Category: Hollywood as a Time Capsule!


Disney Imagineers put a lot of effort into designing this particular theme park in such a way that it creates an environment similar to Hollywood in the 1950s. The streets are surrounded by buildings and architecture that resembles Los Angeles. The Imagineers used real buildings as inspiration and then changed things like the scale, color, and details in order to make it appropriate for the park. Hollywood Studios is decorated with neon, chrome, art deco, and a touch of modern architecture. The streets, which are designed to look similar to those in San Francisco and Los Angeles, are lined with palm trees to add to the environment. Disney incorporated the square studio arch that leads into Animation Courtyard to make guests feel like they are in a real Hollywood studio lot. Even seemingly unimportant things, such as the billboards that are displayed around the park, clearly setting the time period, contribute to the overall scenery. For example, the Hollywoodland billboard refers to an area that opened in 1923, when Walt Disney moved to Hollywood.

Additionally, the design of the buildings and restaurants add to the environment. For example, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater gives guests the chance to feel like they are at a drive-in movie theater as they enjoy a meal in tables shaped like vintage 1950s convertibles. Another example of a restaurant setting the time period is the 50’s Prime Time Café which is decorated with bright neon colors, old-fashioned wallpaper, and knick-knacks from 1950s, bringing parents and grandparents back to the good old days!

On the subject of restaurants in Hollywood Studios, there is one place in particular that stands apart from most of the other establishments in the park. I talk of course about the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant.

Based off the original Hollywood Brown Derby in Los Angeles, the Disney version brings elegance to the visitors’ dining experience. The original Hollywood Brown Derby was a popular place for early Hollywood stars to catch a meal because of its proximity to several of the largest studios. The Disney version keeps that spirit of the old Hollywood alive with more than 1,500 caricatures of famous stars through the years lining the walls, including those of Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, and Clark Gable.

While the other restaurants discussed relied heavily upon a theme, the only theme here is pure elegance. With white linens topping dark wood tables, chandeliers and amber lighting setting the mood, and potted palms around, the upscale atmosphere is on full display here. The waiters in tuxedos provide a sharp contrast to guests who are wearing sandals and Mickey ears and have just come in from the park. Likewise, the food here is all about the glamor. With everything from the famous Cobb salad (Owner Bob Cobb created the original restaurant’s signature Cobb salad in 1930 and it’s so popular that the Disney Derby serves more than 31,000 of them a year) to Brown Butter Almond-crusted Black Grouper, Disney offers a taste of the high life.

Guests dine in style here at the Hollywood Brown Derby.

While the restaurant’s prices are very expensive, the aim of this restaurant is to recreate the feeling of “Old Hollywood,” a time of glitz and glamor. Guests are treated like stars, which further helps create this feeling. It should be noted, however, that this illusion is not completely watertight because of the appearances of the guests. While the real stars of “Old Hollywood” would have likely worn suits and evening gowns, guests here wear Hawaiian shirts, sandals, and Mickey ears.

One of the most interesting aspects of Disney’s Hollywood Studios park is the wide variety of unique dining and retail options available. In terms of dining, two very similar restaurants, The 50’s Primetime Cafe and the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater offer guests an experience like no other. The 50’s Primetime Cafe, invokes the idea of “Mom’s House” of the 1950s, while the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater has guests eat in “cars” under a “starry sky” while watching old-time sci-fi movies. Even though both establishments may have different menus and different themes, they both have very similar aims in terms of fulfilling Disney’s outlook for the park. What is meant by this?

When Hollywood Studios opened on May 1, 1989, chairman Michael Eisner declared “Welcome to the Hollywood that never was and always will be.” One of Disney’s aims with this park is to create a very polished, almost time-capsule feeling of the “old” Hollywood. With that in mind, these two restaurants do a pretty good job achieving that goal. The 50’s Prime Time Café brings to life the world of the 1950s sitcom, a world that might not have been totally realistic, but invokes a definite sense of nostalgia. Just like the black-and-white sitcoms that play throughout the restaurant, the Primetime Cafe glorifies ”the good ol’ days” when people left their doors unlocked, kids played freely outside with neighbors, and gas was considerably cheaper.

Make sure to eat your vegetables when at the 50s Primetime Cafe; "Mom" won't be happy if you dont.

Likewise for the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater, Disney intentionally invokes a sense of nostalgia as campy sci-fi movies entertain the guests. Though the guests might not actually be sitting under a starry night sky in an open-topped car, they are transported to the world of the drive-in movie theater. While many children today have never been to a drive-in, their parents will understand the feeling of nostalgia. All in all, this restaurant seems plucked straight out of the peak of the drive-in craze.

Sit back, wrap your arm around your gal, and get ready for tonights attraction here at the drive-in!

Through both of these restaurants, Disney creates its own Disneyfied version of the past; moments frozen in time of an era that exists only in fiction.