Reported by Theme Park Tourist…By Amanda Kondolojy, Wednesday, October 26, 2016 06:59
It’s no secret that Disney’s Hollywood Studios has lost a lot of attractions in recent years with more than a dozen closures happening at this park since 2014. However, even though some of these closures paved the way for new attractions (it only took a few months for the Magic of Disney Animation to switch over to the Star Wars Launch Bay and For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-a-Long moved into its current location less than a year after The American Idol Experience closed), the vast majority of these closures have been in preparation for the twin projects of Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land, which still have yet to officially break ground.
While we’re certainly excited for these two new lands to be built eventually (no target opening date has been announced), the process of demolishing so much of the park in the process has shrunk Disney’s Hollywood Studios dramatically, with a third of the park’s land simply vanishing from guest view behind walls. Don’t believe us? For comparison’s sake, here’s a map from 2014:
And now here’s the park today:
As you probably noticed, not only is the number of attractions lower on the bottom map, but the back third of the park is completely missing. So how did we get here? Well, it started back in 2014…
Two adjacent closures kick-start reinvention rumors
The downsizing of Disney’s Hollywood Studios started just two years ago with the closing of the Studio Backlot Tour on September 27, 2014. Back then, there were no announced plans for Star Wars Land, Toy Story Land or anything else. However, just a few weeks later on November 6, 2014, the nearby Legend of Jack Sparrow closed as well. Fans couldn’t help but notice that these two attractions were located right next to one another, and rumors started flying about an expanded Pixar Place potentially coming to this area after the adjacent One Man’s Dream and Voyage of the Little Mermaid closed (which of course, never happened).
During this time, rumors about an eventual reinvention of Disney’s Hollywood Studios also surfaced, and while we are still waiting for an announcement regarding this particular development, what happened next seemed to confirm this park’s quest for a new identity.
The Sorcerer’s Hat gets demolished and Star Wars Land changes direction
Love it or hate it, the Sorcerer’s Hat at Disney’s Hollywood Studios proved to be a very striking icon for the park. Though it was only intended to be a limited-time decoration for the 100 Years of Magic promotion in 2001, this structure hung around for 15 years, becoming more of an iconic symbol of this park than its original symbol, the Earffel Tower. However, in late 2014 it was revealed that the park icon’s days were numbered and in early 2015, demolition began.
After the Sorcerer’s Hat was dismantled and removed, Disney’s Hollywood Studios sat in a state of flux for several months, as it had already lost a number of attractions (as well as a park icon), but nothing about the future of this park had yet been announced. Behind closed doors, plans for the 1.0 version of Star Wars Land (which was originally rumored to be heading to the Echo Lake area of the park and simply added a restaurant and kiddie attraction near the pre-existing Star Tours) were being criticized as too simple, and the original idea was scrapped in favor of a new, immersive land that would be built overtop the current Streets of America.
But what would happen to the area that was taken up by the former Studio Backlot tour? This spot had been gathering dust for nearly a year by this time, and with no plans announced, many guests were wondering what was going on here. However, in an effort to try and get something into the park that wouldn’t be as involved as Star Wars Land (and could potentially open much faster), it was decided that a new version of the Toy Story Playland, which can be found at both Hong Kong Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris Resort, would be erected in this area.
The tail end of 2015 brought the official announcement of both Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land, but unfortunately no opening timeline was given, and Disney had no comment about rumors that the park was getting a new name. Which brings us to more recent history…
Welcome to Disney’s Wall-ywood Studios
Though closures were happening throughout 2014 and 2015, the Disney’s Hollywood Studios park map largely remained in tact through these first two years, with guests able to roam freely around the park past closed attractions. However, that all changed on April 2, 2016 when Disney’s Hollywood Studios experienced the largest single-day mass closure of any Disney park, anywhere, which included the final day of operation for the following:
- Lights Motors Action Extreme Stunt Show
- The Premiere Theater
- The Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Play Set Adventure
- The entire Streets of America area
- The Earffel Tower
- Monsters Inc Meet and Greet
- Studio Catering Company
- Watto’s Grotto
- Youse Guys Moychindice
This was definitely a huge blow to the park, and on the morning of April 3, 2016 guests who ventured out to Disney’s Hollywood Studios found the following sight:
Walls were everywhere, and as the year wore on, they only grew in size (claiming another victim in the Writer’s Stop dining location, which closed in September 2016), with the park ultimately losing a third of its usable space.
With so much gone (and the park now very awkward to traverse thanks to two new dead ends), many might question why Disney is even keeping this park open at all, with only a handful of rides and attractions still operating. However, the good news is that Disney’s Hollywood Studios, while currently shrunken to a fraction of its former size (you can walk the whole park in about 15 minutes…we’ve done it!) has some big things planned for the future, that will actually grow the park beyond its former borders.
We know based on recently filed permits that Disney is looking to build on an area that sat just outside the former Lights Motors Action stadium to give Star Wars Land a little breathing room, and Cast parking is being moved to a new garage to create more room at the front of the park as well. In addition, it has been rumored that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be getting a new entrance in time for Star Wars Land, potentially at the back of the current park, putting Star Wars Land front and center (and potentially opening up the current parking area as an expansion pad for a future, third project).
Though there’s still a lot that has yet to be announced in regards to the future of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it can’t be denied that this park’s current, shrunken state certainly isn’t ideal. However, big things are in the works, and we can’t wait to see what the next chapter is for this park!
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