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Looking back at ABC Super Soap Weekends at Disney-MGM Studios theme park

Looking back at ABC Super Soap Weekends at Disney-MGM Studios theme park

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Am I the only one out there who misses ABC Super Soap Weekend?

No. I can't be. I remember the people who used to literally camp out in front of the entrance of Disney-MGM Studios theme park.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

So that they could be the first in line to meet their favorite ABC soap stars. Veteran performers like Susan Lucci from "All My Children" ...

Photo by Nancy Stadler

... or new young breakout stars like Bradford Anderson from "General Hospital."

Photo by Nancy Stadler

Mind you, I miss the old version of this weekend-long event. Back when Linda Dano used to host the "Super Soap Talk Show" in the old Superstar Television Theater.

(L to R) Linda Dano and Cameron Mathison
Photo by Nancy Stadler

Linda was a soap opera veteran herself so she had this amazing ability to put performers at ease. She'd get them to share the sorts of behind-the-scenes stories that you'd never expect to hear at a family-friendly Disney sponsored event.

(L to R) Rebecca Budig, Aidan Turner, Alicia Minshew and Linda Dano
Photo by Nancy Stadler

Dano could even persuade soap hunks like Tyler Christopher from "General Hospital" to come sit right at the edge of the stage during her "Super Soap Talk Show" so they could get up close and personal with members of the audience.

Tyler Christopher & Linda Dano. Photo by Nancy Stadler

But once ABC Daytime opted to replace Linda with Bob Guiney from "The Bachelor" ... To be honest, a lot of the spontaneity went out of those Super Soap Talk Show sessions. Bob was always enthusiastic and personable, he just stuck a lot closer to the script than Linda did.

(L to R) Greg Vaughan, Julie Marie Berman, Tyler Christoper and
Bob Guiney. Photo by Nancy Stadler

Oh, sure. They tried to up Super Soap Weekend 's fun quotient by creating shows like "Triple Play." WDW visitors got to play daytime television trivia and drawing games with their favorite ABC Daytime stars.

John-Paul Lavoisier from "One Life to Live" (center, in his signature plaid pajama bottoms)
hosts the Colgate Total Triple Play game. Photo by Nancy Stadler

But once they began doing cross-promotional things like having Sherri Shepherd  of  "The View" serve as the co-host of this event ...

Cameron Mathison and Sherri Shepherd. Photo by Nancy Stadler

... or having Susan Lucci attempt to capitalize on her "Dancing with the Stars" appearance by performing onstage with her partner Tony Dovolani.

Susan Lucci and Tony Dovolani. Photo by Jim Hill

... this weekend-long event seemed to be less & less about celebrating the ABC Soaps and more & more about serving the needs of ABC's corporate parent, The Walt Disney Company.

Which is a shame. Because during the early, early years of Super Soap Weekend, when the crowds were a lot smaller, you could get more intimate contact with the stars. Whether it was a kiss-on-the-cheek from Michael E. Knight of "All My Children" ...

Michael E. Knight kisses a fan at the 2003 Super Soap Weekend
Photo by Nancy Stadler

... or a heartfelt hug from Bradford Anderson of "General Hospital."

Photo by Angela Ragno

And what about those great Street Jams that they used to close out each night of the event with? Where performers like Wally Kurth from "General Hospital"  (remember those leather pants?) ...

Photo by Nancy Stadler

... Kassie DePaiva & Kristen Alderson from "One Life to Live" ...

(L to R) Kassie DePaiva & Kristen Alderson
Photo by Nancy Stadler

... and Bobbie Eakes from "All My Children" ...

Bobbie Eakes (in the center in orange, pink & yellow) wowed the crowd in a Super Soap
Weekend production number. Photo by Nancy Stadler

... would stride onto that huge temporary stage that Disney erected in front of the Sorcerers Hat and the Chinese Theater ...

Photo by Nancy Stadler

... and just sing their hearts out. That's part of what made Super Soap Weekend so special for soap fans. Not just getting the chance to see their favorite soap stars (like Eden Riegel  ....

Photo by Nancy Stadler

... and Catherine Hickland & Michael E. Knight) ...

Photo by Nancy Stadler

... up-close. But - rather - watching them stretch & grow as performers by doing  things you'd never see their soap opera characters do.

But then - in 2008 - ABC Daytime decided to pull the plug on Super Soap Weekend. They opted instead to launch a brand-new event, the Soap Nation Tour. Which was supposed to have taken soap stars around the country to venues other than the Disney theme parks with the hope that they would both reach more soap fans and expose "All My Children," "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital" to a brand-new audience.

Well, that was two years ago. And nowadays, if you want to see some ABC soap stars up-close ... Well, you have to go to something like a "Port Chuck" concert (Which features a musical performance by Daytime hunks Bradford Anderson, Brandon Barash, Steve Burton and Scott Reeves) ...

Copyright Port Chuck. All rights reserved

... or that General Hospital Fall Getaway Weekend event (which is being held at the Courtyard Lake Buena Vista November 13th & 14th).

Mind you, there have been rumors that ABC Super Soap Weekend may return as a West Coast-based event once the re-theming of Disney California Adventure theme park is completed in 2012. Which would be interesting, given that the last time this event was held in Southern California was June of 2003.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

But me? Given that The Walt Disney Company is repurposing its SoapNet basic cable channel in 2012 to launch Disney Junior ... I have to wonder what the future holds for the ABC soaps. Whether there will even be an "All My Children," "One Life to Live" or "General Hospital" to celebrate two years from now.

But that's all in the future. And - for today, anyway - JHM is in the business of looking back. Remembering when November used to a whole lot more fun. When you could fly down to Orlando and get up close and personal with your favorite ABC daytime performers at Super Soap Weekend.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

But what about you?  You gotta miss Super Soap Weekend too. Do you have any stories about your favorite encounter with an ABC Daytime star that you'd like to share? Do tell!

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  • I loved SSW and am still flabbergasted as to why they stopped it! I loved Linda and really loved Bobs Talk Shows! Those were some of my favorite memories... and I didn't think it missed a beat! bring it back!

  • Those of us who work/have worked at Disney-MGM Studios during the event have mixed feelings about it. Some of us miss the stories and crazed fans who would call their soap stars by name and demand to know where they were at in a given moment (this became so common that they would give us guides with the soap character's name first instead of the star's name first), and some of us do not.  The stories of insane fans and crazy moments are still swapped in our breakrooms by those who were there, and I think there is still a certain nostalgia about it.

  • I wish they'd bring it back, since I never got to go!  

    I agree with you, Nancy, the future doesn't look bright for our shows.  My mother--who's been watching AMC for 35+ years--has Alzheimer's and watching her show is one of her joys in life.  It will be a sad day for our family if AMC disappears while she's still connected with it.

    I remember the old days with the big production budgets for the shows and dining at the Soap Opera Bistro in DCA.  Sad those times aren't coming back again for us soap lovers, but at least we've made some really good memories over the years.

  • Nancy, you nailed it on the head! I attended three Super Soap events and my first was much much different from the last two, and it was because of all the changes that ABC made to appease Disney (or maybe just to appease the main company).

    The first year I went was 1998 and it was actually at the end of a school trip to Disney. I was 14 and totally obsessed with Cameron Mathison and I was super excited that I was going to be at the Studios during Day 1 of SSW. Because I was there with friends, I didn't take in any of the shows, but I did get to see several of the stars at the autograph sessions. And Port Charles was still on the air, so not only did I get to see my Cameron and the adorable Michael E Knight, but I also got to see Julie Pinson, Jay Pickett and Michael Dietz! Every inch of the park was crowded with people, because there wasn't Fastpass yet, so I felt really lucky that I even got to see the stars I did, because the lines for each autograph session were just crazy long. But you know what? It felt pure and real and that everyone was there for the same goal, to see the stars, even in just a parting glance. There wasn't any tension or anger between guests because everyone knew everyone had the same chance of seeing the stars.

    That feeling wasn't there the next two times I went to SSW and I think that had to do with Fastpass. Sorry to say, but the system felt flawed each time we went. Here's why: Both years the Disney cast members cut the line, forcing many of the soap fans to stand in line with the regular park guests. The problem with that was, that it became a free for all once the gates opened to get to your designated Fastpass area AND once you got to your area, you found that the guests who were allowed in early, had gone through and gotten at least one pass already and were going around a second time.

    In addition, I agree that personnel changes to SSW did not help the fun, soap feel to the weekend. In the first years of SSW, the actors did it all. Linda Dano did Soap Talk, while the awesome Walt Willey did Who Wants to be a Millionaire and other, more  interactive events with the fans. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Cameron and JP Lavoisier was hilarious hosting Triple Play, but I have no idea why they brought in Bob Guiney to host Soap Talk, a buffoon of a man who only knew about soaps because he was married to Rebecca Budig. When they replaced Walt with Bob, I think the entire weekend lost a lot of credibility.

    And the Street Jam, which started out ONLY featuring the actors, turned into an event that was more about Disney synergy. Example: High School Musical salutes the soaps. What soap fan knows or even cares about High School Musical? I would have rather had David Canary, Eden Riegel or Jacob Young perform instead.

    Finally, getting back to 1998 versus the later years, it seems like, when the event first started, it focused more on the autograph sessions and less on the shows. And I thought that made sense. Why did we wait in line at 3 in the morning? To actually meet the stars. For me, the shows and motorcades were secondary. But, when I came back in 2006, there were so many events for the stars to be at, that the autograph sessions got impacted. How? Well, the Disney cast members had to hold the sessions to a strict hour, when in the past, some stars could stay and sign for close to 3. And it actually got worse from 2006 to 2007. In '06, if the stars knew they could stay and there were still fans to meet, then they would (as politely as they could) ask their cast member to wait and would keep signing for an extra half hour. But in '07, the cast members cracked down and, even though the actors knew they had time, and the fans knew they had time, the cast members kept each session to the minimum time, preventing fans from meeting their favorite stars.

    Still, I miss SSW and I hope that, wherever it returns to (WDW or California Adventures), it comes back with the same fun of the first few years and that, if they keep the Fastpass system, they give all the soap fans a chance to get them, not just those who spend the night.

    And that Walt Willey is a part of it ;)

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