I was invited to the virtual press conference for “Behind the Attraction”, which debuts on Disney+ with the first five episodes on July 21st, 2021. The event was hosted by D23’s Jeffrey’s Epstein and featured producer and director Brian Volk-Weiss along with Imagineers Janette Lamboy, Mark LaVine, Vanessa Hunt and Dave Durham. (My review of the show is here).
Jeffrey’s first question to Brian Volk-Weiss: “Can you give us the one sentence pitch that you feel best describes the show?” Volk-Weiss emphasized the entertainment aspect of the show. “It’s a fun show that first and foremost is designed to entertain. But hopefully when it’s over and not to use a dirty word with the starts with an L, but you might have learned something.”
He continued later on that same topic, “What we try to do is we try to really get into the the fun. We went away a little bit from the history and the protocols of building these attractions and just really went for these fun nuggets that either helped build the pop culture that we live in now or a part of what’s coming that is allowing Disney to continue to have such a big voice in the culture. “
The four Imagineers introduced themselves. Lomboy most recently helped open Avengers Campus, but she considers Aulani her baby. LaVine worked on Pandora (as did Lomboy) and more. Durham has worked on a variety of attractions including Indiana Jones and Star Tours. Hunt is part of the Walt Disney Imagineering art collection team, and of course she has authored a number of books for Disney Publishing.
The Imagineers were asked what attraction they’d have wanted to work on that they didn’t (whether because the attraction wasn’t in existence when they were at Disney or they were busy with another project). Lomboy answered, “‘it’s a small world”. When she was a little girl – being Filipino and seeing a Filipino doll – “I was like, you’re speaking to me. And Mary Blair is a legend in my book, we all look up to her”. Hunt agreed with Lomboy on Mary Blair, and went more general in that she’d have waited to be able to work with Blair, Rolly Crump and Marc Davis. “I want to talk to Mary about all her artwork you see behind me”. Durham would have wanted to work on the Walt Disney World Space Mountain. “Such an iconic shape, it’s such a cool idea to put…two roller coasters inside a building and then use it as a show space with stars and effects”. LaVine went with The Haunted Mansion. “Claude Coats, Marc Davis. Walt had the idea but he didn’t live to see it through”.
Volk-Weiss said about co-executive producer Dwayne Johnson, “I would say he loves Disney as much as anybody on this press conference. Like, he gets it, he’s into it. He’s been going to it forever.
Jeffrey asked Volk-Weiss about the pace and tone of the show. “Can you talk about how the tone was chosen and how you were able to incorporate it and for the various rides?” Volk-Weiss answered that his background is comedy. “I would say the first half of my career was ninety-nine percent comedy”. He continued, “So we have done some other shows that have this comedic yet informationally..here’s where it comes from if I’m being honest. We did a show about five years ago called ‘The Toys That Made Us’ that I have been trying to sell for seven or eight years.” He is a documentary lover and says, “One of the things I’ve always had a problem with is docs that are dealing with fun and happy and light subjects, but treat them like, you know, it’s the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.”
“We’re making a show about toys. We’re making a show now about amusement park attractions. So why wouldn’t it be fun? And then to the self-deprecating of it all that I’m just being honest with you, that’s a style that I like and it’s a style that I trust… If you look at what amusement parks were before Walt Disney did what he did in Anaheim, it’s night and day. But it’s a show about something made by humans being watched by humans. How can you not be self-deprecating? …But that’s why we chose to do that.”
Check out my “Behind the Attraction” review here and the first five shows on Disney+ on July 21st.
From Disney on the show:
Peek beyond the magic of Disney Parks to discover what’s Behind the Attraction! From Executive Producers Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and Brian Volk-Weiss, explore how Imagineers filled the Haunted Mansion with 999 happy haunts, how the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (while defying gravity in the process) and why Space Mountain took so long to launch. From the 1950s to today, from Jungle Cruise to “it’s a small world” to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disney Parks attractions have amazed millions. And this is the story of how they did it.