Preshow Appreciation

by Mike Scopa, contributing writer

Preshow Appreciation

Sometimes we never see something even when it's right in front of us—and we do not value or appreciate what we cannot see. For too long, I have been blind to a very important part of Walt Disney World. It's time to change that.

Over the last several years, I have really come to appreciate the attraction preshows in Walt Disney World. It's time to give them the proper recognition they deserve for being the important components of the attractions they precede.

First, they ease the guest into the attraction's theme. Guests navigate from attraction to attraction, and a good preshow will help guests flush out their recollection of the last attraction visited and immediately get them in the swing of things for the attraction at hand, to get them in the mood for what awaits them—be it a thrill ride, a stage show, or a classic Disney dark ride. Imagineers have their work cut out for them, and I really think they really earn their salary with work in the preshow area.

Second, a preshow serves to handle crowd control by moving guests through attractions. Disney recognizes the need to keep guests occupied in those long queues. An entertaining preshow can go very far in helping guests forget the fact that they have been waiting a long time to get into the main attraction.

The art of the preshow has evolved over the past 50 years and as newer attractions pop up, they surface with preshows that are very key to the whole attraction experience. So here's a countdown on my 10 favorite Walt Disney World preshows past and present:

10. The Haunted Mansion stretching room

Our first stop is the stretching room for the Haunted Mansion. I see it as a preshow that prepares everyone for the mood and dealings with the 999 ghosts. I love looking at the faces of those in that room and trying to figure out who is there for the first time, especially the small children clutching their parents. It's a great preshow and one of the few in the Magic Kingdom,

9. The Great Movie Ride trailer clip

The Great Movie Ride really does a good job of entertaining guests. The queue can be quite long and the movie trailer clip that awaits guests treats them to a multitude of classic movie trailers. This keeps guests well occupied before getting into the main loading area for the attraction. Here's something to think about: How many characters on the screen will you see in audio-animatronics form in the main attraction? Also, what scenes on the film are re-created in the ride? I've never counted them. Have you?

8. General Knowledge

I really miss this guy because he was one of the best cartoon characters ever to grace a preshow movie. This preshow is/was presented just before you went into Cranium Command, and it showcased an animated soldier who prepares his troops for their mission to pilot human brains and work as a team to get you through each day. General Knowledge is there to shape us up and get us going. With Wonders of Life in limbo, who knows when next we'll be able to see this preshow? I miss it.

7. Ellen's Energy

When the Universe of Energy got its makeover, it turned into a very entertaining attraction, with the entertainment beginning with Ellen's Jeopardy dream sequence that we see prior to going on the ride. This preshow really works well. It keeps a large group of people occupied and entertained while they wait for their turn to enjoy the main attraction. I never get tired of seeing this preshow.

6. Four for a Dollar

I'm a big Beauty and the Beast fan and try to see the show every time I visit Disney-MGM Studios. Actually, I'm a big Belle fan and to me, all the other performers in the show are there to support Belle.

But there is something else that draws me to this attraction. Before the show, this a cappella group known as Four for a Dollar comes out to entertain. You see, they are supposed to be stagehands who have fun with the microphones. Soon they jump into song and the crowd won't let them leave the stage. These four gentlemen are most talented and harmonize like Dapper Dans in training.

They surely entertain the crowd, and they are one reason why when I go to the Beauty and the Beast stage show, I make it there early to enjoy to these guys.

5. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror library

Some might say that the preshow is the lobby for this attraction, but it is definitely the library. The appearance of the Rod Serling character and the story told in that quaint library room may be one of the best preshows in Walt Disney World. Everything works so well in framing the attraction and giving the guests a thrill well before the main attraction. The detail and care that was taken to prepare this preshow is uncanny. If you have avoided experiencing the Tower because it's a thrill ride, I encourage you to at least go through the library. You can always take the "out" exit just before you get to the elevators.

4. Festival of the Lion King

I've always said that the Festival of the Lion King in Animal Kingdom is the best show in Walt Disney World. The performers are top notch and the entertainment is unmatched. Just as the final guests are being escorted in the main seating area, performers come out to instruct each section of the theater to make a noise like a certain animal. Guests are pulled out of the audience to help with this instruction. As all this is happening, the focus is on the center of the building and it really helps to settle everyone down and prepare for again, the best show in Walt Disney World.

3. Matt the Juggler

This is a flash from the past. Matt the Juggler has been gone for almost a decade and I am so glad that I video-taped this preshow.

For those of you who visited Walt Disney World during the mid-1990s you may have remembered the Hunchback of Notre Dame stage show in the Disney-MGM Studios theme park. It was one of my favorite attractions. The biggest draw of that show was Matt the Juggler, who came out on stage and talked to the audience for about 15-20 minutes while guests came into the theater. Matt was a very talented and funny juggler with amazing juggling skills. But the best thing about this preshow was how Matt worked his dialogue into his act and how he communicated with the audience.

You could almost make an argument that for a short period of time, Matt seemed to be more popular than the show itself, and people would look forward to getting into the theater early to get a good seat for Matt's show.

2. Voices of Liberty

I have always considered the Voices of Liberty as the preshow to the American Adventure attraction in Epcot's World Showcase. I can't tell you how any times I have listened to these talented singers perform, and I never get tired of hearing them sing. They are especially wonderful to hear during the Christmas holidays and really can make your day.

Because they sing Americana-style tunes they really get you in a patriotic spirit to truly appreciate the American Adventure presentation that follows their performance. It's the best live show in Walt Disney World and the American Adventure attraction just doesn't feel the same unless you've enjoyed the Voices of Liberty beforehand.

1. The Muppets

I think that the most ingenious, well-though out, creative, and entertaining—yet most unappreciated—preshow in all of Walt Disney World is the preshow that precedes the Muppets 3D attraction.

The preshow area alone is filled with props and gags that could keep me in there for one hour just looking at them.

Then there's the video, which I feel rivals the feature 3D movie which is supposed to be the real star of the show, along with the theater of course. The gags and sights are just too numerous to mention and it goes without saying that the performers out did themselves to do this preshow video.

In my opinion, this is the best preshow in Walt Disney World, and like all the other shows, really leaves an impression upon me—that's what you need to...

...Remember the Magic!

Next Time

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