By Kevin J. Kessler
These skeletal remains represent the passing of an icon. Like most icons, its passing is mourned by many, while there are also those who celebrate its death, citing distaste for its storied legacy. Of course I'm referring to the former icon of Disney's Hollywood Studios, the giant Sorcerer's Hat!
All Disney Parks are defined by one massive landmark. Walt Disney referred to them as "weenies" (stop snickering!) They were meant to be a pull for the eye, a solitary structure with the purpose of providing definition to an already legendary theme park. To inspire such a sense of awe, a structure must truly capture the inner essence of its particular home. In EPCOT, we have Spaceship Earth (many times, infuriatingly, referred to as The EPCOT ball, or simply the Big Golf Ball) At Disney's Animal Kingdom, we have the Tree of Life, and in The Magic Kingdom, we're greeted every trip by the majestic high reaching beauty of Cinderella Castle.
So what did the third Disney Park, then known as Disney's MGM Studios have to offer? It was a Hollywood studio style water tower known as The Earful Tower...
While it's an impressive site, The Earful Tower failed to inspire that same sense of awe and reverence found in other Disney parks. I think the general public's reaction to this structure was best defined on an episode of the pro wrestling television show WCW Monday Nitro, which was taped at the Studios, when commentator Tony Schiavone (on what was undoubtedly the greatest night in the history of this sport) pointed out the Earful Tower in the distance. His commentary partner, former wrestler The Living Legend Larry Zbysko, scoffed and said, "the EARful tower!?" on live television.
So what was the answer? The park needed SOMETHING to pull in that attention. What it needed was an infusion of DIsney MAGIC, and that's exactly what it got!
The Sorcerer Hat was constructed at the end of DHS's main road, Hollywood Boulevard and was instantly met with hostility from the Disney faithful, enraged that this new "eye-sore" was blocking their view of The Chinese Theater, which houses popular attraction, The Great Movie Ride. There was an immediate outcry that never really subsided. Since that time, you either loved the hat, or you despised it with every fiber of your Disney heart! I happen to be the former.
The first time I laid eyes upon the hat in person, it was 2009. I was newly engaged, loving life, and excited to return to what was once my favorite theme park when I was a teenager. (It has the Muppets!) When I saw the hat waiting for me at the end of Hollywood Boulevard I was overcome with the scope, scale, and magic that it represented. While I've always enjoyed the Chinese Theater, I feel as though that's more of a Hollywood icon, while the hat in question was a true DISNEY icon, and that appealed to me, most of all!
I'm a guy who loves Disney theming. I cried out in delight at 18 when my room at the Polynesian Resort had a photo of Mickey on the wall. I gasped with glee at age 24 when I saw the picture of Captain Jack Sparrow adorning the wall of my room at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. I love that Mickey Mouse is carved into the small bars of soap I always steal....erm....hold on to at the end of every trip. This hat was pure DISNEY, and that was all that mattered to me.
When I heard that demolition of the hat was forthcoming, I was saddened by the news. But, whenever something vanishes in Walt Disney World, though we may miss it in the short term, we should always remember that something wonderful is most assuredly on the way! Walt Disney World is like the mythical Hydra. Cut off one head, two more shall take its place!
Disney will never do something to purposely cripple itself. If they're removing something as important as the icon of a major theme park, then they definitely have something up their sleeves! So, to that end, I'm eagerly looking forward to the inevitable announcement, but there is still a large part of my heart that will always have a place in it for the Sorcerer Hat.
As I've watched the photos adorning Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter of the hat's rapid deconstruction I've felt a pang of loss. It hit me this week that these eyes will never again fill with wonder and magic at the sight of it. I'll never again hum the broom theme from The Sorcerer's Apprentice as I stroll past it, and I'll never again take that silly photopass photo utilizing perspective tricks to look like I'm wearing the hat.
I'm saddened, but cautiously optimistic as I look forward to the NEW hat-less DHS. But, something HAS to be coming in its place. The park needs an icon, and The Chinese Theater, Earfull Tower, and Tower of Terror are NOT viable options. I don't know about you folks, but I will be eagerly looking forward to D23 this August for any kind of announcement, or....dare I imagine....Star Wars Celebration in April????
Farewell, old friend! I lift my Rapid Refillable Mug in your memory! You will be missed! Thank you for the Magic!