by Paul Ruben
American Idol is the most-watched TV show in America. It’s modelled after the original British talent show, which I think was called Anglo-Saxon Idol. Something like that. Now, at Walt Disney World in Florida, visitors can enjoy their own “Idol” encounter.
The American Idol Experience places guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the spotlight, as they audition for a place in the park’s daily musical showcase, or they can judge the performance of others.
Although not a big fan of the TV show, I was blown away by this new Disney attraction. The talent level far exceeded my expectations, and being there in person was riveting. Maybe it was the giant replica stage/set and 1,000 audience seats. Or the 113 video screens and 105 audio speakers installed throughout the theatre’s show and audition spaces. Maybe the 35ft-wide and 7ft-tall curved video wall. And unlike the American Idol on TV, with perhaps two shows per week, Disney has up to eight shows per day.
But I was puzzled. People pay good money to get in the park, and I would expect them to ride their brains out on Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. But if they are successful as contestants they may spend several hours of their visit auditioning, performing and then practising and performing again to entertain other guests, apparently for the opportunity to get a “Dream Ticket”, a front-of-the-line audition for the TV show.
But an audition for the TV show is free. Why would they audition at Disney’s Hollywood Studios instead?
Disney’s Jason Dobbins explained: “If you are one of the few who do make it, the most amount of time that you will spend going through the entire process is approximately two hours and 15 minutes, including the actual show itself. That leaves plenty of time to enjoy the rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, we have found that most of our guests are not doing it for the ‘Dream Ticket’ but rather for the chance to be a part of something that very few have ever had the opportunity previously. This is what makes The American Idol Experience such a perfect fit at Walt Disney World.”
Dobbins convinced me. Just this one time I would abandon multiple visits to Tower or Terror, pass on Toy Story Mania!, not climb aboard Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster, but rather reach for that star, that American Idol star.
But then I remembered. A few years ago I visited a karaoke bar and quickly learned I’m not a good singer. You know what karaoke means when translated from Japanese? Tone deaf. So rather than sing, my revised, more realistic goal was to be the perfect non-participatory contestant in The American Idol Experience. In other words, the Ideal Idle Idol.