Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

American Idol Experience

Hot property at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

Fans of the TV show American Idol, or any one of the global ‘Idol’ franchises, won’t want to miss the newest attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Paul Ruben goes behind the scenes of Walt Disney World’s hottest new branded attraction.

Capturing the energy and excitement of the TV series, this new addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios allows guests to audition for a special park version of American Idol, where their performances are rated by the audience and a panel of judges.

“The show is enjoyable for all ages, whether you are an American Idol fan or not,” contends Jason Dobbins of the park’s marketing department. “For those who enjoy the TV show, it’s an opportunity to become part of the phenomenon while at Walt Disney World. For those who simply appreciate music and theatre shows, this is a great opportunity to see a high-tech production filled with lots of excitement.”

The new attraction opened on February 14 and is the only Idol-branded theme park experience to date, developed by Walt Disney Imagineering in conjunction with Fremantle Media Enterprises and 19 TV Ltd. Each show takes place in a 1,000 seat, indoor theatre that features the twirling neon signs and a multi-layered backdrop reminiscent of the real American Idol set.

Although American Idol is not a Disney property, Dobbins concedes that it is, “one of the hottest shows on TV right now,” and therefore a perfect fit for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. ”We want your stay here to be experiential with TV, theatre, musicals, film and entertainment in general. We want to hit all of them”.

But how difficult was it to transform the hit TV show into a credible theme park attraction? “It wasn’t as difficult as we thought,” reveals Dobbins. “Our attraction and the TV show are very similar in nature. The only true difference is volume. We have to put seven shows together each day and they put together two shows per week.”

The American Idol Experience audition process is open to all park guests aged 14 and older. First they must perform live in front of a park casting director for the opportunity to be cast in one of the live shows the same day. If shown to have that special “star quality” during the multi-step audition process, it’s on to performance training, hair and make-up. They will then choose from a list of 113 songs and be accompanied by an instrumental recording, karaoke-style. Then, the lights come up and it’s showtime for the singers as they try to impress an audience of park guests, plus a panel of three expert judges.

Audience members enjoy the performances just as though they were at a live television show, and vote for their favourite performance using armrest touchpads. Performers with the highest votes during these preliminary shows return for a grand finale at the end of each day. The big winner from each of these shows, in addition to their theme park fame, is then eligible for a front-of-the-line audition for the real American Idol TV show.

“The reaction to The American Idol Experience has been overwhelmingly positive,” confirms Dobbins. “Guests have told our cast members they actually felt like they were in Hollywood and never expected something as exciting as this when they walked into the attraction. Many audition for The American Idol Experience because they want to feel what it is like to perform on the American Idol show but do not want to go through the lengthy audition process. That’s something most people would not have the opportunity to do while they are on vacation in Florida!”

See The American Idol Experience for yourself by accessing exclusive video content in the digital version of this magazine.

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