As with each of Walt Disney World’s parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios garners its fair share of rumors and debate – especially lately with the not-yet-finalized Star Wars expansion plans in the works, the announced closure of the American Idol Experience, and just last week – the announced closure (August 17th) of the American Film Institute Showcase and Shop. Rumors continue to swirl about other closures ahead and, while that makes me a little sad for what will be lost, I’m completely thrilled that the Studios will be getting some long overdue attention – and not just with Star Wars – I’m really hoping Disney will be adding more new and different experiences. Old rides and attractions did not receive necessary updates – Many have gone virtually unchanged for 25 years! My hope is that these worn, tired, and outdated experiences, even if they’re completely replaced, will allow the Studios to reach its potential as a full day park. I even heard a rumor this week that the park might receive a completely different name…we’ll see, won’t we?
If you’ve ever been on the Studios Backlot Tour, you’ve been in the American Film Institute Showcase – a collection of easily recognizable props from famous movies. As you exited the exhibit, you’d pass through a shop selling movie memorabilia and props. The shop had some very cool merchandise which was completely different than in most other Walt Disney World retail stores. Sadly, it was one of my favorite parts of the Backlot Tour! I’m extra pleased in light of the closure of the exhibit and shop that we took the time for one last Backlot Tour while we were at Walt Disney World in May. On that tour, we notice right away that no volunteers were chosen for the Pearl Harbor filming demonstration at the beginning of the tour – that was another of my favorite parts of the experience. Once, many years ago, Raymond and I completely shocked our children by volunteering to be in the show – our few moments as deckhands in Pearl Harbor remains one of our happiest Disney memories to this day.
Certainly, the Studios Backlot Tour is a perfect example of an attraction that could have, should have been updated over the years. Instead of being updated, it slowly lost its magic over time. After showing mostly the same special effects (like Catastrophe Canyon) and prop types (especially in the abandoned vehicle graveyard), elements of the tour were removed or diminished. As with most of the Studios, the Backlot has been in need of a change for a long time.