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Feeling nostalgic at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Yesterday Walt Disney World announced the Orange Bird is returning to the Magic Kingdom's Sunshine Tree Terrace eatery in a glorified merchandise pitch.  Many fans seem to welcome the return for nostalgic reasons as well as the novelty.  This got me thinking what Disney's Hollywood Studios could do to dip back into its history to resurrect something that could be a big hit with guests (and their wallets).

Let's be honest and say that while nostalgia is an aspect of the decision to bring the Orange Bird back, the real motivating factor here for Disney to bring him back is merchandise sales.  If you look at what was announced at the D23 tweet up event, nearly everything was focused on the merchandise you can now purchase featuring the Orange Bird.  So by the same token, the ideas for Disney's Hollywood Studios need to be something that can be turned into quick merchandise sales.

While the Studios' history isn't as rich or deep as the Magic Kingdom's there were a few ideas that definitely came to mind.  Keep in mind while these characters may not seem relevant today per se, they aren't any more obscure than the Orange Bird character that I'm sure 99% of guests going to the Magic Kingdom on any given day have no clue about either.

Roger Rabbit

When the Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989, Roger Rabbit was nearly synonymous with the park.  He seemed like he was everywhere, usurping Mickey Mouse's role in some aspects.  Roger Rabbit's presence was building on the hit film, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" that had come out in '88 and his merchandise sales were quite popular for the time.

Photo via JimHillMedia.com

There were even plans for Roger Rabbit themed attractions at the Studios in addition to references to him that still remain in the park today.  Legal issues with Disney's partners on the film eventually sank Roger but if we were going to bring back a character that could sell merchandise and have a bit of nostalgia to him for a lot of people, there's no question Roger Rabbit is it.

Lost Boy Robin

The original Magic of Disney Animation film starred Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite and featured Robin Williams in animated form as one of Peter Pan's lost boys.  This was a really fun character that Williams lent his voice to and for nostalgic fans of the Studios (such as myself), seeing "Lost Boy Robin" again would be a real treat.  

Like the Orange Bird, this Lost Boy fills a niche related to a part of the park and it was part of the Studios well into the 21st century when his film was replaced by the current film we see today starring Mushu.  He's cute, nostalgic and another great candidate for selling shirts, especially with half the quotes from the film being memorable.  I can just see t-shirts now saying, "Look everyone, I'm a corporate symbol".


In the 1990s, a popular cartoon that premiered on Nickelodean but later was acquired by Disney in 1996 and the attraction Doug Live! was shown in the same building that the American Idol Experience currently resides.  In terms of nostalgia, the kids that grew up watching Doug are now adults and have disposable income to spend and love nostalgia from the '90s.

With retro merchandise as big as it is, Doug stuff would really appeal to the 20somethings that watched this show religiously as kids.  And let's not forget that the costumes from the show are probably laying around somewhere in the fabled "Disney Vault" for character meets to resume.

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About this column

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 18, 2012 by