WDW 50 – The ideal range of attractions from Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary is approaching, with the big day just a few days away on October 1. To prepare for the event, we at Laughing Place take a look at different parts of Walt Disney World every day, past, present and future, today with a step back in time.
Here at Laughing Place, we have interactive maps of each Disney park over the years (created by yours truly). The maps are a fun way to visually examine how each of these parks has changed over the years and serve as a wonderful companion to this room as I watch which year the range of attractions reign supreme at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can follow with the Hollywood studios map and tell me if I made the right choice with my pick or if I was out of my rocker. So let’s take a look at a few honorable mentions before we get to what I think is the best year to visit Hollywood studios in terms of attraction.
Honorable mention # 1: 2020
One important thing to remember is that these choices are only based on which attractions were in the park, not all other parts of the year, so COVID considerations are not taken into account here. From 2015 to 2018, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was a shell unto itself, constantly under construction and just waiting to get its new lands in Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The new lands were essentially a third major phase in the history of the park. In my mind, the three are the Behind the Scenes Era (1989 – 2004), the Live the Movies Era (2018 – Present), and the Transitional Era (2005-2017), the latter of which represented a time when the park has lost its sense of identity as filtered attractions inside and out. I thought each of those eras should be represented here, so why 2020?
Well, let’s look around for a comparison. Star Wars: Galaxy Edge only opened in 2019, which narrowed our choices down to 2019, 2020, and 2021. But then Mickey’s Runaway Railway opened in 2020 and nothing closed, so it was really fair between 2020 and 2021 because while Runaway’s Railroad has a few detractors, it’s definitely better than no attraction at all. The Wonderful World of Animation nighttime show hasn’t gone through COVID and nothing has been added so far this year, so again, something is better than nothing, and I’ll take 2020 as my top pick.
Honorable mention # 2: 1995
Then we have my pick from the backstage era, 1995. When I was figuring out which year to choose between 1989 and 2004, there were two attractions that struck me as the ones that needed to be included: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and full Visit of the studios. With that in mind, the choices fell on 1994 and 1995. By going for these two, I missed out on some of my favorite extinct attractions like Dick Tracy starring in Diamond Double-Cross and Here are the Muppets at the front and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – Play It and Hercules victory parade on the end later.
But those years still included Muppet * 3D Vision, Beauty and the Beast – Live on stage, and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Show, all the pillars that are still there to this day (sort of). Additionally, there were smaller attractions that helped build the fabric of the park and showcase the behind-the-scenes aspects of The monsters sound show and The magic of Disney animation. Plus, those years have had two of the biggest attractions at Disney-MGM studios with the original Star towers and The great walk to the cinema. Between these two, Tower of Terror and the original Studio Tour, the park featured many attractions that appealed to visitors of totally different demographics.
As to why I chose 1994 over 1995, the choice was pretty straightforward for me as I preferred to have the Toy Story Parade combo and The spirit of Pocahontas that the duo of Aladdin’s Royal Caravan and Muppets on Location, but I could certainly see the argument going the other way as well. But I’m going to take my 1995 and move on to what I consider to be the perfect lineup in Disney’s Hollywood Studios history.
The ideal lineup of Disney’s Hollywood studios: 2008
Finally, we come to my pick for the best year to visit: 2008, which surprisingly came during the transition era. I feel like I’m in the minority here, but I feel like the Transitional Era was actually the best time to visit the park as there were a lot of attractions kept from the early days as well as a good number of attractions which are still classic to this day.
Since I made my arbitrary decision that the original Studio Backlot Tour and Tower of Terror should be part of the Behind the Scenes Era choice, we have missed two classic attractions that joined the park in the late 1990s, Fantastic and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with Aerosmith. These two attractions were a big part of pushing 2008 forward over 1995, even with a much worse Backlot Tour than the original version. In the meantime, we have also had attractions like It sounds dangerous and Lights, motors, action instead of Monster sound show and part of the Studio Tour, so personally I will withdraw this compromise.
As of 2008, there really weren’t too many additions to the park as it was sort of in limbo with just minor shows and fireworks added until the arrival of Toy Story Land. and Galaxy’s Edge. There were two interesting decisions to be made between combining Parade of Disney stars and motor cars and the original Star Tours and the duo of new star visits and the American Idol experience. Even though I love The American Idol Experience more than Stars and Motor Cars, I think the latter is a better example of what the park meant to customers. Also, I would much prefer to experience the original Star Tours rather than the new one.
But the big reason why I chose 2008 is because any choice in the transition era must include the climax of the period, Toy Story Mania. The attraction helped transform the park into the Live the Movies era and was a game-changer in terms of moving the park forward.
We will be doing the same exercise for all the other Walt Disney World parks, so take the time to explore the others interactive maps and think about your choices.
Thanks for reading and let us know what year you would choose to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios!
Cole Geryak is a childless millennial who makes his way across the world. He made every trip to Disneyland in a day, while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is her middle name, and her heart really is in the parks.