Looking Back: Disney-MGM Studios in 1991

Welcome back to the Looking Back series, this time with lots of photos from the Disney-MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios, of course) at Walt Disney World in 1991. How many photos? How about 29! Because you can’t have too many old photos, right? As with the past 1991 entries in this series, these photos were from a trip in April and a trip in June of that year. Enjoy!

Here we are, hiding in the bushes outside Disney-MGM Studios. Not that we are theme park stalkers or anything. No, I just thought this view with the flowers in the foreground would be a good one. But what are we waiting for? Let’s move closer!

We aren’t quite in the park yet, but we are definitely getting close. Here, you can see the Pan Pacific-inspired entrance, the Crossroads of the World, the Chinese Theater, and even the Earfful Tower. And that nice floral Mickey Mouse, too. Although from this angle you can’t quite tell for certain that it is Mickey Mouse. So you will just have to take my word for it. And for the record, that planter doesn’t usually have a floral Mickey in it any more.  What a great view!

Just inside the park, we are greeted by the Crossroads of the World, with Mickey Mouse standing on top of the world. Just a reminder that this isn’t Hollywood as it was, but rather Hollywood as Disney would have made it, were Disney in the position to make Hollywood back in the 1930s or so.

Off to one side of us is Oscar’s Super Service, meeting all of your gas station needs. Too bad the strollers you could rent from there weren’t actually gasoline-powered, because that would make a day in the park even more exciting. Maybe not the kind of excitement that you would want, but still exciting.

Opposite of Oscar’s just inside the entrance is Sid Cahuenga’s One-Of-A-Kind Antiques and Curios, which was located in the last house on Hollywood Boulevard. I always did like looking around at all of the cool stuff that they had inside there - the cool posters, autographed photos, and even some actual movie props - even if I never did actually buy anything.

But let’s not spend all of our time at the park entrance, because there is much more to see here, including some new stuff for 1991! Let’s move on.

As we make our way down Hollywood Boulevard, we join the rest of the crowd. However, the early morning crowd doesn’t look as big in this photo as it often does these days. Remember, back in 1991 they still hadn’t built the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock N Roller Coaster, or Toy Story Mania yet. All of those big draws would come sometime in the future.

You know what this view needs? A great big sorcerer hat filling up the entire plaza and blocking the view of the Chinese Theater! Well, not really. And I am glad to hear that the hat will be going away in 2015. However, they did also mention something about “reimagining” the plaza. Does that mean more changes are in store besides just removing the hat? Or will this view be coming back? Hmm.

Making our way over to some of the newer offerings, we get this view of Superstar Television across the waters of Echo Lake. Sure, Superstar Television was cheesy, corny fun at times, but it was a nice look at the history of television. And I can’t say that I am sorry that American Idol has now left that building. Because I never did actually see that show, preferring instead to still remember the original show instead.

Star Tours was in its second year of operation at Disney-MGM Studios in 1991. But things were changing. In 1990, this part of the park was a dead end, meaning that you couldn’t go past Star Tours, which probably kept its attendance a little lower than it would be otherwise. But in 1991, a new walkway was opened past Star Tours, which led to…

MuppetVision 3D! This attraction had just opened not long before our June visit, and we were excited to see it. In fact, we saw it several times on that trip, just to make sure that we hadn’t missed any of the hilarity in the movie or in the preshow area. So many small details that were fun to see! Too bad this area never became a full Muppet Studios area as they had originally planned.

The area that was supposed to be Muppet Studios was built out with building facades, but the area was pretty much empty when MuppetVision 3D opened. Straight ahead would later be Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, but that wasn’t there yet. And the building at the left would eventually become the Toy Story Pizza Planet restaurant, where we always go for a pizza. Before Toy Story, that building was the Studio Showcase, housing props from different Hollywood movies, before that all moved to the end of the Backlot Tour. At this time, the building was empty, except for displaying one of the planes from The Rocketeer on its front patio. But more about The Rocketeer in a bit.

Here is one more view of the new area. Since it wasn’t Muppet Studios, and it wasn’t part of Hollywood Boulevard, it did seem a little out of place. Was this supposed to be part of the Backlot? Perhaps an “unused” film set? I never really was quite sure what the story was here. But who cares when you have a great 3D film featuring the Muppets nearby, right?

It is a sunny day in New York! Or at least it was a sunny day on New York Street on the Backlot. This was long before the area was changed to the more generic Streets of America. However, 1991 was the first year that guests were able to walk on New York Street. Before this year, it was still part of the Backlot Tour, so that only the tour trams could access the street.

This particular pedestrian on New York Street just happens to be Laura, out for a stroll past the Plaza Hotel on a sunny spring day. While I enjoy the colorful bags that they have now at all of the stores, I miss those bags that they would put your purchases in. Those were cool.

Moving back across the park, here is a look down Hollywood Boulevard back toward the park entrance. I have always liked the view down the street with the tall palm trees and the Hollywood Boulevard architecture. A really nice design. And the buildings weren’t so tall as the ones on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, giving the park a more intimate feel than its larger neighbor.

Uh oh, look at those clouds moving in above Mickey and the Crossroads of the World. Looks like we might be in for one of those typical Florida afternoon rain showers!

At least the employees of Hollywood Public Works were well prepared for the rain. We enjoyed watching these guys, as well as the other “citizens” of Hollywood Boulevard. One of our favorites was the guy from Hollywood Public Works who was going around “de-watering” the trees after the rain by hitting them with a large rubber mallet. And if the water happened to fall on an unsuspecting bystander nearby, all the better. Maybe not for him, but for the rest of us.

Since it is raining, we might as well make a visit to the Backlot Tour, hoping that we don’t get too wet from the rain or from Catastrophe Canyon. Not that we would mind all that much.

The rain cleared up fast (or actually this photo was from the other 1991 visit), but doesn’t the Earfful Tower look nice against that blue sky and with those flowers in the foreground? I still wish the tower were more visible throughout the whole park.

The big Disney summer movie release for 1991 was The Rocketeer, and true to Disney form, reminders of the movie turned up all over the place. For example, one of the costumes on display for the trams that passed by in the costume building was Cliff Secord’s Rocketeer outfit. Pretty cool!

Another reminder of The Rocketeer was the Bulldog Cafe building, seen in the Boneyard area of the Backlot Tour. I always wondered how they moved it here from where ever it was that they filmed the movie, but it was pretty cool to see, even if it looked smaller in person than it did in the movie. That’s movie magic for you!

100 Lives of Black Jack Savage

Also seen on the Backlot Tour was this boat, which was used in the television show The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage. Unfortunately, the show did not last all that long, and Black Jack Savage ended up with much less than 100 lives. But at least he had a cool boat. And for the record, I was one of the few that actually watched that show.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Nautilus

The Water Effects area of the walking tour had added a scale model of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in the tank. It wasn’t actually used in the water effects demonstration, but it was over there in the corner. Apparently, it was actually used in the Disney movie and had been sitting around somewhere ever since.

Hollywood Boulevard at Disney-MGM Studios

Moving back across the park, here is another look down Hollywood Boulevard. The yellow ponchos here are a sure indication that the rain had stopped not long before this photo was taken. Because no one would just wear one of those as a fashion statement.

Disney-MGM Studios Traffic Signal

I have always thought this traffic signal at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine was a nice touch. And it even changes at normal traffic signal intervals. However, most people don’t actually stop when it tells them to stop, but instead they just keep walking. Where are the police when you need them?

Sorcery in the Sky fireworks at Disney-MGM Studios

When nighttime rolled around, there was one more new thing at Disney-MGM Studios in 1991 - Sorcery in the Sky Fireworks! Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best view of the big surprise at the end of the show - a giant Sorcerer Mickey Mouse inflatable balloon on top of the Chinese Theater. He inflated quickly and even shot fireworks out of the tip of his finger! Cool! A pop-up Sorcerer Mickey is much better than a permanent sorcerer hat, in my opinion. Below are two more not-so-good photos of Sorcerer Mickey on the Chinese Theater, as he stayed up there for a while after the show ended.

Sorcery in the Sky fireworks at Disney-MGM Studios

Sorcery in the Sky fireworks at Disney-MGM Studios

That brings an end to our day at Disney-MGM Studios in 1991! Be sure to check back later for more posts in the Looking Back series!

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.