Year
2008

Disney-MGM Studios becomes Disney’s Hollywood Studios

At the close of business on January 6, 2008, the Walt Disney World Resort theme park known as Disney-MGM Studios officially shut its doors after almost a decade of operation. Fans didn’t have to worry too much, however, as the park would reopen the next morning under its new name, Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Debuting on May 1, 1989, Disney-MGM Studios was the third theme park to open at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, after the Magic Kingdom in 1971 and Epcot Center in 1982. The project began with an idea for a movie-themed pavilion, resembling a film soundstage, to be built at Epcot; it was later expanded into its own theme park, which now stretches over 135 acres. The name of the park was the result of a 1985 licensing contract between Disney and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio, which allowed Disney the right to use the MGM name and logo for a studio-themed park.

In its original conception, Disney-MGM Studios was to operate not only as a theme park, but also as a fully functioning television and movie production studio. Several feature films, including the lightweight comedy Ernest Saves Christmas (1988), were produced there before its opening as a theme park. This caused trouble with MGM, who filed suit against Disney in 1988 alleging that using the park as a working production studio violated the terms of their contract. Disney later countersued, and the case was settled in 1992. The verdict allowed Disney to continue using the MGM name and logo on films produced at the theme park facility and MGM to open a movie-themed theme park of its own, which it did in Las Vegas in 1993 (the park closed in 2000).

On opening day in May 1989, Disney’s then-president, Michael Eisner, dedicated Disney-MGM Studios to Hollywood, which he called “not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine.” By 2007, the sprawling theme park was hosting close to 10 million visitors in six themed areas, including the “Hollywood Boulevard” main entrance; the Great Movie Ride, a tribute to classic films such as Casablanca; and a motion-simulator ride based on the Star Wars movies.

The change in the name of the park in January 2008 was clearly intended to reinforce the openly symbiotic relationship between the theme park and the movie capital of the world. As Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World, put it in the press release announcing the change: “The new name reflects how the park has grown from representing the golden age of movies to a celebration of the new entertainment that today’s Hollywood has to offer–in music, television, movies and theater.” In addition to the name change, the resort announced an ambitious roll-out of new and upcoming attractions, including interactive exhibits based on the mega-hit movie High School Musical and its sequels, the animated award-winner Toy Story from Disney and Pixar Entertainment, the big-screen version of The Chronicles of Narnia and the blockbuster TV reality show American Idol.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Theodore Roosevelt dies

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, dies at Sagamore Hill, his estate overlooking New York’s Long Island Sound. A dynamic and energetic politician, Theodore Roosevelt is credited with creating the modern presidency. As a young Republican, Roosevelt held a ...read more

Nurmi breaks two world records

On January 6, 1925, Finnish long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi steps up to the starting line in New York’s Madison Square Garden in his first U.S. appearance. Anticipation for the moment had been building steadily since Nurmi’s arrival in America four weeks before, and it was ...read more

New Mexico joins the Union

On January 6, 1912, New Mexico is admitted into the United States as the 47th state. Spanish explorers passed through the area that would become New Mexico in the early 16th century, encountering the well-preserved remains of a 13th-century Pueblo civilization. Exaggerated rumors ...read more

Harold II crowned king of England

Following the death of Edward the Confessor, Harold Godwineson, head of the most powerful noble family in England, is crowned King Harold II. On his deathbed, Edward supposedly designated Harold the royal heir, but this claim was disputed by William, duke of Normandy and cousin ...read more

Morse demonstrates telegraph

On this day in 1838, Samuel Morse’s telegraph system is demonstrated for the first time at the Speedwell Iron Works in Morristown, New Jersey. The telegraph, a device which used electric impulses to transmit encoded messages over a wire, would eventually revolutionize ...read more

Phuoc Binh falls to the North Vietnamese

Phuoc Binh, the capital of Phuoc Long Province, about 60 miles north of Saigon, falls to the North Vietnamese. Phuoc Binh was the first provincial capital taken by the communists since the fall of Quang Tri on May 1, 1972. Two days later, the North Vietnamese took the last of ...read more

Army drops charges of My Lai cover-up

The Army drops charges of an alleged cover-up in the My Lai massacre against four officers. After the charges were dropped, a total of 11 people had been cleared of responsibility during the My Lai trials. The trials were a result of action that occurred in March 1968. During the ...read more

Nancy Kerrigan attacked

The figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is attacked after a practice session at Cobo Hall in Detroit on January 6, 1994, just one day before the U.S. National Championships and one month before the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, in which Kerrigan was a gold medal favorite. As ...read more

Mountain man Jedediah Smith is born

Jedediah Strong Smith, one of America’s greatest trapper-explorers, is born in Bainbridge, New York. Smith explored a stunningly large area of the Far West during his short life. He began his western voyages in 1822, when he joined the pioneering fur trader William Ashley on a ...read more

Blizzard of 1996 begins

On this day in 1996, snow begins falling in Washington, D.C., and up the Eastern seaboard, beginning a blizzard that kills 154 people and causes over $1 billion in damages before it ends. The Blizzard of 1996 began in typical fashion, as cold air from Canada pushed down and ...read more

Skater Nancy Kerrigan attacked

Olympic hopeful Nancy Kerrigan is attacked at a Detroit ice rink following a practice session two days before the Olympic trials. A man hit Kerrigan with a club on the back of her knee, causing the figure skater to cry out in pain and bewilderment. When the full story emerged a ...read more

Soviet Union announces troop reduction

The Soviet Union announces plans to cut the size of its standing army by 300,000 troops in the coming year. The reduction was part of a 1956 policy announced by Krushchev in anticipation of “peaceful coexistence” with the West, and an indication that Cold War relations between ...read more

Confederate General John Calvin Brown born

On this day in 1827, Confederate General John Calvin Brown is born in Giles County, Tennessee. Brown served in the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War, was wounded three times, and captured once. Brown was a prominent attorney in Pulaski, Tennessee, prior to the war. He ...read more