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"We are here to change the world..."
1986 was a good year. Disney had recently acquired a new president, Michael Eisner, who was bursting with ideas to revitalize the company's flagging animation and theme park divisions. George Lucas was still riding high on the success of the Star Wars trilogy. And Michael Jackson was firmly enthroned as the King of Pop, the biggest star in the world and possibly the most famous person in history. So the three entertainment giants, plus director Francis Ford Coppola, teamed up in order to capitalize on one another's success, and created the 17-minute 3D Movie Captain EO for exclusive release at the Disney Theme Parks.
Jackson portrays the eponymous captain, leader of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits including the robotic security officer Major Domo, hairy two-headed navigator(s) Idee and Odee, elephantine slob Hooter, and Fuzzball, a flying...thing...resembling a cross between a rat, a monkey, and a butterfly. The bumbling crew is just one mistake away from being drummed out of their (unspecified) organization, so for some reason they have been assigned a diplomatic mission of the utmost importance: delivering a goodwill gift to the Supreme Leader (Anjelica Huston, who won an Oscar for Prizzi's Honor not long before this premiered) of a dismal planet. Upon landing, they are captured and dragged before the Borg Queen-esque Supreme Leader, who orders EO imprisoned and tortured for the intrusion. At the last second, he and the crew manage to produce the gift...a song and dance performance that literally changes the world.
The film played at Disneyland and EPCOT Center from 1986 until the mid-Nineties. The overseas parks took a little longer to get it, but it did successfully run at the Tokyo and Paris complexes. While allegations of child abuse had begun to taint Jackson's reputation by the time it closed in the U.S., it was more advances in theme park technology and the march of time (style-wise) that led it to be put to pasture. However, with the singer's death -- and children of The Eighties reaching an age to be nostalgic about their childhoods -- Captain EO is once again playing at Disneyland (as "Captain EO Tribute"), Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Epcot as well, making it possibly the only Disney Theme Parks attraction to replace the attraction that replaced it initially.
(By the by...George Lucas collaborating with a notable filmmaker and an internationally-renowned musician on a creature-filled fantasy project...bet he couldn't do that twice in one year, or could he?)
Tropes appearing in this work:
- Beautiful All Along: It's Anjelica Huston. How could she be anything else after EO works his powers on her?
- Big Eater: Hooter.
- Extreme Omnivore: He ate the map.
- Camp: At least in retrospect. At the time, those costumes and hairdos were considered very stylish.
- The Captain: EO himself.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: The state of the Supreme Leader's planet after EO works his magic.
- Disco Tech
- Eighties Hair: Another one of Captain EO's boundless gifts: bald, lifeless cyborgs are turned into mulleted dancers straight out of Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (no, really).
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: Captain EO has the power to generate rainbows that literally make everything better.
- Femme Fatalons: in 3D, right in your face.
- Fridge Horror / Designated Hero: Hang on... so the plot is EO and crew visiting an alien world, confronting its (apparently) rightful ruler, and using mysterious powers to brainwash and mutate the inhabitants against their will? And these are our heroes?
- God Save Us From the Queen: The Supreme Leader.
- Huge Holographic Head: Commander Bog.
- Incoming Ham: SILENCE!... INFIDELS!
- Large Ham: The Supreme Leader doesn't speak a single line without hissing it while Milking the Giant Cow. Commander Bog, on the other side of the moral line, manages to ham it up without anything below the collar.
- Meaningful Name: EO is so named to evoke the Greek root word meaning "dawn".
- Milking the Giant Cow: Clack-clack-clack go the Queen's claws.
- The Power of Rock: Channeled into beams of light that Captain EO fires out of his hands.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The opening narration refers to them as "A rag-tag band lead by the infamous Captain EO."
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Fuzzball.
- Whip It Good: The aptly named Whip Warriors.
- X Meets Y: Everything in Captain EO can be expressed by the addition of something from Star Wars (understandable, given the creator) with something else (often from The Muppets):
- EO himself: Lando Calrissian + Michael Jackson
- The Supreme Leader: Bib Fortuna + the Borg Queen
- Hooter = Max Rebo + Gonzo
- Major Domo = C-3PO + Sam Eagle
- Fuzzball = Ewoks + Waldo C. Graphic, as seen in fellow Disney Theme Parks 3D film Muppet*Vision 3D
- EO's Ship = The Millenium Falcon + The Swinetrek, the ship from Pigs In Space