Ten questions for Disney management

There's a lot of buzz lately for questions for President Obama in a address to the nation that many want answered, but as I was contempalting my own questions, my mind began to wander and I found myself coming up with better questions about Walt Disney World than those regarding our national interests (further proof I'm a Disney geek) so rather than come up with a list of intriguing questions that I'd like answers to for our commander-in-chief, I came up with ten questions I'd love to ask Disney management and get some answers for, once and for all.

Like many of the questions for President Obama will likely deal with the timely topic of the economy, I too would want to start out with a timely question for Disney management and bring up Fantasmic!. If you've read this column at all in the past six months or so, you've likely heard my complaints about Fantasmic! being cut so the first question I'd ask Disney management is when can we expect to see Fantasmic! restored to a show per day, every day? There is no doubt that the cut has negatively impacted everyone, from the Cast Members who have lost out on performances to the park guest who has a much more difficult job of trying to sneak the show into their vacation. My personal opinion is that the cut was made for financial reasons but I cannot imagine that with the crowds in the parks these days, that not having Fantasmic! is saving them money when you consider the additional spending guests do when they are in the park.

My second question would shift over to American Idol Experience and while I do generally enjoy the current show, I'd have to ask about it's future. You see, every attraction at Walt Disney World based on a television show eventually is removed or at the very least changed out. I don't think it's out of line to inquire into the future of this attraction and so my question would be what kind of timeline does Disney have for the lifespan of the American Idol Experience? I don't expect a firm answer of how many days are left, but are we looking at 5 years? 10 years? Less? More? Again, given the history of television based attractions in the theme parks, it's not an absurd question.

Next up, I'd have to give into my curiousity and look to the future. As of the writing of this article, there isn't a new attraction slated for the Studios and while I expect to get the typical answer of "it's a secret", I'd have to ask anyway what's next for Hollywood Studios? If specifics aren't an option, how about an area of the park targeted for improvement? Walt Disney once said that Disneyland will always be changing and the same definitely holds true for Hollywood Studios.

A pet peeve of mine has always been the lack of information until the very last minute from Disney so I'd be inclined to ask about Star Wars Weekends, specifically, why basic planning information such as a celebrity list and an event list always takes a long time to get? Beyond just wanting to know, it's to the advantage of Disney to release this information much more in advance than they currently do because it would result in a higher rate of guest satisfaction (since they'd actually have the information to plan ahead of time) and it'd be a great marketing tool for Disney since with all the information out there, it would draw more guests to the event rather than merely the promise of the event. Simply put, having more information available benefits everyone invovled.

My questions to this point have been what I'd consider "hard hitting" questions, but my next question would be out of intrigue rather than some annoyance or personal vendetta on my part. I would love to know what Disney's opinion of FASTPASS at Toy Story Midway Mania is. Clearly, the attraction is a smash hit with guests, but the crowds for it are unbelievably long (let's face it, it makes the line for Soarin' look manageable) and my opinion would be to turn off FASTPASS for a while and see how the lines do. I really believe that without FASTPASS, the average standby wait for Toy Story Midway Mania would be around 45 minutes compared to the average standby wait these days of 70-120 minutes with FASTPASS enabled.

I'm sure many agree that they prefer Hollywood Boulevard without the Sorcerer's Hat than with it, especially those who remember how it used to look. Look, I understand that someone somewhere decided that there needed to be a park icon better than the Earful Tower, but I'd love to ask Disney what the future of the Sorcerer's Hat is Hollywood Studios? The wand at Epcot has been removed and I think it's time for the Sorcerer's Hat. Now, if Disney responds that it isn't going anywhere, then my next question would be is the Sorcerer's Hat where it is because of a licensing issue with the Chinese Theater? The basic rumor is that while the Sorcerer's Hat is also the park icon, it's main purpose of being where it is (blocking the Great Movie Ride if you're looking down Hollywood Boulevard" is because of a licensing issue and Disney cannot use the Great Movie Ride facade in their marketing materials.

Just a few questions left and I'd like to bring up the subject of FASTPASS once again. It's clear to me that FASTPASS isn't being used at all any more at Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. The machines are still there, but each day they are covered up and I've heard a number of explanations by Cast Members as to why it isn't being used. The bottom line is FASTPASS at these shows is not being used so I'd like to ask Disney what the status is with FASTPASS at these attractions? Considering FASTPASS just isn't being used, they need to just remove them, rather than list them as FASTPASS attractions even though no guest can actually get a FASTPASS. It simply confuses guests, especially those who plan their day and want to grab a FASTPASS for their touring plan.

If I could, I'd like to have the Cast Member I'd be asking these questions to take a step out of their role for a moment and I'd like to ask them in their own personal opinion, what would be the next area of improvement at Hollywood Studios? We're all humans and we all formulate our own opinions on, well, everything so while I'd expect the Cast Member to have to curtail to the requirements of the company such as budgets, surveys, etc, I'd love to know his or her own personal view of what they would do if they had unlimited resources.

My last question would be a quick rapid fire series of questions about rumored projects. I don't need detailed schematics or concept art (although I'd gladly take it!), I just want some sort of indication of if there's any truth to any of these rumors. Namely, I'd ask about a reivision to Star Tours, a Monsters Inc ride and something replacing the Backlot Tour. Short, sweet and to the point and all I'm looking for is a "yay" or "nay" vote on the realistic chance that any of those projects would see the light of day in the next 5 years.

Well, that's my ten questions for Disney management as it relates to Hollywood Studios. I've been watching Disney for long enough to know I'd never get any answers that would remotely satisfy me from Disney, after all, they are masters at protecting their secrets and divulging nothing until they are absolutely ready to, but I can't help but want answers for these questions. Some are in my opinion fair questions, while others are just things that I'd love to know. Maybe one day we'll be able to look back at all of this and know the answers finally but for now, these are the hard hitting questions I'd love to get answers for but I guess in the meantime I'll have to settle for Obama's answers to questions about the economy, national security, life, the universe and everything.

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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, March 11, 2009 by