May 1, 2024, 1:23 PM ·

Happy birthday today to the park now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

“Now known as,” you might ask? If you’ve been around a while, you might remember that the Walt Disney World Resort’s third gate opened May 1, 1989 as Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park. Developed in partnership with MGM, the park was seen widely as Disney’s preemptive answer to Universal Studios Florida, which would open up the road on June 7, 1990.The licensing deal with MGM expired, and Disney changed the park’s name to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in January 2008. By then, Disney had developed more than enough IP of its own to populate the Studios’ attractions, which have grown to include Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. (Follow those links for our opening day reviews of each of those locations.)But that first summer, the park did not offer anywhere near the line-up it has today. The highlight was a tram-based studio tour – an interesting choice given that rival Universal decided to step away from the trams that defined its Universal Studios Tour in Hollywood in developing its Florida theme park. But Disney went with the trams in Orlando, even as it needed to build a movie studio around them to give fans something to look at on the tour.

If you took the tram tour that first summer, maybe you saw Disney’s The All-New Mickey Mouse Club in production – a show that later would launch the careers of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, and Justin Timberlake. (They didn’t arrive until 1993, though.) Or, if you missed that, perhaps you saw… the Disney’s All-American College Orchestra from EPCOT practicing in one of the other soundstages. (See On stage the first summer at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Laurie’s story about that experience.)Next up for Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the debut of the reimagined The Little Mermaid – A Musical Adventure in the Animation Courtyard theater this fall. Please share your favorite memories about Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the comments.For more news about that and other attractions coming to Disney and theme parks around the world, please sign up for Theme Park Insider’s weekly newsletter. And to help support Theme Park Insider while saving money on discounted theme park tickets, please visit our international and U.S. attraction ticket partners.

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