1. Disney’s Captain EO Grand Opening Special – Disney had a habit of producing huge, celebrity-laden prime time television specials around events happening at their theme parks. Any park’s opening got a special, and big name rides like Splash Mountain got them, too. They’re all amazing, every last one. They’re the perfect balance of cringe and glitz, trying to appeal to everybody in the living room and in doing so failing to really be anything. There’s no better example of this than their 1986 special around the mega-blockbuster 3D movie created just to play at Disney parks, Captain EO.
Produced by George Lucas, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Michael Jackson, and featuring a movie theater tailor-made for that movie specifically, the event was definitely special-worthy. The thing is, they didn’t really have anything to say about it that I didn’t just say just now. But they had an hour to fill, and fill it they did. The special is hosted by Justine Bateman and Patrick Duffy, and I don’t know if two hosts have ever had less chemistry.
When they’re not dogging each other’s ages, they’re blandly introducing the celebrities as they arrive to the red carpet in old timey cars. Disney spared no expense in securing the A-list for their big premiere. They also invited John Stamos. Hey-oh!
While a cultural trainwreck, the special is still a great showcase of what Disney did so well in the ’80s and still does today – they blend their Hollywood power with their real-world theme-parks in a way that makes you feel like you’re really missing out if you weren’t there. I can bag on this in 2015 but the 1986 me would have eaten this up and asked for more. Watch it for yourself!
Unrelated, but relevant: This poster. Amazing.
2. Mr. Mystery – Here’s an ad for a set of (what were then) really cool books from the ’80s that used a pen with ‘magic ink’ to reveal hidden text. Mr. Mystery and Yes & Know books were the ultimate back-seat road trip timekillers.
3. Pac-Man VItamins – Flintstone vitamins ruled the roost for kids of the 1960s and 70s. Until Pac-Man vitamins came on the scene in the ’80s to take a little wind out of the Flintstones’ sails. They didn’t succeed, which actually kind of surprises me.
4. Tidy up at Night – An adorable 1960s UK Public Information Piece about unplugging and tidying up your house at night to avoid a COMPLETE INFERNO.
5. RadioVision – Finally, Radio Times’ vision of what a visual radio might look like. Close!