What do you get when you splice together Disney, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and Michael Jackson in a petri dish? Just the most far-out Thriller-meets-Star Wars movie ever.
It's hard to imagine, but Disney’s financial situation was not so magical once upon a time. The company known for making fairy tales come true was facing its villains in the mid-‘80s. The parks needed a new attraction—something that could captivate audiences with an almost supernatural power. This out-of-this-world sci-fi film was exactly what it needed to blast off into another galaxy.
Captain Eo landed in Disneyland and Walt Disney World in otherworldly 4D. That means you wore 3D glasses while in-theater special effects like fog and lasers launched you into outer space.
Michael Jackson’s spaceship is obviously not going to be like any other spaceship, but you knew that. His crewmates are also not going to be your typical astronauts, and you also knew that. You can see some wacky Lucas influence here because it seems almost like the Island of Misfit Star Wars Aliens. Think the Flying Fuzzball, which is essentially a cat with butterfly wings, Hooter, whose main superpower is smashing into everything, Major Domo, the robot whose name is an obvious Styx tribute, and the hairy, fast-talking Idey and Odey, quite possibly the two-headed answer to Chewbacca.
The spaceship almost crashing and turning into space junk is the least of this motley crew’s problems. Michael Jackson has to save the universe. If anyone can make an evil alien queen back off, it’s the King of Pop, especially when pulling off unreal dance movies in a futuristic all-white space suit that lights up. Don’t tell me you won’t have We are Here to Change the World or Another Part of You (and predictably both) swirling in your head after watching this. Just in case that isn’t enough to defeat the forces of darkness, he can also fire laser beams from his hands.
By the way, the Imagineers wanted to make the castle of said alien queen (played by future Morticia Addams Anjelica Huston) because they felt children actually wanted to be scared. They finally got me.
More powers that made this epic adventure possible were the costume designer from CATS, the makeup artist from the Thriller video (obviously), the choreographer of Flashdance (bet you didn’t see that one coming), the visual effects artist who brought Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back to Earth and the creature designer from Ghostbusters. You can already tell this is way over budget. Did I mention the score is by incomparable Braveheart, Titanic, and Avatar composer James Horner?
When brainstorming for an attraction that would take audiences into another dimension, Jackson was originally vying to play an equally shiny Peter Pan who would sing an evil fairy to death. I would have paid extra to see that.
Captain Eo may have gone the way of a supernova, but even in the era of advanced SFX and CGI everything, it still shines brightly in the sky of ‘80s obscurities.