Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Captain Eo Window Display

This figure, created for a display in the Disneyland Showcase preview center on Main Street in 1985, was the public's first view of Michael Jackson in his role as Captain Eo.  The sculptures of Eo and his "ragtag band", displayed in a miniature setting from the film, were all made and painted by an enthusiastic  young  artist, Jason Bahret, of the Disneyland Entertainment Art Department.


In the early 1980s, Jason was the undisputed whiz-kid of the Art Department, creating character art, building scale models for parades and shows, and constructing full-sized set pieces. When I was hired into the department in 1988, Jason had already transferred to the Disney Stores design group, designing all those big fiberglass Disney characters that populated the first new store interiors.  I didn't really get to know Jason until 1991, when we both sculpted characters for the "Beauty and the Beast" Emporium windows, but his name was legendary to me.

 Clay over aluminum wire armature.

For the Captain Eo figures, Jason recalls that there was not much reference available to him. No one had seen the fim, which was still in post-production, and the Studio was reluctant to release any  photos so early, so he referred to a handful of color slides that had been shot on the set.  "The biggest challenge for me was figuring out all the layers, buckles and straps on Michael Jackson's costume," Jason recalls.  "I must have just made up about 40 to 50 percent of it since I couldn't see it in the slides."

Major Domo

Thanks to Jason for generously sharing these images from his personal portfolio.  After 27 years at Disney, he left in 2006  to explore more interests (he's also an actor!) but you can enjoy more of Jason Bahret's creative work here.

With Jason at our gallery show in Laguna last year.  
He's still a whiz-kid!


Major Pepperidge said...

Nice work by Jason, I always love seeing the "behind the scenes" stuff. And what kid doesn't remember looking at the Emporium windows for as long as their parents would let them?

Eric Scales said...

Wow! So much mediocre character artwork and merchandise is out there, I love seeing the superb work that people like you and Jason have done. Incidentally the Beauty and the Beast Emporium windows were the first ones that really caught my eye- I had just gotten my first annual pass, and I was so taken with the sculptures in the Emporium windows that I called Disneyland later and asked how much it would cost to purchaase one of the figures when they had no further use for it. You know, surely a 13 year old kid could afford one of the minor sculptures and they must just throw them away otherwise right? I received a very nice phone message informing me that that sort of thing goes into storage and is reused over and over through the years. I was disappointed at the time but now that new windows aren't being done anymore I'm grateful they have a backlog of great sculptures to populate these dioramas with.

Exercise Compassion said...

I went to see this in Orlando the week it came out. Good times!

Pete Emslie said...

It's good to finally be able to put a face to the name! I enjoyed doing some freelance assignments through Jason when both of you worked at the Disney Stores art department. He was always very nice to me and I'm glad to see he's now pursuing his love of acting, although it would appear to be Disney's loss. It's really a shame that the Disney brass at the time didn't see the merit in keeping great artists on staff any longer and it was terrible that they shut down several major art departments during those last years of the Eisner era.

Jason's sculptures for "Captain EO" are very good, but I must confess I never liked the attraction itself. I was not a Michael Jackson fan, and in fact resented it when "Captain EO" replaced "Magic Journeys" at the Imagination pavilion at EPCOT. It seemed to be so typical of the blatant contemporary pop-culture mindset that arrived at Disney along with Eisner. Ironically, despite it being touted at the time as the culmination of such talents as Michael Jackson, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola joining forces, the resulting film was pretty lame in terms of its script and characterization. Plus it was hard to even make out the dialogue with all of the background sound effects competing for attention. From what I gather, Michael and George called the shots, with poor Francis not given much if any creative control over the project. I must admit, it sure was hard to imagine that Coppola had anything to do with it, when compared to his infinitely more intelligent body of work as a respected film director.

Christopher said...

Thanks for the introduction to Jason's extraordinary work.

ZuperZero said...

i remember it was the whole display, captain eo and his crew in a part of the castle, is there any pic of that?