EDITORIAL: How Necessary is the Overhaul of Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

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Having a favorite attraction, show, or shop at Walt Disney World means constantly having your radar tuned for refurbishment or closing announcements.

“Is this it? Are they finally closing it down for something bigger?” you wonder.

That’s why I sympathize with people who must be feeling down about Disney’s Hollywood Studios right now. In order to make room for Toy Story Land, opening in late 2017, and Star Wars Land, opening in 2018, there’s a lot of real estate being ripped down and repurposed. I can’t fathom the amount of personal memories and cherished family trips being dismantled to make room for two of Disney’s biggest franchises.

Whether you’re up in arms or ready for change, let’s break down Hollywood Studios’ overhaul piece by piece to see if this is really the revamp the park needs.


Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show: Has anyone actually seen this? And if you have, do you feel obligated to ever go again? As far as a park staple, this attraction never really caught on and became an unmovable part of the Disney Parks canon. Seeing it go isn’t a tragedy, especially when you consider that we could instead be losing a different stunt show featuring a particular hat-wearing adventurer named Indiana Jones. Now that would be a catastrophe that park couldn’t survive.

The Earful Tower: This is one that gets to me. After all, it was the symbol of the park for many years. And before you bring up the hat, I hated that hat as much as anyone. But the hat was distracting and out of place. The Earful Tower harkened back to the Hollywood of yesteryear, the whole idea behind why the park was built. In an era where the old is rapidly being placed with the new and shiny, keeping it would have been a touching tribute to the opening day vision of the park.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure: I struggle to imagine this is still popular with anyone, even children. There hasn’t been a new film in the franchise since 1997’s “Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves,” and even that was only a direct-to-video release.  And as park goers born in the 1980s and 1990s start bringing their families to Disney World, I don’t think they’ll have any impetus to bring their kids to this attraction. Updating with themed lands inspired by thriving franchises is the smarter move.

The Writer’s Stop: Surprisingly, this one irks me. I love The Writer’s Stop. It’s frequently mistaken for a fake facade, and you’d never remember it unless you’d popped in for some peace and quiet during your hectic day. But it’s the calmest place in all the parks. A writer could literally write in there all day and actually get work done. They have real books and newspapers, in addition to your typical overpriced coffee drinks and cupcakes. Many people won’t miss or remember The Writer’s Stop, but I sure will.

When we examine things closely, I think you’d find that even the most steadfast defender of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure would agree that this is the face-lift the park needs. I’d even argue Disney should go a step further and get rid of Muppets 3D, or at least update it considerably.

If you’ve gone to Hollywood Studios in the last few years, you’ll know it’s become what we call a “half-day park.” If you get there when the gates open, you can hit all the must-see attractions by early afternoon, and then head to Disney Springs, another park, or your resort. And if you’re a true Disney World aficionado, you know this is not what the parks are meant for. They’re supposed to be all day adventures. You eat, ride, and play until the sun goes down, and then you finish things out with a nighttime show. It’s not a real Disney World vacation unless you’ve been on your feet for nearly 15 hours and you’re about to drop dead from exhaustion on the bus ride home.

Walt knew that sacrifices would have to be made for the parks to continue flourishing, and saying goodbye to those beloved attractions can feel brutal. But his vision will never fully be complete, and I’m almost certain he expected his parks to change with the times.

Which is why in order to end Hollywood Studio’s reputation as a half-day park, we need Toy Story and Star Wars Lands. They’re our only hope.

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About the author

Dane McDonald

Dane McDonald is a writer who is physically based in Chicago but emotionally living at Walt Disney World. He holds a degree in journalism from Indiana University and could spend hours explaining to anyone why "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is the greatest animated film of all time. He's been visiting WDW for over two decades and can usually be found riding the Tower of Terror or chowing down on the bread service at Sanaa.


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  • Completely agree with you on all but the Honey play set. I agree that the movie theme is extremely outdated, and they could have just slapped A Bug’s Life sign out front, and it would have been adequately “updated.” The reason I say it’s a loss is because young children truly enjoy this area.

    I realize that kids can play on slides and ropes and tunnels at just about any playground in the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that young children love it just as much as other attractions. For obvious reasons, a teen or adult won’t want to waste time on a playground. They want to ride the E-tickets that they can only experience at WDW. But I’ve seen first hand with my young kids that once they’re in the Honey play set, it’s a battle to get them to go anywhere else.

    Don’t get me wrong, TSM is awesome and not to be missed, but without FP+, the best you can expect is to get one 4 minute ride per 90-120 minutes. The play set is fun, it’s active, there’s no queue, and they get to enjoy it over and over and over. For a young kid, that fit the bill. I’ve seen the same thing with every other playground at Disney, whether it be at Dumbo, Dinoland, etc. The play set will never be the first thing anyone runs to in the morning, but the smiles and laughter it generates are more than enough to justify finding a new home for it within the park.

    Just my two cents.

  • The Writer’s Shop was me and my husband’s private spot to get away as well. We could charge our phones, have a coffee, and even meet an author or two. Just last year we met Jason Fry, writer of multiple new SW cannon novels. We’d always befriend the cast members since we’d be in there at least 10 times in a day. It was an essential stop during Star Wars Weekends to get away from the heat, but it was never crowded. While sad, I understand the need for change. What I don’t get is why Star Wars Weekend was scrapped. Disney could have at least had it going until the actual land opens up. Their fix essentially amounts to a glorified Star Wars museum with a few character meet and greets.

    I plan on taking a long break from Hollywood Studios until the lands are finished. A third of the park will be missing, not only in attractions, but space as well. It will be hell once all the walls go up.

  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show : Saw it once or twice never really felt the need to do it again

    The Earful Tower : Would love to see it stay, but maybe they will move it to Disney Springs?

    Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure : Way outdated and didn’t even enjoy this as a kid.

    The Writer’s Shop : Will absolutely miss this shop as the previous folks have mentioned.

    Streets of America : This is the one that hurts the most for me, and while it is a huge waste of space in all reality. We have done The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights every year since it debuted except one, it was a family tradition that was I able to bring my wife into, and now this past year our son got to see them for his first Christmas. When I watched the final performance video here online it had me crying like a little baby!

  • The thing I’ll miss the most isn’t even listed: The Backlot Tour. Yeah, it’s been gone for a while; but it was what the park was all about — experiencing movie magic. Lights, Motors, Action is the nearest thing they have to that; but I’ll agree it feels like a half-hearted, out-of-context, woefully inadequate attempt to keep the movie magic experience alive. I went the last time I was there, but it was only to climb to the top of the stands to see if Catastrophe Canyon was still there.

    Sacrificing the things you mentioned may make the park a full-day park; but it only closes the door on the original vision for the park. I don’t see why Star Wars and Toy Story Lands couldn’t be implemented in a dramatic and compelling way that’s in line with how the park’s purpose was originally conceived.

  • Sad to be the bearer of bad news, but Muppets is on the chopping block :( so many heartstrings, but I am praying that the new lands are immersive and engaging to all (and more importantly, timeless)

    • Actually the rumors of a mini Muppets land is looking and gaining more traction. The closure of pizza planet with the scrims they put up for construction looks like it may be Muppet themed.

  • Brace yourself – Just two days ago I heard a reasonably high-placed Disney cast member tell another that Indiana Jones is exiting the park as well. Maybe they’ll re-theme that for the Star wars land that will encircle it.

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