Welcome to Extinct Attractions. This week, we’ll be traveling back to the earliest days of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and checking out an area that really drew a line between land and attraction.

Disney said that its newest blockbuster show, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had the largest debut of any show on its service, though that is not a huge surprise as Season 2 of The Mandalorian and WandaVision led right into the show and helped the newest show take the title. One would think that a hit show like that would immediately garner some theme park attention, with Hollywood Studios serving as a perfect park, but of course Disney is super limited in what they can do with Marvel characters in Florida as Universal holds the rights in perpetuity.

But before purchasing Marvel had even crossed Disney’s mind, Disney went all in on the intellectual property game with Disney-MGM Studios, where virtually every attraction involved some kind of connection to a movie or television show upon the park’s opening on May 1, 1989.

Via Wikipedia

When the park first opened, it was very much modeled after Universal Studios Hollywood (coincidence, I think not) in that about half of the park had attractions and shows, but the rest was a real, working movie studio (well, kind of) with a studio tour to give guests a taste of all of the magic.

The Studio Backlot Tour was originally an experience that took over two hours, with guests having the opportunity to exit the trams at points and tour soundstages and learn all about the filmmaking process. It really was an extensive experience that has never been replicated to this day, though that is not very surprising as it quickly became clear that guests didn’t quite have the attention span for an experience that long, and the tour began to be broken into smaller experience that guest could experience separately, with the first of those becoming a land of its own, Streets of America. 

Towards the end of 1989, not even a full year after the park had opened, New York Street became a walkable land that eventually gained some attractions of its own. Only the Washington Square portion remained a part of the Studio Tour and slowly but surely, the land began to build itself out, primarily through shows.

Via Wikipedia

I’m not going to dive too deep into the different attractions that were there, but one thing that made the land unique was that the offerings primarily involved live entertainment with shows like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – Live in Action taking to the streets and others like The Hunchback of Notre Dame – A Musical Adventure residing in the Backlot Theater. But there were two notable exceptions to the live entertainment in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure and the park’s second-longest running attraction, Muppet*Vision 3D.

Additionally, the land had a few other draws with trinket stores and the restaurants, Mama Melrose and Pizza Planet. As you can probably tell, none of these attractions were really headliners for the land, so what about it helped it stick around for so long?

What made Streets of America so appealing to so many people that it was like walking around the New York-style backlot of a major movie studio. People often dream of getting a chance to walk around those sets, especially after having seen them in so many of their favorite films and television shows. But that in itself was a major problem with the premise of the land because hardly any filming was actually done there. They did film a short film called “The Lottery” directed by Garry Marshall and starring Bette Midler, but it only showed in the queue for the Backlot Tour, so it was hardly something guests could easily tell their friends about. It simply took some of the allure away from the land, even though it was still a very pleasant place to walk around and take everything in.

Via Disney Parks Blog

Another reason that the land managed to stick around for so long was that every Christmas, it was redecorated with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. We won’t be diving into them today because I think they deserve an article of their own, but they were an especially huge hit amongst Annual Passholders because who wouldn’t love their neighborhood Christmas lights to be a Disney park?

In 2004, Disney decided to expand from the streets of New York to have greater coverage of the country, with Chicago and San Francisco additions in the works. While Chicago never materialized, San Francisco did make its way in, serving as a nice diversion as people wandered into the back of the land looking for the park’s first major attraction of the new millennium in Lights, Motors, Action.

But after the busy time in the mid 2000s, the land remained virtually untouched until April 2, 2016 when it, and everything in it except Muppet*Vision 3D, closed to make way for the park’s newest addition Star Wars: Galaxy Edge. However, part of it was refurbished to become a part of Grand Avenue, though it did not keep any of the feel of the backlot.

All in all, I can’t say that I’m particularly bummed about the loss of the Streets of America because it paled in comparison to actual film backlots, but it was a huge part of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ history and one of the last vestiges of the MGM-Studios, so it was sad to see it go, but who knows, maybe one day we’ll the Osborne Family Lights decorating the land for Life Day.

Via YouTube

As always, don’t forget to check out my interactive maps of the Disney Parks throughout the years where you can watch or learn more about all the attractions from the domestic parks and the Japanese parks, with the Parisian parks recently added.

Thanks for reading and have a magical day!