The American Idol Experience was officially announced by Disney on February 7, 2008. In the press release unveiling the attraction, President of Disney Parks and Resorts Jay Rasulo noted:
Partnering with Disney to create the new interactive attraction was American Idol production company 19 Entertainment and FreMantle Media Liscensing. American Idol set creator Andy Walmsley created the set for the new attraction, basing it off of the American Idol Season 7 set . The 1,000 seat set that Imagineers constructed, featured a 35 by 7 foot LED wall, as well as a spotlight, which automatically followed the performers as they moved around the stage .
Although originally, intended for 2008, the grand premiere of the American Idol Experience took place on February 12, 2009 . In attendance were all seven winners of American Idol, as well as judge Paula Abdul and host Ryan Seacrest . Since its opening, the American Idol Experience has seen very minor changes. On February 11, 2009 it was announced that guests could make online reservations to audition for the show . In October 2009, a second audition entrance was added to the attraction .
The American Idol Experience closed August 30, 2008 .
In order to perform on the American Idol Experience, guests first had to register. This could be done in two different ways. Guests could either schedule an audition online, or register at the park when they arrived. Guests had to be at least 14 years old to participate in the American Idol Experience.
When auditioning for the American Idol Experience, guests first watched a pre-audition video before they were ushered into the next room. Here, the first round of auditions took place in front of a casting director, who had a background in entertainment. During the first audition, guests performed a cappela. The casting director then provided feedback. If the auditioner was successful, they would be given a pin-on number, and brought the Red Room.
Inside the Red Room, guests were given a song list from which they can choose their song. They were also given an ipod, so that they could practice their song. American Idol hopefuls then sing their selected song in front of a Disney producer. Instead of a cappella, as in the previous round, guests now sang with pre-recorded music.
If the audition is successful, guests saw a video of Ryan Seacrest telling them that they were advancing to the live show. At this time, they were given a performance time and a "Vote for Me' Lanyard, before being taken to the audition room.
The third round of the American Idol Experience took place in front of a live audience, during one of the daily shows. Following round two, guests were taken to wardrobe and makeup, where they were prepared for the show. Following makeup, contestants went to the rehearsal stage (which was empty).
The live shows of the American Idol Experience, featured three constants competing for a slot in the attraction's final show (which takes place at night). Each contestant was allowed to sing one song, on a stage that resembled the real American Idol stage. Like the television show, following the contestant’s song, they were given feedback by the judges. At the end of the show, the live studio audience voted on the winner using electronic keypads. The winner of the live show was then awarded a slot in the attraction's nighttime finale. Each of the shows lasted approximately 25 minutes.
The American Idol Experience's final show featured the winners of the day's previous shows. Once again the contestants performed their songs in front of both the judges and the live studio audience. Although the judges gave feedback, the final decisions were made by the audience vote. The finale show was also broadcast on a large LED screen, outside of the attraction. The winner of the finale show was given a Dream Ticket, which allowed eligible guests to get a front-of-the-line audition for the American Idol Television show, at one of the regional auditions.
Aaron Kelly, who finished in 5th place on season 9 of American Idol, got his audition by winning a Dream Ticket on the American Idol Experience. Kelly used the ticket during the auditions in Orlando, and eventually made the show. Nolan Sotillo, the star of Disney's PROM, also won the American Idol Experience. Mark Haze, who also won a Dream Ticket, was a top 15 finalist on the South African version of American Idol.
The theater that houses The American Idol Experience is known as the Superstar Television Theater. This is a reference to the extinct attraction Superstar Television, which was originally housed there.
2000 votes can be tabulated in 2 seconds by the American Idol Experience computers.