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Assessing recent changes

This past weekend was busy for news and rumors coming down the pipeline regarding Hollywood Studios and given the flurry of activity in changes to the park, it's important to keep up with how these change are affecting the park and the guest experience.

Luxo Jr removed

Arguably the biggest change to occur last week was the Luxo Jr animatronic that appeared periodically on the Pixar Place was suddenly removed.  There hasn't been an official word on why Luxo was taken away and it was especially surprising considering Luxo debuted less than a year ago as one of the last additions to the Pixar Place installation. For those unaware, Luxo Jr was a desk lamp that would come out and dance to music throughout the day and had a day time show and a night time show. 

So why was Luxo removed?  There's two theories out there that hold the most weight with me.  The first revolves around litigation between Disney and Lampmaker Luxo ASA where Luxo ASA filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Disney and Pixar in U.S. federal court.  The lawsuit said that a 1986 agreement between Luxo and Pixar that allowed Pixar to use the name Luxo Jr in their films, was being broken given the fact Pixar was now manufacturing working lamps with the Luxo name (yes, the animatronic counts). Well, fast forward to November 2009 and the two sides reached an "amicable settlement".  There is no word on what that settlement entailed, but perhaps it required Disney to pull the animatronic.  The other theory is that Luxo was a maintenance nightmare since its first performance.  Very often, Luxo would break down or need repairs or get stuck and while that is a fact, perhaps Disney got fed up with constantly repairing an animatronic which didn't have a major impact on the park.  

We may never know the full reasoning as to why Luxo was removed, but I believe the maintenance issues played a significant role in the decision.  It may have been a scenario where management was sick of authorizing repairs on it constantly and then with the lawsuit, Disney threw its arms up in the air and decided it would be best to remove the lamp from its parks and save itself a costly court battle as well as costly repairs.  Just a shot in the dark but I'll miss Luxo, because he was such an unique show that I thought really added some character to the area and was entertaining.

More queue changes to the Jedi Training Academy

Have you ever heard the saying "Darned if you do, darned if you don't"?  Well, it may as well have been written about the Jedi Training Academy queuing process.  Disney is now testing a new method for selecting kids to participate in their afternoon shows.  To alleviate congestion in the area, guests can now sign up for shows starting after 2pm where you find the Cast Member, leave your child's name and then come back at a designated time.  No more waiting in a line to be picked.  The main reason for this is at parade time Cast Members can't let everyone in line stay there, and so when guests return after the parade, it can be a little chaotic.  This would be the second change to the way in which kids sign up for the attraction.  

Originally, kids were just picked out by the Cast Member from the crowd and this lead to many frustrated kids (and parents) who could theoretically show up to every single show and never be picked.  So Disney added a standby line in October 2009 where you could wait in line and be guaranteed a spot.  As you might imagine, the line can get rather long and with the parade issues, Disney is hoping the third time is the charm.  With Star Wars Weekends coming up next month, it behooves Disney to get the line right given the mega crowds that will descend upon Jedi Training Academy when that annual event commences.

New game at Toy Story Midway Mania

This is still very much a rumor, but it was too juicy not to at least speculate on.  Basically, in coordination with Toy Story 3 coming out in June, Toy Story Midway Mania would receive a new game overlay for one of the scenes. Specifically, the balloon pop game will be changed from being hosted by Bo Peep to Rex and Trixie (the triceratops from the new movie) and will feature a jungle/volcano theme. The new game sounds a lot like a game that was in the early development of Toy Story Midway Mania, but didn't make the final cut, "Rex's Dino Dash".

Assuming this rumor is true, there's a few different thoughts that come to mind, most notably regarding the decision to go ahead with this.  With Toy Story Midway Mania being less than two years old, the attraction has hardly saturated the market for guests.  It's still consistently has one of the longest standby waits in Walt Disney World and given its young age, it's a new attraction for most guests.  Usually Disney adds something different to an attraction after a number of years when perhaps the attraction needs some "refreshing".  Let's face it, Toy Story Midway Mania is still in diapers, relatively speaking so the decision to add a new scene is rather surprising.  More to the point, I expected a new scene or two at some point, but not this early.  Again, this is very much a rumor so don't book any trips yet based on this news.  In addition, there's currently a rehab planned for Toy Story Midway Mania in August, which is when I'd expect any change to occur although the new film debuts in mid June, so it's not clear if they will wait that long.

Given these new changes that have either impacted the Studios already or will be doing so soon, Disney is once again tweaking things with the idea of improving the guest experience.  Even the removal of Luxo Jr could in one way be an improvement for guests if you consider the fact that it breaks down so often that would you prefer to not have it all or have an animatronic that only works a small portion of the time? (I'd prefer to have it, even if it only worked rarely).  Given the fact that the Yeti at Animal Kingdom has been broken for what seems like years now, perhaps Imagineering is done with animatronics that need constant rehab.  The other changes are definitely aimed at making guests happy(er).  As a Hollywood Studios geek, I'm intrigued by these changes and can't wait to see what exactly is in store for us should these changes go ahead and stay this way.

This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Go there to read more great Disney posts.

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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, April 07, 2010 by