Silence! At the Drive-In

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Sci-Fi Dine In isn’t everybody’s cuppa tea – the food is mediocre at best, and the prices a bit steep. But what it lacks in fine dining, it more than makes up in style and attitude. Want a great photo-op in a mock-up 1950’s family sedan? Want that burger and fries served by a chick on roller skates (and who doesn’t)? Need some conversational downtime while you and your fellow park-goers watch cheesy B-movie trailers? They’ve got you covered.

If you’ve eaten there a few times, chances are good you’ve practically memorized the film loop. You know them all . . . “The Cat Who Hated People,” “Cat Women From Mars,” and the ever-popular “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” And if you’ve eaten there more than a few times, you’ve memorized not only the clips themselves, but also the moments when the servers shout out commentary on the clips, a la Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Colossal Man has a giant syringe in hand, ready to impale the scientists below? “Watch out!” But the Colossal Man throws that syringe every time, and the darn scientists never learn.

Now, I’ve eaten at the Sci Fi just five times in the last twelve months, and I gotta say I’m darn sick of that film loop. It seems that they edit it a bit once a year, but in the last round of changes I’d say it remained 95% the same. I could easily do without seeing it for a year, or two, or five . . . but my son loves loves loves the place, and I’m never sure how much longer he’ll still think it’s cool to hang out with his mom at Walt Disney World. So, I could pretty much recite the lines in the loop by heart. And if I’ve got it committed to memory after so few visits, what’s it like for the Cast Members who hear it day after day, month after month? I can easily see how the shout-outs would at least be a little amusement, maybe even a way to blow off some steam after that family of six on the Disney Dining Plan needed the plan explained to them three times, and still couldn’t figure out that the milk shake can be either a beverage or a dessert.

Or perhaps this is just my romantic imagination . . . it’s entirely possible that the shout-outs were scripted from the start, designed by Imagineers to seem spontaneous, giving us a chance to interact and feel like part of the show. Either way, it was one of our favorite things about the place, sweet as the chocolate milkshakes (beverage or dessert, people!).

Or, well, the servers used to shout those warnings to the poor scientists. And my son and I used to shout right along with them. But on our last trips, in the summer of 2007, we found that we were shouting alone. So, what gives? Rocky Horror’s only fun if the rest of the crowd is throwing toast right along with you, y’know. And while certainly only a small number of us Guests were shouting out at the SFDI, it sure made us feel like part of the fun when the Cast Members were going for the ride with us.

When my son loudly warned those poor, defenseless scientists who were really only trying to help the Colossal Man, and I noticed the CMs were no longer doing the same, I did the stupid parent routine: I hushed him, worried that we’d caused some kind of disturbance. I worried that we might have interfered with the other Guests’ dining (a strange thought perhaps, given the general atmosphere of the place!). And our server did in fact hurry over, but not to hush us . . . he ran right over to reassure us that we could shout all we wanted, though the servers had been forbidden to do so, after a complaint from one Guest.

So, I’m interested in hearing from the readers of studioscentral.com. Did you enjoy the audience participation at the SFDI? Or did it interfere with your enjoyment of the place? Inquiring minds want to know. (And hey, watch out for that big guy with the needle!)