VIDEOPOLIS COMBINES FLASH 'N DANCE

Times Staff Writer

Outfitted in trendy new wave fashions, hundreds of teen-agers crammed the expansive dance floor, bobbing and weaving under flashing strobes and colored spotlights to the strains of Madonna's "Material Girl." As the Princess of Pout's vocals blared from a wall of loudspeakers, images from the song's music video were projected over 72 video monitors of assorted sizes surrounding the dancers.

This is Videopolis, yet another in a string of flashy new night spots that have opened in Orange County in recent months. What makes Videopolis different from the rest is that all the action at this $3-million teen-age dance club takes place inside the G-rated gates of Disneyland.

Park officials are hoping that the Magic Kingdom's latest addition will bring in a larger share of the all-imporant youth market.

"Videopolis is aimed at a 14 to 21 range and it is the first time we've had a major attraction designed specifically for that age group," said Disneyland publicist Joe Aguirre.

Another first is the speed in which Videopolis was built. "It was exactly 128 days from the idea of, 'Why don't we build an amphitheater in the meadows area' until completion," said Steven Miller, Videopolis project coordinator.

Despite the quick construction, Disneyland officials denied that Videopolis was created in response to Knott's Berry Farm's successful Studio K teen-age club, which opened in 1984. "For a number of years we've been interested in building a center to appeal to young adults," Aguirre said. "It just so happened that we've brought ours out now."

Videopolis, which opened June 22, was built in an unused meadow adjacent to the "It's a Small World" ride. With its 90-foot-wide stage, bench seating for 1,500, emphasis on scaffolding and plainly visible lighting racks, it takes on the appearance of a small concert amphitheater.

Disneyland has added an extra incentive to encourage repeat teen-age business with a $40 "Videopolis Pass," providing nightly admission to the park after 5 p.m. throughout the summer. (Knott's offers teen-agers a reduced price of $8 for admission after 6 p.m.)

On a recent weeknight, Videopolis seemed to be a hit. Young dancers praised the choice of videos and parents liked the idea of a dance club in the confines of Disneyland's no-alcohol, family atmosphere.

"Everything is out in the open, so I don't see anything wrong with it," said Yvonne Busik of Burbank, visiting Disneyland with her teen-age son and daughter for the first time in two years. "This completes their entertainment for teens."

Said Lisa Grube, 18, of Anaheim, "I love coming here as often as I can. This really outdoes Studio K and I think it's going to pull in a lot of people this summer. If they get some good bands in here it will be a good place for concerts."

Aguirre said that the possibility of featuring "name" rock groups at Videopolis "has been discussed."

"We built the Videopolis stage with that flexibility in mind," he said. "It's sophisticated enough to handle any type of live entertainment, and we can put in temporary seats on the dance floor for sit-down concerts. So it probably will happen in the future."

This summer, however, the only live music in Videopolis is provided by the house band, Donna McDaniel & Network, which plays copies of Top 40 hits for about 30 minutes each hour. The second half-hour of entertainment consists of videos by Wham!, Cyndi Lauper, 'til tuesday and other popular acts.

Aguirre said that videos shown at Videopolis "are drawn from the current Top 40, but as we get requests from people we will build on that. We will show a video basically in its entirety, but if there is something visually objectionable to the real young kids, we would cut to a crowd shot for that portion."

All of the video action is intercut with live coverage from the 5,000-square-foot dance floor, a la American Bandstand, where youths expertly strut their stuff before the video cameras. Special features designed for Videopolis include four "light sticks" that flash subliminal images of figures or geometric shapes that appear to be three-dimensional.

Later in the summer, additional video special effects will be installed including a "video wall" that produces layered, video echoes of dancers' outlines and a "digital wall" that will convert shadows into digitized representations.

"We're adding things that will be interactive, something the kids can be creative with, instead of just being in a passive environment and watching videos," project coordinator Miller said.

Jan Corio, on vacation from Colorado with her husband and three children, echoed other parents by saying she likes the idea of a teen-age dance club at Disneyland.

"This is what Disneyland is all about. It's good clean fun for kids," Corio said. As her daughter, Tracy, 13, surveyed the action, Corio added with a chuckle, "My girl would give her eye teeth to be out there. I think it's going to be a good thing."

In many ways, Videopolis is the most revolutionary new addition to the park in years, not only because of the high-tech trappings of the dance area itself, but also because it is the first time that contemporary fashions have been incorporated into park uniforms.

"We've always avoided fashion trends in our costumes because we've never wanted our employees to blend in with our guests," said Tom Peirce, who designs Disneyland's employee costumes. "But it's important in this situation that the costume maintain the level of atmosphere in the area--therefore, we wanted to try something contemporary.

"No fashion trend stays current too long, so we fully expect to be changing the Videopolis costume every year," Peirce said.

Contemporary culture extends beyond Videopolis to a concessions stand outside the dance entrance that offers merchandise such as Mickey Mouse sleeveless "crop-top" T-shirts in fluorescent colors, new wave costume jewelry, sunglasses and other teen-age-oriented fashion accessories.

The Videopolis complex also includes a refreshment stand called "Yumz" that offers such food items as pizza bread and nachos and a choice of beverages: Coke, Diet Coke and cherry Coke.

Although the response from visitors to Videopolis was overwhelmingly positive, a few complaints were voiced.

"I'd like to see some Duran Duran videos," one teen-aged girl said.

"They need some slow dances," said Shannon Conser, 15, visiting Disneyland with about two-dozen church group friends from Portland, Ore.

"We will be responsive to comments from kids," Disneyland's Aguirre said. "Every show and every night is different. I was out the other night and I see they've already started adding some slow dances."

A few things, however, are likely to remain beyond the control of Disneyland's entertainment staff.

"The people here are too shy," Shannon Conser's friend, Tina Hensley, said. "The guys here stare a lot but they don't ask you to dance."

But asked if Videopolis made Disneyland more attractive to teen-agers, they responded in unison, "Yes, definitely."

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