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Disney's Hollywood Studios at 30: There's no better symbol of modern Disney

Contributed by
May 2, 2019

If Magic Kingdom fills one’s heart with nostalgia, EPCOT teems with retrofuturism, and Animal Kingdom highlights conservation with attractions as a hook, Disney's Hollywood Studios has always been where cinephiles feel at home.

Still, so much has changed in the 30 years since Walt Disney World's third gate opened. Having dropped both its original moniker, Disney MGM Studios, and its origin as a functioning animation and film studio, perhaps no other Disney park in the world so clearly conveys the current state of The Walt Disney Company: all your favorite characters and favorite stories, all in one place. (Looking for Marvel? They're just down the road.)

Its transformation is most evident with The Great Movie Ride, a marquee attraction once filled with homages to other studios’ films that will be replaced next year by Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, a ride that, for the first time, will pay tribute to the famed characters responsible for the success of Disney's own.

This is no longer the park with a Fantasia-era Sorcerer's Hat at the front, an automotive stunt show in back and an entire land devoted to empty film lot streets. (A new logo debuted today as well, eschewing its gilded script with something distinctly more Helvetica.) Experiences like a permanent American Idol audition show and seasonal Christmas lights show have long since stepped aside for a park that’s preparing to take a big, bold step into the spotlight come August 29, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge debuts.

As Disney’s Hollywood Studios enters its proverbial second act, there is so much beyond that on the way. It may no longer be a theme park where films are made, but its future as a masterful showcase of Disney and its affiliated film studios’ finest works may shine even brighter:

Mickey Minnie Runaway Disney World

Credit: Disney

NEW DETAILS ON MICKEY'S FIRST-EVER ATTRACTION

The park's 30th Anniversary brought with it a sneak peek at Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, a boundary-pushing flagship attraction themed to the modern Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts. Though its summary sounds rather conventional — Goofy will take guests on a wacky train ride as Mickey & Minnie head out for a picnic — the family-friendly attraction is being touted as a technological marvel, blending theatre-like showmanship with "cartoon physics," a phrase we can’t stop thinking about and will haunt us with pure joy until the ride debuts in Spring 2020.

Get stoked for a theme song that’s said to be on par with the music of The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean — a claim coming straight from Disney, so you know it's true — along with crazy twists and plenty of blacklights.

THE MOST BANG FOR YOUR NIGHTTIME BUCK

Disney’s Hollywood Studios just debuted Wonderful World of Animation, a 12-minute montage of projections and pyro paying homage to the rich history of Disney and Pixar animated films. (The segment with Walt Disney Studios’ original animated classics is a standout.) As an addition to Fantasmic! and the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular evening show, it now makes Hollywood Studios boast the most nighttime entertainment of any Walt Disney World park.

Toy Story land Disney

Credit: Disney

A NEW EXPANSION TO TOY STORY LAND

Prepare to chow down on homestyle favorites Andy would approve of at the just-announced Roundup Rodeo BBQ. It’ll be the first table-service restaurant within Toy Story Land — Woody's Lunch Box currently serves up comfort food like gussied-up grilled cheese, gourmet homemade Pop-Tarts and tater tot nachos — set for just beyond Slinky Dog Dash coaster.

AN INNOVATIVE HIGHWAY IN THE SKY

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will reveal its own kind of monorail later this fall. The Disney Skyliner system will bring large-scale gondolas to the park for the first time ever, each housing up to 10 people and connecting four Walt Disney World hotels to Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot, helping you beat the lines to pilot the Millennium Falcon even more quickly.

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