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Why For is “Captain EO” really returning to Disneyland Park?

Jim Hill

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Why For is “Captain EO” really returning to Disneyland Park?

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First up, RedRyderBB writes in to say:

Disneyland can’t be serious about bringing back “Captain EO.” I saw that 3D movie when it first opened in 1987 and once was really enough. “EO” was just a glorified music video. And even MTV doesn’t show music videos anymore. So what’s the point of bringing “Captain EO” back now?

RedRyderBB –

To be honest, this isn’t an exercise in nostalgia. Nor is The Walt Disney Company looking to belatedly cash in the King of Pop’s passing. No, the real reason that “Captain EO” is returning to Disneyland for a “special limited engagement” has to do with capacity.

Michael Jackson stars in Captain EO once more in Disneyland
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

I mean, do the math. Later this year, “Star Tours” will be shutting down so that the Imagineers can then retool & redress this Tomorrowland attraction in preparation for “Star Tours II” opening in the Spring of 2011. And since the 1600-Guests-per-hour that could theoretically be riding those 4 simulators have to go somewhere … Well, the way that Disneyland can absorb all of those extra people walking around Tomorrowland is by sending them over to the 575-seat “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” theater. Which can (if its Cast Members are working at peak efficiency) then squeeze in three shows of “Captain EO” per hour.

Just be aware that -- as soon as “Star Tours II” comes on line in 2011 -- “Captain EO” will be taking his rag-tag band off to some other Universe of Good & Evil. So that the Imagineers can then finally get around to installing the attraction that they really want to replace “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” with. Which is a West Coast version of the Magic Kingdom’s Living Character Initiative show, the "Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor."

Next up, Art W. sent me an e-mail which asks:


Can you please shed some light on this in hopes of getting it out to the masses more- we need this in Anaheim!!!

Lost the Final Season Poster
Copyright 2009 Touchstone / American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved

If you click on the above link, you’ll be taken to a website that’s collecting signatures for a “Lost” themed attraction. Here’s the pitch for this online petition (with all its original typos intact):

To Televsion and Disnet Fans

LOST is one of the best television series to ever be broadcast on television. Disney should give this awesome show it's due and create a LOST Island attraction at one of it's Disney theme parks. Just think of the locations that can be immortalized in a Disney location.

  • The Frozen Donkey Wheel behind the Orchid Station testing chamber
  • The Swan station and Hatch ride
  • A submarine ride to Palu Ferry
  • Dharmaville Barracks
  • Smoke monster
  • Ruins
  • Jacob's Cabin
  • The Egyptian Statue and Jacob's Lair

Give us Die Hard LOST fans our Theme park ride!

The Lost cast in the "Lost Supper"
Copyright 2010 Touchstone / American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The reason that this particular online petition has been getting so much play this week is that “Lost” executive producers / writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have indicated – via their individual Twitter feeds – that they themselves think that this is a marvelous idea. Which is why they then signed this online document.

So will this actually happen? Will the Imagineers someday build a “Lost” –themed attraction? To date, the closest that Disney Parks & Resorts has come to putting an idea like this in motion was a private party that was held for ABC affiliates at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort back in 2005. If I’m remembering correctly, the sandy beach area along Bay Lake was strewn with luggage & debris that was supposed to have come from Oceanic Flight 815. And as partygoers dined on slices of wild boar and drank cocktails that were made with those teeny-tiny liquor bottles that you only find on airplanes, the sound of trees being knocked down over and the roar of the smoke monster could be heard echoing out of the darkened woods nearby.

This sounds like a fun one-time-event, don’t you think? The only problem is – if I’m remembering correctly – ABC spent upwards of $100,000 on this single shindig (With most of that money obviously being used to pay people to haul in fake plane wreckage that could then be used to dress Bay Lake Beach). But given how popular & successful this particular corporate party was, there was supposedly some talk of making a “Lost” –themed evening of entertainment available to large convention groups who were staying on property at the Contemporary, the Grand Flo, the Coronado, the Yacht & Beach and/or the Dolphin & the Swan.

Passengers of flight 815 standing amidst the wreckage of Oceanic flight 815
Copyright 2004 Touchstone / American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“So Why For didn’t Disney Parks & Resorts go forward with this idea?,” you ask. As I understand it, this concept fell by the wayside due to licensing issues. As in: No one could figure out which arm of The Walt Disney Company was supposed to pay another division of this same Corporation so that they’d then have the rights to regularly stage “Lost” –themed events for WDW conventioneers. Maybe after the last episode of this ABC series airs in May of this year, the folks at Disney Parks & Resorts can then revisit this idea. Get all of the licensing issues sorted out. But – again – given all of the costs involved here (i.e. set dressing, comping all of the Guests staying at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort who complain when they’re not allowed to use Bay Lake’s waterfront area for a day or two), I’m honestly not sure how financially feasible this idea actually is.

But just like Carlton, given that I’ve been watching “Lost” since this Emmy Award-winning show first went on the air in September of 2004, I’d dearly love it if WDI was finally able to build some sort of ride, show or attraction that was based on this ABC series at one of the Parks. So here’s hoping that this does happen someday.

And finally, Broadway Buyer writes in to say:

I’m assuming that you saw that Disney announced that they are in fact going to build a Store in Times Square. Just where you said they were, too. So are you going to pull a Nikki Finke and post a “TOLDJA!” story on your website?

Virgin Megastore in New York's Times Square
Photo by Jim Hill

Broadway Buyer –

Actually, no. I mean, okay. So the Disney Store is going in right where I said it would back in October of 2008. Which is the old Virgin megastore. Which is located at 1540 Broadway.

But – to be fair – in the months since I wrote that particular JHM article, officials from The Walt Disney Company also looked at 1515 Broadway (which is where the MTV Studios that faced onto Times Square used to be located) and 1604 Broadway (formerly home of the Spotlight Live theater). And given that Mouse House execs were seriously considering both of these potential retail spaces as recently as three months ago … If the Vornado Realty Trust hadn’t offered Disney extremely attractive terms in regards to rent, it’s just as likely that Mickey would have gone with 1515 Broadway. Especially since ABC’s Times Square Studio is directly across the street from the old MTV Studios. Which meant that this new Disney Store would have gotten tens of millions of dollars in free publicity annually from what you could have seen of the place during broadcasts of “Good Morning America” and “World News with Diane Sawyer.”

ABC's news studio in Times Square
Photo by Jim Hill

But given that’s not how things worked, I guess that I can be magnanimous in victory and then – in private – breathe a sigh of relief that the Mouse actually did go with the Times Square location that I predicted back in October of ’08.

Anyway … That’s the first Why For of 2010. The first of many of these columns for this year, I hope. But it all depends on you folks. So if you’d like answers to your Disney-related questions, please send them along to [email protected].

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, okay?

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  • I have to wonder what happened with Forever 21, but I think three floors and a 4-screen theatre complex are better for a new Disney Store. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/15/arts/music/15virgin.html

  • So what's the point of building an attraction for a TV show that will be all-but forgotten by the time the attraction actually opens?

  • Great to see 'Why For' back!  I've missed it!

  • Sorry Jim. I don't buy the "capacity" excuse as to why EO is returning. At WDW, Disney closed 20,000 League Submarines, Diamond Horseshoe, Tomorrowland Theater, Skyway, Main Street Cinema, and ruined the Tiki Room which virtually sits empty, with no regard to park capacity. Even Sitch has smaller lines than Alien Encounter did. There must be another reason for this re-run.

  • I don't care what the reason is for EO being back, I'm just happy that it's back and in the same year that we are planning a trip to Disneyland.

    As for Lost, I think that re- theming TS Island wouldn't work, but something on the old Discovery Island in Bay Lake at Disney World defiantly would. It wouldn't be a theme park ride, but some sort of hard ticket experience.

  • I think this is the reason EO's reopening was ultimately signed in on. And in that regard, capacity has some relation to the 1, this is a new attraction for some and 2, the lines filled up and tickets sold in the wake of Jackson's death. Living in LA, I saw the early summer crowds (and some mourners weeping at the side) lined up at his Hollywood Blvd star and this MJ impersonator? cosplayer? wandering Beverly Hills with some sort of sign about him.

    Internal debate was clearly going on in force. But I had a good feeling it was a go when the one snag in the Verizon DLR park guide had HISTA listed as being refurbed when it was open during my mid-December visit.

  • Jim, are you sure about Disney seriously considering 1515 Broadway for a store?  I mean, MTV Networks is still located there.  Yes, the TRL studio is not being used, but it's still rented out by MTV Networks.  I work for the company and have not hear that they would be willing to give up that space to Disney so they could open up a store.  Nevermind the logistical problems of getting people up there through MTV's space.  I'm also surprised to hear that they did finally get the old Virgin space, since I thought Forever 21 was going in there...I guess that fell through.  

  • Using Discovery Island for a LOST attraction seems like the most obvious choice...with it's own admission just like Discovery Island had back in the day.  

  • There's one problem with the online petition for a lost attraction. Disney will not consider anything that doesn't originate within the company. For years now, isney people have been instructed to immeadiately discard all ideas that come in from the outside. Why? The answer is simple. Lawsuits. Thus, in my opinion, due to this petition, they now have an even less a chance of anything happening than previously.

  • Jim,

    Why for haven't you talked about the Flying Saucers type ride that is apparently going to be in Carsland? Luigi's Flying Tires:


  • Great to see another Why For, keep 'em coming Jim.

    Whilst I don't doubt that the capacity issue is one reason in why Captain EO is "coming home", the main reason is public interest in Michael Jackson again, helped by a huge slice of nostalgia & Honey I Shrunk the Audience being dated. Let's face it, this would never have happened a year ago when MJJ was still alive. I LOVE the fact that it's coming back & truly hope it goes back into Epcot too as I'm visiting there this year but it does make me frown to think how Disney are capitalising on Michael when it strongly appeared that they'd steered away from any involvement since the early 90's when the scandals really began. After the success of Captain EO, MJJ's friendship with Jeffrey Katzenburg & his own love for the company I can't help but think he would have gone to do a soundtrack or even another attraction if things hadn't gone the way they did with the allegations.

    As for people surprised why they're bringing back a "glorified pop video" let's not forget that back in the mid 80's, Captain EO was more than likely the first time that many folks had ever witnessed anything of any true scope in 3D, throw in the effects & MJJ's global popularity at the time & many of us experienced an attraction that filled us with the same sense of magic as the first time we rode many of Disney's classics. I'm not sure how sure how it's going to hold up now however as I have a copy on DVD & it's far from being "fresh" some 15 years later so it will be interesting to see if Disney have just dusted down the old copy or whether they've remastered it or perhaps even enhanced special effects, etc. However it looks, I LOVE that it's coming back - a truly special way to remember a legend at his peak.

    With regard to any kind of Lost "attraction" - aren't we a little late here ? Great show but it's just about to wrap up for good & are the public really wanting to experience something that by the time it made it to the resorts, is over ? If Back to the Future, ET, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, King Kong, etc can't keep the customer satisfied then is Lost really a way to blow millions of dollars ?

    "We're sending out, a major love, and this is my, message to you, the planet's are linin' up, we're bringin' brighter days, they're all in line, waitin' for you ... can't you see ... You're Just Another Part of Me .... Aaow"

  • "...let's not forget that back in the mid 80's, Captain EO was more than likely the first time that many folks had ever witnessed anything of any true scope in 3D..."

    Even more basic than that is that it was very likely the first time many experienced a full-on rock concert.  I was in my teens when EO hit, and I can still remember the whole theater shaking from the bass, the lights strobing from every direction, and the synchronized dancing on the screen completely sucking me in.  Even years later EO was one of the first things I wanted to see when I came to Epcot, and its eventual replacement by Shrunk was about as welcome as the replacement of Imagination with the current botch job.



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