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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios Closed - What Will Replace It?

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The Entrance to the Now Closed Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios -courtesy darthmaz314.com
More and more of the Walt Disney World attraction rumors that ricochet around the internet are becoming a reality. After much speculation about the permanent closure of the Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios,  Disney made it official with an announcement earlier this month. The last day of operation for the Backlot Tour was Saturday, September 27. 

The Studio Backlot Tour was an original attraction that dated back to the 1989 opening of then-named Disney-MGM Studios. At that time, the tour was one of the marquee attractions of the Studios and it was not commonplace to expect long wait times, particularly on peak summer days. The original incarnation of the tour featured a tram trip down "Residential Street," a row of false front house facades that were made famous from movies, commercials and television shows like "The Golden Girls" and "Empty Nest." Follow the link for a few glimpses of Residential Street courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog. Sadly, the Residential Street portion of the Backlot Tour tram ride was eliminated to make room for the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show which opened in 2005. The popularity of the Backlot Tour continued to wane over the years, particularly after it was dissected to make room for Lights, Motors, Action! 

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Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Disney's Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com

Another component of the tram tour was the trip through "The Boneyard," a collection of large scale props featured in various Disney films. Here you could see some classic props from popular films, including the bone cages from "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the hijacked plane from "Con Air," the steamroller used to flatten Judge Doom in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," a Skiff from "Return of the Jedi," one of the many incarnations of "Herbie the Love Bug," and "The Mouse," one of Walt Disney's private planes, used by Walt and other Disney executives for three decades.

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Bonecages from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest from The Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios -courtesy darthmaz314.com

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The Con Air Plane from The Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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The Steamroller the Flattened Judge Doom from The Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Herbie the Love Bug from The Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios Courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Return of the Jedi Skiff from The Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com
    

One of the Backlot Tour's highlights was the tram's trip through "Catastrophe Canyon." As your tram wound its way through the backstage area of Lights, Motors, Action! (which is unavoidable, since this attraction was literally built around the Backlot Tour) it "inadvertently" wandered onto a "hot set" where there was a very dangerous special effect scene being filmed. This scene included a rickety bridge, an earthquake, some pesky falling live wires, an oil truck that caught ablaze faster than Katniss Everdeen on amphetamines, and a deluge tank effect that cascaded enough water down the canyon to extinguish the fire and introduce a fleeting moment of cool into an otherwise torrid central Florida summer day. Click the link to watch darthmaz314.com's Video Featurette spotlighting  Catastrophe Canyon.


Over the years, the Backlot Tour saw numerous changes, including the introduction of the behind the scenes look at the creation of special effects scenes from the Disney/Touchstone release Pearl Harbor in 2001. In later years, this element marked one of the highlights of the tour as it did offer a glimpse into the world of film making special effects. Integrating audience participation also helped to keep the crowds coming back, since you never knew if you would be selected to become "a part of the action." More recently, Disney's negligence in updating this portion of the tour with a more current film definitely contributed to its decline. With Pearl Harbor on the long side of a decade ago, integrating a more recent release into the tour may have been called for. These days, if you want to use an older film in an attraction, it had better be a classic that transcends time. While I am a fan of Michael Bay's WWII epic, a classic it is not.   

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Production Offices Once Seen on the Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com

Another contributing factor to the Backlot Tour's decline was the cessation of production at the Studios for the Disney brand. While there was never really production work being done for any blockbusters at the Studios that would have made a guest think they could catch a glimpse of a major television or film star, at least when there was some production work taking place, it gave the sense that as a guest, you were somewhat in the thick of things while on the tour. The tour used to allow guests to walk through a prop warehouse section and the tram portion at one time passed through several working areas of the park, including the costume department. As these components were excised from the tour over the years, so were the throngs of guests waiting in line for the attraction. 

In recent years, the final stop on the tour was a walk through exhibit sponsored by the AFI (American Film Institute) spotlighting villains in film. The exhibit, entitled "Villains: Movie Characters You Love to Hate," featured some nice costume and prop photo ops focusing on villains listed on the AFI 50 Greatest Villains in Film. Below is a sampling of some of the costumes that were at one time on display.

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Villains: Movie Characters You Love to Hate Exhibit on Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Darth Vader fromVillains: Movie Characters You Love to Hate Exhibit on Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts fromVillains: Movie Characters You Love to Hate Exhibit on Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Alien from Villains: Movie Characters You Love to Hate Exhibit on Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com
Although many had grown weary of the Studio Backlot Tour and it was true that it had become a shell of its former self, I personally will miss the attraction. Not only was it an original Disney/MGM Studios attraction, but it was reminiscent of what the park once was and will probably never be again...a theme park that focused on the process of making movies. And while I will certainly welcome the attractions that take its place, there will always be a place in my heart for the Studio Backlot Tour. 

So what's next for the location now occupied by the Backlot Tour? Read our next post for darthmaz314's predictions.

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Say Goodbye to Hollywood...At Least to Part of It.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Disney Snapshot of the Day - Crush Lives! Giant Sea Turtle from The Living Seas With Nemo and Friends at Epcot

Crush lives! Those familiar with the Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo will remember the surfer dude sea turtle Crush who steals the film with his funny and sentimental wit and wisdom. Well, if you ever wonder what happened to the "hero on a half shell" with no martial arts training, you can find him in Epcot's The Living Seas With Nemo and Friends. Amidst the millions of gallons of water and aquatic wildlife in the vast aquarium tanks, one can find the giant sea turtle below, the star of today's Disney Snapshot of the Day. This big guy appeared to be relaxing big time, as he snoozed (at least I hope he was snoozing) by one of the observation windows, drawing big crowds of all ages. With the Nemo sequel Finding Dory in the works, somebody better wake this guy up if he plans to make a return to the big screen.

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Crush Lives! Giant Sea Turtle from The Living Seas With Nemo and Friends at Epcot - courtesy darthmaz314
    


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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Disney Snapshot of the Day - The Haunted Mansion's Ballroom Dancing Spirits as Seen in Mickey's Boo To You Halloween Parade

One of the highlights of Mickey's No So Scary Halloween Party, currently taking place on selected nights from  September 1st through October 31st at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, is Mickey's Boo To You! Halloween Parade. The Halloween parade, which can only be seen by those who purchase the separate party admission ticket, takes place twice nightly, normally at 8:15pm and 10:30pm. The Boo To You parade is kicked-off by an eerie gallop down the parade route by none other than the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hallow lore. Filled with Disney characters, costumed performers, and Halloween inspired floats decked out as only Disney can, the parade has a tinge of fiendish creepiness, but is suitable for all ages. 

Fans of Disney's Haunted Mansion will love the portion of the parade dedicated to the classic attraction, which celebrated its 45th anniversary at Disneyland earlier this summer. Today's Disney Snapshot of the Day features one element of the Mansion section of the parade...the mansion's ballroom dancing spirits. Anyone who has experienced the Haunted Mansion will surely remember the scene where the Doom Buggy vehicle you are seated in passes above a scene depicting spirits dining at a banquet table and dancing in eerie translucent silhouetted pairs. The Boo To You parade brings those ballroom dancing spirits to life as they saunter down the parade route, stopping to give one another a whirl in what can only be described as a rare night outside of the Mansion walls. "Foolish mortal" judges Len, Bruno, and Carrie Ann better give these ballroom dancers a 10...or else.

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The Haunted Mansion's Ballroom Dancing Spirits as Seen in Mickey's Boo To You Halloween Parade - courtesy darthmaz314.com


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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Confirmed: Frozen Attraction to Replace Maelstrom, Which Closes on October 5th

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Yesterday darthmaz314 reported about continued speculation and rumor regarding the imminent closure of the Norway pavilion's Maelstrom ride to make way for a Frozen themed attraction at Epcot. Hours later, on the official Disney Parks Blog, Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, confirmed that Maelstrom is closing and will be replaced by a Frozen attraction slated to open in 2016. Maelstrom's last day of operation will be October 5. 

Staggs hearkened back to the words of Walt Disney himself, who when speaking about Disneyland once commented that the park would never be truly finished as long as there was imagination left in the world. Walt's words prove prophetic once again as the imagination that inspired Frozen continues to infiltrate all aspects of the Disney brand. 


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Frozen's initial introduction to the parks came with Elsa and Anna character greetings and the guest response was voracious and insatiable. With Stand-by wait times at Walt Disney World during the peak summer days reaching four-plus hours, it was clear that more Frozen was desperately needed in the Disney Parks. Disney responded with the Frozen Summer Fun Live campaign at Hollywood Studios, which darthmaz314 will cover in upcoming posts. Guest response was again overwhelming, causing Disney to extend the "Frozen Fun" beyond "Summer" and through the month of September. 

In his blog post yesterday, Tom Staggs also announced the indefinite extension of certain elements of Frozen Summer Fun Live. Also announced was the introduction of Elsa, Anna, and the Frozen gang into the parade at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. In addition, starting in early November, guests of the Magic Kingdom will be able to witness the Queen of Arendelle "letting it go" to transform Cinderella castle into an icy palace each night. 


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Frozen Summer Fun Live Stage Disney's Hollywood Studios

Maelstrom was a great Epcot attraction for over a quarter century and will be sorely missed. Like other Disney attractions that have been retired, after October 5th, it will have to live on in our memories and in any photos or video that we may have taken while it was in operation. Time to dust off those photo albums and videotapes!
  
Click the link below to read the full Disney Parks Blog post. 

http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2014/09/frozen-attraction-coming-to-epcot/    



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Friday, September 12, 2014

Will Maelstrom Be Replaced By a Frozen Attraction? - Update

Back in April, darthmaz314.com reported that rumors were circulating about the possible re-imagining of the Maelstrom ride in Epcot's Norway's pavilion into a Frozen-themed attraction (click to read Will Disney Turn Maelstrom Into a Frozen-Themed Attraction? ) Although Disney was able to bring Frozen into the parks with this summer's Frozen Summer Fun at Disney's Hollywood Studios, capitalizing on the blockbuster movie in the parks with a permanent attraction is something Disney absolutely must do.

Will the Maelstrom Soon Be Sucked Into the Frozen Vortex?
Rumors continue to swirl about which further support the departure of Maelstrom to make way for a Frozen attraction. Specifically, Disney internet chat boards have been reporting that cast members at the Norway pavilion have been given notice that they will soon be relocated as the pavilion is nearing a shutdown. Could it be that there is merely a major refurbishment pending for Maelstrom and not a Frozen revamp? While that is possible since Maelstrom is over a quarter century old and rehabs are needed for many Future World and World Showcase Attractions, it more likely that Disney is about to say "let it go" to Maelstrom, to make way for the kingdom of Arendelle. 

So if you are a Maelstrom fan you may want to put the attraction on your list of "must dos" if you plan to be at Epcot in the very near future. To borrow a line from the attraction, you may not have been "the first to pass this way," but you may soon be the last.

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Will "Frozen Fractals" Soon Be "All Around" Norway?


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Disney Snapshot of the Day - The Haunted Mansion at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Summer is over and Walt Disney World now moves into its Halloween holiday season. darthmaz314 recently returned from a Disney trip and attended Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party for the first time (in forever). With plenty of content to share, darthmaz314 kicks off the Disney World Halloween coverage with today's Disney Snapshot of the Day featuring the Haunted Mansion at night as it appears during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, bathed in eerie lighting and beckoning to all the "foolish mortals" wandering by.

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Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion at the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Disney Snapshot of the Day - Mickey Mouse's House in Toontown Fair

Today the Disney Snapshot of the Day remembers a Walt Disney World attraction that is no more. Before the New Fantasyland expansion, an entire section of Magic Kingdom was devoted to Mickey's Toontown Fair. Within this section of the park were the Donald's Boat water attraction, a family-friendly coaster known as The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farms, character meet and greet locations, shopping, and the most unique part of the land...Mickey and Minnie's houses. These walk-through attractions were full scale recreations of Mickey and Minnie's fictional homes, both of which were crammed full of intricate whimsical details. Of course Mickey and Minnie were never "home," yet strangely they left their doors wide open for guests to visit...that is, until Imagineers leveled the houses to make room for New Fantasyland attractions. It is hard to imagine a billionaire mouse and his girlfriend, both homeless in Orlando. Someone should organize a telethon. 

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The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney With Care at Mickey's House


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