Disney’s Hollywood Studios has arguably been as much of a construction site as a working theme park over the past several years.
However, with the recent additions of Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and two additional attractions coming in the next year, the park is close to completing its multi-year transformation.
Here’s a look back at what’s changed and what comes next for Disney World’s third theme park:
Aug. 30, 2014: The American Idol Experience closed. The first in a wave of closures for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this attraction was like a daily version of “American Idol” for park guests, with a winner getting to skip the lines at a future regional audition. The show had opened in 2009 in the space formerly occupied by Superstar Television and Doug Live!
Sept. 27, 2014: The Studio Backlot Tour closed. One of the biggest attractions when the park opened as Disney-MGM Studios in May 1989, this tour inspired by Universal Studios Hollywood’s own backlot tour had been scaled back as the park’s film and television production ended and soundstages it once visited were converted into other attractions. At the time, Disney didn’t announce what would be replacing the tour.
Nov. 6, 2014: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow closed. This walk-through attraction based on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films lasted less than two years. As was the case with the Backlot Tour, Disney didn’t announce what was taking its place.
Jan. 7, 2015: Removal of the Sorcerer’s Hat begins. Serving as the “icon” for the park since 2001, the 122-foot-tall structure inspired by the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in “Fantasia” took more than a month to deconstruct.
June 17, 2015: For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration opened at its current location in the space vacated by the American Idol Experience. The show had debuted the previous summer at the Premiere Theater in the park’s Streets of America section.
July 12, 2015: The Magic of Disney Animation closed. The original version of this tour was an opening day attraction at the park showcasing and explaining Disney’s animation process. From 1989 until 2004, the building housed Disney’s Orlando animation division, which produced sequences from “The Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King,” as well as three complete films: “Mulan,” “Lilo & Stitch” and “Brother Bear.” After it stopped being a working animation studio, the attraction was reduced to a short film along with character meet-and-greet areas and interactive exhibits.
Aug. 15, 2015: At the D23 Expo, Disney announced what was taking over much of the now-empty space in Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Dec. 4, 2015: Star Wars Launch Bay opened in the old Magic of Disney Animation building. The walk-through exhibit features a few real, screen-used props from “Star Wars” films as well as models, costumes and character meet-and-greet opportunities, along with a 10-minute film celebrating “Star Wars.” Displays have been updated as new “Star Wars” films have been released.
Jan. 6, 2016: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights finishes its final Christmas season run. First brought to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1995, the show’s final location was the park’s Streets of America section, which was set to close a few months later.
April 2, 2016: Along with all the shops and facades in the Streets of America, two attractions were also shuttered: the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure (which first opened in 1990) and the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show (opened in 2005).
April 29, 2016: The Earffel Tower was demolished. One of the last untouched structures in the area where Star Wars and Toy Story construction, this water tower (which never actually held any water) was the park’s original icon when it opened in 1989.
Aug. 13, 2017: The Great Movie Ride closed. The last opening day attraction from the old Disney-MGM Studios left standing, no new scenes had been added to the ride since it debuted, making 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” the most recent film depicted in the attraction. With Great Movie Ride’s closure, the park was left with only four rides: Star Tours, Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania and Tower of Terror.
Sept. 29, 2017: The Grand Avenue section of the park opened. This area was once occupied by the Streets of America, with facades now resembling present-day Los Angeles. The only interior space for guests in this section is the BaseLine Tap House pub, with the street acting as a sort of gateway leading to the entrance of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
June 30, 2018: Toy Story Land opened. This 11-acre section features two new rides (Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers) along with a new entrance for Toy Story Mania and counter-service dining at Woody’s Lunchbox. The land’s opening led to the temporary closure of the Pixar Place section of the park — which housed the original entrance for Toy Story Mania — before it was lightly rethemed to “The Incredibles” later in the year.
March 31, 2019: Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy opened. The new show with the star of “Cars” is located behind Rock n’ Roller Coaster, in space called Sunset Showcase. This building had previously been used for dance parties and media events, housing the press during June 2018’s Toy Story Land previews. The 10-minute show features a Lightning McQueen animatronic in front a 17-foot tall, 200-foot wide screen.
Aug. 1, 2019: Cast member previews begin for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The 14-acre expansion is nearly identical to a version that opened in May 2019 at Disneyland Park in Anaheim. Like that park, the land opened with only of its two attractions ready, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, along with “Star Wars”-themed shops, two quick service restaurants and the Oga’s Cantina bar.
Aug. 29, 2019: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens to the general public. Guests were in line as early as 3:30 a.m., and the queue for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run stretched all the way out to the Chinese Theatre. This initial surge in demand did not last, however. Disney’s Hollywood Studios saw lower crowds than anticipated over the following month, despite Disney calling the land a “runaway success.”
Dec. 5, 2019: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will open. Long hyped as the marquee attraction of Galaxy’s Edge, the ride puts guests in a role of Resistance recruits captured by the First Order and caught in the middle of an epic space battle. Anticipation has been so high that Disney executives said in November 2019 that they believed guests were delaying their visits to Disney World until Rise of the Resistance opens.
Spring 2020: Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is scheduled to open. Housed in the former Great Movie Ride show building and making use of its former track, this new attraction is being touted as a “2 ½ D” ride inspired by the short Mickey Mouse cartoons seen in recent years on the Disney Channel. It’s the first time Disney’s signature character will be featured in a ride-through attraction. The ride’s opening was delayed from fall 2019.
TBA: Roundup Rodeo BBQ will open in Toy Story Land. The new table-service restaurant will take over an expansion pad next to the building that once housed Disney’s Florida animation department.
This is an updated version a story previously published by Orlando Rising in June 2018.