I know for a fact I’m not the first person to advocate for moving the hat. Most in fact are in favor of removing the hat but I think it does have a place at the Studios. When Disney first announced they were going to build it, I was not a fan of it. It seemed like an ugly piece of plastic in a terrible spot. Not to mention, the hat itself was in essence, another gift shop. Over the years I’ve grown to like the hat. I think its nice looking and not as cheap as I once thought.
The problem with the hat is its location. Basically, it ruined the Great Movie Ride courtyard. If you’ve ever seen a photo of the front of the Great Movie Ride before the hat, you’ll remember how grand the scale used to be and what a nice area it was. Never mind the fact that the hat has destroyed the huge Hidden Mickey the park makes, although I guess you could say the hat is a huge blue pimple.
The purpose to the hat was simple: Give the Disney-MGM Studios a recognizable icon for the park. Each of the other three parks has a recognizable icon in the center of the park (or close to center); Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth in Epcot and the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom. These serve as both the park’s icon as well as an easy to locate place for groups to meet at as well as marketing boon for Disney as everyone wants their photo taken in front of these icons. The Studios definitely did need an icon. It had originally used the Chinese Theater and then switched to the Earful Tower and then in the years before the Hat, kind of alternated based on someone’s preference. I really like the Earful Tower as the icon but its location is bad and you can only get a picture on the Backlot Tour, assuming you can snag one while the tram is moving. The Chinese Theater is good, but it doesn’t invoke the feeling of an icon although if things were up to me I’d be inclined to use it as the park’s icon for it’s classy look but clearly Disney doesn’t like it so it’s a moot point.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not in favor of removing the Hat. I like it but think it’s in the wrong place. So where would I put it? Simple, put it right over the entrance turnstiles to the Studios. Placing it over the entrance would serve a number of functions. To begin with, it would clear up the Great Movie Ride courtyard which was very nice before and of course the Hidden Mickey is restored (although the Hidden Mickey is not a top priority for me, it’s just a positive result of the move). By moving the Hat over the entrance it would be an inviting structure that would lure guests into the park. Think about how cool it would be to walk under the hat as you enter the park. To quote Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park when they drive into the park, “What do they got in there? King Kong?” The Hat’s larger than life aspect to it would be a grand spire that would set the tone for the park.
In addition, by placing the Hat over the entrance you still have a park icon that is easily recognizable and of course, a good photo opportunity. Hollywood Boulevard is no longer thrown off by having 20’s and 30’s art deco buildings that look fantastic and then a weird plastic hat ruining the shot. And regarding the issue of the hat not being in the center of the park, well, Spaceship Earth is very close to Epcot’s entrance (certainly not dead center) and when you factor in the Savannah in Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life has got to be a little south of center.
The other benefit of moving the Hat over the entrance would be for Fantasmic!. Picture this, a family is lost and doesn’t know how to get to Fantasmic! so they ask a Cast Member how to get in. The Cast Member says, “It’s easy, just go to the Hat and take a left.” There is an entrance to Fantasmic! that is currently being used for Fantasmic! Dinner Package guests right near the service station across from Sid’s. The Hat is Sorcerer Mickey’s hat, an obvious reference to Fantasia and Fantasmic!, and would make it so simple and easy for guests to get to the show.
I think I’ve made a pretty good case for moving the hat to the entrance as I think the only benefit to keeping it where it is over my idea is the Hat where it is, is in the center of the park but as I noted, not being in the center of the park is not terrible. So once I ascend to Disney’s Board of Directors and run the parks, expect to see a change coming to the Studios.