When Disney+ launched, it did so with an absolutely epic documentary series in The Imagineering Story. It took a closer look at the creation of the various Disney theme parks and all that went into making them a reality. After watching the series, however, the first thought I had was that many of these attractions could have justified an entire episode of their own, so much went into creating them. Now, with Behind the Attraction, a new documentary series co-produced by "Skipper" Dwayne Johnson, we have exactly that.
The 10 episodes of Behind the Attraction dive into some of the most popular attractions ever created for Disney Parks, but what's possibly the most interesting about the show, and what makes it the most different from The Imagineering Story is the tone of the series. While Leslie Iwerks documentary series had a very serious tone to it, Behind the Attraction is full of jokes, and many of them, somewhat surprisingly, are at the expense of Disney.
You might expect a series produced about part of the Walt Disney Company and airing on Disney+ to treat the parent company reverently, and there is a great deal of that, but Behind the Attraction isn't afraid to call a spade a spade and occasionally take a good natured shot at Disney when the situation calls for it. I spoke with producer Brian Volk-Weiss about the way the show takes aim at the house that Walt built, and he admitted that there were times, many times, that he received notes back from the powers that be asking that some of the jokes be removed. According to Volk-Weiss...
There were many times, not once or twice, every first cut we sent in, we got notes that were like ‘That was funny. We laughed. Take it out.’
It's obvious from the very outset that Behind the Attraction is going to be approaching Disney parks and attractions in a somewhat different manner than you might expect. If you watch the episodes in order, the first one you'll watch tells the story of the creation of the iconic Star Tours and how George Lucas and Disney came together to create this then groundbreaking attraction. Paget Brewster, who narrates the entire series, sets the stage for the new ride by talking about how the original version of Tomorrowland kinda...sucked.
She also goes into why Disney had to look outside its own portfolio to find an appropriate movie to base the ride on, because Disney's own efforts at creating a science fiction adventure were...less than successful. And Brian Volk Weiss explained to me that, in the original draft the script, the show really went to town on The Black Hole...
An example I can give you, I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this. I am obsessed with The Black Hole, like obsessed with it. The minute I got Disney+, the first thing I ever got on Disney+ was The Black Hole. I love the movie, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of some of the challenges that the movie may or may not have. So our first cut on what I call the Star Wars episode, there was a lot of jokes about The Black Hole, like a lot. There’s this saying, again, because I’m in the comedy business, there’s a saying that comedians use that is ‘you roast the ones you love.’ And let’s just say I may have loved The Black Hole a little too much. So there was, ‘We know you love The Black Hole Brian, but the millions of people that will probably watch the show don’t know you. So they will probably not understand.’ So that’s a good example of, there’s technically two jokes left about The Black Hole.
Nobody would have been surprised if Behind the Attraction had painted every decision the company made as right, or at the very least glossed over some of the more questionable choices. And as Brian Volk-Weiss, points out, it was all done out of love. He, like so many others involved in the new show, is clearly a fan of Disney, especially the theme parks. But we should all be willing to laugh at ourselves, and Disney does that a bit in Behind the Attraction. All episodes of the new series debut on Disney+ on July 23.