Mr. MGM Studiosby Mike Scopa, contributing writer
His name is Matt Hochberg but to many of his friends, he is commonly referred to as "Mr. MGM Studios." You see, when it comes to Walt Disney World's MGM Studios theme park, there is no bigger fan than Matt Hochberg.
In fact, Matt is such a fan that he is father to not one, not two, but three Web sites devoted to the MGM Studios theme park and two of its best known attractions: MGMStudios.org (link), RocknRollerCoaster.com (link), and TowerofTerror.org (link).
Let's take a look at these sites to find out how they were born, what goodies each site holds for visitors, and what lies in the future for each.
Would you believe that Matt Hochberg's initial visit to the Disney MGM Studios theme park left him bored? Believe it. It was only after Hochberg returned to Walt Disney World and the Disney-MGM Studios theme park in 2001 that Hochberg says he "rediscovered the Studios theme park." In previous visits the park never really "did it" for him.
This time he found himself intrigued by the theme park and wanting to know more and more about each and every facet of the park. He scoured the Internet but never really could find a single source for everything and found himself frustrated.
It was obvious what he had to do. Hochberg was convinced that he had to create a Web site devoted to his favorite theme park and work hard to make it the single source of all information on the park that he had been looking for but had never found.
In April 2002 after much research and months of planning, Hochberg launched MGMStudios.org. It was a lot of work but Hochberg recognized that if he concentrated on one park instead of all of WDW that he had a chance to come up with a site that just might do the trick. Hochberg said, "No one Web site actually covered all of WDW in great detail as it is difficult to cover everything."
It just so happened that when Hochberg decided to build the site there was a domain sale going on and he was able to snag the moniker he wanted for the site name.
Because he wanted this site to be the single source for all information regarding this theme park, it meant he had to put more on the site than just reviews on all the attractions.
Today the site is approaching 700 users who visit the site for specific information on the park or to join in one of the discussions in the forum area.
Besides the forums, the site offers the latest Studio news, photos of the park, park hours, historical wait times for attractions, special event information, rehab schedules, studio secrets, and much more.
The MGMStudios.org forums offer discussions on all things relative to the MGM Studios theme park. Courtesy Matt Hochberg.
My favorite area of this site is the three pages of Studio facts.
I didn't know that in The Great Movie Ride, the belt buckle worn by John Wayne in the Western scene is an actual buckle worn by "The Duke" in one of his movies. That and other interesting facts await you at this site.
The second of the three Hochberg Web sites made its debut in April 2003. This second launch was devoted to Hochberg's favorite attraction, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster StarringAerosmith. Hochberg admits that the inspiration for RocknRollerCoaster.com was DoomBoggies.com, a site devoted to Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion, as well as TellNoTales.com, which isyou guessed itall about Pirates of the Caribbean.
Hochberg says there were some "growing pains" associated with the creation of RocknRollerCoaster.com. The challenge was to create a site that would not only provide full focus on the attraction but also be structured so that it would be easy to maintain and, in his words keep "fresh and up to date."
This site has a bit of a different feel than his MGMStudios.org site but offers some of the same features. There is a forum for RnRC fans, a section with photos of the attraction, a section with videos from various portions of the attraction, a secrets page, and other features.
Home page of Rocknrollercoaster.com. Courtesy Matt Hochberg.
If you've never experienced the attraction you may want to visit this site and check out the videos.
Now with two sites up and running you would think that Hochberg would be done. He thought so, too. As he puts it, "Now I had two sites and I was plenty busy. That was enough for me."
Uh-huh. Think again.
By the time 2005 rolled around it was apparent that MGMStudios.org had quite a few Twilight Zone Tower of Terror fans. This would spell danger for Hochberg because he began to wonder if the attraction was calling for its own Web site.
He had always felt that the Tower of Terror was one of the top attractions in not just the Studios but in all of Walt Disney World. It was tempting, but he knew it would take a lot of work to create a site deserving of representing such a well imagineered attraction. Also, there already was a site devoted to the attraction so the domain name would have to be unique.
However, the existing site which had the domain name he longed for had some issues, one of which was that it was constantly up and down and sometimes down for months at a time
Hochberg struck up a conversation with the webmaster for that site. It was obvious that that webmaster could not keep up with the demands of such a site and handed the domain name over to Hochberg.
The project started in early summer of 2005. Hochberg had plenty of help from those who frequented the MGMStudios.org site. One person in particular was Martin Smith of Manchester, England. Smith provided a plethora of information, including some very clever videos, which Hochberg used as a foundation for the site
In August 2005 TowerofTerror.org was launched.
A different type of Web site awaits guests at TowerofTerror.org. Photo by Matt Hochberg.
Hochberg saw ToT as being the " richest, most detailed attraction on the property." He wanted to do right by the attraction so this site was going to be much different from the previous two sites he had created.
Although he already had experience building two Web sites, this adventure would be a huge learning experience for Hochberg. The second site had a different feel than the first and he wanted this third site to have a look and feel all its own.
With the launching of each site Hochberg wanted something different for each one. He ended up designing the two attraction specific sites so they would offer different navigational tendencies.
Certainly TowerofTerror.org has some interesting features. When you arrive at the site you immediately get the sense you are in the lobby of the Hollywood Hotel.
The site offers a history of the attraction, the always intriguing secrets section, a forum section, and a library that holds photos, videos, and even a virtual game in which you control the attraction.
Hochberg goal was to make his sites the single source of information for the specific area they represented. His quest will continue as he is constantly providing the latest information. He often finds himself on the receiving end of many contributors who send him information and photos of the park.
He is most proud of the MGMStudios.org FAQ page in which the information provided helps guests understand all about the Studios and thus helps them enjoy their next visit to the theme park
There are Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror attractions being built in other Disney theme parks, and Hochberg is devoted to making sure his sites contain information such as news, photos, and hopefully videos of those attractions as they are developed.
Hochberg knows he's created a monster load of work for himself but he gets enjoyment knowing that his sites are doing what he wanted them to do and that is be the single source of information for The MGM Studios theme park and its two headliner attractions Rock 'n' Rollercoaster and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Sure it's a lot of work, but obviously not enough because in his spare time Hochberg also serves as host of the WDWToday podcast three times a week.
There's no denying that Hochberg is doing all he can to help visitors to his Web sites and listeners to his podcasts
Remember the Magic!
I've been looking very closely at the Disney Dining Plan and I've got some thoughts about it. I'll share those thoughts with you next time.