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Defining the Hollywood Studios Era

Over the past three years, Hollywood Studios has been that "lucky guy" from your fantasy football league.  You know, that person in the league that somehow pulls off win after win each week and you have no choice but to tip your hat to him.  After all, Hollywood Studios has received two major new attractions (Toy Story Midway Mania & American Idol Experience) and upgraded an existing attraction (Star Tours).  Three new attractions in three years are a big deal for theme parks and the Studios' clout  has never been higher.

But with Fantasyland 2.0 and AVATAR Land the focus of Disney World's expansion plans for the foreseeable next few years, we're standing at the high water mark for expansion of Hollywood Studios.  What will the next five to ten years look like?  And how will this impact the park's standing as we move forward?

In my nearly 10 years of covering Disney's Hollywood Studios, nothing generates interest in the park like new attractions.  Sure news and events from around the park get their fair share of attention, but a new attraction really brings the people in and the past three years have generated an incredible amount of attention for the Studios.  Looking back on those years, it's safe to say I've been to more media events at the Studios than I can ever recall being at previously.  All this attention is great for the park and has done wonders for improving it's stature among Disney World veterans who are always evaluating the state of Disney World, both as a whole and individually.

It's no coincidence that these three years of improvements to the park have coincided with the name change of the park from the Disney-MGM Studios to Disney's Hollywood Studios.  Where in 2007, I thought the change was more about a lack of connection with the parks origins, in 2011, the name change has to do more with enabling the park's future.

Today, we're in the middle of what we will look back on as the "Hollywood Studios Era".  These first three years have been great for Hollywood Studios but the key will be what comes next.  The biggest enemy of the park (and any Disney park) is stagnation.  We don't want Hollywood Studios to simply rest on its new found laurels.  While I don't expect Disney management to just forkover $50-100 million per year for new attractions, I do hope there is a plan in place to keep the park moving forward.

My greatest fear is a repeat of the period of time from about 1999 through 2005 or so, where really nothing substantial in the Disney-MGM Studios changed. That lull in progress created a lot of the problems that the Studios is emerging from now.  The notion of the park not having enough to do and not having as good attractions as the parks that preceeded it cast a shadow over the Studios that has been its biggest enemy since. By allowing Hollywood Studios to languish once more in stillness would only lose the ground the park has made.

So as the sparkle starts to fade from our new attractions, let's hope the executives in the Disney Parks food chain recognize the importance of one of Walt Disney's favorite sayings, "Keep moving forward".  As someone that loves everything Hollywood Studios, I want to see the Hollywood Studios Era continue getting brighter and hope that Disney feels the same.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 by