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A Bad Decision About Super Soap Weekend

What in the World?
A weekly peek at Walt Disney World

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This past weekend marked the last Super Soap Weekend to be held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  For those of you unaware, the Studios played host to cast members from the three ABC soap operas one weekend each November.  During Super Soap Weekend, guests had an opportunity to meet some of their favorite actors and actresses from the soap operas All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital.  Moreover, special events like celebrity motorcades, game shows, and talk shows were also scheduled that allowed some candid moments with the stars.  It was an event that I originally did not believe could attract that many people – as it was held during a relatively quiet time of year.  This opinion of mine, however, quickly changed when I went to the Studios Saturday morning to get in line.


Remembering the crowds that formed before opening during Star Wars Weekend, I arrived promptly at 6:15 am, a little less than two hours before the park was scheduled to open.  In June, the line for Star Wars merchandise, or for Fastpasses for the Star Wars stars were maybe 100-200 people deep, if that.  I expected to get in line with no real problem.  Well, the reality was that when I arrived, I found out that over 1,700 people had gotten in line ahead of me.  I was amazed at the crowds that formed well before the sun rose that day.  In that instant, I knew that someone at Disney must be sleeping at the wheel, because letting Super Soap Weekend go is a huge oversight on their part.   


Throughout the day, I noticed an incredible surge of people at the Studios.  Having been to the Studios on Christmas Eve and hearing stories about crowd levels on July 4th, the guests that made their way to the Studios on the first day of Super Soap Weekend was much larger by comparison.  The park swelled with soap opera fans and their families.  When I was headed home I even noticed that not only were guests allowed to park in the Cast Member parking lot, but Cast Members were forced to create new stalls for cars throughout the entire lot, because there just wasn’t enough room for everyone.  It was incredible.  At points during the day it was difficult to wade through the crowds, the line for Super Soap Weekend merchandise was sometimes 45 minutes to an hour long, and the people that gathered around each star’s booth was at times, massive.  You couldn’t even see who the person was, let alone get near him/her for a picture.  I have never sent such a site at the Studios before.  


So the $64,000 is why is the Walt Disney Company allowing ABC Daytime Television to pull Super Soap Weekend away from the Studios permanently?  It seems to me, that the revenue generated from the attendance would be significant, especially during the off-season and even more so during this poor economy.  As you probably know by now Super Soap Weekend is making way for ABC Daytime Television’s Soap Nation Tour in 2009, which according to a recent press release, will be “a collection of nationwide events designed to interact with fans on a year-round basis offering greater access to stars in more cities, more often.”   Brian Frons, President of Daytime Programming for ABC, stated, “We recognize that we live in a ‘Soap Nation’ – from primetime soaps to daytime soaps to reality and celebrity soaps, they are all around us. The 2009 tour will be a collection of coast-to-coast fan-based events that will ignite our ‘Soap Nation’ . . . Our fans have told us that they want us in their neighborhoods so we are traveling our daytime talent to better serve them. The new year will bring new ways we will involve our stars in more events, in more cities, more often.”  Giving Frons the benefit the doubt, this still does not make “business sense” for Disney.  Having seen it for myself, Super Soap Weekend brings in a lot of people, and from what I heard from guests attending this past weekend, they aren’t happy about the move either.  


On top of what I mentioned in an earlier article about alienating soap fans that travel to Walt Disney World on an annual basis, this move to a national tour that excludes Walt Disney World is just a poor business decision.  Why not retain some portion or incarnation of Super Soap Weekend and make the Orlando portion of the Soap Nation Tour?  I understand that bringing in twenty or more soap stars from the three ABC soaps would be difficult to pull off again, as these stars are now required to go around the country all year long.  Instead, ABC could have five or ten stars attend to event.  Does a revamped/refocused Super Soap Weekend have to be such a huge production like it was this year, with a mainstage in front of the Mickey’sSorcerer Hat, two other stages for events, and 15 autograph locations?  No, of course not.  Star Wars Weekends is a perfect example of a smaller event that can be just as exciting and fun and more importantly, just as effective as a bigger event if it is planned right.  And while I don’t want to sound like a broken record, it is difficult for me to understand the reasoning behind this decision (and I’m not even a huge soap fan).  


This move simply makes no sense, and once again, I have to ask, what in the world, Disney?