On May 1, 1989 a third park opened at Walt Disney World: Disney-MGM Studios. I was not quite five and wouldn’t go for several years still, but a few name changes and updates later, today that park turns 25!
In honor of the Studios’ 25th Anniversary, I want to take some time and remember 25 things I love (or have loved) about the park. A half-day park to some, it’s actually always been one of my favorites. At least top four. 😉
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid – On my first trip to the Studios, I was obsessed with Ariel and all things Little Mermaid. Well, except eels. But that’s for another day. I spent the day looking forward to this show, and when I finally got to see it I was extremely disappointed in Ariel’s performance – but the show overall remains one of my favorites. A decade or so later, my daughters got to announce the show’s opening and received a special certificate from Ariel and Eric. It’s one of their favorites, too!
- Stars and Motor Cars Parade – A distant memory for most, I still think about this parade often. It was one of the first I saw and, to me, is still one of the most unique. Instead of regurgitating rectangular parade floats, the idea of stylized cars for characters and movies still intrigues me – and it didn’t hurt that there were some lesser-seen characters there.
- The Butterfinger cupcake from Starring Rolls – I’ve talked about this before. In my opinion, it can’t be beat.
- Extra Magic Hours character greetings – While most people are rushing for Toy Story Mania or Sunset Blvd rides, some adorable meet and greets take place with little wait. Disney favorites are decked out for Hollywood and are some of the best dressed folks I’ve seen.
- Characterpalooza – This is worth reading up on and catching at least once per trip. It’s gaining in popularity some but is still relatively uncrowded. You never know who you’re going to run into and you just might get some really fun, hard-to-find autographs!
- The origin story (of the park) – Originally slated as a pavilion in Epcot’s Future World, Michael Eisner prompted imagineers to begin building an entirely new, Old Hollywood-themed park. I’m so glad he did.
- The origin story (of it all), One Man’s Dream – Hands-down my favorite place to kill time in any park. I can’t get enough about the man who failed repeatedly, was told he’d amount to nothing and had no good ideas, and set out with just a dream and $40 in his pocket… then went on to change the world.
- Grauman’s Chinese Theater – I’ll admit… I don’t mind the hat. But after having traveled to Hollywood and learned more about the historic theaters there (and having seen the circus that surrounds them now), I’m enamored with the charm this replica provides the park. It symbolizes everything the park is supposed to be: “The Hollywood that never was, and always will be.”
- Disney Jr. Live on Stage – Ok, yes… I’m a little old for this one. But this show, and Playhouse Disney before it, have provided some of the most precious memories for me as I’ve watched my three kids take in, and participate in, their favorite stories.
- Mulch, Sweat and Shears – they’re brilliant musicians and liven up the atmosphere wherever they appear. Enough said.
- Osborne Family Spectacle of (Dancing) Lights – I could take or leave the dancing, honestly, but this holiday event is a must-see for us as often as possible.
- Star Wars Weekends, et al – I am a big fan of the themed weekends that take place (or used to take place, a la ESPN The Weekend) at the Studios. I have had the opportunity to be at both mentioned (and never had any interest in Super Soap weekend or whatever it was called) and they’re so much fun, even if you’re not a junkie for either theme.
- Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show – Ok. So the 5000-person theater was overly ambitious – but this show is good! I’m not a huge action movie fan and still find myself impressed by the stunts even on repeat viewings.
- Catastrophe Canyon – It seems the Backlot Tour is rarely running and I think it lost a bit of the effect after the studio was no longer a working studio… but the first time I rode it I really fell for the fact that we were taking a tour of the backlot. That is, until Catastrophe struck – but then I was just ridiculously impressed with the ride. I haven’t ridden in years because we always seem to go when it’s down for refurbishment, but I remember it being a lot of fun – especially the first time through.
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage – the quality of this performance as far as “bang for your buck” is perhaps rivaled only by the stage shows on Disney Cruise Line. It’s a wonderful, high-caliber show right there in the middle of the park.
- Sounds Dangerous – Cheesy as it was, I loved this attraction. Drew Carey was perfect and I have extremely fond memories of it.
- Fantasmic – This show continues to delight me and my family no matter how many times we have seen it. Second only to World of Color, it is one of the most spectacular nighttime displays I’ve ever seen. The finale music can make my day every time I hear it! 🙂
- Muppet-Vision 3D – Before the new movies, this was one of the best ways a new generation could connect with Jim Henson’s world. I think the attraction captures so many muppet characteristics we know and love, from the pre-show all the way through the exit.
- The “Singing in the Rain” umbrella – I think this exists for no other reason than a great photo opportunity. If you aren’t oblivious. (I love my sister, and love that she has grown up to actually see good movies… usually before I do now.)
- Luxo Jr. – Pixar Place is a beautifully-themed section of the park as it is, but this little guy makes me smile every time I see him – as he does at the beginning of each Pixar film.
- Crates outside of Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner – The theming in this park is spectacularly detailed, and these are some of my favorite overlooked details. Can you figure out what movies these are from?
- Unique Shopping – I love that there are wonderfully specific shops outside of the Muppets and Star Wars attractions. I love that there is a Villains store, even if I don’t particularly love villains. As Disney parks shopping generally trends towards a homogenous state everywhere you look, there are more than a handful of unique shops still open in the Studios.
- 50s Prime Time Cafe & Sci-Fi Dine In Theater – these are two of the most fun, reasonably priced restaurants on property. In general, I find dining at the Studios horrendous. These two (and Brown Derby, on the opposite end of the spectrum) save it.
- Hollywood Tower of Terror – While it’s one of many fun attractions at WDW, the theming and backstory to this one is way at the top pf the list for me. I don’t ride it every trip even, but when I do I am always impressed strolling through the lobby, library and boiler room.
- Animation Academy – I saved the best for last. I could stay here all day, and thankfully my girls are following in my footsteps and it’s one of their favorite attractions at any Disney park, too!
If you were in the park today… where would you head first?!