Disney World plans for "American Idol" attraction

February 7, 2008 5:49:26 PM PST
Disney World is about to get a little pitchy, dawg. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts announced plans Thursday to create a live performance attraction based on "American Idol" at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park - formerly called Disney-MGM Studios - in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

"Our goal is to try to recreate the excitement of those 24 people who show up on that 'American Idol' stage," Disney Parks chairman Jay Rasulo told The Associated Press. "We believe many, many viewers want to know exactly how that feels, and we're going to try to reproduce that feeling for them."

Much like the hugely popular Fox singing competition, the as-yet-unnamed attraction - scheduled to open in late 2008 - will allow theme park guests to audition then perform before a live studio audience inside the Hollywood Studios' theater space formerly occupied by the "Doug Live!" and "Superstar Television" attractions.

Disney licensed the rights to create the attraction from "Idol" co-producers 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia, despite the fact "American Idol" airs on Fox and Disney owns broadcast competitor ABC.

"It is owned by us, so we can extend the brand in the off-air space in the ways that we want to," said Keith Hindle, FremantleMedia's licensing vice president. "We don't see this in any way as a NewsCorp. vs. Disney debate. That's never been part of the discussion, and it's not something that's relevant to us. It's just part of 'American Idol."' The attraction's details are still being worked out, but it will probably operate something like this: Theme park guests ages 14 and up will be able to audition for a Disney casting producer. Those who pass the test will be selected to appear in one of the park's "Idol" stage shows. Rasulo anticipates six to eight such shows a day.

Backstage, the performers will receive hair and makeup touchups from a stylist and singing tips from a vocal coach. Then, the guests will perform on an "Idol"-like set in front of a live audience and three judges.

Top audience vote-getters will compete in a grand finale show at the end of each day. Overall daily champs will win a special front-of-the-line pass at a regional audition for the actual "American Idol" show. Hindle says Disney winners won't be given any special treatment during the real audition, just the ability to skip ahead.

Because of eligibility differences - namely, the TV show's 16- to 28-year-old age limit - winners may be offered the option of transferring their pass to a friend or family member, but they won't be allowed to sell it. Daily champs too young to audition for the real deal could save the pass until they're old enough to compete, according to Hindle.

But will there be enough Fantasias and Sanyayas to keep theme park audiences captivated?

"I know that there's enough talent on any given day in our theme parks to keep people entertained," said Rasulo.

Beyond the attraction, Hindle says actual "Idol" stars may make appearances throughout the year and merchandise designed by both FremantleMedia and Disney's product divisions especially for the attraction would be available for sale.

"It's a very collaborative process," Hindle said. "Disney knows more about live stage productions that we ever will. We know more about our TV show that Disney ever will. Exactly how this will manifest it is something that will be mutually approved by all parties. We're looking to Disney to see how their guests like to be entertained."


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