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Command considers us a bunch of losers, but we’re gonna do it right because we’re the best…

So I finally had the opportunity to catch up with the insane sci-fi musical extravaganza that is Captain EO, and it was only 25 years after it’s initial release!  I grew up in and around Orlando, FL during the 80s and I took my fair share of trips “to the World”, but my family only ever visited Epcot once which was closer to the time the park initially opened in the early half of the decade.  Since EO debuted in 1986, I completely missed it, and truthfully it’s always bummed me out.  I was a pretty big fan of Michael Jackson at the time, in particular of his short film videos like Thriller and (dare I say it) Smooth Criminal/Moonwalker (even though I didn’t care for Jackson at that point I still dug the videos.)  I’ve written before about how Thriller had a huge impact on my musical tastes as a kid, and how there seemed to be this three-year magical period where Jackson dominated my musical world.  Captain EO is the one aspect of this period that I never got a chance to experience.  Add to this the fact that George Lucas produced it with effects by ILM, and it becomes a missing link in the 80s era Lucasfilm cannon as well.  The 3-D film was pulled from the parks in the 90s, and was pretty much buried in the Disney Vault for what I thought would be eternity.  After Jackson’s death a few years ago, the House of Mouse decided to return EO to the parks for a limited engagement…

…so you can imagine that when my wife and I recently traveled back down to Disney World, Epcot and Captain EO were at the top of my “to-do” list.

Outside of the facts that the flick starred Jackson, that it was in the sci-fi genre, and was in 3-D, I went into the screening completely fresh and spoiler free hoping to get a chance to experience what it was like to see it 25 years ago.  I can honestly say that it was well worth the wait even if it was horribly dated and quite frankly kind-of all over the place…

I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but it was not what we got.  That said, I think this short film has some truly amazing stuff in it, and everything else borders on the insane so it’s anything but boring.  You can get the story synopsis on the wiki page (and you can even watch it on youtube, part 1 and part 2), so I won’t bore you with that, but I will say that ILM was completely on their game when doing the set design and production.  Between the sail-barge influenced design of EO’s ship to the utterly creepy spider-like make-up and costuming of Anjelica Houston’s Supreme Leader character, everything in the film looks like something out of the Star Wars universe without feeling like it’s been done before.  What really sold the film for me was how the Disney Imagineers worked in not only the 3-D, but also air effects and seat movement in the theater synchronized with the action onscreen.  So when Michael Jackson’s Captain karate kicks towards the audience in one of the dance numbers, it feels like the entire theater is knocked back.  I’ve always felt the passion in MJ’s dance-Ninjitsu, but I’d never actually felt it before!

I’ve been hearing rumors that EO’s engagement at the parks it pretty close to its end, so if you get a chance to hit up Epcot soon, I highly suggest taking in one of the shows.

Coincidentally, while flipping through some back issues of Billboard magazine recently I also came across a 1984 issue that was filled to the brim with congratulatory hoopla over the success of Jackson’s Thriller.  This sort of trade advertisement publicity love sort of took me aback at first.  I mean I know that a lot of people made a lot of money off of the success of Thriller, but to take out ad space to personally thank Michael Jackson for the album is a little weird.  Speaking of weird, Weird Al Yankovic and Scotti Brother’s Records were one of the groups who participated in this MJ love fest.  It’s actually kind of touching and yet another example of how nice Al is when it comes to his song parodies (though he doesn’t have to he always asks permission from the artists as a gesture of respect.)  Considering Eat It was such a big hit for Weird Al it is pretty neat to see an advertisement like this…

On the other hand you have Alfonzo Ribeiro whose management seems to be making an opportunity to try and sell their client’s first single, “Dance Baby“, with their ad…

Ribeiro was a kid, so the blatant attempt to capitalize on the festivities seems more like a ploy from his label or manager, but it’s still a little icky anyway.  Regardless, I do have to admit that Ribeiro was a pretty damn good stand-in for the King of Pop when it came to 80s sitcoms (like his time spent on Silver Spoons) and pop culture fads (like his instructional breakdancing books.)  He’s also arguably the first real child-star acolyte of Jackson (being followed closely by Emmanuel Lewis, Corey Feldman and Macaulay Culkin.)

For a truthful heartfelt thanks I have to say that the Weird Al ad beats them all, but design and subject-wise, these next two (above and below) are my favorites.  If there’s one thing that I really can’t get enough of, it’s the imagery from the Thriller video-film so I was glad to see Vestron and John Landis both step up and give MJ some creepy werewolf and zombie love…

Most of the rest of the thankful advertisements were kind of boring or weird (like Paul McCartney’s which featured him and Jackson in the sad clown make-up from their duet video), but there were a couple other’s that caught my eye for being sort of fugly.  The below MTV ad is kind of neat (what with working Jackson into the MTV logo and all), but there is a hideous amount of negative space for no good reason.  The worst offender though, is Warner Bothers and their “clapping” gloved hand.  Um, is Jackson supposed to be congratulating himself in the artwork (a word I use loosely here)?  Couldn’t they have at least hired the photographer and tiger (from the album cover) again for a second photoshoot?