When Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989, the primary attraction was the Studio Backlot Tour. At first, the tour consisted of both a walking and tram-riding portion. Not long after opening, the walking tour was separated and the tram ride became the Studio Backlot Tour. Over the years, the tour has had many variations; in the beginning, the tram drove through New York Street; now New York Street is open for walking.
At the time, the draw for such a tour was obvious: Disney-MGM Studios was an actual studio, and the large arch (now the entrance to Animation Courtyard) was the entrance. As the studio portion of the park became less and less relevant, the Studio Backlot Tour was shortened and modified. Calling it the Studio Backlot Tour today is a misnomer since the current park is no longer a functioning studio. Want to see a real backlot tour? Visit Universal Studios Hollywood, where the tour is about an hour long, goes around all the various soundstages, outdoor sets, and through King Kong, Earthquake, Jaws, and The Mummy attractions (Earthquake, and Jaws are similar to their Orlando counterparts).
Instead of letting the Studio Backlot Tour continue to languish, Disney needs to shut it down and claim the vast amount of space for new attractions. They already tore down Residential Street to build Lights! Motors! Action! It’s time to take down Catastrophe Canyon and everything associated with the backlot tour up to the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground. This will be a change similar in size to the Fantasyland expansion, but it’s well worth it to help make Disney’s Hollywood Studios a full day park.
I’m not going to sit here and tell Disney to shut down a large portion of the park without offering a few suggestions for its replacement. One idea I’ve seen floating around that sounds really fun is a Monsters Inc. inverted roller coaster that flies through the door warehouse. However, I don’t want this entire space filled with Pixar attractions. Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ success is built largely on non-Disney properties such as The Twilight Zone, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Wizard of Oz. I think Disney should continue in this direction and find non-Disney properties to base attractions on. The rights would be extremely expensive, but how about a Lord of the Rings attraction? Disney could make an entire land out of The Lord of the Rings, much like Universal has with Harry Potter. Perhaps that’s too similar for Disney’s taste, but it could be a hit.
No matter what, Disney needs to do something with the Studio Backlot Tour; I’m officially calling for its head (sorry Matt). I am quite fond of the Earful Tower though, so I’d like to see that stay even though that ridiculous sorcerer hat is the park’s official icon. I want to see Disney do something worthwhile with the large amount of space this attraction currently wastes, and I think changes to the Backlot would increase attendance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
What do you think of the Studio Backlot Tour? Should Disney send it to the chopping block, or do you love riding through Catastrophe Canyon? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!