Studio Backlot Tour
From Disney's Hollywood Studios Wiki
The Studio Backlot Tour is one of the original attractions at Disney's Hollywood Studios that opened with the park on May 1st, 1989. It is a combination of a walking and tram tour of the backlot area of the park. It is located in the Streets of America section of the park, more specifically right at the end of Pixar Place.
Harbor Attack Show
Guests are taken into a show area with a large water tank in front of them. In the water tank are props reminiscent of Pearl Harbor: the deck and the engine room of a patrol boat. A Cast Member explain how the water tank and props can be used in filming scenes from action films. Using volunteers chosen from the line before the show, guests are shown a special effects demonstration, known as Harbor Attack. One volunteer sits in the engine room and is overcome by a deluge of 1000 Gallons of Water coming into the room through a window from two dump tanks. The other three volunteers are standing on the deck when an attack happens. Explosions underwater, simulated torpedo bursts, and fireballs are used to simulate the attack. When filming is finished the footage is put together with previously recorded CG footage of airplane attacks and dialogue and shown to the guests.
Alternatively, if technical or weather related issues prevent the use of volunteers, a condensed version of the show is shown, with just the effects.
Before 2001, there was a similar version of the show with a more Pirate than Pearl harbor theme.
When the demonstration is finished, guests continue into a large prop warehouse. The line moves guests up and down aisles of props used in different major productions including Marvin's Room, The Santa Clause, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid,The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and George of the Jungle. Several of the props are tagged with information about each one. At the exit of the building the tram part of the tour begins.
As guests exit the prop building they board a tram for the main part of the tour. As the driver brings the tram through different areas, an automated spiel explains what is found there and tells the guests facts about it. Guests first travel past the Earful Tower, the one of the icons of the park. The tram ride is the closest that guests can get to the tower in the park. Than they some topiaries and by two life size planes used in the movie Pearl Harbor. After the tower, the tram drives through the costume and materials building, which has a thru-way for the tram and windows for guests to see the costumes and people working. A highlight in the building is the room full of tires used for the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.
When the tram leaves the building it brings guest through an outside area named the boneyard. In the boneyard are vehicles which were featured in many films. Included is a bone cage from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, a steamroller from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, motorcycles from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, ships from the Star Wars films, the escape pod from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, cars used in the Herbie the Love Bug films, and other vehicles used in other Disney-produced films.
In the middle of the boneyard guests are told that they will be entering a current movie set while the cast is on break. It enters into an area known as Catastrophe Canyon, a rocky area with a fuel truck and water tanks inside of it. While the tram is stopped "filming" starts suddenly. An earthquake shakes the tram and causes the fuel truck to explode, sending a fire ball into the air. Then a flood of water comes rushing down from the canyon and from above the tram. When the earthquake subsides and the water stops, the set begins to reset for the next tram and the host on the tram tells guests how it was done as the tram goes around behind the set.
After exiting the canyon the tram travels through parts of the boneyard again. Guests go past the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show stadium and practice areas. The tram also passes Walt Disney's private airplane. After this part the tram pulls to the exit and that part of the attraction is finished.
In order to leave the attraction, guests must walk through a museum exhibit based on AFI's 50 Greatest Villains. Many of the villains on the list are represented with life-sized figures in display cases, with drawings and pictures of them from their films. Some of the props included in here are Darth Vader's and Darth Maul's costumes from their perspective Star Wars films, and Davy Jones' Organ from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The entire list of villains is presented with pictures of all of the villains on a wall in the building. Directly following this, is a wall featuring every AFI's Lifetime Achievement Awards recipient. While guests on the Backlot Tour must go through the exhibit to exit, it is not necessary to go on the tour to see the exhibit, as it is possible to enter it through the gift shop exit.
The first incarnation of the Backlot Tour had its entrance where the current entrance to the Magic of Disney Animation currently is. The original tour was far longer and more elaborate than the current version. One of the highlights from the former tour included Residential Street, a faux neighborhood where all the houses were nothing more than fronts (no sides), which included the houses used in hit NBC sitcoms The Golden Girls and Empty Nest as well as The Disney Channel's educational series Adventures in Wonderland. They were torn down to make room for Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. The former tour also drove through New York Street, which has now been transformed into the Streets of America. After driving through NY Street, the tram drove to Catastrophe Canyon, just like the tour today.
Oddly enough, pictures of some film shooting on parts of this first incarnation of the tour can be found in the restrooms in front of the attraction.
After visiting the canyon, guests disembarked at the current exit area. The area where the current Studio Catering Co. restaurant & adjacent shop are, was originally a break area for guest before embarking on the second half of the Backlot tour, including a Rodger Rabbit themed store. This break area was expanded to include an area for kids to play; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure. The second half of the tour was a walking tour. It encompassed the current water special effects tank, the Jim Henson's Creature Shop, and the existing soundstages along Mickey Avenue & the Soundstages that currently house Toy Story Midway Mania!, Journey Into Narnia: Prince Caspian, Walt Disney: One Man's Dream, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Guests viewed the soundstages using overhead walkways, and could see actual productions going on. Portions of the walkway can still be seen in the park. Most noticeably by the current Backlot Tour entrance and by Journey into Narnia there are walkway bridges. Just like NY Street, due to the overwhelming popularity of the Disney's Hollywood Studios, former Backlot areas were opened up (present day Pixar Place, Mickey Avenue, and southern Animation Courtyard).
Much of the former walking portion of the Backlot Tour featured in the second paragraph became its own attraction, Backstage Pass, separate from the original tour. This greatly reduced the overall Tour time. Around this same time, the entrance to the Backlot Tour was moved to the end of Mickey Avenue, with a new entrance ramp built to the water effects tank, a prop warehouse building constructed for additional queue, and a new loading area for the trams.
Up until a lengthy refurbishment in 2008/2009, a Cast Member would actually spiel for the attraction, instead of an automated spiel. When the attraction reopened on March 29th of 2009 the auto-spiel appeared with it.