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|Kevin Krock, editor|
I'll admit it. My existence was a few years late for the 1964 World's Fair, but its sheer magnitude and grandiose scope have fascinated me for years. Additionally, being a life-long Disney theme park fan, I have a pretty good appreciation of the impact this fair had on the history of one of the world's favorite theme parks: Disneyland.
So, when I saw that a documentary on the 1964 World's Fair had been transferred to DVD, I started thinking about all of the cool historical stuff that could be put together on a DVD. The thing that I hadn't thought about was the limited resources that would be spent by a company on transferring a fairly limited-audience release like this. Overall, I think the subject matter has a lot more potential than what is conveyed on this disc, but what is provided is pretty fascinating.
The documentary, narrated by Judd Hirsch (of Taxi fame), follows the history of this fair from the planning stages through its eventual demise in 1966. There is a lot of interesting corporate-provided historical film and home movies that provide a great picture of what it was like to be at the fair. Interspersed among the visuals are interviews with a number of people that frequented the fair while it was open, and these help to fill in the interesting personal aspects of the fair. Who would have thought that a Belgian waffle would make such an impact?! I guess I had to have been there...
The one problem I had with the documentary was with its coverage of Disney's contributions. As I looked over the chapter titles, I was happy to see one called, "The Disney Touch," but when I eventually got to that chapter, I was sorely disappointed. Of the 52 minutes that this documentary runs, only one is dedicated to Disney's impact on the fair, and it pretty much comes down to a recollection about "it's a small world." Nothing about the Mr. Lincoln audio- animatronic. Nothing about the Carousel of Progress. Not much on the Ford Motors pavilion, but just recollections about the cars. Nothing about the creative development of the attractions. Nothing about the ground breaking technology. Granted, the Walt Disney Company did not apparently contribute any background film or information to the film's producers in 1996, so they were probably limited in what Disney material they could access or use. Either way, I thought this otherwise very interesting documentary really shorted one of the major creative and technical contributors to the 1964 World's Fair.
None, and I had really hoped for some! As I mentioned, the potential of the subject matter just screams for the DVD format. I was thinking about something like an interactive map or video tour that had some details about the individual pavilions or additional pavilion specific video. It's hard to say how much of this material is available now, but I think it would have made a great historical reference if they were included. Unfortunately, the lack of any extra material was a disappointment.
The Video, Audio and Interface...
Again, not much to say here. This video was originally developed for public television back in 1996, so it was never really intended as eye and ear candy. The full-frame video is standard TV quality, but keep in mind that much of the show is historical movie footage with scratches and imperfections.
The audio is primarily Judd Hirsch's narration with several interviews throughout the show, so the stereo soundtrack is all that's necessary. Finally, the only interface to speak of is the single chapter selection menu, and that's it - you can't get much more simple than that!
The Final Evaluation...
This disc seemed to have a lot of potential on paper and in my mind, but the unfortunate truth is that it falls a bit short. For Disney fans, there's a very disappointing amount of information on the attractions that Disney Imagineering designed. For DVD format fans, the disc is about as minimal as you can get, and the lack of additional material is a disappointment.
However, for history buffs or those interested in World's Fairs, the content of the documentary is very interesting, and the disc shouldn't be completely discounted for its shortcomings. If you can find it through a rental outlet, it's worth checking out.
Visit our gallery of Bruce Graebner's 1964 World's Fair photos
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