Monday, September 10, 2012

Disney That Never Was: Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy

With the news of a massive shakeup possibly changing the landscape and footprint of Disney's Hollywood Studios, it seems necessary to look at part of the first real expansion that was planned for the then Disney/MGM Studios.

As one of the major components of the Disney Decade, Michael Eisner used his connections within the movie industry to expand on a EPCOT pavilion concept: the movie pavilion. By expanding this idea, MGM Studios was born, and through that creation, so did a completely different direction for the Walt Disney Company in Florida. Eisner's idea was a full year ahead of rival Universal's own park opening, which in turn gave Disney the edge.

Disney/MGM Studios was originally conceived to be a half-day park, as many executives did not think that there would be enough attractions and shows to keep guests within the park fr an entire day. Fortunately for them, they were wrong. The park became an immediate success, and calls for more were demanded by park goers. This led to the addition of such things as MuppetVision 3D, and the entire Sunset Boulevard area to the park. With all that the park has now and added over the years it is a wonder that there were many concepts left on the drawing table, and ones that simply were shelved during development. One of these projects was Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy.

In an attempt to capitalize on the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Imagineers came up with a concept for a new area to encompass the MGM Studios. This area would mimic the sets of the film, and become heavily influenced by the popular film with a slew of new attractions, including a Toontown Trolley and a Benny the Cab Ride. (which eventually became known as Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin in Disneyland and Tokyo) The Baby Herman attraction would take guests right into the middle of a Roger Rabbit/Baby Herman cartoon, notably the Tummy Trouble short as guests loaded into dark ride style baby carriages. It was described by one Imagineer as being a ride that, ” … guests zoom through the cartoon sets of Toontown Hospital, fly down stairs, crash through doors and bound over beds.” Though the concept had promise, and would have added a completely new dimension to the park, it never made it past the concept stage.

There have been rumors abound for why this attraction as well as the rest of Roger Rabbit's Hollywood never came to fruition. Some point the finger at Eisner and Frank Wells being a bit too bold during the Disney Decade, and others blame the character's fleeting popularity for its eventual cancellation, but the truth seems to lie somewhere in the middle. One major issue that seemed to be a sticking point was the ownership of the character and Disney's disagreement with Amblin Entertainment (Steven Spielberg's production agency) led to multiple delays. Being that both Touchstone (Disney's live-action production company) and Amblin were responsible for the creation of the film, disagreements arose over the profits, the usage and the design of the land and attractions. Considering Spielberg's affiliation with Universal, it is a wonder that this became a major issue moving forward. The other problem that arose was the rising costs of EuroDisney, and the eventual losses that the Disney Company took once it finally opened. As the disagreements finally seemed to be ending with Amblin, Disney found that it had a capital issue which led to much of the plans from the Disney Decade to be shelved. Once this capital issue was resolved however, it seemed that the Roger Rabbit character had lost its luster and popularity, so the company went in a different direction as they eventually decided on a project that eventually became Sunset Boulevard and the Tower of Terror which opened in July 1994.

Though this attraction was never officially green lit, and therefore never has been created, much of the technology that this attraction was conceived to feature has found itself in other attractions, notably the Winnie-the-Pooh attraction in Magic Kingdom with its "bouncing" and "floating" honeypots. It is also important to note that Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin eventually was created in Disneyland in January 1993 and in Tokyo in April 1996.

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