Mere hours after Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, his fans were calling on Disney to bring the Captain EO attraction back to Disneyland.
Disney initially balked, but in one of the first social media campaigns to succeed, public support kept building and by that December, the Mouse announced EO would return to replace the Honey, I Shrunk the Audience attraction that had replaced it.
Now comes word EO will soon be gone again.
Blame the Star Wars properties Disney acquired from Lucasfilms. The Imagineers were already thinking of ways to re-do Tomorrowland--which, after all, Uncle Walt had always said should evolve for new generations of guests--when George Lucas' movie franchise landed in their laptops.
Earlier plans relying on Tron and Marvel characters for the Tomorrowland revamp were torn up, drawing boards were returned to and there is now, according to those know-it-alls at Micechat, moves afoot to go nearly all Star Wars with that section of the Anaheim park.
Because the work is scheduled to begin this winter and take 15 months, it is to be broken up into two phases to prevent Tomorrowland from essentially being totally closed in the months leading up to Disneyland's 60th anniversary on July 17, 2015, Micechat adds. By the time the construction smoke clears in the spring of '15, EO will have reportedly made way for a new Star Wars 3-D movie.
The first phase is planned to get under way this winter with the closing of Captain EO. Other changes said to be coming to Tomorrowland before the anniversary include new Star Tours destinations based on the seventh Star Wars movie being released in the summer of '15 and a sprucing up around Space Mountain. After the birthday, a Star Wars speeder bike coaster on the old PeopleMover tracks is planned.
You can't blame Disney for dropping EO--if there ever was a pop culture phenomenon bigger than Michael Jackson, it was surely the Star Wars franchise, which also attracts many more young fans than the late Gloved One does. For instance, a 4-year-old who is near and dear to me routinely makes the Chewbacca yelp from his high chair. He hasn't even seen the live-action movies yet. Meanwhile, I've never seen him moonwalk.
The news for EO fans does not get any better in Florida.
The Imagination Pavilion in Epcot's Future World that includes the attraction is set to close on Jan. 2, 2014. The Illuminating Epcot fan site has heard "rumblings" EO will be replaced by something themed after Phineas and Ferb, although Disney has made no such announcement.
"So there will be no more Captain EO in America," laments the MJJCommunity forum.
Posts one MJJCommunity member, "This is a real bummer. I don't know what we can do. It looks like the plans to rebuild the theater are already under way. There is just no positive news in regard to Michael lately ..."
Sounds like it's time for another campaign.
By the way, to show how things have changed since the social media knuckle-dragging era, check out how I formatted my June, 26, 2009, post on the call to bring back EO:
And on the back end, the SEO for that post is terrible. No wonder it only got one FB "like." Much better to re-experience Vickie Chang's words and Andrew Youssef's photos from the EO reopening:
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Finally, here are videos based on the entire attraction: