By now, probably every blog out there has covered the death today of singer Michael Jackson. While I won’t pretend to be much of a fan of Jackson – at least of anything he’s done in the last 25 years – it is shocking and somewhat jarring to have a figure that was such a massive phenomenon during one’s childhood disappear. Despite Jackson’s more-than-questionable behavior of the last decade or so, it’s hard not to believe that he never had a chance. Perhaps I’m over-sensitive to this since it overlaps with my work, but it never fails to amaze or infuriate me how much parents can screw up their own kids’ lives.
Anyway, we’re not here for my psychoanalysis. The reason Jackson has appeared on every Disney blog this evening is that he himself was perhaps the most famous Disney fan in the world. Renowned for his constant trips to Disney parks in various odd disguises, and his propensity for renting entire floors of Disney World resorts, Jackson modeled many aspects of his own Neverland Ranch after Disneyland. He was also a prolific collector of Disneyana; recent auction catalogues reveal a wealth of Disney-related items including many major pieces created specifically for Jackson by Disney animators and Imagineers.
Jackson’s most obvious Disney connection is Captain E.O., the 3-D science-fiction film that played in EPCOT from 1986 until 1994 and in Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris during the same time frame. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas, the film is even more bizarre in retrospect but certainly captures the feeling of the era in which it was created. You can find links to Captain E.O. on nearly every other Disney blog this evening, so I thought I’d re-post this video from 1986; taken from that year’s Very Merry Christmas Parade, it features a segment with parade host Ben Vereen previewing the new EPCOT attraction.