Hooray For Hollywood (Studios)

Not long ago, I published a post called The State of the Studios in which I discussed my thoughts about Hollywood Studios and the direction the park was headed. Several attractions had closed, with more rumored to follow, and I was concerned about what was happening. Of course, that was written prior to D23 and the announcements that Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land would be coming, so now it’s safe to say that in many ways the worry I expressed in that post has been put to rest and replaced with excitement about what’s to come.

But even with those major revelations from D23, “everything is closing at Hollywood Studios” is a still fairly common lament. Lots of attractions are already shuttered for good, with more confirmed and whispers of yet more to follow. It’s been a tough time for fans of the park.

Mermaid front sign

Many attractions at Hollywood Studios have already closed, and more may come. It seems like nothing is safe, with classics like Muppet*Vision 3D and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular rumored to be on the chopping block and even the much-loved  Voyage of the Little Mermaid show supposedly in danger.

Recently, though, I saw someone challenge that ‘common lament’ and ask: Why are people complaining so much about the closures at Hollywood Studios?

They felt that people want new attractions, but then get upset when things close to make room for new attractions. They suggested that the complainers sit back and ask themselves if they want things to keep moving forward as Walt Disney himself always intended (even if it means that classic attractions close to make way for exciting new things), or if they’d rather things always stay the same. Basically if we’re excited about all of the new things that are coming, we shouldn’t complain about what’s leaving.

In some ways they may be right, but I also think that there’s so much more to it than just complaining about closures. 

R2-D2

To be fair, it was worse earlier this year–before D23–when it seemed like every day there was a new closure announcement and they hadn’t revealed ANY of their new plans yet so we had no idea what to expect. So at least now we can look forward to what’s coming. And what’s coming is MORE STAR WARS!

It’s great that the parks are constantly being improved. It’s part of what makes returning to Walt Disney World exciting–the fact that you can see new things while enjoying old favorites. So in some sense, yes, it’s silly to complain while also being so excited for the future.

At Hollywood Studios in particular, there’s been nothing new for a long time and it’s possible that the park is getting a bit stale. So I’ve certainly got no complaints about something fresh coming in. And yes, I realize that to do this they need to clear space: with only so much room to work with, adding something can mean taking something away. Yes, there’s a big rebranding happening (including a name change, though when and to what is still a mystery) and with the park going in a new direction it makes sense that some older attractions–especially those left over from the ‘behind-the-scenes park’ days like the Backlot Studio Tour–have to say goodbye. Yes, Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land are probably going to be amazing. I can’t wait to experience them.

With all that in mind, it does certainly seem like there’s nothing to complain about.

But there simply hasn’t been (as far as I know) an expansion this big which required so much to be shut down in such a short time, so in part it’s the number and frequency of the closures that’s jarring. There simply isn’t a lot left in the park at the moment and we’re likely to see even more things close long before anything new opens. So part of the general complaint is just the massive scope of these closures and the toll it’s taking on enjoying the park in the present, despite knowing what’s coming in the future. Let’s be honest: the new additions, as exciting as they may be, are still several years off. It’ll be tough for fans in the meantime when there’s so much gone and construction walls are being put up all over.

While we’re eager to see what’s next, we’re disappointed in the fact that Hollywood Studios has become at best a half-day park. There are still some amazing attractions, but not enough to warrant spending the whole day there.

Chinese Theater

Not gonna lie, one change I was super thrilled about was the removal of the giant Sorcerer’s Hat. It was neat for a (short) while, but it overstayed its welcome and I’m happy that I can now look down Hollywood Boulevard and see the Chinese Theater again.

Especially for those of us who really love Hollywood Studios, getting the impression that it’s being ‘gutted’ in order to take the entire park in a new direction is upsetting to say the least. Plus, on a much more personal level, Hollywood Studios (well, technically Disney/MGM Studios) was the park that I worked in when I was a cast member. So I have ties to that park, and seeing attractions I was a part of close is sad for me.

There’s more to it, too, a powerful combination of love and nostalgia. Favorite attractions are why we enjoy going to a park and part of why we keep going back. Knowing we’re never going to see a much-loved attraction again is upsetting. So yes, a big part of the complaints are just that these rides and shows were a part of our Walt Disney World stories and now they’re gone. To suddenly have so many attractions shut down–even those that weren’t necessarily favorites–takes away that familiarity that fans find comfort in when playing in the park.

We can accept that the closures are probably necessary to pave the way for the future, but we can also accept that it kind of sucks and we’re probably going to grumble a bit about it. OK, we’re going to grumble a lot about it. Change is scary.

092

Hollywood Studios still has some really cool rides, like Tower of Terror, and of course there’s the incredible Fantasmic show at night. But realistically, depending on crowd levels, you could get to the park in the afternoon and see everything worth seeing.

Really though, for a Disney parks fan this is all part of a never-ending cycle (though not on this scale). Attractions that we enjoy close and we get upset, but often the replacements are great and can even become new favorites. I think Mission: Space is a very cool experience, but I (really) miss Horizons. Winnie the Pooh is fun, but I miss the classic Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Sure, sometimes I’m less enthusiastic about a replacement (check out my rant on the closing of Maelstrom for more on that topic), but for the most part even if I’m sad to see something close I’m excited to see what new attraction that’ll be coming. Though I’ll probably still whine a bit.

GMR marquee

Just putting this out into the world: Great Movie Ride better not go away! It was actually renovated fairly recently, suggesting that it’ll be around for a while yet.

Basically, as much as we want things to change, we don’t want anything to change. We want to somehow see all of these cool new things without ever losing the chance to experience old favorites. We’ll complain for a bit when things get closed, get excited when new things open, and that’s pretty much the ongoing cycle.

For the record–I’m still complaining about the Horizons closure, and it’s been over fourteen years.

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