Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Its Unknown Future (part I)

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I’m like most Disney theme park fans, I hear rumors all the time, some of them are more legit than others, but it can be hard to tell which actually have some nuggets of truth. To help with this, I have a rule – I don’t believe anything until Disney actually breaks ground on the project. But that doesn’t mean I can’t speculate about the latest rumors. So, keeping my rule in mind, here’s my latest understanding of changes coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Sorcerer’s Hat is getting moved. If it’s possible to save the hat (which isn’t a given considering how much steel and concrete when into placing it at DHS) there are a couple of options as to where it will end up. It could go where it should have been placed originally – the Christmas Tree planter in the lakeside plaza out on front of the park. There it will provide a great moment as guests arrive from the bus, parking lot, or friendship boat dock. It can continue to house a store just like the little shop outside of Disney’s Animal Kingdom does. Plus, you’ll be able to view the hat from 360 degrees, which you really can’t in the park. Another likely location would be Disney Springs where it would fit in nicely in the modern west side area.

Moving the hat is rumored to be the first step in what will be a major makeover for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This will likely happen over a period of many years, but the park is expected to get (we’ll try and figure out the order of these later): Star Wars land, Toy Story play land, Cars Land (junior edition), a new parking lot entrance and extra parking spots, a performance corridor for parades, and a placemaking overlay on the order of Disney’s California Adventure (possibly with an entirely new entrance plaza).

Disney has stated that moving the hat will allow them to start on a “re-imagining” of the hub of the park, but they haven’t said how extensive that project will be. Disney has also announced that there will be Star Wars added to the parks and they promise to tell us more about what that will be in 2015. We can also logically assume that something will replace the Backlot Tour area that shut down. That’s actually a fairly sizable area, so it might be used for more than one thing. Current rumblings have some sort of Pixar themed attractions being added.

With these changes the park will drop all pretense of being a working studio (if the closure of Backlot Tour didn’t send a clear enough signal) and move into something more akin to a celebration of great Hollywood themes. Think Science Fiction, Film Noir, the Musical, Animation, Westerns, etc. Of course, Disney with its newly expanded library of movie properties (Marvel, Lucasfilm, The Muppets, Pixar) and its own classics, will want those franchises to be front and center at the park. This means we may say goodbye to the Great Movie Ride, at least as we know it. Dining locations like “The Commissary” and “Backlot Express” will close or get new themes and the Streets of America and Lights, Motors, Action stunt show will go away.

Other attractions expected to close soon: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow Pirates of the Caribbean experience (announced), Lights Motors Action (rumored), Great Movie Ride (rumored), Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Show (rumored), and Honey I shrunk the Kids Playground (rumored). In fact, if you look at the map I drew up, you’ll see that more than half of the park is either in red (removal has bee announced), yellow (rumored to be on the chopping block), orange (backstage areas that could be relocated), or blue (potential expansion area for the park).

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That should give you an idea of what a major project Disney could be preparing to undertake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

In part two we’ll talk about budgets and timelines and how all this speculation might play out.

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10 thoughts on “Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Its Unknown Future (part I)

  1. ***Dave

    It will be a shame to see some of that go, and I hope in the process some of the “Silver Screen Hollywood” theming and streets toward the front will be maintained, as that’s one of the most charming areas there.

    Expansion of the Star Wars and Pixar-related areas seem like a no-brainer — I’d love to see Disney make a go at more Muppet material, too. Meanwhile, though I’ll miss the Indy stunt show, maybe it could be rethemed as a Star Wars stunt show.

  2. Jez

    I think everyone agrees that Disney needs to do SOMETHING with Disney Studios – and fast as it’s looking very tired and disjointed.

    I’d be sorry to see the Indy Jones show disappear, interestingly we were at DS yesterday and it was pretty much full up all day. Not bad for a 20 year old show!

    My frustration with Disney though is over timescales. They’ve known they needed to do something for years and yet they’re so incredibly sloooooooooow at ACTUALLY doing anything. I guess they spent all the money they’re prepared to spend at the moment on the 1.5Bn Magic Bands initiative rather than actually updating the parks.

    BTW my second wish is that when they do update DS they do a better job than ‘New Fantasyland’. We got to see the final finished land yesterday and all thought that for 3-4 years of development it was pretty disappointing – especially as the focus ‘E ticket’ Mine Train ride was really rather poor.

    Plans are one thing, but Disney needs to take a leaf out of Universals ‘Harry Potter’ book and invest and deliver something to really excite their park guests.

    1. Kaz

      I’d love to see a Star Wars themed land be fully immersive the way Universal did with Harry Potter. I think that’s got a better shot at being a big draw than an Avatar-themed land…

    2. dashboardcowman

      Historically Disney has always taken their time, especially with major developments. That’s why when they do something it is done right (usually) and is normally better than all us fans expected.

  3. Paul Douglas

    I’m also hearing about a rename. The frontrunning name appears to be Disney’s Hollywood Adventure which seems appropriate considering they’re pivoting away from the defunct Studio part of the park

  4. Disney Dork Tom

    Great write up. I would think expanding a Toy Story area around the existing Midway Mania would make sense first, then do a pretty major addition of Star Wars land around Star Tours.

    In my wildest dreams they’d replace Indiana Stunt show with an Indiana Jones based land instead, too, but that’s of my own dreaming.

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  7. THE DISNEY LOVER

    SAVE THE HAT!!!!!! The Hollywood Studios hat is the central attraction of this amazing theme park. I’ve been to Disney over a dozen times and I always love seeing the hat when I walk into Hollywood Studios. The Sorcerer’s Hat in Hollywood Studios is just like the castle in the Magic Kingdom; people remember Hollywood Studios because of the Sorcerer’s Hat. If the hat is to be moved anywhere, it should be moved to the front of the park where the big tree is. The hat is what makes Hollywood Studios complete. If it is moved it should still stay in the same park. Other than that I believe that all of the other ideas for Hollywood Studios are great and would make Hollywood Studios better than it already is!! We look forward to going back to Disney soon and making many more wonderful memories and pictures with the Sorcerer’s Hat!!

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