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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Theme Park Thursdays: Disney-MGM Studios

When The Walt Disney Company decided to open up a third theme park in Orlando, it wanted to do so quickly so as to overshadow the impending construction of Universal Studios Orlando.

The company has always bragged about how big its Walt Disney World Resort is, but the secret is that not all of the land is usable. The resort sits on what still is swampland, which makes construction a challenge. Whenever the company chooses to expand, it must carefully evaluate the land to make sure it is stable. Since the company had a short window to get its third park under construction, it had to select a parcel of land that could be cleared quickly. Therefore, it chose a parcel of land behind EPCOT Center that could accommodate a quick construction period. That the parcel was not large and had limited expansion opportunities was ignored. The new studio park would be built quickly.

Despite the name, MGM never had any sort of ownership stake in the park. Up to that point, Disney had few iconic live action films to use in a theme park, so company leadership licensed the MGM names and films to round out the park's offerings. The quick construction schedule, coupled with the limited space behind EPCOT Center, meant that this park would be the smallest in the resort. Unlike EPCOT itself, the more modest size and cost of the park meant that the company wouldn't have to worry about attendance.

Despite this, the company did have attendance issues with the park, though unlike the other parks in the resort, the "issues" were the kind the company wanted- the park was seemingly always overcrowded. In comparison, the Magic Kingdom park took months to find an audience; EPCOT took years, but this park was always busy from the very beginning.

As a result, the park became the least planned out because the company had to add new attractions and shows quickly to deal with the crowds. Despite being successful from the very beginning, the company has had to rethink the layout and design of the park, resulting in a huge new project to add new attractions and fix guest flow around the park. The park also has a new name- Disney's Hollywood Studios.