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A special "What's in a name" edition of Why For

Jim Hill

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A special "What's in a name" edition of Why For

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First up, Michael R. writes in to ask:

I was wondering if there was any specific reason why there has not been a release of the "Disney-MGM Studios" version of (the "Imagineering Field Guide") series? They've released books for the other three parks and I understand now they're working on the CA parks. Is it because of the impending name changes at that park?

Thank you for your informative web site. I rely upon your daily postings for insight into the Disney company.

Dear Michael R.

To be honest, the folks over at Disney Editions opted not to release the "Imagineering Field Guide for Disney-MGM Studios" in 2008 for a number of reasons. For starters, a lot of Disneyland fans have been asking for an "Imagineering Field" that would cover their favorite theme park. And next year seemed as good a time as any to finally field that paperback.

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But then -- of course -- there was that whole "Is Disney-MGM really going to change its name? And -- if so -- what sort of impact would that decision then have on the Studios Field Guide?" question. Which is another reason that the people at Disney Publishing opted to push back publication of this particular "Imagineering Field Guide" for another year or so.

As to whether Disney-MGM would really be changing its name ... This question was officially answered yesterday when Meg Crofton, president of the Walt Disney World Resort, issued the following statement:

The Disney-MGM Studios has always been “dedicated to Hollywood, not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine.” As we continue to celebrate The Year of a Million Dreams, I am thrilled to share what’s ahead for 2008.

First, there will be new attractions and experiences for Guests of all ages to enjoy. This includes the interactive thrills of Toy Story Mania! and the incredible energy of the new Block Party Bash parade. We’ll also introduce new Disney Channel friends at Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage and add even more “Wildcat Fever” with the opening of Disney High School Musical 2: School’s Out! this fall.

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Second, effective January 2008, the Disney-MGM Studios will be renamed “Disney’s Hollywood Studios.” This change represents the park’s growth from the golden age of movies to the most exciting entertainment of today’s movies, television, music and theater. The name “Disney’s Hollywood Studios” more closely reflects the attractions and experiences offered today.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will continue to showcase classic Hollywood through its art deco style of the 30s and 40s, as well as contemporary Hollywood through its exciting attractions such as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith, Lights, Motors, Action!™ Extreme Stunt Show and the new Toy Story Mania!

I hope you are excited about these changes and encourage you to share this great news with your team. You might even say that “Hollywood” is now our middle name!

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Now, what's interesting about that "Disney's Hollywood Studios" name is that it's something of a compromise. To explain: The Walt Disney Company was contractually obligated to stop using the "MGM" name in association with its studio theme park by the end of 2007. And the Mouse's marketing team was all gung-ho about the idea of renaming WDW's third theme park "Disney-Pixar Studios" ... Until they got back the results of a certain survey.

It seems that those that Disney polled about possibly changing "Disney-MGM" 's name to "Disney-Pixar" were initially quite positive about this idea. However, there were certain guest assumptions that then came attached with this proposed name change.

As in: When people who were taking this phone survey were then asked which theme park they'd expect to find "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin," "Turtle Talk with Crush" and "Finding Nemo -- The Musical" in, they immediately answered "Disney-Pixar Studios."

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Which (of course) was going to be a bit of a problem. Given that the "Buzz Lightyear" attraction that they'd mentioned was located in WDW's Magic Kingdom, "Turtle Talk" was over at Epcot while that new "Nemo" musical was being presented in Animal Kingdom.

What this phone survey supposed showed WDW officials was that -- if they chose to remain WDW's studio theme park "Disney-Pixar" -- Disney World visitors would then expect to find all of that resort's Pixar-based attractions located within the walls of that one specific theme park. Which would make things rather difficult for the folks working at Guest Relations at the Studios. Given that they'd be ones who'd then have to explain to irate guests why the "Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor" show wasn't located inside of Disney-Pixar Studios, but -- rather -- over at the Magic Kingdom.

So -- in the end -- it was decided that the safer choice would be to rename WDW's third theme park "Disney's Hollywood Studios." However, recognizing the promotional value of the Pixar name, the Imagineers then opted to rename at least part of this theme park after this CG studio. Which is why -- in 2008 -- Mickey Avenue (i.e. Formerly where the soundstages that "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire -- Play It!" were located. Now this area will be play host to the studio theme park's "Toy Story Mania" attraction as well as the soon-to-be-announced stateside version of "Crush's Coaster") will officially become Pixar Place.

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Getting back to those "Imagineering Field Guides" now ... My understanding is that we'll see the Disneyland edition released in 2008, the Disney's Hollywood Studios edition published in 2009, and the DCA edition in 2010.

And speaking of Disney's California Adventure ... Next up, Lillian C. writes in to ask:

Hi Jim.

Now that Disney plans on spending some money to fix DCA, do you think that they'll rename the park to something else? Based on all the ideas bouncing around about the potential additions/changes, it seems like it will be less about celebrating California. Wouldn't it make sense to rename it? Or is that something Disney wouldn't do?


Lillian C.

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Dear Lillian C.

The Imagineers aren't really looking to change the name of Disney's California Adventure. In fact, the way I hear it, what WDI is actually thinking of adding a new word to the title of this particular theme park.

Ah, but what a difference that one word would make. What am I talking about? Well, how would you feel if they changed DCA's name to "Walt Disney's California Adventure" ?

The idea here is that all of DCA's "districts" (Remember? Back when this theme park originally opened up back in February of 2001, the Imagineers were quite specific about this matter. Disneyland had "lands." Whereas Disney's California Adventure -- because it was infinitely more adult & sophisticated than its boring, older sibling across the plaza -- had "districts") would eventually come to thematically represent various aspects of Walt's journey from being this poor boy in Marceline, Missouri to becoming a genuine Hollywood legend.

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So (following along this design scheme) DCA's "Sunshine Plaza" (i.e. The entrance area of that theme park) would be retooled to look like the Southern California that Walt encountered when he first stepped off the train back in 1923. As for the park's Hollywood Pictures backlot section, the time period for this DCA district would then be dialed back to the mid-1930s. When Walt was initially taking Tinsel Town by storm.

Mind you, one of the more interesting ideas that the Imagineers are reportedly toying with is completely ripping out the Golden Vine Winery restaurant. And in its place building an approximation of the Disney family's Holmby Hills estate. Inside the house itself would be "Walt's Place," a brand-new restaurant that would celebrate the man as well as his love of American comfort food. Meanwhile, out in the "backyard" of this estate would be a brand-new version of the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Which guests could then board and -- via an elaborate system of tressels -- take a quick scenic trip around the Grizzly Peak Recreation Area. Where they could then view rafters splashing along Grizzly River Run and hikers exploring the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail before heading back to the Holmby Hills estate.

Please keep in mind that this particular DCA retheming idea still has to make it past Disney's attorneys. Who aren't going to be all that enthusiastic about the combination of brain-dead tourists, miniature trains and live steam. Which is why WDI already allegedly has a fall-back position for this particular retheming project. In that the Imagineers will then agree to upscale the train that would be used for this new DCA attraction so that it would resemble the one used in Disneyland's old "Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland" attraction.

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Of course, by doing something like that ... Well, it takes away a lot of the fun for Disney enthusiasts. Robbing them of the chance to experience what it might have been like to ride on Walt's own miniature backyard railway. But on the other hand, an upscaled version of this train would then address all of the concerns that Disney's attorneys (Not to mention DCA's Ops staff. Which would really have their hands full dealing with the limited hourly ride capacity of this proposed attraction) would be sure to raise.

As for the Pacific Pier area ... This part of the park would then be rethemed to feature elements that would suggest all of the Southern California amusement parks that Walt visited with his daughters while he was doing research prior to the construction of the original Disneyland.

You getting the idea yet, Lillian? The Imagineers want to shift DCA from being a theme park that tells these very broad stories about Southern California to becoming a place that tells very specific stories. All of the adventures that one man had while he was living in California. In short ... Walt Disney's California Adventure.

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"But how does the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, A Bug's Land and/or Cars Land fit into that specific storyline?," you ask. Well ... The Imagineers haven't actually figured that part out yet. Which is why they're now trying to make the rethemed version of DCA loose enough so that it can then accommodate these storytelling anomalies. While -- at the same time -- keep the park specific enough that it then can support this "Walt Disney's California Adventure" storyline.

Now please keep in mind that this is the Walt Disney Company that we're talking about here. Consequently, over the coming years, plans will change. Projects will be announced and then never make it off the drawing boards. That's just the way of the world when you're dealing with WDI.

But that said ... You gotta admit that "Walt Disney's California Adventure" certainly sounds like it would be a much better theme park than plain-old DCA ... Don't you think?

Your thoughts?

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  • At least we now know why $1.2 billion won't be enough to fix DCA - first you gotta cough up phone survey fees. Have you ever gotten that call? "We'd just like to ask you a few questions..." Now imagine the type of folks that are still on the phone answering questions - these are the ones that are confused by a Disney - Pixar name. They must wonder why the Jungle Cruise isn't located in Animal Kingdom, or the Carousel of Progress isn't in EPCOT. Like most good surveys, this one was designed to elicit the answer they wanted before even asking the questions. "Here's the name we're thinking about, but don't you find it odd that not all the Pixar rides are in that one park?" "Yes, I do find that odd. In fact, I find it confusing. No wait, now I'm irate." Irate? I've seen tourists at WDW ask about a ride, and when they find out it's in a different park, they handle it without medication or further counseling. From what I've heard, the rides are listed in the various guidebooks. This was just another disgrunted Disney person getting irate at the Pixar name, and searching for statistics to back up their decision to oust Pixar off of the signboard.

    Wonder if the phone surveys ever found people were confused over the Year of a Million Dreams promotion, or confused why they pay full price for the Studios park that's still a half-day park, or confused why Pleasure Island was a bad place in Pinocchio but a good place in Orlando (yes, I've heard all the Pleasure Island backstory nonsense - but has the general public?). I'm sure a phone survey would tell you a movie about a gourmet rat won't be popular, or a Mary Poppins song is way too confusing for children, or a Volkswagon can't really drive on its own - it's all so confusing.

    Here's what confuses me. Why take arguably the worst Disney park and slap Walt's name on it? It should be Roy Disney's California Adventure. Roy never wanted to spend money - it fits the theme perfectly.

  • Honestly I never dug the idea to rename D-MGM to Disney-Pixar Studios for precisely what the surveys reflected....I would expect to find a bunch of Pixar attractions in that park.  Disney's Hollywood Studios isnt bad but, really, why does "Disney's" preceeded park names now days?  Will they be renaming the older parks at some point?  Disney's Magic Kingdom...Disney's Epcot....Disney's Downtown Disney.. do we need "Disney's" in front of Animal Kingdom?  Is there a  Sam's Animal Kingdom they don't want to get confused with?

    DHS eh? Disney Studios seems a cleaner name....but I guess Hollywood Studios it is...

    Walt Disney's California Adventure....wow could we get a longer name for a theme park..people will still call it California Adventure.....how about Walt Disney's California....drop the adventure...


  • Yes, I agree that naming an entire park Disney-Pixar Studios when not even all the rides and shops are Pixar-related (and especially since there are already other big Pixar attractions in the other parks) would be too confusing.  

    Imagine if they named it Walt Disney Animation Studios, then would everyone be confused because there are tons of other WDAS characters in all the other parks as well? Probably not, but remember that Pixar is a much more defined younger name.  I think WDI is making the best decision to name a section of the park after Pixar to help keep the name well-known as a selling point, but not to the point of confusion (for example, if somebody thinks that since Muppets 3-D is in Disney-Pixar Studios, Kermit must be a Pixar character because of the park's name).

  • I never liked the Pixar name, so I'm glad about that.

    The Walt Disney thing sounds like an interesting idea, but doesn't all that coherent for a theme park..

  • Regarding DCA, I think the idea of reconstructing the Disney estate is interesting. Funny enough, I posted about this on the Disneyland Yahoo Group I'm on, including the minature train. But as Jim related, it would have severe limitations with how many guests can ride it per hour. However this is one idea that I hope they do follow through on regardless of the trains limitations.

  • While it all sounds new and interesting. I really don’t think that the park needs so much change in order to turn it around.

    All DCA needs is a CARS Themed land with some MAJOR eticket attractions, an updated nighttime spectacular of some sort ... perhaps a new Electrical Parade.

    I really think that rather than turn the place into some kind of historical homage to Walt Disney... (Although I would greatly appreciate it) they would be better off making it a full blown PIXAR park. I mean ... rather than face the same problem they are having with the MGM studios rename.... they should go for broke in California and create a place almost entirely dedicated to PIXAR.  

    Change the top of the Grizzly Bear Mountain to look like one of the mountain peaks in cars and there you have it. Keep the wine section and make it Ratatouille. Turn California Screamin into a toy story ride and just build giant objects around it to make it feel like you are toy sized.

    So what if there are two attractions in Disneyland that are Pixar Related. MOVE Buzz lightyear over ... (how hard can moving a "dark ride" really be).... and just keep the Nemo ride in Disneyland.

    I just don’t think that an area dedicated to Walts history will stand the test of time with the average Disney "consumer" which is apparently the people they want to cater to the most.

  • Wow, renaming and retheming DCA to Walt Disney's California Adventure is ingenious! Not only would it really tie everything together, but what better place to have such a park than next to the original dream itself? Great idea!

  • WOw... finally an article about the future of DCA that has something interesting to say.

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios doesn't really roll of the tongue quite right.

    The Disney Studios...The Walt Disney Studios...

    Oh well, buy up all your Disney MGM trinkets while you still can. Ebay's a waitin'

  • Yeah, the pier amusement park could be all dirty and seedy and a place where adults can't ride with there kids, which would inspire you to go to Walt's park next door. ;)

    There could be an animatronic Walt dressed in an engineer costume working on his little train in his barn inviting you to take a ride on the larger Carolwood around his backyard.

  • Maybe "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" could be rethemed as the "Walt Disney Productions Gross Annual Revenues Tower of Terror!"

    Roy O Disney (played by Gary Sinese) could appear on the library monitor and briefly summarize the company's ups-and-downs as Walt kept driving profits into the company.   Then Snow White hit and the company made gobs of cabbage.   But then (LIGHTNING CRASH) came the 1940's!

    Guests exit into the boiler room, now dressed with giant headlines talking about WWII, Fantasia bombing at the box office, Bambi being delayed, etc.   All bad stuff.

    You then get into the elevator--NOW RETHEMED AS AN EXECUTIVE CONFERENCE ROOM!  The doors close.   The board room lurches up.

    The Roy O voice over says, "Walt, we've got problems"

    Suddenly, the doors open and we see a Pepper's Ghost image of Walt saying something like "Hey, let's build a whole new studio in Burbank!"

    (The board room plummets)

    Roy O voice over says, "Well, I guess we could take out another loan with Bank of America..."  The board room creeps back up.  The doors open again...Ghost Walt appears....

    "Hey, let's put a whole bunch of films into production!"

    (The board room plummets)

    Roy O voice over screams, "But none of these movies are making any money...except maybe Dumbo...but all these movies are hemorraging dollars!   And the international markets are all closed off with the war..."

    Roy O continues "...well, I guess maybe we could issue stock in the company.  And make training films for the military."

    The elevator, er, Board Room, door crawls up again, slower than ever.  The doors open.   Ghost Walt appears...

    "But I don't like making training films.  I want to build an amusement park!!!"

    The Roy O v/o screams in terror.  But, surprisingly, the board room zooms up higher than ever.  

    The doors open again...but this time guests see themselves.  Projected images show these guests standing in Disneyland, buying tickets, buying ice cream cones, buying those light up things with the twirly lights that they sell before fireworks shows.

    The Roy O v/o says, "Congratulations, Walt.  We're filthy rich!"  Both brothers laugh with a BWAH-HA-HA!

    The board room plummets one last time to earth.  Guests exit through a gift shop.


  • Quick and simple:

    Agree with somepirateguy, LOL @ misterjohnson :)

  • Misterjohnson,

    you are of course forgetting "nude sunbathing land" for men only on the top of the animation building, every weekday after lunch.  this promises to be a big winner.

    Seriously, I love the DCA concept.  And as for the backyard railroad.... the problem with "the combination of brain-dead tourists, miniature trains and live steam"...take out the element of live steam.  I hate to say ths, as I'd love a live steam version.  But seriously, it's too dangerous with the type of people Disneyland employees.  Use a different type of engine (adapted gas, diesel, or even electric), but let the train appear as though it's live steam, and viola, bye-bye legal problems.  I'd take that compromise any day over the Nature's Wonderland version.

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios. In Florida. Ooooookaaaaaayyy... What, Walt Disney Studios Florida was too obvious? :)

    I like the Walt's California Adventure concept, although I have to wonder if it'll ever get off the drawing board in the form proposed. Maybe they could move One Man's Dream - including Walt's working office, hint hint - from Florida to one of the empty locations at DCA, like the WWBTAM-PI stage or in a new building in Sunshine Plaza.   I'd love to see englishboy's TOT concept! ;)

    The Carolwood Pacific concept would be awesome - it's be nice to have an actual working train in DCA. As far as the concerns about CMs not being able to operate a live steam miniature train, they've been running trains at Disney theme parks for 52 years so far without any major problems, I doubt it'd be much of an issue. Heck, you could probably find a group of volunteers willing to run the sucker! (Paging Michael Broggie...)  The Disney lawyers could probably calm their nerves a little by talking to the folks from the LA Live Steamers - they've been running miniature trains for decades without any serious mishaps. If this happens, I hope the Imagineers can come up with train cars comfortable enough to accomodate the... ahem, enlarged American posterior...

    Shameless plug for a friend of mine:  If you don't want to wait until next year for a guidebook that points out the little details of the California parks, check out Kendra Trahan's "Disneyland Detective" and her soon-to-be-released "Disney's California Adventure Detective". No cool concept drawings, but very informative books nevertheless...

  • If anyone wants to build Walts Lilly Belle live steamer just go to www.railroadsupply.com They have it in kit form, though it aint cheap.

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