Disney+ just dropped a new series called Disney Insider that takes audiences behind-the-scenes of the goings on at the Walt Disney Company. Here’s what we learned in the premiere episode, “Aloha Idol, Singing Stargirl, Creating Onward.”
The popular singing competition series returned to Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii earlier this year to narrow down their top 40 contestants to just 20. Follow Katy Perry as she films some promotional shots with Ryan Seacrest and talks about why her role as a judge is so important to her. Luke Bryan and Guy Ritchie both make appearances as well and you get to see the crew transform a beach at the resort into a stage for the episode. You’ll also get to see Katy Perry interacting with fans and talking about what keeps her going.
Grace VanderWaal sings “Thirteen” live as Director Julia Hart talks about why that song was so important to the story. Grace shares her own schooling experiences while talking about filming her first movie and how they helped her relate to her character. The director als expands on Grace’s talent and working with her on her first musical.
Producer Kori Rae takes us on a tour of Pixar Animation Studios to introduce us to the artists who worked on Onward. She reveals how long it takes and how much dedication is required to make an animated film like this. Director Dan Scanlon joins Kori on a couch in the Pixar atrium to talk about his personal inspiration for the story. Animator Michael Stocker and Kori review live-action reference footage of Dan in a greenscreen to discover how they could bring to life a character who is just pants. And Editor Catherine Apple talks about the task of keeping the pacing of the story as the animated shots come in. Lastly, Kori Rae sits down to talk about one of the film’s themes, sacrifice.
Best Moment of the Episode
For me, the best moment of this episode was seeing the green screen footage of Dan Scanlon to help the Pixar animators bring Wilden Lightfoot to life as just his bottom half in Onward. It’s something that the creators talked about during the promotion campaign for the film and I’m glad we didn’t have to wait long to see it.
Worst Moment of the Episode
I’m not a huge American Idol fan and the fact that this series called “Disney Insider” chose to start with something that doesn’t feel very Disney seemed off. But in reality, the worst part of the episode was feeling just how much the world has changed while watching it. American Idol has suspended this season out of safety for the contestants so that they can return home as more and more states go on lockdown. This episode will still air as it was pre-recorded, but after narrowing down to the top 20, fans will have to wait until the world is a safer place again.
Onward is promoted as being in theaters, but movie theaters are closing rapidly. In fact, I watched this episode as the news broke that the film would be coming to digital retailers later today and will have an early Disney+ arrival on April 3rd. It doesn’t take away from the behind-the-scenes experience, but certainly casts a large shadow that looms over the entire episode. The only area of focus that doesn’t feel affected by Coronavirus in some way is Stargirl, since it had a smooth rollout on Disney+ last week and it’s already out, so there’s no impact to Disney’s plans for it.
What I’d Like to See Next
I’m curious to see how a series focused on what’s new at Disney can continue amidst the current landscape of production shutdowns, release pushbacks, and park closures. What I’d like to see Disney Insider do is have at least a segment that celebrates the past. Whether it’s a brief conversation with a Disney Legend or a Disney Archivist showcasing an item from their collection, it could really use a moment that celebrates your Disney fandom. It could also use a charismatic host as a segue between stations. Someone like a Stacy from the Walt Disney World in-room resort guide to create a better flow between segments. It otherwise plays like a long commercial, selling you on something that’s new or about to come out.
Did you watch the show? What did you like/not like about it? Tell us in the comments.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.