Disney-MGM Studio Treasures From 35 Years Ago

Disney-MGM Studio Treasures From 35 Years Ago

So much of what was the Disney-MGM Studios over the years has come and gone. Only one attraction remains as it was largely designed during its opening. This park is perhaps more radically different than any other Disney park between its opening and the present. And yet there are some really wonderful gems that were there when the park opened, and they are still here today. We look at those timeless pieces and what makes them such treasured keepsakes of what is Disney’s Hollywood Studios today. Each of them may have some surprises you may not have known until now. So join us for Disney-MGM Treasures From 35 Years Ago.

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1. Hollywood Boulevard

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • Pan Pacific Auditorium Entrance
    • Taken from the Pan Pacific Auditorium Entrance Designed by Welton Becket and his partner
    • Becket was good friends and neighbors with Walt–Even taking a cruise with him and Lillian to Cuba
    • Becket was first approached by Walt for help on Disneyland. Becket’s response was “No one can design Disneyland for you. You have to do it yourself.” 
    • Becket did go on to design the Ford & General Electric buildings for Walt at the New York World’s Fair. He also designed Disney’s Contemporary Resort & Polynesian Resorts
    • The auditorium was ultimately destroyed by fire just a few weeks after the park opened.
Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • Mickey on Crossroads of the World
    • Crossroads was perhaps the first strip mall
    • Mickey was originally silver like the building, but was painted to stand out
    • Highest ear is a lightning rod
    • It’s a great reminder that it all started with a mouse.
Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • Sid Cahuenga’s
    • Celebration of bungalow style residential dwellings started in Pasadena
    • Sid was a fictional character, but with a huge back story.
    • The backstory was brought to life by Danny Dillon, who was part of the streetmosphere “Citizens of Hollywood”. He passed away in 2005.
    • McNair Wilson especially created the role of Sid for Danny.
    • Danny’s wife Pam Brodie played for many years at the Rose and Crown.
Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • Pluto’s Tail & Neon
    • “If Paris is the City of Lights, LA is the City of Neon,” wrote American historian Kevin Starr in the Los Angeles Times in 1999.
    • There is a Museum of Neon Art (MONA) in LA on Melrose
  • Adrian Greenberg & Edith Head. This small shop adjoining Celebrity 5 & 10 is named after two of Hollywood’s most famous clothing & costume designers. We highlight their stories in the podcast.
Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • Mulholland Fountain–This is based on a fountain that celebrated the man who brought Los Angeles water. It is a tale of hope and tragedy. See our earlier podcast to learn more.
Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

2. California Crazy Architecture

There are many examples of this throughout the Studios, and most still remain:

The Darkroom on Hollywood Boulevard. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Originally called Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Gertie the Dinosaur. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

3. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is an opening day attraction, but the experience didn’t open until about 3 months into the park’s debut. This is largely for two reasons:
    • Part of that had to do with the fact that the attraction was turned over to a major celebrity event that was used during the opening festivities of the park.
    • The second reason was that while the show was scripted by the screenwriters of Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, and while it was rehearsed and made ready, it wasn’t a good show. It especially wasn’t a funny show. And for that reason it had to be re-written. And it was Jerry Reese who coming off of Return to Neverland made that happen.
Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • This is the first theme park attraction to use a show control system that is computer-based that was designed with a programmable logic controller system so that you could trigger, control and sequence everything happening on stage in real time.
  • This is the only show and attraction that remains from opening day. It is the only show in the park that is a “making of” attraction which was the dominant theme in many of the shows and attractions in the park.
  • Check out the props that can be found along the queue and near the Oasis Canteen. My favorite is pulling on the rope.
  • Indiana Jones stands here not because it hasn’t been replaced, but because it stands the test of time.
Props from the films scattered around the attraction. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

4. The Brown Derby

The Brown Derby. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • It was here during breakfast in 2011 when Star Tours: The Adventures Continues premiered that George Lucas and Bob Iger met for breakfast privately and George brought up the idea of Disney purchasing LucasFilm.
  • The original was actually a Brown Derby and was part of the California Crazy architecture movement. That version can be found at Universal Hollywood. This one was founded in 1929 and is the more famous the Cobb Salad, Grapefruit Cake and caricatures of the stars.
Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • The Cobb Salad was made for Sid Graumann by Brown Derby owner Robert Cobb. Sid Grauman owned the Chinese Theater.
Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

5. The Chinese Theater

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • Originally created in 1927, the Chinese Theater is perhaps the most famous of the movie palace cinemas made during Hollywood’s Golden Era. It was built by Sid Grauman and also Charles Toberman, the later known by some as the “Father of Hollywood”.
  • Toberman also built El Capitan which sits across and diagonal from the original Grauman’s Chinese theater in Hollywood. It is owned by Disney.
  • The intent was to perfectly replicate Grauman’s Chinese Theater as it stood at that time. But many details lost over time were painfully re-created and brought back to life. The result is that this version is in many ways more perfect and authentic than the original.
  • Some 60 handprints of the stars can be found in the courtyard and at Theater of the Stars–Fess Parker & Roger Rabbit are my favorites.
Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
  • Homages in the windows display how Mary Poppins and Jungle Book made their premieres there.
  • Home originally to The Great Movie Ride. But now home to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Yet both have lobbies and theaters as a preface to the ride.
  • Also important is that it is the backdrop to projection shows and fireworks. Currently this includes Disney Movie Magic, and Wonderful World of Animation.

A Century of Powerful Disney Insights Book

You can order my newest book, “A Century of Powerful Disney Insights” on Amazon. It’s a great way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company. In over 100 years, The Walt Disney Company has emerged as one of the most successful entertainment entities across the globe. In this, the first of two volumes, we study the first 50 years of Disney, beginning with Walt and Roy. We look at major milestones and not only see the evolution of an organization begun in a garage, but how it truly became so beloved to millions around the world. From Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse through Snow White and Cinderella, from the Mouseketeers to Mary Poppins, and from Disneyland to Walt Disney World, we share stories and insights from 1923 to 1973. We hope you’ll be inspired with ideas and how you can apply these stories to your own life and work. 

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