Starlog Archives: Into the Third Dimension With Captain Eo

Thirty years ago, the biggest producer in Hollywood teamed with a legendary director, a pop icon and the industry leader in family entertainment to develop the most expensive movie ever made (in terms of cost per minute).  In 1986, it didn’t get much bigger than George Lucas, Michael Jackson and Francis Ford Coppola working hand in hand with Disney.  They made Captain Eo, a 3-D music video that would show in Disney theme parks for a decade.  In 2010, following the death of its star, Captain Eo played a return engagement.  Despite questionable quality, Captain Eo endures.

At the time of its debut, Starlog ran an extensive cover story on the new attraction in their quarterly Cinemagic Magazine.  If you ever wanted an in depth look at Captain Eo, this is it.



Posted on October 12, 2016, in Starlog Archives and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I should probably YouTube Captain Eo, as I’ve never seen this before. Still, I think I took for granted back then just how huge this was back then: Michael Jackson, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and of course Disney were all huge names in entertainment in 1986, so the idea that you had this collaboration between the four back then almost should not exist.

    I get the feeling that even if I watch it on YouTube now, 30 years later I’ve probably missed the boat and won’t get what made it special for it’s time. But I’m gonna check it out anyway.


  2. Here you go. It’s super cheesy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


  3. To think…. in 1986 you had the creators behind Thriller, Star Wars, Godfather and Disney all collaborating here. This should have been an instant classic for the ages.

    Watching it now for the first time, I’m surprised to see how mundane it is. The special effects were impressive for its time, sure, and you can tell they spent a pretty penny on production. But like you said Lebeau, it’s super cheesy. There’s just nothing to hang your hat on here.


    • To be fair, the 3-D (which was a novelty at the time) and in-house effects added something to the experience. But basically you have an extended music video that desperately wants to be Thriller, but isn’t. Instead of playing to the strengths of its creators, Captain Eo showcases their combined weaknesses. But it was pretty cool when Angelica Huston descended from the ceiling in 3-D. And the songs are catchy if not among Jackson’s best. I can see why some people have allowed nostalgia to color their view of Captain Eo. It’s a big hunk of 80’s cheese which isn’t inherently a bad thing.


  4. I’m sure that if 30 years ago I had taken a trip to Disneyland to see Captain EO, for the spectacle that it offered (back then only a couple films a year would offer big-time special effects and production of this caliber, I have to remind myself) I probably would have been impressed.

    But watching it now for the first time I’m well aware that it just didn’t age well.


    • I saw it for the first time in Epcot in 1988. I was 17 at the time and overall I was in awe of the place. I had seen some coverage of Captain Eo on TV that mirrored the “This is going to be EPIC!!” tone of today’s Starlog article, so my expectations were pretty high. When it was over, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It definitely wasn’t epic. But there had been a fog machine and laser lights in the theater. That was pretty cool. I wasn’t quite disappointed, but it was one of the less impressive things I saw that day.


  5. Okay, I am here as a huge Michael Jackson fan. Nevertheless though, I don’t believe that I’ve seen “Captain Eo” for years. I guess I have to YouTube it or look for it at my old VCR tape Before 2016 is over, to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Yes, of course it is cheesy. Then again, it was only meant to be a short attraction on Disneyland. And it was always meant to be more about the special effects than about the story. If you want to see MJ at his best as an actor, check out “The Wiz”, the long version of the “Bad” music video and “Ghosts”.


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