The answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up,” would have been Disney Imagineer, had I truly known what that was before I had grown up.
I am a kid at heart and one of my favourite ways to embrace that is with a trip to Walt Disney World. I had my honeymoon there. I teared up as I brought my daughter there for the first time and the shuttle driver of the Magic Express gave us a countdown until we were officially on Disney property.
My latest trip to the park was meant to be my son’s first, but sadly, a pandemic had other things in mind and Walt Disney World was closed one week before our vacation was to begin. Despite our disappointment, Disney has found a way to quell my longing to return to the park and many of my favourite rides with their new show, Behind the Attraction.
The documentary series takes you on a behind the scenes tour of Disney Parks, each episode focusing on one specific attraction. You get the chance to learn the entire history of Star Tours, It’s a Small World, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Space Mountain and more of your favourite things to see and do, no matter which park you are visiting in the world. Best of all, you get to learn about them from the people behind creating the attractions.
Executive Produced by Dwayne Johnson…Yes, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and narrated by Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds, Community, Ducktales), the episodes have a fun, quick pace reminiscent of Netflix’s The Toys that Made Us. The pace, however, does not mean that the show is light on information. Each episode of Behind the Attraction is packed with trivia and stories that most people could never have imagined (or imagineered?).
You can learn about the voice actor behind the pilot of the original Star Tours, the Disney rides that didn’t originate in a Disney Park. Why is Aurora’s Castle in Disneyland so short compared to the others? How many versions of Space Mountain are there? You can learn about all of these and so much more.
The ten episodes cover the classic attractions Star Tours, It’s a Small World, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the iconic Disney Castles, Space Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, The Hall of Presidents, Jungle Cruise, the Disneyland Hotel and their system of trains, trams and monorails. This is only the tip of the iceberg, though, as the Disney Parks are swarming with attractions that could get this treatment for future seasons of Behind the Attraction.
My favourite part about the Behind the Attraction, though, is that it puts the brilliant minds behind the parks in the spotlight, making Imagineers the stars. You can watch the evolution from Walt Disney’s original imagineers, the Nine Old Men, to a diverse group of designers, engineers, architects and more that make up the group today.
While a Disney documentary series may feel on the surface like they would create a show where they paint themselves in the best light, or just utilize the episodes as forty-minute commercials for the parks, they actually do a good job at including the mistakes, the unpopular choices and flat out failures on the part of Disney’s team in developing the attractions.
You can hear all about how the company bit off more that they can chew, costing a major delay to the Haunted Mansion and upsetting actress Joan Crawford in the process, One man’s struggle to launch both Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the revamped Guardians of the Galaxy version of the Tower of Terror on the same day and how they compensated for all the pollution in China in the design of their park.
When looking at the lineup of episodes, I will be honest. I was more excited about some episodes than others. Star Tours and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror piqued my interest immediately. The Disneyland Hotel and the Castles? Not so much. Where the show really succeeds is taking those “not so much” episodes and turning them into “I’m glad I watched that” episodes.
All in all, Behind the Attraction is a well-produced, entertaining look at something from a point of view that we’ve never seen before. Take the time to give this a watch, if not to learn something about the parks, then to pay tribute to the men and women behind bringing them to life.
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