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50's Prime Time Cafe

A favorite restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios has to be 50's Prime Time Cafe, which offers some classic family meals set in a restaurant that with a theme of a kitchen from the 1950's along with Cast Members who act as family members with "mom" in the kitchen cooking up the meals.  It's a great restaurant with a distinct story and it plays into a larger story being told by Imagineers.

To explain the story of the 50's Prime Time Cafe, we need to take a step back and look at Hollywood Studios as a whole.  By simply looking at the architecture of the park, we're seeing a natural progression from a chronological standpoint.  When you first walk into Hollywood Studios, you see buildings that are modeled after the architectural style of the 1930's and 1940's.  As an example, the Darkroom store was built in 1938, Oscar's Super Service has a 1940's wrecker parked in front (it also used to have a 1947 Buick parked out front as well), and other buildings such as Tailor to the Stars that have the art deco motif that was popular in the 1930s.

As you progress further into the park, let's remember that when the park first opened in 1989, there was no Sunset Boulevard and if you headed towards the Great Movie Ride, you could pass under the Animation Arch, which was the ceremonial entrance into the movie production area.  But if you took a left turn and headed into the Echo Lake section of the park, the story continues as you encounter the Hollywood & Vine restaurant that is emblematic of the cafeterias that were common place in the 1940's and 50's.

That leads us right into the 1950's, which is where 50's Prime Time Cafe is set to take place.  Outside the restaurant, the architecture progresses from the art deco styling of the 1930s to the modern Los Angeles designs of famous architects such as Richard Neutra, Pierre Koenig and Frank Lloyd Wright.  

This restaurant is part of the newer era Hollywood and with it being the 1950's, we're in the middle of 1950's America, which is obsessed with the latest craze in entertainment, television!  As you enter the restaurant, you will find television sets everywhere, playing classic 1950's sitcoms because when families gathered to eat a meal together, often the only television set in the house was in viewing distance to enjoy.  The television shows chosen are those that were popular around 1955 such as The Dick Van Dyke Show or I Love LucyMickey Mouse Club and Father Knows Best.

Before you are seated, you are asked to wait in "Dad's Den", which is complete with lots of televisions, low to the ground coffee tables, mounted animals on the wall and very comfortable couches.  After all, before a meal was ready, the kitchen was busy with the meal being cooked and table places set.  Once the food is ready, the Cast Member would call the "kids" (everyone eating at the restaurant are referred to as the children) to come eat, where you are escorted to your table.

The cuisine of the restaurant is set to family favorites such as meatloaf, fried chicken and pot roast.  Along with the food are various items from the 1950's including various decorations.  The dessert menu even comes in the form of a Viewfinder toy!  Those who have eaten here know about the "schtick" the Cast Members play with, where they act like they are your older cousins or aunts or uncles and therefore will discipline you "kids"  such as making you stand in the corner if you put your elbows on th table or feeding you your vegetables as they pretend the fork is an airplane.  All of this goes towards the goal of making you feel like you're in the 1950s.  

Everywhere you look inside, you will find a common theme of tributes to mom, lots of turquoise and even Formica tables with matching pattern chairs.  In order to make the guest feel like they are back in the 1950's, every detail needs to convey that time period. The Cast Member costumes for the women are the long dresses with pink and orange stripes that look like something you might dig up from your grandmother's closet.

The 50's Prime Time Cafe wraps up the story of a bygone era that is being told at Hollywood Studios.  From the 1930's through the 1950's, the story of the Studios covers the span of time that was considered the golden age of Hollywood and that story is told to you as you walk through the park.

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About this column

Ever seen something in Hollywood Studios and wondered why it was placed there by Disney's Imagineers? Matt Hochberg leads you on a regular look at the hidden details in Hollywood Studios and explains why it's there.


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Posted: Thursday, January 14, 2010 by
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