Walt Disney World
A History in Postcards
Chapter 9 Disney-MGM Studios Page 4 The Hollywood that never was--and always will be

The Disney marketing machine really pulled out all the stops for this parks grand opening stars of the old guard (such as Bob Hope and Walter Cronkite ) and stars who had joined Disney in it's growth and revitalization (Bette Midler, Robin Williams and George Lucas) all were part of the celebration. The Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park opened 9 am May 1, 1989, (over a full year before MCA/Universal opened its new Florida park)
0100-71122 The Chinese Theater
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According to Matt Hochberg Webmaster of Disney MGM Studios Information and Guide -http://www.mgmstudios.org Despite persistent rain throughout the day, people flocked by the hundreds to experience Disney's newest creation. In fact, the parking lot closed an hour after opening, leaving traffic backed up for miles. The Media covered the opening from different parts of the Studio, in front of different attractions. Streetmosphere characters kept the large crowds and long lines entertained. Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner read the dedication plaque at the opening ceremony: The world you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood--not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine; a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was--and always will be.

Draped in proper Hollywood glitz and glamor, the opening was hosted by a star-studded cast, including Walter Cronkite, George Burns, Willie Nelson, Jane Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Dick Van Dyke, President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and more.

0100-71123 Arriving in the glamorous LiMousine
Arriving in the glamorous LiMousine

Actor John Ritter hosted the event and provided some humor, after poking fun at the process that took place to bring the Studios into becoming a reality. The show opened with a big musical number starring Smokey Robinson that was a good launch as he and numerous dancers made their way down Hollywood Boulevard.

Another smartly paced musical featured Buster Poindexter, Ashford and Simpson and Ann Miller in three dance numbers that were well-choreograph and entertaining. Other highlights of the show included clips with Harry Anderson showing how special effects are created and with Tony Randall talking about the workings of animation. The show actually was fairly full through its first 90 minutes, but quickly dropped off as last half-hour went into a long concert session with the Pointer Sisters, George Burns (the highlight) and a rather uninspired Willie Nelson.

0100-71124 The official LiMouseine
The official LiMouseine

There was also a good deal of walking the television audience around this new park, which features a ride similar to the one at Universal Studios through a film studio back lot. The park also has sessions for audiences to take part in filming along with booths where children can dub their own voices into cartoons, and so on. There is more on Matts site about the founding of the studios on the page: http://www.mgmstudios.org/history.html

0100-71128 Sunset over Hollywood Boulevard
Sunset over Hollywood Boulevard

One element of the design of this park was a return to a sort of spoke and hub design, though not having sperate individual "lands" like the Magic Kingdom there is still some element of that design and particularly of a "Main Street" leading to the center of the park, which in this case is named Hollywood Boulevard. Many of the buildings on Hollywood Boulevard are replicas of actual Hollywood landmarks, from the often pictured Chinese Theater, to Sid Cahunggas bungalow, and even the ticket booths, main gate, and toll booths at the entry of the parking area are styled after the Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Sunset Boulevard has shops housed in facades replicating two classic California theatres, the Academy Theatre in Inglewood CA , and the Carthay Circle theatre of Beverly Hills which is the theatre where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered. When the studios first opened many of these structures originals still stood in California, sadly time has taken it's toll on quite a few of them in the years since, but, that's all the more reason to be glad that they are still represented here. There is a fairly good accounting of just what buildings were replicated in the books Since the World Began by Jeff Kurti, and Building a Dream: The Art of Disney Architecture by Beth Dunlop.

Another replica of a California landmark is the Crossroads of the world, which though located on Sunset Boulevard in the actual Hollywood is at the center of the "Town Square" end of Hollywood Boulevard, this Crossroads of the World deviates from the original in another way atop this Crossroads is a casting of Mickey Mouse, a special casting that also serves as a lightning rod for the structure.

0100-71129 Atop the Crossroads of the World

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0100-71108 The world-famed Chinese Theater
 The world-famed Chinese Theatre

E-mail Me martsolf@mindspring.com

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Last modified by Brian K Martsolf at 8:28 AM on 9/25/2004