Yesterland

The Earffel Tower

Fun fact from Disney:
“The Earffel Tower would
wear a hat size of 342 ¾.”
The Earffel Tower

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2007

Earffel Tower at Disney-MGM Studios

Your camera is loaded with film. Your goal is to have your family pose in front of the iconic symbol of each of the four parks of Walt Disney World.

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park. You got it!

Spaceship Earth at Epcot. You got it!

Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You got it!


Now you’re at the theme park that was originally called Disney-MGM Studios and became Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2008.

It’s a time when the park’s most iconic symbol is the Earffel Tower, a 130-foot-tall water tower in the tradition of those found at real movie studios in California. Unlike its studio counterparts, the Earffel Tower has giant mouse ears. Also, it doesn’t actually contain water.

Let’s see... Where can your family pose with a clear view of the Earffel Tower?

The Earffel Tower

Photo by Chris Bales, 2000

Backstage

The folks who designed this theme park apparently didn’t consider that you would want such a photo. There are very few places inside the park that provide even a glimpse of the Earffel Tower.

You’ll get your best view of the Earffel Tower from the Backstage Studio Tour or its successor, the Studio Backlot Tour. But, in either case, you and your family will be on a moving tram. It’s hard enough to get a good photo of the tower, even without trying to include your family.

The Earffel Tower

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2007

Topiary Earffel Tower

Oddly, there are two Earffel Towers back here. In addition to the tall one, there’s its green, leafy cousin. It’s surprising that the topiary version wasn’t installed somewhere onstage.

Maybe you should just snap your family photo somewhere else in the park.


The Earffel Tower was an opening day feature of Walt Disney World’s third major park—Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park—when it opened May 1, 1989.

Sometimes misspelled as “Earful Tower,” the name and its spelling both derived from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The Earffel Tower

Page from a 1989 Magic Kingdom Club advertising mailer © Disney

The Earffel Tower as the symbol of the new park in 1989

The tower was backstage—but, in a way, it made sense that the park’s icon would be there.

When the park opened, it was largely about providing guests with a backstage experience. The Backstage Studio Tour, with a tram component and a walking component, took two hours. The park’s onstage areas were minimal. New York Street (which later became Streets of America) was part of the tram tour, although it would soon be opened to guests. The corridors that later became Mickey Avenue and Pixar Place were backstage. Sunset Blvd. had not yet been built; it opened July 1994.

The Earffel Tower

Artwork from a 1989 Magic Kingdom Club Price Guide © Disney

Stylized Walt Disney World park icons in a row

The Earffel Tower worked as a park icon. It was distinctive and memorable— just like the other park icons. It just wasn’t located on the entrance axis like the others.

The Earffel Tower

Page from a 1991 Magic Kingdom Club brochure © Disney

Another trio of park icons (upper left)

The park had (and still has) a landmark on its entrance axis too. The Great Movie Ride is housed behind a replica of the façade of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. It served as a secondary symbol of the park, often appearing on the front of guide books and in advertising.

In late 2001, Disney constructed the 122-foot-tall Sorcerer Mickey Hat in front of the Chinese Theatre—largely hiding the famous façade and giving the park a different landmark on its entrance axis. It looked more like an oversized blue traffic cone tipping over than a real wizard’s cap. Although erected for the 2001-2002 “100 Years of Magic” marketing campaign, the immense decoration lasted until January 2015, when it was finally dismantled. For 13 years, the pointy “hat” (or a stylized version of it) often served as the icon for the Studios park in Disney marketing materials.

A water tower, even a faux one, made more sense as an icon for a park than a blue cone. Real movie studios have (or had) them, including Walt Disney Studios.

The Earffel Tower

Photo by CoolCaesar, 2014, from Wikimedia Commons (under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike)

The water tower at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California

Walt Disney used the financial success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to move his studio from Hyperion Blvd. in Los Angeles to Buena Vista St. in Burbank. One of the first structures at the new location was a six-legged, 135-feet-tall, 150,000-gallon water tower, completed in 1939.

The tower is still there. Until 1986, it simply had “Walt Disney Productions” lettered on unpainted steel. Since then, it’s featured Mickey Mouse and the logoscript for Walt Disney Studios on a white background.

The Disney water tower in Burbank never had mouse ears—except for those on Mickey’s head in his picture.

The Earffel Tower

Photo by Chris Bales, 2012

Different logo, same tower

When Disney-MGM Studios became Disney’s Hollywood Studios on January 7, 2008, new signs and logos replaced the old, all over the park. That included the Earffel Tower—and its topiary cousin.

The Earffel Tower

Photo by Chris Bales, 2012

Earffel Tower from the tram

The Earffel Tower

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Earffel Tower from a different angle

The Earffel Tower

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Mickey with a clapperboard

The Earffel Tower

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

From the back of the Theater of the Stars (Beauty and the Beast venue)

The Earffel Tower

Photo by Chris Bales, 2012

Topiary Earffel Tower

A half dozen years after Disney changed the park’s name to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, big plans were brewing to rejuvenate it—and those plans didn’t include keeping the backlot.

The final day for the Studio Backlot Tour was September 27, 2014. What had been the best way for guests to see the Earffel Tower was no longer an option.

On August 15, 2015, Disney announced plans for Toy Story Land, where guests would enjoy Toy Story-themed attractions in the setting of “Andy’s backyard.” Its site would be where the Earffel Tower and its surroundings had been; the tower wouldn’t make sense there.

On Friday, April 29, 2016, the Orlando Sentinel reported, “The Earffel Tower, one of the original and iconic structures of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, has been removed, a Walt Disney World official confirmed Friday morning.”

The Earffel Tower

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2005

The Earffel Tower at Walt Disney Studios Park, Paris

There’s still an Earffel Tower. It’s 22 miles east of the Eiffel Tower.

When Walt Disney Studios Park opened at Disneyland Paris on March 16, 2002, it had its own Earffel Tower. In 2014, the Walt Disney Studios logo on the tower changed to a newer one, not the one in the photo.

The Earffel Tower

Concept Rendering, 2013 © Disney

Rendering of Disney Springs water tower

Walt Disney World not only lost a faux water tower in 2016, it also gained one. It’s the marquee for Disney Springs, the expanded destination that used to be Downtown Disney. But no ears.

If you want giant mouse ears on a water tower, just travel to the outskirts of Paris, France.


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Updated January 20, 2017.