A very special (and early) preview of Monster’s Inc, The Laugh Floor attraction

Weblaughfloorcomedy

I knew something was up in Tomorrowland today. First the construction walls were moved or

down around the old Circle-vision theatre. Then there was the temporary fence of bushes

that they’ve used in the past when doing previews. (Stitch previews comes to mind.)

Finally, there were three or four attractions managers standing around doing nothing. Yep,

something was going on.

I hung out in the area for a bit while my son played with some cast members who were

brought along to entertain, but nothing was evident. So we went on TTA and of course from

the tracks I saw they start letting in people. Luckily they were still filling the theatre

when I got off TTA and we made it in as part of the last bunch of guests.

The preview was for an early early dress rehearsal of the next attraction to arrive at

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. "Monster’s Inc The Laugh Floor Comedy Club" is based on

the Pixar film Monster’s Inc and takes place after the film when they try to make power

for Monstropolis by harnessing children’s laughter instead of screams.

The comedy club is Monster’s Inc’s attempt to generate a lot of power at once. Only

problem is they’ve run out of joke ideas. So not only will guests get to hear jokes from

some of the funniest monsters Monstropolis has to offer, but they will hear jokes solicited from the audience (more on that later).

"The Laugh Floor Comedy Club" is set in what was the old Circle-vision theatre (last home to TimeKeeper). It’s been completely transformed. Gone are the screens, projectors, and

leaning rails. Gone is the stage and animatronic figure. In it’s place is the new ‘The Laugh Floor Comedy Club’. (see above illustration for concept art courtesy of the Walt Disney Company)

They’ve brought in big blue plastic benches with cute little ‘eye and stalk’ lights spread

around. They’ve installed a slight theatre rake (they could have gone another 5 percent

steeper I think, it was hard to see over the people in front of me, my three year old had

no chance and the other toddler sitting near me ended up standing on the bench). The walls

are a dark red with the Monster’s Inc logo everywhere and star projections on them

(something could  be done here to plus this (portraits of the Laugh Floor’s best power generators, perhaps)). But in general the theater set design was done really cute and looks like what you would expect a comedy club to look like in Monstropolis (slightly cartoony).

At the front of the theatre is a ‘stage’, which is really a big movie screen, and two

smaller screens (one of which is a ‘closet door’ in station). These are the least convincing effect of the show and require that the audience suspend its disbelief. Turtle Talk with Crush does this better because you’re already in a seabase and because it looks like you’re looking into an aquarium. So the addition of a pre-show and some more ‘realistic

effects’ or verisimilitude (meaning something that looks more like it came from the

Monster’s Inc movie) would make the stage, screen, and door look better.

The ‘closet door’ was used during the show, but it didn’t function how closet doors function in the movie. I would expect to see a child’s bedroom whenever the door opens. It wouldn’t be accessible from the stage. On the right of the stage, beside the closet door, is a big yellow canister, which will be used to capture the laughs of the audience. This did not fill up during the show, but they mentioned it would when the show as live. There was some other light themeing to the theater as well.

After all the guests filed in, the host (my guess; a show producer from imagineering) said we were the very first guests to see the show and that the show was in very early stages of dress rehearsals. He explained that not all the effects were finished and that we should cut the monster’s some slack since they hadn’t had much rehearsal time. He then explained that part of the show was that the monster’s needed more jokes and that guests in the audience could ‘text message’ them in (via cell phone or PDA) and that they might be used in the  show. There was some legalease that went with this, which was pretty funny in its own right.

From here on out thar’ be spoilers… so read on below the cut at your own risk if you want to experience

the attraction uninfluenced the first time. Also keep in mind that this was a very early

dress rehearsal and many many things will change and/or improve. They know there is work

to be done still.

They started off the show with some video from Roz and Mike Wazowski explaining the

backstory including the need for jokes from the audience (this was obviously in the early

stages of rendering). Roz then gave out the ‘text messaging’ info and some more legalease

(this time deliberately funny, I believe). We later learned that this section would likely

take place in the queue/pre-show, not in the theater. That makes more sense.

Then there was an unexplained interlude where they put people in the
audience up on the ‘big screen’ with funny sayings underneath. ‘Just
sat on a monster’ was a popular one and ‘glad she’s not being made fun
of was another’… These were funny and got audience laughs. But they
were in text, so kids who can’t read don’t get the jokes. That’s
probably 1/3rd to half the target audience. Something a little more
interactive here… show the small monster squeezing out from behind
the guest or do ‘chalk’ monster drawings on top of the image (think The
Truman Show bathroom scene here). My three year old laughed, but only
after everyone else in the audience laughed. However, he would get any
visual jokes at the same time as the rest of the audience.

The show got off to a rough start with some technology issues. This is very similar

technology to what they’re using at Turtle Talk with Crush. However, new characters and

new renderings of the virtual puppets are required. Some significant work is still needed

in this area to approach the smooth puppeteering that you see in Crush.

Because of the rough start, I think we missed out a bit on the whole ‘comedy club’ feel.

They either need to do more to set this up (an opening song and dance number from Mike

Wazowski was mentioned) or this may be taken care of in the pre-show. I vote for the song and dance number.

This is a good place to talk about the character voices. Apparently many of the voices we

heard were either stand ins or unfinished. It will be tough to duplicate Billy Crystal’s

voice as Mike Wazowski. Roz is more generic (and there was a funny impression bit pointing

that out). I’m not sure how the virtual puppeteer does the voice impressions, but some refinements are definitely needed.

We saw a short bit by Wazowski, then there were three monster comics.
The first one was very undefined in my opinion. Just a purple blob with
some eye stalks and a mouth. The mouth was hard to follow at points.
The second monster was a two-headed monster, each with it’s own
personality (I kept expecting ‘who’s on first’ to break out), which was
better defined, but still not fully realized (again the mouth and small
legs that shouldn’t be able support the body). The third monster I’ll
leave as a suprise. But he was the cutest of the three. Someone needs
to go back to Emeryville and see some of the original concept art
sketches for monsters. Choose a few with more interesting appendages,
facial structure, and detailed skin patterns, scales, or fur. (They may
be skipping fur as a feature since it might be tough to animate in the
virtual puppet environment.)

There was a lot of guest interaction during these sections. The
monsters would ask the audience a question (will you be my friend?).
Ask to see raised hands and then have a Cast Member in the audience
bring down a microphone to that person. Different than Turtle Talk,
they actually put an image of the guest up on the big screen. There
were some issues with the spotlight and how long the monster/cast
member interacted with each audience member, but I’m confident this
will get worked out with more dress rehearsals.

Like Turtle Talk with
Crush, this is what makes the show. The kids chosen were mostly tweens
(or just a little younger). There was some awkwardness with being seen
on the big screen, but that was mostly defused after the initial
question. Mommy and Daddy looked on in bemused horror, of course. Will
they be making these videos available to purchase after the show?
perhaps to download off the internet with a special code?

So how was the humor? I thought there was a lot of the good type of humor Disney and Pixar

are known for (that being the type of humor that’s targeted at kids, but that adults can

appreciate or find hidden meaning in). Definitely want to see more of that. Thankfully

there were no potty jokes (well there was a ‘burp’ joke, one is okay) and sight gags were

at a minimum. The sight gag in Crush works well, so more of that here would be

understandable.

Apparently they’ve brought in a lot of the improv comics from Downtown Disney

(Adventurer’s Club and Comedy Warehouse) to supply the jokes. They seem to be on the right

track.

Jokes from the guests was the final segment. I missed how it was introduced, since my

3-year old needed a potty break. But he really wanted to see the rest of the show (which

seems like a good sign for the show) so we snuck back in for the end. For this section

each of the previous comic monsters did a joke or two from an audience member. Name and

City were mentioned, but they didn’t put an image of the guest up on screen. I don’t know

how they could do that, but it would be a nice touch.

The audience mix was very varied. From infants to retired couples
and everything inbetween, Disney could therefore get a good idea of who
liked what. I’d say in general most audience members enjoyed the show,
despite the dress rehearsal status. About 30 minutes in there was some
audience flight (but that’s to be expected even with a finalized
production).

Disney might have more previews similar to the one I attended. But
don’t expect regular soft openings anytime soon. The show is a long way
from being ready for prime time. Right now it’s scheduled for a January
2007 opening. I think that’s doable with a lot of work on the puppet
models, some script tweaks, a good pre-show in the queue (keeping in
mind some guests might skip this as they saunter in late), and some
additional themeing.

After the show they invited the audience to stick around and tell them
what we liked and didn’t like. Some of the major criticisms were: no
Boo and no Sulley; the show length was long, but that was expected; and
the difficulty and exclusionary aspects of the text-messaging. I agree
with all those. What follows are some other general criticisms I have.

I was a little confused about whether the monster comics we saw were ‘auditioning’ for a

future job with Monster’s Inc or experienced comics. I could see the ‘auditioning’ line

played up more and then let the audience decide at the end which of the three comics they

want to see back for an encore.

They need to democracize the solicitation of jokes for the show. Tie
the need for jokes into a ‘Kim Possible’ hunt experience in the park
(ie, let others send in jokes whenever and whereever they are.) Heck
let guests from home submit jokes and then watch them over the
internet. Have contests to see whose jokes get used the most… tie it
in with VMK. At a minimum give the pre-show cast members the ability to
send in jokes from the audience while they’re waiting in the queue.

The big question is whether the concept in itself is workable.
Tomorrowland is becoming ‘Animationland’ (almost ‘Pixarland’). So
guests are probably adjusted to the idea of another ‘animation’ show.
But the concept of plopping a ‘comedy club’ down into tomorrowland is
an odd one.

I felt the verisimilitude was lacking and I kept getting drawn out of
the show by the bad animation/puppeteering. Of course, I don’t mean
actual reality, but Pixar’s Monster Inc reality. Some of this will come
out in rehearsals. It’s hard to believe a full stage fits into that
area AND the stage doesn’t seem to exist in the Monster’s Inc universe.
I felt the whole ‘stage’ concept needs to be reworked just a bit (It
might just be the depth behind the screen). It looks like a video
screen, not a stage. In Turtle Talk it really looks like a window into
the ocean. You can suspend your disbelief for that.

Announced capacity was a little more than 400 a show. So shows
(including theater turn around) would have to be less than 20 minutes
in length to get a semi-decent capacity for the attraction. 1300 an
hour isn’t a lot. The more introduction they can fit in the pre-show
the more jokes they can squeeze into that 20 minutes. They couldn’t do
the attraction justice with a 15 minute show (even Crush gets 20
minutes and he’s just one character).

I predict long lines if they can pull this concept off. If it all comes
together, this will entertain adults as well as children (teenagers
probably not) and bring the lovable characters of Monter’s Inc to life
in a very real way for guests to Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

About Ken Pellman

I was a Disneyland Cast Member for 15 years. Currently a freelance writer.
This entry was posted in Imagineering, Walt Disney World. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A very special (and early) preview of Monster’s Inc, The Laugh Floor attraction

  1. Zow Zow says:

    Thanks for sharing your surprise experiance! We’ll be there in early December. I doubt we’ll be lucky enough to catch a sneak preview, but it’ll will be neat to eventually see the finished product!

  2. natalie says:

    Well that sounds like it will be a hit. What fun to make the dress rehearsal! It just SO HAPPENS that the Disney Blogger was wandering around Tomorrowland when they opened it! Luck.

    You know, the entire theme of Tomorrowland has changed into some sort of intergalactic village. With the addition of the Comedy Club, all those little road signs and sci-fi Kiwanis Club signs are starting to make sense. It CAN’T be the original Tomorrowland anymore- anyone who thinks about it hard knows that it’s A) just not possible to remake the entire land every single year and B) make it interesting to today’s audience. It’s a sci-fi Fantasyland, as someone else put it, and if they can draw it all together into one convincing picture, instead of a bunch of Pixar rides in one area, it will actually turn into a really interesting space.

  3. John Frost says:

    Thanks for the comment. That is the question isn’t it. Can they draw it into one coherent storyline? So far, they haven’t made much effort in that direction. I’d say wait until they see if Meet The Robinson’s will be a big hit. If so, look for something to replace Carousel of Progress with a Robinson’s theme.

    Once Magic Kingdom moves beyond ‘Tomorrowland’ perhaps they should consider renaming the land too and move all that ‘Tomorrow’ stuff to a revived EPCOT which is better able to handle the yearly shifts of technology with its innoventions area (and some of the FutureWorld pavillions (which are taking on a little animationland feel of their own, btw)).

  4. AKA Harry says:

    I can not wait to see this show!

  5. Ryan says:

    Why not retrofit the old SuperStar TV building at the Studios park, and have two theaters (ala DL’s Country Bears)? Why, oh why?

  6. ed b says:

    Will there be a Monster’s Inc. 2 ?

Comments are closed.