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Envisioning a new Disney’s Hollywood Studios


There have been a number of different rumors about the changes coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios should the company decide to spend a few bucks fixing it up. The photo above and descriptions below are a compilation of what a few sources have told me plus a dose of what seems most likely just based on my experience with Disney World’s expansion history.

First, why would Disney be willing to spend a princely sum on Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They’ve just spent a half-billion dollars on expanding Fantasyland, somewhere north of two billion on the next-gen technology that’s bringing us Fastpass+ and MyMagic+, and have committed to building Avatarland, which might approach a billion dollars before all is said and done there as well (I’m including relocating Festival of the Lion King in that total).

There are a number of things lining up that point to DHS getting some TLC soon.

  • First Avatar-land has been delayed, so that bucket of money is potentially available to be shifted to DHS.
  • There is a growing awareness amongst Disney World managers that next-gen won’t be an attendance driver for the parks and resorts.
  • DHS has had problems keeping guests in the park after mid-afternoon. With Universal Orlando adding even more attractions, Disney is worried about losing one day of the Disney vacation to Universal.
  • Lastly, since the Lucasfilm addition, Disney has made clear that they’ll be looking to the parks to help capitalize on the new Star Wars properties. The Star Wars Weekends have been huge successes, particularly when it comes to selling merchandise, and Disney wants to attract that crowd all year long.

So when is this going to happen? Walls could go up at any time or it could take many months. But it’s clear the pace will be slow. Most likely they will add one or two attractions a year for a few years leading up to the 50th anniversary celebration in 2021. What will be built and in what order is still up in the air (although Star Wars Land is the leading contender). The plan will be designed to be accelerated based on attendance. If things look worse than forecast, a little capital will be added to rush in another attraction. Conversely if attendance gets a big bump after just a few projects, the whole thing can be slowed down even further.

The expansion will require infrastructure improvements. For instance, when the expansion is done, a lot more parking is going to be needed. One obstacle to this plan is the presence of conservation areas up close to the park’s current borders. Disney would have to get permission to ‘relocate’ some of these acres elsewhere on property (or potentially off property).

If they get that permission they can go ahead with plans to relocate the main car entrance to Victory Way. The old main gate that hardly gets any use will close and cars will be directed to take Osceola Parkway or the recently improved Buena Vista Way to Victory Way. The exit will stay the same, but secondary entrance will be limited to buses.

The green area on the map is the eventual boundaries of Star Wars Land. When complete it will expand into the old entrance way road and over to where the parade building is now. Further expansion can encroach into the parking lot if needed. The first phase will be finished in time to capitalize on the theatrical release of Episode VII in 2015. It will then grow when a new Star Wars film is released every other year after that.

Most likely up first, Backlot Express will be remodeled into a Tattooine Cantina restaurant. As for attractions, there will be a speeder-bike coaster (essentially a re-themed version of the TRON coaster planned for Shanghai) but with ‘3-D’ domes similar to Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey attraction. There is some debate if the Indiana Jones EPIC Stunt Show will stay, become a Star Wars themed stunt show, or if the speeder-bike ride will be placed in that area. Finally, the Jedi Training show will be moved to a new stage where Sounds Dangerous is now. The goal is to have room to expand based on successful stories introduced in the new sequels.

There had been talk of Star Wars land taking over Echo Lake or the Muppets area, but neither is likely. The Muppets theater is getting a huge refurbishment right now so I don’t seem them tearing it down anytime soon. Plus Disney has plans for The Muppets, so there will always be room for them in the parks. With the decision to relocate the main car entrance, they don’t need the Echo Lake space

Near simultaneously to Star Wars Land, the Pixar Place area of the park will be expanded. They’ve already hung test balloons over the future site of the Monsters Inc themed attraction (although we could get Ratatouille or Crush if they feel Monsters University underperformed). The big question remains, will Cars Land get the green light? If so, it will be a slightly downsized version from what DCA has.

Imagineering has learned a lot of lessons from the DCA build. Some stores are too small, some dining just isn’t working, and Luigi’s Tires (as cool as it is) just won’t work in Orlando. (We might get a Planes themed off the shelf attraction instead.) Plus we already have Test-Track at EPCOT, so they’re thinking of ways to differentiate the attraction a bit more while also reducing construction costs.

Cars Land has the biggest problem fitting into this expansion vision. The option remains to just call it all “Pixar Studios” and bring over some of Hong Kong Disneyland’s Toy Story attractions to add some much needed kid friendly spaces.

Finally, you’ll see I added a blue line winding around Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This part is mostly speculation, but with the existing parade building becoming part of Star Wars Land, they’ll need to relocated it elsewhere backstage . If they chose the spot where catastrophe canyon is now, then this is a likely parade route. I know that a real performance corridor is something they’ve wanted to add to the park for a while.

All the above is still mostly in “blue-sky” phase as ideas are proposed and budgets are figured out. But with site-prep beginning Disney Springs and soon to begin on Avatarland, eyes are turning to DHS as the park that most needs some attention. The big question remains to be answered — when? What’s your guess?

22 thoughts on “Envisioning a new Disney’s Hollywood Studios”

  1. Your map also seems to suggest that the Hat will move to the entrance. Are they just going to make the Chinese Theater the ‘weenie’ again, or do they have plans to redevelop that area?

  2. Whatever they do, they need to get a move on. Disney Studios (or Disney MGM as I fondly remember it) used to be my favourite park but now I am not bothered if I go to it or not. It’s like the black sheep of the parks family. Not enough new stuff to keep people there. I would much rather go to either of Universal’s two parks now. It lacks direction and fluidity. It’s like Disney can’t be bothered with it and it’s clear they ARE losing people to Universal and it’s not hard to see why :(

    They need to spend some money on it and they need to start NOW !!!!

  3. I’ve been excited at the prospect of Cars possibly coming to the Disney World Resort. Finally getting to see and experience it at DCA a couple of weeks ago, I can definitely see it over here. Many people don’t realize how small it really is. I think they could afford to get the Radiator Springs Racers out there and honestly if they were to bring Carsland out here…it would be a big flop if they didn’t bring RSR (unless they had some other planned ride that could give the same type of experience). And hey…I’m all about getting rid of the giant hat and making the Chinese theater the weenie again.

  4. My guess for the “when”? Soon, I hope!! DHS has become a half-day park for us on longer vacations, a skip-it park on shorter ones. It has some real gems, but not enough to hold our family-of-five’s attention span.

  5. I take it you missed the Avatarland display at D23 in the Imagineering arena? It is coming… so it’s pot of funds probably isn’t available.

    1. I said in the post that Avatarland has been delayed so the pot of funds might be available. How Disney plans their capital expenditures is a thing of mystery, but it’s not set in stone either.

  6. DHS is a special park for me as it just happened to be the first and only park I visited during my one day sidetrip to WDW about 10 years ago. Since then, every trip to WDW included this park. Seeing the enhancements done over at DCA on the west coast makes me hopeful for this park. They could make the outside of the Chinese Theater into the Carthay Theater and it would be nice that they would move the hat to the entrance or somewhere else. If they could do the above & be able to expand Star Wars Land towards the parking lot, they should make a Muppet themed area perhaps taking over Pizza Planet for a Muppet restaurant (perhaps Mama Melrose too). I think the check-mate for the park would include a Cars Land even if it’s smaller than the one in California, an addition of the long rumored Monsters Inc. coaster & a Pixar counter service restaurant taking over Studio Catering Co. If at some point they are going to do a little restructuring of Tomorrowland in MK then the Monsters Laugh Floor could find a good place here. So many options.

    1. Thank you. I was afraid I was the only one who didn’t want Carsland in Florida. Carsland makes Disneyland and DCA a destination rather than a stop during a trip in the area.

      1. I agree. There’s already enough that’s stamped Disney World/Land. If Disney wants to keep their edge, they can’t treat Florida and California as the same park on different coasts.

        There’s understandably going to be some of the same rides. But don’t just copy and then scale up/down.

  7. I’m really crossing my fingers that they leave Cars Land out of their plans for DHS. The park needs more than just another clone, and cloning it out east would just take away from the DCA one. Cars Land at DCA is already treading on thin ice in terms of thematic appropriateness for its location, the fact that it’s original to DCA is one of its few redeeming factors. Originally is needed, not more of the same. Cloning the land would be a cheap way out that would just end up being detrimental to both parks.

  8. They need to do something with speed and thrill rides. From my own perspective, we can skip TSM when my family goes to DHS, but SW, Muppets, ToT and RnRC are the must see. So there’s really only the four things there for us. As my younger kids grow up, I’m not sure we’ll be willing to take a day to just see those four things. We might finally break down and go over to Universal where there are plenty of thrill rides. And I can’t be the only one.

    That said, I hope that they keep Indiana Jones instead of changing it to a Star Wars show. The stunts just aren’t the same in SW. Give us another indoor coaster where we dogfight around the death star in an X-Wing. And why has the Monster’s Inc door trip into the storage area not been built? That scene screamed out for a ride from the minute I saw it.

    I really hope that Disney finally passes on Avatar, and puts the money into DHS first. I don’t believe that Avatarland will be a draw. Is Disney really wiling to give up two parks for a billion dollar nothing?

  9. Oh, here’s hoping that “Avatarland”‘s pot of money is reallocated and never goes back. I’ve never seen the attraction of a non-Disneyish major theme area, even if it revitalizes DAK. Given what Disney has in terms of Star Wars and Pixar, plowing some money into those items and DHS makes so much more sense to me.

  10. DHS is in desperate need of expansion. I truly hope that Star Wars (I’m no even a fan) happens for the sake of having something not only new, but major added to Studios.

    I worked both at WDW and IOA (Opened Potter) for a period of time, and I don’t believe that Disney worries about Universal stealing attendance too much. Potter’s expansion will be successful, but like it’s predecessor, hype will die down quickly.

    I think Disney’s concern with Universal is Marvel. Studios is the only logical (in the mindset that it’s a dumping ground of randomness) park to put Marvel attractions in. The earliest that could be done would be 2019, because Universal holds their Marvel attractions until 2018. I guess when you look at the timeline of how many years these expansions take that isn’t too far off; especially if they open Star Wars first.

    I really don’t want to see DHS do a half assed version of Cars Land, and I hate when we copy from Disneyland. I will always be more of a Disneyland fan for many reasons, but I live in Orlando, and want to see WDW thrive and evolve. I was much more interested in their plans for Monsters Inc, but apparently DCA might be getting that coaster.

    As for the money aspect of things, I don’t think Avatar will hurt funding for DHS. I think they finally realize that DAK needs night life, and DHS needs a massive overhaul lime DCA got. The company is clearly proud of what they did with DCA, and I think they see now that spending the money was worth it.

  11. Here’s why I believe they will stick with Avatar in DAK:

    – it fits with the “nature” and/or “animal” theme of DAK
    – in the film, Pandora (the planet the story takes place on) transforms and becomes a completely different place AT NIGHT….and what is the biggest area of opportunity for DAK? Something for guests to do/experience after all the animals have gone to bed AT NIGHT! The elements we have seen (fiber optics, touch- and presence-reactive technology) could easily be overlaid throughout the park in such a way so that they are pretty much invisible during the day but truly “transform” the park after dark.

  12. CAN Radiator Springs Racers even work in Florida? Wouldn’t it have to be under cover? Could the ride even operate in the rain?

  13. Pingback: Most sensational, Muppetational | DisVin

  14. As long as Cars land is included I am not a fan. the redundancy for more reasons then one there is extraordinary and they can do better. I would much rather have the much longer awaited Muppets land in part of that area. also it should not just be star wars land, other lucas films, particularily indiana jones, should maintain a presence.

  15. The Carthay Circle exterior is already on a shop on Sunset Blvd.
    The Chinese Theatre should be re-surfaced as the El Capitan so its kept all in the mouse house family since they never miss a chance at cross promotions.

    The hat … the hat should go to the Art of Animation Resort. Long live the Earful Tower! Yes all the signage and iconography will need to be redone. It should have never been switched in the first place.

    The stadiums for Indy and Lights Motor Action are needed because of the number of people they remove from the park at single swaths at a time. I don’t think they can put in a ride, two or three with the same theoretical hourly ride capacity. I read somewhere LMA was going to close if Route 66 was to come through (don’t forget Herbie) and couldn’t believe it for this reason alone. But it is a heck of a chunk of real estate along with its speed build up/practice pad. Indy too could really use an update or change. Love me some Indy but the whole show is based on Raiders from 1981. Add some action from other movies or just switch it out for another stunt performance show – Pirates perhaps. Star Wars stunt show I’m really not too sure about. Maybe the compactor and a cantina fight.

    Keep Echo Lake! It’s a great piece of water and tranquility in this concrete jungle.

    Are they going to keep The Voyage of the Lil Mermaid show since the same story is now open as an attraction in MK. Ditto for B&B Live on Stage.

    Let’s face it, it’s just a theme park, it will never again be a production facility. Animation is now just an air-conditioned current project promotional showcase and character photo op. Close it, along with the post-production offices area from ye ole Backstage Tour and all the other buildings & bungalows in the way way back. Move the costume and carpentry shops somewhere else on property. All this could be used to either do Radiator Springs bigger n better or any number of other attractions. How to fix the maze of streets, alleys and thoroughfares is someone else’s problem. Ask Bob Wies how to do it all right. Move everything from animation to the area that currently houses Legend of Captain Jack. Or replace the theater at the end of WD:OMD, and the backlot tour entry and drop-off with it. One Mans Dream should go on a national tour!

    I wasn’t aware MuppetVision was being refurbished. Anything beyond a face-lift of new paint and a digital projector. The gang could invade the Great Movie Ride to cause mayhem, making more room for Star Wars. GMR needs something done! Perhaps a tour through the Axiom after a Buy-n-Large pre-show of their products they’ve made to make the world better? We could enter the ship just before the robots needing repairs get loose and our heroes are trying to return the plant to the Holo Detecter, with a photo op at the end with WALL-E, Eve and the other bots. OR maybe an adventure with The Incredibles or a summer vacation day with Phineas & Ferb and an Agent P mission.

    Pretty sure IoA’s Marvel contract comes with automatic renewals just as long as they keep everything up to standards. That’s one reason they upgraded the projectors in Spiderman. Big D has paid other studios for the movie rights back to some of the Marvel franchises; they could make Universal a sweet buy-out offer and re-theming the island wouldn’t be that tough with the right property or license (Nintendo cough!). Meanwhile Diz will continue to poke em with sticks like merchandise, the new Avenger’s Academy coming onboard DCL and the new “The Marvel Experience” national tour just announced.

    An aerial tour of and visit to Pandora could be very cool, along with its conservation message. A new attraction could be opened along with each movie, just like John’s idea for Star Wars. Another blog hypothesizes that it’s actually James Cameron holding things up.

    Keep up the great work John.

  16. The Muppets Theater IS going. Where did you get your info? Oh yeah you don’t really have any – it’s all speculation. The refurb for the queue was already budgeted so TDO is going ahead with it. But the space isn’t delivering guest numbers so it’s def on the chopping block. Sorry Muppets fans but the theater is a goner. So is Streets of America. Thank God!

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