31 August 2021

Walt Disney World 50 for 50: Soundstage 2

When we think of entertainment productions that came out of the early years of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then Disney-MGM Studios, we most often think of animated features or New York Street standing in for the Big Apple in various feature films. We remember The All New Mickey Mouse Club, or MMC as it was known at the time, and the number of pop stars it launched. We may even recall fondly Residential Street and its famous house facades, not the least of which was that of the house belonging to The Golden Girls. There was a time, however, long before the American Idol Experience came to the park, even before Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? when game shows and other variety shows were regularly filmed throughout Disney-MGM Studios. Everything from Hollywood Squares, Let’s Make a Deal, Wheel of Fortune, and Star Search could be seen filming at the park.
One such show to jump on the game show revival train and to film at Disney-MGM Studios was Let’s Make a Deal. The show premiered in 1990 with host Bob Hilton. While most people remember the original host of Let’s Make a Deal, Monty Hall, Bob had his own game show pedigree that included announcing for Win, Lose, or Draw, The $25,000 Pyramid, and The Price Is Right, as well as hosting the 1977 reboot of The New Truth and Consequences. Let’s Make a Deal’s original host, Monty Hall, didn’t totally leave the show, however, instead he took on a producer role alongside Dick Clark.
The show, which saw contestants dressed in outlandish getups wheeling and dealing with Hilton in the hopes of taking home cash and prizes. Sometimes a junk item in a purse could be worth a car, but there was also the chance that behind those big doors or under than giant box was a great big goose egg. It was the ultimate game show of chance. Guests of Disney-MGM Studios could watch the show being taped in Studio 1, according to the opening announcement of the show, was likely Soundstage 1. This is where sets from The All New Mickey Mouse Club also resided and could easily be switched out for the various productions. Let’s Make a Deal began shooting in July of 1990 and filmed every other week on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with the production wrapping by the end of September that same year. Sadly, the show would only make it through that first season and was not renewed.

Another of the feature productions to call Disney-MGM Studios home on a more permanent status was Ed McMahon’s Star Search. Plans called for the show to move from Los Angeles to Walt Disney World for Star Search’s tenth season. In its first year in Florida the production schedule called for the taping of 156 shows, with five half hour episodes being filmed for weekdays and an hour-long weekend edition. Unlike Let’s Make a Deal, Star Search would have a longer lifespan, from 1992 through at least the 1994 season, the show was filmed at the park’s Soundstage 2.
The talent search showcase would uncover talents likes Beth Hart, Lizé, and Britney Spears, who would stick around Disney-MGM Studios to film The All-New Mickey Mouse Club. In fact, Ed McMahon was so excited about his new digs for his showcase that he even helped set up the advertising campaign at Disney-MGM Studios! Well, for publicity’s sake anyway.
Eventually game and variety shows at Disney-MGM Studios would become more of guest attractions, such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Play It and American Idol, than actual broadcast productions. Most guests who visited Disney-MGM Studios in the early years remember that several feature length animation projects, including Lilo & Stitch, Mulan, and Brother Bear were created at the park. They may even remember being put inside of a sitcom themselves, but the game shows were where the real entertainment could be found. For those of us who were able to see Star Search, Let’s Make a Deal, or Hollywood Squares, or some of the other productions it was a real treat to behold!

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