Rough Cut of “Captain EO” Starring Michael Jackson Surfaces Online
The rough cut: a universe of work and works-in-progress, where a large group struggles to bring a 3-D adventure to Disney parks around the world; a rag-tag band led by the infamous Walt Disney Imagineering.
Recently, a rough cut of Captain EO was leaked on the internet, dating to September 25th, 1985, just under a year from the attraction’s opening in Epcot and Disneyland. And as one might expect, there are some minor differences between the rough cut and what Disney parks visitors would eventually see.
The biggest difference is that the voice tracks for the members of Captain EO’s crew haven’t been put in yet, so it’s mostly scratch tracks. The second big difference is that the visual effects haven’t been completed, so it’s mostly rough animation, sketches, and test footage. It’s kind of funny to see the transformations in the climactic “We Are Here to Change the World” without the effects, so it’s just jump cut after jump cut. The score has yet to be placed, having more of Michael Jackson’s songs vamping before the transitions.
There are also some notable differences in footage compared to what we would eventually get: the communication setup with Commander Bog is very different from the hologram that would be in the final cut. Even with the visual effects missing, it’s easy to tell that the transformation of the Supreme Leader isn’t the same as the final cut. There’s a snippet of an unreleased song by Jackson immediately after the transformation. We also get bonus footage after the transformation, where the Supreme Leader knights Captain EO before the crew departs. The film ends not with the ship taking off, but with the planet transforming into a greener world. It’s not terribly evident from the black-and-white footage, but I know this because the footage is clearly taken from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (Fun fact: that sequence was animated by Lucasfilm’s computer graphics division, The Graphics Group, which was later spun off into its own company: Pixar.)
The one thing I get from this is an appreciation for the various elements that aren’t in the rough cut. The visual effects and the crew voices really help to sell the science fiction aspects of the film, and the dramatic score ties it all together. This is very clearly a work still in progress, and it’s interesting to see where they were at a year before opening and the changes that would be made in that time. This is a video Captain EO fans will likely enjoy as they see another part…er version, of the attraction that’s been loved by fans all over the world.