"We are here to change the world..."
1986 was a good year for The Walt Disney Company if no-one else. New company president Michael Eisner wanted to revitalize the company's flagging animation and theme park divisions, while George Lucas
was still riding high on the success of the Star Wars
trilogy and Michael Jackson
was the biggest star of The Eighties
period. So three entertainment giants, plus director Francis Ford Coppola
, teamed up in order to capitalize on one another's successes, and created the 17-minute 3-D 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, robot buddy
Minor 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 one of the very few Disney Theme Parks
attractions to replace the attraction that replaced it initially.
There's also a very rare Cast Member-produced parody
, Captain Eeyore
, that's generally one big Crowning Moment of Funny
once it gets to its take on the film's final battle.
(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
Captain EO provides example of the following tropes:
- Beautiful All Along: It's Anjelica Huston. How could she be anything else after EO works his powers on her?
- Beauty Equals Goodness: As far as the human(oid) characters go, this is an extreme take on the trope — once the ugly troops are zapped with EO's rays and turn into attractive backup dancers, they pull an immediate Heel-Face Turn!
- Big Eater: Hooter
- Camp: At least in retrospect. At the time, those costumes and hairdos were considered very stylish.
- The Captain: EO himself.
- Close on Title: The short eschews an opening title in favor of a starfield, a floating rock effect, and an Opening Narration. Instead, the last big 3D effect in the film is the title spinning out of a starfield.
- Cryptic Background Reference: Apparently, the Captain and his crew really made a "mess" of their previous mission, and they have to pull this one off to avoid being "drummed out of the corps."
- Crystal Spires and Togas: The state of the Supreme Leader's planet after EO works his magic.
- Disco Tech
- '80s 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).
- Elite Mooks: Once the Queen sees Captain EO change her guards, she sends in scary robots with electric whips.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: Captain EO has the power to generate rainbows that literally make everything better.
- Extreme Omnivore: Hooter. He ate the map!
- Femme Fatalons: In 3D and right in your face.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: The Supreme Leader; she was often referred to as the "Witch-Queen" in promotional materials.
- 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.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: During the finale, Fuzzball flies out towards at the audience and says "Bye-bye" before rejoining the others.
- 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.
- Off Model: When Major Domo and Minor Domo turn into instruments, the stop-motion puppets during said sequence look nothing like the costume and puppetnote featured throughout the rest of the film (for one, Major Domo becomes a much lighter shade of blue).
- Opening Narration: Used to set up the premise.
- Paddleball Shot: Quite a few — a floating space rock, space battle debris, the Supreme Leader's claws, spears, a descending gate, etc. Also, Fuzzball flies out at the audience and lingers there for a few moments before heading back, twice.
- Parrot Pet Position: When Fuzzball isn't flying, he's usually sitting on EO's shoulder.
- 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
- Space Opera: While less than 20 minutes long, it hits a huge amount of this genre's tropes!
- Summon Backup Dancers: A subversion; rather than the dancers coming out of nowhere, EO transmutes the evil Mecha-Mooks into this.
- Whip It Good: The aptly-named Whip Warriors.