Back in January, I shared my thoughts on the arrival of The American Idol Experience to Disney's Hollywood Studios. You can read that post here, but to sum it up, this Idol nerd was underwhelmed by the idea. And after visiting the attraction on my last trip, I'm sorry to say that opinion still holds. Or as Randy would say, "You did your thing, dawg, but it wasn't hot for me tonight."
The basic idea is this: guests audition at the beginning of the day for a spot in one of the afternoon shows, where three selected hopefuls will get their 90 seconds in the spotlight and a chance to be judged by three Cast Members doing non-impressions of the Idol judges. The winners of each afternoon show then face off in the finale show that evening for a chance to win a Golden FastPass that allows the winner to jump the line at any of the actual American Idol auditions where they will find out that winning approval at a theme park does not guarantee you approval in front of Randy, Kara, and Simon.
I didn't audition because 1. I am a terrible singer and 2. I have better things to do in the morning at Hollywood Studios - namely, scoring FastPasses and early morning rides on Rock n Roller Coaster and Toy Story Midway Mania. But I did get a look at the song list the hopefuls have to choose from, and while I don't have the photographic evidence to share, it's a collection of the most treacly Disney ballads, plus songs off the adult contemporary Top 40 list. And a Fergie song. Seriously.
Disney has done a good job of trying to get the look and feel of the show, but the whole thing feels like a cheap imitation of the real deal. Since the American Idol Experience isn't a ride, there's not a lot of room for interpretation, and because Idol has been around for so long, I'm so intimately familiar with it that it's hard not to focus on all the discrepancies. (I'm using myself as an example, but based on Idol's ratings - I cannot be alone in this).
You enter the attraction over by the ABC Commissary and stand around watching the preshow, where you are greeted by ....
... not Ryan Seacrest. Hey Justin, long time no sing.
Finally, you file into the auditorium, which boasts an impressive set.
The three contestants we saw were a teenage girl, a birthday boy, and a high school heartthrob type. The teen girl sang "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie (I guess Disney couldn't get the rights to "London Bridge") and was understandably nervous-sounding. It's like if you invited 200 WDW guests to hear you sing in the shower.
Next up was a super-excited guy who turned 23 that day and was obviously allowed through so that the show could reiterate that point over and over. Rather than riding the party train, he sang "Amazed" by Mercy Me and butchered it. I voted for him anyway.Last up was a fresh-faced Troy Bolton type who belted "Go the Distance" from Hercules with every last breath his lead-in-the-school-play-future-regional-theatre-director self could muster. During the preshow, a Cast Member who appeared to be impersonating Ryan Seacrest on acid tried to get the women present to yell "(Teen boy's name), you're my American Idol!" so that it could be edited into the show and so that WDW and the folks at 19 Entertainment would have footage of me screaming my love for an underage boy. Um, no.
My biggest mistake during all of this was turning around in my seat to discover that the lyrics to the songs scroll along on a TV on the back wall, so the contestants don't have to worry about forgetting the words. Disney's Hollywood Studios Presents: The Karaoke Idol Experience.
And then, sigh, the "judges." I was happy to see that they at least offered some criticisms, but hoo boy - the show would be so much better if they weren't trying to play into the Idol archetypes (our show was hosted by a female and it worked fine). For example, at our show there was a woman playing the "Randy" role, i.e. dressed in BabyPhat and bling and spouting off lingo that Disney must imagine is "from the street." The effect was Hannah-Montana-supporting-cast-member-meets-those-racist-robots-from-Transformers 2.
Did I enjoy The American Idol Experience? Yes, in a bemused sort of way. But there are definitely more exciting shows to take in while at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and let's face it, nothing will be as good as the real thing.
* THIS is (Not Really) AMERICAN IDOL
* Idol Winner Kris Allen is Going to Disney World!