The Imagineering Story Mickey

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The TV Series: The Imagineering Story

Where You Can Stream It: Disney+

The Pitch: Created by Walt Disney, Imagineering is a division of the Disney company tasked with transforming their movies into fantastically themed immersive worlds for us to explore and play in. This six-part documentary series lifts a look behind the curtain at the division that created Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and the people who made it all possible. Each episode takes us through a decade, showing the creation and challenges behind some of the most beloved destinations in the world.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: This is essential viewing for any Disney fan, large or small, young or old. I would say this is the number one reason to subscribe to Disney+, even over The Mandalorian. This is essentially a six-hour documentary that has been split into bite-sized one-hour episodes, each covering a decade of the company’s history. It’s not only a fantastic history of Disney’s evolving theme parks and resorts, but an eye-opening look at how much work goes into creating them, from political deals to creative design to construction.

The series takes a look at the events from three perspectives, focusing on the human story of the artists and craftspeople who create the magic, the company oversight and leadership that sometimes proves as an obstacle, and the world events that challenge and influence the direction of the company. The filmmakers were given access to unseen archival footage that has been beautifully restored. I’d love to see a lot of the old Disney TV specials get this kind of love. And there are some genuinely touching moments where we follow the Imagineers who were a large part of bringing some of this magic to life as they revisit the attractions they put their mark on.

This type of series could have easily been a Disney propaganda project like One Day at Disney, but what sets this beyond is that it was directed by Oscar and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Leslie Iwerks. While she shares a legacy with the company (her grandfather was the animator and co-creator of Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit), she’s an accomplished and respected documentary filmmaker who was allowed to approach this world on her own terms. I’m not going to say that it’s a warts and all look at Imagineering, but it’s surprisingly honest about its failures – especially when we are in the eras before the current leadership.

If I have one complaint about this series, it is that it’s too short! The first episode covers Walt Disney’s creation of the division, his involvement with the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and the development and construction of Disneyland park. I feel like a very compelling six-hour movie could be produced just focusing on this time period alone. I hope that Disney continues to produce documentary content on the history of the parks on the level of The Imagineering Story. I could imagine a series with each episode focusing on the creation of one singular attraction.

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