Generally when a new attraction is announced, there's some level of interest that is generated depending on the type of attraction. Coasters and other E-Ride attractions come with a lot of anticipation and even minor attractions (like say Grand Fiesta Tour) are interesting to see how they turn out. The next attraction coming to Walt Disney World is so polarizing that it's odd to see how this attraction is turning out. We are of course talking about the American Idol Experience attraction that will be opening in January 2009. Now with Toy Story Mania open and running (fairly) regularly, Imagineers have turned their attention to Idol as the next project to complete.
The attraction has generated a lot of discussion regarding the general concept and until now we've really had very little to go on. Jim Hill recently published an article detailing the basics of the attraction and how it will work. In a nutshell, guests can go into a booth and sing (acapella) any song of their liking. If a Cast Member (who is listening in) likes it, you'll be asked to stay and audition for a real judge or if you stink, you'll be thanked for your time and sent on your way. Those selected during the day, will audition again (this time with music) and if all goes well, they will be part of a show that will be available to guests that will be shown a few times per day and the winner of the competition will receive "front of the line" tickets for a real American Idol taping.
I find the nature of how the attraction will work to be interesting but I think most people either like the idea of Idol or hate it. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground. Looking back at the last few new attractions at Walt Disney World (Toy Story Mania, Expedition Everest, Finding Nemo the Musical, Mission:Space, et al), you'll find a lot of ardent fans of the idea, many who like the idea, a few who are indifferent and a minority who don't like the idea. With Idol, it's much more different and if I took into consideration all the web site forum polls, opinions and blog entries I've read, I'd say generally the Disney internet community is not looking forward to the attraction.
It bothers me to a degree that so many are jumping on the "We hate Idol" bandwagon without seeing how the attraction is. From Jim's article, I think the premise of the attraction sounds interesting enough. I like the idea that anyone can go to a confined booth (so no one outside your group can hear you sing) and belt out a tune and have a good laugh with friends. It's yet another attraction that everyone can go on and kids and adults alike can enjoy it. The real show where the best of the day are showcased is, I think, going to be an interesting spectacle of talent. While I likely won't be catching every show of the day, I probably will see one show to see what kind of talent is walking around in the park with me.
Deeper into Jim's article is a mention of a staged bad singer. Evidently Disney may hire an actor to sing badly on purpose, through that actor into the show and let the Simon Cowell-esque judge rip into the singer for the enjoyment of the audience. I'm not sure how I feel about the idea. While the bad singers are one of the best elements of the real TV show, what makes those terrible singers so funny is they think they are good. If I see somebody on stage singing terribly, I'll know now that it's a plant and it won't be as enjoyable. I can relate this to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular where Disney always has an actor pretending to be a guest and being "chosen" for a volunteer role and being physically abused by the Marion Ravenwood character; it was fun the first time but after I knew about the plant, it was never that enjoyable beyond that.
Overall I like the idea presented of how the American Idol Experience will operate (assuming of course this is indeed how it will operate). Knowing Disney, I'm sure there is something up their sleeves in terms of how the attraction will operate. While I don't quite have a countdown clock for the opening of Idol, I do think this insight into how the attraction will operate gives me reassurance that the attraction may end up being somewhat enjoyable even for me.