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From Discovery Bay To Buffy The Vampire Slayer In One Easy Step

Veteran Progress City readers might remember a story I wrote in January, listing producer/writer/director Joss Whedon as the person I’d most like to see Disney hire for future creative endeavors.

Keep that in mind.

So this evening I’ve been trying to get my “archives” in some semblance of order, and I was filing away some issues of Disney News from the 1970s. On the back cover of the Winter 1974/75 issue, there was an ad for the then-upcoming Walt Disney Productions release Island at the Top of the World.

Ad for Island at the Top of the World

Many of you might be aware that this 1974 release, now mostly forgotten, has had an influence far beyond its failure at the box office. Most obvious is the film’s Hyperion airship, which has remained an iconic element at Imagineering ever since. It was a central visual element of the fabled but unbuilt Discovery Bay expansion at Disneyland, which was to have an advanced E-ticket attraction based on the film.

Rendering of the proposed “Discovery Bay” expansion for Disneyland in the 1970s

While Discovery Bay has not emerged in a Disney park (to date), the Hyperion did make it to Disneyland Paris as part of that park’s retro-futuristic Discoveryland.

Poster for Videopolis & Cafe Hyperion, Disneyland Paris

So, we have a flop of a movie that introduced some visual themes that live in the minds of Disney fans even today. So what? Well, my eyes scanned the list of credits, and…

No kidding.

Now, this isn’t Joss Whedon. This is his grandfather, John Whedon. The elder Whedon’s credits not only include another Disney film, 1974’s The Bears and I, but also the Kilroy miniseries for Disney’s anthology television show. This isn’t the first time John Whedon has surprised me by popping up in an unexpected place – he appeared one day in the credits of an Andy Griffith Show episode I was watching. Between that and The Dick Van Dyke Show, it looks like the Whedon family has managed to work on some of my favorite TV shows for fifty years.

It would be unfair at this point to leave out Joss’s dad, Tom Whedon, who fills in the generational gap nicely by working on some of the most prominent shows in the 70s and 80s. Again, some of my favorite shows from when I was a kid are there – he wrote and produced several episodes of Benson and, to bring it all back home to Disney, produced several seasons of The Golden Girls.

It’s a small world, after all.

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2 comments to From Discovery Bay To Buffy The Vampire Slayer In One Easy Step

  • Celeste C.

    That is bananas…no freaking wonder Joss is so amazing. What a family! And that ad for “Island at the Top of the World” is stunning btw.

  • I know! Makes it look wayyy more exciting than the actual film haha… Maybe the next remake after Black Hole??

    Joss’s pedigree amazes me. I first discovered it several years ago after seeing “John Whedon” credited on an Andy Griffith show. I thought, “naaaaah….”. Then I saw his dad credited on a Golden Girls ep. I looked it all up and it was like a laundry list of shows I used to watch.

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