Sunday, November 29, 2009

Captain Oh-No


Here's a shocker to those who say EPCOT Central wants to turn Disney's most ambitious theme park into a shrine to the 1980s:

Bringing "Captain EO" back to EPCOT would be a bad idea.

A really bad idea.

The idea has been making the rounds -- and allegedly has gotten as far as an executive screening at Disneyland -- because of last June's tragic death of pop star Michael Jackson. Twenty-three years ago, "Captain EO" was a sensation at Disneyland, and there are many who would love to see the 3-D musical adventure once again.

Sure, it would be fun. Once.

But quite apart from the nagging, persistent allegations of child abuse leveled at Jackson, there are two huge reasons "Captain EO" should remain vaulted, particularly at EPCOT:

1) The 3-D is simply not very good. It never was, really. The 17-minute movie was quite literally too dark to ever "read" quite right, despite its popularity. But the 3-D technology used to make the film has progressed enormously in the past two-and-a-half decades, and already there's a huge difference between the 3-D techniques used in movies like "A Christmas Carol" and "UP" and the relatively rudimentary processes used at Disney theme parks. Once you see a theatrical 3-D presentation like "Carol," it's hard to accept theme-park 3-D technology as anything other than a cut-rate version of the real-thing. Why bring back "Captain EO" if it's not going to be digitally enhanced and presented in one of the new 3-D technologies? It's just not impressive.

2) It's dated. No matter how much you adore Michael Jackson and his music, everything about "Captain EO" feels stuck in 1986, from the music itself to the character and production design, to the makeup, to the "analog" visual effects. "Captain EO" is a curio from the past, not a vision of the future of entertainment.

It would, no doubt, be great fun to see "Captain EO" in 3-D once again. But after the first blush of novelty, do we really want a divisive, controversial and, frankly, dead pop star to be the centerpiece attraction of a Disney theme park, especially one that ostensibly celebrates our technological future?

Nostalgia alone isn't enough to fuel long-term interest in "Captain EO," and hopefully once Disney realizes how much it will cost to refresh, revive and restore this 70mm, low-tech wonder, they'll come to their senses.

If they're really serious about reviving something memorable from the 1980s, there's this little thing called Horizons ...

25 comments:

Airamerica said...

Epcot82, I couldn't agree more with you about Captain EO...

I recall thinking that my eyesight was fuzzy for 17mins intervals, each time I watched it!

The quality really was that poor. I don't think the effects were that good either, especially when you compared it to Star Wars, at that time - 20 years down the line it will look comical.

Again, you have to wonder if the creative juices have dried up a little. Surely, the imagineers can come up with something new for this part of the building.

Whilst, I'm not pining for the return of Horizons, I don't think this would be a terrible place to start, when planning the next genuine update / addition to EPCOT, or should that be Epcot?!?!?

It's all a bit muddled at the moment isn't it?

Future Guy said...

Thank you! There are some things from the '80s that should not be brought back, and Captain EO is definitely one of them.

Dylank said...

You know if they really want Captain EO back, I suppose they could bring it to Tommorowland in DW, just like it was in DL? I thought perhaps it was still playing there so thats one reason they thought it might still play back in EPCOT where it originated.
It would be a first step to somthing Ive read about in other blogs, making TL mesh better with our new fear of the future, and making it all dark and scary! Sorta a horror themed park you know? You already have Encounter there, except I wouldnt call Stich horror by a long shot.

I assume that most people when they think about EO returning think about it coming back to Imagination right? Well theres no reason it has to do that worldshowcase is more all about films anyway...you could put it there perhaps, though thematically I have no idea where it would belong...Nah thats a terrible idea, heres another.

Another idea might be to just remake the thing, using the new modern 3D...make it a tribute to the old guy but do it in all new style and such, perhaps even with a totally animated MJ. Put it back in Imagination and use all that wasted space upstairs to put in more regular style theaters and show new Disney 3D movies up there not just EO....

Nah thats a terrible idea too...Lets just have are old Imageworks back!!!

Also as a totally unrelated thing to EO, but hand in hand with my above comment...I think Dreamfinder and Figmet would make a really great Disney cartoon, then they could get the respect and wonder from kids that they deserve!

Sarah said...

Hmmm...old and outdated 3-D effects? Where I have seen this recently in a Disney theme park?? Oh of course! "Honey I Shrunk the Audience!" Seriously, I don't find any of the hokey frills offered in HiSTA to surpass anything that Captain EO brought to the table. That show is older than dirt and just as blurry and grainy as it always was. I would love to see EO one more time but I agree that it should not be a long term thing. Let it run for a year so everyone who needs to see it once more can have that opportunity. Guest visiting HiSTA wouldn't know the difference as far as the technology goes. I don't even waste my time at that show any longer.

Anonymous said...

i'm glad you [accurately] called out the low quality of EO *and* the rest of the current slate of 3D films in the park.

some are more current (and thus better quality) than others on property, but the effects do seem a bit underwhelming compared to more recent theatrical releases. it would be ridiculous to accentuate those defects by trotting out EO.

(this is assuming you can get by the issues with MJ's reputation, dateness, etc. etc.)

SQV

Sarah said...

Aw, it'd be fun for 6 months or so. I never saw it in person, though.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they bring back "Magic Journeys"? What's sad is that these movies end up going unseen, and eventually forgotten after their demise, because of their 3D format. Same with the CircleVision 360 films. Once they're gone, you can't see them again. I wish there were theaters set up somewhere at Disney that would just play the old retired films. This way you could appreciate purely the art in the films rather than their dated antiquity. "O Canada", "Wonders of China", "American Journeys" "The Timekeeper", and many others all gone, never too be seen again, and they will eventually be forgotten by the wayside. Who knows, they just might inspire young filmmakers if they were exposed to them again. Sounds like a plan for the Disney Institure, if that even exists anymore. There are plenty of opporunities to study the incredible legacy Disney has left behind in film and animation, and special effects. All except for their more daring library of films like those in CircleVision 360, 180, 3D, 4D and of course the Emile Radok mosaic theater formats. It's a darn shame.

Geren said...

I just finished re-reading the pre-opening 'Walt Disney's EPCOT Center' coffee table book and found some humbling words. Every pavilion, in both Future World and World Showcase, describes the content as being treated with respect, reverence, and honesty. The optimism of pre-opening EPCOT Center has been unequalled since those gates opened. Also, the only non-EPCOT original reference I found, in the entire book, was a listing for a TRON Arcade in CommuniCore. No Mickey, or anything “Disney.” How times change.

Stephen Dedalus said...

I've watched videos of "Captain EO" on YouTube recently, and I wholeheartedly agree the film hasn’t aged well at all. I think they would be better off releasing it on home video.

Of the films that have played in the Magic Eye Theater, "Magic Journeys" is the one that holds up the best and most deserves to be brought back, though even that film is marred by technological limitations and some stilted filmmaking. Still, compared to the other two films, "Magic Journeys" is the most mysterious and the only one truly attuned to the imagination process, with its dreamlike imagery and associational structure. And unlike most of the stuff Disney has been producing lately, it actually gives audiences some emotional and intellectual space, which is necessary to create any genuinely interactive experience. Perhaps Disney should consider remaking the film as a replacement for "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" or at least create a new 3-D show with a similar, abstract approach to storytelling.

Rnormfoto said...

you're right on... watch it for a few cringe-inducing moments on YouTube and you'll see why it needs to stay a distant (though,fond) memory. Also, bringing it back simply because he passed away is kinda ghoulish for Disney to do.

Anonymous said...

Anything is better than Honey I Shrunk the Audience. Besides, it's time to get over the MJ allegations http://www.masala.com/13250-jordy-chander-denies-jackson-sex-abuse

Anonymous said...

At one time, I thought Honey I Shrunk The Audience was great. It was great at one time. But recently after visiting it, I really think it needs to be retired. It was a newer form of 3D entertainment when it first came out, but that technology has been improved upon by both Disney and even Universal Studios, and HISTA seems completely obsolete. It never really even belonged in EPCOT and always seemed more suited for MGM. I agree with the blogger who thnks they should do another film mike Magic Journeys. Maybe if they "repair" the damage done to the Imagination pavilion one of the things they'll fix is the Magic Eye Theater's featured film. It's a shame what's become of it.

Dylank777 said...

How much does it cost to make a Disney style 3D film? I ask because as we all know top brass at Diseny acts like theres no money to be made in fixing up EPCOT, so I doubt we see any new or remade 3d films if they cost "too much" (read anything).

I assume they view bringing back EO to be a cost effective solution.

I really like the idea of both remaking MJ and making some place some where on property to view old film formats. You might have to invent some new kind of internet based voting system to decide viewings and times though as I could see the only alternative, classic rotation as not working well..oh look we just showed old china circlevision and it got three people...better switch its slot to timekeeper...

Also anyone have any idea of the feasability of restoring Radok theater to Energy? That would go a long way to improving that Pavillion even if you somehow left Ellen in...

C33 said...

First off, bringing back EO was only meant to be a temporary thing, for a couple of months at most. So would there be the initial rush of novelty that would then dissipate? Yes. That's the whole idea of the thing. That's like saying Christmas is a bad idea because it wouldn't be fun all the time. I don't get where this "long term interest" thing if coming from. It's temporary. And they've got a contract with Kodak to keep them honest on that one.

Second, when you say outdated 3D technology, are you referring to the technology used to make the film or the technology used to present it? In either case, I don't see how Honey i Shrunk the Audience would be better.

And thirdly, it would not take gobs of money to bring back Captain EO. iF that were the case Disney wouldn't be considering it. I've heard some figures that suggest it wouldn't take much money at all.

And in the end we'd be back with Honey I Shrunk the Audience, no worse for the ware. I really don't see how this would be a negative thing at all, and I for one am looking forward to it.

Disneyana World said...

With the advances in 3-D that Disney uses for it's current releases, why not implement it in a theme park.

Think of all the people who will see "Disney Digital 3-D" and be sold that it's worth seeking out a theatre back home that uses it.

I too agree that EO needs to stay in the past. It's funny that out of all the extinct attractions we want back, EO has the best chance.

Dylank777 said...

Well its offical Captian EO is coming back...lots of positive comments on other sites....

Andy JS said...

First saw it on our first trip to Orlando (from England) in October 1988. It was a fantastic experience at that time, no doubt about it.

Saw it again in Feb 1990, Dec 91/Jan 92, and Feb 1993.

Next time we came in December 1995 it was gone, replaced by Honey ISTA.

I agree that it shouldn't be brought back now, but don't forget how wonderful it was in its day.

Strange thing is that it was still being shown in Disneyland Paris until about 2000 if I remember correctly.

svhwdwnut said...

it's great they brought it back!!!

Anonymous said...

Why does Disney feel the need to celebrate the life of this pathetic person? Michael Jackson and all celebs should be kept out of the parks all together. I can watch them on my local news being arrested or overdosing any time of the day I want.

Anonymous said...

michael jackson was a disgusting freak who never should have been included in any Disney attraction. Burn all existing prints of EO, bury the ashes, and then bury the shovel. And to any mj fans: get some psychiatric help.

Anonymous said...

Persistent, nagging allegations from a literal PARADE of people who are highly suspect and have questionable motives. Have you ever watched THE OTHER side of the story from that Martin Bashir smear campaign he called 'investigative journalism'? The way the man lied left and right and then twisted everything in the editing? Yeah, well Jackson had his own camera filming everything and you can see for yourself the whole story. The media RUINED the man's life and he was far too trusting of the worst kinds of people. Not saying he wasn't an oddball, but what famous artist isn't? But it makes me sick to see that it's so easy to smear someone's reputation in life and death and that people would rather just buy into whatever our SICK, SENSATIONALISTIC media (of which Disney is a part) is selling rather than practice due diligence and attempt to separate the truth from the lies on their own by using the tiniest bit of critical thinking.

Galen Gallimore said...

Just want to second your motion to reinvent Horizons. Horizon's future is now to us what the future from the 50's was when the attraction opened. It's time for another bold imagining of the future. This generation needs it more than ever.

Galen

not a gator said...

Michael Jackson was an incandescent talent and while Captain EO has its weaknesses in terms of script, characterization, and directing, there's no mistaking the brilliance. I enjoyed it. Also, not much of a wait.

Definitely more memorable than whatever was in that moldy sea ride. All I remember was my pounding myco-toxin-induced headache.

Mat Black said...

I agree with the anonymous poster: michael jackson fans are sick individuals and really should get help. Anyone who thinks a child-molesting self-mutilator is "great" in any way needs to get their head examined.

Blog said...

We can't recreate Horizons. America and American companies are too broke to pull something like that off again. The Great Decline is in progress...it may be hundreds of years before whatever comes after America is capable of building another Horizons for the times...

In the meantime, I'll continue enjoying Captain EO...