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Monday Mouse Watch : Inside "The American Idol Experience"

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Monday Mouse Watch : Inside "The American Idol Experience"

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Now that "Toy Story Mania" has finally officially opened on both coasts, Disney Parks & Resorts turns its attention to the next high profile project on the horizon. Which is that "American Idol Experience" attraction which is due to open at Disney's Hollywood Studios sometime in January of 2009.

To date, the Mouse has been rather close-mouthed about this new DHS show. All they've said so far about the "American Idol Experience" is that this attraction ...

" ... will follow the model of the high-energy show. Disney Guests will be able to experience the challenge of auditioning, the rush of performing on stage in competition, or the thrill of judging the performances in a live interactive entertainment setting with all the glitz and glamor of the distinctive "American Idol" set."

But as for the actual mechanics of this show, in particular how WDW Guests will go about earning their time in the spotlight ... Disney hasn't revealed many details. Not to the public, anyway.

But Disney World executives recently received a earful about "The American Idol Experience." And those who sat in on these closed-door sessions say that -- while this new DHS attraction will definitely have some issues during its few months of operation -- this "Superstar Television / Doug Live !" replacement also has the makings of a real crowd-pleaser.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Know this, though: If you dream of someday standing onstage at "The American Idol Experience" and belting your heart out ... Make plans now to get to DHS as early as possible on the day that you want to audition. For Disney will only be selecting 120 candidates to possibly perform in that day's shows. And once all of those slots are filled, auditions will then be closed off for that day.

Phase One of the "American Idol Experience" audition process involves Guests entering one of four recording booths which will be located near the attraction's entrance. Once they get inside this booth, a WDW cast member -- via a two-way video hook-up -- will ask this would-be performer to sing a brief solo (How brief? Try just 30 seconds worth of material).

If this WDW Guest is not selected to go on to the next round of auditions, a brief message will then scroll across the video screen inside of that recording booth. With words to the effect of "Thanks for auditioning. Better luck next time." If -- on the other hand -- this Guest does have the making of an "American Idol Experience" performer, a different message will pop up. "Please wait for further instructions."

Should the Guest make it through this initial screening audition, they'll then be invited to take part in a second audition. Where these WDW visitors will now be asked to sing in front of another Disney representative (Who -- this time around -- will actually be in the room with the Guest). More importantly, this time around, the Guest will be allowed to sing to a pre-recorded instrumental track. That first audition back in the recording booth? You were singing a cappella. No pre-recorded music. No live instruments. No nothing).

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Anyway ... Getting back to Phase Two of the audition processing ... If you make it this far, you've then got to sing a song that you'll selected from a list that the Walt Disney Company provides. This performance will be in front of a WDW rep who will then decide if you have what it takes to perform live in front of a crowd.

You see, Mickey's goal here is to winnow the talent pool down from 120 would-be performers to 15 - 18 finalists. These people will then be broken down into groups of three. Who will now perform in of one of the 5-to-7 "American Idol Experience" preliminary shows which will be presented at Disney's Hollywood Studios each day.

As for the judges ... Just like on the "American Idol" TV show, there will be three of them. This time around, though, the folks who will be judging this competition will be veteran WDW performers. Actors' Equity members who have appeared in such Disney World shows as "Festival of the Lion King" and "Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue." (And -- just so you know -- one of these judges will be mean like Simon Cowell. Though given this performer will actually be working off of a WDI-approved script, one wonders how mean he'll actually be able to be here).

The last "American Idol Experience" show of the day will have all of the finalists onstage competing against one another. With the winner then being awarded a Dream Ticket. Which will then give this performer a guaranteed reservation at some future regional audition for the "American Idol" TV show.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

So what does that mean exactly? To be honest, this Dream Ticket holder can now jump the line. They don't have to stand outside with those thousands of other hopefuls. They -- in effect -- now have a FastPass which allows them to go straight to the initial "American Idol" representative. Who then decides whether this performer has what it takes to make it to the next round of auditions.

Now where this gets interesting is that -- while the "American Idol" TV show actually has an age limit for those who want to audition (Only performers between the ages of 16 & 28) -- "The American Idol Experience" will be open to all WDW Guests 14 years of age or older. Which means that it's possible that the Dream Ticket could be won by some Disney World visitor who'd then ineligible to take part in the audition process for the actual "American Idol" television show.

Should this happen ... Well, it took Disney Legal & 19 Entertainment (i.e. the company that actually produces the "American Idol" television program) months to hammer this particular compromise out ... But the winner in question would then be allowed to transfer their Dream Ticket once to a person who's actually eligible to audition for the TV show. Mind you, the Dream Ticket can not be sold. If it is, this line-jumping FastPass is then automatically rendered null and void.

As you can see, there's lots of possible kinks here. Operational issues that are sure to arise once "The American Idol Experience" enters its soft-opening phase in late December / early January. But when you factor in the once-in-a-lifetime behind-the-scenes experience that Guests will ... well ... experience at this new DHS attraction (i.e. where -- before they go onstage -- they'll get to work with a vocal coach as well as have their hair & make-up done by Disney professionals), it sounds like a really fun time for those who are lucky enough to make the cut here.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

One aspect of "The American Idol Experience" attraction that already worries DHS Ops staff is the capacity of the old Superstar Television Theater. You see, there are only 1000 seats in that theater. Which severely limits the number of Guests who'll actually be able to attend those 5-to-7 daily performances of "American Idol" that will be presented daily.

This is why Disney's Hollywood Studio now has plans to simulcast each performance of "The American Idol Experience" up on that Jumbotron which will face out onto Hollywood Boulevard. Mind you, this is a great idea on paper. But given that the "High School Musical 2: School's Out!" pep rally is presented in this very same area several times daily and "Block Party Bash" has to pass on through some point during the day  ... It's going to be interesting to see if Disney's actually going to be able to pull the simulcast-on-the-Jumbotron aspect of this new DHS show off.

And speaking of working the bugs out with "The American Idol Experience," should any of these 5-to-7-shows-presented-daily ever run short ... Well, Disney has plans to have a fourth Equity performer standing by backstage. Who would then come out dressed as a tourist and deliberately sing badly. Which would now allow this show's Simon Cowell-like judge to really unload on this talent-free singer

Now please keep in mind that -- now through January -- aspects of this new DHS show are sure to change. But this is how "The American Idol Experience" was recently described to WDW executives.

So what do you folks think? Does this new attraction sound like something that you'd go out of your way to see the next time you visit Disney's Hollywood Studios?

Your thoughts?

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  • I think this could be done where it is a very worthwhile attraction for years to come, or at least as long as American Idol the TV show is still running! I think there are a surprising number of people who can sing quite well (karaoke nights across this country and others show that) so finding 10-15 people a day shouldn’t be all that difficult. I have high hopes for this attraction and we will just have to wait and see how the final product comes out. I do not recall how crowded Millionaire was when it first opened, but I sure was around when it quickly was empty almost all the time, hopefully AIE doesn’t share the same fate!

  • I dunno how I feel about this. I'm one of the three people in this country who don't like "Idol", so I'm not all that excited. But it's better than an empty theater, I guess...

  • Meh

  •  mouse*o*ears  - I think the number of karaoke nights shows that alot of people *like* to sing... but there is a BIG difference between that and actually being *able* to sing.

    As a Director that has sat in on more vocal auditions than I would ever care to count, I can attest to the following facts:

    1. Everybody can sing, if you only mean making noise with your mouth.

    2. Some people can sing well enough that family and close friends MIGHT want to hear.

    3. FEW people can sing well enough that strangers would want to listen.

    On another note, doesn't this seem like an awful lot to go through, both time and effort wise, on the behalf of the auditioner? I mean you paid to go to the park right? Or are people going to pay admission just to audition?

    I still think this idea will burn bright for a moment and then very quickly flame out.

  • Cbarry123 said: "My least favorite park gets my most hated TV show. Another good reason for me to stay away from the Studios."

    Ditto for me!!

    This sounds like an asinine idea. Also, though Disney may say all those 14 and up are welcome to sing, you just know that it's going to be skewed to the teens and twentysomethings, with their awful taste in pop music. Anybody of my generation who would like to sing the likes of Cole Porter probably need not apply...

    I also agree with captainhook91 when he questions who is going to want to spend time with all this rigmarole when they've just spent a small fortune to get into the park in the first place.

  • Last night was the premeire of "I SURVIVED A JAPANESE GAME SHOW" on ABC/Disney - okay!  I busted a gut all the way through this show (it was preceeded by "Wipe Out" - an Americanized version of another Japanese import - "MXG" - "MXG" was the superior version) - and, that , if Disney were to have to have a "game show take" in their studio park, imho, would be THE WAY to go!  Of course, you're talking a serious amount of waivers for guests to appear in the stunts (Rather much a Disney version of the Nickolodeon Green Goop challenges) but, with the inherent humor of guests having to put on silliy costumes and perform outrageous stunts while having a running commentary provided by WDW Streetmosphere talent...yeah.  That works.

    Something like this is timeless.  At least, has a better timeless factor over American Idol or Who Wants To Be style shows.

    And, don't forget , " Owwww", "why are you hurting me", please just let me die." (Homer Simpson - on Japanese Game Shows)

  • Cap'n ....I too have endured oodles of bad auditions and, as I stated earlier, the even worse ENDLESSLLY mediocre auditions. But as to the issue of people paying to audition, that's a proven reality. Look at all the bogus "talent" and "modeling" agencies out there charging doting parents oodles for head shots and alleged representation of countless moppets and teens they KNOW will never do anything (even while putting themselves in position to cash in for a piece of the action if and when lightning strikes.)

    The attraction for the contestants, even after paying to get to WDW, stay there, and then get into the parks, is clear. The more difficult issue, dare I say the MORAL issue?--the fact that for the AUDIENCE, the "fun" (just like with the above-noted Japanese gameshows and the "reality" shows they have spawned in this country) is about enjoying the humiliation and semi-torture of others. The fact that they VOLUNTEER to be humiliated (or are too dumb to AVOID it out of their own hubris and their family egging them on with utter blindness to their lack of talent) is, after all, what people tune in for in the early weeks of Idol on TV.

    Some rare people may actually have the talent to live up to their dreams of becoming the next Carrie Underwood or even Ruben Stoddard. But let's face it, there are a whole lot more wannabe/potential Sanjaya's out there, and a lot of people who look forward to watching them fail.

    Not my idea of Disney "magic" as I said earlier. I wonder if the issue is less one of the timing re. the "fading" of American Idol the TV show or more an issue of our nation getting fed up with the slime and degradation that is at the core of the whole "reality" trend? Maybe we'll rise above it just in time for this attraction to be rejected mightily.....but I'm not holding my breath.

  • Epic fail.

    I agree with the other posters who say this will be popular for a few months, then it will be deserted.

    I also anticipate this scenario:

    Younger Kid: "Dad, can we go ride Rock 'n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror now?"

    Dad: "Not now, honey, we're going to watch your sister Ashley sing! Doesn't that sound like more fun?"

  • "Does this new attraction sound like something that you'd go out of your way to see the next time you visit Disney's Hollywood Studios?"


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