There are two types of people who go to theme parks. There are those who give themselves over to the illusion that they’re in another world, and simply enjoy the ride. And then there are those who, while enjoying said ride, are constantly trying to peek behind the curtain to see how, exactly, the illusion works. The new Disney+ docuseries Behind the Attraction is for both of these people, as each episode takes a comedic dive into the history and making of iconic Disney attractions while also looking at how the vision for each attraction has evolved over the years. And while it certainly toes the line between infotainment and infomercial, odds are that if you’re watching a show about Disney rides on Disney+, you’re not too concerned if said show makes you want to plan a trip to Disney World immediately.
The first five episodes of Behind the Attraction range in runtime from a little over 30 minutes to close to a full hour, and they cover the following attractions: Jungle Cruise, The Haunted Mansion, Star Tours, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Space Mountain. Narrated by Paget Brewster, each episode boasts a bevy of interviews with current and former imagineers and historians who break down the history of each attraction, delving into trivia like how the first idea for the Tower of Terror was to build an actual hotel with guests sleeping around the ride (which was jettisoned pretty quickly) and how George Lucas first became involved with the creation of a Star Wars attraction.
The episodes cover the history of the titular attraction, but also get into the future of related attractions at Disney Parks. So the Star Tours episode also covers the creation of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the Space Mountain episodes also delves into the Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland and the upcoming Tron ride at Walt Disney World.
The tone of the series is somewhat madcap, moving at a fast clip and with Brewster firing off a high number of jokes per minute — it’s hard to imagine YouTube videos weren’t an inspiration for how these episodes play out. It gives the series an entertaining edge, but it also becomes a little much, especially if you’re trying to binge-watch. And the focus on comedy at times is heavier than the focus on the actual history behind some of these attractions, which for some may be a positive, while others may find it a bit irksome.
And now is where we discuss The Imagineering Story. If you’re a fan of Disney attractions you’ve no doubt seen The Imagineering Story, a six-episode documentary series that debuted on Disney+ in 2019. That show, directed by Leslie Iwerks, was much more of a full-on documentary that dove deep into the history and evolution of Disney Parks, from Disneyland up through Disney World and Shanghai Disneyland. What set The Imagineering Story apart was a warts-and-all portrayal of the creation of these parks, as imagineers were candid when discussing particularly bruising failures and blunders, like the opening of Disney’s California Adventure or the scuttling of the Disney’s America park.
Behind the Attraction is a very different show, but it’s honestly all the better for it. The Imagineering Story provides the full story of the parks as a whole, while Behind the Attraction is an entertaining yet somewhat surface-level chronicle of some specific attractions. The series certainly gets in the weeds at times, and does indeed delve into the many changes a lot of these attractions have gone through over the years, but in keeping with its comedic tone it’s a much breezier watch than something like The Imagineering Story, and there’s far less footage of the behind-the-scenes workings of these attractions.
And since The Imagineering Story already exists, it was smart to take a different route with Behind the Attraction. In all honesty, this new series feels a little like those VHS tapes you’d pick up at the gift shop on your way out of Magic Kingdom that were nothing more than infomercials for the park, but allowed you to re-experience the ride from home while you eagerly awaited your next vacation. So does Behind the Attraction feel a little like a commercial for Disney Parks? Sure, but for the bulk of its intended audience, that’s kind of what they’re looking for. A way to celebrate their favorite rides, learn a little bit about their history, and get them excited to go back next summer with this knowledge in hand.
So while I personally found The Imagineering Story to be a more enlightening watch (and am hopeful a second season is in the works), Behind the Attraction offers something different yet valid – a fun, funny, and introspective-in-its-own-way look at some specific rides. There’s some overlap between the two shows to be sure, but there’s plenty of new stuff in Behind the Attraction as well – especially in the Tower of Terror and Jungle Cruise episodes.
If you’re looking for something as candid and detailed as The Imagineering Story, then you may be a little disappointed by Behind the Attraction. But if you love going to/thinking about/planning trips to Disney Parks? This show will be right up your alley.
The first five episodes of Behind the Attraction are now streaming on Disney+.
KEEP READING: 3 Major Disney Debacles ‘The Imagineering Story’ Left Out
‘Demonic’ will be released in theaters and digitally on August 20.
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