April 1, 2010

Leisure Review: O Captain! My Captain! EO!

During a recent trip to Disneyland I had the pleasure of experiencing two newly re-opened nostalgia filled attractions: the fifth generation "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" and "Captain EO: Tribute". I thought I would offer my two cents on both...

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (Mach 5)
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln has not been a crowd drawing E-ticket attraction since its debut at the World's Fair in 1964, many see it as a 20 minute air conditioned break, but what it has been for decades is the last sliver of earnest, not entirely Disneyfied, American patriotism that Walt would be proud of. This latest incarnation continues the technologically impressive "edutaining", history lesson's legacy. The presentation begins with a well-made 10ish minute film about the Civil War featuring period music, historical photos, new artwork by Pocahontas animator John Pomeroy, and Paul Frees narration that combines elements from past versions with new material. The screen and curtains pull back to reveal not-quite-perfect robot Lincoln on an elaborate set with dramatic lighting and a classy background that changes from day to colorful sunset to starry night. Robo-Abe delivers the attraction's original speech crafted from segments of actual Lincoln speeches handpicked by Walt Disney himself and recorded by Royal Dano in the 60's. The recording, of course, has been digitally restored and sharpened for an improved presidential experience. There is an epic finale that concludes with a soaring eagle and the unabashedly patriotic ballad "Golden Dream" originally written for the classic Epcot attraction "The American Adventure". As you exit the attraction the hallway is filled with portraits of other important/influential patriots....such as George Lucas...and that is really the only negative thing I have to say about the experience...I have to see 'ole George being revered in the same manner as the Great Emancipator. Overall this is an excellent incarnation of the classic attraction, way better than the 2001 rehab that required you to wear headphones so they could simulate your hair being cut, aurally. More importantly though, Disneyland would be incomplete without this attraction, it will hopefully always be there in one form or another. Walt would want it that way. The park is filled with nostalgia for the past, even nostalgia for an old-fashioned view of the future, but this is the only instance of real historical preservation and true patriotism...which was always part of Walt's vision for the park. Grade: A

Captain EO: Tribute
I must preface this by saying that I have no recollection of seeing this in its original form (although it's quite possible that I did), only downloaded on my computer. While waiting in the queue to enter the theater, the audience is treated to the original pre-show film, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Captain EO featuring George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and a bunch of dancers whom it mostly focuses on. Not a particularly interesting video, except in the sense of a historical document. Then you enter the theater and the real fun begins. A cast member gives a tidbit of history and directs the audience to put on their 3D glasses, and then we jump right in to the original 4D theme park movie experience featuring Michael Jackson and Angelica Houston. The plot is thin, the effects are old fashioned, and Michael is a laughable space captain, but all of that is irrelevant, because you are watching an enhanced/extended Michael Jackson music video, and everyone loves a Michael Jackson music video! Most of the original 4D effects are back in action, plus the new added bonus of the hydraulics equipped seating that simulates the ship's movement and (my personal favorite) bounces with the bass heavy pop tunes! The 3D looks great and the puppets and physical effects are much more charming than their lifeless CGI counterparts that would inevitably be in their place if it were remade today. As Captain EO sings, dances, and turns evil cyborgs into rainbow clad dancers via lasers from his hands, you can't help but bob with the music (literally) and have a great time! Despite being the first 4D movie ever produced, it still holds up remarkably well as a Disney theme park attraction, a testament to the dedication of its creators (or maybe MJ is just timeless). In any event, it is a refreshing change from Honey, I Shrunk the Audience which was really showing its age with the early 90's CGI and youthful Rick Moranis (Seriously though, what 8-year-old today has seen a "Honey, I Shrunk..." movie? I hope it doesn't return when Captain EO runs it's course). So in conclusion, despite its corniness, its solid theme park entertainment and definitely worth checking out next time you're there. Grade: B+

Great Job Disney, I can't wait for "World of Color" this summer!
Leisure On, folks!

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