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Captain EO Returns

Captain EO has returned to Disneyland. Now Michael Jackson’s posthumous comeback is complete.

“Captain EO” is a 17-minute, 3-D space fantasy film that George Lucas helped produce and write, starring Jackson as the hero and Anjelica Huston as the villain. Francis Ford Coppola directed the big-budget short in 1986, when Jackson was at the height of his fame as the self-proclaimed King of Pop. The attraction debuted at Disney’s EPCOT theme park in Florida that year, and had its final showing, before the current revival, at Disneyland Park in Paris in 1998.

A few years later, Jackson’s personal life, including his 2003 indictment on charges of sexually abusing a teenage boy, overshadowed his music career. Even though Jackson was acquitted in 2005, I was convinced Captain EO would never emerge from the vaults where image-conscious Disney would bury him and his rag-tag crew. I would never see any of them again, I thought, not even in a bootlegged version on YouTube. I looked.

But I was wrong. As I noted here last fall, Jackson found redemption with the public following his untimely death nine months ago. “This Is It,” a movie based on behind-the-scenes footage of Jackson’s rehearsals for the farewell concerts he never had the chance to perform, received good reviews and became the highest-grossing concert or documentary film of all time.

Disney executives no doubt were watching closely to see how the public reacted to “This Is It.” The enthusiastic response must have been the key that unlocked Disney’s dungeons and allowed “Captain EO” to again see the light of day. The film returned to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., last month. Appearances at other Disney theme parks have not been announced but we can safely assume they are inevitable.

By the way, “Captain EO” is about a band of heroes who land on a planet dominated by the cruel and repellent Supreme Leader (Huston). She pronounces death sentences for Captain EO’s crew and consigns him to 100 years in her deepest, darkest dungeon. But she softens when he announces that she is very beautiful on the inside, and that he came to give her a gift: a key that will unlock her beauty. The key is his music. He performs, she is transformed, and Michael Jackson’s song and dance routine wins freedom for Captain EO and his crew.

Funny how, in the end, life followed the script.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Looking Ahead When Youth Is Behind Us” and Chapter 4, “The Family Business."

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