Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Behind the Attractions

Next month Disney + premieres a docuseries called “Behind the Attraction.”  Each episode will take you behind-the-scenes of one of Disneyland/World’s signature attractions like the Jungle Ride, Haunted Mansion, Small World, and more.  

First of all, I can’t imagine sitting through a documentary on “It’s a Small Small World.”  Hearing that song for a half-hour would make my head explode.  But apart from that, I’m on the fence.

On the one hand, I’m very curious.  And a lot of really creative artistry went into the making of these attractions.  It will be nice to see them get their due. But on the other, do I really want to see how the sausage is made?  Might it destroy some of the illusion?  There really aren't ghosts in the Haunted Mansion?

I might watch a few episodes and skip a few others.  There’s on the Disneyland Hotel.  Who cares?  But I’d like to see how they pulled off “Star Tours.”

What all of this reminds me of is the TV show “Disneyland” that ran on ABC in the early days of the park in the ‘50s.  Uncle Walt would host and often took you behind-the-scenes as the park was being built and improved.  I don’t have to tell you what a great advertisement this was for every child in America.  We wanted to go to Disneyland SO BAD.  There was no greater goal.  

I was one of the lucky ones.  Since I lived in LA, my parents were able to take me.  (It was everything I had hoped for and MORE.)   My heart goes out to kids in Minnesota and New Hampshire who would watch every week and could only dream about actually going to the Magic Kingdom.   I contend this is the number one reason today why Baby Boomers are in therapy.   And are sooooo screwed up.

“Behind the Attractions” premieres July 16th and is narrated by Paget Brewster, best known for co-starring in a Levine-Isaacs pilot that didn’t get on the air (through no fault of hers).   If they’re smart they won’t lead off with “Small World.” 


Jeff Boice said...

Ah, Small World's not that bad. And the story behind its creation is interesting-Joan Crawford & Walt Disney- what a team!

Rory L. Aronsky said...

If they’re smart they won’t lead off with “Small World.”

They're not leading off with anything. They're releasing the first season all at once and your choices are:

The Jungle Cruise
The Haunted Mansion
Star Tours
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
The Castles
Disneyland Hotel
Space Mountain
it's a small world (Bury it as far down as you want)
Trains, Trams and Monorails
Hall of Presidents

Stuart said...

"narrated by Paget Brewster, best known for co-starring in a Levine-Isaacs pilot that didn’t get on the air (through no fault of hers). "

Well don't leave us hanging... spill!

Roseann said...

I lived in Connecticut and watched Uncle Walt tour Disneyland on TV.
I was 32 years old when I first got to Disneyland. Worth the trip.

Anonymous said...

Just a nit, Magic Kingdom is Disney World in Orlando.

Don Kemp said...

Paget Brewster guested on a Two and a Half Men years ago with Sheen and Cryer. She played a character that neither brother was attracted to in high school, but came back into their lives looking like a goddess with the sole purpose of shooting them down in retribution for past slights. She was gorgeous in a tight fitting, revealing top and mini skirt.

She dominated the show, much like April Bowlby would do, but her exit line at the end was classic. As she headed for the front door after revealing herself as a former classmate, she turned to face two open mouthed brothers and yelled "YOU WILL NEVER, EVER, HAVE ANY OF THIS!!!" as she moved her hand down her body like she was a prize on Let's Make a Deal.

Here's a brief clip of her leading up to that:

Michael said...

When the TV show came on, Walt had made an incredible deal with ABC--the first show to have a limited number of first-run episodes and a significant number of repeats, and ABC put money into Disneyland itself.

maxdebryn said...

The story of the failed pilot -

kitano0 said...

Paget Brewster is the reason I stopped watching "Criminal Minds". Although I caught her in an episode of "Mom" and thought she was very funny.

Brian Fies said...

I'm a Disney fan and will probably watch. As you say, Walt himself loved to show the art, design, production, and especially the robots behind the scenes. In fact, I imagine that the bulk of these episodes will draw directly from those "Disneyland" episodes that old fans have already seen a dozen times. Walt never worried that it would ruin the "magic." Sure, it was good advertising, but I always sensed Walt was genuinely proud and enthusiastic about how he was advancing theme park technology.

I was a kid in South Dakota, and will never forget the time a classmate returned from a trip to Disneyland with a mouse-ear cap. We oohed and aahed over it as if it were Excalibur and the Holy Grail combined. Finally made it when I was 10 and wasn't disappointed. Still a fan of the place; I know it's all designed to manipulate my emotions and separate me from my money, and I don't care. That's a fair deal as far as I'm concerned.

McTom said...

Most of these Disney "behind the scenes" shows are more about the deep background and creative inspiration and way less "throw on the work lights and shoot all around the ride track", so I'm not too concerned about anything being ruined by showing excessive sausage-making. Which for me is a bummer, because as an OG Tower of Terror opening crew Bellhop, one of the biggest kicks of working at WDW was being able to prowl around behind the scenes in all the parks and see how EVERYTHING worked.

YEKIMI said...

I was a Wonderful World of Disney fan when growing up but that was about it. Closest I got to any Disney Park was Disney World in 1970 when the only thing of it that existed were the dirt roads and all the construction fencing as the were carving it out of the Florida wilderness. Now Disney owns Central Florida and whatever they want, Disney gets. ["We want roundabouts in the shape of Mickey Mouse heads, we want tower pylons in the shape of Mickey Mouse heads! Suckers....err, I mean "customers"....we'll give you a discount on park admission if you have your head deformed into the shape of a Mickey Mouse head, ears and all!"] I'm usually down in that area in January for a convention and you couldn't pay me to go to Disney World or any of the crappy attractions down there....although I did go to Disney Springs which cost nothing to get into. It's nothing more than a high end outlet mall. There was a hell of a lot more interesting things to do down there when I was a kid there back in the 60s.

Mike Bloodworth said...

It has been literally decades since I've been to Disneyland. So, what would interest me most is to see how the attractions have changed, if at all, since they first opened. e.g. How they tried to ruin PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN by making it more politically correct.

I had a couple of semi behind the scenes experiences. The first one was at THE HAUNTED MANSION. I must have been in Jr. high at the time. Some kids were trying to pry open one of the doors and Disney security thought it was my friend and I. They held us in the main entrance while they questioned us. There are three separate doors that open up to let visitors into the main part of the ride. We watched them cycle through several times. Security finally realized they caught the wrong guys and let us go.

The second time, my friend's brother had an epileptic seizure. They took us down to their medical center. Virtually all of the main facilities are underground. They say that one of the rules for a Disney character is that as long as they are wearing a costume they must stay in character. This is apparently true. While we were down there Goofy came walking down the hall. As soon as he saw us he snapped into character and kept it up until he was out of our sight.

Regarding last week's blog about "The New Dating Game." I was being mostly facetious about mixed gender panels. But flipping through the channels I happened to catch a few minutes of "T.D G." The woman had to choose between two women and a man. She chose a woman.

Breaking news: COSBY's OUT!


sanford said...

I am a boomer. I have been to the Magic Kingdom as an adult twice. I doubt either of my adult sons remember. I really didn't like it all that much.

DBenson said...

I've read a lot about Imagineering, to use the Disney coinage. The fascinating thing about early Disneyland is how they rejected most of the accepted amusement industry wisdom and had to invent so much.

I'm a huge fan of the Disney I grew up with in boomer years, when Disney products were everywhere but weirdly scarce on TV. Walt had his first big success, Oswald the Rabbit, yanked out from under him, and to this day the company is obsessively protective of its creations (and in recent years, acquisitions). When the bigger studios dumped their vaults for syndication or outright sale -- that's how Ted Turner came to own most of Golden Age Hollywood -- Disney films were held close and re-released theatrically instead of filtering down to the late show. Even "The Monkey's Uncle" came back to theaters.

Uncle Walt only went into television because he needed cash for his park, and cut a deal with ABC for an anthology series and a kiddie show. The first would combine new stuff (a lot of westerns, at first) with pasteups of cartoons and bits from features. Now and then a feature would be run in two parts. Most of these programs were designed to be timeless, so the most popular ones could be repeated a few years later. Many were shot in color, sometimes being theatrically released abroad (When Davy Crockett became a fad, the episodes were edited into a movie for domestic release). Perhaps most importantly, the show was also an infomercial for the park and for Disney movies. And danged if people didn't tune in religiously. The formula survived when Disney moved to NBC, whose owner RCA wanted classy color programming to sell color TVs. That single weekly hour was insanely powerful, up until "60 Minutes" finally knocked it off.

And while local stations shoveled out classic shorts from Warner, Paramount, Columbia and MGM all week long, Disney's were parceled out one per day on the Mickey Mouse Club. That gave them the appeal of rarity, even though Mickey and the gang were comfort food compared to the hot and flavorful Looney Tunes. Although it must be said that Disney comic books outclassed most of the funny animal titles, especially with Carl Barks's Scrooge stories.

In the 1960s the studio was almost on autopilot as Walt Disney turned his energies to Florida. The formulas stopped working and the company almost got taken over and sold for scrap. Then Eisner and Wells were brought in, and they aggressively turned it into the genuine empire it is today, as opposed to a fairly minor studio with an outsized footprint. Now the trick isn't to find Disney stuff but to escape it for a few minutes.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Anonymous -- Disneyland is also known as "Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom" as well, and was from the very beginning. The park in Florida was given the name of "Magic Kingdom Park (that is the official nomenclature) specifically once the second Walt Disney World theme park, Epcot, opened in order to differentiate the two.

Check out Walt first and only record album:

DBenson said...

Disneyland itself? I went for the first time in decades two years ago. Enjoyed it, but the downsides are the same as you find with any popular destination / amusement:
-- Crowds (although it was a little lighter than usual, since "Galaxy's Edge" hadn't opened and there was a sense people were postponing visits until then)
-- Expense (They learned that increasing admission prices doesn't reduce the crowds, so guess what?)
-- Eccentric old favorites are gone (I miss the Fantasyland Theater that showed cartoons, the Main Street arcade full of funky antique machines, the pirate ship that sold tunaburgers, and the motorboat cruise)
-- Relentless modern efficiency (everything is designed to process as many people as possible in minimum time. You're encouraged to order any food via a phone app so you just walk up to a counter. Orderly lines to meet Mickey. A bit at odds with the quaint and whimsical settings)

I've been to Disney World in Florida a few times, and as an old school Disney buff enjoyed the manic Disney-ness. You can easily spend the entire trip in cheerful synthetic environments, day and night, and sometimes even escape the omnipresence of automobiles. Of course, if you don't think prolonged total immersion in packaged Disney experiences is fun, your results will differ.

Charles Bryan said...

My favorite Paget Brewster work is with Paul F. Tompkins in episodes of The Thrilling Adventure Hour. The stories and scripts for these radio-style productions aren't always great, but those two deliver great performances as funny, drink-loving Nick and Nora types in the world of the supernatural. She nails a Mid-Atlantic upper-crust accent. A number of podcast episodes are available.

Necco said...

Wow, so many bitter folks. Late Boomer here, not screwed up.

SummitCityScribe said...

Disney, you had me at Paget Brewster.

iamr4man said...

Mark Evanier linked to a Technology Connections video regarding the Haunted Mansion. The thing that surprised me the most was that the ride itself is outside the park in a warehouse. That stretching room elevator takes to to a tunnel where you walk down a hallway that goes under the train to the outside of the park warehouse that holds the ride. It never occurred to me that this was happening.