With rapid-fire jokes and factoids, “Behind the Attraction,” a 10-part documentary series streaming now on Disney+, plays like a loose sequel to “The Imagineering Story.” That 2019 series gave a reverent history of the Disney theme parks with classy narration by Angela Bassett.
“Behind the Attraction” is decidedly irreverent, as host Paget Brewster (the voice of Della Duck on “DuckTales”) flings puns and one-liners amid archival footage from the early days of Disneyland and new interviews with the Imagineers who created the parks’ iconic rides.
Cinderella Castle towers over the Magic Kingdom in Florida. – Courtesy of Disney+
If “The Imagineering Story” is like a Ken Burns special, “Behind the Attraction” is like Netflix’s “The Toys That Made Us” — and wouldn’t you know it, Brian Volk-Weiss serves as producer for both.
Fandoms collide in the show’s first batch of five episodes. Star Tours first blasted off from Disneyland in 1987 as a flight-simulator ride in which riders are taken on a tour of the “Star Wars” universe by a hapless robot. “Behind the Attraction” confirms some rumors about early ride concepts that enthusiasts have heard for years, including a choose-your-own-track roller coaster, and shows how engineering constraints shaped the narrative, sometimes for the better. Amid the snark, “Behind the Attraction” packs a surprising amount of information into each 40-minute episode, and Uncle Walt himself is a near constant presence.
But of course it’s also a Disney+ show about the Disney parks, so don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re watching an infomercial. The Tower of Terror episode makes sure we know they reconfigured the California version into a “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride, and oh by the way, did you know they’re building a “Guardians” roller coaster at EPCOT?
by signing up you agree to our terms of service The original Haunted Mansion ride opened in 1969 at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. – Courtesy of Disney+
The most brazen example of this is the Jungle Cruise episode, which waits all of 85 seconds to promote this summer’s “Jungle Cruise” movie starring “Behind the Attraction” co-producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The best episode comes in the later batch and focuses on the parks’ castles, giving us a glimpse of foreign Disney parks and detailing the cultural reasons why their castles are so different from the Cinderella Castle that towers over Orlando. Other forthcoming episodes will focus on It’s A Small World and the monorails. (Conspicuously absent: Pirates of the Caribbean.)
“Behind the Attraction” is the perfect breezy background show, and something fun to share with your kids. Just don’t be surprised if your 4-year-old (or your 44-year-old) starts begging for a Disney vacation.
• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor whose favorite Disney ride is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.