The creation of the Commissary Restaurant came about as a solution to a problem. The Disney-MGM Studios was originally designed with the idea that the park would hold about five million guests a year. Right away however, it became clear that attendance would shatter these expectations, and that upgraded facilities were needed . Commenting on the log jam, Imagineer Eric Jacobson noted:
" We were insufficient in facilities almost right away. In food alone, we needed another thousand meals per hour so we had to make that happen quickly.”
With the goal of quickly adding to the Disney-MGM Studios restaurant repertoire, Imagineers designed a new restaurant based on a studio commissary. Taking inspiration from the Art Deco stylings popular in Hollywood during the 1930s, Imagineers spent only two and a half months designing the new restaurant.
When talking about the idea behind the restaurant, Jacobson noted that although a commissary is really just a studio cafeteria, it had been idealized by the public as a place where they could meet movie stars. Imagineers strove to meet these expectations, marrying the functional needs of the park with the glamour of Hollywood.
The Commissary Restaurant was constructed on the newly christened Commissary Lane. The walkway that the new eatery sat on had initially been inaccessible to guests as the park's New York Street was originally a part of the Backlot Tour. When talking about the construction of the Commissary, architect Joe Kilanowski noted:
“It had to be a long horizontal building with the center in the middle of the mass. Our design solution came from a beautiful old hotel in Miami that breaks up its entrance with a tower and receding tiers. The large, soaring marquee is a bit overstated for a working commissary but it gives a feeling of excitement.”
The interior of the restaurant was designed by Barbara Dietzel, who wanted the eatery to be a place where the focus would be on Disney's movie and television deliveries. Dietzel remembered:
“We placed etched glass panels featuring the logos of those divisions along the entryway and posters on the walls feature our latest movies and television shows.”
In addition to the Art Deco motif, the Commissary Restaurant was also given an "garden-like" entryway which was designed by landscaper Joe Parinella. This area would also be home to a fifty foot mural of the Disney-MGM Studios, which was designed by Han Woo Lee and painted by Bill Anderson.
The Commissary Restaurant remained essentially unchanged until July 1, 1997 when it was given an ABC based overhaul . Now stocked full of props and photos celebrating the history of ABC Television, the restaurant was renamed the ABC Commissary.
On May 29, 2019, the ABC Commissary reopened after receiving an extensive refurbishment. During the renovations, the restaurant received new decor, carpet, seating and a new color palate . The redone ABC Commissary also featured less props than it had previously, and now had a more modern look. At this time, the ABC Commissary also began offering reservations for dinner. If guests choose to reserve a table, they can then order their food and find a seat. The food is then brought to them when it is ready.
Click below to see the ABC Commissary's current menu:
Fun Facts and Trivia
- While guests eat, clips from various ABC television shows are looped on screens overhead .
Props found inside the ABC Commissay include:
- Costumes from the television show Nashville .
- A signed photograph of the cast of The Chew.
- Props from the television series Revenge.
- Props from the season finale of The Middle, where the cast goes to Walt Disney World.
- A megaphone from Extreme Makeover Home Edition