Monday, June 6, 2016

Day 1253: The Sorcerer's Hat

It's probably not surprising that I follow a bunch of Disney pages on Facebook. In fact, I think I'd be more worried about my mental health if I didn't follow a bunch of Disney pages on Facebook. Regardless, today, while scrolling through my Facebook, I came across a post about The Sorcerer's Hat at Hollywood Studios. It's not unusual to see posts like this, but today's was a sort of poll on whether followers are sad or angry about the removal of the hat that occurred about a year ago. I stopped and, a bit frustrated that angry and sad were the only options, took in what I was seeing for a moment, and then, curious, I hit the likes button to see whether more people were sad or angry (spoiler alert, it turns out more people are sad), and then I went to read some comments, which I usually try not to do on articles because it usually just makes a person mad. After reading a few of the comments though, it occurred to me that it seems most people don't actually know much about this hat that caused a mixed emotion uproar last year.

I should probably come out and clarify that I'm neither sad nor angry that the hat is no longer situated at Hollywood Studios. In fact, my feelings are exactly the opposite, as I pretty much threw a party when it was announced it would be coming down because I was so excited that finally, for the first time in my life that I can remember, the view of the Chinese Theater would be as clear as day. However, I'm going to attempt to put my feelings aside for the moment and share with you the real story of the hat.

If we're going to do this right, we need to go back. Way back. Alright, not that far back, but we do need to revisit the opening day of the park: May 1, 1989. As you may remember, the park hasn't always been Hollywood Studios, as the official opening name was Disney-MGM Studios, and it was created to combat competition from the recent nearby addition (and then still under construction) of Universal Studios Florida. It caused quite the drama, but all in all, they started a studio in Florida, which would eventually produce films such as Mulan and Brother Bear. In addition, a new version of the Mickey Mouse Club premiered on Disney Channel, and was filmed in the soundstages at the WDW Theme Park, and over the years attractions that we know and love popped up throughout the park. Fast forward a ways, to 2008 when MGM declined to renew their license and the right for Disney to use their name, leading to the renaming of Hollywood Studios.

Let's talk about the hat itself then, which first made an appearance in 2001 as a part of the 100 Years of Magic celebration at Walt Disney World, a celebration specifically centered around what would have been Walt Disney's 100th Birthday. For 100 Years of Magic, special kiosks were installed underneath the hat for guests to explore the life of Walt Disney, but they were removed in 2003 at the conclusion of the celebration. Since then, the area underneath the hat has been used for pin trading and sales, but on October 24, 2014, it was announced that the hat would be removed as the first step in a full Hollywood Studios makeover. So, if you think about it, Hollywood Studios has now been open for 27 years, but The Sorcerer's Hat itself only stood there for half of that at 14 years.

Now that we know the [abbreviated] history behind the park and the hat we can discuss the conversation about the hat being the park icon, a purpose which it did fulfill for most of it's 14 year run. You can find the hat on all sorts of WDW merchandise, and if you compare it to the other park icons, such as Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, or the Tree of Life, the hat fits in perfectly:

With all this in mind, I can absolutely understand why Disney fans and frequent visitors would be upset about the removal of the hat, especially if you knew MGM or Hollywood Studios like I did, hardly remembering a world without the hat. After all, I hardly remember a time when it wasn't the icon of the park. For that generation, for my generation, it feels like a key part of the park is missing. 

However, we're also forgetting one important piece of information: The Sorcerer's Hat wasn't the original icon of the park. In fact, Disney-MGM Studios didn't really have one, at least not if you're comparing it to the other icons. The Chinese Theater, an almost exact replica of the theater in Hollywood, was the inviting sight at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, leading guests straight into the world of film and accomplishing the initial goal of the park. Officially, on the other hand, the park did have an icon, in the form of the Earful Tower that stood tall on the backlot.

Hardly visible from the front of the park and to most guests, the Earful Tower was quickly replaced by The Sorcerer's Hat as the official icon of the park when it was built in 2001, and for the general public, the Earful Tower wasn't given a second thought. However, it continued to be used as an icon of the park here and there over the years, and following the demolition of The Sorcerer's Hat, returned as the icon for a short period until it's own removal only months ago. My question, on the other hand, is why the Earful Tower didn't get the same recognition as The Sorcerer's Hat, despite the fact that it served as the icon longer and was the original icon of the park.

So now we come to the ultimate question: what are we left with? Both park icons, whether it be The Sorcerer's Hat or the Earful Tower, have been removed from the park, and folks are unsure of what the "new icon" is going to be. There's been discussion about Tower of Terror, which has already been featured on some WDW Merchandise as the new icon, as well as the Chinese Theater, once again visible and serving it's purpose as a welcoming sight. Although, while we're on the topic, can we talk about how terrible this looked?

That's a stage in front of a hat in front of the theater, and honestly that stage is the main reason I started to question whether or not the hat was actually the icon of the park. We don't cover up the Tree of Life, Spaceship Earth, or, can you even imagine, Cinderella Castle. But the hat was never permanent, and in regards to the initial plans, it long overstayed its purpose. I guess that's why the removal didn't come as a surprise to many, and it points out the fact that, unlike the other icons, neither the Earful Tower nor The Sorcerer's Hat was meant to stay forever.

I also think it's important for me to mention that it's absolutely alright for people to be upset over the removal of the hat. I can't even imagine how crazy I would go if, for some odd reason, Spaceship Earth was suddenly taken away, and this is no different. Let me know if you're angry, sad, or excited about the removal of the hat in the comments below, and tell me why you feel the way you do! Was the hat a symbol of Hollywood Studios for you, or did you long to see the Chinese Theater again? And what about the Earful Tower? This is, obviously, quite the complicated story, but I really want to hear your memories of the park, the tower, the theater, and of course, the hat. 

Have a magical day!