Directors: Leslie Iwerks
Writers: Mark A. Catalena
Cast: Angela Bassett
‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ Air Date: 19/11/2019
The Imagineering Story is currently available to stream on Disney+ with the first two episodes available and a new one releasing every Friday.
Visiting Disneyland has always been one of those goals I know that if I achieve I’ve done something right in life. Growing up the idea of taking a holiday to a cabin two-hours away was considered a luxury, the idea of flying to another state within Australia — a once a year upper-class scenario. But I always dreamed of Disneyland as a kid. The idea of it, the concept of it. I watched home video from my Grandparents visit and gravitated quickly towards the idea of a place so magical like a moth to a flame. As an adult I still dream of visiting Disneyland — the addition of Galaxy’s Edge literally has me salivating — but what I grew interested in more so as I grew older was the history behind the park and its people. Disney as a person has always intrigued me as I grew to understand why people questioned certain company he kept, decisions he made in a film, or what led a man to create something like Disneyland? The Imagineering Story is a behind-closed-doors look at the wonder that is Disneyland, and the inside of Walt Disneys’ head as he began to plan its creation.
The Imagineering Story is focused on the group Walt called his ‘Imagineers’, a select group of minds that he put together to help create the wonders of Disneyland, but this initial episode focuses a lot on Walt himself, the head Imagineer if you will.
Walt Disney set out to make a magical one-of-a-kind amusement park in the ’50s. A safe environment for families without the dirt and grime that was apart of your typical fair. A wonderland where you could meet the Disney Productions creations as well as the Imagineers new creations. It was a massive undertaking and ended up being an-all-or-nothing commitment for Walt as he poured more and more money into the park.
The first episode of The Imagineering Story explores what drove Walt to pour so much into his park idea and the people who helped him do that as it was a deeply collaborative and creative project in many different departments.
As the first of its kind, Walt brought in animators and creative types to his team of Imagineers with a focus on bringing the same magic they did on film to real-life and the park around them.
In the first episode, you learn about the behind-the-scenes creations of key Disneyland pieces like The Pirates of The Carribean as well as the Enhanced Tiki Room. With a focus and connective fabric between these rides being the use of Audio-Animatronics, a robotic animation technology that was created by the Imagineers for a lot of Disneylands creations. The technology was later used in films as well with Julie Andrews singing a duet with herself in Mary Poppins.
The show is being narrated by Angela Bassett who I haven’t heard do a doco before and she has a great voice for it.
The episode is edited nicely too, it’s soft and doesn’t try and do any crazy montages. With an hour to work with the episode goes along at a nice pace and covers around a ten-year period ending in the mid-1960s with Walt Disney’s death.
One very awkward moment in the episode just glosses over wage strikes that happened at the park and as much as I think there’s obviously a lot to explore there and how Walt responded to those strikes is important, this is a documentary being made by Disney so it’s going to gloss over these sort of things accordingly. But the whole series isn’t about Walt, it’s about the people who made the park what is, and still work to make it what it is today.