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How I fell in love with the Disney-MGM Studios

 Sometimes you have to wonder what drives someone to make a website like this (or my other websites about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n Roller Coaster) and devote so much effort and time into it. Even writing this I’m thinking “….wait, what was the reason again?”.

My first trip to the Disney-MGM Studios happened sometime after the park opened and I was about 10 years old or so which put that trip in the timeframe of 1990 or 1991 (for the Studio novices out there, the Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989). I was a child of the Magic Kingdom; I wanted to ride interesting attractions based on movies I liked and ride a lot of them. It was why my family and I came to Walt Disney World in the first place: we wanted entertainment unrivaled from what we found at home. I’m sorry to say we did not find it at the Disney-MGM Studios.

Fast forward about 10 years and I’m now finished with high school and me and my friends decide to go down to Disney World for a last hurrah trip before we all went off to college to better ourselves and find something to do with out lives that paid well (or so we told our parents). I was in charge of planning the trip and as a result decided to do some research. Magic Kingdom? Gotta do it. Epcot? Yea, let’s stop there too. MGM? No way. I had learned my lesson from years past. I presented my touring plan to my friends and one of my friends asked why we weren’t going to the Studios and I calmly and eloquently explained to her my prior experience and why I was doing them all a favor by going. Well any guy who is reading this knows girls always get their way.

So we were off to the Disney-MGM Studios and I was prepared with my “told you so!” and figured if we made it to lunch that would be an accomplishment. I never had an opportunity to use that line as quickly my expectations were blown away. I found a different park from it’s humble (and boring) beginnings.

The first attraction we experienced was the Tower of Terror. The wealth of theming stuck with me on this and the subsequent times I rode I was discovering different things. It was a great topic of conversation later where someone would say “Hey, did anyone else notice…”. I loved how Disney had merged a simple idea, the free fall ride, with theming, technology and story.

Following Tower, we rode Rock ‘n Roller Coaster which is another attraction that incorporates story, ride and tech. Coaster really gave that sense of being in a real recording studio just like Tower made me believe it really was a hotel. That’s the sure fire sign you’re at Disney World and the element that separates Disney attractions from stuff you find in carnivals or your local amusement park. Just like in the Magic Kingdom where you would take old style omnimover attractions and add that Disney touch, the Studios took contemporary attractions and added that flair and “woa” factor to make it great.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the movie making part of the park. At the time, the Studios was a real working movie studio and although most of the interesting things to see where behind closed doors, the aura of being able to see Disney artists work in the Magic of Disney Animation or take the Backlot Tour or Backstage pass tour and see props and costume designers at work made you feel connected to the “movie magic” even if tended to be movies and films I would never want to see (Ernest Saves Christmas, need I say more?).

One of the best kept secrets about the Studios is the streetmosphere (Ok, not that much of a secret but Disney calls their Vacation Club a secret so I’m taking some editorial liberties here). Streetmosphere is the name for those people you see roaming the park that play a role of someone and entertain you. Usually they’re spoofs of stereotypical characters from the 1940’s.; The aspiring movie actor from a country town or a city girl looking to make it big in Hollywood. They each have their own personality and mannerisms. As interesting as they are, it’s the guest interaction that is the real fun. They’re quick thinking on their feet and span the difficult chasm of being entertaining without upsetting the guest who is being made fun of. If you’ve never stopped to see an act (I know I skipped over this quite a bit until I was waiting for someone and happened to catch part of it), it’s definetly worth seeing. And if you’re really wary of it, throw a beloved family member as sacrifice to be made fun of and I guarantee you’ll love it.

I didn’t fall in love with the Studios in one trip and do everything. It took a few more return trips (first to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating from the first time and subsequently to really see what I had missed) and I discovered the fantastic Broadway shows, special events (Star Wars Weekend anyone? Yes I know it’s quite nerdy but it’s a fantastic guilty pleasure), attractions now gone (RIP Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Monster Sound Show and my beloved Ernest Saves Christmas house) and some intriguing food options. Nevermind Fantasmic! (and the sometimes shown but renamed Sorcery in the Sky), the stunt shows, characters or anything else I neglected to mention (I’ve got to have something to write about in next week’s column!). The Studios for me made a real connection; entertainment different from what I had experienced as a child at the Magic Kingdom yet retaining that distinct Disney feel.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 by