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2006 in retrospect

 It’s a tradition of anyone writing anything creative to at the end of the year look back on the year that has nearly passed for two reasons: first, it’s interesting to have a retrospective look back and second, it’s far easier than coming up with something original and after a year of writing, we all deserve a break. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the changes that occurred at the Studios over the course of 2006 and some comments on it.

Meet-n-greets for Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater were added to the schedule and normally that’s not a major deal, except for the fact Disney threw out the rulebook on meet-n-greets and decided to let the characters drive out to a set spot and then let all the park guests just have a free-for-all with trying to get a picture with them. I’m not sure why this method was decided upon but it’s terrible and makes it nearly impossible to get a photo of you (or your party) and just the characters. Odds are there will be other park guests in your photos because of the nature of the meet. Let’s hope in 2007 Disney adds a means of crowd control to the meet-n-greets.

Speaking of meet-n-greets, Kim Possible and her brother were added and all I can say is you can’t really fight crime effectively unless you’re wearing a midriff.

Jedi Training started about 2 months before Star Wars Weekend leading many (including yours truly) to believe this would become a permanent attraction at the Studios. We knew from the start that Jedi Training would be temporary but if it was popular, it would remain after Star Wars Weekends was over. With the Easter crowds in April, it was a real hit and always popular with the kids and even more so in May and June during Star Wars Weekends but when the final Star Wars Weekend ended for 2006, so did Jedi Training. I’m often conflicted about if I’m happy or not that it’s gone. I’m disappointed because I’m always in favor of new attractions that involve the guests and this was always a lot of fun to watch. I’m sort of happy it’s not permanent because with it being a regular attraction, there’s not much in terms of special events for Star Wars Weekend so it kind of took the attraction of it away.

Speaking of Star Wars Weekends, it came and went this year. Unlike the past couple of years, it was only 4 weekends with no extra two weekends tacked on despite the popularity. A real highlight of this year was the ability to see and take a photo with a scale model of the X-Wing. Very cool. The celebrities varied from “Who?” to interesting. Having Warwick Davis host the weekends was a nice touch and made the Q&A events interesting and fun.

Clarice came to the Studios in 2006. Who, you ask? It’s Chip & Dale’s girlfriend. Yea, I had no idea she existed either.

In an attempt to get the preschool age group to come to Walt Disney World during the normally slow August-September timeframe, Disney held special events for the preschool age group titled “Magical Beginnings”. One part of this was the Playhouse Disney In Concert series where stars from hit Disney Channel TV shows would perform live in the parks for kids on different weeks. In addition, Hollywood & Vine served breakfast again and re-added characters from Little Einsteins and Jojo & Goliath. The concerts came and went but the character dining is still here and most kids enjoy it. I had an opportunity to have a character meal at Hollywood & Vine for breakfast and found the entertainment to be different from any other character breakfast on Disney property which is very good. I found the food selection to be a little small compared to other buffet breakfasts at Walt Disney World but if you have a preschool kid, they will love it.

In the “I never knew this happened” news of the year, the letters in the directory at Tower of Terror that spelled “EVIL TOWER U R DOOMED” was removed suddenly. We’re not entirely sure what the reason was but the best story I’ve heard is the Imagineers removed it because it wasn’t a part of the original Tower of Terror design and they wanted to preserve Tower the way it was designed. To some it was a big deal and others never even knew it was there to begin with. Regardless, it’s gone now.

In a tragic bit of news, a young child died after riding Rock ‘n Roller Coaster which was terrible. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the boy and I hope this is the last accident I have to recap.

My beloved Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-Play It! closed in 2006 and this is by far the worst decision of the year. I really enjoyed competing and trying (futilely) to win that Disney Cruise but it was a lot of fun because it was a different attraction every time you went and just fun to experience. Currently it’s being ripped apart for a yet-to-be-named attraction that will likely open in 2008.

And finally, the Osborne Lights were updated to make them “dance” and it was a welcome change. The lights look better than ever and ever since they moved from Residential Street to Streets of America, the lights have been getting better and better every year and the Lights should be a must-see for anyone coming to Walt Disney World during the Holidays.

So in 2006 we had some good and we had some bad yet I’m hopefully optimistic for 2007 and what it will bring. I’d love to hear clarification of what they’re building in the former Millionaire soundstage, see if Journey into Narnia will be replaced by something and if ANYTHING will ever be put in the old ABC Theater. 

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2006 by