It’s October, which means that it’s Walt Disney World’s birthday month. This year, of course, the resort turned thirty-nine, an anniversary mostly overlooked as Disney musters its resources to prepare to overlook the fortieth anniversary next year (“I gave her Indiana Jones Adventure, she gave me a pen.”) But maybe we can fit in a little celebration before the month is over, eh?
Usually when I post old video I try to come up with some wacky introduction, or try to convey my bewilderment at whatever horrors it contains – be it Clinkers, giant babies, or whatever. But this one has me beaten. I just don’t know what to say. Is it as spectacularly horrible as the Clinkers? Well, no… And yet… It’s very… of an era. Let’s just watch, won’t we? Meet up after the break for discussion.
See what I mean? It’s no Clinkers – at least all the awesome footage of the resort offsets the sheer confusion resulting from the musical number. But the main question has to be… why? Why the musical number? Why the creepy broad stereotypes of the terrifyingly randy mom, detached nerdlinger son, and, of course, teenage daughter out for romance? At Walt Disney World? Why would Walt Disney World want to do this to itself? Why are they meeting cowboy Eileen Brennan, and why has she apparently kidnapped a mute Asian child? And why are the Gatlin Brothers there?
Also: Michael Keaton.
Yes, it’s Kraft Salutes Walt Disney World’s 10th Anniversary, starring Dean Jones! Michele Lee! Ricky Schroder! And Dana Plato! Originally aired on January 21st, 1982, this all-singing all-awkward musical special celebrated Walt Disney World’s “Tencennial”, which ran from October 1981-82.
But as unbelievably dorky as it is, at least it’s mostly about Walt Disney World, and there’s some great footage in there of the resort. And we see the Contemporary at the peak of its power, and Fort Wilderness when it was still a distant outpost. And Pioneer Hall!
So not unbearable, right? But wait. The crazy is about to go up a notch.
Yeah, that happened. Do we think someone was having some daddy issues when they were working on this special? What was that all about? Was it really necessary to make things quite that contentious and unpleasant? That one scene where Ricky is screaming his angst in Dad’s face while Dad blissfully sings back has to be in the moment of Zen hall of fame.
So we see some uncomfortable bonding between Dean and Ricky, and a madcap musical number about shopping at Walt Disney World. Because, you know, ladies. If nothing else, it’s a fascinating look at what was being sold in Walt Disney World shops at the time and how unbelievably different it was from their offerings today. And remember – this is how Disney wanted to present themselves to the world. This is how they wanted all people to think of Walt Disney World. How different it is from the modern day campaigns centering on “dreams,” “magic,” and “memories.”
Just… draw your own conclusions.
Nice rare footage of Top of the World, though. And the proper Top of the World, too – all you Walt Disney World newbies with your DVC fetishes take note! There can be only one!
Now, part four. Featuring what has to be, without a doubt, the single strangest medley ever perpetrated on the medium of television. Try to imagine what it was like in the editing booth when they were watching this unspool before them. Or when they were out filming on location? What were they thinking? Steel yourselves.
The Dean Jones goat serenade: a classic moment in Fort Wilderness history.
And so ends our family’s trip to Walt Disney World. Young Dana found… romance? … with Michael Keaton. To this point I will only inform you that at the time of this filming she was seventeen and he was thirty. So the creeping skeeziness you felt whilst watching was not unfounded. Also, Walt Disney World was so magical that it made Ricky Schroder give up his calculator. So that’s nice. Some grad student somewhere needs to write a paper about these number-crunching OCD nebbishes that populated families in films from this era. But I digress. I just hope the Chinese kid managed to escape from Eileen Brennan and get back to his family.
Happy birthday, Walt Disney World!