Saturday, January 24, 2015

An End of an Era: Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat

By Ryan Reed

As most of you know, the Sorcerer Mickey Hat has been in the news over the last few months.  As it turns out, Disney has decided to dismantle the magical icon in what seems to be related to the rumored changes to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  As I’ve said before when talking about other changes in Walt Disney World, we should appreciate it evolving right before our very eyes.  I feel the removal of a park icon is bigger than an attraction (sorry Maelstrom) because it means much more to each and every guest that sets foot in a park.  You can avoid an attraction; you can’t avoid a park icon.  So for this post I just want to share some of my opinions on why this upsets some folks and what direction Disney may be going next. Continue after the page break for more...

Why is there such a polarizing view on the removal of the Sorcerer’s Hat?  Not being able to avoid a park icon means we make associations with said icon even if it’s purely on a subconscious level.  I feel this comes down to the age or generation of any given guest.  If you were born in, let’s say, 1960 and have been visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios since its inception; chances are you directly associate the Chinese Theater to this park (originally named Disney’s MGM Studios).  Having said that, this person might also associate the park with the Earful Tower.  Disney used both of these icons in park maps at the time but I would say the Chinese Theater was the icon Disney planned to represent their newest park.

We will soon see the original sightline down Hollywood Blvd.

Now, under the same set of criteria, a person born in 2000 has only ever known the park with Mickey’s Sorcerer hat.  It’s an immediate connection as Disney decided to completely cover up the original park icon and make it seem nothing more than their usual incredibly well themed attractions.  Also, the Sorcerers Hat has long been featured in park maps, brochures, merchandise, etc. – furthering its connection to the park.

A sight we’re all used to and some have only known.

You can go either way on someone who was born in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Me, for example, only remembers the Studios with the Sorcerer Mickey Hat and I was born in 1988.  I visited Disney World the most during the 90’s, so I’ve been in the Studios without the hat more often than not.  Now, when the Hat was constructed, I was only about 12 years old, leaving all my experiences prior to the hat to a young child.  As I visited at an older age, I was able to remember the hat more than anything else. 

No matter what your opinion is of Disney removing this icon, I feel we can all look at the silver lining of the situation: the growth and change of the parks.  Walt said it himself: “Disneyland will never be completed.  It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”  Walt Disney Imagineers have stuck to this principle ever since, leading to a popular quote: “Disneyland is not a Museum.”  Clearly this motto has left California and made its way to the other Disney parks throughout the world.  It’s a principle of the company and one we can see as the Hat is dismantled.  I think we should look at the positive side of all this and revel in the fact that change is coming to the Studios.  Some, probably most, will agree that this change is much needed.  Who knows where Disney is going next and I can’t wait to see what they have planned.

An MGM Program from 1989 – clearly showing the prominence of the Chinese Theater and Earful Tower.

 What do you think Disney has in store for us?   What is the next icon?  Will it be something that captures the rumored re-imagination of the park?  We have all heard the Star Wars, Pixar Place and Indiana Jones rumors by now; will these plans be on a grand enough scale to result in a completely new icon?  Or will we see a familiar structure take over as the new icon?  Maybe the Tower of Terror will be the face of the Studios from here on out.  It makes sense on a lot of different levels.  Even when the Hat was the icon, the Tower of Terror arguably drew more association with the park.  It’s a large structure, a “Weenie” that Walt himself would be proud of.  If you aren’t familiar with this term, it is one Walt coined.  It’s basically a structure that would lead guests to certain parts of the park.  Think Cinderella’s Castle, Expedition Everest or, as I said, the Tower of Terror.  Lastly, the Chinese Theater or the Earful Tower could take back their original roles as park icons. 
Concept Art for Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat.  Originally intended just for the 100 Years of Magic celebration.
So, what do I think of all of this?  I never was a huge fan of the Sorcerer Hat.  Although I draw a stronger connection with it to the Studios, I knew it wasn’t the original icon and that it was simply placed right in front of the Chinese Theater.  It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like the hat itself; I didn’t like why it was there or how it was done.  It just seemed out of place.  To me, it was like putting a massive structure in front of Cinderella’s Castle or the Epcot Ball – like, why are you there?  Having said that, I’m also a very sentimental person.  I know I’ve said I like that Disney is in a state of change but it’s still tough to see something go that I’ve enjoyed for such a long time.  At the end of the day, though, I’m ok with it going.
Finally, above all else, we need to embrace the period of change we are witnessing.  This doesn’t happen often, especially on the level it is happening right now.  For better or worse, this is an exciting time.  Obviously I want to hear what your opinion is of all of this now that we can actually see the Hat coming down.  Do you feel it’s the right move?  Are you upset now that you can see an era coming to an end?  Make sure to let me know in the comments below.

Ryan Reed is from Upstate New York and grew up in a suburb just west of Rochester.  He graduated from the College at Brockport with a Bachelors of Science in Philosophy; he also plans to go back to school to acquire his MBA within the next couple of years.  For hobbies, Ryan spends his time staying active and just recently ran the 2014 Boiler Maker 15K for the first time.  Also, he is a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan who thinks every year is “our year”.  Basketball is, without a doubt, his favorite sport and shares the same interest with his father.  They both bond over being Boston Celtics fans and regularly make trips to the New England area to watch them play.  Ryan’s interest in craft beer is shared amongst his friends and girlfriend; they enjoy touring, learning, and experiencing everything brewers have to offer.  His ties to Walt Disney World started before he even was a year old.  As a child, his family took him back year after year and has continued to go back almost yearly.  At first, his love for Disney World was due to the attractions that he had never experienced elsewhere.  Then he began to be intrigued with how the parks, rides, and restaurants came to be – the sheer size of what they were able to build fascinated him.  In his sophomore year of college Ryan took part in the Disney College Program.  He worked at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Fantasmic! as well as Rock N’ Roller Coaster.  This experience allowed him to see a whole new side of Disney and gained an appreciation for what they do more than ever before.  Now Ryan looks for any information he can to understand the history of Disney World and how it came to be.  He has witnessed Disney go through a lot of changes but his interests and appreciation for the parks evolved along with it.  His favorite ride is the Haunted Mansion but a close second is Tower of Terror.  Epcot has become his favorite park; there are so many different things to experience – each visit seems like a new adventure.  His favorite time at Disney is dusk; each park transforms into something completely different once the sun sets.  His favorite Disney movie is Toy Story and favorite Disney character is Tigger.  Ryan’s articles will discuss tips about Disney World, some “best of” pieces, as well as history of both the parks and resorts.

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