American Idol Experience brings the feel and energy of the “American Idol” reality television show to Walt Disney World in an effort to allow every day guests see if they have the vocal talents to compete in a miniature-sized version of the hit television show. While the original intent of the Studios may have been to bring the real Hollywood to guests, the current version prefers to bring a typical Hollywood experience to the guest. American Idol Experience does just that in creating a convincing setting that you are in the audience for a just-like-the-real-thing show and perhaps even bearing witness to the birth of a new singing career. Unlike the television show where contestants can earn a recording contract, the theme park version offers the winner of the daily finale show an opportunity to skip the auditioning line at any real “American Idol” open audition and hopes to convince the guest that they are seeing the next best thing to the show. Guests start out in a covered, but open-air waiting area where a video plays overhead starring former Idol finalist, Justin Guarini and introduces the entire attraction and includes also clips from the television show and interviews with other Idol finalists who share what the “American Idol” experience is like. A Cast Member then comes into the crowd to warm the crowd up and record some segments that may be used later in the show. Guests are then let into the 1,000 seat theater where they are given the rules of the attraction and shown how to vote. Afterwards, the real show begins.
There are several shows per day where three park guests compete in each show to prove they are the most talented singer of the bunch. There are three judges, with personalities directly taken from the judges of the television show and whom also have a background in entertainment and offer their opinions of each singer’s performance. At the conclusion of the performances, audience members then vote in each show and the winners of each individual show compete in one last finale show around park closing time, where the winners sing again for a new audience and the winner of the show recieves the “golden ticket” to audition at a real “American Idol” show. Expect the regular shows of the day to last for 20 minutes and the finale show to last 40 minutes. Depending on park hours, there will be around 7 shows per day, with a finale show after that.
If you are interested in auditioning to perform, there’s a process to do so. Guests can either sign up online at the Disney World website in advance of their trip for an audition time. Guests can also sign up in the park the day they arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, although one will need to sign up early in the morning as auditions begin in the early morning. Contestants will first sing acapella for a producer that has a entertainment background, and if the singer has enough talent to go forward, they are then brought into a prep room, where contestants are given an iPod to use to rehearse their song again. Finale, contestants sing one more time and if they pass this test, they are scheduled for a show in the day. Whichever of the 3 guests in each show wins, will return for the finale show that evening to compete to win the grand prize.
American Idol Experience’s goal is to re-create the aura of a real “American Idol” taping and infuse the sort of high-energy situation that viewers of the show are familiar with. The show is packed with energetic hosts, entertaining judges and some remarkably talented singers. It’s sometimes hard to remember that the folks performing on stage are regular park guests who clearly have talent when it comes to singing. Without anything else being said, Imagineers have succeeded in making the guest feel like the show they see is as close to the real thing as it can get.
The larger issue for many is the simple fact the attraction is based off of a television show that they may or may not care for. Many guests have had no inclination to watch the television show therefore do not have any interest in seeing the attraction. Just like roller coasters and even character meet-n-greets , there will always be guests who have no interest in experiencing the attraction. Of the many shows per day, by far the best show is the finale show. Regular shows that occur in the afternoon are nice, but often have one talented singer and others who aren’t as talented and can not be as entertaining as the finale of the show. The finale is the “best of the best” and you can nearly guaranteed to see great talent competing against each other and makes it rather enjoyable. If you see one show ever of American Idol Experience, make sure it’s the finale show.
The real complaint we have is the preshow, which is rather contrived and artificial. The M.C. comes into the crowd to get audience members excited for not only the show but the performers in it, but it’s rather forced and it’s hard to fake enthusiasm for singers you don’t know. Obviously the Cast Member here is also trying to get the crowd “warmed up” but unlike other preshows at attractions like Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and the now defunct “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – Play It!”, the entire preshow is too forced and the weakest part of the entire attraction. Also, the contestants that perform in the show must dedicate a great deal of their day to the attraction, especially those that make the final show, so there’s no park hopping or other activities outside the Studios should you perform well.
American Idol Experience isn’t the mega-blockbuster attraction that Toy Story Midway Mania or Tower of Terror are. Rather, it’s a well put together show that does exactly what it was designed to do. The level of talent can vary from show to show but overall guests really do get to see talent on stage. To ensure you get into the show you want to see, give yourself about 20-30 minutes before a showtime for the afternoon shows and 30-40 minutes for the finale show. The preshow prior to the actual show makes the time not seem nearly as long a wait as you might imagine. If you want to audition for a show, it’s best to sign up online before your trip and schedule a day and time to ensure you of an audition time that fits your vacation schedule.
Everyone can enjoy this attraction.
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