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Weekends I'd Like to See

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm a fan of special events at Walt Disney World. One of my favorite trips ever was to Star Wars Weekends in 2008. Many of my friends are also big fans of the endurance events at WDW, such as January's Marathon weekend. And heck, I even liked the much-maligned Pirates and Princesses Party at Magic Kingdom.

So, now that Disney's Hollywood Studios has cancelled ESPN The Weekend, I think it's high time we brainstorm on a few new special event weekends, in the hopes that one of them could take its place.  One of my complaints about ESPN The Weekend (other than the awkwardness of that title) is that it wasn't tightly enough tied with the DHS concept. Sports (unlike Star Wars) weren't really a presence in the park other than for The Weekend, so it always felt like a strange fit to me. So, for closer integration with the existing theme elements of the park, I'd argue that special event weekends at DHS should be themed to the movies. Here are my top picks:

Busby Berkeley Awareness Weekend

Sure, you've been on The Great Movie Ride, so you've heard of Footlight Parade, and might even know that Busby Berkeley dance numbers were a key feature of the film. But have you actually *seen* any of his films? C'mon people, this is the man who directed classic performances including Judy Garland's "I've Got Rhythm" and Carmen Miranda's "Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat." Let's encourage Disney's Hollywood Studios to get back to its old school Hollywood roots with some outrageous production numbers in the main hub in front of the Sorcerer's Hat. How about a few film screenings, perhaps in the moonlight over Echo Lake? And just imagine the merchandise potential. I want my Tutti Fruitti hat, gosh darn it.

Summer Schlock Weekend

One of the events that rocked my teenage world was the Summer Schlock Festival held at the Off the Wall Cinema in Cambridge Massachusetts, in the summer of 1983. For about 12 hours, we were entertained by movies such as The 5000 Fingers of Doctor T, Plan Nine from Outer Space, and Bride of the Monster. How about a weekend devoted to such schlock classics, movies so bad they're good? I'm sure Disney could find a few of its own to drag out of the vault (um, yeah, I know they wouldn't). Movie screenings and character meet-and-greets could be a big draw for one audience that Disney's been desperately trying (and usually failing) to reach: Teenage boys who think they're too cool for the Mouse. Disney, don't just dress Mickey up in edgy clothes. Meet the kids a little closer to where they are.

Hollywood Classics Weekend

We've probably all walked down Sunset Boulevard at DHS, on our way to Tower of Terror or Rock'n Roller Coaster. (And some of us have traversed the real thing, in Hollywood, which is just a tad less hygenic, with much more traffic.) But I wonder how many people skipping along to their favorite thrill rides have seen the classic Billy Wilder film, starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond. Do we know when and why she utters her famous line, "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille?" Do we know who Mr. DeMille *was*? Just browse through the list of movies featured in the ride (especially in the finale) and you'll find plenty of food for thought. How many times have you heard Bette Davis's advice to "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night," from All About Eve? Many of my favorite Hollywood classics are from the 1950s, so I can easily envision a weekend dedicated to just that decade. I imagine not just the movie screenings, but also talks by film historians. Expanding the concept a bit, one could plan special weekends for each decade. The films of the 60s, 70s, or 80s could be used as an organizing platform for any number of events, from hippie costume parties to roller disco skate-offs. And again, just think of the merchandise!

These ideas may feel a bit far-fetched. But hey Disney, let's think big! I heard some guy once said that "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." In this world of corporate synergies and brand awareness, let's not forget to try something outrageous.