Supervise children at all times.
The Studio Backlot Tour is part walking, part tram tour that showcases how movies are made. The highlight of the attraction is Catastrophe Canyon, a western set special effects set that places guests in the middle of the action.
When the Studio Backlot Tour opened with the originally named MGM Studios, it showcased actual movie production. The tour included a drive through many areas that were not accessible by guests on foot. These areas included the former Residential Street which contained a series of famous house facades used for exterior shots in television and movies. The Streets of America were also include as part of the tour but are now open to foot traffic. Other components have changed throughout the years as well as the original tour was upwards of 3 hours. Originally, the attraction had a live narrator. That narrator has since been replaced by pre-recorded audio.
Currently, the tour begins with a drive past a series of topiaries, including one that’s cut to resemble the iconic Hollywood Studios water tower, “The Earful Tower”. Around the corner, the actual Earful Tower tower can be seen. The water tower was inspired by a similar tower Walt Disney created for the Burbank Studios in 1939. The tower stands 13 stories high and includes a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. The hat size for the Mickey Mouse ears is 342 3/8ths. The tram continues with a warehouse on the right with props from the Adventurer’s Club visible outside. On the left side is the run off and practice area for Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.
As the vehicle approaches the 180 degree turn, it passes The Greens Department, topiaries and Imagineering offices on the left. On the right, props continue, including two vintage World War II aircrafts. Both of these planes have painted eyes to resemble the characters from the Animated movie Planes.
The 180 degree turn leads into the Creative Costuming department where guests can view cast members working on wardrobes for all of Walt Disney World. On the left of the vehicle are insets that include costumes from recent films in production. Following the Creative Costuming area (in the same building) is the Scenic Shop where large scale sets and props are built. This area also designs props and sets for park attractions.
The tram exits the building and enters into “The Boneyard” that shows several larger vehicles and props used in a variety of productions. These include Herbie the Love Bug and other vehicles. The vehicle travels behind the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show theater, offering a view inside the French Village.
The narrator advises us of the largest set on the backlot and we are informed that the production crew has allowed us to enter. The large set is Catastrophe Canyon. Before turning into the set, the tram passes by a large airplane with the Walt Disney logo on it.
The Catastrophe Canyon set is made to resemble a desert area in California. A large oil tanker is placed in the center with electrical components and drainage ditches set up to foreshadow the series of events that is about to unfold. A female voice takes over the narration and explains that the set is based on real locations in California and it took about 6 months to complete. She advises guests that the director has arrived and they can begin testing effects. The first effect is the rain effect as a series of rain sprinklers are activated in the overhang above. Rain appears on the large set as guests watch from their dry tram vehicles.
During the rain effect, we hear the director speak:
Catastrophe Canyon, scene 1, take 2.
The female narrator advises us that, “It’s showtime” and proceeds through a brief safety warning before the series of special effects takes place. The choreographed Rube Goldberg-esque demonstration is regarded as the highlight of the tour.
Sparks from an electrical box ignite the back of the tanker. The back of the tanker bursts into flames igniting nearby areas. A loud horn is sounded and a flash flood emerges from openings crashing into the middle and back of the tanker. the bridge shakes as additional water pours overhead. The director calls for a cut suggesting that they reset for another take.
Previous iterations included more explosions in the area in the front of the tanker and also featured the tanker sliding down the rock.
The female narrator explains how the fiberglass structure works including the recycling of 75,000 gallons of water. The vehicle exits Catastrophe Canyon to reveal the steal structure that supports the fiberglass base.
An interjection from the director of Planes to discuss the airplane that was visible prior to entering Catastrophe Canyon. It is revealed that this plane was used by Walt Disney to scout out locations in Florida for Walt Disney World. The tram continues, passing by the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show set once again. Several of the sets and vehicles can be seen offstage in “acceleration alley”.
The next stop is the “Second Boneyard” featuring additional props on the left side of the vehicle. It also passes by the backside of the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show sets which are revealed to be facades.
The next turn offers a view of the forced perspective present at New York Street on the Streets of America. The vehicle returns to the unload area.
Previously, the attraction exited into the American Film Institute Showcase exhibit and shop. The exhibit and shop had their last day of operation on August 16, 2014.
Experience a special effects water tank show, then board a tram for a backlot tour of the Studio, ending with an action-packed visit to Catastrophe Canyon – where nature’s fury is unleashed! Some rocking motion will occur.
Fans of movie making.
TIMES GUIDE - OPENING/CLOSING
This attraction opens with the park, but will typically close up to two and a half hours prior to park closing.
The tram vehicles are referred to as “Shuttles” and they are a series of connected vehicles with rows of bench seats. Each individual vehicle car has 7 rows, and each row can seat 3-4 guests. Each train contains six cars.
The Pre-show features two significant components: The Harbor Attack sequence and the Prop Warehouse.
Harbor Attack/Special Effects Water Tank
Director Michael Bay introduces some of the film techniques used in the movie Pearl Harbor, this video leads to many of the special effects utilized in the Special Effects Water Tank. Guests are asked to volunteer in a variety of demonstrations that take place in the tank that includes explosions and splashes of water.
The Prop Warehouse includes props from a selection of movies stored on large shelves that extend to the ceiling. The Prop Warehouse acts as a holding area for guests waiting to board the trams. One of the first set of props that can be seen are from the Bette Midler short film, “The Lottery Ticket”. The making of this film used to be heavily integrated into the Studio Backlot Tour in the earlier days of the attraction.
A similar behind the scenes type attraction is Living with the Land at Epcot.