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Vintage Walt Disney World: Sunset Boulevard Emerges

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

It’s hard to imagine a Disney’s Hollywood Studios without a right turn onto Sunset Boulevard leading straight toward the Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.

Aerial View of Disney's Hollywood Studios in March 1989

But from an aerial view of the park back in March of 1989, you’ll see that the famous street wasn’t in existence during the park’s first few years. (Though if you look closely, you might be able to catch a glimpse of a very-famous Mouse.)

Aerial Look at Sunset Boulevard Under Construction in November 1993

Here is a rare aerial look at Sunset Boulevard under construction in November 1993. From this vantage point, we can see the Theater of the Stars, where guests watch Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, under construction. And of course, on the left is the Hollywood Tower Hotel soaring 199 feet into the air in the midst of being built.

Sunset Boulevard Under Construction at Disney's Hollywood Studios

By March of 1994, the Boulevard was looking a little bit more like we know it today. Home to many famous Los Angeles landmarks, Sunset Boulevard had its official grand opening on June 12, 1994, forever changing Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ skyline and atmosphere.

Those screams coming from the Hollywood Tower Hotel make me smile every time I visit the park.


  • In 1994 I was nine years old and had already been to Walt Disney World more than a dozen times as it was a family affair to pile 15 people in to our vacation home in Bay Hill. Seeing the picture of the Tower of Terror under construction brings me back to the excitement I could barely stomach every time we drove in our rented passenger van toward Epcot and saw the Tower, growing story by story, above the tree line. Even at my tender nine years I was a thrill junkie and I still have souvenir photos from my many “stays” at the Hollywood Tower Hotel. New excitement comes from thoughts of the future when my son is tall enough to ride. I can’t wait!

  • Thank you for posting these pictures. I love to see the progress of the parks and read about the history. These pictures are so interesting especially since they are aerial views.

  • I still have the original Disney MGM Studios hat from the opening year. Though I can’t remember the last time I’ve worn it. Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster are the two of the best rides on Disney property!

  • So much nicer when the hat was out of the way. Please remove it like the tacky wand above Spaceship Earth was removed.

  • I remember going to the park back in 1990. I really miss the little mini movie studios that lined the street where the streetmosphere characters would film short segments with the guests and you could actually purchase a VHS tape of your segment. My partner and I still quote “Monsters, They’re Out There … take 3”

  • Oh I love these photos. How fun!! I didnt remember MGM without Sunset although I had been there two times without it. Sunset is my fave place in DHS, close second is the area by Star Tours and Muppets!!!

  • Thanks for these pictures. I remember seeing the Beauty and the Beast at that outdoor theater (in the first shot) in 1992, and I’ve been trying to remember how that theater was positioned. I knew it was in that area, but didn’t know it sat at what is now the start of the Boulevard.

  • I remember my little brother pointing out this Mickey on the old guide maps and I was like “What are you talking about” and he insisted that I look again and look hard! I miss it too!

  • So, my question is…what is the building on the left that has the black “circle” of Mickey’s ear painted on the roof?

    LOVE this set of construction photos! Thanks so much for sharing this lost hidden mickey!!

    • Jessica, it’s the sound stage that is home to Disney Junior – Live on Stage! Back in 1989 it was the Soundstage Restaurant. It was a counter service dining location that offered pizza, pasta, sandwiches, soups and salads.

  • Had not been to WDW at this time. Very interesting to see these shots! TY for posting.

  • wow great shot thats a major hidden the pics thanks for posting cant wait to be back in november

  • I have a few photos from April 25 1989… Sneak week they caled it. Park was empty, cables all over the place. I was honored with the ability to be there BEFORE it opened. Wish I had taken TONS of pictures.

  • These photos are great! I almost forgot about that giant Mickey face.

  • I miss that Hidden Mickey.

  • I remember when Sunset Blvd first opened. I swear you could hear the screams from the Tower of Terror being projected down the entire street. I always figured that there were speakers hidden in the 2nd story of the buildings (like in Magic Kingdom) to do this. Is there any truth to that?

    • Hey Michael-

      I checked with a couple of sources and so far, no. The screams have always been real. If we find out anything more, I’ll be sure to let you know.

  • I’m glad to see my beloved Sunset Boulevard here! To me, this quite peculiar street takes me back to my ICP months, when I worked cleaning the streets (and, of course, having lots of fun) there… Oh, how I miss that place!

  • I see Mickey!! I guess his nose is now the sorcerer hat isn’t it? Thanks for posting these pics, I really enjoy the under construction shots!!

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