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The 3rd Annual ABC Primetime Preview Weekend at DCA: Will there be a 4th?

The 3rd Annual ABC Primetime Preview Weekend at DCA: Will there be a 4th?

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Andy ***, Sara Rue and Andrea Parker from "Less than Perfect"

Well, for the first time, we had a three day ABC Primetime Preview event, they added Friday this year, with the event being held September10th thru 12th.

I have a great story regarding George Lopez, but we will save that till the end....

George Lopez

Let's look quickly back at the event, the 1st version was held in August of 2002. The highlights included a live version of Whose Line is it Anyways? in the Hyperion Theater hosted by Drew Carey, who said some interesting jokes, some directed at the park he was in. One interesting fact was that they lifted the blockout dates for AP holders to attend the event at DCA (though they were still blocked out of Disneyland). A big highlight for me was the fact that they had the 4 major Sports Trophies all at the same time, on one table! (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL). It is VERY rare to get all four of them in one location. (ABC was broadcasting all 4 championships that year).

Year 2 had the event moved to September, which makes sense in regards to the start of the Television Fall Season, but also happens to fall at the same time as the opening weekend of the Los Angeles County Fair. Was this one reason for moving the event, to shift some of the media coverage to the Disneyland Resort and away from Pomona?

And now we just had year 3, also held the weekend after Labor Day, also the opening of the LA County Fair, but when they announced the ABC event, they stated that it would be 3 days long, Friday thru Sunday.

Well Friday turned out to be named "TGIF Sneak Peek" just a couple of weeks before the event, and was a much lesser day than either Saturday or Sunday. Friday consisted of 4 screenings of the Friday comedy's in the Golden Dreams Theater, and then what was billed as "America's Funniest Home Videos Live". This turned out to be a question and answer session with Chris Harrison of the Bachelor hosting, with AFV's host Tom Bergeron coming out and basically answering questions from both Chris, and the audience. Only a couple of minutes of actual home video was shown. Attendance at the park seemed to be about the same as a average off-season Friday night.

Saturday was the big day, which offered the most shows, plus the one performance of Jim Belushi's band. Last year, they offered the concert on two nights (it was the "big" event that replaced the live version of Whose Line is it Anyways?). A couple of other changes, first is that Disney found a sponsor, Aloha Airlines to help cover the costs. Also, they cut back on the events offered. To help facilitate the movement of the celebrities they centralized the event around the Golden State Park area.

The Live Radio booths near the Pacific Wharf area

The setup this year had the Live Radio booths along the Parade Route near the Pacific Wharf area, a small stage (compared to last year) in the Golden State Amphitheater, Screening of shows, and sometimes a live Q&A in the Golden Dreams Theater. The Public Photo Location was set up along the Grizzly Trail, near the bathrooms behind the Golden Dreams Theater. The private Media center for Still Photography and Television interviews was placed in the west end of the Golden Vine Winery (they built walls to keep the area closed to the public). Disney also set up a backstage rest area, and converted part of the Wine Country Trattoria to serve the celebrities meals and give them some privacy. Last year, the Public Photo Ops were spread throughout the park, which ended up causing some serious time delays to the schedule. This year keeping everything condensed and being able to use some backstage routes helped keep things pretty much on schedule.

A second area was setup in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area. This was for the "ABC Kids Zone", plus the Wonderful World of Disney. This was designed for kids with lots of Character photo ops plus a couple of Q&A sessions with the cast of Phil in the Future on the Hollywood Backlot Stage.

The cast of Phil of the Future answers questions from the fans.

A Information booth was set up in the middle of Sunshine Plaza, and a couple of booths set up near the entrance of the Boudin Bakery Tour to allow folks to apply to be on either Extreme Makeover or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Saturday had 10 ABC shows in attendance, while Sunday had 6.

By far the most popular thing was the Public Photo Op on the Grizzly Trail. This was where guests actually got to stand next to their favorite celebrities and get a photo taken (due to time constraints, no Autographs were allowed). The second most favorite event was the Question and Answer sessions held at Golden State Amphitheater. The Golden Dreams Theater were mainly full, partially due to the fact they offered Air Conditioning, as since it was unusually Hot and Humid in Anaheim.

Crowds for a Public Photo Op session

Saturday seemed to be busier than normal, but by no means packed, than an typical off-season Saturday. Sunday's crowd seemed to be actually a bit less than normal. I expected more, especially since the Southern California Annual Pass holders were blocked out on Saturday, but could attend on Sunday.

A look at the park shortly after 3 PM on Saturday

So will we see a 4th Annual ABC Primetime Preview weekend?

Good question, ABC likes the event, as it gives them some extra exposure, a chance to film commercials with non-paid "extras" (aka guests), and offers a centralized media event, where they can get a lot of coverage in one place. Also, this event is similar to the NFL Pro Bowl (Say WHAT!!!!) Football and DCA... well, where is the Pro Bowl played.... Hawaii! The players really don't want to play ONE more game, so the "free trip" for let alone the player, but also their family is a big deal.. not for the player, but for the family, who will put pressure on the player to attend. Same with this event, celebrity families (read into this "the kids") get a weekend at the park, they get free nights at the Grand Californian, front of the line ride privileges, etc.... And many families do show up. Also the synergy factor, as the commercials ABC films will help plug DCA when they air.

Filming an TGIF commercial on Sunday in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area

Disney Theme Park division likes the fact that they don't have to "pay" to get the celebrities, and the fact that the ABC division helps pay the bill. They are hoping to help drive attendance, but based on what I know, all they are doing is drawing in some AP holders who will make an extra visit due to the event, plus all those comp admissions from the celebrities and their families. They also like the exposure from the media coverage. Interesting to note that if you notice the logo's around the park, inside the park they said "at Disney's California Adventure Park", but in the Media center, and in ABC's coverage, they used "at Disneyland Resort", so management knows about the coverage of the event, and what they want to advertise. The big drawback to the Theme Parks is the extensive labor they need to set up and run the additional events, plus all the hosts they need to escort the celebrities and the media. (Though they did cut back on that somewhat this year, one of the reasons for the centralized locations).

Dominic Monaghan from the new show "Lost"

So will we have a 4th Annual event? Good Question, we won't know until sometime next summer, but I am not sure, my guess about 50/50...


  • Will it detract from the 50th celebration?
  • Is it worth the extra costs?
  • And who will pick up the costs?

All good questions and only time will tell.

A Q&A session at the Golden State Amphitheater

But I promised you a story, one that makes George Lopez a "Bad Boy".

First off, I was truly impressed by all the celebrities that attended the event this weekend..

Saturday night after the event, I happened to be at the HearthStone Lounge at the Grand Californian around 9 PM. Dominic Monoghan from the new series "Lost", but better known as "Merry" from the Lord of the Rings trilogy was also there. He was so gracious with his fans, posing for pictures and signing autographs, and this was supposed to be his "time off".

I can tell many more stories like that, but lets focus on George Lopez, on my way to the HearthStone Lounge Saturday night, George and his family was walking down the Grizzly Trail, it was pretty quiet, but a few guests still went up and said hello, and he was signing autographs and being very nice to them. And his "official" duties ended around 5 PM.

But let me tell you a story from the media center. Most shows had a group of activities, they had time at the Public Photo Op, the Q&A session with the guests, the Parade of Stars, some promotional filming, mainly having them ride Tower of Terror and maybe one or two more rides, and maybe some commercial filming in the park. Then they had the Media stuff, spending some time walking down a line of Live Radio booths, which this year was about 10 station from the West Coast, plus the Media Center, which was set up for TV interviews (for about an hour), plus the still "Paparazzi" photo shots. And yes, there was quite a few professional photographers who solely came to the event to get just the "right" shot with the Promo Wall behind them that could be sold to People Magazine, etc.... Well, as a photographer I also got the right to take photos at the same time.... And I got some great shots, but it is a long day for the Paparazzi since they basically get a few minutes of shots about every 90 minutes, and a lot of waiting in between. Many of the stars know the regular photographers, and well, George Lopez is one of those. He came out early "between" shots and said hello, and could tell the photographers were bored, so he came up with an idea to "wake us up".

George Lopez destroying Disney Property

When he came out for his official Media Photo Op, he had a Sharpie, and started to write on the wall, the one that is used for the backdrop with the logos. Well, he wrote "Watch George Lopez Tuesday's 8:30 on ABC!". Which is clever, though a few folks in management started to worry about how they were going to get it off the wall before the next Photo Op. Well, George posed for a few photos, and then decided to go back to the wall... this time he added "No on Bush!".. now he really got the management attention, remember this is the same company that decided not to release Michael Moore's latest film. But they still needed to bring out more of the cast, so the photo op went on.... but George wasn't done, he decided to add one last comment... this time "Erik Estrada Sucks".

George Lopez placing his third and final message on the wall

Well, when the cast went to the TV interview areas, they said "no more pictures" and they couldn't get it covered up fast enough. The joke in the Media center after that was that all the stars were being frisked for Sharpies before entering the center. While some of us Media folks wanted to start selling spray paint.... Hoped you enjoyed the article and the photos, if you want to check out more, you can always visit my photo site, http://darkbeer.smugmug.com.

See you next time.

-- David Michael
[email protected]

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