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…

Kudos: Brad from PA at the BaseLine Tap House

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a visit special. For today’s “Cast Member Kudos” article, I wanted to thank Brad from Pennsylvania. We met him while enjoying drinks and snacks at the BaseLine Tap House at Disney’s Hollowood Studios.

BaseLine Tap House at DHS on September 10, 2018.

The Tap House is relatively new. I did not recognize it as the former location of Costume Shop…

Costume Shop at D/MGM on August 26, 1996.

…or Ellen’s Buy the Book

Ellen’s Buy the Book at D/MGM on May 19, 1997.

…or Disney’s Buy the Book

Disney’s Buy the Book at D/MGM on October 16, 1998.

…or even Writer’s Stop:

Writer’s Stop at D/MGM on October 3, 2007.

In fact, I probably still wouldn’t know this if it weren’t for Werner of yesterland.com clueing me in last year.

But I digress…

This spot is hot and trendy on with folks on Twitter, so I wanted to check it out. Since it was new to me, I would probably have popped in anyway to see what it was.

During my most recent visit, we stopped by just as it was opening at 10 a.m. (“What’s a guy gotta do to get a drink around here?” Wait until 10 a.m., apparently.) I am not a huge beer fan, so I tend to just try things that are special (local craft brews, or beers made exclusively for a theme park). This visit, I inquired about the shelves of liquor that were on display. It seems they can make all kinds of drinks beyond what is on the menu.

I had a Long Island Iced Tea, and noticed the number of liquor shots that went into it made it a much better cash-to-booze value than probably anything else I had in the park during my visit 😉 I forget what the second drink was, but perhaps a California Sunset or the Ace Space Bloody Orange Hard Cider.

BaseLine Tap House drinks and eats on March 3, 2019.

As we sat outside enjoying the crowd-less patio, I asked the cast member who was near us about their costumes. I was curious about what components might be their’s, personally, versus supplied by Disney. (Many company dress codes might say “black slacks, black shoes” and only provide a Polo shirt or apron or whatever.)

We ended up having a delightful chat with Brad from Pennsylvania and learned more about how much attention to detail Disney puts in to even the shoes their employees wear to work. Everything seems to have a reason.

I won’t try to bore you with a recount of my Q&A session asking about footwear, but suffice it to say, we found Brad to be a great example of the type of cast we expect from a Disney visit. (And, hey, he’s even been to Kennywood in West Mifflin, PA!)

Thanks, Brad, for taking a few moments to spend some quality time with a few random tourists from Iowa.

Until next time…

LIVE STREAM of Disney’s Hollywood Studios 30th anniversary

Disney will be live streaming the 30th anniversary celebration at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on May 1 at 9:55 (Florida time I assume). Set your alarm now to check this link.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/CmdF8ZjqGkM

Disney/MGM Studios in 1996

When the Disney/MGM Studios opened in 1989, it was a substantially different theme park than what you find today at the renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I missed seeing it the first several years it was opened — my first visit was probably 1994.

There are many things about the park that remain unchanged, but here are some that were still there in 1996 that are now long-gone.

Super Star Television on August 26, 1996.

I only saw Super Star Television a few times, but basically you’d see members of the audience up on stage in recreated sets from TV shows. They’d “perform” some lines and their footage would be intercut with footage from the actual show. I believe there was a Home Improvement segment, but none of this really stuck around in my memory. Perhaps that is why it was ultimately replaced, rather than just being updated with more current shows?

Disney article from 2014: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2014/04/a-hollywood-classic-superstar-television/

Monster Sound Show on August 26, 1996.

The Monster Sound Show was a look at how sound is added to movies. If I recall, this was the show that had Chevy Chase in it. It was later replaced with a Drew Cary show, Sounds Dangerous, which featured the audience in a dark room listening to binaural sound effects through headphones. (Disney got on a binaural sound kick for a bit. It was used in Alien Encounter at Magic Kingdom, and even a version of Great Moment’s With Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland. But I digress…)

Some may recall the news about the Alien Pizza Planet opening at Disneyland a few years ago. If I recall, they had to add “Alien” to the name because there was a real pizza business called Pizza Planet. (True? Internet “detective” rumor?) But, Pizza Planet was at the Studios park before then…

Toy Story Pizza Planet on August 26, 1996.

I don’t think I ever ate there. I did like seeing the Toyota Pickup truck outside, though:

Pizza Planet delivery truck at D/MGM on August 26, 1996.

There once were some “spitting” camels in a Disney parade… They ended up on display at the Studio park:

Decommissioned parade camels on August 26, 1996.

I believe those, or some others, were eventually inside the Animation Courtyard restaurant when it had an Aladdin overlay. Today, I think the same ones still live on at Magic Kingdom at their Aladdin flying carpet ride.

ABC’s hit show, Ellen, was causing an early IP overlay to happen…

Costume Shop on August 26, 1996.

Buy the Book was a location featured in the show. Today that building is home to the Baseline Tap House.

The Animation Courtyard included a tour where you could see Disney animators working on upcoming features. Thus, the entrance was far more … animated.

D/MGM Animation Courtyard on August 26, 1996.

There is much more to explore, but I’ll save that for future installments.

Until next time…

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