Just as the Disney/MGM Studios Theme Park is one of our favorite places in Walt Disney World, the Hollywood Pictures Backlot was our favorite spot in all of Disney's California Adventure for a very simple reason. The look and feel of the two places are virtually identical. 1930's Art Deco architecture and traditional Hollywood glitz abound. You enter Hollywood Pictures Backlot through an enormous arched gateway, which is somewhat reminiscent of the famous front gate at Paramount Studios. You're immediately taken back in time to old Hollywood where movie stars walk the streets and all the world is truly a stage. If you look down to the very end of the street you'll see a painted sky on an enormous background. They could be shooting a movie right in front of you at any minute! You'll find performers everywhere and hours of entertainment await you.
Walking down the street you first encounter the entertaining eatery ABC Soap Opera Bistro. Sporting a very 1990's menu inside an ersatz television studio stage, your meals are supplimented with entertainment provided by the wait staff - including ersatz would-be actors who enlist your help as they practice their lines for an audition the next morning, and wandering pairs of actors who ham it up improvising from cliche'd soap opera scenes. The good-natured enthusiasm of these performers make the whole experience a real treat. The restaurant has seven separate "sets" in which you might be seated - Luke's Bar and the nurses' station from "General Hospital," the parlor of Chandler Mansion from "All My Children," the Llanview Country Club terrace and Buchanan stables from "One Life To Live," and the Port Charles docks from "Port Charles." Next door to the Bistro is a souvenir shop that sports authentic props and memoribelia from your favorite daytime dramas like - many of which are autographed by the stars!
Next we come to the Disney Animation attraction - a place where Disney's core talents are showcased in what is clearly the centerpiece of this entire section of the park. You enter through a corridor into a cavernous central lobby whose walls are decorated with a dozen enormous screens - each showing highlights from your favorite Disney animated features. You then follow branching corridors to the individual facilities and displays.
The most popular for youngsters is "The Beast's Library" in which you sit in a high-backed chair in front of an interactive touch-screen display built to look like a large ornate book with a big bookmark running down between the two open pages. The popular characters Lumiere and Cogsworth ask you questions about your personality so that you can find out which Disney character you most closely resemble.
Next, for the older kids, is "Ursula's Grotto" where you get to provide the voice for a scene in a cartoon. First the computer shows you the scene as it was originally. Then you read your lines as they are displayed on a computer screen as subtitles as the cartoon is repeated. Finally, the scene is replayed for you with your voice. We had fun here playing an impromptu version of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" by making up our own dialogue.
After that is the "Screening Room" where you see a short film called "Back to Neverland" starring comedian Robin Williams and legendary news anchor Walter Chronkite. Robin is turned into a cartoon character - one of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan - and he learns how animated films are made. It's the same film they show in the Disney/MGM Studios in Florida that premiered with the park in 1989.
Finally, there's "Drawn to Animation," a live presentation on how cartoons are made presented in a stage show by a Disney animator in a large theater. The animator's lecture is accompanied by an animated assistant - Mushu the dragon from Disney's Mulan. Its just clips from the movie, but still lots of fun.
Elsewhere inside the attraction you'll also find many displays of props, pictures, and artwork from Disney Animation archives. The displays show you how the characters in classic Disney animation evolved from early concept drawings into the cuddly creatures and dastardly villains we've come to know over the years.
And, of course, we're also mad for Peter Pan and really loved the display that showed the early versions of Tinker Bell created by Disney Legend Marc Davis who sadly passed away recently.
We're especially fond of the "Toy Story" movies, so it was a real treat to see the display dedicated to our computer-generated pals Buzz and Woody. Did you know that when creator John Lasseter first began to work on Toy Story, our hero, the intrepid Space Ranger, Buzz Lightyear was called "Lunar Larry"? Thank goodness somebody talked him out of that! The Toy Story display includes a pair of the original animator's models (called "maquettes") of Woody and Buzz (as the aforementioned Lunar Larry).
Down the street from Disney Animation is the Hyperion Theater where the popular stage show
"Steps In Time" is being shown. Here again, the Disney Imagineers use an Art Deco motif to give the look
and feel of classic Hollywood. It's a marvelous production that will have you on your feet and cheering. Don't miss it!
Click here to see even more from the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of Disney's California Adventure.