The new, golden satellite dish atop Walt Disney Television Studios has been buzzing throughout this past weekend, relaying wisecracks and games from Stitch’s space ship to the lucky guests down on Earth, experiencing ‘Stitch Live!’ for the first time thanks to the previously announced Annual Passport Dream previews.
Our partner site Photos Magiques was there to capture a quick photo tour through the revamped Disney Channel studios:
Outside, the noticeboard installed a few weeks ago featured a Studio-styled notice proclaiming “Stitch Live! — Opening Soon”, with the attraction’s logo. This will, in future, be taken out to reveal a show times listing — that during the earlier tests with the public (see end of article) was a simple printed poster, not electronic.
During the AP Dream previews, the resort’s well-known “stay away from here” plants were out in force to guard the entrance from non-Annual Passport guests, with a notice explaining the previews.
AP Dream holders were required only to show their pass to gain entry into either the English or French queues, either side of the theatre-style booth. Reports posted on the French DisneyMagicInteractive forum reveal that this control booth appears to feature a third button alongside English and French — for Spanish. So, if the number of Spanish guests at the resort continues to grow rapidly, a third language can apparently be easily added.
Once through the outdoo, covered queue line, your group waits in the old pre-show area of the former Television Production Tour. Where once a 9-panel videowall introduced the unforgettable host Julie and the universe of the Disney Channel, now a simple poster with Disney Channel branding against a space-themed background sits. The area is perhaps even less inspiring than previously.
In fact, and you could argue “as expected”, the pre-show as a whole is the only disappointment with the attraction. Finally stepping inside the studio building from the outside area, however, the revamped space is certainly impressive. This used to be a curved walkway following the windows on the right, then leading into a separate room to the left. Now, the entire space has been opened up into one pre-show area — although some space on the left has been taken from the second room, possibly for Stitch’s backstage areas.
The art deco style has been kept throughout, matching the exterior of the building. The lighting is subtle and atmospheric, enhancing the “outer space” theme with glowing blues contrasting against the red of the “On Air” signs. The windows through to the Disney Channel production galleries on the right have been covered completely with space imagery, lit by glowing blue light from above. Four large plasma screens are housed within a giant, glowing blue oval to the left, on the wall of the theatre. The black of the oval is, if you look closely, decorated with a starry sky mural.
It’s these plasma screens which have inspired almost all of the negative points about the attraction so far, simply playing excerpts from the Disney Channel programmes Hannah Montana, High School Musical 2 and Phineas and Ferb, amounting to nothing more than a thoughtless promotion Ã la the cringe-worthy Kodak adverts at Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.
So, are the senior figures at Disneyland Resort Paris concerned with how such a relatively small attraction is being received? Definitely! The advertising for the attraction (both around the resort and in the latest TV commercial) was surprising enough, but guests at the very first public showing could also spot none other than Karl Holz — Chairman and CEO of the resort — checking out the first introduction of Walt Disney Imagineering’s “Living Character” idea to Paris. Mr. Holz appears much easier to spot around the parks than many other Disney presidents and managers around the world, appearing here at the tests on the first weekend in March, which allowed all or any park guests to try the attraction and prepare Stitch for the more critical annual passholders the following weekend.
We’ve shared a fair few reactions and reviews already, from Cast Members, but what is the show actually like? Well, photography inside the small video theatre is technically forbidden, but we can reach a compromise with the slightly blurred photo from Mousy.be above, taken only as guests were leaving. Or, if you’re desperate for a closer look, try this photo posted by Jim Hill guest writer Eric Craven.
You enter the room through automatic doors from the pre-show room, underneath the “On Air” lights. Around two thirds of the former studio soundstage has been completely refitted to become the theatre, with space at the front for children to sit on the floor, followed by several rows of flat benches and then several more rows of slightly raised benches with back rests. It is obvious that the huge full space of the former ‘Art Attack’ stage has not been used, this room appearing to sit almost as a “studio-within-a-studio”, the seating facing to your right as you enter, away from the attraction’s entrance.
The decoration around the giant video screen is noticeably different to that at the Hong Kong Disneyland original, a shiny metallic finish dotted with colourful, illuminated rectangles and circles for a more of a “TV” look. The design is certainly more childish and colourful than the more serious, Tomorrowland command centre-style decoration in Hong Kong. The colourful panels either side of the screen — along with the other lighting throughout the room — change colour depending on the action on screen, flashing red at times of emergency for Stitch, for example.
Guests sit in a semi-circle on benches, with children invited to sit on the floor at the front of the theatre. A live Cast Member introduces the show and explains that there is going to be a special link-up between the Disney Channel’s satellites and Stitch’s space craft. The presenter acts as a host during the show itself, passing questions between Stitch and the audience with a microphone and helping the interaction. And what of that all-important interaction? Reports across the many fan websites and forums so far include games such as shouting directions for Stitch to move safely through space, helping the alien to restore gravity on the ship and even — for one of the children — having your photo taken and shown on screen just seconds later, to become Stitch’s “co-pilot”.
The former Disney Channel CyberSpace post-show area, which previously featured various interactive arcade-style games based on Disney Channel shows, along with the CyberSpace Mountain simulator in earlier years, is currently sitting completely empty. Guests exit Stitch Live! into the daylight through doors at the back of the theatre, where the entrance/exit of the Art Attack stage was located.
All in all, the attraction is looking like a major hit amongst children and their parents, and for others not at all a bad way — rather, quite a fun way — to spend an extra 25 minutes in the Studios. Reports from those who have tried the original at Hong Kong (which was built into a small space in the Space Mountain structure) suggest it is a distinct improvement, with a better design style, larger theatre and the addition of an actual pre-show room (despite the uninspiring video shown).
Clearly a much, much cheaper addition than the likes of Tower of Terror, ‘Stitch Live!’ should in fact add a great deal of excitement to the park for those not interested in trying that very same attraction, providing a good balance between these two new attractions for 2008. From its opening in 2002 with, bizarrely, only one attraction children would fight to experience — Flying Carpets Over Agrabah, the Studios is finally managing to captivate its younger guests.
Indeed, ‘Stitch Live!’ seems to prove that sometimes the simplest of ideas, with the smallest of budgets, can add so much value to a park — particularly for the littler dreamers amongst us.
— Stitch Live! is now available for your ratings and reviews on our partner website DLRP Review. Read more reactions to the new attraction here and — if you’ve been lucky enough to try it — share your own! Click here.