Big, ugly “temporary” things

We have made it to number 8 on our top ten list of the biggest park controversies.To catch up on the earlier entries click here.

Today we look at a trend that started in the late 1990’s and in one case still plagues us today.

8) Cakes and Wands and Hats OH MY!

Back in 1996 in order to celebrate the resorts 25th anniversary Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom was painted pink, covered with faux fondant, mock candles, synthetic sprinkles and turned into something roughly emulating an 18-story birthday cake. Shane hated it… a lot… but most people actually enjoyed it. While it lasted a bit too long (15 months) Disney did return the castle to its original appearance in a fairly timely manner and all was well. Very few normal (***cough***Shane) people minded it and many quite enjoyed it.

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Garish? – yes… but it was only short term. Sadly it created a monster.

The park was setting attendance records during this period and Disney assumed at least a portion of the popularity was due to the novel idea of defacing a park icon. BING! A light bulb went off and suddenly desecrating the resorts most cherished landmarks was all the rage.

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For a while they really got off on vandalizing park icons… in this case literally.

In 1999 a colossal, unsightly, exposed raw steel structure most reminiscent of an industrial construction crane was erected arcing over Spaceship Earth. It loomed above the park; it dwarfed the once majestic sphere now cowering below the crane. Somehow the edifice was made even worse when a primitive Mickey Mouse hand holding a magic wand was bolted to the side. Shockingly Disney was still not done; above the flat glove fashioned out of sheet metal Disney added the number 2000 covered in red glitter, sparkly red stars sprinkled off the wand onto Spaceship Earth itself. It was horrific.

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Gorgeous! You can hardly see the supporting structure at all.

Fans were told that this was a temporary salute to the turn of the millennium. It was ugly, out of scale, out of place and really a slap in the face to all EPCOT Center was originally intended to be. But the worst offense was that Disney’s idea of temporary was roughly eight years. For the better part of a decade this unsightly mess lorded over the park as jolly park managers congratulated themselves (no doubt slapping each other on the back while hoisting glasses of aged scotch served neat).

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Yea, it looks like we should start screwing around with this…

The wand was finally, begrudgingly removed in 2007 once a new sponsor took over the attraction. For that eight-year stretch many fans vocally complained about the monstrosity… but not only did Disney pay them no heed… they actually upped their icon destroying game!

Sorcerers Hat

In and of itself it is “OK” but as they say in real estate… location, location, location.

In 2001 high on the “success” of the massive wand Disney constructed a 122-foot tall Sorcerer’s hat at the end of Hollywood Boulevard in what was then called Disney-MGM Studios (Disney’s Hollywood Studios). Not unlike the Epcot wand this structure features a flat simulation of Mickey’s hand this time grasping a massive three-dimensional clone of the hat he wore in Fantasia. One could argue that the execution of the hat was better than that on the wand. It is not ghastly, executed slightly better and very little of the supporting structure can be seen. The problem is less about the actual hat and more about the placement.

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Ah yes, Hollywood of the 30’s, romance, glamour, oversized metal cartoon hats… it’s all here.

Disney decided that the only logical place for a twelve story, metallic cartoon hat  housing a pin trading station was directly in front of what used to be considered the flagship attraction at the park; The Great Movie Ride.

The Great Movie Ride is housed in a painstakingly detailed recreation of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. This replica of the famous Hollywood landmark was meant to serve as the main icon for the park; it’s Cinderella’s Castle. It sits perfectly at the end of Hollywood Boulevard and is a sight to behold… that is if you could actually see it.

The Great Movie Ride at DisneyÕs Hollywood Studios

It’s stiull hiding back there obscured from view… you just need to look for it.

A couple years back we wrote a sarcastic article about the new Carthay Circle Theater at the rejuvenated Disney’s California Adventure being obscured by a similar mess, it was a joke (read it here). However no amount of sardonic commentary can truly do justice to the actual reality still being played out at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Imagineers worked for years to design and build a temple to the movies. They wanted to create an idyllic representation of a Hollywood that never was but should have been. The perfect image of the entertainment capital of the world captured at a very specific time… the 30’s and 40’s. The structures, the streets, the lamps, the vintage cars, the themed characters it all is there to develop a sense of time and place that Disney does better than anyone else. And then in one incredibly idiotic move the marketing team destroyed it. There is no way to explain away this clearly modern (or perhaps post modern) monstrosity. It not only does not fit the theme of the area but it actively hides one of the prettiest parts of the park… it is a massive failure on every level.

Fans were upset to varying degrees about all of these moves and fortunately the idea of ruining years of careful work for easy short term promotional gain seems to have fallen out of favor. Since the hat no other icon destroying gimmicks have surfaced and we only have one remaining. Sadly unlike Spaceship Earth there is no sponsor for the Great Movie Ride and until the day comes that they overhaul that attraction and want to call attention back to it the hat will likely remain.

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One more look at this beauty (seen here post 2000 when the numbers gave way to some horrible script font).

As a side note I understand that some fans enjoy the wand and the hat. They find them playful or enjoy the added Disney connection. I would argue that virtually all of those fans enjoy these things simply because they were in place when they were first introduced to the parks. If the wand or hat was there when you were a child and you never knew the parks any other way then the removal of these things may ironically feel like a loss of a beloved memory. But this is not the same as removing original attractions; this is in fact destroying the original attraction for nothing more than a marketing stunt.

Shane may not like the cake but man… I hate that hat.

Click here for #7

5 thoughts on “Big, ugly “temporary” things

  1. I’m down in DW for the college program, and funnily enough, we talked about the cake castle in my class the other day. The instructor said they got a LOT of complaints about that cake; a lot of people were pissed that they’d saved their money for a once-in-a-lifetime type trip and then arrived to find a giant ugly Pepto-Bismol colored birthday cake. I remember being there at one point that year, one of my first lasting memories of Disney as I was only 6 or so. Good thing I didn’t attach fondly to that like some did to the hat or the wand XD

    I do wish they’d get rid of that damn hat. Or at least move it somewhere else. It’s not even that prominent as an icon where it is anymore; they went and threw a giant cheap stage in front of it. The entry into Studios would be so much more beautiful if you could see the Chinese Theatre.

  2. Thanks Melanie:

    Yea… it’s hard to pick any order on this list… think of them more as a group rather than ranked in exact order…

    There are many mostly unfounded rumors about why the hat was put in. The most common is that they somehow legally had to hide the theater as they no longer had the rights to use it’s likeness. For a myriad of reasons that theory can be disproved. I honestly think it comes down to exactly what it looks like on the surface: Marketing.

    They had trouble getting the theater to read as the icon for the park. It is not physically as prominent as any of the other icons. So they also tried to use the “earful tower” (water tower with ears) as an icon but that is frankly not all that impressive. So I think marketing pushed hard for a new icon and it happened to be at a time when the wand was getting a lot of credit (unjustly so) for the uptick in Epcot attendance… and so the hat was born.

    I hate the freaking hat but if they would have placed it say outside the front gates of the park or over in front of the animation courtyard it would have been fine. But they wanted to follow the Magic Kingdom recipe of park icon sitting at the end of the main entrance street… so that meant blocking the theater… which is insane.

    Now they are stuck. They have established the hat as the icon… what do they do now? Remove the park’s icon? (short answer… yes).

    What a mess

  3. These would be up farther on my list of despised things. Even though I love Spaceship Earth above all things at WDW, the blotting out of the Theater in the Studios bothers me more than the wand travesty. I just can’t understand how that got okay’ed by the Disney crew. The Theater was, like you said, a monument and temple to great movies over the decades. I wish the hat would somehow disappear just like the “New Management” Tiki Room. At least all the annoying add-ons got removed from Spaceship Earth. You can’t “improve” on its simple, stunning beauty.

    I can’t comment on the candy castle, as I never saw it in person. It looks like something out of “Wreck-It Ralph.” I’m loving your daily posts, keep it up!

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