Review: ‘Prop Culture’ is a wonderful nostalgia trip back to your childhood
The newest Disney+ original series, “Prop Culture,” succeeds in bringing back the memories and emotions you had seeing some of Disney’s biggest films for the first time.
Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers.
On “Prop Culture,” film historian and prop collector Dan Lanigan reunites iconic movie props with the filmmakers, actors, and crew who created and used them in some of Disney’s most beloved films. Throughout this journey, Lanigan recovers lost artifacts, visit private collections, and help restore pieces from the Walt Disney Archives to their original glory.
When the entire season drops on May 1, 2020, the films featured will be “Mary Poppins,” “Tron,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” and “The Muppet Movie.”
When the show was first announced for Disney+, it immediately became my most anticipated release. So many of the films featured played a huge part in the development of my love for both Disney and movies in general. I was expecting a cool retrospective look at the featured films and some trips to the Walt Disney Archives, but what I got was so much more than that.
Lanigan serves as a wonderful host and is very enthusiastic and knowledgable about the world of collecting movie props and costumes. Each episode really feels like a journey with a beginning and an end, presented in a way that keeps you entertained and engaged. And with a running time of around 30 minutes on average, the show gets right to the point and never lets up.
One aspect I was not expecting that ended up being my favorite element throughout the series was when Lanigan would reunite actors, designers, and directors with props and costumes that they had not seen in person for years. Their reactions range from excitement to emotional. One such reunion from the “Mary Poppins” episode may bring tears to your eyes.
Speaking of the “Mary Poppins” episode, from the moment I saw Richard Sherman playing piano in Walt Disney’s office to the end credits, my eyes were not dry. There’s something about looking back at that film, a film that Walt Disney personally worked on and cared about, that brings back emotions and memories for not only those featured in the episode that helped make it, but for viewers who grew up watching and loving it.
By far my favorite episode of the series, and quite possibly one of my favorites of any show on Disney+, is the one taking a look at “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” This film and its two sequels had such a huge impact on me growing up. I was mesmerized by the shrinking machine, in awe by the scale of the sets for the backyard scenes, and smitten by an ant. Years later, I would even get to work as a cast member in a playground themed to the film at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Several times during this episode, I audibly gasped at the reveal of things like the shrinking machine, stop-motion insects, and the actual prop that started the whole adventure. Add to that a reunion of the kids with a certain ant, as well as something I will not spoil, this episode will be on repeat in my house for some time to come.
All eight episodes of “Prop Culture” will debut on Disney+ starting May 1. Check out the trailer for the show below, as well as an episode of “The Attractions Show” featuring the shrinking machine showcased in the episode mentioned above.