Yesterland

The
American Idol
Experience


Live the Dream!
American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2009

Do you sing in your car? In the shower? At your local karaoke bar? Think you’re pretty good? Want a big audience? Have you dreamed of being the next big pop star?

Then Yester Hollywood Studios has an attraction for you. It’s a chance to perform under the bright lights in front of a live audience—and it could be your first step toward worldwide stardom.


It’s The American Idol Experience, based on the hit television series watched in more than 100 countries. Perhaps you watch it every week on the Fox Network.

Even if you’re not a singer, this attraction is still for you—but you’ll be in the audience.

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

First step to stardom

In the morning, head to the audition center. If you make it through several rounds, you’ll be scheduled for one of today’s shows.

Don’t plan on doing the singer-songwriter thing. Leave your guitar at home. You’ll pick one of 150 songs from popular genres, including rock, pop, R & B, Latin, country, disco—and Disney. During the holiday season, there are eight additional songs. You’ll sing with prerecorded music.

Between going through the audition process, rehearsing, getting guidance from Disney professionals, waiting at various points, performing, and possibly being chosen for the Grand Finale, you won’t be able to do much else at the park today.

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2009

Times

Do you just want to be in the audience? Depending on when you visit, you have from five to eight show times to pick from. The last show of the day is the Grand Finale. If you want to see the cream of today’s crop, that’s the show for you.

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

FASTPASS+ entrance

Pssst… Although you can get FASTPASS+ for the show, it’s really not necessary. You wind up waiting for the doors to open in the same place as everyone else, and your seats won’t be any better.

As you wait, overhead monitors build excitement and keep you entertained.

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Time to go in

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Like a real television studio, only with far more seats

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

“Move all the way to the end of the row.”

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Warm-up

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Host with Dream Ticket

The prize for being chosen the best performer of the day is a Dream Ticket, often referred to as a “golden ticket.” It entitles the holder to go to the front of the line at a regional audition for the American Idol television show.

Okay, so it’s basically a FASTPASS for a future audition. It also comes with bragging rights. By the way, a 14-year-old can win at the park, but contestants on the TV show must be at least 16. A 14-year-old can put the ticket in a drawer, hoping the show will stay on the air a couple of years more.

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Host wearing suit / Contestants wearing whatever they wore to the park that day

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Panel of judges

The judges are seasoned entertainment industry professionals. Their reactions are based on years of showbiz experience. They usually provide encouragement and advice, but occasionally a judge plays the Simon Cowell role.

The judges don’t pick the winner. Everyone in the audience gets to vote.

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Contestant Michael

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Insight from a judge

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Aspiring idols ready for the decision

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Carrie Underwood

Next, the host introduces American Idol season 4 winner Carrie Underwood. No, not in person. On a video display.

The host and Ms. Underwood have a live conversation—but it’s really only live at the host’s end. If you return tomorrow, they’ll have exactly the same conversation. Ms. Underwood has better things to do than to appear in a theme park show every day.

The key takeaway is that being a contestent can change your life—and that the audience should vote carefully because it’s really important.

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

The winner of the Grande Finale is… Britt Daley of Orlando, Florida!

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Gold confetti raining on the winner

American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2011

Exit through the gift shop

After the show, browse the merchandise. Perhaps you need an American Idol Experience t-shirt.

It’s the next best thing to a Dream Ticket.


The American Idol Experience opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park on February 14, 2009.

Superstar Television Theater at Disney-MGM Studios

Photos by Allen Huffman

Earlier shows in the same theater

The show was presented in the Superstar Television Theater, in the heart of the park. The 1,000-seat theater, with a Streamline Moderne exterior, had been used for three other attractions:

  • Super Star Television (May 1, 1989 to September 26, 1998), a 30-minute show with park guests taking part in scenes from popular television programs, including I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, and Cheers;
  • Disney’s Doug Live! (March 15, 1999 to May 12, 2001), a 30-minute stage musical featuring the characters from the Disney version of the former Nickelodeon show;
  • Get Happy…With ABC! (July 1, 2002 to October 5, 2002), a 25-minute promotional reel for ABC’s Fall 2002 season.

Then, despite its high-profile location, the theater sat unused for years—a victim of cost containment.

Concept rendering for The American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Concept rendering © Disney, from PR Newswire

Rendering accompanying the announcement

Finally, in early 2008, Disney announced a new use for the theater:

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2008) -- Walt Disney Parks and Resorts will create an “American Idol” attraction that will bring the television and pop culture phenomenon to life at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, it was jointly announced today by Jay Rasulo, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts; Simon Fuller, CEO of 19 Entertainment; and Keith Hindle, executive vice president of FremantleMedia Licensing.

The attraction, slated to debut in late 2008, will be located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park and will follow the model of the high-energy show. Disney guests will be able to experience the challenge of auditioning, the rush of performing on stage in competition, or the thrill of judging the performances in a live interactive entertainment setting with all the glitz and glamour of the distinctive “American Idol” set.

It would take more than a year after the announcement before the attraction would open.

Disney issued a Fact Sheet about the new attraction:

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – In addition to being the first-of-its-kind attraction in the world to be based on the TV show “American Idol,” “The American Idol Experience” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park offers a variety of fast facts.

Among them:

BORN TO BE WIRED: The high-tech theater is wired with more than 76 miles of cable and 25 miles of conduit.

LIGHT ON: Lighting gives TV’s “American Idol” logo and signage its iconic look. Without sacrificing dazzle, Disney’s lighting team gave “The American Idol Experience” set a low-voltage treatment, installing energy-efficient LED (light emitting diodes) fixtures.

SPACE JAM: The attraction has 25,000 square feet of indoor space, which includes the giant replica stage/set and 1,000 seats for audience members. ”The American Idol Experience” stage alone measures more than 3,000 square feet.

HERE COMES THE JUDGE: The judges in “The American Idol Experience” are all industry professionals who bring an expertise of music, showmanship and what it takes to have that “star quality.” Coast-to-coast auditions were held to find individuals who possess a deep knowledge of show business and can share that knowledge with attraction guests. Past showbiz experience among the team of judges includes: professional choreographers and dancers; actors and actresses from stage, screen and television projects; professional musicians; professional improvisation actors and actresses; television show hosts; and, even a former Rockette.

PICTURE PERFECT: The live show features a wide array of cameras including: one Steadicam operator shooting the action onstage and in the audience; a robotic camera mounted on the theater wall for audience shots; a camera at the back of the house for wide shots and one roaming, handheld camera.

GO WITH THE FLOW: Complementing the shots and angles captured live by the camera crews, a complete crew of video editors and producers works inside the HD production studio to make each show flow.

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?: There are 113 video screens and 105 audio speakers installed throughout the theater’s show and audition spaces.

THE WALL: ”The American Idol Experience” features the largest curved video wall at Walt Disney World Resort, measuring 35 feet wide and more than seven feet tall.

SEEING STARS: Fans will recognize many famous faces throughout “The American Idol Experience.” ”American Idol”-related stars making exclusive video appearances in the attraction include Ryan Seacrest, David Cook, David Archuleta, Jordin Sparks, Justin Guarini, Brooke White, Syesha Mercado and Jason Castro.

Pop critic Sean Daly made a clever observation in the St. Petersburg Times (“Hams With A Little Cheese: Disney’s American Idol Experience is a two-way thrill,”, February 12, 2009):

What would Uncle Walt think of this?! Long the maker of dreams, Disney World is about to become the breaker of dreams, too. Tears, tantrums, total esteem kersplat!—When WDW opens the American Idol Experience at Hollywood Studios on Saturday, the flashy new attraction will mark a first for the Mouse House: They’re going to actively anger guests. Gutsy. I like it.—Two years in the making (and hopefully not two years too late), the American Idol Experience takes the essence of the Fox phenom—our love of gawking, our thirst for fame—and distills it into a dazzling, potentially soul-crushing, two-way thrill.

After a run of more than five years, the attraction’s final day was August 30, 2014.

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Hyperion Theater

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

“Let it go! Let it go!”

Renamed the Hyperion, just like the largest theater at Disney California Adventure, the theater now presents For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. The show moved in on June 17, 2015, after a successful premiere the preceding year at the Premiere Theater in the park’s Streets of America section.

Every Disney park needs Frozen, right?


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Updated May 27, 2016.