ASK TPU: Why did the Sorcerer’s Hat At Disney’s Hollywood Studios Last So Long?

Hello and welcome back to another edition of “Ask TPU.” This week’s question comes from Jim from Miami. He asks, “Do you have any insight as to why it took so long to take down that hideous Sorcerer’s Hat from Disney’s Hollywood Studios? That thing should have been removed long ago!”

Photo by Josh Young

Photo by Josh Young

Dear Jim,

 

Thanks for the question.  While I don’t have a definitive answer on why the hat overstayed its welcome, I can put together some pieces of the puzzle based on what I know of the situation, as well as some industry insight.

Copyright Walt Disney World

Copyright Walt Disney World

When Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom painted the Cinderella Castle a bright shade of pink (that looked an awful lot like Pepto Bismol), the promotion was indeed designed to be temporary.  Not only for logical reasons, such as the Castle doesn’t need to be pink for years after the 25th Anniversary, it made no sense to continue celebrating well into the park’s 28th year.

That castle cake was also a beast to maintain. From the unrelenting Florida sun fading the paint, 12 gum drops, 30 lollipops and four Life Savers, to those giant inflated balloons that went over the spires of the castle.  As it turns out, Florida’s almost daily thunderstorms would create wind gusts that would tear the candles fabric, as they were pushing up against those pointy spires.  Maintaining the cake didn’t make much sense.

Photo by Jeff Keller

Photo by Jeff Keller

For Disney’s Millennium Celebration, Epcot became the focus with a new parade and even a temporary exhibit in World Showcase.  However, what everyone remembers most was the 257-foot tall “Icon Tower” that hovered beside and above Spaceship Earth.

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia

It even came with its own flashing red beacon light to alert low-flying aircraft. Originally, “2000” was spelled out in red metallic discs above the geosphere. However, after the celebration ended, “2000” was replaced with “Epcot.” Mickey’s wand stayed at Epcot until July 2007, where it was slowly dismantled.  While I have never gotten an official answer as to why, it could be a number of reasons, from operational upkeep to simply new management coming in and having a change of heart on having Mickey’s hand over stay its welcome. Regardless, it takes money to take it down and that money has to come from somewhere.

Photo by Josh Young

Photo by Josh Young

This brings us to the Sorcerer’s Hat at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The Hat debuted as part of the 100 Years of Magic celebration in September 2001 in honor of what would have been Walt Disney’s 100th birthday. Almost instantly, it replaced the Earffel Tower as the park’s icon.

Copyright Walt Disney World

Copyright Walt Disney World

While we are on the subject, it’s time to settle something that has been bothering me. The water tower at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is spelled “Earffel” not “Earful”. Why? Because like the “Eiffel Tower,” which is the icon of Paris, this was meant to be the icon of the Disney/MGM Studios when it opened. It’s a play on “Eiffel” and always has been. Feel free to google “Earful Tower” and you’ll get dozens of websites all spelling it wrong, unless you’re reading anything from official Disney websites.  “Earful” as defined by the Merriam/Webster Dictionary is “an outpouring of news or gossip.” I digress…

Photo by Josh Young

Photo by Josh Young

The Sorcerer’s Hat was designed to also be temporary, but with a slight difference than the cake or the wand: the Hat makes money.

Photo by Josh Young

Photo by Josh Young

Like it or not, just like the Cinderella Castle, that Hat is a “weenie,” a term Walt used for an icon in a park to draw people in. What did people find once they looked under the brim? Mostly pins and plushes. While they didn’t have a lot of selection, they did generate a decent amount of revenue.

Photo by Josh Young

Photo by Josh Young

No matter what you may think of Disney’s idyllic principals, they’re still a business. When you get rid of square footage that generates revenue, you need to make it up somewhere else or have a damn good reason to offset the cost of tearing that hat down.

Copyright TCM Network

Copyright TCM Network

While some of that merchandise is being located to another store (which somewhat justifies the revenue loss), two very important things are coming up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The first is the sponsorship of The Great Movie Ride by the Turner Classic Movie network. Not only will the ride see a few media changes, Disney and TCM are teaming up to air Disney movies on the channel. That could have a major impact on covering up the Chinese Theater if a sponsor wants to make sure they get their sponsorship signs seen by the masses from far away.

Photo by Josh Young

Photo by Josh Young

The other is Star Wars expanding at the Studios far beyond the current footprint of Star Tours. As it stands now with American Idol and Sounds Dangerous being closed, that leaves several very large buildings to house new attractions, restaurants and merchandise shops. If Star Wars continues in that direction and the outside of the current Superstar Television Theater needs to be extended, a queue needs to be added or perhaps a new “weenie” just to the left of the Chinese Theater pops up, it makes sense for the Sorcerer’s Hat to finally hit the trail doesn’t it?

 

 

I hope this answers your question, Jim. Sorry I don’t have any definitive cut and dry answers, and maybe I am totally off base, but something tells me I am on to something. Your thoughts?

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. grumpyfan
    Posted January 5, 2015 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    While on the subject, can you help with dispelling the rumor of why it was put up in the first place? Many reasons have been speculated for years about Disney either losing the licensing of the Chinese theater image, or the MGM name, or a financial decision not to pay for these licenses any longer.

    • Josh Young
      Posted January 7, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know how these rumors get started. Not having the rights to the Chinese Theater anymore and putting the hat in front to block it is the equivalent of owning a strip club in a county that recently passed a ban on strip clubs. When law enforcement shows up, you park a semi-truck in front of the entrance to block the sign, “See officer? No strip clubs here!”.

      As for the MGM agreement having anything to do with it. Keep in mind, this hat popped up in 2001, long before the name change of the park. While I am not privy to any contractual negotiations on these matters, these just don’t add up for me.

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