Behind the hyped programs there is a hidden away gem of content.
The recent launch of Disney+ has been a boon for the company and, as expected, has shifted the landscape of the streaming service sector. The early numbers have shown, despite an initial day shutdown, the new digital format has been embraced by customers. The Star Wars spinoff series ‘’The Mandalorian’’ has been a hit with fans, and the rest of the catalog has delivered for die-hard Disney fans. It even has a breakout character, as the Baby Yoda portrayal has lodged itself into the culture.
Tucked away amid the flashy new offerings and the expansive catalog of classic titles is a documentary series that is more than worth the binge. ”The Imagineering Story’’ is an absorbing venture that takes us into the realm of the craftsmen behind the creations of the various theme parks. This is the group of skilled and immensely creative minds and hands that built the original dream of Walt Disney himself and became a hidden institution in the Disney corporate structure.
The series features the creation and development of each of the mainstay amusement parks, and the opening episode alone is well worth it all. Archival footage and interviews with the workers themselves opens up the amazing process that was behind the fabrication of Walt’s physical kingdom. Driven by the creative force of the namesake he formed a group of people who could marry the usually opposing forces of engineering and wild creativity.
Considering all that was desired these people had to come up with ways to both develop a vision and solve problems of physical realities. One thing you become struck by was how these creative types would face a problem and instead of saying ‘’No’’, they would ask ‘’How’’. While the debut of Disneyland was fraught with problems and ensuing bad press ultimately it was an avowed success.
The second episode concerns the expansion into Walt Disney World in Orlando, and absent the drama of opening the initial park this time you just marvel at the creative aspirations as they were assured now things could be accomplished. Listening to the workers as they describe the efforts and the joy they had in the creative process draws you into their craft.
The entire series is actually held up by the fact it does not shy away from the failings. This is not entirely a pro-Disney puff piece. Following Walt’s death, there was a period where the parks were diminished in importance and the Imagineer division was feared to be dissolved. The upswing in the 1980s, led in part by new CEO Michael Eisner, did see the reemergence of this sector in the company, but it was not all perfect.
With an amazing amount of work and detail sunk into the effort, Euro Disney was a bit of a bomb. Later, an attempt at expanding the California location with a state-centered theme park became a foregone failure. A planned Americana-themed park in the Washington D.C. area never came to fruition amid local protests. Even the episode on the creation of Orlando’s Animal Kingdom does not flinch from some of the problems and controversy that opening entailed.
It is a testament to the quality of work put into this series that audiences are recognizing the effort. Director Leslie Iwerks has done an admirable job in bringing the viewer into this very real process of fabricating dreams. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, they compiled a list of the original content on the new Disney streaming service. Ranked at the top – even ahead of the vastly popular ‘’The Mandalorian’’ sits ”The Imagineering Story’’.
Today one dozen parks are operational across the world, and watching them rise from concept boards into physical destinations is enjoyment to be sure.