Archives

Contribute to Our Research

Kickstart the Progress City Primer

Regis And The Daredevil Circus Spectacular, 1987

Michael Eisner didn’t get EPCOT.

He didn’t understand it, he didn’t like it. He wanted to make it more “exciting.”

And so, when he arrived at Walt Disney Productions in 1984, those grand expansion plans for the park were all put away, never to be seen again. Instead, EPCOT would begin to see a series of special events; cheaply-put-together extravaganzas would help plug the park and reduce the need for major capitol investment.

They would be trendy. They would be exciting. They would be…

W.T.F.

Well that’s a darn sight more exciting than Equatorial Africa or Journeys in Space, innit?

In October of 1987, EPCOT premiered the gallingly out-of-place Daredevil Circus Spectacular in CommuniCore Plaza. In the shadow of mighty Spaceship Earth, there would now be four-times-daily exhibitions of various sorts of circus-related derring-do.

But surely, you say, even Eisner couldn’t have been that daft. Surely the circus, with its tightrope walking and elephant straddling, had no place in Future World? Well that, dear reader, is where you and your stupid, stupid brain are completely wrong. Because, you see, this was a circus of the future

Excitement beyond your wildest dreams comes to Epcot Center in the incomparable Epcot Daredevil Circus Spectacular in Future World. Billed throughout the cosmos as “The Greatest Show In Space,” the Epcot Daredevil Circus Spectacular is an intergalactic thrill show that puts you in the middle of the main ring while a galaxy of stellar performers make you believe the unbelievable. In the eight-ring “spacearena” above CommuniCore, an interstellar cast will tingle your spin, shatter your senses and pound your pulse. Marvel at the sight of Mutant Prehistoric Pachyderms! Stare awestruck as Space Cyclists race toward Spaceship Earth high above you suspended on a wire! Question your own eyes as a Sincotron climbs the heights of a space probe needle! It’s a thrill a minute with Aquilons from Alpha Centauri, Amazites, Archturian Power Drones and Web Women displaying strength and beauty on Archturian Vines.

It’s a once-in-a-millennium epic extravaganza! Don’t miss the Epcot Daredevil Circus!

- Disney advertisement, October 2nd, 1987

See! Future! It all begins with story! Sincotrons! Web Women and Archturian Vines! Power Drones! Aquilons! What didn’t this show have? Well, aside from dignity.

While this most special of special events only lasted five short months, it marked the first of many assaults on Future World’s sensibilities to come.

But there’s a silver lining – it gave Regis a chance to be ringmaster!

Here, from the 1987 Very Merry Christmas Parade, is our man Regis hamming it up as ringmaster of “The Greatest Show In Space.”

Related Posts...

27 comments to Regis And The Daredevil Circus Spectacular, 1987

  • Mark W

    This. This is why I still think we would have all been better off had Roy left well enough alone and given Ron Miller more time to try to turn things around. Well, this and Euro Disney.

  • beaglelady

    Ouch, that was painful. Glad I’d never heard of it. Now they have the very cool Cirque du Soleil, in Downtown Disney, where it fits in nicely.

  • [ this is jerry ]

    I’m not sure if I’m in shock or just plain disgusted. Wow.

    Great post.

  • Probably a little from column A and a little from column B :)

    Mark: You’re right about that. The parks would have *definitely* been better off. Studios and animation, probably not so much. Difficult to say, since Miller didn’t really have enough time at the helm to turn things in the direction that he wanted.

  • It’s a Summer Nightastic!

  • Brian

    To be fair, Eisner did some good stuff while at the helm (until about the last five years of his reign) – but it’s very clear he didn’t get EPCOT, and he didn’t surround himself with anyone who could clue him in on it.

    Wow, this circus show is craptastic. The giant wand (- may we continue to dance on its grave -) wasn’t even as tacky as this. Just because you have lots of room doesn’t mean you *must* fill it with a cheap tacky show.

    It’s amazing a park that has seen shows as refined and spectacular (and THEMATICALLY CORRECT) as the current Illuminations could *also* have suffered through abominations like this.

  • Another Voice

    Eisner had wanted to replace Illumination’s classic music score with pop music…the likes of Elton John and Michael Jackson. Again, it was an effort to make the “boring” place more “relevant”. We should all be thankful to a certain mountain climbing executive who actually really loved EPCOT Center. He was the one pushing for The Living Seas, Life & Health, Space and for the expansion of World Showcase. Although his success was limited by The Bald Ego, he prevented a lot worse damage from being inflected on Disney’s best park.

  • “Michael Eisner didn’t get EPCOT.

    He didn’t understand it, he didn’t like it.”

    Well, then Michael Eisner was a complete incompetent. Epcot is the most innovative and interesting Disney Theme Park!!!

  • philphoggs

    The bald ego! HAHAHA :)
    One thing I don’t fully piece together about M Eisner however. Often I read that he really wanted to push a “higher level of culture” into the parks, (i.e. Disney Institute) and then turns around delivers this sort of thing. Major disconnect or a tale of two customers?

  • besimple

    I worked in Epcot Center when all this was going on. “15 Years Of Magic” was over and another theme was needed for marketing. Epcot Center was to be the focus. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but Creative Entertainment developed it. There were several proposals. One was for an “International” circus to take place on circular platforms in the lagoon with Showcase Plaza as the prime viewing point. I don’t know why the Future World version was picked, but it probably came down to cost. The show was a huge cluster. There were issues with everything, including things like elephant costumes. Believe it or not, a full rehearsal of the show never took place. The first performance ran for over an hour, and it was supposed to be under 25 minutes. Even the your posted photo was a cluster. It took 3 days to get with literally hundreds of extras and park talent standing around waiting for the circus acts contract issues to be settled. Weirdest of all, a gym-ette was built in the tunnel under Communicore East for the bodybuilders and web girls. From the moment it opened, it was continually revised as it slowly died. The characters were pulled after the first day. The tight rope walker was kept in the park for at least several months after the show closed. This show was also responsible for the the destruction of the original appearance of the “Fountains Of The Nations”.

  • Mark W

    In addition to my earlier comment, just wanted to add… Something like this helps put things in perspective. We complain about a lot of things. And truthfully, there are a lot of legitimate complaints right now. But something like this helps put things in perspective…

    Yes, WDW needs much more capital investment and at least one new E-ticket. Yes, Future World and Hollywood Studios both have a major identity crisis. Yes, the hat is still up in Hollywood Studios. Yes, Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama is embarrassing and atrocious on every level possible. Yes, Iger by all accounts gutted World of Color of its soul. Yes, WDI seems way too happy with over-reliance on video technology lately. Yes, WDW and DLP have horrible maintenance/cleanliness standards. Yes, Disney Studios Paris is in general so crappy that it doesn’t even deserve the title “Disney park.” Yes, Hong Kong Disneyland still has an absurdly small number of attractions. Yes, Tokyo Disneyland Resort puts all the Disney-owned resorts to shame.

    BUT. There is NOTHING as horrible and embarrassing that is currently blighting a beloved Disney park the same way this atrocity did. Chester and Hester’s comes close. Maybe it’s familiarity; maybe it’s the fact that I don’t care about AK the same way I care about Epcot. But it’s still not nearly as bad as THIS. We can be thankful for that. And maybe think about current flaws in light of that. It could be worse. Really.

  • RO93461

    Eisner did understand EPCOT and wanted to bring it to life by making it more credible. I remember him going to the CES show in Vegas and saying that this level of excitement and new tech stuff that should be at EPCOT. Innoventions was an attempt at making EPCOT more credible as a real window to what is coming in the future. Eisner wanted to do WESTCOT on this coast so if he hated it he would not have considered a second one.

    At the same time it has to be more “entertaining” to the rest of the family, so that why you end up with these dumb shows. It’s funny that when worlds fairs like the 1939 NYWF learned that “the future” was not enough to draw crowds over the long haul, they ended up adding similar shows and more midway (for the masses) type things. That was the only thing that got it through 1940.

  • philphoggs

    Interesting post above and great stories / perspectives.
    ~
    There’s food and wine at World Showcase, so why not have tech style events at Future World? Presuming that one inherent problem with Future World is that nobody gives away their secrets, how about a showcase to publicize or sell them. I guess in essence that is attempting to be done anyway.

  • Fantastic, fantastic comments all.

    Yes indeed, something like this does put things in perspective.

    Eddie – Thanks for your valuable comments on this. I appreciate being reminded of the realities behind these things. Surely there has to be a happy medium – pleasing for the masses, but not pandering to the masses. A fine line, I’m sure.

    Maybe Eisner had the interest, but not the taste to pull it off? I’ve thought that several times over the years – that maybe at first he had good intentions but without Walt’s skill to pick out the best ideas. Of course, later on things just got dire.

    Again, great discussion everyone.

  • Mark W

    “Eisner wanted to do WESTCOT on this coast so if he hated it he would not have considered a second one.”

    I’ve also heard lots of insiders say that WESTCOT was a bluff that the company had no intention on following through on. It was purely to pressure Long Beach into acquiescing to Disney re Port Disney. Either way, I still think there’s lots of evidence that EPCOT Center wasn’t Eisner’s favorite park by any stretch.

    Regarding Eisner’s taste and highbrow/lowbrow: I think you make a mistake if you aim too highbrow with Disney. Really. Hear me out. There is quite a bit of schmaltz and corniness running through a lot of the work Disney himself created. Don’t believe me? Go out and buy some of the Walt Disney Treasures. And then google “walt disney quote corny” (without quotation marks). Walt repeatedly referred to his own corniness. He was proud of it. This is why I have to laugh when people complain about things like High School Musical. I think if Walt was still around and still working in TV (which itself is somewhat dubious) that’s exactly the kind of stuff he’d be making (albeit, with more heart and less wal-marting).

    Anyway, back to the parks – Disney parks have always been at their best pop art – I think of a kind that skates comfortably between highbrow or lowbrow art (and yes, I definitely consider WDI’s work art as hopefully most others who frequent these parts would). Eisner, I think, didn’t see it this way. He saw the parks as a product and the goal of what went into them was to simply “give the customers what they want.” He didn’t really have a lot of respect for the customer, or appreciation for what they might want, and so he would often (especially once Wells’ restraint was gone) throw them crap like this. At the same time, we also know that his ego was enormous. There were aspects of the parks that he saw as his own little kingdom – a way for him to show off. Most famously, we have as examples his love for stylish architecture with the WDW hotels and his insistence on the suburbs of Paris for Euro Disneyland because he thought it would be more classy and prestigious for the park to be located there (despite ALL of the business analysis and all of his advisers strongly suggesting Spain). And so I think that’s where the “higher level of culture” comes from – not from any devotion to the parks, the Imagineering art form, or the customer, but from his own ego. And in areas where he was seeking to make a buck rather than show off, we get stuff like this. A tale of two customers indeed.

  • RO93461

    Not to beat this to death, but here are a few more thoughts.

    Agree on Walt and Disney being corny. It’s part of the simplistic brand essence.

    When you say the park’s “skate between high and low brow art”, I take that as the passion and total immersion in the execution of the “worlds” created are sophisticated and perhaps be seen as the more highbrow side, but the content portrayed is simplistic and childlike for the most part. So you have high technology and decorative arts used to bring slapstick sight gags to life.

    I think the situation was the opposite with WESTCOT and Long Beach. I heard at the time that the Long Beach project evolved into a shill to scare Anaheim into making a better deal on the Second Gate next to DL. After all, it makes more sense to create a single Resort. WESTCOT was one of many concepts for that space and I’d say Eisner liked it. He liked the idea that EPCOT was a brand and it could be on each coast. It was cut and cut into something probably not worth doing. Michael is a fairly highbrow NYC guy and is very well educated. His hotel moves were motivated as a patron of the arts in that it was just as expensive to build a forgettable hotel as it was to play the odds with top architects and see if you end up with a lasting legacy of design. You can argue as to whether that was “Disney” or was creatively successful, but that was his stated motive.

    DLRP. I do not believe that ALL the research said Spain. It was certainly a preference in some circles, but stability of the government and being able to open a park on time in that country was a concern. The fact of the matter was and still is that despite the climate, Paris is still the geographic “crossroads” of Europe for anyone going East or West and there was hard data that said that most stop in Paris on their way across the continent for at least a night. That was the reason given us. I have never read that it was a decision devoted to ego. I do agree that Paris is a better brand to associate yourself with than Spain. It does add prestige to the park for sure. We designed the park to have enough production value to not feel cheap to a native Parisian. That was a concern of management at the time. So all those hotels were there to lure guests and take advantage of that transient vacation pattern.

    I won’t argue that in the final years his decisions were coming from a different place, and not every choice he made was a wise one, but the luster of EPCOT had worn off, the numbers were awful and he did try and get the future back into it. You can’t judge his body of work on Regis alone.

    BTW I observed him reviewing designs for the infamous “wand” and nonplussed, asked the WDI design director showing them if that was “the best they could do” and “are there any more designs?”. He didn’t like any of them! The producer sheepishly said that was their best and said there was a deadline they had to meet so there was no time to do more or better, so he very reluctantly chose what you saw. Sometimes designs and even shows are “pitched” and “sold” to management and then executed poorly. I’ve found that usually nothing is as clear cut as we’d like to think.

  • Drew

    It is weird how there is a history of fascination with the circus amongst the Imagineers and even Walt Disney. The released plan rendering of the park to be built next to the studio in Burbank contained a circus. Then there was the infamous Mickey Mouse Club Circus at Disneyland. In the 1970s there was the proposed Dumbo’s Circusland intended for Disneyland.

  • philphoggs

    Without being pretentious, or sounding like a broken record, just thanking those who have posted. I often think I’ve discovered and understood more by haunting the blog and comments section than reading some of the hardbacks.

  • Another Voice

    Sorry for another long novel, but there’s a lot in these comments to discuss:

    On Eisner: He had been tagged early as an up-and-coming Big Swinging Duck in Hollywood. Right up until he was booted from Paramount. Disney, at the time, was consciously far outside the Hollywood power circles so being kicked down to the Mouse was a huge blow. Eisner’s early efforts were to remake Disney to resemble all the other studios in town. This fed Eisner’s ego (once again he was swinging his duck over town) and it also fed Roy’s desire for more money as he thought “mainstream” was were the bucks were. It stunned both of them when Disney’s real potential turned out to be in square, unhip and uncool businesses like theme parks and animated fairy tales.

    Eisner’s specific gripe with EPCOT Center was that he thought the concepts presented were too vague to be of interest to the average guest. He didn’t think terms like “Energy” or “Imagination” had the same appeal as specific stories or situations. In a lot of ways this was the beginning of WDI’s misplaced obsession with plot (what they are really talking about when they say “story”).

    Eisner was a TV guy. His entire life was creating products around a single sentence that you could easily sell to the public. His big breakthrough, ‘Flashdance’ was essentially “welder by day, stripper by night”, ‘Down and Out in Beverly Hills’ was “homeless man in a rich person’s house”. Eisner made theme parks work the same way – ‘World of Motion’ became “ride a car in a testing ground”, ‘Imagination’ became an open house at the Imagination Institute, etc.

    And you also get stuff like a “future” circus because common people know circuses.

    On EPCOT Numbers: The numbers for EPCOT Center weren’t bad, they just weren’t what the Magic Kingdom got. It was easy enough to explain – a park that had 30 years of consumer awareness verses a new concept only four years old at the time that still needed capital investment. The financial game was simply an easy and convenient excuse Eisner had to bash a park he didn’t like. This was especially true when Eisner diverted all the Phase II capital to make more movies. The money you spend in Hollywood transfers immediately into the power you have in Hollywood. Dropping hundred million pavilion in Orlando would make the company money for decades, but a hundred million on a big time movie with big time stars got you a really nice seat at the Oscars.

    On corniness: As BP would say, Walt cared about the small people. Walt had grown up poor and was proud of what he had accomplished and thought others shared his basic beliefs. The scope and impact of Walt’s success is proof that he was able to communicate directly to a vast number of people.

    Eisner, however, would boast that his parents never took him to see a Disney movie or to a theme park because his “better” upbringing consisted of Broadway plays and fine art museums. He had no understanding of us small people. Sure, he could pander to people’s baser desires with his movies (again, like ‘Flashdance’), but couldn’t truly connect with people’s fears, hopes, aspirations and dreams. And so, he couldn’t make movies that appealed to the same heart that Walt aimed for. Eisner aimed at the duck.

    This also led him to appeal more to “the right kind of people” – those who shared his viewpoint. He honestly thought people would flock to The Disney Institute because people wanted to learn how to make organic pesto sauce between spa treatments. That people would be amused by DCA’s droll irony of a theme park decorated to look like a theme and be willing to fork over a hundred bucks for wine with dinner. After all, all his friends told him so.

    On France and Spain: All the economic data did point to Spain because of its existing tourist draw and the one thing that Europeans wanted most – sunshine. The only area where Paris came out ahead was as a rail and road hub which was thought to be more appealing to German tourists. However once Europe denationalized its airline industry, Spain was many times cheaper and easier to reach from the entire continent – Germany included. No one was stopping in Paris anymore.

    In order to justify the cost of the project, Euro Disney was designed as a destination resort – not a transient vacations. That’s an American concept. The typical European vacation is for two weeks or more and it usually taken in one spot. In fact, the economics of the hotels required visitors to Paris to stay at Euro Disney and make Paris a day trip, not the other way around.

    Eisner’s ego played a huge role in the selection. Eisner got a lot more attention swinging his duck around Paris and with the fashionable elites. He had also spent a semester studying in France and, he said, “knew the people”. That drove Eisner to micro-manage the project into disaster. A lot of it too goes back to his view that “Disney” wasn’t a Big League company, that it was inferior to the great studios and their swanky parties oozing starlets. Opening a “sophisticated park” in Paris would help move Disney (and it’s CEO) up in the prestige.

    WESTCot and Port Disney: It was known since the late 1970′s that Disneyland should have a second park. And the parking lot was the best location for it. Nothing started because the company’s resources went to EPCOT Center instead.

    What got the project going was the need to reinvest billions and billions of profit pouring in from Euro Disney that Eisner thought was about to hit. The Port Disney project was a happy accident that occurred when Disney bought the Disneyland Hotel. WESTCot was simply a placeholder while the rest of the resort concepts were being developed. Based on economic model at WDW, Disneyland needed a lot of infrastructure (hotels, retail, entertainment) and that’s where the effort went.

    I have doubts as to how serious Eisner was about either project. By the time decisions had to be made, the problems with Euro Disney were appearing and Eisner was rapidly losing interest in theme parks. Even if Paris had managed to work out, I doubt either concept as we know them would have been built.

  • Mark W

    “By the time decisions had to be made, the problems with Euro Disney were appearing and Eisner was rapidly losing interest in theme parks.”

    While we’re talking about Eisnerian history, just wanted to point out (because it is infinitely worthy of repeating), this is where the dark ages started. The reason that an absurd amount of money gets poured into ABC and WDW can barely afford a new coat of paint half the time is because Eisner f-ed up Euro Disney royally. Eisner is after all the same CEO that proposed the Disney Decade, so he used to show the parks quite a bit of TLC (and investment). So what happened?

    Euro Disney. Locating it in Paris wasn’t even the worst thing; his delusion and insistence that Euro Disney would work as “destination resort” was. Euro Disney when it opened was, at least from a technical standpoint, arguably WDI’s finest achievement up to that time (now only eclipsed by Tokyo DisneySea). The park itself was wildly successful. The hotels (of which there were seven) were wildly unsuccessful. This made the entire investment a financial failure. Eisner was responsible, but both his ego and his career couldn’t handle the blame. He blamed the Imagineers for overspending (and the park was quite expensive – but that certainly wasn’t the problem); canceled most of what remained of the “Disney Decade,” slashed Imagineering’s budget and rearranged the structure of the parks so that Imagineering now created attractions at the bidding of Ops (and essentially reported to them) and everything was overseen by the newly created strategic planning. The rest, ladies and gentlemen, is a sad history that continues to this day. The only encouraging developments were the axing of strategic planning by Iger almost immediately after coming to power (which proved to be not quite as meaningful as most of it hoped it would be when announced) and the installation of Lasseter as COO (which, as far as the parks are concerned, has proved to be pretty much meaningless outside of Anaheim).

  • Another Voice

    What happened was really the worst of both worlds.

    The “destination resort” that Euro Disney turned into was designed for Barcelona. And it would have worked there just as WDW worked pre-EPCOT Center. People would have traveled “to Spain”, but made Euro Disney the centerpiece of their trip. They would have spent a day or two at Disney and then traveled to other places for the rest of the week. It been a better fit to a more typical European vacation pattern.

    But no European travels to Paris for a vacation. A park in that region would have to act more like Disneyland – a large local attendance base supplemented by tourists. Euro Disney had far too many hotels for that and is too poorly located as well. Close enough to Paris to be lost in the madness and too far to be a true part of city.

    The French also have very different vacation patterns that Americans or the rest of the civilized world. A French vacation is three to four weeks long. That’s hard to do on Disney hotel prices. The concept of a “long weekend” didn’t exist at the time. Again, when you have to pay for a month long vacation, you cut costs for your other travels. No one went anywhere during the week. And on the weekend, trips happened on Sunday and Sunday alone. Such huge shifts in attendance really hurts a park financially – the teacups all the time, not just during the one heavy day a week.

    So Euro Disney ended up a destination resort in a place that was no one’s destination and priced for an American long weekend trip in a place where no one took long weekends.

    Lastly, the Strategic Planning groups was Eisner’s thug squad. It was his way of having day-to-day control over the business units rather than having to rely on his direct reports (because they were rivals – like Jeffrey Katzenberg). Iger had been on the blunt end of that arrangement for a long time. No doubt removing that group was far more personal in nature than it was managerial.

  • RO93461

    Regarding the fascination with the Circus mentioned earlier. Walt loved the Circus and wished he had run away to join it. Herb Ryman said that was Walt admired Emmet Kelly more than anyone else and was proudest touring him around the studio. Kelly had wanted to become an animator so they mutually admired each other. Herbie had lots of Circus stories and Walt was even jealous that Herb had traveled with Ringling one year himself.

    BTW since the day it opened, Disneyland Resort Paris has been the number one most visited tourist attraction/destination in European history, the Eiffel Tour only gets like a million a year. The frugal spending habits of European tourists did not even closely match the inflated expectations of what the company expected them to drop on retail. the costs of Employee labor and the ability to get them to and from work when the trains ran short shifts also played into the equation. When you add that to 5000 empty hotel rooms it drags the park down. My point in all this is that as much as we’d like to hear an elegant reason something failed like someone’s ego, it is really not that simple at all. I’m not even saying that there is not truth in all the great posts here, but the situation is complex and there are failings in many areas. If I was to simplify it all it would be to say that the project as a whole was developed in a business vacuum that led to may flawed assumptions that when things went afoul were adjusted to assume more and more return until they were no longer credible even in the most optimistic climate. Compromises were made to please unions, the government and all kinds of interests that had to be served to make the park happen. As someone on the front lines, toward the end, budget was not even the first concern, it was time, getting the park open by Avril 12th.

    For those who thought the Imagineers spent recklessly, here’s an interesting point. No producer of any land could spend more than $5k over any budgeted line item without senior approval from the top project manager. We did this weekly. That is a tight noose when our overall responsibility is hundreds of millions. I told Michael Eisner this fact once when he chided me of being reckless with budget. He was truly surprised.

  • Mark W

    So I just realized that RO93461 is Eddie Sotto and now I read some of my past comments on this post in horror. Apparently sometimes I don’t know what I’m talking about at all. Apologies to Mr. Sotto for contradicting you when you’re obviously a heck of a lot more knowledgeable on all of this than anyone else on this blog. And thanks to Mr. Sotto for your amazing work at WDI and continuing to engage the fan community! As someone who is working towards the goal of a career with WDI you are an inspiration!

  • RO93461

    I have been outside the mouse now for more than a decade, so I’m bound to be mistaken or recall something backwards. Feel free to throw in your opposing views. Thanks for the very kind words, but I’m just another fan now!

    Eddie

  • Mark W

    This is totally off topic from the original thread, but one other thing I just wanted to thank you for specifically, Mr. Sotto, while I have the opportunity, is the arcades on either side of the DLP main street – pure genius. It’s one of those details that seems so obvious when it’s present, but few would have thought of it if it weren’t already there – IMHO that’s one of the hallmarks of great Imagineering. It’s the next logical evolution from the 100%-connected-stores on the left side of WDW’s Main Street, and it provides the same benefits as the covered World Bazaar without completely changing the tone and feel of Main Street. And as one who visited DLP during a very rainy stretch (which apparently happens often there), those benefits were much appreciated!

    Also, it may be of interest to you (and others on the blog) that while I was there I ran into John Lasseter and he had very high praise for DLP’s Main Street. My brother actually spotted him in the Main St train station (not too difficult – an American in a Hawaiian shirt and Ratatouille ball cap will kind of stand out in DLP). We ran onto the train to get a seat right behind him and rode the train 3/4 of the way around the park with him. It was the summer of 2007 and he was there for the Ratatouille premiere as well as celebrating his son’s high school graduation. He talked with us the whole time (“Oh good! I was hoping to find some English speaking guests!”) about a range of subjects, but at first he just kept commenting on how beautiful and detailed DLP’s Main Street was. (“Look at the molding on the arches! Gorgeous!”) I was shocked to find this out, but apparently it was his first time at DLP.

    Most surprising was to hear him talk about the fact that Imagineering had gone through a “dark period” where “no major projects were being greenlit” but that that was over now. It was also great to hear his thoughts on the wand (“Yeah, they’re getting rid of that. Thank God.”), but on the whole, sadly, I thought I detected a measure of disdain whenever he talked about WDW. He, of course, plugged the Pixar-related projects above all others (DL’s new subs, the Finding Nemo musical at DAK, the Toy Story musical on the cruise). The most striking thing was how he seemed like just another fan – very down to earth and enthusiastic about the parks (“Oh my gosh you HAVE to check out Tokyo DisneySea – it’s like nothing else ever built.”). This was most apparent when he started geeking out over the fact that DLP had a Storybook Land Canal Boats. Later that night, I saw him at the Disneyland Hotel after the park had closed, still in the Hawaiian shirt and no name tags, walking around and just asking guests if their vacation was going well and they were enjoying themselves. Very cool experience.

    But anyway, just thought you might like to know that John Lasseter definitely appreciates the work you did on DLP’s Main Street :)

  • RO93461

    Thanks again for the kind words, I wish the whole team that worked on the Street could hear them! We had lots of old WB studio talent (80 yr old set designers) out of retirement on that project. Tony was behind the arcades as an weather alternative to being forced to replicate TDL’s World Bazaar. A happy accident caused in desperation because the alternative of a cacophonic terrarium of a Victorian mashup was on the table. Tony just moved the weather issue behind the street. There is the Burlington Arcade in Pasadena, a replica of the one in London. That was the first model. I had to find a conceit to make them appropriate to the stylistic nature of what we were doing. Arcades are not typically American and few examples exist so it was based on European sources and tough to give them the right feel. So color, scale and content was the way to do that. Europeans will not connect that they are not in abundance here, just if it fits or not. What they are about dominates what they are perceived as. Budget was an issue as well, so they are modular in design in that they are a series of repeated 20 foot modules of design. The Gas lighting was a response to Michael Eisner’s desire to make the experience feel warm in the winter. It’s hard to beat 80 gas flames. There are doors on the Arcades because Eisner was actually afraid that the arcades were “too good ” and that guests would miss out on the Street itself and not have the shared experience of walking down Main Street. He wanted them locked in the summer. This of course, was never a problem.

    I’m glad John liked Main Street, it has lots of hard core fanboi drawn into it.

  • [...] one of those very rare times when Walt himself was starstruck. As Eddie Sotto said in a recent comment [...]

Leave a Reply