Monday, February 22, 2010

Memories of Captain EO

Well, it's official, Disney has announced the opening of the Captain EO Tribute at Disneyland. Michael Jackson as Captain EO and his rag tag band will once again grace a big screen on Tuesday, February 23, 2010. Instead of living on the small, grainy digital files of YouTube a reconditioned large version will be projected for everyone to enjoy.

Eyes and Ears Captain EO cover

Captain EO Blast off flier front

Captain EO Blast off flier back

My first experience with Captain EO was in 1986 at the then EPCOT Center in the Magic Eye Theater the day after Christmas that year. I had worked for Disney on the Walt Disney World College Program on the Spring 1986 program and then stayed on through the summer. I had left a week before Labor Day to return back home to UMass Amherst to finish up my degree. At school my cast member friend Martha mailed me a copy of the internal cast member news letter the Eyes & Ears that announced the opening of Captain EO as well as the flier given to people going to the Captain EO Blast Off event.

I had flown down on Christmas day with another WDWCPer Bob to work at Disney during the Christmas break and we were joined by Sheilagh who had flying privileges through her dad, a pilot. Bob and I had convinced Sheilagh to stay another day, Friday, in order to go into the parks, enjoy ourselves and see the show. She pulled a couple of strings and we enjoyed the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center that busy holiday season. We spent the morning at the Kingdom and then moved over to EPCOT that afternoon.

The crowds at the Journey into Imagination were huge for two reasons. The first was just being that time of year for crowds and the second being the new show staring Michael Jackson who was as at the height of his popularity. The line was LONG and took close to two hours of patience and hanging in a hot, crowded pre-show area. We finally got into the main theater and put on our purple 3D glasses. I'll never forget the lights dimming and stars appearing on the screen spreading around the side of the theater and then all of a sudden becoming 3D with stars pushing back towards negative infinity, the swirling galaxy, the floating rock and the laser blast clearing the way for Captain EO's ship.

We startled and watched intently as to when we'd see Michael appear. When he finally appeared everyone cheered and clapped. It was an exciting show watching his ship crash, spot lights searching for him, his capture, his rag tag band turning into the band, the singing, the whips, the dancing, Angelica Houston turning from the Evil Supreme Leader to a beautiful Grecian-like ruler. We had a good time!

Captain EO and Fuzzball

Hooter promo picture front

Hooter Promo picture back
I remembered towards the end of the movie Michael walking out and smacking the back of one hand into the palm of the other as well as yelling OOOOOOOHHH in his high pitched voice several times. I didn't know it at the time, but these combined action would be used over and over again while I was working at The Land pavilion by my leads Jay and Kathy to call us to action when they wanted to get something done.

Over the next month I saw Captain EO several more times as the crowds died down a bit. It was so popular that the two characters Fuzzball and Hooter were made into plush figures that many people, including myself purchased. They are in my trunk back at my parents house. I checked ebay and didn't find any Hooter plushes but a Fuzzball plush was going for $50 buy it now!

I was fortunate as another MKCPer Joe had stayed on to work the 15th Anniversary event that kicked off on October 1. He had sent me a copy of the press kit they were giving out. Included were 2 promotional photos dealing with Captain EO. The first was Captain EO with Fuzzball sitting on his right shoulder and the second was of Hooter. Those two got all the attention, Major and Minor Domo and Idee and Odee didn't get much fanfare at all as far as merchandise was concerned.

So something that I never thought I would see again outside of YouTube is coming back. While I know that it won't be the same, with the Captain EO Tribute Show releasing in Disneyland, I look forward to reliving the experience that was Captain EO. Michael Jackson is no longer with us, but we can enjoy what he left behind. I'll be at Disneyland for the Disney Podcast Network Westfest Event and a couple of days before and after. If you'll happen to be in Anaheim from April 28 to May 5 and you'd like to get together with other Disney and Michael Jackson fans to either experience Captain EO for the first time or you're hundredth time, use one of the contact options on the side of the column to let me know you'd be interested in seeing Captain EO.

In the mean time as Captain EO might suggest remember to give people the key to unlock the beauty that is within side them just waiting to get out!

All pictures copyright Disney 1986. Watermarks added by me.