Yester Epcot at Yesterland

Captain EO

Return Engagement
Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

At the Imagination Pavilion

It’s 2010 at Yester Epcot.

As you wander around Yester Future World, you come across a surprise. Captain EO, which used to be shown here but was replaced in 1994 by Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, is back!

The Magic Eye Theater is once again showing this 3D extravaganza from 1986—a George Lucas production starring Michael Jackson and directed by Francis Coppola. You can think of it as a short science fiction movie or as a long music video.


But one thing has changed. Back on September 12, 1986, when Captain EO premiered here (and six days later at Disneyland), Michael Jackson was arguably the world’s biggest pop music superstar. Now, in 2010, he’s remembered as a former superstar who died too young at age 50 on June 25, 2009.

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Up the ramp

There don’t seem to be a lot of park guests making their way to the Magic Eye Theater.

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

FASTPASS Distribution

Oddly, there’s a canopy with FASTPASS machines. You can safely ignore them. Even on crowded days, when the park’s most popular attractions have waits of more than 100 minutes, you can usually get into the next showing.

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Entrance doors

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Warnings

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Standing sign in lobby

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Wall decor

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Plenty of room for waiting

Welcome to the spacious lobby. The auditorium has 550 seats, so the lobby has plenty of space too.

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Instructions for 3D glasses

Before you enter the auditorium, watch the pre-show. The Captain EO logo is rotating on video screens. A woman’s voice explains, “Almost 25 years ago, the power of music, dance, and imagination came together to create an amazing, out-of-this-world adventure. Now, Captain EO is back to change the world again. And here, to begin our adventure, is the original film prelude.” A five-minute video follows, with “backstage clips” of the making of Captain EO.

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

© Disney

Michael Jackson as Captain EO

When the doors to the auditorium open, take a seat and put on your 3D glasses. Twin 70mm polarized projectors fill the giant movie screen with 3D images of Michael Jackson as Captain EO, Anjelica Huston as “The Supreme Leader,” Dick Shawn as Commander Bog, and various supporting players and dancers populating the spacecraft and planet.

Remember the warning sign about a loud musical soundtrack? They weren’t kidding!

If you saw Captain EO in its original run, you might remember lasers, smoke, and a starfield. In the 2010 version, you get in-theater effects based on the modifications made to the auditorium for Honey, I Shrunk the Audience instead—primarily the floor shaking. Hey, it’s still “4D.”

Even though it’s 2010, this show takes you back in time to the 1980s. You might leave the show singing, “We are here to change the world!”

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Merchandise kiosk

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

T-shirts

This facility opened in 1982, before many shows and attractions exited directly toward gift shops. But don’t worry. There’s a kiosk where you can spend your money on EO merch.


The Magic Eye Theater at Future World’s Imagination pavilion opened October 1, 1982, as one of the original attractions of EPCOT Center. It shared the pavilion with the original ImageWorks. They were joined by the original Journey Into Imagination ride on March 5, 1983.

Using what was groundbreaking 3D film technology in 1982, the Magic Eye Theater has hosted four major attractions featuring three films:

  • Magic Journeys - October 1, 1982 to February 9, 1986
  • Captain EO - September 12, 1986 to July 6, 1994
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Audience - November 21, 1994 to May 9, 2010
  • Captain EO - July 2, 2010 to December 6, 2015

In addition, the Magic Eye Theater has been used for temporary movie previews for Inside Out and Tomorrowland (2015).

The final showing of Captain EO at Epcot was December 6, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. At what had been a sparsely visited attraction, 539 guests showed up for the final show. With the auditorium’s 550-seat capacity, it was essentially a full house, but nobody had to be turned away.

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Replacement for Captain EO

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Short Film Festival entrance doors

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Warnings

Disney’s 3D film projection was amazing in the 1980s—a huge improvement over earlier attempts to put three-dimensional moving images on a movie screen. 3D at the Magic Eye Theater was an excellent theme park novelty.

Since that time, superior digital 3D projection has become commonplace. Disney’s animated Meet the Robinsons (2007) used digital 3D brilliantly—and it only required a trip to a specially-equipped local movieplex, not to a Disney theme park. But it was James Cameron’s box-office smash Avatar (2009) that was the right 3D movie at the right time. Avatar lacked memorable characters or a compelling plot, and it dragged on for way too long, but its best scenes were visually stunning to audiences just discovering 3D (and not yet tired of it).

3D was no longer a theme park novelty and Captain EO had overstayed its return. So what should Disney do with the Magic Eye Theater at Epcot? The park desperately needed fresh attractions. In fact, with Maelstrom closed and Soarin’ closing for a lengthy refurbishment beginning January 4, 2016, Epcot desperately needed any attractions that guests would enjoy.

On November 13, 2015, the Disney Parks Blog announced that Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival would debut at Epcot’s Magic Eye Theater on December 18, 2015, and would provide “a new 4D experience.” Considering that Captain EO would run through December 6, it was an ambitious goal to convert so quickly. But with Christmas-New Year’s week crowds looming, it made sense.

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Standing lobby sign

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

In 3D, on the big screen

Unfortunately, Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival was not ready to open its doors on December 18—but guests were told it would open “any day.” That day turned out to be December 23, 2015.

The signs were up on the outside. The standing sign in the lobby announced the first three films of the “festival”; and the wall decor was updated—both visible through the glass doors.

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

© Disney

“Get a Horse!” (2013), Walt Disney Animation Studios

Many people have already seen “Get a Horse!” because it was in movie theaters in front of Disney’s Frozen. The film begins as a black-and-white cartoon that Walt Disney might have made in the 1920s, but then cleverly goes outside the boundaries of that cartoon with color CGI animation.

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

© Disney/Pixar

For the Birds (2000), Pixar Animation Studios

Originally released theatrically with Disney/Pixar’s Monsters, Inc in 2001, For the Birds was converted into 3D in 2012 for the 3D rerelease of Monsters, Inc. For The Birds won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2001. (All three films were nominated.)

Captain EO and Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

© Disney/Pixar

La Luna (2011), Pixar Animation Studios

La Luna was shown in movie theaters with Disney/Pixar’s Brave in 2012. It’s a gorgeous work of art.

It remains to be seen if “festival” means these are just the first three films and will be changed out regularly—or if these three will have an extended run—just like the “limited engagement” of Captain EO from 2010 to 2015.


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Updated March 31, 2017.