It takes an unabashed interstellar freak to get frothy-excited about the infamous Michael Jackson-George Lucas sci-fi short that is 1986's Captain EO. So naturally, the folks at Disney World invited Stuck in the '80s boys Sean Daly and Steve Spears to a press screening of the 3-D flick, which was directed by none other than Francis Ford Coppola. On Friday, in a spiffed-up theater jacked with special effects and a new sound system, EO returns to Epcot after 16 years on the shelf. Herewith, Daly and Spears blast off on how EO holds up ... and how it made one of them cry.
Daly: Before we discuss the wacky space elephant - in Freddie Mercury's mesh tank top, no less - let's address the other elephant in the room: Disney is back in the Michael Jackson business again. Weird, huh?
Spears: It's not weird at all. It's beautiful.
Daly: Here we go ...
Spears:Seriously,Bitter Boy, I thought it would take decades after Jackson's death for reparations to be made to his legacy. But the clear message here - much like the message in the movie - is one of hope, of change.
Daly:I think you're overselling a bit - and apparently running for Congress - but I'll allow that Disney doesn't make a move until it jibes with general consensus. They're not being shy about the relaunch, either. They've cleaned up the original 70mm print. The theater (formerly for Honey I Shrunk the Audience in the since-renamed Imagination! Pavilion) looks fabu. They even dusted off the original EO sign for the front of the attraction.
Spears: And don't forget the full merchandise stand outside. I'm totally buying one of MJ's signature rainbow shirts.
Daly: I don't doubt that at all. But did you really like the movie? It's only 17 minutes, but I swear I was lost immediately. He drives a lil' spaceship around with critters that Lucas presumably dreamed up during a toilet break. Then MJ befriends some angry witch.
Spears: The Supreme Ruler? Look closer at her. It's the Borg Queen from 1996's Star Trek: First Contact. Resistance is futile!
Daly: I can't believe you date as much as you do. But I digress: Ultimately, EO turns into a cross between Star Wars and Xanadu. Plus, as for the 3-D, it ain't exactly Avatar, my friend.
Spears: Per usual, you're missing the point. Were you not listening to the lyrics of the main song, We Are Here to Change the World? In 1986, we believed that. Nowadays, we don't even think we can save the world.
Daly: Yep, there's another five dates for Spears. Hey, listen, I had fun. I did. I like the "rumble" seats for the action sequences. I like the tank-topped pachyderm blowing space snot into the audience. And we forget what a handsome, incandescent guy Michael was before it went bad. But the final dance routine is basically Thriller as designed by Liberace.
Spears: I'll admit that the dance borrows almost entirely from Thriller. No zombies, but not a lot of soul, either.
Daly: Just about the only thing he doesn't do is the ol' naughty-bits grab, which, frankly, could have been interesting in 3-D.
Spears: That said, the most crowd-pleasing moment is the appearance of the moonwalk. The place erupted. One woman turned to me and said, "Wasn't that fantastic? Michael's back."
Daly: Is that when you cried?
Daly: Anything else you'd like to reveal?
Spears: I once told a girl I loved her in front of the Epcot ball.
Daly: Cry on, Captain Emo.
Sean Daly can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8467. Steve Spears can be reached at tampabay.com/blogs/80s.
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How 'EO' changed the world
- The original 17-minute movie ran Sept. 12, 1986 through July 6, 1994 at Epcot Center. (It was shown at other Disney parks, as well.)
- Produced at a cost of about $1 million per minute of film, this was, minute for minute, the most expensive motion picture of all time.
- The original 3-D presentation included lasers and smoke machines, leading some filmmakers to consider this one of the first "4-D" film presentations. The new version doesn't include all of the original trickery, but chairs still "rumble" along with the action, and puffs of wet air are blown into the crowd. Young children and patrons of the Epcot tequila bar will especially enjoy the neat-o lighting effects.
- Steven Spielberg was going to direct the movie but had to cancel because of his busy schedule.