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Where was the magic?

 I attended the first day of Disney's Hollywood Studios on Monday, mostly enabled because I had just moved to the Orlando area on the previous Friday and so part of living "the dream" is being able to go to the parks whenever I feel like it (although my move could be another story in itself). With an eager grin I came to the Studios, filled with enthusiasm about the name change because the name change meant the Studios wouldn't be hindered anymore by it's now faux-pas facade of real animation; this was all about being a theme park. I wish I could say day one started like I wanted it to.

There were rumors floating of something happening on the first day of the Hollywood Studios. Mostly word of a special fireworks display to commemorate the change and some other rumors of a re-dedication ceremony. However, none of that transpired on the first day. It was business as usual for the Studios (regardless of name) with no real fanfare for the name change. To this, I wondered, "where's the magic?". By that, I mean where is that special essence that make Disney parks totally better than any other theme park out there? Where was that moment that left you speechless, your mouth open and staring at what was transpiring in front of you like an 8 year old again? Not at the Studios.

I really feel like Disney missed an opportunity on day one of Disney's Hollywood Studios. A name change isn't something to take lightly because this is a rebranding of the product. This is a fantastic opportunity to do what Disney does best: shamelessly plug its product through a publicity blitz. It's not beneath Disney to feature its theme parks in the media with different events (read Charlie Ridgeway's amazing book for more on that) and the name change went over with barely a mention. The local news picked up on it and casually mentioned it before returning to the usual stories about death, mayhem and Britney Spears. Where was Mickey to help re-dedicate the park to it's new purpose?

I know Disney has been fiddling with what to celebrate and what not to celebrate lately. For those unaware, Epcot's 25th Anniversary was to be passed over with no ceremony until a public outcry, organized online, convinced Disney to hold a ceremony. I don't think Disney needs to celebrate every miniscule milestone out there, but the renaming of a park is kind of a big deal. The only thing bigger would be opening a completely new park. And in a way, that's what the renaming is aimed at; to transform the park. Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton said of the name change, "The new name reflects how the park has grown from representing the golden age of movies to a celebration of the new entertainment that today's Hollywood has to offer—in music, television, movies and theater." That is to say, the Studios is no longer what it started out as. For many reasons, it's become a different park..a new park and it needed a new name.

This milestone went uncelebrated (beyond some Cast Members having a special cake backstage) and I feel like this was an opportunity for them to do something special as a reward for the guests as well as the Cast Members. Fireworks would have been nice (could have just redone the fireworks from New Years Eve from the week before) or a small ceremony but nothing happened and for me, this special day felt a little less magical.


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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: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 by