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Separating the hype

 One of the problems the internet creates (including this web site) is hype over attractions that are set to open quickly. Across many different sites, you've probably seen articles and discuss regarding the opening of Toy Story Mania, which should begin public previews as early as the beginning of May. This is the sort of news any fan of Walt Disney World that follows the changes in the parks closely love to live for. As veteran zealots of the parks, not only do we truly love everything Walt Disney World, we've also experienced the attractions many and many times so when a new attraction is set to open, it offers us something we don't experience everyday which is a new attraction. Needless to say, it can get us very excited.

Ever since August 2006 when Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - Play It! closed, there's been a buzz about what's going on in the area formerly known as Mickey Avenue. Over the past months, tidbits of information have come out from official and unofficial sources but now with the opening just a few short couple of weeks away, the Disney internet community is salivating at the prospect of tasting the newest offering from Imagineering. Given the excitement that comes with a new opening, it's inevitable that high expectations accrue and these expectations soar higher and higher as we inch closer and closer to the opening and get new articles and photos of what's going on behind the green construction walls. To sum all of that up in a word, there's a lot of hype building for Toy Story Mania.

Hype tends to carry a negative connotation to it because by definition, it means an inflated sense of expectation, which also tends to be negative because the hype can be hard to separate from the facts. With Toy Story Mania, I try to remain as level-headed regarding the opening as possible. Clearly I have a bias towards anything within sight of the Sorcerer's Hat and the Studios is special to me. Nevertheless, I strive to steer clear of assumptions and perceptions and most of all, hype. The problem with hype is it's so easy to buy into because we live in a vacuum of knowledge regarding Toy Story Mania until it opens. With attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean or the Great Movie Ride or basically any other attraction open at Walt Disney World, we know everything there is to know about it, like the ride story, the different scenes, interesting (and very nerdy) facts and everything else in-between. With Toy Story Mania, we know very little; just the few factoids that have been dropped in our lap by Disney Public Relations in press releases and some Orange County filings. So in that gap of knowledge, hype fills in because these tidbits of information that we get are engineering by Disney to, well, hype up the attraction. If Toy Story Mania ends up becoming an all-time favorite across Walt Disney World then the hype is great but if it's a dud, then we all look silly looking back at all the positive excitement we had for its opening.

To give you perspective on the situation, I'm going to venture out of the Studios and talk about two fairly new attractions, Mission:Space and Expedition Everest. Mission:Space opened in October of 1993 and had quite a bit of hype with it. It cost $100 million to build, which in theme park attraction construction, is the silver spoon, golden ticket and pedigree for a fantastic attraction rolled into one. The money committed to the project indicated this wouldn't be a cheap endeavor and Disney was putting its best foot forward to construct it. It was even "approved" by NASA when at the opening were several former astronauts along with a NASA Administrator. It was to be the motion simulator that would put all other motion simulators that came before it to shame and become one of those classic Disney attractions that would likely be copied all over the world at Disney's other theme parks. There was a lot of hype for the opening and when it did open and the public experienced it and rode it time and time again, the hype subsided and replaced with a quiet murmur. Mission:Space wasn't a flop, but never lived up close to the hype it had generated while it was being constructed. It remains open, albeit without any clones around the world (or even in one other park) and far from what most Disney fans consider a classic Disney attraction.

On the other side of hype is Expedition Everest. Everest opened in April of 2006 and like Mission:Space before it, carried a lot of hype. Disney had invested a substantial amount of time, money and research into making this a classic Disney attraction. They sent a team of Disney Imagineers to the Himalayan region of Asia to ensure the experience of the ride was authentic (which was documented for a Discovery Channel special that served to build even more hype) and features a Yeti audio-animatronic that is 22 feet tall, among other technical wonders. Like Mission:Space, the Disney Internet community was clamoring for more information and considering that this was to be the attraction to help make Animal Kingdom a viable full day park (or at least get it on its way); there were high expectations for it. By in large, I think the hype and expectations played out favorably for Disney and Expedition Everest is certainly the headliner attraction at Animal Kingdom, as well as Walt Disney World, that it was intended to be. A year and a half after it's opening, it's a favorite for many who visit and an attraction that end up being a classic Disney attraction that other attractions are measured against.

So how does Toy Story Mania fit into all of this? Is the hype surrounding its impending opening going to lead us to disappointment or adulation? If I could tell you the definitive answer to this, I'd also be going to the nearest gas station to buy the ticket with the winning numbers for the lottery. It's because of the Mission:Space and Expedition Everest that I try to hold back my enthusiasm for the opening and resist the urge to speculate on the experience of the attraction. I want to experience Toy Story Mania as if I had no idea it was new and without expectations. That is an impossible feat, but anchoring myself to the ground, so to speak, is the best strategy for me. In reality, Toy Story Mania isn't intended to be a headliner attraction like Expedition Everest; I believe Disney is looking for it to play second fiddle to Tower of Terror and Rock 'n Roller Coaster and that's okay because the role of Toy Story Mania I think is to be an attraction for the whole family that can be ridden over and over again.

So while I'm beyond excited for the possibility of a soft opening sometime in the next few weeks and for the announced Annual Pass preview coming up in early May, I'm trying to stay even keeled about the whole ride and evaluate the experience as best I can so I can properly describe it and give my recommendations to all of you. After all of that, I can't help but remain giddy about the opening and maybe still feel the hype just a little bit.

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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 16, 2008 by