In May 1989, with much fanfare, including a prime-time television special and features in the national newsmagazines, The Walt Disney Company opened its newest attraction at the sprawling Disney World complex in central Florida. The Disney-MGM Studios is the first theme park that is also a functional motion picture studio. In a meticulously rendered environmental homage to the art deco/art moderne architecture of Hollywood in the 1930s, the park presents a mixture of performances, rides, tours, films, and demonstrations of movie technology and its by-products. The MGM part of the park’s name would seem to imply a joint venture, but is merely part of a licensing agreement permitting Disney to utilize characters and scenes from MGM films. The park's design and execution was done almost entirely by Disney staff, except for two attractions designed with the assistance of George Lucas and his special effects company, Industrial Light and Magic.
Disney-MGM Studios is divided into two sections, with the conventional theme park portion occupying approximately 40 percent of the space and the working studios making up the balance. Although it is a working film and television production facility, with huge soundstages, backlots, and postproduction spaces, the studios are set up to allow for a constant flow of tourists, who view both prearranged events and actual film and tape work. Judging from the length of the lines during my visit, Disney was right to assume that its production work would be of great interest.