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Stitch Crashes & Burns

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration concept artTomorrowland – A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man’s achievements… a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals: the atomic age… the challenge of space… and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.

Things have been a little backward-looking around here lately, as most of my research recently has been of a historical nature. It also doesn’t help that there’s not a lot interesting going on with the parks currently, and the future plans we do know about do not inspire much confidence. Many Disney fans, myself included, had hoped that with the Pixar merger a new wave of creativity would sweep through the company as John Lasseter and friends fought for a return to Imagineering’s roots. This has, of yet, not come to pass, as all new projects seem to center around ways to either inexpensively insert “franchise” properties into the parks or to expand the company’s DVC properties. The creative problem goes all the way up the management chain, and while the average Imagineer might be as creative and skilled as ever, WDI is not being given the proper direction and funding to create compelling attractions.

This is all to explain why I’ve yet to talk about Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration, the much-ballyhooed new show that debuted at the Magic Kingdom in early May. By all accounts, the show was a travesty. But as much as I’m sure everyone would love to see me spewing vitriol on a daily basis, I don’t really have the energy to deal with it all and, overall, I’d rather see Dick Nunis going down a waterslide.

Sometimes, though, the public comes to the rescue and puts the smack down on my behalf. Reminiscent of the quick closure forced by universal condemnation of 1999′s “Journey Into YOUR Imagination”, Disney has announced the impending closure of Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration.

What’s amazing is that this closure comes after a run of barely six weeks, while the show’s theater itself took about five months to build. Disney will not comment on what will replace the show in the still-brand-new theater, but I can’t believe that they’d give up on the venue as it must have been a multi-million dollar investment.

The whole episode is confusing, and shows how generally discombobulated the management at Walt Disney World has become. First they tore down Tomorrowland’s existing Galaxy Theater to provide parking spaces for management. Then they spent a great deal of money building the new stage in Rockettower Plaza, where it is both out-of-scale and oddly placed. The new stage also lacks seating and shade, leaving viewers standing in a vast, sweltering expanse of asphalt on sunny days. Regardless of the show’s quality, the whole setup is confusing when you consider that the former Galaxy Theater had both seating and shade. Using the Galaxy Theater also wouldn’t have necessitated the addition of the monolithic stage and control booth in Tomorrowland itself like the new show does.

The show itself illustrates just how derivative Disney’s offerings have become; it’s all simply an excuse to incorporate the Living Character Initiative interactive Stitch, which is also in use at California Adventure, Hong Kong Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios in Paris. It’s also pretty much the exact same gag as Turtle Talk, which is already in place at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT, and Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, which sits right across Tomorrowland from the Stitch show. Same gag, same idea, just more burping. Hilarious. Let’s just hope that guests weren’t already burped out by Stitch’s Great Escape, which uses the exact same character as the stage show and is also right there in Tomorrowland. Variety – the spice of life.

Anyway, the show is gone now so we’ll hope that there’s a miraculous turnaround, the stage is moved to a less obtrusive location, completely rethemed, Stitch’s Great Escape is also rethemed, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor is also rethemed, the Carousel of Progress is refurbished and updated, the empty Skyway station is demolished and replaced with a new attraction, the demolished Galaxy Theater is replaced, the Grand Prix cars are converted to electric and rethemed, and the WEDway expanded. Hey, it could happen.

For those of you who will now never have the pleasure of having seen Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration, I give you…

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13 comments to Stitch Crashes & Burns

  • Although there is an inexplicable Barney Fife reference which I appreciate while still being bewildered.

  • [...] So does my spy source, the Orlando Business Journal No one knows what it means yet, but I blogged it at Progress [...]

  • KlarkKent007

    That was terrible.

  • Alex

    OMG, those were the most wasted seven minutes of my life. What a bad, bad show.

  • Hallett

    Wow, that stunk.

  • Alex – just seven minutes?? You didn’t watch parts two and three with even more…. magic? :)

    Yeah, it’s…. interesting.

  • B. Fezzi

    While I love Jason Surrell’s books, it seems that a number of show writing projects he works on end up being horrible. His revised Great Movie Ride spiel is another example besides this show. I only hope that these are victims of being revised dozens of times by committee.

    I have a feeling that the power that be at the Magic Kingdom were wanting to have a perm structure in place instead of that “temporary” stage that seemed to stick around for several years.

    I don’t care for this stage either. I also don’t care for the arcade building.

    I find it hard to believe that someone didn’t look at the plans for this and think about shade. But at the same time, I found it hard to believe that someone thought that a High School Musical show belonged in Tomorrowland too.

  • Mark

    I recently discovered this blog and I absolutely love it. So much of it is spot on, and it manages to carve out a niche of interesting information that hasn’t been rehashed twenty times over on every other Disney site out there. Also, I love the nostalgic looks back at the good old days, for the same reasons you express.

    Having met Lasseter personally (and ridden around DLP on the train there with him, believe it or not), he definitely seems like the real deal and I too continue to hold out hope for a revival. I just wish he cared about parks beyond Disneyland.

    Also, interesting news from a friend of mine who works in WDW entertainment. Apparently the Stitch performers were given their two-weeks notice, so this closure may be a little more permanent than has been widely speculated.

  • Thanks very much for the compliments; I really try not to rehash too heavily those stories that are already out there (with the exception of Widen Your World and Passport to Dreams, which I’m happy to slavishly imitate any day of the week). Of course, a lot of the time it just involves taking the bits and pieces that individual authors have written in other places and putting it all together for the big picture. In any case, I’m really glad you enjoy it.

    I don’t at all doubt Lasseter’s sincerity, nor have I ever, but as you say I wish he seemed to care about the parks outside of Disneyland. I don’t blame him for playing favorites; we all have our biases, after all, and I would be the same way if I were in charge. But it’s for this reason that I think there really needs to be, for lack of a better term, a Disney World ‘Czar’ to keep an eye on the property. This individual would be someone from the creative side who had a special connection to and interest in the Florida property and who could make sure that things don’t get too far adrift in Orlando. Current management, none of whom come from the creative side, aren’t getting it done.

    Interesting about the performers; I had assumed that it would, in fact, be a temporary closure to add some shade. While I’m glad the show’s gone, I hate it for the performers. I always feel terrible for the CMs in cases like this. If you watch the videos of the show, the CMs are always giving it 100%, even if the show is awful and there are like five people in the audience. The people that approved the show get to keep their jobs, while the entertainers pay the price.

  • Mark (W)

    So this post is about 13 months old now, but I recently talked to the same friend who told me about the Stitch closing about a year ago. I was just visiting with him down in WDW and learned some new information regarding who was fired and why… The regular cast members that were part of the show were in fact not fired, just reassigned to different shows and entertainment. The Equity union performers (which includes nearly all Disney performers who sing or speak) are normally hired on a contractual basis and are tied to a specific show or other entertainment offering – if the show closes, their contract goes with it. The Stitch show was no different and so all the Equity performers were let go.

    However, there was one regular cast member who was let go around the same time the show closed, but this wasn’t because of the show’s closing. One of the hosts (who apparently was not Equity, which is rare) was fired for an “unconventional” show ending. Every Disney entertainment offering has a contingency plan for just about anything. If a float breaks, a character fails to appear, there’s inclement weather, etc. – there is a contingency plan in place and everyone associated with the performance is expected to know and execute it. Except apparently, Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration, despite being an outdoor performance in Orlando, did not have a contingency plan for inclement weather that started during the performance. A storm started during the show while this particular cast member was hosting, and his manager signaled to him to end the show. There was no preset plan for this and the cast member had to improvise. Unfortunately, the first words that came to his mind (and out of his mouth) while he was under pressure and trying to wrap things up were, “Well folks, that was one hell of a show, wasn’t it?” Needless to say, that was his last performance at WDW.

    An interesting anecdote, I thought.

  • That’s hilarious. How in the dickens don’t they have a plan for inclement weather? Sheesh.

    Hate that the Union performers were let go but man, the show was a dog. And yet the theater sits there…

  • Brian Greer

    Sure wish they would come up with something that truly fits Tomorrowland. Disney Imagineering has seemed to find it really difficult keeping up with Future World and Tomorrowland over the past several years. Those are two concepts that are being starved to death by WDI.

  • I agree completely. Keeping things futuristic takes some thought and effort, but it isn’t *impossible*…

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