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Soundstage Restaurant

Friday, February 27, 2009

Unfortunately, some parts of the Studios never really lasted a long time and have been closed for years with no replacement to be found. For one reason or another, guests have been closed off from parts of the Studios due to these closures and we haven't been back since. Those of you who visited the Disney-MGM Studios in the very first few years it was open may remember a restaurant in what is now the Animation Academy area that was called the Soundstage Restaurant and the bar that was litterally above it in the catwalks that was called the Catwalk Bar. These two establishments once graced the map of the Disney-MGM Studios but have been long since shuttered.

The Soundstage Restaurant was located in Soundstage 5, which is where Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage! is currently located and was a full-service restaurant that had a design to look like a "live set" from some Disney films. Sponsored by the J.M. Smucker Company, it was a buffet that featured characters from Disney animated classics and served breakfast and lunch. Originally, the restaurant had a theme to the film "Big Business", starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin from 1988. The idea of the theme was to make it look like the set was fragmented as if it had been "struck" and there were set pieces and props from other productions lying about. The film had many scenes filmed on the backlot of the Disney-MGM Studios and was the first film to have a tie-in to the Soundstage Restaurant. There were sandbags on ropes and lighting control boards and that sort of thing hanging about. The Cast Members that worked at the restaurant even wore catering costumes to tie-into the whole theme of the restaurant being a "wrap party".

In the years that followed, the theme was changed to tie into more recent Disney films such as "Beauty and the Beast". When the Soundstage Restaurant re-opened with the Beauty and the Beast theme, guests entered a storybook village setting and had the opportunity to eat at these counter-service "mini food courts". In the food courts, you would find a station for pizza, a different station for salads and so on for other types of food. Subsequently, the theme of the restaurant changed again to "Aladdin", where the characters of Jafar and the Genie joined you and later Pocahontas, which featured Governor Radcliffe and Meeko. An interesting bit of trivia is that there were golden camels at the front entrance of the restaurant during the Aladdin years, and these camels were the same camels from the Aladdin Parade that was briefly at the Disney-MGM Studios and the same camel you can find in Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom currently.

The Catwalk Bar was a cocktail bar located on the catwalks above the seating and service areas for the Soundstage Restaurant. To get to the Catwalk Bar, you'd have to use a stairway or elevator between the Soundstage Restaurant and the Brown Derby. The Catwalk Bar served appetizers, light snacks and even featured televised sporting events. It had a large television to watch the sporting events.

On November 14, 1998, the Soundstage Restaurant was closed permanently to make room for a brand new show called "Bear and the Big Blue House". When Bear in the Big Blue House opened and took the location of the Soundstage Restaurant, the Catwalk Bar still remained open, although it would be forced to close during showings of Bear and the Big Blue House. Once Bear and the Big Blue House started having performances throughout the day, the Catwalk Bar also closed for good. Both the Soundstage Restaurant and the Catwalk Bar have since been removed in favor of the Playhouse Disney series of attractions that have come and gone in Soundstage 5 and with it, an early piece of the Studios history.