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Disney’s Hollywood Studios Sorcerer’s Hat of yesteryear: Love it or hate it? – DePaoli on DeParks

by Jeff DePaoli

As I scroll through Twitter consuming a lot of theme park content, I find that I often come across an image of the Sorcerer’s Hat that was once proudly displayed in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s certainly not rare to come across images of retired theme park content, but I’m always quite surprised how much this former icon is missed. There seems to be two camps in regards to this topic. People either seem to hate the Sorcerer’s Hat or love it. Oftentimes it seems to depend on when the person first visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

disney's hollywood studios sorcerer hat

Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened as Disney-MGM Studios back in 1989 with that grand view down Hollywood Boulevard leading to the Chinese Theatre. In 2001 the view of the theatre was obstructed by the giant Sorcerer’s Hat. This was added as part of 100 Years of Magic celebrating Walt Disney’s 100th birthday. It served several purposes, originally featuring kiosks sharing information about Walt Disney himself and eventually turning into a pins store.

This was during a time when things were bigger and bolder. It wasn’t quite as bold as the Cinderella Castle birthday cake for the resorts 25th anniversary, but we still hadn’t reached the minimalist phase that would become more popular in later years. My complaint about the Sorcerer’s Hat was not so much about the look of it, but more about its placement. Setting it directly in front of the Chinese Theatre and completely blocking that iconic view felt like an odd choice. On top of that, its cartoonish look didn’t fit in among the realism of Hollywood Boulevard.

I’ve heard people say the placement was purposeful in relation to copyrighting issues related to the actual Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. I haven’t been able to find any information confirming that theory. In fact, while I was researching, I found the building being referred to as “Grauman’s Chinese Theatre” on the official Walt Disney World website in the description for the “Relive the Magic” projection show. If there were to be legal issues, it would most likely be over the name “Grauman’s” before the look of the building.

disney's hollywood studios sorcerer hat

When I began visiting the park, my initial view led me to the Chinese Theatre. But if you began visiting between 2001 and 2015, your initial view would have been the Sorcerer’s Hat. Perhaps in this case, first impressions have a lot to do with your feelings about the hat. When the hat was eventually removed in 2015, it was hard to believe the Sorcerer’s Hat had existed in the park for 15 years while it was only absent for 12 years prior. For many this really was a park staple and anchor. With the now seven years since the hat has been removed, that means the park has existed without the hat for 19 years total, making the Chinese Theatre view now the majority.

Adding the hat was certainly a bold and expensive choice. Although it might not have been my favorite, I’m happy to see bold choices being made. Some will be hits. Some will be misses. But if no bold decisions are being made, we’ll miss out on so many amazing possibilities. If it weren’t for bold and expensive risks, we wouldn’t have the grandeur that is now the “Beacon of Magic” on Spaceship Earth.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the Sorcerer’s Hat was for that period of time there was a definitive park icon for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Of course, the Sorcerer’s Hat is modeled after the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment of the 1940 animated masterpiece “Fantasia.” But did you know the Sorcerer’s Hat wasn’t the first time there was a large Sorcerer’s Apprentice reference in the park? For many years, a giant inflatable Mickey appeared in his Sorcerer’s Apprentice wardrobe on top of the Chinese Theatre during the “Sorcery in the Sky” fireworks show.

How do you feel about Disney’s Hollywood Studios Sorcerer’s Hat? Do you still miss it every time you visit the park or is the view of the Chinese Theatre a welcome return for you? Do you have any particular memories of the Sorcerer’s Hat? Leave a comment and let me know.

If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.

Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.

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13 comments

Janice March 18, 2022 - 7:18 pm

The studio was designed to have a hidden Mickey, viable from above the park, but also identifiable on a park map. That darn hat wiped out the hidden Mickey, which I really loved. When the hat turned into pin store, it was just tacky.

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Jeff DePaoli March 20, 2022 - 9:36 pm

That was a pretty darn cool hidden Mickey. At this point, a lot more than the hat has destroyed that hidden secret.

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Matthew Brewster March 18, 2022 - 8:15 pm

To me, the ONLY icon of the Studios was, is and always will be the Chinese Theater! The Hat never belonged. I have always felt it belongs at the entrance of the ASR, perhaps atop the Security checking booth. Such giant icons, after all, adorn the resort, so the Hat would fit in perfectly.

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Jeff DePaoli March 20, 2022 - 9:36 pm

I love the Chinese Theatre as an icon as well.

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Patricia Aldrich March 18, 2022 - 11:12 pm

Yes my family misses it and it was a great salute to Walt Disney too much of Walt Disney is being removed from Disney world and that is so sad

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Jeff DePaoli March 20, 2022 - 9:37 pm

You mean WALT Disney World 😉

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Vinnie March 19, 2022 - 7:59 am

Another great article Jeff
Thanks for bringing back some good memories of a wonderful former park icon
Unfortunately the hat had to be removed as around that time Disney was rolling out projection mapping to the Studios for shows such as Wonderful World of Animation and Star Wars Galactic Spectacular and the hat would have blocked guests view of the Chinese Theater which served as the canvas for the projection shows
On a different note and because you touched on it briefly in your article, I would love to read a future article detailing the different icons Hollywood Studios has had over the years ranging from the Chinese Theater to the Sorcerer’s Hat to the Earful Tower and finally to today’s Tower of Terror

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Jeff DePaoli March 20, 2022 - 9:38 pm Reply
Patricia Aldrich March 20, 2022 - 3:53 am

My family doesn’t like the fact that the great movie ride was changed going thru especially the wizard of oz was so much fun to go thru

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Jeff DePaoli March 22, 2022 - 6:55 pm

I miss Great Movie Ride as well.

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Vinnie March 21, 2022 - 5:06 pm

Thanks Jeff
I appreciate the link

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Mark B Grumet March 22, 2022 - 9:01 pm

What if the BAH could be brought back adorning the Earful tower?

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Louise Herrick July 8, 2022 - 11:04 am

I had my own thoughts on this before reading your article & then found out your views mirrored mine. Love the hat but surprised they blocked the Chinese Theatre. When I first saw it I was excited to go under it, only to find it was merely a shop! It always felt odd that a shop should be the park icon. My son, however, was born in 2001 so it was all he knew so was gutted when it was taken down.

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