Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary is coming up, with the big day just a few days away on October 1st. To get ready for the event, we at Laughing Place are taking a look at various parts of Walt Disney World, past, present, and future each day, with today a blast to the past.
Here at Laughing Place, we have interactive maps of every Disney Park throughout the years (created by yours truly). The maps are a fun way to visually examine how each of these parks changed over the years and serve as a wonderful companion to this piece where I look at which year’s lineup of attractions reigns supreme at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can follow along with the Hollywood Studios map and let me know if I made the right choice with my pick or if I was off my rocker. So let’s jump in and take a look at some honorable mentions before we get to what I believe was the best year to visit Hollywood Studios attraction-wise.
Honorable Mention #1: 2020
One important thing to remember is that these choices are solely based on the attractions that were in the park, not every other part of the year, so COVID considerations are not taken into account here. From around 2015 until 2018, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was a shell of itself, constantly under construction and really just waiting to get its new lands in Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The new lands basically represented a third major phase in the park’s history. In my mind, the three are the Behind the Scenes era (1989 – 2004), the Live the Movies era (2018 – Present) and the Transitional Era (2005-2017), the last of which represented a time where the park lost its sense of identity as attractions filtered in and out. I felt each of these eras should be represented here, so why 2020?
Well, let’s look around for comparison. Star Wars: Galaxy Edge didn’t open until 2019, so that narrowed our choices down to 2019, 2020, and 2021. But then Mickey’s Runaway Railway opened in 2020 and nothing closed, so really it was just between 2020 and 2021 because though Runaway Railway has some detractors, it is definitely better than no attraction at all. The Wonderful World of Animation nighttime show didn’t make its way through COVID and nothing has been added so far this year, so again something is better than nothing, and I’ll take 2020 as my first choice.
Honorable Mention #2: 1995
Next up, we have my choice from the Behind the Scenes era, 1995. When I was looking at which year to choose from 1989 until 2004, there were two attractions that stood out to me as ones that needed to be included: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the full Studio Tour. With that in mind, the choices came down to 1994 and 1995. By going with those two, I missed out on some of my favorite extinct attractions like Dick Tracy Starring in Diamond Double-Cross and Here Come the Muppets on the front end and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It and Hercules Victory Parade on the later end.
But those years both still included Muppet*Vision 3D, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, all stalwarts that are still around to this day (somehow). Additionally, there were smaller attractions that helped make up the fabric of the park and showcase the behind the scenes aspects in The Monster Sound Show and The Magic of Disney Animation. Plus, those years had two of the greatest attractions in Disney-MGM Studios with the original Star Tours and The Great Movie Ride. Between those two, Tower of Terror and the original Studio Tour, the park had a lot of attractions that appealed to guests of entirely different demographics.
As to why I chose 1994 over 1995, the choice was pretty simple for me because I’d rather have the combo of Toy Story Parade and The Spirit of Pocahontas than the duo of Aladdin’s Royal Caravan and Muppets on Location, but I could definitely see the argument going the other way as well. But I’ll take my 1995 and move on to what I consider to be the ideal lineup in Disney’s Hollywood Studios history.
The Ideal Disney’s Hollywood Studios Lineup: 2008
Finally, we reach my choice for the best year to visit: 2008, which surprisingly came during the Transitional Era. I feel like I may be in the minority here, but I feel like the Transitional Era actually was the best time to visit the park because there were a lot of holdover attractions from the early days as well as a good number of attractions that are still classics to this day.
Since I made my arbitrary decision to decide that the original Studio Backlot Tour and Tower of Terror needed to be a part of the Behind the Scenes Era choice, we missed out on two classic attractions that joined the park in the late 1990s, Fantasmic and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. These two attractions went a long way in pushing 2008 over 1995, even with a far worse Backlot Tour than the original version. In the interim, we also got attractions like Sounds Dangerous and Lights, Motors, Action instead of the Monster Sound Show and part of the Studio Tour, so personally, I’ll take that trade off.
From 2008 on, there really weren’t too many additions to the park as it kind of stood in limbo with just minor shows and fireworks added until Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge came along. There were two interesting decisions to make between the combination of Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade and the original Star Tours and the duo of new Star Tours and The American Idol Experience. Even though I like The American Idol Experience more than Stars and Motor Cars, I think the latter is a better example of what the park meant to guests. Plus, I’d much rather experience the original Star Tours than the new one.
But the big reason that I chose 2008 was because any choice in the Transitional Era needs to include the highlight of the period, Toy Story Mania. The attraction helped transform the park into the Live the Movies era and was a game changer in terms of moving the park forward.
We’ll be doing this same exercise for all the other Walt Disney World parks, so take some time to explore the other interactive maps and brainstorm your choices.
Thanks for reading and let us know the year you would choose to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios!
Cole Geryak is a childless millennial making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.