Studio Backlot Tour: Off With Its Head!

By | May 19, 2010 at 6:00 am | 11 comments | Attractions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Studio Backlot Tour: Off With Its Head! photo

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!

Thanks to Bill Barber on Flickr for the great photo of Catastrophe Canyon!

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  • DisneyDadNY

    Have to agree with you on this one! I say close it down and give us Carsland like over at DCA and the Monsters Inc Coaster in the soundstage by Toy Story Mania.

    I think we are going to see the Monsters Inc attraction announced sooner rather than later. A friend of mine who works at DHS says there has been quite a bit of activity in the building. Lots of imagineers milling about……

    Take the hat and either stick it out in the front of the park or move it over to the new Art of Animation resort! :)

  • dax248

    I agree with you! I do think it is interesting that the Monsters Inc. coaster is still in talks. I was working at UF when the person from there designed it and Disney had agreed to buy it (it was an engineering competition sponsored by Disney) and build it. I remember being all excited because I thought that would be a great addition to the parks, and then the idea just faded out.

    I will say if they got rid of the tour I wish they would create a real “boneyard” that people could walk up next to the props and the vehicles and take pictures. But, they would need to rehab a lot of them as they all look like blobs of rust currently. They have some things that could be neat on the tour, they just need to get rid of the tour.

    I haven't done the full tour in ages. The last time I did some of the tour was with @VBsHustla and all we cared about was the addition of the Chicken Coop from The Hannah Montana movie. We were bored during the water “filming” and were happy not to have to go on the tram. I think that is why having the props out would make more sense. People could enjoy them without wasting so much time on an outdated ride.

  • Matt Hochberg

    I've been a big advocate of either having actual film production on the Backlot resume or axing the attraction so kudos for continuing the fight to not let this attraction languish in mediocrity!

  • Benvolio7

    Personally, I am conflicted about my feelings for Disney's Hollywood Studios. There are elements of it that I really like, the theming of the entrance and the Sunset Blvd district leading up to Tower of Terror. I love the Great Movie Ride, Tower of Terror, Rockin' Rollercoaster, and even the Backlot Tour.

    What I don't like about this park is that the rest of the theming is extremely loose. The idea that an attraction fits into a “Hollywood” themed park for no other reason than that it is based on a movie doesn't cut it for me.

    If that were the case they could basically transplant every attraction from the Magic Kingdom into the Hollywood Studios and it would fit, right?

    A park themed around the concept of “Hollywood” needs to have attractions based on the overall concept of Hollywood as a state of mind and as a state of being

    Years ago, there were rumors of a Monsters Inc attraction being built in California Adventure. They decided that the Hollywood Backlot was the perfect place for this ride. I thought, “That could be cool. Maybe they'll make some sort of 'Great Monster Movie Ride' in which the characters were reenacting scenes from famous movies, but with a fun, monsterish twist.” Nope. They just created some crappy ride through of the movie. It felt to me like a wasted opportunity.

    At the time, I posted to some newsgroup that I thought a Monster's style funhouse ride through could be installed underneith CA Screamin'. The story could revolve around the Monster's collecting screams from the coaster above and laughs from funhouse they'd created on Paradise Pier. The other readers laughed at me, saying that there was no way an entire new attraction could fit underneath CA Screamin'. Of course I got satisfaction in the fact that a ride eventually was put in that space – a fantastic ride too.

    My point is that if you're not going to theme the rides in your park around the concept of “Hollywood” then I don't think that “Hollywood” is a very good theme for your park.

  • Scott

    Interesting; I haven't heard anything about the Monsters, Inc. attraction in quite a while. The Art of Animation Resort would be a good place for the hat; the Disneyland Hotel has a sorcerer's hat in front of it (although not nearly as gigantic).

  • Scott

    I'm not saying that every movie prop should be taken to the garbage dump and incinerated. I like the idea of having a walk-around boneyard. However, it's time to end this backlot tour farce and put in some worthwhile attractions.

  • Scott

    Thanks for stopping by Matt! Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Hollywood Studios is too far gone from its studio days to resume film production. Many of the former production buildings are filled with attractions now. The Streets of America host the Osborne Lights during Christmas, and it's the major walkway to LMA. Perhaps some animation work could be restarted at DHS, and I'd be happy to see that.

  • Scott

    I was a fan of changing the name to Walt Disney Studios; the Hollywood explanation is nice-sounding, but like you've explained, doesn't fully fit the park.

    I did not like the Monsters, Inc. ride at DCA at all. Nice forethought on the ride under California Screamin'.

  • mfeige

    I know I'm a little late, but I just read this article and I love your thinking. As someone who has been alive for almost all of Disney-MGM's Existence, but doesn't remember the live studio part, I find it endlessly fascinating. Similarly I love the fact that real and very good animation happened there. I'm sad that they shut it down after it produced a big hit for them (Lilo & Stich). But I agree about the backlot tour, it is no longer a back lot and hence the tour should go. Although please keep the animation building and the water tour!

    Now I've seen it thrown around multiple places that it should become more magic kingdom-y with lands themed to studios. I frankly love this idea. You get a place to put new Marvel attractions (eventually…), Pixar Attractions, Any Disney Attractions, you could have a television section (since it is hollywood), or genres of movies. WHATEVER! but themed lands with themed areas! Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd are some of the best “Place-making” Disney has done in the past 20 years (Tokyo Disney Sea excluded). That is shown out by DCA's TURRIBLE (in the words of Charles Barkley) Hollywood Pictures Backlot.

    Of course the type of changes I'm talking about mean changing not just the Backlot Tour, but that is certainly a starting point. Another studios (almost already set up) Muppet Studios! or Jim Henson or whatever. This calls for the destruction of all Lot style buildings. Of course that leaves some crushing questions I don't have answers for like What do you do with the Sci-Fi Diner (a personal favorite)? I also think that Echo Lake needs to stay, but it certainly doesn't fit. What's at the end of Sunset BLVD a TV themed land? My solution leaves things very messy for a while, but puts the park on the right track and still allows for the company to have easy promotion! or give another properties easy promotion.

    Let me know your thoughts! I enjoyed the great read Scott!


  • Scott

    I like your idea Matt! It's definitely something that would need to be carefully done though. What if they took the Hollywood concept more literally and made each section a studio (Muppets Studios, Pixar Studios, Television Studios, etc.) and Hollywood Blvd., Sunset Blvd. and Echo Lake became the surrounding town? I think they could fit Echo Lake in this way and still keep to the theming.

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