Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.
SCI-FI DINE-IN THEATER RESTAURANT
By Jim Korkis
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a huge soundstage with high, dark ceilings made to resemble the starry nighttime sky, and row upon row upon row of 1950ish convertible automobiles that serve as the dining area for the guests.
It is meant to resemble the classic drive-in movie theaters of the era. For those who prefer not to be in a car, just like in a real drive-in, there are a few picnic table and tables with umbrellas available along the back as well.
All of the seating is aimed toward a massive movie screen on one side of the room. The forty five minute film loop compilation that shows there of coming attraction clips of 1950s science fiction films, cartoons, vintage news clips, and intermission/refreshment announcements was put together by Stephanie Keith of Theme Park Productions.
She spent hundreds of hours visiting film libraries and collectors as well as the National Film Archives in Washington, D.C. to review old news footage. “Some of the prints were pulled out from dusty boxes in the back of someone’s garage,” said Keith. Some of the film was in very poor condition that required extensive restoration.
“It was a challenge to make a piece of film look good but not too good,” post production supervisor Louise Gladden said. “We needed to keep some of the scratches, which add to the charm of the film.”
The film trailers include:
- Devil Girl from Mars (1954)
- It Conquered the World (1956)
- Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)
- The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)
- The Horror of Party Beach (1964)
- The Giant Gila Monster (1959)
- Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)
- Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
- Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)
- Robot Monster (1953)
- Cat Women of the Moon (1953)
- Missile to the Moon (1958)
In addition there are two edited MGM animated shorts: Mouse Into Space (1962 Tom & Jerry) and The Cat That Hated People (1948 Tex Avery)
The News of the Future newsreels include segments of the kitchen of the future (from the Monsanto House of the Future), a radiation hazard suit, a flying disc, a mini-car model that drives itself on an electronic wire track embedded on the ground (in the driver’s seat was a ventriloquist dummy of Jerry Mahoney smoking a cigarette), a picture phone with a ten inch video screen, real chimps as “space cadets” riding on an amusement park rocket ride, a “frying saucer” and an automated nursery.
For Disney fans, there is a compilation to the song Great Balls of Fire, featuring a clip of Garco the robot, Disneyland’s Trip to the Moon astronauts on the moon, the flying jetpack man from Disneyland, a cartoon clip from Mars and Beyond, Tinker Bell introducing Tomorrowland from the weekly Disney television show, a costumed Mickey Mouse at the dedication of the new Disneyland Tomorrowland in 1967, as well as images of real rocket launches, Tom Corbett Space Cadet, and scenes from Forbidden Planet, Commando Cody, and The Thing.
Announcements include the warning that public demonstrations of affection will not be tolerated, the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning if the car motor is running, the importance of disconnecting the speaker, an advertisement for the Satellite Space show for boys and girls, and more.
“Even though the Sci Fi Dine-In was designed as a restaurant first and an attraction second, it’s sometimes hard to set them apart,” said Imagineer Eric Jacobson. “It’s very strange to watch the guests, eyes riveted to screen as they eat and nobody is talking!”
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Thanks, Jim! Here’s the review of the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre from The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018:
And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!
In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Call Me Walt, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.