This week's entry is by request, as a Studios Central contributor and fan Shane Grizzard sent me an email the other day and it really got me thinking that it would be perfect for this column.
"Also I had a question/idea for your "Why It's There" column. You've talked about before how the Hollywood & Sunset part of the park is themed to be Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s, and you did one article about the significance of the year 1939. But whenever the Citizens of Hollywood talk about the "current year", it is 1947. Why is that?"
So to summarize, the Citizens of Hollywood all operate under the assumption that the year is 1947 and Shane wants to know why that year in particular. 1947 doesn't really have much significance in Disney lore, like 1928 or 1939 does. For the answer to this question, I had to turn to former Disney Imagineer C. McNair Wilson, who helped create Streetmosphere back in the late 1980s.
Wilson explained that 1947 was chosen as the year for a few reasons. First, the time frame of Hollywood Boulevard (remember, no Sunset Boulevard yet back in 1989) was building architecture that was popular in the 1930s and 40s so it had to be at least some time in the 40's (otherwise you have a real chronological paradox) and with World War II taking up the first half, they settled upon 1947 as it was still very much the 1940's without being influenced too much by the upcoming 1950s (poodle skirts, Happy Days, that sort of culture).
The newly hired Streetmosphere actors spent six weeks researching their characters and figuring out what they would be doing in 1947. Each actor researched what were the big hit songs of 1947 and what movies were Academy award winning in 1947 so that every Streetmosphere character would be exactly like anyone who lived in 1947 and would be able to be just like a real person from that era. You'll find this evident when some of the talent agents will spot a guest walking and call them a name of a famous movie actor of the time, usually older guests who may actually understand the reference better.
In addition to the Citizens of Hollywood, there used to be some other references to 1947 in the Studios. When the Disney-MGM Studios first opened, there used to be a 1947 Buick parked along side the Oscar's Super Service station, which would have made it a brand new car for the year.