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From Barren Swampland to Walt Disney World in 60 Incredible Photos

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney-MGM Studios (as the park was originally known) grew out of the Great Movie Ride Pavilion, which was proposed as a new addition to Epcot's line-up. When rival Universal announced plans to build Universal Studios Florida, Disney CEO Michael Eisner ordered the company's Imagineers to expand the design into a complete new theme park, and it opened in 1989.


Disney-MGM Studios construction (1)

Image © Disney

Disney-MGM Studios construction (2)

Image © Disney

Disney-MGM Studios construction (3)

Image © Disney


In its original guise, the park resembed a Mickey Mouse face from the air.

Disney-MGM Studios

Great Movie Ride

Sunset Boulevard and Tower of Terror

Disney-MGM Studios proved to be an immediate hit, but it originally featured only a handful of attractions. Ambitious expansion plans were put into place, culminating in the addition of Sunset Boulevard, leading to the enormous Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Some 1,500 tons of steel were used to construct the ride building, along with 145,800 cubic feet of concrete. The roof is lined by 27,000 tiles. On the inside, sections of the lobby were inspired by the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.


Sunset Boulevard (1)

Sunset Boulevard (2)

Tower of Terror construction (1)

Tower of Terror construction (2)


Disney's Hollywood Studios

Image: Greg Goebel, via Flickr


Tower of Terror Exterior (2)

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster was originally built outside, with the enormous ride building then being constructed around it. The volume of the building is more than 3.7 million cubic feet. The ride opened in 1999.


Rock n Roller Coaster construction

Image via Disney Avenue


Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

Typhoon Lagoon

Typhoon Lagoon was the second water park at Walt Disney World, after the much-smaller (and now abandoned) River County. At its heart sits Mt. Mayday, with the wrecked Miss Tilly boat at its peak.


Typhoon Lagoon construction (1)

Typhoon Lagon construction (2)


Typhoon Lagoon

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There are 15 comments.

wow what a great write up that was and to see some old pics of then and now love it

I believe the third photo under Spaceship Earth is actually World of Motion.

I believe you're right. Removed for now.

It isn't. It definitely is Space Mountain. Just look at the foreground, and you'll see Cinderella Castle. You wouldn't see the castle at Epcot.

It isn't. Just look at the Background and you can see Cinderella Castle. You wouldn't see the castle at Epcot

Wow! Thank you for sharing! It's great to see how wdw all started!! So amazing!!

I loved looking at these pics. brings back memories, my husband was working out there as a crane operator, heavy equip operator, his dad was an ironworker as were his two brothers that I can recall, they were ironworkers. when the park opened for the vips, when it was done, I was there with my husband and his d ad and his brothers, and they all pointed out different items, or areas etc that they had worked on and it was very kool to see the different ironwork that was made into railings and my father in law and brothers in law were very involved in this as was my husband with the crane., and heavy equipment.. very very nice presentation and it did bring back alot of memories from the 70's now my two kids are working at disney .. Isnt life strange, how things go round in a circle sort of and some back to u!!

Love looking at construction photos of Disney World. May I recommend the popular Disney Avenue blog for their popular "Making of" articles for more construction photos like these. Great article!!! The link is

Absolutely. Disney Avenue is a fantastic website.

Thanks, as is Theme Park Tourist, its one of our favorites and we will be adding it to our list of recommended sites!

Hi i am a visitor from the UK and I will just say you never grow up Disney is just great.

Great article. One request which others might appreciate also: when possible, be more specific in your photo citations. For example, if I want to find a specific photo you have here credited to Tom Simpson's Flickr site, I have to wade through his 3,000+ untagged, barely organized pile of photos to get to it. A link straight to the actual photo would be awesome!

Otherwise, keep up the great work! I visit your site many times a week.


Great article with some great photos!!!

Very cool. (Correct the bold heading "Spash Mountain" to "Splash.").

Absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for sharing. My first time to the Disney World parks was in 2000. Ever Since, I have been to all the parks hundreds of times. I'm just amazed how it all came together. Fascinated with the history of Disney. I have already been to MK 3 times this week. :) it's crazy, but I love it. Thanks again.


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