Over the years of all my trips to the Studios, I’ve had some interesting and funny (and sometimes disturbing) encounters that have made for some interesting stories so I thought this week I would share some of them with you (some probably aren’t appropriate to post here anyway). These sort of stories are some of my favorite to tell to folks because it allows me to show a small sample of why I enjoy the Studios and really Want Disney World in general.
Most recently, I went to the Studios on the day that Disney announced the name change of the Studios from the Disney-MGM Studios to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This was big news and I was at a Chick-Fil-A off Disney property near Celebration, Florida enjoying lunch when I got a text message from Len Testa, co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, telling me that a source of his had said the park’s name has been changed. I had heard so many rumors of the name change that I discounted it and sent Len a text message back that basically said “seeing is believing”. About an hour later a flood of text messages and phone calls came in informing me of the change and even more asking me what I was going to do about my site, so I went to my hotel room and saw the news on the Internet. So I decided for that day to go to the Studios for the evening to see what, if anything, had changed at the Studios. When I go to the Disney-MGM Studios, I always wear my studioscentral.com shirt in a lame attempt to shamelessly plug the site. Like everyone, I went through the security line to get my backpack checked. The Cast Member checked my bag rather quickly but quickly caught sight of my shirt and coyly asked me, “What’s your name?”. Kind of thrown off by the question (not exactly something you get asked by Disney Security all the time), I responded, “Matt…Hochberg.”. The Security Guard smiled and said “Hey, I love your site, it’s great.... say, what are you going to do about the name change?”. Kind of summed up that day.
My favorite Streetmosphere character is Francis Floot. His character is so well developed and he’s got a great sense of humor. The first time I met Francis was on Sunset Boulevard. I had sat down on a bench in front of the Villains in Vogue store to take a rest for a while in the afternoon. About 10 minutes later Francis came out and conducted his act across the “street” from me. Eventually he made his way over to my side of the street and sat down next to me and started talking to me and asking questions. One of his “bits” revolves around his mother and his ancient looking cell phone that has a rotary dial for a keypad and he was on the phone with his mother and his mother had questions about me. One of her questions was what I do for a living and Francis asked me and I told him that I’m a webmaster. Francis nodded, paused and told his mother on the phone, “Mama, he’s Spider Man!”
Another Francis Floot story of mine (and there are many, but I can save those for another column) was the last time I saw Francis. He recognizes me now and since I’ve seen Francis as often as I have, I know his character has a girlfriend who is another Streetmosphere character named Paige Turner. Meanwhile Paige was nowhere to be seen and Francis had a framed picture of a Hollywood starlet that he was waving around in an attempt to find a guest who would set him up with her. Well I asked Francis where Paige was and Francis said she “wasn’t in town”. Then I asked Francis why he was love-struck with this starlet and trying to find her when he has a girlfriend. Francis came a little closer to me and said, “Well Matt, this is what we in Hollywood call cheating.”
I’ll leave you with one last story of me being a dumb American. Generally speaking, I try to help park guests who look lost or confused. One evening I was waiting for Fantasmic! to start and Disney made an announcement that the show would be delayed for about 10 or 15 minutes due to a problem. The family ahead of me clearly did not speak English and didn’t know what the announcement was about. I thought I had heard enough of what they were saying to believe they were speaking Spanish and they turned around and had that confused look on their face, looking around for some help. Let me say that I had taken French in my years of schooling but thought I knew enough Spanish to explain that there would be a few more minutes wait. So I started saying some probably really bad Spanish along the lines of “Uno minuto….mas problemo”. As I tried to explain, the mother shook her head and laughed, trying to end the pain of me destroying a language and said back to me, “We Portuguese!”. That was the last time I tried to help someone out who didn’t speak English.