Celebrating the Silver Anniversary of Disney's Hollywood Studios

by Jeff Kober, contributing writer

With all of the focus on the new Seven Dwarf's mine train premiering at the Magic Kingdom, it might feel that the 25th anniversary of Disney's Hollywood Studios was left in the shadows. So we're here to celebrate this magnificent park, and to share all that occurred on May 1st, 2014.

Disney's Hollywood Studios celebrates its 25th Silver Anniversary. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

First, a 25 year timeline that leads up to this event. It's been a busy 25 years! See if you can find when your favorite attractions opened:

May 4, 1989: Walt Disney World's third major theme park opens. Along with it, The Great Movie Ride, SuperStar Television, The Monster Sound Show, The Magic of Disney Animation, and the Back Stage Studio Tour all open. Restaurants like the Hollywood Brown Derby and Prime Time Cafe also open. The Citizens of Hollywood make their debut as well as "Hollywood! Hollywood! A Star-Studded Spectacular."

The famed Citizens of Hollywood, a streetmosphere improvisation group, has been performing for 25 years. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

June 21, 1989: Comedian Harvey Korman greets Walt Disney World's 300 millionth guest, Matt Gleason, at the Gates of Disney-MGM Studios.

August 25, 1989: The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! premieres.

October 1989: The Walt Disney company signs an agreement with Henson Associates Inc. For MuppetVision 3-D film adventure, plus other attractions at the Studios.

January 1990: Star Tours formally opens.

May 25, 1990: "Jim Henson's Here Come the Muppets" theater show opens.

June 1990: Dick Tracy & the Diamond Double Cross stage musical premieres at the old Theater of the Stars.

June 7, 1990: Competition thickens as Universal Studios opens.

July 1, 1990: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles make daily appearances on New York Street.

What was once a part of the Backstage Studio Tour, New York Street—now known as Streets of America—became a common guest area, and used for such appearances as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

November 1990: "Sorcery in the Sky" fireworks opens in conjunction with Fantasia celebrating its 50th anniversary.

December 16, 1990: The Commissary restaurant opens on Commissary Lane.

December 17, 1990: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure provides a new stomping ground for the younger set.

Movies like "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" were a big part of the earlier days of the park. Here, my daughter Mikell is on a flying bee in the Inside the Magic: Special Effects and Production Tour. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

April 20, 1991: Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater opens.

April 27, 1991: Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D premieres.

June 15, 1991: Studio Pizzeria, later to be known as Pizza Planet, opens.

September 16, 1991: Muppets on Location – The Days of Swine and Roses opens.

September 24, 1991: Hollywood's Pretty Woman takes over from the Dick Tracy show.

September 26, 1991: Dinosaurs Live! premieres as a traveling show down Hollywood Boulevard.

November 22, 1991: Beauty and the Beast stage show begins performances in the Theater of the Stars.

Beauty and the Beast would play three different venues over its 23-year career. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

January 1992: Voyage of the Little Mermaid opens.

Christmas Holidays 1992: Giant Macy's Thanksgiving parade balloons of Santa Goofy, Betty Boop, Kermit the Frog and Humpty Dumpty rise above New York Street. Also, Aladdin's Royal Caravan begins its procession through the Studios.

May 28, 1993: Groundbreaking is held for the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Beauty and the Beast is moved to the Backot Theater.

June 1994: Beginning with the Making of the Lion King, the Walt Disney Theater would host making-of movies series to include Pocahontas, Toy Story,, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

June 12, 1994: Sunset Boulevard opens with new shops, dining and a 1,500-seat Theater of the Stars, hosting the popular Beauty and the Beast show.

July 22, 1994: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction opens at the end of Sunset Boulevard.

The original drop in the Tower of Terror was simply one drop. Over time, a variety of drop profiles were featured, until the present-day experience, which is much longer and more random in its sequence. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

June 23, 1995: The Spirit of Pocahontas opens later at the Backlot Theater.

November 10, 1995: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – Live in Action shows up on New York Street.

November 22, 1995: Toy Story Parade premieres at Disney-MGM Studios.

Christmas 1995: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights opens on Residential Street.

February 1996: American Film Institute (AFI) Showcase opens, celebrating 100 years of American Filmaking.

June 21, 1996: Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame – A Musical Adventure opens on the Backlot Theater.

October 1996: ABC Super Soap Weekend premieres.

1997: The HBO series, "From the Earth to the Moon," starring Tom Hanks, was produced throughout the year.

May 1997: Star Wars Weekends is introduced. Among its popular activities is the Jedi Training Academy, which would eventually become a permanent fixture at the park.

June 1997: Hercules Zero to Hero Parade steps off Hollywood Boulevard.

July 1997: ABC Sound Studio opens in place of The Monster Sound Show, where guests create a variety of effects to the theme of ABC-TV children's programming.

September 1997: Goosebumps Horrorland Fright Show opens on the warehouse dock of New York Street.

April 1998: The new Walt Disney Feature Animation building opens.

June 19, 1998: Mulan parade premieres. The film itself was produced primarily by Walt Disney Feature Animation at the Disney-MGM Studios.

October 15, 1998: Fantasmic! opens in the Walt Disney Amphitheater.

March 15, 1999: Disney's Doug Live! replaces SuperStar Television.

April 1999: Sounds Dangerous takes over the ABC Sound Studio. It stars Drew Carey.

June 1999: Bear in the Big Blue House stage show premieres on Soundstage 5, where once the Soundstage Restaurant stood.

July 29, 1999: Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith opens.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster helps cement the Studios as a place for thrill rides. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

April 7, 2001, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – Play It! starts daily shows on Mickey Avenue (now Pixar Place). It permanently ends the Inside the Magic: Special Effects and Production Tour.

October 2001: Bear in the Big Blue House becomes Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage!

October 2001: A property-wide 100 Years of Magic celebration brings to the studios "Disney's Stars and Motor Cars" and Walt Disney: One Man's Dream. It also brings a large Sorcerer Mickey hat to the end of Hollywood Boulevard.

July 1, 2004: Disney-MGM Studios hosts the first-ever ESPN the Weekend, in celebration of ESPN's 25th anniversary.

May 5, 2005: Lights! Motors! Action! brings a new stunt show to the Studios.

December 9, 2005: Journey Into Narnia: Creating the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe opens on Mickey Avenue.

January 22, 2007: High School Musical Pep Rally comes rocking down Hollywood Boulevard.

January 7, 2008: The Disney-MGM Studios becomes Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The famed Disney-MGM Studio arch would soon carry the label Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

March 14, 2008: Block Party Bash debuts at the park, having moved over from Disney's California Adventure.

May 31, 2008: Toy Story Midway Mania! opens at Pixar Place.

June 24, 2008: Journey Into Narnia: Price Caspian replaces the previous Narnia attraction.

The two Narnia attractions are just a handful of the behind-the-scenes kinds of experiences guests would come to experience at the park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

February 14, 2009: The American Idol Experience invites park guests to come perform live on stage.

March 14, 2011: Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! takes over for Block Party Bash.

May 20, 2011: Star Tours: The Adventures Continue takes guests to new places in the universe.

May 29, 2011: Phineas and Ferb take up residence.

December 6, 2012: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow provides a new immersive walk-through attraction.

May 1, 2014...

We now come to the present. In the morning the crowd entered the park, receiving special anniversary pins and commemorative park guides. At 10:00 a.m., they were welcomed to a special rededication ceremony. Don Lampkin, a 25-year veteran Disney cast member who works at at Disney's Hollywood Studios, served as master of cermonies. You may know Don as one of the hosts of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire-Play It! He helped host the Star Today program, and can even be seen currently at Lights! Motors! Action! show.

Don welcomed the crowd, then introduced Vice President of Disney's Hollywood Studios, Dan Cockrell, who honored some two dozen cast members who had been with the park since day one. Among them was Noel Campbell, who was selected among them to be especially honored.

Dan then asked for a show of hands of those who were there on opening day as park guests. He invited one, Linda, to join him on stage and share her memories of that opening day, as well as the years that followed. She expressed her love for The Great Movie Ride and Star Wars Weekends.

Don invited Linda, Noel, Dan, and Mickey Mouse to each place a hand in cement on a special anniversary plaque. Then Dan re-read the opening-day dedication speech given by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner:

"The World you have entered was created by the Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood—not a place on the map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by techological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was and always will be."

Silver anniversary veteran cast members of Disney's Hollywood Studios are present as a special hand print set is shown to guests at the re-dedication ceremony. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The festivities continued throughout the day. There was a line 60 to 90 minutes long for special 25th anniversary merchandise, which included shirts, bags, bear plush, keychains, and pins. Guests could also purchase a 25th anniversary chocolate Nutella cupcake. In the evening, guests gathered to watch the grand motorcade down Hollywood Boulevard that included Mickey and Minnie, Belle, Dock McStuffins, Phineas & Ferb, and Captain Jack Sparrow.

Indiana Jones rides in the motorcade. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers show up as well. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

They all gather for a big photo op on stage in front of the sorcerer's hat. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Guests were also able to celebrate the night with a DJ dance party. That led into a major fireworks event that honored 25 years of Disney's Hollywood Studios, which included music from Toy Story, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Little Mermaid, The Muppets, and Beauty and the Beast.

What was significant about the event was the number of people who came wearing old Disney-MGM Studio shirts, and who simply enjoyed reminiscing about one of their favorite parks. There were many there in attendance that day. But it was only one day.

Still, it doesn't have to end here. Where you there when Disney-MGM Studios opened? What are your favorite memories over the years? Are there any attractions you particularly miss? And what would you like to see in the next 25 years at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Please share your experience with us, and keep the celebration going!



  1. By DisneyGator

    Really enjoyed the history of the park! Our first trip to WDW was our honeymoon in June 2002, and so we were there for the 100 Years of Magic season. We fell in love with what we called "MGM". Bought the hats, the t-shirts, the tank top (because the day were there it was HOOOTTTTT!!). I'll never forget the miserable 80 minute wait for RnRC and then realizing that it was worth it the first time it took off! We loved that park so much, it was all we could look forward to when we returned in 2004. We got there on Super Bowl Sunday and the place was empty. Instead of waiting 80 minutes for one ride, we rode RnRC and ToT twice in that same 80 minutes.

    Some people may hate me for this, but we LOVE the giant Mickey Hat. Of course, we never saw the place without it, but for us it helped represent what we thought Disney World was all about - Mickey! I still don't feel like I've been to WDW until I've seen that beautiful hat. And DHS houses my favorite attraction at Disney - the Tower of Terror. I love the detail of the story and how it's so attached to one of my favorite TV shows (even for a youngster like me), the Twilight Zone. The one in California just doesn't compare to the detail, park location and theming, and random drop sequence of the original.

  2. By safmouse

    My favorite attraction was the animation studio. I remember peering through the windows (I think it was called the "fishbowl") and seeing the animators painting cels. The guide said they were working on Disney's next movie, called "Aladdin". Getting a sneak peak at Disney's next animated movie was the highlight of my trip.

    Since the studio shut down, DHS seems like a theme park that's lost its purpose. Not sure what they can do about this though, since having a studio there isn't economically feasible.

  3. By carolinakid

    I first went to the Studios in the fall of 1989 and I absolutely fell in love with it. I am a big fan of old Hollywood so I was just in heaven. 25 years later this park DEFINITELY needs some love and attention. AND that damn Sorcerer's Hat needs to GO! DHS still has so much potential but it has become a half-day park for me now. I usually do Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Great Movie Ride then I'm outta there. All the rest of the attractions I've done so many times that I now skip them unless the person I'm with wants to do them. That Jack Sparrow thing is a joke. I kept thinking this was the pre-show until the exit doors opened! Once in a while we'll go back in the evening to dine at the Hollywood Brown Derby and/or catch Fantasmic, but that's pretty much it.

  4. By ricktib

    I was fortunate enough to be at MGM Studios on the official opening day of Star Tours in January of 1990 while on a high school "Magic Music Days" band trip. We had heard that George Lucas and other celebrities were at the park, but were surprised when just prior to the start of the Indiana Jones show, Michael Jackson and his entourage entered the theater from the front-left of the bleachers. I did not get any photos of that, but I did get this one of Mark Hamill in the Stars & Motorcars parade:

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