Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor – Passholder Preview

Everybody loves a good comedy club, right?!

That’s the idea behind Disney’s latest addition to the Magic Kingdom with the creation of the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, a theater-based attraction that welcomes us humans into the monster world to help power their cities with our laughter, now cleverly collected in place of our screams by the dedicated employees of Monsters, Inc. As usual, Annual Passholders and DVC members were invited to preview the new attraction a few days before it was to be available to the general public, so it seemed only fitting that we make a special trip over to Disney to witness the magic firsthand…

But sadly, one of the very first things noticed was that despite the promotional mailings, the preview was not limited to only Passholders and vacation club members; instead, upon presenting our passes, we were directed through a fast pass-style entrance to the head of the queuing area, while other guests were permitted to enter via the standard line. We predicted that this approach was probably chosen to ensure that shows would be as full as possible, just in case turnout for the preview wasn’t as impressive as that for Expedition: Everest last year. Ultimately it’s a tiny critique in the grand scheme of things, but you know how us Passholders like to think we deserve special treatment!

(Editor’s Note: We actually do deserve special treatment…)

Unfortunately, the initial queuing area itself was the first real disappointment for this attraction, as it just sort of seemed slapped together at the last minute and didn’t really seem to tie into the whole Monsters, Inc. theme like I think it could’ve. The line snaked through a rather drab room whose only real decorations were a series of banners hanging from the rafters that had been designed to look like children had painted them. One more detailed banner described sending text messages to a specified phone number to have jokes included in the upcoming show, however to me it just left me curious because it didn’t seem to really get into how the whole process worked (we’ll talk more about this later). A single door into the next section of the queuing area stood at the end of the line, which must not have had much behind it other than hinges because someone leaning on it must’ve opened it a dozen times while we stood there waiting to move on.

The wait itself didn’t help matters, either, as it gave us plenty of time to take in our surroundings, or lack thereof. We noticed already peeling paint on some of the supports by the door, likely chipped away by antsy guests who thought that the wait times were a bit excessive for a brand-spanking-new attraction. And while I understand that there can certainly be delays when first opening a new ride to account for technical difficulties and whatnot, at the same time I’d also expect a cast member on-hand to keep us updated if we happen to be waiting in a line that isn’t going to be moving for a while because a robotic Mike somewhere ran out of gas. We never did find out what the delay was, but for the record this first stage of the queue most definitely left something to be desired.

The second queuing area behind the big door was at least much better themed, as crossing through the doors effectively welcomed us into the Monsters, Inc. world with pictures of our favorite monsters on the walls, shiny and colorful signage resembling that from the company’s headquarters in the movie, and several television monitors playing promotional clips while we waited for the doors to open into the theater itself. Opposite of its predecessor, this room actually felt up to caliber as being a queuing area for the attraction, as this was also where we watched the preview movies that would explain the attraction that we were about to experience. In true Disney fashion, this queuing area was filled with colorful distractions to make us forget that we were cattle waiting to be fed; it’s just that first line that really needs to be spruced up a bit!

As the “pre-show video” ended and the doors to the actual theater opened, I braced myself for what I had decided was ultimately going to be either a very good or an extraordinarily bad experience, but what I ended up with was sort of something in between the two. During the time that it took everyone to get seated, the screens at the front of the room were filled with roving cameras out on the crowd itself that would stop every now and then, singling people out with funny captions, which was amusing, but at the same time I could also see how it might be deemed more embarrassing than amusing to someone who’s particularly quiet or shy. Even once the show started, the cameras occasionally went back to one or two people who had been identified earlier, which although it was an interesting way to get the crowd involved, it unfortunately just seemed kind of basic to me…

The graphics, too, left a little something to be desired, as the entire show was projected onto three giant screens at the front of the theater – one being reserved for Roz, who would pop in to tell Mike to work harder and whatnot, the main screen to serve as a stage for the various performers, and then an additional screen off to the right where Mike would emcee from. I guess I would’ve hoped for at least an animatronic Mike to lead the show rather than just another video – I know that the videos are easy to tweak if they get bad reviews or otherwise need updating, but it’s just hard to feel like you’re actually part of something when you’re just watching it up on the screen. Disney works so hard to plunge us into the middle of the action with other attractions that it almost felt like this one wasn’t even finished because instead of being at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor comedy club ourselves, we were just watching it on TV.

Maybe it’s cheaper to just re-use the same technology from Turtle Talk with Crush, but the interaction works there because guests are really one-on-one with Crush throughout the entire show. The Laugh Floor is a totally different experience, so I just really didn’t see a need to repeat themselves when it came to the technology behind the characters, as neat as it really was … the first time I saw it, anyways…

And as for the jokes in the show itself? Well, let’s just say that you certainly have to find a common ground to be able to appeal to such a wide audience and the kids are going to be your hardest audience to please because it’s very easy to talk over their heads with regards to comedy, so I actually think that the jokes did ok for what they had to accomplish, but the characters themselves … bleech! The only characters actually from the movie are Roz and Mike, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me because why would you theme a new attraction around one of your franchises, only to create new characters for the show anyways?! Even some of the lesser known monsters from the movie would’ve gotten a better reaction, I think, than these home-grown ones that were created solely for the purpose of telling jokes to six year-olds. We don’t ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin only to find Buzz doing battle against some weird space villain that we’ve never heard of – we jump into his world and fight Zurg with him because that’s what we know. It should be relatively simple – you’ve already got the characters there … just work with them!

But of course, the show concludes with the audience’s laughter filling up Mike’s canister just in the nick of time to save him from Roz’s wrath, and we’re all left with one final chuckle to head back out into the park. Would I get right back in line to go through it all again? Certainly no, but I could see doing it again occasionally on future visits if the mood presents itself. By far it wasn’t an attraction that I fell in love with, though, because in my eyes, it still just needs a lot of work…

It was hard to go into this one not being overly critical, but I’m very passionate about Disney World and thus I just have certain expectations when things are added or changed around one of my favorite places to spend a lazy afternoon. I’m honestly not too concerned over the fact that it was placed in Tomorrowland, even though quite a few folks feel otherwise, because I can see how the technology of converting laughter to energy fits in with the future … sort of! But the queue itself needs some major work, especially the first waiting area, but possibly also the second prior to the theater as well. Maybe instead of having us enter into the monster world halfway through the queue, put us smack dab in the middle of Monsters, Inc. the moment we step through the building’s entrance – that way, you’ve got all sorts of tech-like scenery to pull from and decorate the queue, which will definitely take away from the boredom that we felt during this particular experience! Bring me in to the monster world from the get-go and suddenly the wait time just sort of disappears, much like it does for many of our other favorite Disney attractions.

And as for the show itself, as I said before – introduce some animatronics to the theater to give the characters more dimension. Even Buzz Lightyear has a full-size Buzz that explains the guests’ “mission” as they walk by him to get to their cars – it doesn’t take much, but it’s an entirely different experience than if he were just on a computer monitor or something. The jokes will get better by themselves over time, and a lot of them from the initial shows will no doubt stick around, too – one of the cutest things during our show was watching one of the monster comedians ask a little girl in the audience the classic joke, “Why is seven afraid of eight?” only to have her proudly answer, “Because seven ate nine!” There’s some good stuff there, but always room for improvement, just like any other creative effort.

So yeah, ultimately I suppose I was a little disappointed when we walked out of the theater because I had really been looking forward to seeing what the Imagineers had been up to lately and I kind of left feeling a little shorted, but hopefully there’s still room for improvement in their eyes because that’s what it’s going to take to bring things up to par in my book. It’s my understanding that much of the attraction was already redone once back in December, but whether or not that was just the jokes themselves or if it also included aesthetics remains unknown.

My final vote? Well, if someone in your party absolutely loves Monsters, Inc. or you really need a place to sit down, then by all means, but to try and cram this into an already bloated touring plan, I think I’d almost rather suggest riding Buzz a second time at this point because I’ve yet to leave that ride not wanting to immediately ride again to try and beat either my own previous score or that of somebody riding with me! Better luck next time, Mike…

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