Well, not exactly.
I know that we here at the ProgressDrome can be a little hard on Disney’s output these days. Too often are their televised specials shallow, full of awkward forced synergy, and generally unentertaining and devoid of Disney-related content. I know, I know – we can be really picky. But despite how great Disney specials were back in Walt’s day, it doesn’t mean that the rest of Disney televised history was a golden age.
We’ve already documented many of the horrors of Disney television in the 1970s, from Shields and Yarnell to Pablo Cruise. When Michael Eisner arrived to make the company more “Hollywood” in 1984, the general production values of Disney’s television specials nosed up considerably. That doesn’t mean, however, that they too couldn’t be full of awkward moments that today seem as if they’d have been too cripplingly embarrassing to perform.
On December 28th, 1986, the Disney Sunday Movie aired Tiger Town, starring the great Roy Scheider, but it also featured a short presentation about Star Tours, then preparing for its grand opening at Disneyland. (This, of course, was a great affront to those of us Star Wars obsessed kids on the east coast, who would be unable to fly through the trenches of the Death Star for nearly three more years.)
While this special was shown many years before Jar-Jar Binks would arrive to darken our souls, it begins with a little number that might have been an early warning sign that all that is Lucas is not gold. I mean, look…
If you’re wondering why a preview of Star Tours would feature Gil “Buck Rogers” Gerard and a random Asian kid, it’s because of synergy! Mr. Gerard and Ernie Reyes, Jr., had starred in the made-for-TV-movie The Last Electric Knight (seriously), which had aired on the Disney Sunday Movie. This acted as a pilot for the show Sidekicks, which continued the premise of the film and ran for one season of twenty-three episodes from 1986-87. About this show I will point out two facts: Firstly, Gerard’s character was named “Sergeant Jake Rizzo”, which I find extremely amusing for no apparent reason. Secondly, Reyes’s character received advice, via flashback, in each episode from his dead grandfather and former caretaker, played by veteran character actor Keye Luke. Luke is relevant here as he portrayed ancient Chinese poet Li Bai in Epcot Center’s Circlevision 360 film, Wonders of China.
Here’s the rest of the… “special”. Note the truly hilarious legal disclaimer at the end.