Traditionally, this site has been and still is dedicated to reviewing or introducing ideas, tips and insights into WDW attractions, restaurants, resorts and magical moments in order to potentially increase your fun at WDW. Today, however, we will take a slight departure from that approach. Over the past few years, I’ve had many conversations with others regarding Hollywood Studios – specifically my ideas on how to make it a more premiere destination park for WDW. The issue arose this past week in a conversation on our DLuminations Facebook page, which prompted more off-line questions regarding those ideas. As a result, I felt that the topic may warrant a post, in the hopes that like Walt, we can dream about what might be possible in the hopes that it will become possible.
First and foremost, I must admit that I know three key points: (1) Disney does not take unsolicited ideas. So, unless I get a job as an Imagineer, the probability of any of these ideas coming to fruition may be slim at best. (2) Disney is a business. Though these ideas will require a substantial investment, the idea is to make money. I have not conducted a cost/benefit analysis of these ideas, but do know that more people spending more time in any given park results in increased profits. If Hollywood Studios suddenly became a park that required a longer day to visit and enjoy, the length of stay is extended which results increased profits from resorts, restaurants, and souvenirs. And, as the new Fantasyland Expansion proves, we – as guests – are willing to pay for it if Disney delivers upon expectations. (3) Universal Studios scored a big win with Harry Potter, and though I believe Disney still delivers a better overall experience, they suddenly found Hollywood Studios playing catch-up to a popular franchise taking a prominent role at Universal.
So, what can be done? Touring Hollywood Studios from left to right, here are a few simple ideas – any of which may add to the overall park experience and ticket value. Oh, and to help you visualize, here is a conceptual map of what the park might look like if all these ideas were added.
Over the past few years, Disney has made two investments that could single handedly transform Hollywood Studios. LucasFilm is the first of those two investments. The key to Harry Potter – for Universal Studios – is that prior to its addition to the park, there was a built-in, loyal fan base started through the series of books, and nurtured through the movie franchise. This fan base spent years growing with the characters of the stories. Indiana Jones – along with Star Wars – shares this very attribute.
As you pass Echo Lake and come to the end of the path, there is a space between 50’s Prime Time Café and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular that would be the perfect location for a new Indiana Jones attraction. Currently, the space is home to a few topical souvenir shops and the exit for the stunt spectacular. If the exit to the stunt spectacular could be re-routed, this could serve as the entrance to an attraction similar to that found in Disneyland. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye would tie-in with the current theme and also make the current stunt spectacular more relevant for years to come.
Star Wars Universe:
The new Star Tours upgrade has been a great addition to this park already. However, imagine being fully immersed in the Star Wars universe. Imagine a restaurant modeled after Mos Eisley Cantina. Imagine a Pod-Car Race attraction similar to Test Track in EPCOT. Imagine seeing X-Wing fighters or the Millennium Falcon flying around at night – shooting lasers! (This technology is already available to Disney. The para-hawk dragon that flew around Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom already proves it can be done.) Imagine a playground across from the exit to Star Tours modeled after the Ewok Village. Imagine a Jedi Outfitters that resembles what Disney does for Pirates in the Magic Kingdom, or at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique; a place where all kids can get fully outfitted with Jedi gear. Lastly, imagine a dark-ride through Star Wars Saga attraction like the Great Movie Ride, but it takes you through the Star Wars story.
Streets of America:
As of now, there are no real Princesses associated with Hollywood Studios. Unlike Magic Kingdom or even EPCOT, this park doesn’t offer the possibility of a chance encounter for little girls with their heroines. A simple, and relatively inexpensive, solution would be to add daily appearances for Giselle (from Disney’s 2007 movie Enchanted). However, these appearances should be more than photo opportunities. Instead, imagine Giselle suddenly making her way onto the Streets of America where she will sing “That’s How You Know”, while street workers and other extras dance along in a choreographed show. What a better way to add relevance to a portion of the park that currently has none (other than during Christmas with the Osborne Lights) than to leverage this favorite of 80th Academy Awards?
Marvel offers the same thing that LucasFilm does. Imagine a Marvel Universe area behind – or instead of – the Lights, Motors, Action! Stunt show. An Avengers Action Show, Spiderman attraction, X-Men attraction, or any single coaster or thrill ride based on one or two of the multitude of Marvel characters. Make it happen, and watch Disney become the new destination to host Comic Con. For that matter, what about a Marvel Marathon at Disney World! If people will run 26.2 miles dressed as Cruella Deville, or Cinderella, they will do it dressed as Spiderman, Wolverine, Iron Man, or Captain America. Instead of starting and ending at Epcot, do it at Hollywood Studios.
The Golden Age of Disney Movies:
The neat thing about Disney fans is that we are loyal and we love tradition. That is perhaps seen in no better way than when an attraction changes or is “plussed”. The resulting buzz and debate goes on for years – if not decades. There are still people who wish Food Rocks was still in EPCOT. Disney needs to recognize and cash in on this fact.
Remove the Studio Backlot Tour. For starters, it hasn’t been the same since the TV houses were removed, or since TV production stopped being associated with Disney in Orlando. Secondly, the Catastrophe Canyon and Harbor Attack – though neat – have witnessed dwindling numbers in guests over recent years. Replace this with a Golden Age of Disney Movie attraction. Imagine a dark-ride combination of Peter Pan’s Flight and the Great Movie Ride. Fly through the attraction in a Model-T (a la The Absent Minded Professor) while viewing scenes from The Shaggy Dog, Pollyanna, Parent Trap, The Sign of Zorro, Son of Flubber, That Darn Cat, The Rocketeer, The Newsies, and more. Revive the past while celebrating the future of Disney live action film.
Like many others, I’ve heard the rumor about a Monster’s Inc Coaster – and I LOVE IT! This should absolutely be added, and as soon as possible. Beyond that, bring Cars Land to Orlando! Lastly, add hints of UP! And other great Pixar films in various places in the area. There is so much to work with here, and so much to come, it’s a natural add that guests would flock to. Don’t believe me? Look at Toy Story Mania!
The Golden Age of Disney Animation:
In the words of Walt, “It all started with a mouse.” I, for one, like Animation Courtyard. I absolutely love attempting to draw the animated greats. But, this needs to be where Mickey and the gang are celebrated for their contributions to Animated Movies. Move Mickey & Minnie’s homes from the now defunct Toontown Fair. Introduce more meet & greet opportunities for popular animated characters from the past. A walk through attraction or continuous ride attraction that explored some of the animated greats like Robin Hood, Lion King, Bambi, Fantasia, and others would be ideal. If all else fails, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the Mickey Mouse Revue, and the Scary Adventures of Snow White could easily fit the theme here and would appeal to Disney enthusiasts and the younger guests who might not currently enjoy this side of Hollywood Studios.
So, there you have it, a few simple ideas that would catapult Hollywood Studios from a B-Grade park at WDW to a premiere park for Disney. What do you think? Would you like to see any of this happen? What would you do to improve Hollywood Studios? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.