Fix this theme park: Disney's Hollywood Studios
Quick quiz: How many rides are there at the Disney's Hollywood Studios
Hint: Here's one
Time's up. Here's your answer:
That's right: Six. Tower of Terror, Rock n' Roller Coaster, Star Tours, Midway Mania, Great Movie Ride, and the Studio Backlot Tour. And of those, the Backlot Tour - a shell of its former self - probably needs to be put out of its misery and shut down for redevelopment.
Even so, those six rides give Disney's Hollywood Studios the fewest number of ride-based attractions at any Disney theme park in the world. It's the fewest number of rides at any major theme park in America.* (*Update: Okay, number two to Universal Studios Hollywood if you don't count 4D attractions as rides. But USH has at least one Potter ride coming, which would at least tie it with DHS.)
Sure, DHS has some great shows to go along with its rides. But when it comes to driving reader ratings to their highest levels, rides consistently outperform shows. And Disney's Hollywood Studios is alarmingly light on rides.
Last week, we talked about the need for improvements over at Walt Disney World's Epcot. Today, we're putting the spotlight on Hollywood Studios. DHS faces the same essential problem with studio-themed parks I described last month when writing about Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris:
"They don't whisk us away into the magic of great movie stories. They drop us into the somewhat ugly and tedious work of creating them. Who wants to visit a job site on vacation?"
It's fine to use a movie theme as a catch-all to bring together great narratives from the world of motion pictures that don't fit well into another of the company's theme parks. But unless the theme park actually is a working film studio (see, Universal Studios Hollywood), the park's theme should provide no excuse to go cheap on construction, with flimsy-looking building materials and false-front "sets." Theme park designers should treat the eyes of its visitors as set designers treat the eyes of the cameras - everything should look real to them.
Film-studio theme-park pioneer Universal has learned that lesson, and is more and more building "Disney-style", fully-immersive themed environments in its parks, instead of the false-front, backlot looks that it used to create. With Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure, Disney's Imagineers have shown that they can create a richly-detailed, immersive 1920s Hollywood - a look that they first attempted at what's now the Hollywood Studios park in Florida. Disney would do well to charge new WDW Executive Producer Kathy Mangum to take what her colleague Lisa Girolami did with Buena Vista Street and apply that same level of design detail throughout the park, scrapping the false fronts and cheap, exposed-beam exteriors that plague many sections of DHS's southern end.
Oh, and lose the hat, already.
While those aesthetics matter, ultimately, Disney needs to design and develop more rides for DHS. While we started last week with Epcot, let's acknowledge that Epcot really doesn't face much direct competition - it's the world's only major "non-fiction" theme park, with no similar counterparts, save temporary world's fairs in far-flung cities.
That's not the case with Hollywood Studios which, more than any other park in the world, faces a direct thematic competitor only a short distance away. The only other case I can recall of two theme parks with the same theme in the same metro area is that of Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott's Berry Farm in Southern California - two moderately-themed iron parks that nevertheless stand on opposite sides of the LA metro area, with several million people living in between them.
Disney's Hollywood Studios' direct competitor is Universal Studios Florida, located just 14 miles away. The parks are so similar in concept that accusations have flown for years that then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner lifted the plans for what was then the Disney-MGM Studios theme park from plans for Universal Studios Florida that he was said to have seen in the early 1980s, when he headed Paramount. (Eisner has denied seeing those plans.)
While Disney sits on its six rides at Hollywood Studios, Universal's got crews working around the clock building a third installation of the Transformers: The Ride, the attraction that beat out Disney's widely-lauded Radiator Springs Racers for the Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction this year. And it's also building a new Wizarding World of Harry Potter land - bringing the single most successful theme park franchise in a generation to its studio theme park.
What's Disney going to do with Hollywood Studios to match that?
Unless Disney comes up with an answer - and fast - it's going to have to watch as its Hollywood Studios theme park gets its rear end kicked like no Disney theme park ever has by a non-Disney competitor before.
Here'a an action plan:
1. Ironically, start by sacrificing a ride. Scrap the Studio Backlot Tour to create space for a needed expansion of Pixar Place.
2. If Disney wants to move fast, it can use one of two existing designs for Monsters, Inc.-themed rides to build up Pixar Place - the Mike and Sulley to the Rescue dark ride from California Adventure, or the Ride and Go Seek "flashlight tag" ride from Tokyo Disneyland. The Finding Nemo-themed Crush's Coaster from Walt Disney Studios Paris also could be in play, but only if Disney can fix the operational difficulties that leave that ride with inexcusably long waits. Personally, I'd rather see a new attraction here, though, such as the rumored Monsters Inc. roller coaster, or a long-overdue Incredibles rides. Or, even better, both.
3. Gut the American Idol/Sounds Dangerous buildings and develop a new dark ride for that space. Marvel would be the perfect fit here, but if that deal's dead, perhaps a Narnia ride. Or maybe, National Treasure?
4. We need a something new for the Muppets. Muppets + Animatronic micro-technology = Potential awesomeness. Make this happen.
5. Time to get really aggressive. Disney needs to attack Universal's second-biggest cash cow (after Potter) and launch its own Halloween event. Let the kids have the Mickey party over at the Magic Kingdom. Disney needs to develop a scary Halloween event. Granted, Disney's intellectual properties doesn't include much (okay, anything) from the horror genre. But throw some money at Tim Burton (or, much better yet, Neil Gaiman), and develop a unique event that takes the market space between Universal's Halloween Horror Nights and Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween party. There's big money on the table at Halloween, and Disney needs to throw every punch it can at Universal if it wants to maintain its lead in the fight for the public's theme park business.
That's the start of one plan. What do you got? What would you like to see Disney do with its Hollywood Studios theme park?
I've always through the "flying door" scene from Monsters, Inc., was the perfect setting for some sort of roller coaster.
Robert, while your changes are good and practical, I am going "whole hog" today. Please note: I understand much of what I am about to write is just wishful thinking, but hey, it's my sandbox - let me play!
We need more Star Wars. Replace Echo Lake with it, including the Cantina, a full JTA, and a speeder bike or podracing ride. I'd like to see The Avengers get a ride into LMAs place, but it would require a different route for the CM parking lot. Carsland needs to replace the Backlot Tour, with Monsters Inc coaster next to TSM.
Empire is admittedly the best directed film, but it is an unfinished work. STAR WARS, the original, is the only film that can stand on its own. All other movies in the series require Return of the Jedi (the absolute worst Star Wars film) which inherently diminishes their appeal.
Sorry James, AOTC is the worst. My rankings best to worst
Please, let's not derail this thread with a "which Star Wars film was best" debate. We are all entitled to our own opinion. However, I was there in 1977 when STAR WARS set a new standard and ruled above all other films. Nothing Lucas and his cronies will ever accomplish can top it. Everything else is just a sequel.
I think that the Sounds Dangerous/American Idol building could be used for a Disney Villains ride.
Personally, I really liked this site better before you started editorializing. Comments from those that were in the thick of working the parks is so much stronger than the editorial coming from a self promoted "expert". After 16 years at major them parks I know even Disney has to maintain priorities.
Did you even like ESB?
DHS needs to stop being a studios park. It needs to be a "Hollywood Adventure" park. For every Hollywood movie making attraction, change it to be an immersive ride experience.
I would like to see DHS fix their parking lot and front entrance--- it is horrible. WDW busses are placed in the worst spot ever, and even the tram lane is awkward. The plaza with the boat docks from Swan&Dolphin/ Boardwalk is a waste of space... as is the placement of Fantasmic Theater. That whole area needs to be re-imagined and utilized better.
This park does need fixing. Other than ToT and RnRC, this park is a rushed knockoff of Universal Studios (yes, Universal revealed their plans first, which prompted Disney to design DHS).
Ok, I think that the entrance is great, but Echo Lake, Hollywood Blvd, and Sunset Blvd need to be updated to make them even greater themed lands! A few extra B or C tickets would be nice. From hear, there should be 4 or 5 lands: Muppet Studios, LucasFilm Studios, Pixar Studios, and Walt Disney Studios (could be separated into animation and live action lands). Another Star Wars ride would be nice, and Yes to Indy Mine Cart ride ( with a loop or two? think Mind Bender or Shockwave). Muppets needs an updated movie and the Ride. Pixar(Taking over the backlot tour area) should have unique rides: Incredibles, Monsters inc coaster, maybe more. Like James said, Animation courtyard should stay, and it's a great location for the Hat! An updated LMA, and two or so rides based on hit live action films (Avengers please!). Placement of everything is not exact, things can easily move around. And finally, The great Movie ride needs to be updated. I think this is the easiest way for the park to become Amazing. Disney can't, and won't let the park just sit with minor additions (pirates). If so, then Transformers and Harry Potter will be enough to make USF better than DHS.
Something that can be really cool is a ride with the famous animation sequences of classic Disney cartoons, steam boat Willie meets great movie ride or something like that
I really love this park, but I can't believe I never realized it was so short on ride attractions. Of all the parks on Disney property, DHS has the most potential to capture more of the teenager demographic that Universal commands. TOT, RnRC and Star Tours are great top notch attractions that appeal to that demo, add at least 2 more rides of that caliber and it would go a long way in revitalizing the parks image. Also, it's beyond rediculous how much feet dragging is going on with getting this park up and running with a more mature Halloween event. DHS can be the edgy park on property and still maintain all of the Disney magic.
"It's the fewest number of rides at any major theme park in America."
The park needs to have genuine themes... for instance..
Update the overall theme to a Classic Studios feel while keeping most of the rides. Refocus the studio themes to Disney, Pixar, and Star Wars.
I love Disney but when it comes to DHS I have no interest in going back anytime soon. Actually the last time I was there was 2 years before they opened Midway Mania. This park has lost its magic.
DHS is the park you go to when the forecast calls for rain. Everything worth doing is indoors.
I personally veto any idea that leads to the dismantling of Walt Disney: One Man's Dream. Suggesting such blasphemy should be cause for a lifelong TPI ban!
I do not disagree with a Studios expansion. It is my favorite park and any love to it is welcome.
This is what needs to happen with D.H.S.
^Or even Downtown Disney, Dom!
Maybe it will fit in to Hyperion Wharf that's in development hell.
DHS is still my favourite Disney park, but yes it needs a LOT of love. Slight updates to GMR (I beg you - beg! - not to close it Disney), revamp the backlot tour!! A new ride is definitely needed. Look at how beautifully themed ToT is, when the imagineers do it - they do it right. Give them a blank canvas.
Hollywood and Sunset Blvd's shouldn't be touched. Both are prime examples of what a movie studio theme park should be like, recreating the glitz and glamour of Hollywood in its prime.
Crap I actually like DHS it has the best two rides in DWF in the TOT and RR and I must admit I love the SCI FI restaurant. Still I decided to look into my crstalball and look forward to 2017 based on what we know now and do a park comparison between Universal Studios and Hollywood studios
@184.108.40.206. OK. You don’t like the editorializing. We get it. But this is a theme park fan site and not a Disney corporate site. We know that Disney has priorities, and for far too long they were the wrong priorities. People on this site have been pointing out the flaws in the Disney “priorities” for well over a decade. Disney was flat out cheap, and it was obvious to the consumer. Instead of criticizing the editorializing (Isn’t that what this site is about? Everybody posting here is giving their editorial opinion.) you should be thankful that people care enough about the product to give you “experts” the benefit of our thoughts.
You all came up with some awesome ideas. I love the villain overhaul in the Chines Theatre.
I have not read all the comments (it is WAY early and my brain does not work prior to 10am), I really have one additional suggestion to Robert's. Basically, the Tower of Terror and Rock n' Rollercoaster are seemingly in a little island, with no other attraction anywhere close to them. For the love of all that is Goofy, PUT SOMETHING ELSE THERE. I know, Disney loves shops, but come on, it feels like people who want thrill rides are shut off into a corner of the park. Put something else there, hell a nice dark ride would be perfect. I don't care, just do something.
1. Level Backlot tour and the stunt show. Replace with an expanded Pixar presence. Monsters Inc coaster, Incredibles dark ride, retheme the playground to Bug's Life, and maybe a kiddie ride based on Ratatouille(sp).
I'd LOVE a House of Mouse restaurant, but it might be better in MK as its on a corner on Main Street.
The problem with a movie theme park will always be that it's next to impossible to keep updated. Disney is finding this out as portions of Hollywood Studios are starting to stale. Universal is having the same problem, and it's costing them billions to freshen up their US studio parks. It's really going to come down to cost, and something tells me that if Disney is getting ready to pump a billion dollars into Animal Kingdom for "Avatar," DHS is not going to get the financial back necessary to do a proper update.
I think a lot of folks are having a lot of fun getting all "blue sky" on us here. If Disney actually discovered a money tree somewhere behind Animal Kingdom then maybe they'll do some of these plans.
I hope you all understand that absolutely nothing gets done until you start voting with your feet and wallet.
I agree with the person who said to fix the parking lot. The flow of incoming and outgoing traffic is horrible. A very poor design choice. I do not think we need a reproduction of Cars land. Leave that at DCA for a unique attraction. I would like to see Pixar Place expanded to take over the back lot tour. Ratatouille--dark ride and restaurant. The restaurant could serve the crazy different commerical chef food during the day and have table service at night. Incredibles 3-D dark ride. (similar to Harry Potter ride) Monster Inc. suspended coaster. Expand Star Wars land and give us a unique themed roller coaster.
Troy, Uni has exclusive rights to KUKA Rides.
I think Disney needs to go older and think Coasters...something more thrilling than they have ever done before. Is that not what makes Tower of Terror great (the thrill). They already have Magic Kingdom for the youngest members of the family and the nostalgia for the parents. Epcot caters to those more interested in learning something and Animal Kingdom for the animal lovers in so many of us. Why not get crazy and come up with some big thrills like the Hulk. I think it would do Disney some good to think outside their box and draw in the older teens and twenty-somethings. There are plenty of movies to draw from for something thrilling. Maybe a Moto-Coaster based on Tron. There are so many options if they would open their box.
For the record, and despite all the love Universal is getting in this thread, I hope Robert does "Fix This Theme Park" discussions for Universal Orlando as well. I have lots of ideas for both of those half-day parks, too.
Whoever here said that nothing will happen until it falls out of the top 5 of attendance (I think it was Jeff), that's a lie. AK is above DHS in attendance, and yet Disney is spending a billion dollars to fix that half day park.
Furthermore, the Magic Kingdom is the number one park in the world and still climbing. Yet it is getting a $400M expansion! Disney is waking up...it just took a few years to shake off the cobwebs.
It does seem that Disney World is about to awaken from their Rip Van Winkle decade long slumber. The reality of competition has probably finally established a beach head. In an interesting Businessweek interview with Disney CEO Bob Iger, Iger actually admits that Universal's Harry Potter expansion had an impact on Disney World. Now, those of us that are old enough to have worked in the corporate world for a long time, know that CEO's never admit hurt from the competition. And for corporate speak choice of word "impact", probabably, in reality, means major effect on business. If Harry Potter had not occured, Disney World probably would have remained in their cost cutting mode. The troubling thing about the interview, though, is that Iger continually lauds that bum Michael Eisner as if he were a hero to him & Disney. That tells me that Iger's departure needs hastened also. To the point of Hollywood Studios, even though it is small, we love the ambiance & the mix of attractions, shows and the marvelous Citizens of Hollywood. However, many areas of the park are outdated or in need of change. Last week, WDW News Today had an excellent story on massive changes to Hollywood Studios to be completed by 2018 per their Disney sources. Dom's thread a few days later covered some of these ideas. It sounds like these changes, though not yet written in stone, are strong possibilities and a blueprint of sorts. If the Disney accountant beancounters do not screw this up, Hollywood Studios could become a great park.
Now that I am more awake (and much more bored), here are my suggestions.
DHS is the favorite WDW park of our family. One of the biggest reasons is that it's different than the other parks, since it has so many great shows. If changes are made, I'd hate to see it lose its uniqueness.
DHS....Best park to be at during Christmas. Lights are AWESOME!!
What I find unusual about both these "Fix these parks" is that everyone seems to agree on the primary concepts:
Doesn't Disney technically own the Scream Franchise? (wasn't that Mirrimax?)
Mirimax was sold to Colony Capital
There is nothing wrong with half day parks... We never spend the entire day at IOA or Universal. We usually hit each park twice a day.
Its staggering to think that for nearly 50 years Disney really was alone and had no real competition in the immersive themeing market! Now with the addition of Harry Potter/ transformers Disney finally for the first time has real competition. It must be a completely new thing for Disney to experience this and the next 10 - 20 years may be some of the most interesting in theme park history as the 2 juggernauts ( Disney and universal) compete for our dollar. Just look at how big 2012 has been! And it is us the consumer that will benefit so this is a good thing and I'm a long time Disney fan but hey great rides and attactions I welcome no matter who's making them!
I really like the ideas listed about converting the lands to certain studio franchises...Pixar, lucasfilm, muppets( really should be Jim Henson studios), and of course Walt Disney animation studios...this at least gives coherence to the different themed lands instead of a mush mash of lands and attractions. They'll never give it a complete retheming like CA adventure because dhs has too high attendance numbers so I think that would be the most practical way to proceed. If they brought in Indiana Jones ride (although that would fit in nicely in DAK too) and another Pixar ride like crush, rsr, rattatouille or a fresh one I think this park would be set for a good 10 years.
I disagree that DHS is broken. I absolutely love it, but there are things there that could be expanded on. I have said this before, and I will say it again: Star Wars. I know it has been discussed, and likely the money or contract that Lucas wants is an issue. Nevertheless, now is the best time in both franchise's interests. Have three rides past the Star Tours ride and open it as a hub that acts as a gateway to other planets. There can be shops, restaurants, massive dark rides, and simulator rides.
A clone of the Tokyo Monsters Inc. ride would be great for DHS. That, and a new (based on the later movies?) Indiana Jones ride. And the so-called studio tour has to go. It takes up a vast amount of space that could be better used for the above.
My comment above I stated DHS creating a ride based on the Incredibles. (similar to Harry Potter ride) I was quite aware Universal had the rights to the Kuka robotic arms. I would not want Disney to copy something from Universal, but, I would like for them to to use the technique of getting the riders up close to the physical set's. Disney needs to come up with their own creative ride system.
I love all these ideas, but I especially dig the idea of National Treasure attraction — I highly doubt that would ever come to fruition, but that movie is more fun than it has any right to be, and it would be so easy to adapt into a thrilling ride!
Here's my opinion on what I would do, which I've actually thought about for a while:
DHS needs some rides for kids. I don't even go anymore because I have young kids and there is nothing for us to do together.
I enjoy seeing what everyone's ideas are. Unfortunately most of the time corporations don't look at what the customer would like. I like a lot of the ideas posted. But the biggest suggestion that I would like seen done is what the park originally was an actual working studio. There could be a presence of all the networks and production companies that Disney owns or is associated with. Everyone here is talking about the movies but Disney also owns Disney Television, ABC and ESPN and a few other smaller networks. I enjoyed DHS when it first opened and you could witness actual production work going on lets face it that is really why people go to USH.
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