Sunday 26 October 2014

Is a rebrand on the cards for Disney's Hollywood Studios?

There is one thing that is clear in the theme park developments in Central Florida in the last 6 months. Something is happening to Disney's Hollywood Studios. The original "half-day" park has seen closure after closure on a scale that has been rarely (if ever) seen at Walt Disney World. Friday's official confirmation of the removal of the Sorcerer's Hat from the middle of the park, has led to some pretty wild speculation about what is happening to this park. One particular rumour has peaked my interest in the last day, that they are going to rebrand the entire park. I've been thinking about both the likelihood and the reasoning for this to occur, but to be honest I can't decide if I like the idea or not.

Certainly, DHS has lost anything that tied it to it's original Studio theme. Without Studio facilities, Animation Production or a fake Studio tour, it is now a park that is themed to what it used to be. Other people would call this, a collection of attractions with individual settings, but no over aching theme. Having said that, I'm not sure that needs to be true to it's roots. I don't know that consumer's would ignore the park because of it's lack of Studio credibility. Let's face it, Epcot is not a Community of Tomorrow, and while we are nit picking Islands of Adventure isn't really made up of islands.

One suggestion for the rebranding of DHS would be to change it to Disney's Hollywood Adventure. This would forever twin the park with Disney's California Adventure. Personally, I dislike this idea. It would be a costly sideways move for the Florida park, which for me would weaken the DCA brand. Surely, the differentiation of DCA from the Florida parks is a positive for the Disneyland Resort. If Joe Public starts to see the Florida Parks as the same parks as Disneyland Resort plus two more, this will hurt Disneyland. That would be a shame for Disney, as they have fought so hard to strengthen DCA's reputation in the last 5 years.

While it isn't unheard of for a Disney park or resort to be rebranded, this would be the biggest change to the WDW Resort since the addition of Animal Kingdom. This would be a big deal. This is more than the name change from Disney-MGM Studios to DHS,  or EuroDisney to Disneyland Paris. Both of those had clear reasons for the change. The motivation for rebranding the 8th most popular theme park in the world here would be, because the brand it's had since opening sucks.

Having said that I don't understand the motivation for the change, doesn't mean I don't think it will happen. I hope I won't be Disney's Hollywood Adventure, but there could be a million other ideas floating around. All Disney has to do is find a theme that covers Star Wars, Pixar, Muppets, Fantasmic, Twilight Zone and Aerosmith. How hard can that be?

And what does it mean to the possibility of a 5th gate, if DHS becomes almost a new park in terms of branding?

Personally I'm excited for the overhaul. I am happy that there will be increased Star Wars presence at WDW. I want expansion and to maximize the amount of potential guest time in this park. If that means shutting 25% of the park, as they have now, then so be it. However, do I think a rebranding is a good idea? Only if they can come up with a more specific brand that incorporates their current intellectual properties. I think Disney's Hollywood Adventure is a bland and generic brand who will not appeal to more people that the current Disney's Hollywood Studios.

If they did rebrand it though, I'd still go to the park. So who am I to say it shouldn't happen?

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