September 2001 – August 2004
Hollywood Land – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire occupied Hollywood Land’s soundstage, in the backlot section of the area. The entrance sat to the left of Monsters, Inc., behind Sunset Boulevard (the main walkway). Today, this space rotates purposes for seasonal events.
California Adventure faced underwhelming crowds in its first few months of operation, so Imagineers immediately began planning expansions to each land in order to boost attendance. In Hollywood Land, Disney decided to add a soundstage, like a real working backlot. The logical choice for the soundstage was a game show, so audiences could participate and still get a “set” experience. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was a primetime gameshow on Disney-owned ABC, so Disney saw it as the perfect option for the soundstage.
Visitors filed into the theater for a 25-minute version of the game show. Ten audience members got to sit in the 10-seat “contestant row”, either chosen through trivia in line, Magic Moments, or at random. To start the show, cast members asked the potential contestants a “fast finger” question. Whoever selected the correct answer on their panel the fastest got to play. (This would continue until the 25-minute session ended).
The park version of the game had a few modifications from the television version:
- Contestants did not compete for cash, but for points. Once hitting level thresholds, the points converted into prizes, including pins, hats, and tees. The grand prize for the game was a Disney Cruise Line vacation for 4.
- Contestants had access to three lifelines: 50/50, Ask the Audience, and Phone A Stranger. For the third lifeline, a cast member outside the theater would find a random guest to help with the question.
The timing for this attraction could not have been worse. For a few seasons, viewership had been tapering, and ratings took an absolute nosedive in the 2001-2002 season. Disney cut the show to two nights per week, and the show’s popularity would never recover. Attendance for the in-park gameshow slowly declined, until lack of interest finally drove its closure in 2004.
Contestants would agree to a “blackout” in order to play. This meant that if you sat in the hot seat, you couldn’t play again for 30 days. Jackpot winners had a blackout of 365 days.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – Play It! offered fast pass for its entire run.
Source: Studios Central