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A failure of imagination

 I’m often told that people don’t like coming to the Studios because there isn’t enough to do.  They say they do their favorite couple of attractions and then don’t see a need to do much else and leave or skip the Studios all together on their trip.   With Rock ‘n Roller Coaster closed for a rehab this month, even more folks who are at Walt Disney World for free dining, have mentioned it to me and to all of them, I say….blasphemy!

Defending the Studios has become a sort of part time gig for me, because many guests who love the MagicKingdom and/or Epcot just can’t seem to wrap their mind around the Studios.  If you want to enjoy the Studios experience as much (if not more) as some of the other parks, you need to embrace your imagination and to borrow some vernacular from Crush, “go with the flow”. 

The most common complaint goes something like this, “I like to ride Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, <insert one or two other favorite attractions here> and then nothing else appeals to me”.  To this, I believe there’s a failure of imagination.  The Magic Kingdom and Epcot have conditioned guests to expect enough to do in one park to last two days easily in terms of attractions.  Call it Disney being a victim of its own success.

If you’ve been to the Studios enough times where doing everything simply isn’t appealing to you anymore, why not go beyond just simple attractions?  There can be quite a bit to see and enjoy (especially for adults) beyond the mere attractions that are obvious.  The appeal to the Studios is the level of detail in its design and theme.  With anything in the parks, Disney Imagineers have taken the time to ensure nearly everything you see in the parks means something and is there for a reason.  There is no better example than the front area of the park:Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards and the Echo Lake areas.  I’ve begun a column explaining why certain theme elements are there but I would start by looking around these areas and trying to figure out why stuff is there.  Not everything requires a great deal of Googling to figure out.  Try to find the reference to “It’s a wonderful life” in the Echo Lake area or the Roger Rabbit references or the “Gone with the Wind” mentions.  It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, virtually crowd free, and see how far you can get.

And while you’re straining your necks looking for that obscure Muppet Babies reference (trust me, it’s in the park), you may as well also try your hand at another favorite Walt Disney World geek tradition of looking for Hidden Mickeys.  What is a Hidden Mickey? Steve Barrett, the de-facto source on Hidden Mickeys, describes a Hidden Mickey as “a partial or complete impression of Mickey Mouse placed by the Imagineers and artists to blend into the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas.”.  At the Studios, there are quite a few and some are really hard to find and I would encourage you to buy Steve’s book or check out his website for more on the subject (I won’t pretend to be some sort of Hidden Mickey expert since I see Steve too many times a year and he would certainly call me out on it [Editor’s note: Steve Barrett is too nice to call Matt out even if he would be correct to do so]). 

We often talk about Streetmosphere characters but there is also quite literally, street-mosphere.  What I mean by this is since much of the Studios is themed to be streets (Hollywood Boulevard, the many Streets of America, Sunset Boulevard, et al), there are a lot of special things to find alongside these streets.  The Streets of America have quite a bit and I enjoy looking at the patios and window fronts along these area for some funny or just plain interesting things to find.  Do you know what subway line serve the Streets of America? Or how much a haircut is at the barber shop?  What the headline is on the pile of newspapers? How about during the Osborne Lights time of year the apartment where you can see a family watching the ABC Family channel on their TV? Discovering these little bits of Imagineering can make for a fun time.

If you've read my columns, posts, message board entries, heard the podcast, then you know I speak very highly of a nother fantastic form of entertainment known as Streetmosphere. For the sake of this column, I won't delve too deeply into what it is but I think by in large, many folks ignore Streetmosphere when they see it and pan it as "not for them". I dare you to walk near a crowd of folks who are watching a Streetmosphere act and not hear a laugh or giggle and not see smiles on those watching. These folks aren't some rare breed of humans who hail from a part of the country where there is no humor (well, besides New Hampshire). Why not take some time and see one or two of these acts and better yet, talk to one of these Streetmosphere characters that work solo. Ask Francis Floot about his momma or where his girlfriend, Paige Turner, is. Ask Jack Diamond if you can make it in Hollywood. Play along with these folks and you will have some funny stories to tell when you get home.

I know some people will read this and have a Homer Simpson-esque response of “Bo-ring”, but that’s because they haven’t considered opening your mind to something other than re-riding Tower of Terror a thousand times.  If you have kids, they relish in being the first to find these hidden gems in the parks and seeing that silhouette of Roger Rabbit crashing through a wall (even if they are too young to know who Roger Rabbit is).  Look at this is a great opportunity to be in the parks but escape the drudgery of waiting in lines, fighting with FASTPASS and doing the same old thing again.  Besides…Rock ‘n Roller Coaster won’t be closed forever.


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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, September 12, 2007 by