The pace of change here in Orlando is fast enough that sometimes I do not see new attractions or experiences for a few weeks, even several weeks, after they’ve been opened. That goes double for things that opened inside parks I visit less frequently, such as Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

It’s been several months since I last poked my head into Disney Animation, the exhibit space for artwork concerning the latest release or upcoming movie, as well as home to more permanent attractions like the Animation Academy, Meeting Mickey Mouse in his sorcerers outfit, or interactive screen-based games. It turns out there has been an upgrade to the Production Gallery since my last visit. This area, just after the preshow movie with Mushu, was once home to an overlook above the desks of real, working animators. Those windows are frosted over now, but the exhibit space is often used nowadays or concept sketches, color tests, maquettes, and scale models.

King Candy

Wreck it Ralph is due in theaters this fall, apparently revolving around the escapades of one particular videogame character, as seen from inside the videogame world. Namely, he jumps around from game to game. The displays at the production gallery reflect not only the main characters, but also the different environments we will see in the movie — meaning the different video games, or rather pseudo-video games, that we will see mocked up as though they are real.





Speaking of mock-ups, there’s a small model of a stand-up videogame cabinet in one of the display cases, the kind of thing you might have seen in an arcade in the 1980s. But this one bears the name of a fake videogame called Fix It Felix Jr. Disney went a step further, however, by also creating a mock-up of such a cabinet in full-scale.

Down the hall slightly are two offices set at a lower level and seen from behind plate glass. The first office remains unchanged from year to year, but the second office is often redressed to provide further thematic enforcement of the upcoming were recently released movie. The second office now contains a full-sized standup videogame version of Fix it Felix as though the animators could simply stand up from their desks, saunter over here, and play the game.

Small version in the display case


Full size version in the sunken office

Both Wreck it Ralph and Monsters University are given space on the opposite wall for movie posters. It seems a bit odd to have no Disney Princess movie splayed across this wall; usually, at least one of the movies concerns a female heroine. There’s also a Frankenweenie poster.

Sully's off to school!

When I think about the Disney animation building at all, it’s usually with a bit of a mental shrug. The activities and exhibits within do not really lend themselves well to repeat visits, especially by locals who can come every week. So I guess I would probably lump this in the category of “mostly harmless.” But for out-of-town or infrequent visitors, it’s probably a different story. Those screen, games, where you can record your voice onto a Disney scene or take a quiz to figure out which Disney character is most like you, are probably pretty entertaining for such visitors. Meeting Mickey Mouse is a priority for many of them already, but the chance to snap a picture with him in his sorcerer’s apprentice outfit must be wildly desirable for many.

I doubt that the rotating exhibits in the production gallery do much to drive additional foot traffic. It’s a little surprising, actually, that they bother at all. In today’s park, it’s more customary to make operations decisions based on immediate return on investment. If a themed display can be turned into a money generating merchandise cards, for instance, that display won’t be around for long. You might think that displays get rotated anyway, just to keep things fresh, but that happens far less likely in today’s Walt Disney World that might be expected. It’s almost as if there is a resignation in the air, that things are, by and large, good enough. This is part of the Rizzo effect we’ve noticed previously: if they are tourists, they are unlikely to notice a lack of attention to little things.

So why the rotating displays in Disney animation? I wonder if the directive to change the displays, if not the outright cash to do so, comes from Feature Animation. After all, they have an advertising budget, and the Disney parks seem like a pretty good place to advertise an upcoming Disney product.

He's gonna wreck it!


Hero's Duty


Sugar Rush

No matter the source of the funds, I’m glad that the displays are frequently updated. It keeps things fresh, something that this part desperately needs. There’s a staleness to much of Walt Disney World these days, but the ossification reaches crisis levels in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. So much so, that one might ironically note that it’s possible for a frequent visitor like myself to be so excited by even the smallest change that such a small story becomes the main feature of a column. As exciting as the toilet paper tree and Sounds Dangerous are, they just don’t lend themselves to regular updates.

There is increasing chatter that DHS will undergo its own Version 2.0 transformation like DCA did earlier this year. Cars Land is the latest rumor, seemingly getting stronger by the day, but it wasn’t the first. The Monsters Incorporated coaster, featuring those flying doors, was almost approved several times, apparently. As was importing Crush’s Coaster from Paris. Both of them would have gone near Toy Story Midway Mania as a way to expand Pixar Place.

I positively loved Cars Land when I saw it this summer. That said, I do prefer when the theme parks have different offerings on both coasts. Rather than duplicate Cars Land in DHS, couldn’t they invent a mini-land based on other Disney properties? It’s not as if they don’t have hundreds of options. If it needs to be a Pixar movie to stay in theme with Pixar Place, why not the island from the Incredibles? The elevated pod transportation system could be hugely cool.

New Haunted Mansion toys

I stumbled across these collectibles at the Disney Animation gift store. The Haunted Mansion appears to be undergoing a resurgence of sorts. In addition to these finer works, several of the following items are themed to the mansion. There are even light up. Snow globes with Madame Leota.

Hatbox Ghost


Hitchhiking Ghosts


Ballroom Organist

Epcot: the First 30 Years book

In case you missed the announcement last week, Jeff Lange and I created a book to honor the 30th anniversary of Epcot. It would certainly have been easier to just buy a history-minded book from Disney itself, but Disney has not created one. So, we made our own.

This softcover book is large format at 8″ x 10″. It’s 158 pages chock full of photographs — over 500 of them, in fact. These are our own photos, and the book can be thought of as a fan’s perspective of Epcot history. We took pains when selecting the photos to give priority to those things which are no longer part of today’s Epcot. The vast majority of photographs, in other words, are no longer things you can see in the park.

We put the book for sale in various ways:

You can also have a look at this blog post, where we preview the Horizons chapter so you can have a sense of the book’s contents.

More information and updates

Readers are invited to connect with Kevin online and face to face at the following locations: