Archive for the ‘Disney's Hollywood Studios’ Category

Theme Park Headlines – Mickey’s Ready for Fall

September 5, 2009

Image © Disney.

Walt Disney World kicks off its annual Halloween celebrations and prepares for its Christmas festivities.

By Blake

Originally posted September 5, 2009.

While some students may not even have headed back to school yet and the Labor Day holiday is just arriving, Walt Disney World isn’t wasting any time in saying goodbye to summer and heading right into their impressive, crowd-pleasing fall agenda as their Halloween and Christmas special events begin to get underway.

Throughout the summer, Disney began making preparations for The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The buildings in the Streets of America section of the park are being adorned with thousands of sparkling lights. The popular decorations will make their official debut as they light up the park November 10, 2009 – January 4, 2010. You can check out pictures of the event’s recent progress at StudiosCentral.com.

As early as mid-August, the Christmas Dream Lights began their installation on the spires of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. A fairly new holiday tradition that began in 2007, the Dream Lights spectacularly transform the Castle into an amazing wintry sight (even though it’s already pretty amazing without them). The lights magically turn on thanks to the help of Cinderella and friends in a brief ceremony entitled Cinderella’s Holiday Wish. The Dream Lights will be ready at least by November 10, which is the first night of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but could appear before then. Pictures of the lights’ installation can be seen at LaughingPlace.com.

Mickey and friends are busy perparing for the holiday season, which includes Disney favorites like The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and more. Image © Disney.

However, while those and other Walt Disney World Christmas events are over two months away from making their 2009 premiere, Halloween is already in full swing over at the Magic Kingdom. Special Halloween decorations were set up throughout Town Square and along Main Street, U.S.A. a little over a week ago (as shown in a blog on DISUnplugged.com), and the first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party of the season took place last night, September 4.

The highlights of each party include Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, the HalloWishes fireworks, the Villains Mix and Mingle stage show, special character appearances (by several rare friends, as well as some familiar characters in Halloween attire), and candy stations. Many of the Magic Kingdom rides and attractions are open, too.

Minnie, Mickey, and other Disney friends can be found throughout the Magic Kingdom decked out for Halloween during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Image © Disney.

Although the party is mostly the same as in years past, there are a few minor changes this year. There are still two dance parties, but they contain a few differences. The Fantasyland dance party still takes place at Ariel’s Grotto, but the characters present there are now Minnie and Daisy. Additionally, the Tomorrowland dance party has changed locations: it’s not in Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café anymore, it’s now at the stage formerly used for Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration (near Carousel of Progress). Characters appearing at the Tomorrowland dance party are Stitch, Goofy, and Pluto. Outside of dance parties, there appears to be a small new float in the parade featuring Madame Leota’s tombstone from Haunted Mansion. (It’s worth noting that although the villains float was dropped from Magic Kingdom’s regular afternoon parade last spring, it still remains a part of the Halloween parade.)

There may also be a few other small changes, but since the party just took place last night, other information has not yet been spread. However, this article will be updated to include any other reported changes that have occurred at this year’s MNSSHP.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party requires a separate ticket (different from regular park admission) to attend. On nights when the party takes place, it lasts from 7pm through midnight. However, if you enter at or after 4pm, you will not need a regular park ticket to enter, so my advice would be to not visit a park on the day you attend the party, so that you can rest up as well as save some money.

For pictures of the Halloween decorations throughout the Magic Kingdom, check out LaughingPlace.com, and for a recap of the September 4 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, visit DISUnplugged.com and AllEars.net. The party will continue on select nights through November 1. Whether you’re attending or not, have a not-so-scary Halloween!

By Blake; posted September 5, 2009. All images © Disney.

Theme Park Headlines – Patriotism and Tragedy

July 8, 2009
Image © Disney.

1,000 new American citizens, an Animatronics version of President Obama, and a tragic monorail accident were among the occurrences of Walt Disney World’s Independence Day week 2009.

By Blake

Originally posted July 8, 2009.

The Fourth of July 2009 at Walt Disney World will not be easily forgotten anytime soon, as a result of a series of completely unrelated events, some exciting and one sorrowful. There were some celebratory events, such as the welcoming of 1,000 newly-sworn-in American citizens and the openings of several exciting new attractions, though one particular tragic accident involving a monorail crash and the death of a Disney Cast Member flared headlines across the country.

One of the lead-ins to the holiday week was the appearance of an Audio-Animatronics character of Luxo, Jr., the lamp from the Pixar short of the same name. Luxo is found on a ledge above guests on Pixar Place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, near the Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction. Although he made his debut around June 22 (which was followed by coverage on LaughingPlace.com), StitchKingdom.com’s Twitter updates are now reporting that Luxo is currently not making appearances, but will resume doing so soon. When he’s out, Luxo appears every 15 minutes and interacts with guests in addition to participating in some creative antics.

Luxo, Jr. has made his debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Image © Disney/Pixar.

On June 29 at the Magic Kingdom, The Pirates League officially opened in Adventureland. Similar to how Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique features princess makeovers, The Pirates League is all about pirate makeovers. Guests may choose from a selection of assorted packages, all of which are listed at WDWNews.com. Like Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique, the makeovers are a bit pricey, the least expensive package being $49.95 plus tax. Coverage of The Pirates League can be seen on AllEars.net, DISUnplugged.com, and StitchKingdom.com. However, if guests would rather not have an all-out makeover but are still looking for a unique Disney hairdo experience, they’d be better off at the less expensive Harmony Barber Shop on Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A.

Moving on, sometime over the course of last week (though I seem to find contradictory opening dates – a preview was held on June 28 nonetheless), The Hall of Presidents re-opened from its extensive refurbishment with major new additions. It has a new subtitle, making its full name The Hall of Presidents: A Celebration of Liberty’s Leaders. Among the changes are the inclusion of Morgan Freeman as narrator, Abraham Lincoln giving The Gettysburg Address, George Washington speaking (he previously did not), and the addition of Barack Obama to the lineup of presidents presented as Audio-Animatronics. Pictures of the newly re-opened attraction can be seen at AllEars.net (beware of spoilers, though!).

On July 3, also in the Magic Kingdom, 1,000 people were sworn in and officially became United States citizens. Broadcasted live on CNN, the ceremony took place in front of Cinderella Castle with the help of Mickey Mouse (dressed in patriotic attire), Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton, actor Andy Garcia, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. After they gave the Oath of Allegiance, the new citizens experienced The Hall of Presidents. Coverage of the event can be seen at StitchKingdom.com.

That evening, Magic Kingdom held a performance of a special Independence Day fireworks presentation titled Celebrate America. On Independence Day itself, July 4, another performance of the show was held. Also on July 4, Epcot’s IllumiNations had a special holiday finale, while Disney’s Hollywood Studios had its own patriotic fireworks show.

A special Indpendence Day fireworks show, Celebrate America, was held at Magic Kingdom on July 3 and July 4, 2009. Image © Disney.

Early morning on Sunday, July 5, the mood changed significantly as two monorails collided. The crash tragically killed 21-year-old Cast Member Austin Wuennenberg. The Epcot monorail system closed for the day, re-opening the afternoon of July 6 with additional safety precautions. It is definitely sorrowful that something like this happened, though hopefully nothing like it will occur again. BlakeOnline sends prayers and thoughts to friends and family of Wuennenberg as they cope with their loss.

The Independence Day week events continued as a new Princess Diana exhibit titled Diana: The People’s Princess opened on July 7 at Downtown Disney. Although guests may enter Downtown Disney itself for free, admission into the Princess Diana exhibit is $5.00 for children through age 9 and $14.50 for ages 10 and up.

Diana: The People’s Princess, a new exhibit about Princess Diana, is now open at Downtown Disney. Image © Disney.

With all of that activity going on, it certainly was quite a hectic Independence Day at Walt Disney World this year. Luxo, Jr., The Pirates League, The Hall of Presidents, the many new American citizens, the special fireworks shows, and Diana: The People’s Princess were all causes of celebration while the tragic monorail accident was definitely a mournful event.

By Blake; posted July 8, 2009. All images © Disney. Pixar Animation Studios logo © Disney/Pixar.

BlakeOnline Special – Imagineering “Blue Sky” Session 2009

June 26, 2009
Image © Disney.

It’s that time of year for batting around ideas for the Disney parks!

By Blake

Originally posted June 26, 2009.

Most Disney fans probably have at least a few creative ideas or thoughts for how they would tweak the Disney parks if they were given the opportunity to do so. If they were an Imagineer – a member of the part of the Walt Disney Company responsible for creating the Disney park attractions – they might have several rides or shows dreamed up and ready to put into action.

It’s always fun to pretend, and so for the sole purpose of just having fun, I welcome you to the 2nd annual Imagineering “Blue Sky” Session here on BlakeOnline. “Blue Sky” is a term used by Imagineers at the very beginning stages of creating new attractions. During Blue Sky, ideas are batted around and introduced for the first time, and concepts and stories are just getting started.

Here we go!

I’ve talked a lot about the changes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, but even more colossal than that park’s various changes are the ones being put into effect at Disney’s California Adventure in Disneyland. The changes began in the Paradise Pier section of the park in June 2008 with the opening of Toy Story Midway Mania! Additionally, the Games of the Boardwalk recently re-opened featuring classic Disney characters, and the nearby Sun Wheel was re-themed to Mickey’s Fun Wheel.

The surrounding area of Paradise Pier will continue to be the first section of the park that will largely be changed as part of the multi-year DCA expansion. Other nearby attractions are being re-imagined to be themed to classic Disney shorts of the 1930’s and 1940’s, which I think is just wonderful. From the looks of the concept art and attraction descriptions, the area is going to become somewhat of a simpler, more classic-feeling Toontown. Goofy’s Sky School (a re-themed mad-mouse roller coaster) will be based on the Goofy “How-To” shorts, this time with Goofy “teaching” guests how to fly, with a few unplanned diversions (similar to the storyline of The Barnstormer at the Magic Kingdom ). Additionally, the Silly Symphony Swings will be themed to the 1935 classic Mickey Mouse short The Band Concert, complete with dazzling new special effects.

Silly Symphony Swings at Disney’s California Adventure are expected to be themed to the 1935 Mickey Mouse cartoon The Band Concert. Image © Disney.

Coming to Paradise Pier in spring 2010 is World of Color, a new water show featuring a hoopla of classic Disney characters in a spectacle that supposedly will knock the socks of its viewers. In 2011, Paradise Pier will become the home of The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, a new dark ride that ironically was supposed to be built years ago at Disneyland.

The California Adventure expansion is expected to continue in 2012 with new theming to its entrance, which will depict Hollywood in the 1920’s, when Walt Disney was first arriving to the city. Additionally, an entire new area of the park will open in 2012 – Cars Land, themed to the 2006 Pixar film Cars. The area will include multiple new attractions that sound very exciting, and the atmosphere will make guests feel like they’re walking through Radiator Springs.

Cars Land, themed to the Pixar film Cars, is scheduled to open in Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland in 2012. Image © Disney/Pixar.

Although I’ve never visited California Adventure, all of these upcoming additions sound very appealing, and hopefully they’ll be introduced to other Disney parks soon!

As we “keep moving forward” and press on to Walt Disney World in Florida, as of right now, no massive upcoming projects have been officially announced. There are plenty of wild rumors going around, but nothing’s been confirmed just yet.

There are a few smaller attractions scheduled, though. On June 29, the Pirates League will open in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland as a place where pirate fans can come to get pirate makeovers, similar to the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique having princess makeovers. The Hall of Presidents is indeed expected to be re-opening with its newest member, Barack Obama, sometime within the coming weeks, and Space Mountain is supposed to be re-opening after a rather lengthy refurbishment in November, but other than those nothing very big is planned.

Space Mountain is expected to re-open in November at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Image © Disney.

However, that’s not to say that I don’t have a few ideas.

At the Magic Kingdom, I like how Disney is continuing the Pirates of the Caribbean craze in Adventureland with the Pirates League opening. Although I certainly don’t think that the entire land should be re-themed to Pirates, I admire that Disney isn’t just letting the franchise sit there waiting for the next movie to be released.

As for character greetings, I think a Captain Jack Sparrow meet & greet would be extremely popular given how well his appearances at the now-defunct Pirate & Princess Parties went. Additionally, even though they attract very long lines, the Princesses and the Fairies would probably fit into Fantasyland better than they do at their current location in Mickey’s Toontown Fair.

Also at the Magic Kingdom is the show Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration over in Tomorrowland. The show opened in early May, 2009, and will have its final performance on Saturday, June 27, 2009. It wasn’t meant to be a seasonal attraction, it just altogether wasn’t pleasing guests and Disney decided to do away with the show completely. Which, in essence, I don’t think is quite giving the show a proper chance. If Disney were to focus more on Stitch and less on the dancers, put the show into the Galaxy Palace Theater (which was recently closed), and perhaps involved Mickey and Minnie into the plot (maybe something like the Castle shows?), I think Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration would be a better experience. Or if they were to focus on just the Stitch aspect of the show, which involved a computer-animated Stitch interacting and talking with park guests (like Stitch Live at Disneyland Paris), maybe that would be a better solution.

Over at Epcot, the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure – somewhat of a scavenger hunt themed to the now-concluded Disney Channel show Kim Possible throughout select World Showcase pavilions – has been wow’ing guests since it opened in February, and Remy from Ratatouille has been enchanting guests with his appearances at the Le Chefs de France restaurant.

Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is a new experience at Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Florida. Image © Disney.

Some changes I might make to Epcot would include perhaps re-theming Test Track to incorporate characters from Cars. It would be a great opportunity to freshen up a classic ride. Though some purists might not like the idea, I think the concept of Lightning McQueen teaching guests what sort of tests racecars go through before they head to the track would be an engaging storyline.

Pixar’s newest film, Up, has dazzled audiences since it was released in May, and due to its success I can definitely see it being a candidate for future theme park presence. But where would the film fit? Although it might work out in Hollywood Studios’ Pixar Place or in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, overall the movie would probably feel most at home in Epcot for several reasons. Firstly, flight is a component that’s important in Up, and it’s also an experience that would fit in Epcot’s Soarin’ attraction, though I’m not sure how Up’s characters or story would work into that ride. A more appropriate addition would be some sort of South America pavilion in World Showcase, featuring a version of Paradise Falls (a setting from the film), as well as some sort of dark ride themed to the movie.

The lush setting of Paradise Falls in Up would be wonderful for a South America pavilion in Epcot. Image © Disney/Pixar.

Heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Enchanted would be wonderful if it was put on stage, and this park is an excellent choice to put such as show. The park’s Premiere Theater (which is currently used for special events) would be wise for the show’s location, as it’s right in the New York section of the park, and Enchanted takes place primarily in New York. Additionally, a Pixar Place expansion would be fascinating – re-theming the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure to an area based on a bug’s life would be appropriate, and a nearby thrill ride based on the Monsters, Inc. door sequence would be brilliant. Some sort of Bolt attraction would also fit into Hollywood Studios, though not necessarily in the Pixar Place area.

Another idea would be to refurbish Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D. Now would be a fitting time to do this, especially since Disney is currently in the process of re-launching the Muppet franchise. I don’t think the 3-D film itself should be changed, but some re-mastering and sprucing up of the footage would be nice. Additionally, perhaps some new pre-show or post-show elements could be added that would feature Muppet characters that weren’t around when Muppet*Vision initially opened (like Pepe the King Prawn). Some atmosphere around Muppet*Vision could also be enhanced to further involve guests in a Muppety area, such as bringing back the Muppet Mobile Lab (which had brief appearances in Disney’s California Adventure and Epcot) or adding some Muppet character greetings.

A refurbishment of Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be great timing with Disney’s current re-launch of the Muppet franchise. Image © Disney.

Lastly, trekking over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I think the only area that needs a little work is the Dino-Rama! section of DinoLand U.S.A. The atmosphere’s storyline doesn’t come across very straightforward to guests, though the rides in the area (including the fun TriceraTop Spin and the exciting Primeval Whirl) are certainly keepers.

That concludes this year’s Imagineering Blue Sky Session! Feel free to create some ideas of your own. Get those creative gears flowing – who knows, you might just dream up the next Disney park classic.

By Blake; posted June 26, 2009. All images © Disney. Cars and Up images © Disney/Pixar.

Theme Park Headlines – Celebration Central

June 16, 2009

Image © Disney.

Disney Parks and Disney On Ice continue to roll out new ways to celebrate all year long.

By Blake

Originally posted June 16, 2009.

In recent years, the Disney Parks have been known for their continuous annual “themes,” a marketing technique that has increased particularly within this decade. The “100 Years of Magic” celebration commemorated Walt Disney’s 100th birthday in 2001, “Magical Gatherings” encouraged guests to come in large groups in 2003, the “Happiest Celebration on Earth” honored Disneyland’s 50th anniversary in 2005, and the “Year of a Million Dreams” gave away 1,000,000 special moments to park guests from late 2006 – 2008.

This year, Disney Parks are asking guests to celebrate another occasion. However, this time, it’s up to the guests to decide what to celebrate. Whether it’s an anniversary, graduation, or birthday, Disney wants you to celebrate your event with them.

However, even Disney is aware of the economic recession. To keep their attendance numbers high and to continue to bring more guests to their parks, Disney has implemented several outstanding vacation deals, as well as new live entertainment options.

Disney Parks are celebrating in 2009 with vacation promotions, new live entertainment, and attraction updates. Image © Disney.

Some of those vacation deals include summer guests at Walt Disney World having a “buy 4 nights, get 3 free” option (a deal whose booking window has now closed), Walt Disney World guests receiving the Disney Dining Plan for free (if they book by July 26 and visit by October 3), and Disneyland guests buying 3 nights and getting 2 free (if they book by August 11 and arrive by September 26). Guests visiting an American Disney Park on their birthday in 2009 even get free admission (if it is on their actual birthday and they have a valid ID).

Disney has also implemented several new attractions that encourage guests to “Celebrate Today.” In January, an updated parade debuted at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom called Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade. In February, the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party rolled into the Magic Kingdom and the American Idol Experience opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disneyland premiered the Celebrate! A Street Party procession in March, and opened the Celebration Roundup and Barbecue venue at Big Thunder Ranch in April. In May, the Magic Kingdom debuted Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration, a live stage show in Tomorrowland featuring Stitch interacting with park guests (though there is some serious speculation going around about this show lately, all of which is rumor at this point).

The American Idol Experience opened in February at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Image © Disney.

Just last Friday on June 12, Disneyland kicked off a summer-long celebration called “Nightastic!” that will last through August 23. The festivities, which only take place at night, include new live entertainment. Disneyland Park features a new fireworks show called Magical, which includes an appearance by Dumbo. (The former fireworks show, Remember Dreams Come True, will return after Nightastic! is over.) Additionally, Fantasmic! has been updated to include appearances by Tick-Tock Crocodile from Peter Pan and the eels Flotsam and Jetsam from The Little Mermaid. Later this summer, an enhanced dragon of Maleficent will debut. (These changes are just for the Disneyland version, though, and are not being implemented to Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios).

Additionally, as part of Nightastic!, special enhancements have been made to the Pixie Hollow character greeting area at Disneyland. The space opened in October 2008 so that guests would have an opportunity to meet Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. Now, at nighttime, the area features several updates including special effects using lights and water, as well as enchanting background music. The Disney Fairies also participate in Nightastic! over at Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland’s next-door neighbor. A new Tinker Bell float has been added to Disney’s Electrical Parade, and several floats (including ones carrying Snow White and Pinocchio) have returned to the parade after a period of absence.

And the celebrating isn’t over yet.

On June 29, Walt Disney World will open The Pirates League in the Magic Kingdom, a unique experience that will give guests pirate makeovers (similar to how the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique gives fairy tale makeovers). In early July, Barack Obama will make his debut in the Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents along with several other new enhancements to the attraction. In late August at the Magic Kingdom, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority will re-open after its refurbishment, which will be followed by the November re-opening of Space Mountain. (Both attractions have been closed since April.)

Disney On Ice is also getting in on the act. They’re debuting a new show called “Celebrations!,” which will premiere in Lakeland, Florida, on September 4, followed by a nationwide tour. The new show involves many Disney characters celebrating all kinds of festivities, from unbirthdays to holidays.

Disney On Ice will debut a new show, Celebrations!, this September. Image © Disney.

Additionally, from the look of the art for the show on DisneyOnIce.com, it appears that Princess Tiana will be making her Disney debut in Celebrations!, which should be quite exciting. Tiana is a new Disney Princess and the main character of the upcoming animated film The Princess and the Frog, which is coming to theaters on December 11. This means that Disney On Ice guests might get a sneak peek into Tiana’s story a bit before it comes to the silver screen. Nevertheless, the art for Celebrations! also includes Woody, Buzz, Stitch, Peter Pan, and more, so it should be a very entertaining show to say the least.

With the great vacation deals Disney has implemented and the new live entertainment and attraction updates they’ve added to their parks, the first part of 2009 has certainly been host to a lot of celebrating where Disney is concerned. The upcoming Disney On Ice show and additional theme park enhancements hint that the party is just getting started.

By Blake; posted June 16, 2009. All images © Disney.

Blake’s Picks – Top 5 Hollywood Studios Attractions

May 17, 2009

The best of Walt Disney World’s third theme park.

By Blake

Originally posted May 16, 2009.

First of all, I’d just like to point out some news about The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which I had originally reported was going to be released on April 28. However, that was apparently a misunderstanding, as the book is now scheduled to be released in July 2010. StitchKingdom.com also experienced some confusion while trying to purchase the book.

So, although that’s not-so-great news, the celebration rolls on here at BlakeOnline to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

If you haven’t yet seen coverage of the festivities from DHS’s 20th anniversary event that occurred on Friday, May 1, 2009, you can check some pictures and videos out at StudiosCentral.com, AllEars.net, LaughingPlace.com, and AttractionsMagazine.com.

Although Walt Disney World’s official happenings for DHS’s birthday lasted one day, I thought it would be suitable to continue to post DHS-themed articles to commemorate the park’s anniversary. The park contains some of the individual best attractions in all of Walt Disney World. From exciting thrills to showstoppers to a hysterical 3-D movie, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is home to several of my Disney favorites.

To share with you some of my DHS favorites and to also celebrate the parks’ 20th anniversary, here’s a list of my top five favorite attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (Note that I have not yet ridden Toy Story Midway Mania! and have not yet seen The American Idol Experience, so those two are not included in this list because I haven’t seen them.)


5. Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream

A tribute to the life and aspirations of Walt Disney, the first part of this attraction is a walk-through, museum-like exhibit, while the next part is a short movie about Walt Disney. A Disney fan could spend a while in the exhibit part, looking at all of the displays, models, pictures, and other various items sprinkled throughout the building.

Guests can see many displays at Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, including (clockwise from top left) the “skeleton” of an Audio-Animatronics figure, a model of a rocket that was formerly in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, the “dancing man” figure, and an Audio-Animatronics tiki bird.

The attraction debuted in 2001, appropriately during the 100 Years of Magic celebration (which was held for Walt Disney’s 100th birthday). One Man’s Dream recently became sponsored by D23, the new official Disney fan club, and now features a new display advertising D23. Also new in One Man’s Dream is a special look at the history of Disney’s Hollywood Studios to celebrate the park’s 20th anniversary (similar to the exhibit that was set up in Epcot for its 25th anniversary).

Although I haven’t experienced One Man’s Dream since 2004, The Complete Walt Disney World by Julie and Mike Neal reports that the attraction doesn’t have a wait most of the day. This means that the attraction is especially beneficial to those having some spare time while waiting for their Fastpass return time for Toy Story Midway Mania!, which is located just down the street, on Pixar Place. (One Man’s Dream is located between Pixar Place and Animation Courtyard.)

4. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

I enjoy most thrill rides, but sometimes I know to stay clear of an attraction if it’s going to give me a headache or cause nausea. If I choose not to ride something, it’s usually because I don’t want to experience negative side effects, not because I’m afraid of the ride itself. But the Tower of Terror just plain creeps me out, even when any side effects aren’t considered. But I love it.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is scarily fun.

When I say the Tower of Terror creeps me out, I mean it creeps me out in a good way. How can creepy be good? In this case, Disney sets the eerie storyline up brilliantly, building up the anticipation of your elevator ascent even before you arrive in the line. Just the sight of the looming Hollywood Tower Hotel (the fictional resort that the attraction is housed in) over Sunset Blvd. sparks hints of curiosity and a bit of fear inside guests. The line, filled with dusty objects and cobwebbed walls, helps set the spooky mood. The preshow room in the “library” tells guests the fictitious story of five people who were in the Tower’s elevator and, as the elevator was struck by lightning, were taken up and down the hotel’s elevator shaft. As guests then enter the second part of the line (which is a dark “boiler room”), suspense builds even more. By the time I’m instructed to stand upon a numbered spot to board the elevator, I’m personally just plain scared. It’s not 100% fear, knowing that it’s just a ride and that everything will be OK, but it’s still fear nonetheless.

Then the real fun starts as the ride begins and guests experience the up-and-down movements of the elevator. The Tower of Terror is one of Disney’s best thrill rides, and probably one of the best story-driven Disney attractions. It does a great job of delivering guests the story upfront and then putting guests into that story. It’s pulled off wonderfully, making the Tower of Terror one of Hollywood Studios’ most popular attractions.

3. Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

One of the absolute best live productions on Disney property, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage retells the classic Disney animated film magnificently. The Academy-Award winning music accentuated by the sets, characters, and background dancers all culminate together to create an amazing experience.

Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage is one of Walt Disney World’s best shows.

The show is performed in the Theater of the Stars, an outdoor covered venue on Sunset Blvd., just down the street from the Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. The show opened on November 22, 1991, the same day as its film counterpart. Formerly, a popular preshow included four “crew members” “spontaneously” performing songs. The group, called Four For a Dollar, was unfortunately cut from the show in 2008.

The story of Beauty and the Beast is condensed into about 30 minutes for the show, so at times it may feel a bit rushed and some points in the plot may be fuzzy to those who haven’t seen the movie. However, that doesn’t take away from the overall wonderful quality of the production.

As one of Disney’s best animated movies, Beauty and the Beast makes a spectacular transition to the stage. Since the Broadway version of the story is no longer performing, it’s great that guests can still get a chance to see a live adaptation of it after over 17 years of dazzling audiences, making Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage close to the top of my list of DHS must-sees.

2. Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D

My favorite Muppet production of all time (yep, that’s right), this hysterical 3-D movie is classic Muppet humor at its best. From the minute you walk into the line, you know you’ve entered a Muppet community. The detail in the props during the line and preshow is outstanding. Fun little trinkets and items are scattered everywhere, all with their own touch of subtle wit.

Fozzie Bear, Kermit the Frog, and other Muppets deliver plenty of fun in Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D.

Guests are treated to a hilarious pre-show video featuring Sam the Eagle, Gonzo, Rizzo, and other Muppets before heading into the Muppet Theater to view the main show. The 3-D movie features favorite Muppets touring the audience around the Muppet Labs before performing several musical acts, none of which go as planned. The show includes several appearances by Muppets in Audio-Animatronics form, such as Statler and Waldorf, who sit in their balcony seats.

Muppet*Vision 3-D usually has a short line, which makes it a great candidate for an attraction to experience in the afternoon, when the more crowded attractions have long waits. However, lack of crowds at Muppet*Vision 3-D make me a little nervous as to what Disney may think of this situation. If not many people are seeing it, is Disney viewing it as an attraction that needs to be replaced? I certainly hope not. A refurbishment might be nice, but if Disney decided to do away with the show or change the show in some way, many fans would probably be very upset. It does seem ironic that this would have a short line, though, because it seems to be one of the most overall best crowd pleasers in the entire park. It’s definitely one of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions.

1. Fantasmic!
I must say, I had a very hard time choosing between Muppet*Vision 3-D and Fantasmic! as I decided my #1 Hollywood Studios pick. I enjoy both attractions immensely, but when it came down to it, I chose the winner by determining the level of Disney magic that each attraction has. Which one has an extra Disney touch that makes its guests feel that nostalgic, reflective emotion that sums up the entire Disney experience in a moment of realization, movement, and appreciation not only for the show they’re viewing but also for the wonderful family and friends they’re viewing with? Muppet*Vision 3-D has its own wacky sense of Disney wonderment, but when put up against Fantasmic! where that extra Disney mile is concerned, Fantasmic! takes the win for me.
Guests get a peak into Mickey Mouse’s dreams in Fantasmic!

After premiering at Disneyland in 1992, Fantasmic! debuted at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1998 in a 9,900-seat amphitheater on Sunset Blvd. It tells the story of how Mickey Mouse’s enchanting dream turns to a nightmare as Disney villains take over. Of course, good triumphs over evil in the end, which results in what has to be one of Disney’s best grand finales ever.
The show conveys its story in several different ways, including live performers, water screens (showing video clips), lights, fireworks, floats, and more. Over three dozen Disney characters make appearances, as well.

Those are my picks for the best attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Each of them has their own unique factors that make them one of my favorites. Between them all, they provide five brilliant Disney experiences.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted May 16, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Theme Park Headlines – “Some Imagination, Huh?”

May 2, 2009


Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been an imaginative journey into showbiz for the last 20 years.

By Blake

Originally posted May 2, 2009.

Possibly the most changed Walt Disney World theme park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is quite different than it was when it first opened 20 years ago. The park has constantly been in a state of change, even before it was open. It was initially supposed to be a movie-themed pavilion in Epcot, though when ideas and plans began to grow vaster, the concept changed to become Walt Disney World’s third theme park and opened on May 1, 1989.

The entrance area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is somewhat similar to the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, in that it represents a fanciful view of Hollywood that never really existed much like Tomorrowland includes elements of a lighthearted future that will probably never occur. The rest of Hollywood Studios is a little bit like Epcot’s Future World because it includes attractions themed to modern franchises and productions, and because of that some specific areas may need to be spruced up from time to time, similar to the pavilions of Future World changing to keep up with technologies that might occur later on down the road.

However, unlike Tomorrowland and Future World, Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates showbiz. Since its opening, the park has changed from a behind-the-scenes backstage peek at how movies are made to a tribute to modern productions, added with that extra touch of Disney enchantment.

When the park first opened, it had just two rides, and both of those attractions are still operating today. The Great Movie Ride is located inside a Grauman’s Chinese Theatre look-alike and takes guests on a boat ride through scenes from classics such as Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz, while the Studios Backlot Tour glimpses into how several special effects are made for movies. The Backlot Tour was once significantly longer and featured areas that now belong to other areas of the park, including a street that featured several famous front yards like the front facade of the house from The Golden Girls.

As the early years of Hollywood Studios progressed, several more attractions opened, including Star Tours, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and the Magic of Disney Animation in 1989, Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure in 1990, Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D and Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage in 1991, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid in 1992. All of these attractions are still open today.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular opened in 1989 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Also featured were several attractions that are no longer open, such as Super Star Television (which had guests acting out TV scenes with pre-recorded actors and actresses such as Lucille Ball), Monster Sound Show (which featured guests creating sound effects), and Backstage Pass (which featured set copies and behind-the-scenes looks at several productions). Additionally, other live entertainment that no longer performs includes Here Come the Muppets (which ran from May 1990 – September 1991), Dinosaurs Live (September 1991 – August 1992), and Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses (1991 – 1994). Later on, Hollywood Studios would also include stage shows based on Pocahontas (from 1995 – 1996) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (from 1996 – 2002), which were both performed in the Backlot Theater (now called the Premiere Theater, and used for special events).

Star Tours must have given Disney a hint that guests wanted to experience more thrill rides in the Disney parks, and in 1994 the Imagineers created one of their most intense and suspenseful attractions ever, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The ride itself, although scary, isn’t that frightening. It’s basically an up-and-down drop ride. But the anticipation that Disney builds and the details that are put into the eerie storyline make the ride downright hysterical. Hysterically scary.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is one of Disney’s most frightening attractions.

In 1998, another production debuted – Fantasmic!, a nighttime spectacular that originally premiered at Disneyland and features characters, floats, water screens showing animated clips, fireworks, and more, all showing the dreams of Mickey Mouse. It still performs today, though in January 2009 its schedule was changed to only being performed twice a week.

In 1999, Sounds Dangerous, an auditory-based attraction featuring Drew Carrey, opened and is now operating on a seasonal basis. Also in 1999, the park’s next thrill ride opened – Rock ‘n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, a super-fast indoor roller coaster that blasts Aerosmith tunes into guests’ ears. In 2001, the park introduced Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It!, which had guests entering the hot seat and answering questions to win prizes (but not a million dollars).

The outside of Rock ‘n Roller Coaster features a giant guitar.

In October 2001, Walt Disney World kicked off a celebration called 100 Years of Magic for Walt Disney’s 100th birthday, and with it came a 122-foot version of Mickey Mouse’s sorcerer hat in front of the Great Movie Ride. Also ringing in the celebration was a new exhibit, Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, which is still open and features a walking tour of Disney-related art and models followed by a short biographical film about Walt Disney. Lastly, as part of the 100 Years of Magic celebration, three of the Walt Disney World parks debut new parades. Hollywood Studios premiered the Stars and Motor Cars Parade, which featured Disney characters riding in cars based upon their personalities or stories. It ran through the spring of 2008.

The Sorcerer Hat was added in 2001 as part of the 100 Years of Magic celebration.

In May 2005 when Disney parks worldwide were taking part in the Happiest Celebration on Earth, which commemorated Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, Hollywood Studios premiered Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, which initially debut at Disneyland Paris. It shows a peek into how movies create car stunts and chase scenes.

By 2006, Hollywood Studios was in a state of awkwardness. Yes, it still included some of Walt Disney World’s best attractions and shows, but it lacked a sense of continuity and theming to tie its attractions together. It couldn’t really be called a working studio anymore because it wasn’t. TV productions weren’t filmed there anymore (with the exception of special events like ESPN: The Weekend). The animation studio inside the Magic of Disney Animation where Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and a few other animated works were mainly made was no longer in use. Radio Disney no longer broadcasted from the park. The Backlot Tour had been shortened to make room for Lights, Motors, Action! Overall, the park was in need of a major boost.

Thankfully, in early 2006, Disney bought Pixar. With that deal, Pixar characters officially became full-fledged Disney characters, and since then John Lasseter and other Imagineers have put forth an amazing effort to re-invent Hollywood Studios.

Like I stated earlier, the park now relies on marketing itself to a modern audience, and by doing so includes a selection of attractions based on current franchises. In January 2007, High School Musical Pep Rally debuted at the park and has since been updated twice to coincide with subsequent High School Musical sequels. In January 2008, the park changed its name from Disney-MGM Studios to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to reflect its overall transitioned theme from a peek into movie-making to a celebration of Hollywood favorites. In February 2008, Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage! was updated to feature a new lineup of characters from shows that are currently playing on Disney Channel’s Playhouse Disney section. In March 2008, the Pixar gang came in full force with Block Party Bash, an energetic new street party featuring Pixar characters. The park also features meet & greet appearances by some of Disney’s newer characters, like Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars, as well as characters from Bolt.

Block Party Bash is a street party featuring Pixar characters and debuted at Hollywood Studios in March 2008.

However, small little updates still weren’t going to be enough to re-define Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A fantastic, “E-Ticket,” classic Disney experience would really be the key to helping give the park a boost. Toy Story Midway Mania!, which opened in May, 2008, is exactly that. In the ride, guests put on 3-D glasses and play virtual carnival games in a Toy Story-themed environment. The attraction is now the park’s most popular ride, with wait times of up to three hours in the afternoon. With the new ride came a newly-themed street as Mickey Avenue was transformed to Pixar Place, featuring a new shop, a new Woody and Buzz meet & greet, and an area based upon Pixar Studios.

Toy Story Midway Mania! is an immersive new experience that opened in May 2008.

More change came in February 2009 when the American Idol Experience opened. In it, guests can choose to go through an audition process for the chance to sing in front of a live audience, while the audience votes for their favorite performer. Each performance’s winner goes on to a daily finale, and the winner of the finale receives a dream ticket, allowing them to skip the lines at a real American Idol audition. The American Idol Experience debuted in grand style, with a world premiere on February 12 that featured over two dozen American Idol celebrities, including all seven previous winners.

The American Idol Experience opened in February 2009.

With all of that hoopla going on, what’s next? Is the transformation that Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been going through complete? Small changes will probably still occur, especially in the case of character meet & greets, which seem to be slightly altering as new animated movies are released. Aside from that, about everything else is pretty vague.

With such an expansive history in just 20 years of operation, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has changed tremendously, and most of those recent changes have definitely been for the better. The park has been an example of Disney wonder through its impressive and mixed attractions that provide sensational entertainment experiences for guests. It includes some of Disney’s greatest individual rides and shows, each of them filled with detail and many of them immersing guests into fantastic stories.

Some imagination, huh?

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake Taylor; posted May 2, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Theme Park Headlines – Disney’s Hollywood Studios Turns 20

April 29, 2009


Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates 20 years of showbiz enchantment on May 1.

By Blake

Originally posted April 28, 2009.

WDWCelebrations has done it again. For the third time, the fan-based Disney website http://www.wdwcelebrations.com/ set up an unofficial event to commemorate a special Disney park anniversary. Also for the third time, Disney indirectly set up some official events of their own to accommodate the many fans attending the unofficial WDWCelebrations event. This first happened for Epcot’s 25th anniversary in October, 2007 and then again for the 10th anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in April, 2008.

Now it’s happening again for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as WDWCelebrations’ “Studio 20” event takes place at the park on Friday, May 1, 2009 and Saturday, May 2, 2009.

The day caps off an eventful few weeks for Hollywood Studios, as several other activities surrounding the park began on April 17 when Grad Nites began. A special event exclusive to high school seniors, Grad Nites took place at Hollywood Studios this year after years of occurring at the Magic Kingdom. Grad Nites took place four select nights April 17 – 25.

The Hollywood Studios birthday fun continued today (Tuesday, April 28) when The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios by the Imagineers was released into bookstores. However, even though the book was supposed to be released on the 28th, the bookstore that I visited to buy it didn’t have a copy available. When I went to go ask if the bookstore could order it, they said that for some reason the book hadn’t printed yet, so they couldn’t order it. I do not know at this time if the book was indeed released today, or if it was delayed. If anyone else has any news about the book’s release status, please let me know.

The new book The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios was supposed to be released April 28, though some stores may not have it yet.

The next DHS-related event will occur on Thursday, April 30, when characters from the popular Disney Internet game Club Penguin will begin making appearances at Hollywood Studios near the Backlot Tour. It should be exciting to see how the characters look, as well as if Disney decides to put anymore of their Internet characters (such as those from Toontown Online or Pirates of the Caribbean Online) into the parks.

Characters from the Club Penguin online game are scheduled to begin greeting Hollywood Studios guests starting April 30.

Lastly, Disney is planning some official events to take place on Friday, May 1, in addition to the unofficial Studio 20 activities. When the park opens at 8:00am, a special ceremony will take place. Later on at two different times throughout the morning, a special Imagineering presentation will take place in the Premiere Theater, which should definitely be an insightful experience for those who attend. Imagineers Tom Fitzgerald, Eric Jacobson, and Bob Weis are all scheduled to speak at the presentations. Any park guest can view both the ceremony and the Imagineering presentations (you don’t have to participate in Studio 20 to see them).

With The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios being released, the Club Penguin character meet & greet beginning, Studio 20 taking place, and the special ceremony and Imagineering presentations going on, it’s sure to be an exciting 20th anniversary celebration for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

*Update from May 2, 2009.* You can check out coverage of Hollywood Studios’ 20th anniversary (which featured a speech by the park’s vice president Rilous Carter and a special exhibit) on StudiosCentral.com, LaughingPlace.com, and AttractionsMagazine.com.

*Update from May 16, 2009* The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now scheduled for a July 2010 tentative release.

Related BlakeOnline articles:
By Blake; posted April 28, 2009; updated May 2, 2009 and May 15, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Disney Talk – Read Your Way Through Imagineering’s Secrets

April 6, 2009

Several exciting book releases are in the works from Walt Disney Imagineering.

By Blake

Originally posted April 6, 2009.

In the past, Walt Disney Imagineering – the team of the Walt Disney Company that creates the attractions guests experience in the Disney theme parks – have been the subject of several fascinating books that have given fans a glimpse into what goes into creating some of Disney’s most beloved rides and shows.

There have been looks into Disney’s “mountains,” advice on how to think like an Imagineer, sneak peeks into the making of movies based on some of Imagineering’s attractions, and more. Looking ahead into the rest of 2009, there are several more very exciting books coming from Disney Editions that pertain to Imagineering.

The first is The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The fifth book in the Imagineering Field Guide series by Alex Wright, it will give a look into the creation of Walt Disney World’s third theme park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The book will be released on April 28, 2009*, just three days before the parks’ 20th birthday. Like the other Imagineering Field Guides, this one is expected to include a run-down of the development of the park’s rides and attractions, as well as little details that can be found throughout the park. It will be especially fascinating to see what went into creating Toy Story Mania!, the Tower of Terror, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, and Muppet Vision 3-D. The book will sell for $9.95.

*Update from May 15, 2009: The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now scheduled for a July 2010 tentative release.

The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is coming soon.
Another Imagineering release is scheduled to be published on November 3, 2009. Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real by the Imagineers will be a sequel to a highly popular Imagineering book that was published in 1996. If the new installment is anything like its original, it’s sure to be magnificent. The book’s list price of $60.00 is a bit much, though hopefully a less-expensive paperback edition will be offered like it was for the book’s predecessor.

The next title, set to be published on December 15, 2009, is The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World–Updated!. The first version of this book was the book to kick off the Imagineering Field Guide series, and was published in 2005. Since that time, the Magic Kingdom’s major changes have included the addition of the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and the refurbishments of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Additionally, at the time the book will be published, the Hall of Presidents and Space Mountain are both expected to have finished their refurbishments. I would think that these changes will be covered in the new edition of the book, though nothing has been confirmed. Selling for $9.95, the value of the book is most likely worth whatever changes may be made to its contents.

It should be noted that all release dates are tentative. Books tend to get their release dates moved around sometimes, and the dates listed here are when these books are expected to be released, and should not necessarily be viewed as their definite release dates.

I’m very excited to see what the Imagineers have in store to tell readers once these titles are published. The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real, and The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World–Updated! seem to be like fascinating treats into backstage Disney magic.

By Blake; posted April 6, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Theme Park Headlines – They’re Going to Disney World, Part Two

February 23, 2009

Over two dozen ‘American Idol’ celebrities gathered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios last week for an amazing world premiere event.

By Blake

Originally posted February 22, 2009.

I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to attend a Walt Disney World press event more than I did on Thursday, February 12, 2009 as I watched live from my computer as over two dozen American Idol celebrities made their way down the blue carpet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. What was the occasion? The world premiere of the American Idol Experience, a new attraction that gives Walt Disney World guests the opportunity to be in the spotlight and go through a pretend American Idol audition.

The attraction’s recent history can be read in a BlakeOnline article from a few weeks ago, but it ultimately led up to extravagant press event and after party that took place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on February 12.

First, both season 7 winner David Cook and season 7 runner-up David Archuleta appeared on Good Morning America to promote the American Idol Experience along with GMA meteorologist Sam Champion, who even pointed out a Hidden Mickey on the attraction’s stage. David Archuleta toured viewers through part of the process of the new attraction, featuring a short group performance of “Life is a Highway” with him and several Walt Disney World guests. David Cook was shown performing a tidbit of his song “Heroes,” while his main, full-blown performance of “Declaration” had to end unexpectedly due to audio glitches. In the meantime, Diane Sawyer and Chris Cuomo improvised and told audiences that David Cook would be back soon, but since his performance was close to the end of the show, he unfortunately did not get to finish his performance.

Minnie Mouse and David Cook.

Later on in the day, preparations began to go into full swing to await the press event that would occur in the late afternoon. A long blue carpet was stretched out onto Hollywood Blvd., much like the lengthy red carpet at Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean world premiere events.

Reports say that guests began to line up along the street around noon for the 4:30 parade that featured over two dozen American Idol celebrities. Donald, Chip, and Dale were among the many people viewing the parade, holding up posters provided by Disney with phrases such as “Sup Dawg,” “We’re Nuts About Bo,” and others. The attendees of the event included American Idol creator Simon Fuller, host Ryan Seacrest, judge Paula Abdul, season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson, season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini, season 2 winner Ruben Studdard, season 2 contestant Kimberly Locke, season 2 contestant Josh Gracin, season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino, season 3 runner-up Diana DeGarmo, season 4 winner Carrie Underwood, season 4 runner-up Bo Bice, season 5 winner Taylor Hicks, season 5 contestant Mandisa, season 5 contestant Bucky Covington, season 5 contestant Ace Young, season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, season 6 contestant Melinda Doolittle, season 6 contestant LaKisha Jones, season 6 contestant Phil Stacey, season 6 contestant Sanjaya Malakar, season 6 contestant Chris Sligh, season 7 winner David Cook, season 7 runner-up David Archuleta, season 7 contestant Syesha Mercado, season 7 contestant Jason Castro, season 7 contestant Brooke White, season 7 contestant Carly Smithson, and season 7 contestant Michael Johns. Phew!

Goofy, Mickey Mouse, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, and Minnie Mouse.
Carrie Underwood in the parade during the American Idol Experience opening press event.

After the parade, the celebrities made their way further down the blue carpet for a hoopla of interviews. This part of the event was broadcast live via webcam to http://www.wdwnews.com/, much in the same way that the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest red carpet event was broadcast in 2006. Although the webcam didn’t really show individual interviews, it did show the overall scene of the event for over an hour. It was very exciting to watch from my computer the anticipation leading up to the celebrities’ arrivals, and then the mania that followed each time a new celebrity arrived. Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy were dressed in their best and greeted each arrival, while Pluto and Grumpy were in the VIP section, Pluto holding up a sign that said “Yo Dawg” and Grumpy holding one that read “Simon is my idol but I always agree with Paul Abdul.”

Ruben Studdard at the American Idol Experience.

Once the interviews were over and the webcam stopped broadcasting, it was time for the world premiere of the American Idol Experience! The premiere featured a regular show as it would be performed any other day, with several park guests performing and one being named the day’s winner. However, much more than just a regular show also took place. Ryan Seacrest hosted the rest of the world premiere which featured a speech by Paula Abdul, a performance by David Cook of his song “Light On,” a performance by Carrie Underwood of her song “All American Girl,” and a duet by both David Cook and Carrie Underwood of “You Can Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. Unfortunately, the duet is not available on iTunes or for purchase anywhere. Lastly, all seven previous American Idol winners came on stage (for the first time ever together in the same place) to each receive a very special American Idol award that was presented to them by the TV show’s creator Simon Fuller and will be presented to each future American Idol winner at each season’s finale.

All seven previous American Idol winners with their special awards, given to them by American Idol creator Simon Fuller. From left: season two’s Ruben Studdard, season one’s Kelly Clarkson, season three’s Fantasia Barrino, season seven’s David Cook, season four’s Carrie Underwood, season five’s Taylor Hicks, and season six’s Jordin Sparks.
After the world premiere, all of the American Idol celebrities took a “class picture” along with Mickey Mouse in front of the American Idol Experience, and then went to the after party! Some of them were even seen riding Rock n’ Roller Coaster.

Mickey Mouse, along with 28 American Idol celebrities including all seven winners, in front of the American Idol Experience at Walt Disney World.
It was certainly an incredible night and, even though I didn’t attend, I’m very grateful that Disney provided the great coverage that they had by setting the webcam up so that viewers wouldn’t miss a minute of the exciting event. If you missed the webcam coverage or you’d like the see more pictures and videos of the event, you can go to the following links:

StitchKingdom.com’s YouTube page for full videos of the entire webcam broadcast.

Orlando Attractions Magazine’s YouTube page for videos of the entire world premiere, including performances by David Cook and Carrie Underwood, and blue carpet interviews.

AllEars.net for pictures of the parade and the blue carpet.

Laughing Place.com for pictures and videos of the parade and world premiere, including performances by David Cook and Carrie Underwood, and pictures of the blue carpet.

MousePlanet.com for pictures of the blue carpet and the world premiere.

StudiosCentral.com for pictures of the blue carpet and the world premiere.

DIS Unplugged for pictures of the parade.

Additionally, WDWNews.com has a great compilation of press releases as well as a look at American Idol celebrities visiting Walt Disney World in the years past, plus a great slideshow of the entire press event, as seen below in the post before this one. If you look at it in full-screen mode, the pictures look excellent. All of the images are (C) Disney.

The world premiere of the American Idol Experience was an event that Disney seemed to work very hard to make happen, and their efforts certainly paid off from what I’ve seen. The attraction officially opened two days later on February 14, and a short look of the world premiere was featured on February 18th’s episode of American Idol. The spectacular event is one that I’m glad I got to see live, even if it was a portion via webcam. It was one event that will not easily be forgotten among Disney fans or American Idol fans.

By Blake; posted February 22, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

If you missed it, check out part one of this article!

Theme Park Headlines – They’re Going to Disney World

February 12, 2009


America’s favorite television show and the #1 theme park destination in the world meet in the American Idol Experience, the newest attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Over two dozen ‘American Idol’ celebrities will be appearing at the park to open the new attraction.

By Blake

Originally posted February 11, 2009.

American Idol fans have been enjoying the last few weeks. The show recently began its eighth season on Fox and has been entertaining families with its first round of auditions, followed by the infamous “Hollywood week.” The top 36 contestants will be announced next and then it’s on to the live performances, which means the first opportunity this season for viewers to vote for their favorites.

Although that’s certainly exciting, today I’m excited for another reason, though it still involves American Idol. This weekend, the American Idol Experience officially opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida. It’s an anticipated attraction that lets Walt Disney World guests see what it’s like to audition for American Idol.

The attraction was first announced in February 2008 as an unnamed American Idol-themed show that would let guests go through a pretend American Idol audition process. The attraction is part of a park-wide revamp at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that includes debuting new attractions, updating already-established attractions, and significant re-theming to the park.

Concept art for the American Idol Experience. The look of the outside of the attraction has been slightly scaled down since the concept art was created.
On May 21, 2008 Jordin Sparks appeared in a commercial on the season seven finale of American Idol to give some more details about the anticipatory attraction. It was then that the attraction’s name was announced as the American Idol Experience. Sparks appeared in the commercial on none other than the balcony of Cinderella Castle.

Jordin Sparks on the balcony of Cinderella Castle, appearing in a commerical for the American Idol Experience.
In June 2008, several season seven American Idol contestants (including David Cook, David Archuleta, Syesha Mercado, Jason Castro, and more) taped some promotional footage for the attraction that is speculated to be part of the show itself. They shared some of their American Idol stories as well as their Disney memories. Brooke White even drew an excellent sketch of Mickey Mouse, who she had learned to draw when she had wanted to become a Disney animator when she was younger.

Brooke White draws Mickey Mouse while sharing her Disney memories.
During the American Idol summer 2008 tour, a one-page promotion for the American Idol Experience was featured in the concert’s program. Additionally, the aforementioned commercial featuring Jordin Sparks was played during the concert’s intermission.

Throughout the fall of 2008, not much information or news was heard about concerning the attraction, other than the construction of the show building, Superstar Television Theater (recently renamed from ABC Theater, where Doug Live was performed several years back). American Idol decorations are abundant outside the theater, and the inside has been constructed to look like the stage from the TV show’s top twelve round.

The outside of the American Idol Experience in Walt Disney World.
In December 2008, promotion and advertising began to pick up for the attraction as its opening date of early 2009 drew nearer. Both David Cook and David Archuleta made appearances on the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade. Cook performed “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” while Archuleta appeared at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to give a look into the new attraction as well as give a summary of the other happenings in the park.

David Cook performs in the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade 2008.
David Archuleta tapes a segment for the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade 2008.
Additionally, in mid-January 2009, Ryan Seacrest appeared at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for reasons currently unknown to me, though I’d guess it would be to film some footage for the attraction. He also posed for some promotional images.

Ryan Seacrest in mid-January 2009 in front of the American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.
Also in mid-January, sneak previews of the attraction began to get underway at the park, featuring several showtimes throughout the day and a daily grand finale taking place at the end of each day. Audience members vote for the winner, and each winner receives a “Dream Ticket,” letting them skip the lines at a real American Idol audition process.

A daily finale takes place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The attraction officially opens to the public on Saturday, February 14, 2009. Additionally, a very exciting press event will take place at Hollywood Studios on Thursday, February 12, 2009 for the opening of the attraction! David Cook, David Archuleta, Jason Castro, and over 25 American Idol celebrities will be appearing in a parade down Hollywood Boulevard at 4:30pm. If you’re like me and won’t be able to attend the very exciting parade, you can catch live coverage of the event over at StudiosCentral.com. They’ll have live blog from the park beginning at 4:00pm Eastern Time.

Lastly, be sure to watch (or record) a very special appearance by David Cook tomorrow (Thursday, February 12, 2009) on Good Morning America! He will be performing live from the American Idol Experience at Walt Disney World, so be sure to watch!

You can also expect to see lots of coverage from the press event and of the attraction itself as the weekend progresses. Keep an eye on AllEars.net, LaughingPlace.com, and MousePlanet.com for some reports, as those three websites seem to never fail at bringing the latest Disney news to the vast Disney community.

So remember, watch Good Morning America tomorrow, February 12, 2009, to see David Cook at Walt Disney World and log on to StudiosCentral.com at 4:00pm on February 12, 2009 to see live coverage of the American Idol parade! It’s sure to be a very exciting day.

By Blake; posted February 11, 2009. All images (C) Disney.