Captain EO Tribute debuts at Disneyland

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

Captain EO Tribute debuts at Disneyland

Jennifer Williams and Danielle Giacoletto were determined to be among the first people to see the Captain EO Tribute at Disneyland Tuesday morning, so they grabbed their custom-decorated Captain EO t-shirts and vintage plush Captain EO toys, and drove more 6 hours from San Francisco. When they arrived in Anaheim around 3:30 a.m., the pair discovered they were not the first people in line - that honor went to Daniel Lew, who was already waiting outside Disneyland's gates before Jennifer and Danielle even left home.

Fans wait outside Disneyland to be among the first to see the Captain EO Tribute. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Danielle Giacoletto and Jennifer Williams show off their collection of vintage Captain EO plush and their handmade EO sweatshirts. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Following months of intense speculation, the Disneyland Resort confirmed last December that Captain EO would return to Tomorrowland for a "Limited Engagement" starting in February, 2010. No opening date was announced, and Disney fans and bloggers have been closely monitoring the attraction's progress. The return of EO required Disneyland to close Honey, I Shrunk the Audience and refurbish the Magic Eye Theater, a project which was reportedly delayed several times.

MousePlanet's video coverage of the Captain EO Tribute debut at Disneyland.

As soon as Disney officially confirmed the opening date for the attraction last Friday, fans started making travel plans, The chatter reached an all-time peak Monday night as fans tried to decide how early they needed to get in line to catch the first performance. Disneyland would say only that a line would form in the Esplanade for those wishing to see the 10am show, but declined to say how early guests could form that line. Some fans, like Lew, decided not to take any chances, and a handful of guests spent the night in line outside Disneyland's gates.

Victor Chupina and sister Jazmyn came dressed in Michael Jackson costumes. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Amber Frakes made her Captain EO costume, including earrings and sequined jacket. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

By 8am, the line still numbered fewer than 100 people, many sporting homemade Captain EO outfits and vintage EO souvenirs preserved from the show's opening weekend in 1986. As they waited for Disneyland to open at 10am, the waiting crowd cheered and clapped on cue for the benefit of camera crews, demonstrated their best Michael Jackson dance moves and purchased Captain EO souvenirs from the nearby gift shop.

The first people in line were interviewed repeatedly by local media, and used their phones to watch themselves on TV as the footage aired. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Several people wore their original Captain EO shirts, preserved from the 1986 premiere weekend. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Inside the park, Disney's previously announced plan had quietly changed. As the crowd that had been waiting outside Disneyland was slowly escorted into Tomorrowland, some chanting E-O! E-O! and most holding cameras and cell phones in the air to capture the scene, some lucky park visitors who had entered Disneyland an hour earlier for "Magic Morning" were already sitting inside the Magic Eye Theater for a final pre-opening test of the new show. That audience seemed shocked to be greeted by a gauntlet of reporters and camera crews as they exited the theater, and quickly dispersed into Disneyland.

Disneyland released a collection of Captain EO merchandise, some based on the 1986 souvenirs. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Fans snapped up Captain EO shirts and buttons. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

When the theater doors opened again, an estimated crowd of over 300 people, each sporting a pair of yellow 3-D glasses, poured into the theater for what the attraction hostess called the "official first show." After the audience took their seats and the media turned off their cameras, a swirling galaxy filled the theater screen, and Captain EO made his return to Disneyland. Fans cheered as each familiar character appeared on screen, erupting into wild applause several times throughout the 17-minute presentation.

Captain EO performers Renee Colette (dancer), Debbie Lee Carrington (Idy) and Gregg Sargent (dancer) attended the reopening. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Fans filed into Tomorrowland for the first "official" performance of Captain EO. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

The Captain EO line remained at 20-40 minutes throughout Tuesday. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Daniel Lew (holding camera) was the first person in line Captain EO, arriving at Disneyland at 9pm Monday evening. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

The restored show is different than the version which appeared in Disneyland from 1986-1997. While the theater boasts a new 70mm print of the film, some of the special effects were not replicated in the Tribute version. Gone is the magnificent fiber optic star field that once flanked the screen, along with the in-theater laser and smoke effects. New "4D" effects, including a shaking floor and bursts of air, were added to the Tribute version, made possible by of the equipment originally installed for Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, which replaced Captain EO in 1998.

The last few people find seats before the "official first show." Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

A customer checks out the Captain EO merchandise in Tomorrowland. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

After the show, some fans raced immediately to get back in line for another viewing, some went to do some souvenir shopping, and others left to get to work or school. After the initial crowds dispersed, the line for Captain EO remained between 20 and 40 minutes most of Tuesday afternoon. Captain EO Tribute is now open daily, with performances several times each hour. Disneyland has not said how long this "Limited Engagement" will last, but most expect the attraction to remain at least through the summer.

Imagineer Tony Baxter attended the reopening event. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

For more photos from the Captain EO Tribute debut, visit our Captain EO Gallery (link).

For additional Captain EO history, read The Untold Story of Captain EO (link) and More Untold Stories of Captain EO (link) by Wade Sampson.