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The Imagineering Story (2019)

Josh Reviews The Imagineering Story

I loved every minute of this six-part Disney+ documentary series, exploring the history of Disney’s theme-parks and their rides.  The series was directed by Leslie Iwerks, who is the daughter of Disney Imagineer Don Iwerks and the granddaughter of Ub Iwerks, who co-created Mickey Mouse.  So she knows a bit about Disney!  Yes, of course this is a pro-Disney piece of propaganda.  But it is magnificent, well-earned propaganda!  The series digs deeply into the ins and outs of the different Disney parks and all of the best attractions, from the Pirates of the Caribbean to Star Tours to the Enchanted Tiki Room to Space Mountain to the Tower of Terror to Soarin’ to so many more.  Through this mini-series, we get to meet many of the talented men and women who helped create these attractions, and we learn many of the secrets of the parks and their history.

Episode one detains the almost-insane, unbelievable effort and expense of building the first Disney theme park, Disneyland in California.  What an extraordinary vision Walt Disney had!  It’s really quite amazing.  We get to see incredible footage of the park’s 1955 opening, and then we see additions and enhancements to the parks made in the following years, which established the concept that the Disney parks would always be changing and updating.  We see the 1959 Tomorrowland redesign, the construction of the Matterhorn (the park’s first thrill ride), the redesign of the jungle cruise that added humor to the ride, and the addition of the monorail.  I loved getting to see insights into the building of iconic Disney rides the Carousel of Progress, It’s a Small World, and Pirates of the Caribbean.  The episode ends with Walt Disney’s death at the age of 65 in 1966.  It’s heartbreaking to see how sad so many of Walt’s co-workers are — even in the interviews done in recent years — regarding his death.

Episode two explores the making of the Haunted Mansion, giving some very cool glimpses into how the ghost illusions are made.  We get to see the opening of Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971, the first (but far from the last) expansion of the Disney theme park empire.  I loved the tour we got of the secret underground city beneath Walt Disney World, used by cast-members and employees.  I really dug the exploration of EPCOT (still my favorite of the Disney parks!), and how Walt Disney’s idea for an actual sustainable modern city morphed into an educational theme park.  I was delighted to learn that Ray Bradbury wrote the original script for Spaceship Earth.  And it was cool to see the development of the circle-rama technology used in some of the EPCOT … [continued]