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The Disney-MGM Studios and “Hollywood East”, 1989

When the Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989, there was a great deal of hoopla about how the city of Orlando was now “Hollywood East”. With Universal Studios Orlando opening soundstages a few miles up I-4 from Walt Disney World, there was suddenly an arms race for soundstage space in town, and with plenty of plans for future expansion it seemed certain that productions would be flocking to Florida to take advantage of its lower taxes and economic incentives.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Of the three Disney soundstages that were built, two have been converted to ride and show space. A third is earmarked for conversion into the Monsters, Inc. roller coaster. None of them have been used for actual filming purposes in years, and the Disney “backlot” has been slowly pared away as well. Looking back, the hype seems so silly now. But at the time, it was very, very exciting.

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5 comments to The Disney-MGM Studios and “Hollywood East”, 1989

  • Brian

    I remember all of this (I was in 9th grade when it opened) and think Disney blew another opportunity here. With EPCOT, they had a chance to truly turn it into a respected brand for learning outside of the park (Discovery Networks is one big player in that niche now.) With Disney-MGM, they had a chance to build a real, live working studio that people could come see and interact with – the literal heart and soul of the park.

    But keeping focus on these seemingly “costly overhead” expenses takes very long term dedication and a lot of swimming upstream by management. I can see why no one championed the continued use of the studios as real studios -it was just too difficult. Same with EPCOT – no one really rose to the challenge and did the *right* thing – they just decided to slowly discontinue those aspects of these parks over time while nobody noticed.

  • Rob

    Sorry, Brian, I noticed.

  • Another Voice

    In short, Vancouver offered bigger tax breaks and a devalued currency.

  • Eric

    I agree with Brian that both EPCOT and Disney-MGM just over time lost their unique aura, that made them when they first open stand out as separate entities from The Magic Kingdom itself. Each park had a different purpose to it, and now what we have are three sections of what is essentially one park with the same basic theming all over the place.

    When I visited WDW in May 1993, it was still possible to feel the separate missions of the three parks, PLUS the fact that the Magic Kingdom still had many of the old classics (the original Hall Of Presidents, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, 20K Leagues Under The Sea). The Disney magic was still there for me. The next time I visited was in June 2004, and it was like “My God, what the hell happened????”

  • Universal Studios is still one of the best film studios and you can also visit their offices :

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