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American Idol Experience
by Pam Schuck
Member of the MouseEarVacations.com® Team
On January 23, 2009, I was lucky enough to get to preview the brand new American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios®! Although the attraction does not officially debut until February 14, 2009, it is currently in the "soft opening" stage. A "soft opening" gives the cast members a chance to train, to work out the bugs, and also to gauge audience reaction. These dates are not scheduled in advance and are not announced, so you just need to be in the right place at the right time - and I was!
If you want the attraction to be a complete surprise, I suggest that you stop reading here to avoid any spoilers.
At approximately 30 minutes before the start of the show, you get in line. The fun begins immediately when two cast members come out - a cameraman and a cast member with a microphone to warm up the crowd. You are told about the show and instructed to do some different cheers, claps and waving to the camera. You know when you watch the real show on TV, how they always have that video of the crowd before the show? Well that is what you are participating in now! After this portion is filmed the video monitors above you come to life and Ryan Seacrest tells you all about the show and how the participants we are about to see made it to where they are. When Ryan's introduction video is over the doors to your left open up and you enter the theater.
Once you step inside, the WOW factor hits you! Disney did a fantastic job recreating the American Idol set. Take note as you are walking to your seat. You may want to avoid the first couple of rows as the camera crew is going up and down the row during the entire show filming the singers and it very easily could disrupt your view. I was about 15 rows up and my view was great.
The show is complete with the American Idol soundtrack, lights and video screens. You really get the feeling that you are at the American Idol Show in Hollywood. It really adds that "studio" feel to Disney's Hollywood Studios®. Once the show gets going, the first singer comes out and tells a little bit about him or herself and then the hosts of the show ask who their favorite American Idol is. There is then a prerecorded message from that Idol giving the contestant some encouraging words. Next up is the second contestant who has a recorded piece like you would see on the show, talking about what they do, where they are from, the auditions, and more. The third and final contestant then comes out -- the person we were all cheering for back when we were waiting to go in the theater -- so that video is shown. Fun!
After all three performers have finished their performances and the judges have given their opinions, it is time for an audience break where we are all invited to sing and clap along to the music video of Jordin Sparks singing "I"ve Got the Music in Me." It is then our turn to vote for the winner of the show. Your voting pad is on your armrest and you have 10 seconds to make your selection. Shortly after that an envelope containing the results is handed to the host. In typical American Idol fashion, the host prolongs telling us who won but once he finally does, the music plays, clips are shown from past Idol contestants congratulating the winner, and Ryan ends it with saying he hopes to see you in Hollywood!
The winner of this show will then come back for the Grand Finale show at the end of the day when all of the winners from the day return to perform. It is the winner of this show who will become the Ultimate Winner and get a Dream Ticket to a real regional American Idol audition and go straight to the front of the line.
This show is very entertaining and has a lot of repeat potential as each of the shows, songs and singers are all different. Wouldn't it be neat if someday the next American Idol winner actually got their start singing at the American Idol Experience in Disney's Hollywood Studios®? How much fun would that be to say you saw the American Idol winner perform in the Walt Disney World® Resort even before they were famous!