BACKSTORY: In 1986, Michael Jackson, Francis Coppola, and George Lucas collaborated on The Walt Disney Company’s “Captain EO,” a unique three dimensional narrative musical film presented by Kodak, which premiered September 19th at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. A musical space fantasy starring Michael Jackson with original songs written, produced, and sung by Jackson, “Captain EO” was directed by Coppola, executive produced by Lucas, and produced by Rusty Lemorande. “Captain EO” returned to Disneyland on February 23, 2010. From the official Disneyland site: Executive producer George Lucas and director Francis Ford Coppola changed the world when they released Captain EO in 1986. A revolutionary filming process using twin 70mm polarizing projectors and “4D” in-theater effects made it the most expensive film per minute ever produced at the time, costing an estimated $30 million and clocking in at 17 minutes. Screening in the same Tomorrowland theater in which it debuted, Captain EO now welcomes a new generation of Guests on a journey to the stars.
Beginning July 4, 2014, the Magic Eye Theater at Disneyland was used to present a sneak peek of Marvel Studios' "Guardians of the Galaxy." Although Captain EO was expected to return to the venue at a later date, beginning September 26, 2014 the theater was used instead to present a sneak peek of Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Big Hero 6." The fate of "Captain EO" at Disneyland remains uncertain, as the official Disneyland site states: Join the King of Pop on a cosmic crusade to save the day—with song and dance—in this 17-minute 3D film adventure. As part of our continuing efforts to exceed the expectations of our Guests, Captain EO is currently closed for enhancements. Please check back here for the latest updates and information about when it will reopen.
Mike Wilson and his partner Glen were in attendance for the "Captain EO" premiere at Disneyland. Although their memories of the gala are spotty ("About all we can remember is standing in line and drinking plenty of coffee. We mostly remember everyone being so happy, Disneyland of course, and the thrill of seeing the sun come up on that beautiful morning") they still have the T-Shirt that they purchased that day. You can see the front and back of the shirt here.
Former cast member Del worked on the Captain EO attraction from 1990—1997. He was kind enough to share many of his memories from that special time:
The costume. Teal colored pants and vest with a mauve shirt with a zipper front. (rather dental technician looking really.) I was allergic to the summer issue shirt fabric so I had to wear a mauve long sleeved turtleneck—not so great for Anaheim summer weather. And of course, black polished shoes and black socks. Our name badge had to be worn in the upper left hand quadrant of our costume. No other badges, pins etc. unless company issued.
The training for Capt. EO
A two day process to learn standard operating procedures, spiels and safety protocols. A seemingly simple attraction to operate, but timing was everything. Once the show was placed from the "pause" mode to "start", everything was out of our control. Doors opened and closed, curtains raised and lowered on que by computer. We had to know our lines in the spiel and recite them effortlessly on time and end as the lights inside the theater dimmed.
The "rotation" in the attraction.
Normally 7 positions including your break were all part of what is known as the attraction rotation.
Starting at the Greeter position where you welcomed guests and handed them the "Special" 3D glasses to view the show as they entered the preshow area.
The next position was the entry door location or load position. You would talk with guests, replace broken (by the guests) glasses and welcome them to the theater. As the count down monitors were showing a special film on how the movie was made you would stand on the raised platform where you would recite your entry spiel:
"Good Morning/afternoon/evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Del and I would like to welcome to The Magic Eye Theater. Capt. EO is a 3D science fiction adventure film. Parts of the film may be frightening for small children, and parts of the soundtrack are played at extremely high volume, if you are accompanying anyone under the age of seven, or anyone in your party has sensitive hearing, please exercise discretion. At this time I would like to ask my guests at the very front of the line to please stand behind the yellow line on the ground as the doors will be opening automatically toward you. Once the doors have opened and the curtains inside have raised to the top, please continue into the theater, watching your step as you enter, filling in every available seat from the far right hand side. On behalf of Kodak, Thank You for joining us today and enjoy Capt EO.
The next position was inside the theater where you would welcome guests and urge them to follow directions to fill in every seat and not stop in the center of the theater. After a few more spiels (I won't bore you with those) you would push the attraction start button on the ride panel on the wall where you said your spiels. Once that was done you would normally sit on the floor and watch for any nonsense the guests would try. Just before the show ended you would stand up at the ride panel, wait for the show to end. Recite the exit spiel, and remind everyone that the "special 3D glasses we loaned you" were to be place in the white bins located just outside the exit doors.
The next position(s) were either exit 1 or exit 2. Normally just exit 1 where you were to monitor the guests leaving the theater and politely remind them that the glasses they forgot to return (as a mistake I am sure) were to be collected by me now.
Glasses cleaning position. Once the theater was empty you would take all the used glasses in plastic bags to the glasses cleaning room back stage next to the Space Mountain building, This was a HOT as HELL steamy room where we would load very heavy stainless steel trays with exactly 62 glasses and place them on a conveyor belt of this machine that sanitized them for future guests. Load the glasses into plastic trays in busing carts and then take them to the theater office. Then get back just in time to do it all over again!
The next position was "the R360." An arcade machine that was a flight simulator located in the Starcade. This was pure hell. I hated this part but always had a huge Disneyland smile on my face as I would strap in rather large park guests into this machine that broke down a lot and made some people sick as they rode it. Yep, it was pure Disney Magic.
Last position was your break. Depending on how fast the rotation was, you could be on your break as soon as you arrived for work! Normally, each position was about 15 minutes. Attraction cast members were really spoiled and we had breaks about every hour most of the time.
Things would happen all the time like…
• Guests loosing their sun glasses in the theater and demand we stop the show to look for them…yeah, not a chance. Go to lost and found at the end of the night and dig through a pile of 'em there, pal.
• Guests with wheelchairs expecting their entire party of 60 go into the theater with them ahead of the other guests; sorry only 3 to 4 allowed with the wheelchair bound guest.
• A guest would get sick in the theater and we would go code 101 (closed until a sweeper could get there) and put pixie dust (a product called absorb, that smelled minty fresh until mixed with regurgitated park food) on it and sweep up the mess. We would have to call base (security) and tell them we were down, and then when we had to get approval to go code 102 (back to operation mode). When an attraction goes down for a long time we never gave an opening time even of we knew to stop guests from hanging around and create a crowd at the entrance to the attraction. Even though the theater was wide open we always had couples getting a little preoccupied with each other. We would ask them to leave, after pointing our flashlights at them. LOL.
I did see Michael Jackson there backstage once with his entourage. He looked taller than I expected and very pale. Every chance I got I would sign up for Guest Control for The Main Street Electrical Parade which I LOVED doing. To be out with the park guests, represengting Walt, answering questions and seeing that magical little parade was really one of the reasons I become a cast member and Capt. EO was one attraction that had enough cast members to be able to release them to do that.