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 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.
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.