Hooray for Hollywood! Disney’s Hollywood Studios makes you feel as though it’s the golden California sun shining down on you – ignore the Florida humidity, pretend you were just cruising down Santa Monica Boulevard, and made a right turn into Hollywood.
RED CARPET ARRIVAL
Actually, you may have reached Disney World’s version of Hollywood in a number of different ways. You may even have walked! There’s a very pleasant paved pathway along the canal that leads from the Boardwalk Villas right to the front gates of the “Studios.” If you’re coming from the Beach Club, Yacht Club, or “Swolphin” (Swan or Dolphin), it’s a bit more of a hike, and you might prefer to take the “Friendship” boat. (You can also take the boat all the way over from Epcot — albeit with stops at each resort on Crescent Lake.) Your other choices are to drive or take a Disney bus.
The streamlined, retro gates are an aqua-painted, flying-buttressed salute to Art Deco, the style of the golden age of Hollywood. After you navigate the bag check, you’ll find a piece of distinctive signage, an uncoiling film reel. This makes a good spot for your first Studios family photo, and a Photopass photographer may be standing by. (Don’t hesitate to ask him or her to take a snap with your own camera.)
Between the front gates and the turnstiles (also that evocative aqua), glance down to appreciate the large, striking Art Deco design in the pavement, though you might need a wide angle lens on your camera to capture it.
INSIDE THE PARK
Beyond the turnstiles soars the Crossroads of the Worlds tower with Mickey astride a revolving globe. This structure is the first of a number that are actually an homage to real Hollywood locations. There is a nearly identical Crossroads of the Worlds tower (without the Mickey!) in Los Angeles. It was built in the 1930s as the entrance to an eclectic shopping area and still stands. Below the Walt Disney World version, you’ll find park maps and souvenirs at a small stand. Guest services is on the left side of the street along with the baby care center. On the right, a pale aqua vintage tow truck makes a good photo op at Oscar’s Super Service. NASCAR items can be found inside. Locker rentals are located here and package pick up, as well.
Hollywood Boulevard stretches out invitingly beyond the main entrance plaza, leading to six themed areas: Echo Lake, Streets of America, Mickey Avenue, Pixar Place, Animation Courtyard, and Sunset Boulevard. The Sorcerer’s Hat which once stood at the far end of Hollywood Boulevard has been removed, so the full-size replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre once again presides over the central plaza of the park. This is the home of the Great Movie Ride.
Souvenir shops line both sides of Hollywood Boulevard, with clothing primarily on the left at Keystone Clothiers. Mickey’s of Hollywood, also on the left, has a wide assortment of park souvenirs. The entrance to Mickey’s of Hollywood is housed in a charming Spanish Colonial Revival style building with little balconies and arched windows with awnings. It was inspired by the 1925 Baine building on Hollywood Boulevard at Whitley Avenue in California. Mickey’s of Hollywood stretches behind changing facades (also inspired by real Hollywood buildings) down the whole block. Mickey and Company doesn’t look big from the outside, but it’s huge! It’s the Studios’ answer to the Magic Kingdom’s Emporium.
The Darkroom is on the opposite side of the street and boasts an enormous camera in its facade. It’s parallel in California is now part of a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard but originally housed a 1930s camera shop. (Universal was equally inspired by this Hollywood landmark and built one at Universal Studios Orlando!)
The Celebrity 5 & 10 offers Disney-themed kitchen items. Imagineers designed the exterior to reflect a variety store in Hollywood called J.J. Newberry. The building still stands on the real Hollywood Boulevard though the name of the store has changed.
Adrian and Edith’s Head to Toe is the place to go for personalized Mickey Mouse ears and other hats as well as towels. The name of the shop honors two famous Hollywood designers – Adrian Greenberg (who created Dorothy’s ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz) and Edith Head (who dressed Ginger Rogers and designed the costumes for the Ten Commandments).
At the end of the block on the west side is the Trolley Car Cafe which opened in 2015. They serve Starbucks beverages and often have unique seasonal cupcakes.
A wait times tip board and FP+ kiosks are adjacent to an art deco fountain at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. The Starring Rolls bakery (one of the best at Disney World — probably since it shares a kitchen with the Brown Derby restaurant) is just beyond.
The Brown Derby, an authentic replica of the famous Tinseltown landmark, also faces Hollywood Boulevard. Just as in the original, caricatures of Hollywood stars cover the wood paneled walls, as you dine in the golden glow of a bygone age. The food is authentic, too – including their Cobb salad – which was invented by the owner of the real Brown Derby. Grapefruit cake is another highly popular offering inspired by the California original. You can even arrange to dine here with a Disney Imagineer.
When it opened in 1989, this park was a working studio, producing many popular television shows as well as animated and live-action films. A tram tour of the park’s back lot was a popular attraction for years but closed in 2014. Reflecting the change in the park’s theme, Disney CEO Bob Iger recently made the announcement that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be given a new name in the near future. “Disney’s Hollywood Adventure” is a favorite fan guess. This would be a sort of nod to the Studios’ “sister” park at Disneyland Resort – Disney’s California Adventure (which features a similar entrance design and Hollywood theme). On the other hand, since this park will be the future home of Star Wars Land, perhaps the new name will have a more far, far away name. Disney’s Hollywood and Beyond?