The Real Hollywood History That Inspired Disney’s Hollywood Studios



Disney Hollywood Studios Chinese Theatre

The third park to open at Walt Disney World was Disney-MGM Studios, now Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The concept for this park, which opened in 1989 was to create a show business theme park with an operating production studio. A quote from Michael Eisner, Disney’s CEO at the time, eloquently describes the theme for Studios and serves as the dedication for the park. In his dedication Eisner said, “The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood—not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was—and always will be.” In order to achieve this specific theme, Imagineers turned to iconic structures from the Golden age of Hollywood. Read on to learn more about the real Hollywood history that inspired the creation of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Los Angeles’ Pan Pacific Auditorium

Before you even step foot into the park, you will see elements of Hollywood’s history in the Disney Hollywood Studios marquee. This sign, which sits above the ticket booth, is designed to look like the Los Angeles’ Pan Pacific Auditorium. From 1935 t0 1972, this building was where most indoor public events in the LA were held, such as sporting events, rallies, and concerts.

Los Angeles’ Pan Pacific Auditorium and Disney Hollywood Studios Entrance
The Harlem Globetrotters, the Ice Capades, and Elvis Presley all hosted events at the Los Angeles’ Pan Pacific Auditorium (Bottom Photo: Los Angeles Times).

Crossroads Of The World

Constructed in 1936, Los Angeles’s Crossroads of the World has often been referred to as America’s 1st outdoor mall. While the original Crossroad’s of the World was intended as a marketplace for global goods, Disney’s version serves as a small welcome center at the front of the park. Here you will find maps, ponchos, autographs books, and other merchandise items.

Crossroads of the World Disney Hollywood Studios
If you look closely, you will see that Disney’s Crossroads of the World features Mickey Mouse on the top of globe (Right Photo: TripAdvisor).

The Darkroom

As you head down Disney’s Hollywood Boulevard, the first store you will see on the right is The Darkroom. This outside of this gift shop bares an almost identical resemblance to a 1930’s Hollywood photography shop with the same name. Both Disney’s and the original Darkroom are examples of programmatic architecture. This means that the large camera façade is meant to represent the store’s purpose.

Disney Hollywood Studios Darkroom
Today, LA’s Darkroom is a restaurant (Right Photo: Library of Congress).

The Hollywood Brown Derby

Brown Derby was a LA based restaurant chain that was established in 1926 by Robert H. Cobb and Herbert K. Somborn. It is believed that the Cobb Salad was invented by Robert Cobb at the Hollywood Brown Derby location on Vine Street. As the story goes, Cobb made the salad from leftovers for Sid Grauman, who needed it chopped finely because of dental work. Although, the Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios is not shaped like a derby hat, you can get the Cobb Salad there.

Brown Derby
The Hollywood Brown Derby closed in 1985 (Right Photo: Los Angeles Times).

Carthay Circle

During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Carthay Circle Theatre was one of the most prominent movie theaters. In the 1930s, the theatre hosted premieres for several iconic films, including Gone With The Wind, Romeo and Juliet, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The architecture of Carthay Circle has been recreated for Once Upon A Time, a gift shop on Sunset Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disney World Carthay Circle
Another replication of Carthay Circle can be found at Disney California Adventure (Right Photo: OC Register).

Hollywood Stone Gates

Just past Once Upon A Time, but before The Tower of Terror, are a set of Hollywood inspired bathrooms. These restrooms resemble the stone gates at the entrance of “Hollywoodland”, which is an upscale residential area in LA. John DeLario designed these gates and several homes in Hollywoodland in 1923.

Disney Hollywood Studios Bathroom
These towers have a French Norman style (Right Photo: Atlas Obscura).

Chinese Theatre

Each Disney park has an icon that represents its overall theme and aesthetic. Naturally, Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ icon is an exact replica of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable structures: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The original Chinese Theatre opened in 1922 through a partnership with Sid Grauman. Disney’s version houses Mickey’s and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, one of the park’s newest rides.

Chinese Theater
Star Wars: A New Hope premiered at the Chinese Theater in 1977 (Right Photo: Discover Los Angeles).

Where else at Disney have you spotted historical replicas? Let us know in the comments!

Written by

Emily Murray


Contributing Writer

For as long as Emily can remember, Disney has played a huge role in her life. Her infatuation with Disney resulted in many hours spent rewatching Toy Story and creating multiple powerpoints to convince her parents to book yet another vacation to the “Most Magical Place on Earth”. In 2015, Emily followed one of her dreams and moved to Orlando, Florida where she spent just over five years working for the mouse in three separate roles. Emily is passionate about writing and using words creatively and concisely. She loves to make others laugh and hopes to sprinkle a little bit of magic into everything she does.

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