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by Ken Pellman (archives)
December 4, 2002
Ken talks about the gloved one, King of Pop, Caption Eo himself - Michael Jackson.

Ah, the impending arrival of Winter. The days grow shorter, the holiday decorations at The Disneyland Resort move into their third month of being up, and it gets cold enough in Anaheim to wear a sweater. My thoughts naturally turn to…Michael J. Jackson, one of Disney’s biggest fans.

What has happened to Captain Eo himself? He went from being a featured member of the Jackson Five while just a little boy to the biggest thing in pop music ("King of Pop"), to someone who is frequently portrayed unflatteringly in the news media and regarded with uneasiness by the perplexed masses.

I’ll come clean and put my cards on the table. "Thriller" was the first album I ever bought. It was on something called a cassette audiotape, and I could not have downloaded it even if I’d wanted to. (Yes, I’m old). I used to watch "Captain Eo" every week at Disneyland Park, almost always in the front row. That was considered a rad 3-D movie partly because it had in-theater effects, even if they didn’t include floors moving, live stunts, surprise sensory attacks, or animatronics. I liked almost every song on "Bad". My current appreciation of "Weird Al" Yankovic as my undisputed favorite performing artist might have had its genesis, in part, in his parodies of Jackson.

Not only could he write and sing hit song after hit song, not only could he dance and moonwalk, but he was a Disney & theme park fan and appeared in a Disney attraction. What wasn’t to like?

But somewhere in the proximity of "Dangerous", Michael Jackson seems to have jumped the shark big time. The news and quasi-news media, who were always talking about him excessively, had clearly turned on him in their tone. The civil and criminal legal matters started piling up. Album sales weren’t as high as they used to be. Now, with his "child-dangling incident" and the whole matter of his apparent self-mutilation becoming the public focus (as opposed to his talent), things look bleaker than ever.

Jackson was not a bad looking kid. He looked good enough when he had grown up and did "Off the Wall". He changed, but still looked good when he did "Thriller" and "Captain Eo". Once "Bad" came out, he was still looking good but it was becoming apparent that he was going to keep changing his appearance. Now, less-than-flattering pictures of him are splashed across the Internet. Really, I think it is sad. I mean, with all of that money, talent, and fame, why change your appearance to the point where it becomes unflattering? Goodness, Mick Jagger is proof Michael didn’t need to undergo any surgery to retain his popularity. So why do it?

None of us know for certain what is really going on in his life. All we have is media reports, brief news video clips, press releases, press conferences, and rumors. We are not getting a clear picture, nor are we entitled to one. Jackson is entitled to keep his private feelings and motivations shrouded in mystery.

Still, someone like me is curious. What in the world is really going on?

Here’s a guy who has a place called Neverland Ranch, has spent a great deal of time living at Disneyland Paris, frequents Disneyland Park, was the star of an attraction that was in all four Resorts, has talked about developing theme parks, and was into ambitious and innovative entertainment. Those are things I admire or envy as a Disney fan and theme park nerd.

But what has happened to his music career and his public image? What is going on with his physical condition? One of my favorite words is "potential", and I have to believe that someone who reached such heights in popularity, sold so many records, and has such imagination and love of the fantastic must have a great deal of potential left. The guy is only in his 40s. Has he forever lost his ability to move the masses with his music?

In its heyday, "Captain Eo" moved the masses.

"Captain Eo", which was basically a souped-up music video in the vein of the groundbreaking "Thriller", elevated theme parks, since it starred an international pop culture icon. In case you didn't know, there is a hierarchy in the entertainment world, and theme parks were long the neglected, despised stepchild. When Universal started to really turn their Hollywood studio into a theme park and followed up with plans for a property in Florida that was even more of a theme park (instead of a studio with some tourist stuff attached), and names like George Lucas and Michael Jackson got involved with Disney theme parks, the status of theme parks improved just a bit. Other entertainment companies soon joined in.

Yes, Captain Eo may not have been anything like Captain James Tivoli Kirk, but he was still a force to be reckoned with.

Of course, the film, which was rumored to cost about million dollars per minute (considered extremely expensive at the time), was full of mistakes. Eo's jacket buttoned and unbuttoned. The spears off to the audience's right were either there on the ground or not depending on the camera angle. Someone's crouching down but still very prominent in a shot when they aren't supposed to be there. There are others- the rest of my fellow old people can join in and list them in the discussion linked to below.

I'm curious to see if, like Captain Eo, Michael Jackson will be able to transform something that isn't going so well back into a radiant success.

Discuss It

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-- Ken Pellman

Ken Pellman is a writer and Disney shareholder. He has been a regular fixture at Disneyland Park in one way or another for 17 years. Ken can be reached directly at Kenversations[at]flash{dot]net or at, where you can learn more about him.

Kenversations is usually posted on the fourth Wednesday or Thursday of each month.

The views, opinions and comments of Ken Pellman, and all of our columnists, are not necessarily those of or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

©2002 Ken Pellman, all rights reserved. Licensed to

-- Posted December 4, 2002



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