Disney/MGM Studios Backlot Tour in 1996

When Disney/MGM Studios opened in 1989 (I wouldn’t get to see it until 1994), it was a pre-emptive strike against Universal Studios’ plans to open their own theme park just down the road. The park was quickly constructed and opened in order to beat Universal’s 1990 opening date.

One of the main features of the park were tours where you could see Disney Animators working on upcoming features, and a behind-the-scenes tram tour through actual movie and TV locations. Since Orlando was far, far from Hollywood, neither Disney’s or Universal’s studio parks were going to come close to the “real” studio tour that Universal Studios had in California, but hey, it was at least a different concept for a theme park out East.

The Backlot Tour was part walking tour, through exhibits and presentations, then tram tour. For some reason, I have no photos from the tram tour portion, but I did take some during the walking part.

There were actual movie props on display. I forget what movie this Trojan Horse was from, but it was on display next to vehicles that were, I think, from the movie The Rock.

D/MGM Studios Backlot Tour Trojan Horse on August 26, 1996.

For the opening of D/MGM, a short film was produced starring Bette Midler called “The Lottery“. It was filmed in sound stages and on the streets at the theme park. Here are some of the props and set pieces used in the film:

D/MGM Backlot Tour props and set pieces from The Lottery on August 26, 1996.

And, hey! Here’s a recording of the movie on YouTube! Look at “original” Disney/MGM Studios!

But I digress.

There were lots of other props to see along the way, and eventually you got to look at the water tank. It wasn’t a real filming location — it was just a tourist thing and part of the show. But, it had what looked like one of the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea subs in it!

D/MGM Backlot Tour water tank on August 26, 1996.

Two guests were selected before the show to act out a nautical battle scene. One was in a ship wheelhouse set, and the other was at the battle station where they would “fire” on the ship.

D/MGM Backlot Tour water tank on August 26, 1996.

I even got to do this twice. Here’s me in 1998:

Me on the D/MGM Backlot Tour on January 24, 1998.

There were many other interesting things to see along the tour. Of course, I was focused on theme park stuff, and excited to see a Jungle Cruise (assumption) elephant:

D/MGM Backlot Tour Jungle Cruise (?) elephant on August 26, 1996.

You’d pass through a “prop warehouse” and see things from TV shows as well as defunct Disney theme park attractions.

D/MGM Backlot Tour prop warehouse on August 26, 1996.

This Mickey refrigerator prop caught my attention, though I don’t know what it was from.

D/MGM Studios Backlot Tour Mickey refrigerator on August 26, 1996.

But this prehistoric TV I did recognize! It was from the ABC series Dinosaurs. See the in-universe corporation logo on the front? “WeSaySo”.

D/MGM Studios Backlot Tour TV set from ABC’s Dinosaurs on August 26, 1996.

And this “famous” prop… A Binford Tools lawn mower from the ABC TV series Home Improvement:

D/MGM Backlot Tour Binford Tools lawnmower on August 26, 1996.

Some items were clearly marked as originating from the other Disney parks. Look at the logo here – EPCOT Center, before “Epcot ’94″…

D/MGM Backlot Tour Epcot assets tag on August 26, 1996.

And look at all the decommissioned animatronics from World of Motion (I think)! I’ll just stick them into a small gallery here, since this article is already getting way too long. Click them to see full-size versions.

It was such a neat experience, and this is only a fraction of what it was. There were plenty of other exhibits and “show” elements before getting to the tram tour.

I’ll have much more of this tour to show in future installments as the years progress and I started taking more and more photos in the parks.

Until next them…

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