For a true glimpse into the spirit behind Disney’s Hollywood Studios®, there is one attraction that is a must see. The Studio Backlot Tour allows guests the opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes and see just what goes on in the process of creating everything from movies to special effects and even the park itself!
Opening with Disney’s Hollywood Studios® on May 1, 1989, the Studio Backlot Tour originally began with its queue where The Magic of Disney Animation resides today. It featured a live tour guide narrating the sights guests passed along the way. Unfortunately, in 2008 the live tour guide was replaced by a recorded spiel, but no worries – it is still entertaining and informative.
Another significant change since the attraction’s opening was the removal of Residential Street. This mock street featured numerous buildings, many of them homes, which were used over the years for external film and television shoots. The most recognizable building on the block was the home of The Golden Girls. This area was also the original home of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights every holiday season. The lights can now be found on the Streets of America and are still a fantastic way to get into the holiday spirit. In 2005, Residential Street was closed off to make way for the building of Lights, Motors, Action!® Extreme Stunt Show®.
Despite these changes over the years, the Studio Backlot Tour is still one of my favorite attractions to experience in Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. In fact, I think it is one of the most underrated attractions on property. So, let’s check out what makes it so interesting and worth a visit.
The attraction is located in the back of the park on the Streets of America. Guests queue inside of a small hanger and soon find themselves in the pre-show which features director Michael Bay demonstrating how special effects can be used to make a film larger than life. A few guests are selected to participate in the making of a short scene titled “Harbor Attack”. The other guests get to watch as those participating act out scenes on a boat pretending that they are being attacked. All the while, water cannons are blasting them, making for a really fun experience. The guest chosen to play the captain even gets soaked from a pretty massive amount of water! Once the scenes are acted out, guests can watch the performance on overhead televisions and see how special effects are added in to make the shot believable.
The next stop is the Prop Warehouse which guests walk through before boarding the attraction’s trams. The Prop Warehouse is home to all kinds of recognizable items from dozens of famous films and television shows. Some of my favorite props to look for are Mickey’s shoes and gloves, a prop from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and a painting featuring Sleeping Beauty and Prince Phillip. See how many items you can recognize along the way!
Once through the Prop Warehouse, guests board a two hundred seat open-air tram and begin the recorded tour portion of their experience. Almost immediately, guests are offered a great view of the Earful Tower – a water tower sporting some pretty recognizable headgear. Next up is Creative Costuming where Cast Members can be seen working on the thousands of costumes needed each and every day throughout the parks. Be sure to look all over the room for mannequins sporting everything from the princesses’ gowns to Cast Member uniforms. Next to Creative Costuming is the Scenic Shop where sets and props are constantly being created for shows, attractions, and sets all over the parks.
Next, guests pass through The Boneyard where recognizable vehicles of every type are housed for use in future productions. Everything from fighter planes to Herbie the Love Bug can be found here. One of the most historical things in The Boneyard is a plane featuring Mickey on its tail. Known as everything from “Ear Force One” to “The Mouse”, this plane was used by Walt Disney himself on scouting flights over Central Florida to decide which land to buy for The Florida Project; what eventually became Walt Disney World®.
The next stop on the tour is Catastrophe Canyon, which puts guests in the middle of the action and demonstrates how special effects are used to create a disaster scene. From an earthquake, to an eighteen wheeler going up in flames, to a sudden flash flood guests find themselves in the middle of the scene and get to experience firsthand the magic of special effects. If you don’t mind getting a little wet here, be sure to sit on the left hand side of the tram.
Throughout the entire tour, guests are offered multiple views of the backstage areas of Lights, Motors, Action!® Extreme Stunt Show®. Most likely, guests will even get to see some of the vehicles revving up backstage as they get ready to zoom onto the show’s set at speeds of up to seventy miles an hour.
The tram then stops and allows guests to disembark. They are then free to experience the American Film Institute Showcase which houses rotating exhibits that are changed every so often to feature a current release. The last time I was on the Studio Backlot Tour, the exhibit focused on Oz The Great and Powerful since it was being released around that time. However, the current exhibit features props and costumes from AFI’s celebration of 100 years of films.
All in all, the Studio Backlot Tour is an amazing way to spend a half hour of your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. From glimpses into costumes and sets to being in the middle of the action, it’s a great way to take a step into the movies from behind the scenes. So, next time you find yourself in the park be sure to experience this awesome attraction!
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
Do you love the Studio Backlot Tour? Ever seen any costumes or sets being made that you recognized? Ever been chosen to participate in “Harbor Attack”? Be sure to let me know by leaving a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.