Disney+. Designated the new online home for the Disney catalogue, plus (thus the name) those of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, National Geographic, and even the family-friendly(ish) elements from Fox (i.e. The Simpsons), Disney+ also offers a new original series for the company's millions of theme park fans.The Walt Disney Company today premiered its much-hyped new direct-to-consumer video streaming service,
The hour-long first episode of The Imagineering Story takes viewers through the early days of what is now known as Walt Disney Imagineering. Begun as WED Enterprises in the early 1950s, this new company of Walt's was his "sandbox" for the development of Disneyland. Long-time theme park fans probably won't learn anything new from The Imagineering Story - the history of Disneyland is well known - but even the most knowledgable fan will geek out over the visuals here. From pristine historical footage of the park's construction to rarely-seen concept art to interviews with the people who designed the park and its attractions, including Marc Davis, Mary Blair, and Bob Gurr, The Imagineering Story serves a visual treat to Disney's theme park fans.
Disney+ is not dropping all episodes of its new series at once, so you can't binge-watch the whole thing in one sitting. The first episode covers the years leading up to Walt's death in 1966, though it does reference the opening of Pirates of the Caribbean in 1967, which was designed before Walt's passing. But the episode does give us at least a glimpse of the modern, behind-the-scenes access that has kept theme park fans anticipating the show's debut ever since Disney announced that it would be part of the new service.
At 29 minutes in, Bob Gurr leads us inside the Matterhorn to see its backstage areas, including the fabled basketball hoop in the cast break area. No, it's not a full basketball court, but we get to see Bob shoot a couple baskets and even add his name to the collection of cast member signatures on the wall inside the mountain.
From there, The Imagineering Story leads us through the early triumphs of Walt Disney Imagineering, including the development of Audio Animatronics and Disney's attractions for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Throughout, the show depicts Imagineering as an almost improvisational effort — where a creative team of individuals literally makes stuff up as they go along, motivated by curiosity... and a little bit of fear, instilled by the ever-demaning Walt Disney.
Even 67 minutes is hardly enough time to tell the story of the first 15 years of Disney's role in the themed entertainment industry. There's no mention here of Harrison "Buzz" Price and the equally fascinating process of determining the locations for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Nor does The Imagineering Story acknowledge the projects that never happened, such as the Mineral King Resort. But the show does eventually acknowledge competitors in the theme park business, noting how Disneyland inspired the creation of Six Flags, SeaWorld and the Universal Studios Tour.
But it's just episode one. Directed by Leslie Iwerks, The Imagineering Story offers a compelling origin story for the Disney theme parks, illustrated with enough detail and insight to satisfy everyone from casual to dedicated theme park fans. As Disney CEO Bob Iger suggests at the beginning of the episode, this inside look into Walt Disney Imagineering really does help deepen a fan's appreciation for the work that Disney's Imagineers have done over the years.
And I can't wait to watch even more.Tweet
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