Mr. Speaker, the propietor of Studios Central.com!
Last night was the State of the Union speech that was given by the President of the United States and so it's only fitting to take this opportunity to look at the state of Disney's Hollywood Studios and see where we ought to be in 2012.
This year is going to be a very different year than 2011. One year ago, we had Fantasmic! only on select nights, ESPN the Weekend was going strong and Star Tours was closed. This year, all of that is different. Fantasmic! is back every night, ESPN the Weekend is cancelled and Star Tours is open and doing wonderfully. But to quote Spaceship Earth, "Where are we going?".
There is no question that we are now fully in the depths of the Dan Cockerell era at Hollywood Studios. Cockerell took over as the Vice President of Hollywood Studios (meaning he is in charge of the park) last year but I believe now we are seeing his effect on the park. We can give him credit for bringing back Fantasmic! as well as approving the plan to bring the Comedy Warehouse show back during Christmas. So going forward in 2012, the direction of Hollywood Studios is up to him.
It's an usualy quiet time for the Studios these days. For the past five to six years or so we've been used to having something on the horizon as new or improved at Hollywood Studios. But since Star Tours reopened last May, there hasn't been anything concrete that we can expect to open soon. On the one hand, you can argue that Hollywood Studios has recieved the most in terms of new attractions lately and is fine for the time being. On the other hand, you can recall Walt Disney's mantra of "Keep moving forward" and look for Disney to announce something else new coming to the park.
I believe it's time to start planning in earnest something new for the Studios, given the real estate opportunities available in the park. Namely the closures of Journey into Narnia and Sounds Dangerous leave some really good open space to work with. These aren't enormous venues, but there's room here to create some new attractions to give guests more to choose from. Leaving them simply vacant is the wrong thing to do. It's a waste of space and frankly, I think it's bad show to have them sitting idly for so long.
On the dining front, the sit down restaurants are doing well for themselves. I could nitpick about menu choices here and there but by in large, I think guests are happy with the state of the sit down restaurants at Hollywood Studios. The counter service restaurants, on the other hand, are a different story. While the menus have gotten better in the past year, I'd like to see better quality food come to the menus of counter service restaurants as well as a wider selection. ABC Commisary used to have a much larger selection of food to choose from and Backlot Express could benefit from some new menu options as well. Let's do more with the food in 2012 and give guests something new and different to look forward to.
Just as the President talked about reducing America's troop numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think it's time the Studios consider an exit strategy for Winnie the Pooh. I love Pooh bear as much as the next guy, but his dedicated queue inside the Magic of Disney Animation barely gets a line anymore. While my one year old daughter loves to meet him without much wait, I think the Studios could benefit from someone else to meet there. After all, Pooh was a character you could have met for years before this meet area opened. Let's get someone else in the spotlight and freshen up the space.
I can say without a doubt that 2011 was a good year for Disney's Hollywood Studios and that's why I'm expecting even bigger things from 2012. Disney's Hollywood Studios continues to move in the right direction and with an infusion of new leadership, let's hope that the Studios achieves new achievements and garner more praise for what it will accomplish this year.