Interview with ‘The Goldbergs’ creator about ‘Vacation’ homage, trips to Disney and more
Season 7 of the hit ABC comedy “The Goldbergs” premieres tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern with an episode paying tribute to the hit ’80s film “National Lampoon’s Vacation”.
We talked to the show’s creator, Adam F. Goldberg, about his real-life trips that inspired the episode, visiting Disney as a kid and filming part of the “Vacation” episode at Disneyland.
The Goldbergs is known for its homages to classic ’80s films and now this one is going to be a tribute to “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” which is one of my favorite films. So considering the show is based off your childhood, were cross-country trips like “Vacation” something that you actually did with your family?
Absolutely. I mean it’s why “Vacation” was one that just lends itself so much to one of the homages. My mom, always looking for family time, would pile us into a car, or station wagon, and we would take these trips to different landmarks when I was young, and all the pictures I have from like Devil’s Tower, Grand Canyon, dude ranches … I’m probably like four years old. This is when my parents still had energy to do these things.
As we got older and older, we would just start visiting my grandfather in Florida. My mom loved it because we would all be trapped in a car and she could just nag us endlessly. It was perfect – there was no way to storm out and walk away. It was like concentrated Beverly time. The best memories we would have were the road trips down the East Coast to Florida … a lot of those trips to Disney World. And then one year, we did a cross-country road trip to Disneyland, which was epic.
For the road trip episode, are the fictional Goldbergs stopping at some of the same places that you stopped when you did a cross-country trip?
Yeah. What’s great and why the movie “Vacation” speaks to everyone in my family so much is like – and I think most families – is when you do a road trip, you hit those same places. So, the places that they went [to] in the movie, were like places we went to: Grand Canyon, they go to a wild west town. And I had all of these videos and photos from this dude ranch that we went to on our road trip.
And of course, it culminates with Disneyland. Which I have like old-old-school film of us at Disney World and Disneyland. So yeah, we hit all those places. And it’s a great combination of like real life – what really happened – and homages to the movie. They do a lot of the big stunts from the movie like the car going over the embankment and getting airborne. They had the brother and sister from “Vacation” be the guards at Disneyland.
ABC has a long history of their shows going to Disney parks and doing these kind of big Disneyland/Walt Disney World episodes, and this episode is going to continue that tradition. You said you’ve been to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, so what were some of your best memories from visiting the parks back in the ’80s?
That’s an awesome question! Like many people, I’m a Disney fanatic. My dream is to become a member of Club 33. I try to get to Disneyland as many times as I can a year. I love being so close to it now. So I’m a big Disney fanatic, and it all stems from my childhood. And those trips to Disneyland just being like – to me, just 100 percent pure fun and the only time I’ve gotten everyone so excited and happy together.
So for me, my best memories of Disney World were going to all the different worlds and eating Tempura in Japan for the first time. You know, we grew up in Jenkintown. We had a pizza place, and when we got an Outback Steakhouse, it was like a four star Michelin Restaurant. So going to “Japan” and tasting this exotic tempura, we went crazy and we went back all three nights and ate dinner there.
My favorite memory was going on Space Mountain with my dad. My dad in real life was like 6 foot 5 – he was huge. And I was a little kid, and I was in his lap, cause I was scared. And he was wedged in the compartment and I remember laughing hysterically as we’re being battered about in Space Mountain and screaming in pain. And one of my funniest memories, I was laughing so hard I couldn’t even breathe.
I remember we went on Splash Mountain and Barry sat up front and got completely – like insanely soaked – like it looked like someone threw him in a pool and he complained the rest of the day. And we just made fun of him all day long. I mean, so many great memories from these Disney trips.
Now, you actually got to film at Disneyland. Were there any kind of precautions you had to make in terms of “alright, we know we’re going to film at Disneyland, so we gotta make sure we can’t show this or that, because they weren’t open during the ’80s”.
I approached ABC and said I want to do an episode at Disneyland in season two. And at that point our show was not a hit yet. We were still finding our footing and it was set in the ’80s and they said no. They said “we don’t want to re-theme the park to look like the ’80s”, and I get it! “We’re trying to keep the park fresh, original, current and we don’t want to purposefully make it look old school”. So it was a no. And now we’re in season seven and things have changed. As a company, and also with the show, now we anchor the whole night, and they started coming to us, saying, “will you do anything at Disney?” And it was really cool seeing them come around. And every other show, “The Middle,” “Black-ish”, they’ve all been there, so I think it was time.
They did some set decorations to make it look old-school and it was really cool, and it shows. Like, when you have a big corporation, there’s so much red tape and synergy and people weighing in, that it’s really awesome to see Disney kind of having humor about how things were in the ’80s. I have a photo of me in the ’80s at Disneyland with my mom standing in front of a cigarette machine. You know it was just a totally different – it was 35 years ago!
As a life-long Disney fan, what is your favorite attraction?
Hands down, was always Star Tours. I know that a lot of people don’t necessarily make that their top pick. I just loved living Star Wars. And I love the whole layout of it, the story… I used to collect action figures of it. And now with this whole Star Wars land – Galaxy’s Edge, I just … I’ve been back several times. I just want to live Star Wars.
I love that they are really leaning into it. You know, as a kid, my favorite Star Wars robot was not C-3PO or R2-D2. It was Rex, R3X, Paul Reubens. I really got into the whole lore of Star Tours. In fact, I got to meet Paul Reubens at the opening night of Galaxy’s Edge. I got to talk to him about it, which was really fun. He’s like, you’re the only one here talking to me about Rex.
I would too, honestly. That’s such an iconic character from Disney history. What were your first impressions when you stepped foot into Galaxy’s Edge for the first time?
I thought it was – I was just overwhelmed. My favorite thing of the whole park was just constructing the lightsaber. They made it a whole experience. All of the cast members there are actors, and it was very overwhelming. I got a little choked up, which was cool. I’m a die-hard Star Wars fan for life. I loved the Millennium Falcon ride. Just the park itself – it’s so intricate. Even being able to build a droid and then bringing it around the park and having it interact with different areas. It was all laid out so well and so smart. I was so impressed.
Yeah, when I stepped foot in the one here in Florida, I turned that corner and saw the Falcon, I just started crying. Cause you have these memories of playing with the Millennium Falcon model as a toy, and here it is life-size!
Yep! It’s so great. I can’t wait for Marvel next. For my son, Marvel is Star Wars for him. He just loves the Marvel movies. So to be able to have him go and experience a Marvel ride like I experienced Star Tours growing up, it’s going to be so huge for him. I can’t wait for them to open that.
“The Goldbergs” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC and can be streamed online via ABC.com and Hulu. Take a look at the video below to see a behind-the-scenes look at the “Vacation” episode filming at Disneyland: