the future and on-the-horizon technology, but that’s what happened. Unfortunately, instead of refreshing the original concept with behind-the-scenes views of new projects, they simply cut those attractions away. Backlot tours is a good example. (The old suburban street easily could have been McMansioned into Wisteria Lane with actual filming taking place there and a whole “Desperate Housewives” weekend could have sprung up as an annual event. ) That sort of filming could have kept the park automatically refreshed with content. Did something change in studio design that made MGM Studios obsolete from that standpoint? I’m probably glossing over other flaws that keep this from being straightforward.

    The other thing that I’ve never been comfortable with about the park is the flow. The main street is good, after that it always seems like just a hodgepodge of various additions seemingly awash in emptiness and without good interconnectivity. Thinking how MK and EPCOT’s FW flow it seems a very glaring difference. I can think of two or three places where a nicely decorated passage would improve it all immensely. It always seems quiet there off main street, even at peak times. Maybe a result of most attractions being inside sound stages.. I don’t know.

    My comments are certainly not anywhere near the thought-out referenced material that you post, and which I enjoy very much please keep it up. They’re just the rambling of someone who just watched an hour of hope and dreams for this park.

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