If you’ve ever wondered how Walt Disney Imagineering came up with your favorite Disney rides and attractions, Disney+ has the perfect show for you. “Behind the Attraction,” a new original hour-long series coming exclusively to the streaming service this summer, will reveal the secrets behind Disney’s most popular attractions.
The 10-episode series from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia’s Seven Bucks Productions and The Nacelle Company — the same people who created the popular Netflix docuseries “The Toys that Made Us” — will offer an in-depth look at iconic Disney rides and attractions. From the untold stories of how attractions were created to how they’ve been adapted as technology evolved, the series will feature the creative teams who brought them to life in parks around the world.
Seven Bucks Producer Brian Gerwitz says that Johnson is the perfect executive producer for this project because he’s a huge fan of Disney Parks (not to mention voicing Maui in “Moana” and starring in the upcoming “Jungle Cruise” movie).
“Since […] Disneyland first opened its doors, the rides and attractions have been impacting generations in such a fun and magical way around the world,” Johnson said. “This first-of-its-kind series will bring you behind the scenes to experience and celebrate how these beloved attractions creatively came to be.”
A story in the summer 2021 issue of Disney Twenty-Three Magazine notes that the show uses a “pop history” approach; however, producers still made sure the stories about each attraction were accurate, beginning with the first episode featuring the Jungle Cruise that includes rare archival footage of Disney Legends Bill Evans, Harper Goff, Marc Davis, and appearances by Johnson.
“Jungle Cruise is such a beloved classic attraction that’s infamous for its skippers and their witty puns and tongue-in-cheek humor,” says Jeanette Lomboy, one of the Disney Imagineers who appear in the episode. “But I bet that most people wouldn’t know that the tone of the attraction was more serious when Disneyland first opened. Walt really wanted guests to believe they were surrounded by real animals in far-off places, and so jokes weren’t really part of the ride from the start.”
Disney Twenty-Three Magazine also explains that producers wanted to spotlight as many iconic attractions as possible while still saving stories for future seasons. According to Gerwitz, Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and Star Tours were “musts,” but he noted that the show also wanted to explore “less obvious” subjects like the Disneyland Hotel, theme park transportation, and how ‘it’s a small word’ evolved from an exhibit at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair to the iconic Disney attraction it is today.
Narrated by Paget Brewster (“Criminal Minds”), each episode features exclusive interviews with past and present Imagineers who divulge insider secrets about the Disney parks and their iconic attractions, including Bob Weis, Jeanette Lomboy, Kim Irvine, Scott Trowbridge, Tom Fitzgerald, Scot Drake, Carmen Smith, and Joe Rohde.
“Behind the Attraction” Episodes:
Jungle Cruise – When Walt Disney created the original immersive attraction, he not only tasked Imagineers with building a river in the Southern California desert but also to populate it with exotic animals. Nevertheless, lead designer Harper Goff and horticulturist Bill Evans were able to get it all built in time for Disneyland’s grand opening in 1955, and guests have been cruising its waters ever since. Dwayne Johnson also appears in this episode to discuss his childhood memories of the attraction and his favorite joke from the skippers.
Haunted Mansion – When the attraction was being developed, Walt never specified if it should be funny or scary – so it ended up being both. Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion became so popular that it inspired several later iterations, including Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris and Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Star Tours – A long time ago…Disney Imagineers created Star Tours, a simulator attraction that transports guests to a galaxy far, far away. The attraction even inspired Imagineers to build a whole new land – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – where guests can explore the remote outpost of Batuu and ride two cutting-edge attractions.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – Imagineers reveal the ups and downs of creating the gravity-defying attraction set in the world of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” television series and then explain how they reimagined the Disney California Adventure version as Guardians of the Galaxy –Mission: Breakout!
The Castles – There’s a castle at the heart of every Disney park around the world. In this episode, viewers will hear the unique story behind each iconic structure and learn how Imagineers designed and built them all.
Disneyland Hotel – It’s hard to imagine Disneyland with no hotel, but it almost happened. Check. When funding for the hotel proved challenging, find out how Walt struck a deal with producer Jack Wrather to be the the hotel’s owner yet put Walt’s name on it. Together, they laid the foundation for all Disney hotels to come.
Space Mountain – Walt’s vision for an attraction that simulates space travel was a design challenge, but Imagineer John Hench tackled it head-on, creating a signature structure that’s been replicated in Disney Parks around the world. Learn how Imagineers have continued Space Mountain’s legacy by creating another thrilling indoor attraction, Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disney Resort (and soon at Walt Disney World).
“it’s a small world” – If a chance encounter between an Academy Award-winning actress and Walt Disney never happened, this beloved attraction might never have been created. But thanks to its unforgettable song and charming figures, the flume boat ride became a huge success – and with versions built in Disney Parks around the planet, it really is a small world, after all.
Trains, Trams, and Monorails – Walt loved all forms of transportation, so it’s no surprise that guests at Disney Parks move around by land, water, and air. Of course, they’re all fun to ride, but Walt also believed the monorail could help cities end traffic, and the transportation network at Walt Disney World Resort is a testament to that.
Hall of Presidents – The presidential attraction in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom brings the history of American commanders in chief to life. Walt created the world’s first human Audio-Animatronics figure based on his childhood hero, Abraham Lincoln, which helped launch the revolutionary technology that populates Disney Parks today.
“When looked at it in retrospect, the making of an attraction is often as much of an adventure filled with humorous moments and cliffhangers as the attraction stories themselves,” says Disney Imagineer Mark LaVine. “’Behind the Attraction’ brings all that to life in a unique way that we can’t wait for viewers to see. We’re hoping it brings them even closer to the attractions they love or want to check out ones they’ve never seen.”
All ten episodes of “Behind the Attraction” will be available to stream on July 16, 2021, on Disney+.