Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Captain EO 2.0

Plot Synopsis

The Great-Great-Granddaughter of the original Captain EO has been trying to live up to her Grandfather's legacy her whole life. Having failed to live up to the expectations of the Corp and her family, EO abruptly resigns and takes her vessel to a remote sector of the Cosmos to live out her life, if not fulfilled, then at least in peace. Little does she know, a tiny friend has stowed away on her vessel. A former furry member of her crew named Flit.

Not having really charted a definitive course, Captain EO finds herself and Flit in a dangerous, uncharted region of the Cosmos known as the Badlands. A red, nebulous glowing cloud quickly consumes them and her ship crash lands on a desolate desert-like world with three suns.

While looking for supplies, EO stumbles upon another set of wreckage, clearly older and weathered by the harsh desert suns, and bearing a striking resemblance to her Great-Great-Grandfather's legendary starship. Upon further investigation, she finds someone has been living in the wreckage for many years; a small blue pachyderm-like creature named Captain Hooter.

Hooter, a little bit older, but just as clumsy (and hungry), immediately recognizes his former captain's progeny and begins to tell her of the ancient evil that cruelly governs the life forms of this planet. It's during the course of his story that he realizes that EO has the ability to administer the "Gift". He excitedly jumps up and runs to what looks like a scrap heap, but is actually a powered down Major Domo (and Minor Domo), a robot who is more then thrilled to meet a descendant of his old captain.

The two try in vain to convince Captain EO to go to Capital City and administer the "Gift" to the evil creature that rules this planet. But before EO can formerly say no, three shark-like creatures burrow out of the sand and capture them all, except Flit, who flies to safety.

The creature that controls the planet is an ancient, weathered old giant, that looks like he hasn't moved in thousands of years, his skin is a cross between cracked stone and centuries old tree bark. He appears to have no appendages, other then what look like large roots buried into the earth. He is essentially a mountain with allusions of a face.

The creatures speaks to the three captives in a deep, booming voice that knocks Hooter over. He accuses EO of trespassing and mistakenly believes she's been sent here by the Corp to overthrow his rule.

EO tries to explain what really happened and how she's not with the Corps anymore, but Hooter can't seem to accept what's she's said (or didn't hear her) and begins going into an awkward, but familiar, spiel about how beautiful the creature is and how he only needs the key to unlock. He then queues Major and Minor Domo, who begin transforming into a series of instruments and a beat starts playing. Hooter, who seems to be carefully watching his steps, grabs a guitar and expectantly tells EO: "Let's Go!"

EO is completely taken aback, and looks around confused and unsure what to do. She keeps telling Hooter that she can't do it. That she just doesn't have what it takes. At this point, the creature groans loudly knocking everyone and their instruments over , and more shark-like creatures rise from the ground in response to his cry. They surround EO, seize Hooter and begin trying to disassemble the Domos, who are more then a little resistant to the whole idea. It's then that EO's little friend, Flit, soars down from the rafters, making a familiar triumphant noise and sweeps up Hooter's guitar. Flit carries it up to the rafters and locks eyes with the stunned Captain EO. The look he gives her is resolute and he jams on the guitar that sends a beam of energy directly into her body. EO is, again, taken aback and regards her hand as energy dances about her fingertips. She smiles at Flit, realizing for the first time that there are people that not only depend on her, but believe in her. At this moment she's piled upon by the sand-shark guards.

Flit and the rest all gasp as EO disappears under the pile, fearing the worst. Until suddenly, a huge burst of light sends the guards flying in all directions. When the flashpoint clears, we see EO standing, legs in a wide stance, with one hand in the air and a determined, confident look on her face that we had not seen before. She turns to her "crew" and calls out in an echoing voice: "Gimme a beat!"

The opening to We Are Here to Change the World begins playing and EO begins dealing with with the returning shark guards. We are treated to a single rotating camera shot of her zapping the guards, sometime while their in mid-jump, and transforming them one-by-one into handsome male and female dancers. The dancers all gather behind her as she approaches the creature (who is clearly disturbed by the whole course of events) and thrusts her palms out to the sand all around them, blasting it with beams of radiant energy. The sand superheats and becomes a shimmering, strobing tiled glassy surface, or more accurately, dancefloor. That's when the dancing begins.

After a few seconds of synchronized dancing, EO begins her song, much to the chagrin of the clearly displeased rock creature:
In Case You Forgot
We're on a mission
In the everlasting light that shines
A revelation
Of the truth in chapters of our minds

(So long, bad times)
We're gonna shake it up and break it up
We're sharing light brighter than the sun
(Hello , good times)
We're here to simulate, eliminate
An' congregate, illuminate

(We are here to change the world)
Gonna change the world, Hee
(We are here to change the world)
Gonna change the world, Ooo

So do surrender
'Cause the power's deep inside my soul
Sing it

(We are here to change the world)
Gonna change the world, Sing it
(We are here to change the world)
Hee, Gonna change the world, Ooo
The creature is clearly irritated by what's transpiring, and a terrible overpowering groan rattles the ground and jars everyone off their balance. Even more terrifying, he begins to rear his entire mass back and forth as if maneuvering his unseen arms under the earth. Then suddenly, root like tentacles burst from under the dancefloor and begin wreaking havoc among the dancers and crew. EO is struggling to maintain her balance, when a tentacle bursts from the ground below her and in one rapid motion grabs her and jerks her violently skyward.

Her crew gasps as EO is swung about helplessly in the tentacle's powerful grip. Flit tries bravely to help EO, but the grip of the creature is too strong and he's bumped aside. That's when Hooter grabs a shattered piece of dancefloor and begins hacking at the tentacle. It's not enough to distract the creature, but Flit and the Domos begin to realize it could be, and they grab sharpened fragments and begin joining in. The hacking doesn't appear to do much damage, but it must be enough of an irritant to warrant another tentacle bursting from the ground to sweep them all side. In the meantime, the minor distraction allows EO to wriggle free both her arms. She places both hands on the tentacle and begins sending energy into it.

The effect is nominal and she calls out to her crew, telling them she needs their help. A bit shaken, Hooter, the Domos and Flit gather themselves together and begin playing again, sending a bright beam of energy her way. The energy strobes in EOs eyes and she channels one long powerful burst down the length of the tentacle, directly to the heart of the giant creature.

The creature rocks and cries out and an earthquake again shakes the ground, but the band stays steadfast and keeps playing. The creatures eyes being glowing and shaley layers begin to fall off like slag. As sections fall of, enormous beams of light burst from the openings and the creature continues to crumble. His mass begins to quickly get smaller and smaller and he begins to gradually take on a more humanoid form. With a massive burst of light, the remaining form and the tentacles crumble. EO, still emanating power, angelically floats to the ground with a satisfied, confident look on her face.

There's a glow that takes a moment to fade around where the creature had been rooted. As it does, we see a silhouette of a man slowly take shape. He's bald and bowing down on one knee. He rises, his clothing Romanesque and regal, and stands proud and tall. He smiles at Captain EO with finely chiseled features as his subjects gather all around him. He gives a slow and approving nod to her, and she returns the gesture.

Proud of herself and her crew, with her unscheduled mission accomplished, EO gathers her new crew singing a different song and leaving behind a celebratory new Capital City. Flit flies close to you, acknowledging the audience for the first time, and says goodbye.

As we see EO's ship leave the planet's atmosphere, we also see the desert world behind them gradually being overtaken by a lush green and/or aquatic surface. We're treated to another view of the planet from far as the final transformation takes place and the planet takes on a more hospitable appearance. The red nebula that concealed it is now dispersing and a set of sparkling rings are also taking shape around the planet.

The song continues as we fade to black and credits.


Cast & Crew

Janet JacksonCaptain EO: For the role of our Main Character were going to cast someone, who at least in my mind, is the most obvious choice. Janet Jackson (Poetic Justice, Nutty Professor II, Why Did I Get Married?) can easily reprise the spirit of the character without all the fuss Disney and others would likely make over Micheal's return to the role. She's got a great look and the necessary moves that many youngsters over the last ten years have been trying to duplicate, but never quite capture. Her relevance is non-important, she is a cultural icon at this point. She is a name without being a name. She's good at what she does, and fits the bill because of that, not because she's "what's hot" at any given moment. Plus, we get one more heroine to add the pantheon of Disney females. And an ethnic one, at that.

Paul SchafferHooter: While an updated version of Hooter would no doubt be computer generated, the route we need to take is Motion Capture. Put Paul Shaffer (Blues Brothers 2000) in that bulbous suit with all the motion sensors and let him have at Hooter's futuristic keyboard. Paul will not only give Hooter that necessary sense of ridiculousness, but also the musical edge and realism he'll need while on the keys. Shaffer is one of those sideline characters who doesn't get a lot of different things to do besides music, but when he does, he does it well. He's also one of the most talented musicians out there having contributed to America's musical heritage in many ways the general public isn't aware of. He would make a fantastic consultant or music producer for the project.

Ian McKellanMajor Domo: Easily comparable to Tic Toc from the Ozma of Oz novels, Domo needs the voice of a refined Englishman. And you don't get much more refined, or English, then Ian McKellan (X-Men movies, Lord of the Rings Trilogy). I don't know why, but quips are much funnier when their said with an British accent.

Fuzzball/FlitFlit: No doubt about it, Flit should be the CGI version of the original Fuzzball. But not too reminiscent. We want Flit to be his replacement "in spirit". While retaining the values of the original, we can utilize today's technology to expand upon the concept. While I can't seem to find the voice of the original Fuzzball, it makes sense to me to bring him/her back for that added touch of nostalgia that Disney Imagineers like to work into every project.

Micheal IronsideThe Creature: For our unnamed living lump of shale, we need a voice that's going to be big and scary. You don't get a much bigger or scarier voice over actor then Micheal Ironside (Starship Troopers, Total Recall and the upcoming Ice Planet), the man who gave the Superman and Justice League animated series' Darksied his chilling timber. (He also did the caped crusader's voice for the Batman: The Animated Series version of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns)

Christian BaleThe King: And for the creature's chiseled featured alter-ego, you don't get much more chiseled then Christian Bale (American Psycho, Equilibrium, Batman Begins and the upcoming The Dark Knight). Much like Angelica Huston's brief, but memorable role, Christian's appearance in the film will be one or two shots only, with his only "line" being a simple and approving nod. But the look is definitely what we need barring a few minutes alone with Britney Spears and an electric razor.

John WilliamsScore: John Williams has been doing some amazing compositions since long before the Internet was a gleam in Al Gore's eye. The 75 year old composer is responsible for such memorable movie themes like Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jurassic Park. (Themes that are a big part of the Theme Park experience already) John has still got some great years ahead of him, let's give him a project that will further enhance his legacy.

Director: Who to get for this particular extravaganza? While George Lucas is probably one of the most likely suspects, I think we should partner him with one of his longtime partners in cryme, Stephen Spielberg. Putting prejudices aside, they've proven they can make magic whenever they work together, and I still have a great deal of faith in their ability to do it again.

George LucasStephen Spielberg

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Re-Imagining Imagination

With all due respect to Professor Nigel Channing, the Imagination Pavilion is one in desperate need of re-imagination. My initial visit to the pavilion in the early eighties was one of complete and utter disbelief. No one had ever seen anything like it. The sights, the sounds, the interactivity was one of complete and total immersion into a fantasy world of wonder and technology. There were no movie tie-ins, no recognizable Disney characterizations, no ride.

What you did have were interactivities that, while somewhat antiquated by today's standards, were immensely addictive, intriguingly compelling, and significantly different from any interactive playground out there (not that there were many to compete with). The luminescent rainbow tunnel that reacted to those who traversed it, blue screen movie sets that put you in the center of a wild west film, virtual orchestra pits with touch sensitive instruments that let you be the conductor and a stirring 3D motion picture were all part of a series of activities that, while today may seem mundane, were new and innovative for the time. And a welcome variation on the traditional milieu you would find in a theme park. The addition of the Journey into Imagination ride was only the icing on the cake for this already outstanding pavilion, as you now had the pavilion's two memorable representatives take you on a one of kind journey that featured some of the most elaborate set designs of any Dark Ride in EPCOT Center.

Captain EO, while certainly an attempt to capitalize on celebrity affiliation (both in Micheal Jackson's and George Lucas' case), was a unique and outstanding achievement in visual storytelling, and certainly a step up from the original Magic Journeys, which, after so many views, would quickly begin to loose it's luster. Captain EO proved to be an addition that could hold its popularity even over the test of time (albeit a much shorter time compared to some classic Disney attractions).

So what happened?

Well, Journey into Imagination was "renovated" and neutered to become Journey into YOUR Imagination, a decidedly less imaginative, abbreviated and economized version of the original. Though little of the original remained. The entire floor where ImageWorks featured most of those outstanding interactive stations was closed down and the bottom floor's interactivities became largely a giant commercial for the pavilion's sponsor. Once again, your filtered through another "themed" gift shop upon exiting the building. And Captain EO was replaced with a definitive movie tie-in that was destined to loose it's luster after its progenitor's first couple of sequels.

The whole purpose behind the Imagination Pavilion was to foment the notion of creativity and imagination, but it was sundered in favor of simpler, cheaper effects and a movie overlay. While the pavilion once kept you so engaged that you had to tear yourself away so you wouldn't miss out on seeing the rest of the park on your no doubt limited vacation day, it's now a sad and seldom visited feature of the park, that patrons rarely spend more then a half hour in.

So how do we fix it?

I'm glad I asked. MiceAge posted a remarkable article on the new technologies that Disney may be considering utilizing in their theme parks in the near future (as of this post anyway). One of the fantastic ideas they featured, is a new technology being developed by Microsoft called surface computing:

This should be a no-brainer. The potential implementations for this technology expands far beyond use in the Imagination Pavilion alone, but into countless other aspects of the park experience. For now, lets focus and theorize on where we could go in the Imagination Pavilion.

A fantastic implementation of this technology is a throw back to one of the old ImageWorks stations from the 80s. In this old imagination station, you could manipulate photos using touch screen technology and an interface very similar to Microsoft Paint. In an updated version, Guests could snap pictures of themselves and apply pre-designated image effects to their photo. Options could include the typical Paint/Photoshop-like interface, as well as a series of filter effects, backgrounds and scenes for folks to play around in and imaginate. In addition, Guest could be given the option of placing their phone/device on the screen and "magically" moving the image to their phone using the technology's wireless interface (standard messaging rates apply) or even integrating the feature with Disney's existing Photopass system. Conversely, Guest's could be given the option of uploading their own images from their phone to the station for manipulation. The possibilities for these are endless.

Another possibility that shows great potential, is an interactive wall with a series of informational and entertaining activities for Guests to simply approach and start playing around with. Here, Imagineers creative juices should soar thinking of the possibilities. Imagine a wall of water where sea life responds to your touch commands, even being able to resize the fish, and as you do, they change to something completely different and alien in appearance. Imagine a wall with geographical locations that Guests can approach and seek out their home town or visit far off lands. Imagine a room, with walls of fluttering spectrums of light, that warp and dance according to a Guest's touch and manipulation. Imagine what an Imagineer could imagine, that I couldn't.

Photos could also come into play here, as Guests could place their devices on interactive cash registers and have them developed or have their content saved to DVDs. A "magical" way to maintain a merchandising venue, keep it applicable with the business of the sponsors, without sacrificing the spirit of the attraction.

To throw one more idea into the pot, I also envision a floating photo wall. Imagine an animated wall where hundreds of Guests' photos gently float like clouds across the screen. Guests simply place their device against the wall and their pictures seemingly fly out of the device into the sea of pictures for anyone to view for the rest of that day. Other Guests can approach the wall and "grab" your photos, resize them, twist and turn them and even flick them to the side just for fun. Videos are also amongst the floating pics and other Guests can view your videos with the touch of a Play arrow. What a great way to get Guests to share and be interested about their fellow Guests' experiences.

Lastly, I'll leave you with the videos below. This technology is right in line with the spirit of the original attraction, giving you an opportunity to just play, act silly and not think too hard about it. Yet your imagination will still keep you captivated for far longer then you'll realize. Hopefully, with the changes going on internally at the Disney company, the folks with the creative and intuitive sensibilities will restore the Imagination Pavilion's original principles, and bring us new technologies that help us Find our Dreams and stir the Figments of our Imaginations.

Re: Disney

It occurred to me recently that I don't really have a venue for my thoughts on Walt Disney World, other then the obvious connection Alternate Realities has to it. But I find myself again and again coming up with article ideas for Realities, only to realize that I'm just doing what a hundred Disney-related blogs out there already do. Hence the reason I don't post as much at Realities as I would like.

But Alternate Realities was not intended to be a Disney blog. It was intended to be a place for me to cultivate ideas for my own themed entertainment area. Naturally, Disney would be a repetitive subject and motivation, but my outright ideas on Disney World had no real place there and would only detract from the overall point of the blog.

So, after much consternation, and inspiration from some other outstanding Disney related blogs out there, I decided to throw my hat in the pundit ring. Maybe folks will read it. Maybe folks wont. But the therapeutic aspects of it aside, some one may see it and be inspired to big things as well. It is my hope you will visit all my blogs and enjoy.