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It’s the 4th of July in Progress City, and that means pageantry!

So here’s some pageantry.

It’s the thrilling dedication of the American Adventure at Epcot, which took place on October 11th, 1982. Thrill to the oratory of Card Walker! And the pavilion’s two sponsors, American Express CEO/Chairman Jim Robinson and Coca-Cola President Don Keough. All introduced by the 1982 Walt Disney World Ambassador Jeanne Thiele.

Each of the World Showcase pavilions had a dedication much like this, with some sort of musical performance and choreographed dance number. They usually also featured an appearance by the pavilion’s major sponsor. The entire month of October was filled with these events; everything in Epcot got one, with VIP cocktail parties and other hobnobbing opportunities.

So strike up the band and celebrate America 1980s-style!

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Kicking Off…

Today I’m kicking off something that I have considered, with some trepidation, for a while now – I’ve posted a new project to Kickstarter with the goal of publishing a new Disney history book. I’ll admit that while I’m a huge fan of Kickstarter in general, I’ve been iffy about entering “the market” myself – I don’t know why, but it feels kind of hubristic to assume that anyone would want to pay to hear anything I had to say – but enough folks have whispered in my ear about it that I’m taking the plunge.

First, for those of you who don’t know, Kickstarter is one of several sites that enable crowdfunding – the ability for a group of people to pledge funding for a project they would like to see come to fruition. I’m a huge fan, as it has not only allowed thousands of creative individuals to find an audience, but it has allowed established creators of beloved properties – be they games, film, television, or books – to revive classic stories that had been turned away by mainstream publishers. It’s a way of getting around the gatekeepers, and to prove that there is an audience out there for products that corporate decision makers might just not understand. Major successes have included the revival of the cult classic Veronica Mars, as well as the return of a number of highly-respected, veteran game designers.

What happens is that you have a set amount of time (in this case, 30 days), to reach a set financial goal (in this case, $1,500). Interested parties can pledge funding as they please, and if the funding goal is met in time they pay up and the project is funded. Depending on the pledge amount, and the project, contributors get rewards for their donations – in this case, that reward is a book.

So why am I doing this? Well for a while now (more than a while) I’ve been working on a few ideas for different books focusing on aspects of Disney history. And I’d like to kick things off with a collection of stories that I call The Progress City Primer. This new book will collect existing history-based stories from this site and elsewhere and update and expand them, while also adding completely new material. And, hopefully, it will just be the first in a series.

The reason I’m not just sneaking it to market is that without a bit of upfront funding it could take me a while to get it out, and I’m eager to get things moving. If the project is funded this way, it comes out quicker and nicer. And contributors get a copy of the book when it’s done.

Again I’m not keen on making too big a fuss about anything, but I think there’s a potential to do some cool stuff and get some new Disney books out there, and this seemed like it might be a fun way to do it. I have no shortage of ideas for “stretch goals”, so any extra funding above the target amount will be squirreled away specifically to fund more future content and products. I have several ideas, but I don’t want to get too big for my britches before I see if anyone is actually interested in all this.

So… if this sounds amenable to you, I would endlessly appreciate it if you headed on over to Kickstarter to make a donation. While you can contribute any amount, $15 will get you an e-reader copy of the book and $30 gets you a physical copy. If you’re feeling particular sassy, $200 will earn you the right to give me an assignment to write an article about the topic of your choice. I’ve also added a $1,000 tier just in case anyone has a business, site, or product and wants to sign on as a “participating sponsor”. I figured if it was good enough for Epcot, it’s good enough for me.

And if you’re not interested or can’t contribute, I would absolutely appreciate it if you shared the link among your Disney-centric friends and social networks. That would be swell.

Thanks again, and sorry for the rampant commercialism – I do think it’ll be pretty neat if we can make it happen, though. If you have any suggestions, or any ideas for future products you’d like to see, or even suggestions for further reward tiers, let me know. And, again, thank you!

Kickstarter Link

UPDATE: Well, that escalated quickly. We beat the goal in less than an hour, so we have a whole month left to push some stretch goals. I’m agog – you guys are fantastic. For the next tier, at $5,000, I’d like to invest in the studio time & equipment needed to record an audiobook and a few new podcasts. Of course, extra money will go to finishing this current book and pushing forward with the next, but audio is the concrete goal for $5k. And there will be more to follow if we’re lucky enough to top that. Again, if you have any suggestions for stretch goals or other rewards let me know.

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Inside Out! Episode 4

For your Friday night viewing…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an episode of Walt Disney World Inside Out. I have thus deprived you of the opportunity to see host Scott Heriott belittle World Showcase cast members with awkward racist jokes, and to see Howie Mandel stalk and harass confused guests at the Disney-MGM Studios. But don’t worry, because now I’m here to take care of all that.

Today’s episode comes from September 1994, and takes us around Epcot 94’s World Showcase – kind of – as well as to other locations around Walt Disney World. After stops to annoy people at Star Tours, and a quick drive through the Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour, we head to the Magic Kingdom for a look at the Mickey Mania Parade – a parade about which I had strong opinions, which I do not feel the need to go in to at the moment. Look at the footage and try and figure it out for yourself.

Perhaps the most interesting stop is at Ye Olde Discovery Island out in Bay Lake, back when it was still open. Not only do we get a look at the Island’s animal life, but we’re shown around by Kym Murphy. At this point Murphy was the Disney corporate vice president for environmental policy, but he had previously worked with Imagineering on the Living Seas pavilion. He was also a key player in the creation of Port Disney, the spectacular unbuilt theme park complex once planned for Long Beach, California. Murphy is a welcome presence here, as he is actually quick on his feet and funny, and keeps the host in check for once.

Oh, and we visit Innoventions. Because we always visit Innoventions.

So pile on the couch and get your uncomfortable international stereotypes ready – it’s time for Walt Disney World Inside Out!

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The Grand Opening Of Captain EO

Sometimes when I post a video, I like to give lots of background and context, and talk about what you’re going to see. But sometimes the videos themselves are so goofybananas that I want to throw you in without any warning as to what’s coming. This is one of those.

On September 20th, 1986, Disney’s Captain EO Grand Opening aired to a rapt nationwide audience. I guess. Maybe not. Hosted by Patrick Duffy and Justine Bateman, it’s a star-studded salute to the then-new attraction Captain EO, which had just opened at Disneyland and Epcot Center. And, to be fair, unlike many of these specials the stars with which it is studded are actual stars. Sure, there are lots of super 1980s-era TV relics, and some incredibly dated “stars” of the era, but they also managed to rope in actors like Sissy Spacek, Anjelica Huston (the Supreme Leader herself), and even Jack Nicholson, who lurks around in the background unmentioned as Huston’s date. At the very least, this is the only Disney attraction opening to boast the presence of Charles Bronson and Yakov Smirnoff.

I actually need to restrain myself from rattling off the list of celebrity “appearances”, I’m so impressed with their scope and randomness. You expect your John Ritters, say, but Esther Williams?? For Captain EO? Alan Thicke, sure, but Elizabeth Montgomery? Why Tommy Chong but not Disney’s very own Cheechâ„¢? At least Annette is there to hold up the Disney end of things, and a very young pre-Full House John Stamos is on hand to profess his now-legendary Disneyland love. And, of course, there’s family favorite O.J. Simpson.

There are many other amazing things (I knew I couldn’t be able to refrain from comment). The acting on display between George Lucas and Michael Eisner is superb, as are the “lasers” they’re testing. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. There are at least two appearances of keytars in the musical numbers, which are about as 80s as you get. I still love that Belinda Carlisle, though, and apparently so do the Country Bears?

It all culminates with a sort-of-marching-band-dance-number-meets-parade-thing that takes place simultaneously on Main Street USA and in Tomorrowland, thanks to some highly dubious editing. A fellow who is Not Michael Jackson but who was in A Chorus Line (and who assisted in the choreography of some of Jackson’s videos) does an odd little music number and sings a brief musical tribute to Captain EO’s ragtag band before they appear in person on a magical space cloud. Yes, Hooter – live in person! And Major Domo! And… sigh… “The Geeks”. “The Geeks” gets said a lot in this special, way more than should ever happen in any TV show. Be sure to stick around after the official ribbon cutting for the bizarre reappearance of Not Michael Jackson, who emerges from another dimension to oddly kind of lipsynch a little inspirational tag.

All this insanity is in service of Captain EO, and we do actually get a little bit of behind-the-scenes footage which fans of the film might appreciate. EO marked the first Disney collaboration with George Lucas; while Star Tours had been conceived earlier, Captain EO had been greenlit to get something Lucas-related into the parks as soon as possible, without having to wait for the development cycle of a traditional ride attraction. The film’s development was troubled, since it basically began with the concept of “film Michael Jackson doing something” and went from there. As you probably know, it had an unexpected resurgence after Jackson’s death, when it returned to the parks as the “Captain EO Tribute”.

Incidentally, an unexpected bonus of this special is that it provides a few peeks at the shiny and exciting Disneyland Tomorrowland of this era. From the Skyway to the Astro Jets to that weird Space Mountain speedramp thing, there are several details lurking in the background.


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E-Ticket B-Roll

As news about Star Wars Episode VII continues to emerge on a daily basis, let’s turn back the clock once more for some Star Tours shenanigans from 1987. This time we have a video press kit for the then-new Disneyland attraction, hosted by C-3PO himself. It features a canned “news” piece about the ride for broadcast outlets, some great B-roll of the attraction and its queue, and several interviews with key creative personnel. This includes Imagineers Tony Baxter, Tom Fitzgerald, and Dave Feiten; Dennis Muren and Warren Franklin from ILM also appear. And, naturally, there’s an interview with George Lucas – as well as one with C-3PO, which is genius in the silliest way possible. Wonder how many local affiliates broadcast fake interviews with C-3PO on their cheesy morning programs…

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