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Imagineering Field Guide goes in for a close-up on Disney's Hollywood Studios

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Imagineering Field Guide goes in for a close-up on Disney's Hollywood Studios

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It's the Disney's Hollywood Studios icon that makes fan boys foam at the mouth. That 122-foot-tall Sorcerer Mickey Hat which stands of Hollywood Boulevard, blocking the view of the Chinese Theater.

So if this icon is so controversial, why then did Alex Wright opt to put the Sorcerer Mickey Hat on the cover of "The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney's Hollywood Studios" (Disney Editions, July 2010)?

Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

To my way of thinking, Wright did this just so that he'd then be able to talk about where the Imagineers had originally wanted to build the Sorcerer Mickey Hat. Which was ...

Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... outside the Park entrance, (where this elaborate "100 Years of Magic" complex was to have featured) a ferris wheel for each ear. (As for the interior of the Hat, it was to have housed) the exhibit that eventually became One Man's Dream.

That's half the fun of paging through "The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World." Getting to see the Imagineer's early, early ideas for this theme park that celebrates " ... the Hollywood that never was and always will be." A place where a carload of Keystone Kops would have periodically come roaring down Hollywood Boulevard in search of criminals.

Collin Campbell's concept painting for Hollywood Boulevard.
Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

In fact, if the guys at WDI had gotten to build the version of this studio theme park that they had originally pitched to Michael Eisner, the Keystone Kops would have been all over Disney's Hollywood Studios. They would have starred in a slapstick stunt show for that theme park. Not to mention being prominently featured in a sequence for "The Great Movie Ride" that was to have paid tribute to Hollywood's comedy legends. Which (as you'll see in Gene Johnson's concept drawing for this proposed scene below) was to have had an Audio-Animatronic carload of Kops rolling past AA recreations of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, W.C. Fields and Mae West.

Concept drawing by Gene Johnson. Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Wouldn't that have been a cool scene to have seen as you rolled along in your theater car? Well, wait to you hear about the finale that the Imagineers had originally dreamed up for "The Great Movie Ride." Where you would have entered this dramatically lit room where dozens of iconic characters from the movies would have been on display. I'm talking R2D2 & C3PO from "Star Wars" as well as Rhett Butler & Scarlett O'Hara from "Gone with the Wind." Rocky Balboa, the Ghostbusters, Mary Poppins and Indiana Jones. Not to mention George C. Scott's portrayal of "Patton," Liza Minnelli's verson of Sally Bowles from "Cabaret ," Gene Kelly from "Singin' in the Rain," John Wayne, Shirley Temple and Mickey Mouse.

Frank Armitage & Nina Rae Vaughn's concept painting for the "Great Movie Ride" 's finale
sequence. Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Sadly, as Disney's Hollywood Studios moved from its design & concept phase to actual physical construction, there was some refining of this project. And given that the Imagineers thought that WDW visitors would be more excited to meet characters from contemporary films like "Splash" ...

Collin Campbell's painting of Tom Hanks &
Daryl Hannah from "Splash" on Hollywood
Boulevard.  2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

... the Kops got cut. Nowadays, the only reference that you'll find in Disney's Hollywood Studios to the Keystone Kops is Keystone Clothiers.

Collin Campbell's concept painting for Keystone Clothiers. Copyright 2010 Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Of course, Disney's Hollywood Studios didn't just change during its design & development phase. Once this theme park opened to the public in May of 1989, it became obvious that some tweaks were in order. Take - for example - the rerouting of the tram tour. As Alex Wright recalls ...

The Streets of America area was originally part of the Studio Backlot Tour. On Opening Day, and for the first few years of operation, the trams from the tour actually made their way down these streets - then known as New York Street - and gave Guests a look at how a backlot functioned. Visitors could often see productions in progress, or the remnants of a shoot waiting to be cleared off the lot. With the changes that came along in the first few years (of Disney's Hollywood Studios), the decision was made that this part of the Park was need for circulation, so the tram tour was rerouted and New York Street was opened up for foot traffic.

Tom Gilleon's painting of DHS's tram tour. Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

That's half the fun of "The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World." How Alex Wright confidently moves you through the rather complex history of this WDW theme park. Which (let's be blunt here) is something of a work-in-progress right now. What with DHS's version of "Star Tours" closing down on September 8th to make way for "Star Tours II." Not to mention that "Monsters, Inc." -themed coaster that's supposed to be added to Pixar Place in the not-so-distant future.

But the other aspect of this 128-page paperback that make it a must-own for Disneyana fans is the terrific selection of concept art that you'll find between this Field Guide's covers. Which then allows you to look back at what Disney's Hollywood Studios used to look like ...

Tom Gilleon's concept painting for Disney's Hollywood Studios. Copyright 2010
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... Before they put that @#$%? Sorcerer Mickey Hat in front of the Chinese Theater. (Sorry. Channeling my inner fan boy there.)

Your thoughts?

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  • Is there any chance in the future that the hat will be removed? (or demolished, or blown up into many many pieces?)....

  • Ok so I can totally understanding hating the hat because it blocks the theatre, but  I personally kinda think its a cool icon for the park but when I was there this summer the High School Musical stage is set up in front of it, so you cant even get a picture of it if you do like it without the giant HSM logo blocking then entire front.....

  • This used to be my favorite park.  I loved the "behind-the-scenes" exhibits and shows, and was absolutely entranced by the variety of street performers that used to interact with the guests.

    Now...I go in with my family, hit the few rides we can go on together (3 and 5 year olds don't mix well with Rock'n'Rollercoaster), Playhouse Disney, and we're gone.

    *sigh* Anyone else miss the comic stand?

  • Two Ferris wheels?  The Keystone Kops?  What were they thinking - that this was 1939, not 1989???  Thank goodness some of those ideas got left on the trash heap.

    I liked it better when the mouse-ears water tower was the icon.  Now that just seems lost and forgotten, but I can forgive them a lot for the addition of Tower of Terror.  I just *love* that ride!

    Re: the Mickey hat and the Ferris wheels, it would be great if they could move the hat somewhere that they could put in two roller coaster loops for Mickey's ears!  Since they're not using the roller-coaster Mickey face at DCA's California Screamin' anymore (sob!), that would be a great opportunity for DHS to prove they're a park with action/adventure.  I'd love it!

  • This used to be my favorite Theme park as well, but it has changed so much. I liked it because it was a working studio. When animation was eliminated. The park went with it.  It used to be a different theme park. These days it's just another theme park.

  • At least the Ferris Wheels would've given the icon some other purpose.  The huge monstrosity houses a pin stand?  Seriously?

  • I used to love this park. Now it's the ass end of Disney parks. The should call it "hollywood theme park" instead because i have not seen actual productions there in a long time. I hate that god awful hat blocking the view of the Chinese theater. Yeah I miss the comic stand. But to give it some credit, I love Muppetvision and Sci Fi dine in theater.

  • The hat just does not fit.  It feels like everything was just slapped together.  The ultimate insult?  It's a store.  It truly is pathetic and should be trashed or put it over at Pop Century.  Who will notice the difference there.

  • I hate the hat as well, though I have recently heard that it was because of a legal issue dealing with the original Chinese theater. The way I hear it, the agreement never included the use of the theater as the main icon of the park, and Disney was forced to hide it.

  • Is there anything to those pins and merchandise, being released in a few months, that use the Earful Tower?

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