Requiem for an Earffel Tower

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This week marks the 27th anniversary of the opening of the Disney-MGM Studios, now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The occasion comes as the park is beginning a major transformation that will bring new lands, new attractions, and even another new name. To make room for all of this, many long-time staples of the park are being closed or removed, perhaps the most symbolic of which is the Earffel Tower.

Just days prior to the anniversary, the Earffel Tower was removed from its home on the backlot overnight. Capped off with a giant pair of Mickey Mouse ears, the water tower served as the park’s icon during its early days as Disney-MGM Studios. While best seen from the now-defunct “Studio Backlot Tour,” as seen in the photo above, it was also visible from a number of other vantage points within the park as well as from World Drive. The 130 foot tall tower may have never held any water, but it did served as a connection not just to the Mouse that started it all, but also to Hollywood history.

Out of necessity, many movie studios during the early days of Hollywood built water towers on their backlots. This proved especially important due to the amount of hot lights and flammable film stock stored on the premises. When Walt Disney’s studio moved to its current location in 1939, it included a water tower as well. This structure would later serve as the inspiration for the Earffel Tower, although it lacks the recognizable ears of its Florida counterpart.

With the Earffel Tower gone, the location where it once resided will soon become part of the site of the upcoming “Toy Story Land” expansion. In addition to making space, the loss symbolizes Diney’s Hollywood Studios’ shift from a working film and television studio where productions like “MMC,” “From the Earth to the Moon,” and “Lilo and Stitch” were made into a theme park that immerses guests in the worlds of popular movies like “Star Wars” and “Toy Story.” While the move makes sense given that Disney’s plan to turn Central Florida into “Hollywood East” never came to fruition, it’s still a shame to see Mickey’s ears disappear from that corner of the Walt Disney World skyline.

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