INFO: A Look Back at The American Idol Experience” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by Bill Iadonisi

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A Look Back at The American Idol Experience” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Bill Iadonisi


On February 12, Walt Disney revealed to the world its newest mega attraction, “The American Idol Experience”, based on the cult hit TV show “American Idol” In one of the largest press events for an attraction, media from all over the country and Canada got a first look at the new guest-interactive show. The attraction is just slightly different from the TV show, due to time limits and guest schedules, for example there are no “Train Wreck” singers during the performances. All of the contestants are pooled from guests at the park, and go through a multi-step audition process before being chosen to perform on the show. Contestants must be 14 years old and up to be eligible.

The attraction is housed in a huge 1000 seat indoor theater, and the stage is similar to the one used in season 7 of the TV show. The set detail is just amazing, giving guests and performers alike the feeling of being “Live” at a real taping of a production show. Disney worked with Andy Walmsley, the production designer who created the sets on “Idol” since the beginning. The theater is one of the most technological advanced at Disney, with its energy-saving LED lights to the keypads on the seat armrests used by the guests to vote for their favorite performer. Even the lighting is computer controlled so the singers are always in the spotlight.

Disney rolled out the “Blue” carpet down Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere of “Idol” The itinerary began with a motorcade of past and present stars of American Idol. The blue carpet ran all the way down the Boulevard to the Sorcerer’s Hat, where after the motorcade the stars began to enter the new attraction theater, where photos and quick interviews could be had. But the best was yet to come. For after the parade a “Special Edition” of the American Idol Experience” was on tap for the media. During the past few weeks, Disney had several “Soft Opening” shows, and five winners of the past few weeks were invited back to compete for the grand prize, which is the “American Idol Experience” Dream Ticket which entitles the bearer to go right to the head of the line in any regional audition for the American Idol television show. With much anticipation, the show began. After each performance, each singer was “critiqued” by one of the three judges, and the judge who represents Simon sounds exactly like him and is just as caustic. And like the Television show, the guests, not the judges picked the winner. The theater was filled and the media reaction was positive and incredible!

The show ended with appearances by Simon Fuller, creator of the original British show, Pop Idol which American Idol is a spinoff, Ryan Seacrest the host of the TV show and Paula Abdul one of the Show’s three Judges. The winners of the last 7 seasons of the show were given a special award by Simon Fuller himself. And a standing ovation finale duet was sung by Carrie Underwood and David Cook.

The “American Idol Experience” here at the studios begins with guests invited to audition are given assigned times. They will enter the audition rooms, where the first song from an approved list is sung a cappella in front of a casting director. If approved, a second audition will have the performer sing to a pre-recorded song track. And even those who go through the whole process, only a few will be selected to sing on stage. There will be several shows during the day, each with three performers, ending with the final one at night where the winners of the previous contests are given a last chance to be chosen for the grand prize. The attraction immerses the guests and the performers just as if they were on the Television show, and the guests have the final say on who will take the grand prize.

I had the chance to sit in on five “Soft Opening” shows during the past few weeks and the format of the attraction, the stage (And the Imagineers fantastic attention to detail) plus the thrill of being “Part of the show” was very exciting! There were times you had to blink to make sure you were not on the TV show. As I stated before, the one thing I like about the attraction is that there are no “Train Wreck” singers. I never liked that part of the Idol show. To me, it is just a waste of time and painful on the ears to listen to someone you know is not even in the running! Right now, American Idol since its debut on June 11, 2002 has been a smash hit, bordering on cult status. It is ranked by Forbes as the most successful reality show ever, and is probably viewed by more people than anything else on TV. The “American Idol Experience” makes its public debut on February 14th. With such a huge fan base and the addition of that “Disney magic”, the new show at the Hollywood Studios is destined to be the number one attraction for years to come!