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Is no afternoon parade a bad thing?

By now most of the Walt Disney World fans that follow the day-to-day changes at Walt Disney World are aware that Pixar Pal's Countdown to Fun parade at Disney's Hollywood Studios is scheduled to end after the April 6th performance. While changes to parade and other daily entertainment occurs frequently, what is not "normal" is the fact there is no apparent replacement for the parade and that has a lot of fans scartching their heads.

Disney quietly made the announcement to cancel the parade (along with Disney Channel Rocks) internally and news of the cancellation spread rather quickly among the Cast Members and then through the Internet.  What was more surprising for many was not that the parade was cancelled, but rather, there is nothing on the horizon to replace it.

There are certain staples of a Disney park, such as evening fireworks, character meet-n-greets and afternoon parades.  Parades are just something you expect to find in any Disney park, on any day.  Yet with no parade replacement in sight, what does the future hold for the Studios?

As I thought about the cancellation announcement I have two reactions.  My short-term reaction is "good riddance", because frankly, I really disliked Countdown to Fun since it debuted.  It's a cheap, watered down version of Block Party Bash parade (which I really enjoyed) set to a repetiive tune that is not even a Disney song and is entirely too short.  Quite frankly, in the grand scheme of parades I have seen in Walt Disney World, it ranks among the worst.  So the cancellation of Countdown to Fun is almost a gift, considering how little I thought of the parade.

Despite my reservations about Countdown to Fun, the other reaction I have is I know in the long term - when we get a month or two of no parade in the afternoons - I will believe having no parade is a mistake for Disney's Hollywood Studios.  I cannot help but compare this to Disney's decision a few years ago to cut the Fantasmic! showings to just a few days per week. 

So why is the parade being cancelled? Officially, Disney's answer is this canned response that can be attributed to a restroom closure just as much as a parade, "We regularly and carefully review the entertainment offerings in our parks and make adjustments as part of our normal course of business."

No one believes that answer to be anything more than a diversionary tactic and so that leads us to ponder what the future holds.  There's two basic theories out there for why Countdown to Fun has been cancelled and it is up to you to decide which sounds more likely.  One answer is the parade is being cancelled as part of a cost-cutting decision and eventually down the road, we may get a new parade to replace it.

The other theory is that this cancellation is the first of many steps in preparing Disney's Hollywood Studios for a major park expansion.  The regular answers I receive as to what type of expansion usually revolve around either a Carsland addition to the Studios, similar to what was added to Disney's California Adventure, or a Star Wars land expansion that ties into the recent acquisition by Disney of Lucas Film.

If your next question is what do I think, then well, I do not have an answer for you.  I put little stock in rumors of park expansions.  I am not discounting them or telling you they will not happen, but as if often the case, these rumors can perpetuate for months or years before coming to fruition, if ever.  So without solid proof, I do not find it prudent to repeat them.  However, it's important to note that these rumors exist and it's certainly a possibility.

The bottom line is, Disney's Hollywood Studios is going to need a replacement for Countdown to Fun sooner rather than later.  Guests expect to find an afternoon parade and I already feel bad for the Cast Members in Guest Relations that will be dealing with the daily barrage of guests demanding to know why there is no parade.  If the cancellation is part of a new park direction, then announce it already so guests can give Disney a break for the interruption.  If not, then Disney needs to get the ball rolling on something new and preferably better than Countdown to Fun.

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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, March 20, 2013 by