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Studios Snubbed Again

This past Monday, Princess Tiana debuted at the Magic Kingdom as part of the Showboat Jubilee show and certainly I know many people are eagerly looking forward to the new "Princess and the Frog" film to debut later this year.  It's a ground breaking film for Disney, as Tiana will be the first African American princess and the story seems quite interesting and I know I can't wait to see it.  While I'm excited for the film, I can't help but notice that Hollywood Studios was kicked the curb like a high school girl who is dumped for the prom by a guy who finds out there is a more attractive girl that wants to go with him.  What I mean is, the new "Princess and the Frog" film is being heavily promoted at the Magic Kingdom instead of the place where new Disney films get promoted, Hollywood Studios.

Looking back over the last few years, Hollywood Studios has been home to a number of new Disney films promotions as they first come out.  "Chicken Little", "Up", "The Incredibles", "Bolt", "Wall-E" and others all debuted their meet-n-greet character at Hollywood Studios first before either being retired as regular meet-n-greet characters or moved onto another part of Walt Disney World.  Even Giselle, the princess from "Enchanted" appeared in the now-gone Stars and Motor Cars parade.  So why has Princess Tiana debuted in Liberty Square this time?

My take on the change is Disney obviously wants to promote the new film as much as humanly possible and like that guy in high school, he wants to take the popular girl to the dance even though he had already committed to the less popular girl long before.  This is typical of Disney and I believe it takes away from the other parks.  In the world of Disney Marketing department, Walt Disney World is the Magic Kingdom.  They seem to think that the average person doesn't understand there are 3 other parks and can't be bothered to learn about it.  Whenever you see marketing materials promoting Disney World, inevitably the Magic Kingdom is the focus, which of course explains the many park guests who refer to the Magic Kingdom as "Disney World". Look no further than this past Sunday's episode of Extreme Makover: Home Edition where a family went to "Disney World" for their vacation.  The segments shown of them watching the video messages took place in front of the Sorcerer's Hat and yet the opening shots of the montage show an aerial overview of the Magic Kingdom and rides on Big Thunder Mountain.  In fact, the only reference to the Studios is a quick shot of the Hollywood Studios archway, with no mention at all that they are in Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.  It's just Disney World.

The problem with this strategy is it takes away the "value" of Hollywood Studios because it sends the message "if something is really important, it comes to the Magic Kingdom and all the rest can go to the other parks".  Again, I cannot think of a film that has come out in the past few years that hasn't had it's theme park counterpart debut at the Studios.  The only exception I can think of is the Pirates of the Caribbean films, but those films already had an obvious theme park connection (regardless, the theme park tie-in didn't occur until after the film was a tremendous success).  Just like Fantasmic! being cut and not Wishes, it sends the message that Hollywood Studios is less important than the Magic Kingdom.  And yet, the price of admission to the Studios is the same price as the Magic Kingdom.  

I will be the first to admit that I'm very biased when it comes to Hollywood Studios but I also know the history of film promotions as it relates to the parks and when I heard Tiana was going to debut at the Magic Kingdom, it really surprised me considering the past practices.  Moreover, I've felt that Disney has debuted it's meet-n-greet characters at the Studios first as an easy promotion and also it's low-risk.  If the film bombs (like Atlantis did), they simply retire the characters and replace them with the next film's stars.  With Tiana, they have a huge dedicated show now on the Liberty Belle that isn't so easy to "hose down and change out", so to speak. Disney is clearly going all in with Tiana but why can't there be room for Tiana to be at both parks?

The obvious location at the Studios for Tiana would be at the meet-n-greet location at the end of the Magic of Disney Animation where the characters from "Up" are currently.  A new set would be needed and presto-changeo, you have a new area for guests to meet Tiana and promote the film.  In fact, they have artwork from "The Princess and the Frog" on display following the Magic of Disney Animation tour and even storyboards and decorations from the film in the artist area. It would make a lot of sense to then have Tiana available for meet-n-greet, or even some of the other characters. 

Alas, Disney seems content with keeping Tiana exclusively at the Magic Kingdom and if Tiana wants to be all about being on the big stage, there's not much we can do about it.  It's another unfortunate instance of Disney glossing over the Studios (and Epcot or Animal Kingdom for that matter) and promoting the park that probably needs the least amount of promotion.

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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, October 28, 2009 by