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I keep hearing that -- no matter how bad things got, no matter how far "Superstar Limo" began to wander away from the sensibilities of the average theme park goer -- Eisner supposedly always thought that this DCA attraction was going to be a real winner. He allegedly particularly enjoyed a gag that was prominently featured in the concept art and mock-up version of the ride, where Dreamworks SKG's distinctive looking animation studio loomed behind a giant gate with the name "DreamJerks Studio" on it. ( Let's give Eisner a few points here, though, folks. At least Disney's CEO had the good sense to understand that this sort of mean-spirited gag wasn't going to play with the general public. Which is why he wouldn't allow it to be installed in the finished version of the attraction. That said, that still doesn't mean that Uncle Michael didn't get a huge chuckle whenever he saw that vicious visual in the attraction's concept art or mock-up stage. Anyway ... )

But -- toward the end -- Eisner must have understood that something was seriously going wrong with Superstar Limo. What probably clued him in? Maybe it was the way that the Imagineers had to keep cannibalizing concepts for the finale of this Hollywood Pictures Backlot attraction in order to stretch out the ride's paltry storyline.

Do you remember the finale that the Imagineers had originally proposed for Superstar Limo: where DCA guests were actually supposed to exit their stretch limo in front of the Chinese Theater. According to the attraction's original storyline, SSL riders were supposed to get the full celebrity trip. They would stroll up the red carpet, surrounded by the roar of the crowd and the blinding flashes of the paparazzi's cameras. They'd then enter a gift shop that was designed to look like the lobby of the Chinese Theater, where the staff was supposed to still be fawning all over them -- as if these folks were real movie stars. (It was hoped that this extra obsequious service would trick more people into opening up their wallets and purchasing that photograph that Disney's digital image capture system had plastered up on the big screen. That picture that clearly showed these folks in a fake limousine but still being treated like real celebrities.)

But -- as Superstar Limo's storyline got thinner and thinner -- the Imagineers realized that they were going to need extra scenes to pad out the attraction's storyline. Which is why SSL's original finale as well as the ride's exit / shop area ended up being folded into the show. WDI did whatever it had to to try and give this Hollywood Pictures Backlot attraction more story, more substance.

Finally, as the attraction's art direction and gag work got more and more out there, Eisner must have seen the handwriting on the wall. And yet Uncle Michael just couldn't bring himself to pull the plug on an attraction that -- at least to his comic sensibilities -- did such a witty job of sending up the world he lived in.

After all, all Disney theme parks have dark rides. Which meant that DCA had to have one too. Even it meant that Disney's California Adventure was going to end up with one as weird as Superstar Limo.

Still, in late 1999, Eisner allegedly began to slowly distance himself from the DCA attraction that he'd initially paid so much attention to. Citing the stylization of the attraction's sets, Uncle Michael supposedly said that it just didn't make sense anymore for a real human's face to suddenly intrude on this toony version of Hollywood. That's why Eisner reportedly suggested that WDI drop the idea of having the Disney CEO appear on the ride vehicle's video monitor but go with -- maybe -- a stylized version of a slimy Hollywood agent.

And -- while Imagineering was at it -- why didn't they throw in some other stylized celebrities to help pad out things in DCA's cock-eyed take on Tinsel Town?

Coming up in the Fourth -- and final -- part of LaughingPlace.com's Superstar Limo series, Jim Hill reveals the deals that lead to which celebrities got selected to appear what scenes in this Hollywood Pictures Backlot attraction. Jim also touches on the important role that the cosmetic make-over of the Disney Store retail chain will play in SSL's new look.

My sincerest apologies for not being able to wrap up this story today, folks. But my computer seriously got stomped by that Sir Cam virus yesterday morning. It took us hours before Nancy and I were finally able to rid our Presario of that vicious worm. Hours that I should have spent writing this story, but -- truth be told -- I spent most of my time Monday trying to save precious Disney research files.

Again, my apologies to any of you who may have inadvertently gotten tainted e-mail from our [email protected] address yesterday. Nancy and I tried to get the word out as quickly as possible that those messages were both bogus and deadly. I just hope that those of you who were effected got the word in time.

Anyway ... This time -- I swear -- look for the final installment of this series to run on Thursday, July 26th.

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-- Jim Hill

Jim Hill can be reached using the Talkback form below or by emailing him at [email protected].

Jim Hill is this guy who lives 'way out in the woods of New Hampshire. (Hey, it's not like he wants to live there. But the Witness Protection Program has got rules, you know.) He has one beautiful daughter and three obnoxious cats. When he's not looking for real work, Jim writes about the Walt Disney Company and related matters for LaughingPlace.com, AmusementPark.com, "Orlando Weekly" and Digital Media FX.

The opinions expressed by Jim Hill, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the past decisions and future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted July 24, 2001

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