Studio Backlot Tour

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The Studio Backlot Tour was an attraction located in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Studio Backlot Tour
The entrance sign for the Studio Backlot Tour
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Land Streets of America
Attraction type Tram Tour
Theme Hollywood Studio Tour
Opening date May 1, 1989
Closing date September 27, 2014
Vehicle type Tram
Ride duration 35:00 minutes
Formally Known As
Also Known As Backstage Studio
Disney MGM Studios Backlot Tour

Attraction History

When Disney Imagineers were originally designing Disney's MGM Studios, they wanted to give guests an idea of how a working movie studio ran. In order to do this, Imagineers created a Backlot Tour for the park. The attraction that they created, was a two-hour tour known as the Studio Backlot Tour. The original tour consisted of a tram ride with stops at The Production Center, Costuming, The Scenic Shop, Residential Street, New Your Street, Catastrophe Canyon, and "the bone yard". Following the tram tour guests would embark on the walking portion of the Backlot Tour. Here, they could watch demonstrations showing how special effects are created, followed by a tour of various sets. After touring the sound stages, guests would reach the "Making of" portion of the attraction, which was a tour of the set of Disney's latest movie. Finally, guests reached The Walt Disney Theater where they watched film called "Michael and Mickey" which previewed upcoming Disney films.

Shortly after the attraction opened, Disney decided that it would need to be shortened. The Disney MGM Studios did not have enough attractions for all of the guests in the park, so Imagineers decided that they could break up the Backlot Tour. In late 1989, the New York Street portion of the attraction was removed, in order to give guests more walking space in the park. Subsequently, In May of 1990, the Walt Disney Theater was separated from the Backlot Tour. The Theater was then used to house the new Here Comes the Muppets attraction. In 1991, the walking portion of the Backlot Tour separated from the Tram Tour, becoming it's own attraction. The walking part of the tour was known as Inside the Magic: Special Effects and Production Tour.

In 1995, Inside the Magic as renamed Backstage Pass before finally being closed in 2001. The soundstages that were formally held in the attraction were later used to house Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - Live on Stage and Toy Story Mania. Also in 2001, Walt Disney: One Man's Dream opened in the former location of Backstage Pass.In 2003, the Residential Street portion of the tram tour was demolished, and replaced by The Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show. This change drastically shortened the both the tram tour, and the bone yard section of the attraction. The latest change to the attraction came in 2009, when the cast members who narrated the attraction were replaced by an automated narration. The Studio Backlot Tour closed September 27, 2014.

Attraction Plot

The Original Backstage Studio Tour

After boarding the tram vehicles, the original Studio Backlot Tour began with guests stopping at the Production Center. Here, they first visited the Costuming Department, where authentic Hollywood clothes were being designed. Continuing on, guests would visit The Scenic Shop, where craftsmen created sets used in television productions.

As the tram tour continued on, guests visited Residential Street. Residential Street featured the housing facades which were used in famous TV shows. Some of the facades, which were featured on Residential Street, included houses from:

  • The Golden Girls
  • Empty Nest
  • Adventures in Wonderland
  • Earnest Saves Christmas

Following Residential Street, the tram would move on to New York Street. New York Street was designed to represent the New York cityscape, including a reproduction of the Washington Square Park memorial. Here, the trams narrator would tell guests that the street was used to film busy street scenes.

After exiting New York Street, the tram would reach Catastrophe Canyon, which was a movie set used to demonstrate special effects. Here, guests experience a simulated earthquake, followed by an oil tanker blowing up, catching on fire. The experience concludes with a flood coming down from above the tram. After surviving Catastrophe Canyon, guests entered the bone yard. Here, props from various movies including The Rocketeer, Roger Rabbit, and Star Wars.

Catastrophe Canyon has remained a part of the Backlot Tour since it's inception.

Passing through the bone yard marked the halfway point of the original Studio Backlot Tour. After a short break, guests would begin the walking portion of the attraction. The first thing guests experienced on the walking tour was the Water Effects Tank. Here, guests got to see how special effects were used to make ship scenes realistic.

Leaving the Water Effects Tank, guests entered Mickey Avenue, which was based on the Mickey Avenue located at the Disney Studios in Burbank. Here, guests could enter an area known as the Special Effect sand Production Tour, where they learned how various special effects were created. One of these effects included allowing guests to "ride" on a giant bumblebee, in front of a green screen. Following the special effects, guests could visit sound stages where real production was going on. Shows such as the Mickey Mouse Club, as well as other Disney television shows were filmed here. Also on Mickey avenue, was the Jim Henson Creature Shop, where guests could visit various Jim Henson puppets and props.

At the end of the walking tour, guests would visit the "Making of" set tour, where they were allowed to visit the set of the latest Disney film. The tour concluded with guests entering the Walt Disney Theater. Here, they would watch a short film titled "Michael and Mickey", where Michael Eisner and Mickey Mouse showed guests previews of the newest Disney productions.

Current Backlot Tour

When guest’s enter the queue for the current version of the Backlot Tour, they are shown a short film hosted by director Michael Bay. In the video, Bay explains to guests how many of the special effects were created for the movie Pearl Harbor. Also in the queue, is props from various films including: The Rock, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pearl Harbor.

After making their way through the queue, guests enter a large show area. Here, volunteers are chosen to participate in various sea battle and sea storm special effects (similar to those used in Pearl Harbor). The demonstration, which is known as Harbor attack, features one guest sitting in an engine room, where they are overcome by 1,000 gallons of water. Another scene shows three volunteers standing on the deck of the boat, when the ship is attacked. After the filming of the scenes, the footage is combined with pre-recorded footage of airplane attacks and dialogue to create the scene.

After participating in Harbor Attack, guests move into a large prop warehouse. Props located in the warehouse, were used in various movies including:

  • The Rocketeer
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Dick Tracey
  • George of the Jungle
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  • Honey, I Blew Up the Kids
  • Marvin's Room
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit

After boarding the tram, guests visit a condensed version of the bone yard. Here, guests can see props including:

  • Bone cage from the film Pirates of Caribbean: Dean Man's Chest
  • A steamroller used by Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Herbie the Love Bug
  • Motorcycles from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Space ships from the original Star Wars trilogy
  • Venetian gondola from the film Casanova
  • Beverly Hills sign from the film Beverly Hills Chihuahua
  • Space ship from the film Flight of the Navigator
  • Red spaces ship from the film Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

After exiting the bone yard, guests reach Catastrophe Canyon. Here, guests are told that they are actually on set, while the cast of the film is on break. As the tram stops, guests experience a simulated earthquake, followed by an oil rig exploding, which starts the set on fire. Finally, floodwaters come down from above the tram, putting the fire out. After leaving Catastrophe Canyon, guests travel around the The Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show before passing by Walt Disney’s private airplane. After concluding the tour, guests pass through an exhibit, which show’s the AFI’s 50 Greatest Villains.

Fun Facts and Trivia

  • 70,000 gallons of water are used to create the flash flood in Catastrophe Caynon
  • 1,000 guests can be on the Backlot tour at the same time.
  • The airplane that guests pass by on the Backlot Tour, was the actual plane Walt Disney used when scouting out locations for the Florida Project