Let’s Talk About Captain EO starring Michael Jackson — Part 3

Written by Terri Hardin Jackson. Posted in Features, Terri Hardin

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Published on June 04, 2014 at 2:41 am with 19 Comments

Update

I have to say that writing every week does pose its challenges. Last week and as late as yesterday, my week was full of adventure. Do I say that every week?

It started with me attending a Big Money Speaker Boot-camp hosted by James Malinchak. My dream is to be a very well-paid speaker in that industry and he knows just how to do it. It’s four full days of intense training and it’s amazing who comes to learn at these events.

Terri and Tanya Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s Sister. She has just published her book  "Finding Peace Among the Chaos." June 12 is the anniversary of her sister’s murder.

Terri and Tanya Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s Sister. She has just published her book
“Finding Peace Among the Chaos.” June 12 is the anniversary of her sister’s murder.

Tanya is a very strong and inspiring young woman.

Then, because the first week of June is CPR week, Tuesday June 3rd at metro stations all over LA we went for the CPR training world record. I’m not sure if we hit, but I was at Union Station urging all people to come an. Knowing CPR can be the difference between life and death in some cases. There’s another CPR Block Party this Saturday, June 7th in north Hollywood at Victory Bl. and Laural Canyon. Food trucks and chalk art and tons of fun to celebrate and learn at CPR week! Please come out!

Do come to the party if you can!

Do come to the party if you can!

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In honor of Michael Jackson’s latest album “Xcape,” and all of you who asked about Part 1 and Part 2 of this story.

When last I left you Michael Jackson had just been tossed across the room by our Evil Queen, Anjelica Huston.

Rehearsals continued and Anjelica now sat most of the time on a ladder way up in the air. This was just fine with Michael Jackson. However the rehearsal could be filled with fun and frolic. For example, Francis asked me to stand in for one of the Whip Warriors as the suit performers played the creatures in rehearsals. I’m very good with a whip. I looked at Michael and cracked the whip by his feet. He jumped and I told him to run and I cracked the whip again. I was smiling when I said this and Michael playfully ran away and I chased him all over the sound stage. Everyone could hear him giggling and jumping as I chased him. Close your eyes and you can hear his high-pitched voice.

      “Oooh! Ahhhh!”

    “Stop playing around you two!” Francis looked at the both of us with his hands on his hips.

Another time Michael was rehearsing his dance moves with two of the top pop-locking performers in the world, Poppin’ Taco and Poppin’ Reggie. Taco and Reggie, had just finished playing robots in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. They were cast in Captain EO as the Rainbow multi-lit up Jukebox Popping Robots that follow Michael Jackson in the final scene.

Reggie and Taco had met me before and as I came in they started to tease me and dare me to come and pop with them. Somewhere in the archival footage is me with Michael Jackson, Poppin’ Taco and Poppin’ Reggie all pop locking together. One of my fondest memories is dancing with these amazing guys.

The first day of shooting finally arrived. I had one final fitting to adjust the Idy and Ody puppets. The builder Lance Anderson, had put a hinged rod up the back of both of their necks and when I went to move the heads, they wouldn’t move right. These rods restricted my movement of the heads.

I asked him if he could take the rods out and he said that they were essential to the build of the character. (A side note here) The only thing that is essential to your puppet is that your performance be the best that it can be. Otherwise when the film is viewed, you will be blamed, not the faulty puppet.

So as I rehearsed, I worked the heads and broke the rods in the necks. Oops! Then the builder asked to fix them as he saw me taking the broken pieces out of the necks and tossed them aside saying, “No, No, I’m cool.” That’s how Idy and Ody dance so well at the drum set during the “Let me show you” scene in Captain EO.

Michael Jackson was just amazing on Captain EO. He wrote the songs and co-created all the dance sequences you see in Captain EO with his Choreographer, Jeffrey Hornaday. It was magical to see this man in action. Yet every morning he would have several flats of seedless green grapes brought in. Before we went to work, Michael and the puppeteers would go to his trailer and have grape fights. Yes, really — grape fights! It was so silly and so much fun. It happened everyday for three months.

Anjelica Huston seemed stern at first, but I kept greeting her with big smile.

    “Hello Anjelica?” “Good Morning Anjelica?” “How are you today Anjelica?”

Most of the time she didn’t answer me, but I kept greeting her like this anyway. Finally one day she stared at me.

      “Terri, do you have brain damage or what?”

“Nope, but I feel everyone deserves a happy hello, especially you.”

She just stared at me for a few moments and I held the stupidest grin I could and only blinked. Finally she broke out with laughter and we’ve been great friends ever since.

    “You’re so goofy.”

During shooting, production asked Anjelica to come and try out the flying harness she would be wearing as the Wicked Queen. When she saw it she decided that she would only allow them to fly her up about 5 feet.

    “Who will we get to do the high stuff?”
    “Get Terri, she seems stu…, I mean, she seems capable of doing this stunt.”

Production then offered me the chance to stunt double for Anjelica. I accepted — I mean, duh! In all the shots where you see the full shots of the Wicked Queen in the air above the dancers, it’s me. It was amazing hovering high in the air while Michael Jackson stares right into your eyes. Wow! Since I was the stunt-double for Anjelica Huston, the makeup artist Tom Burman had to make me look exactly like Anjelica’s Wicked Queen.

As Francis set the cameras up to shoot the Wicked Queen’s point of view, wranglers got me into position and hoisted me up as the queen. Anjelica had finished her close-ups and had gone back to her trailer to rest.

We were all ready to begin. I recited the lines and Michael looked up. His line was

    “Not only see this gift, you highness, but hear.”

Do you remember it? Picture it in your mind now. See Michael’s face as he spoke this line in the film. Do you have it? He was good, right?

Now imagine Michael looking up and upon seeing the Queen, all the blood draining out of his face. His voice shrank to a whisper and he’d turn away as if almost crying.

“Cut!” Francis wasn’t happy. There had been too many takes to get the shot. He went to Michael and with gentle pressure asked Michael what was wrong. When Michael didn’t seem to have an answer, Francis reminded him that he was the fearless Captain EO.

Michael tried again. However try as he could, every time he looked up at the Wicked Queen (me). He cowered. Francis suggested that Michael take five to collect himself.

Watching this, I realized that Michael thought I was Anjelica. Remember the Improv?

I begged the wrangler to let me down. I finally told him I had to go to the bathroom and if he didn’t want a golden shower, he best let me down.

The technician just let go of the rope that held me. When my brain finally registered how fast I was falling to earth with my feet bound behind me I thought my face would hit the cement. Thank goodness the tech grabbed the rope back.

I didn’t wait to justify my positioning but ran right over to where Michael was relaxing.

    “Michael Jackson!”

I was using my very best Anjelica voice at first, then I softened my voice and looked up at Michael.

    “Michael, it’s me?”

    “Terri?”

    “Oh yea! It’s me baby. And if you don’t get this scene right, I’m coming for you Michael.”

After that, what you see is the direct result of Michael Jackson being able to do what he was supposed to because he realized it was NOT Anjelica Huston.

NOTE — now I did say it would only take 3 articles, I find that there is so much to share. So I’d like to have one more week to finish… let me know if you would like that or what to move on to something else.

See you next week.

Reader Feedback

I must say that things did quiet down this week and I’m pleased about that. However, if you do have a different point of view on any article I write, I do defend your right to state it. We live in America after all and I love that about our country.

There was one question I’d like to respond to, “What was Michael’s explanation when asked about it?”

I never asked him about the allegations. I knew after meeting him that the charges were false. He had many people on the set to visit him and every one quietly defended him. Remember when people know eact other and care about each other, they don’t believe the gossip or rumors or dirt about their friend made by someone they don’t know. A good friend will stand by their friend and believe them.

Let me know what you would like to hear about next. As always, have a great week.

About Terri Hardin Jackson

Terri Hardin has designed attractions as a Disney Imagineer from 1987-1997. She's also a Jim Henson Puppeteer and has worked on over 42 film and TV projects including Ghostbusters & Captain EO. She currently creates Disney collectables and plays a Foster Farms Chicken.

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19 Comments

Comments for Let’s Talk About Captain EO starring Michael Jackson — Part 3 are now closed.

  1. I’m enjoying the stories Terri. Keep ‘em coming.
    Thanks

  2. Yes, by all means, do continue!

  3. Please, please! More, more!!

    Thank you for sharing, Teri. It’s a wonderful gift to hear the stories!

  4. Thank You Terri for another enjoyable read! Put a smile on my face before heading into another work day! :) Keep em coming.

  5. Again, very informative article. It’s so fascinating to find out the nitty gritty details about this attraction. I wish we had these details about all attractions.

    But, editors… please read over these articles before publishing. The arbitrary italics, indentation, run-on sentences, and bold letters make the article difficult to read. I would also encourage the editors to ask permission before editing comments, especially if there’s nothing derogatory, vulgar, or fraudulent in the comment itself.

  6. I’m thinking you may have meant that Poppin Taco and Reggie just got back from Breakin, or possibly Breakin 2. The original Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure hadn’t even been released at the time of Captain Eo’s filming, let alone the sequal, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, which featured the two as the good Bill and Ted robots.

    • Also, the allegations against Michael were not brought to light until 1993, so how would his friends even be addressing that situation in 1985? Are you saying that the people who stopped by the EO set LATER defended him (I hope)?

      • I have yet to read any report from someone who had any kind of relationship with Michael who believes any of the allegations against him. In fact, most of those people, if they had anything to say about him, would suggest that he was practically asexual. He was like a kid, sex wasn’t even something he considered, much less with children. It’s simply ridiculous to claim anything else.

  7. As much as I WAS a fan of MJ and loved EO, this just proves what a strange freaky person he was.
    A guy in his late 20′s, and a professional entertainer was having grape fights and cowering in front of a costumed actress playing a villain? Wow! That says it all!
    I also never understood using Houston as she was never a great-looking woman and seemed very mis-cast for that part. I can remember seeing that film and at the end wondering why they used such a homely actress.

    • He wasn’t “freaky”, as that suggests perversion. He was eccentric, or even child-like. Stunted might be the best word … given all the abuse in his upbringing, he used his adulthood and money to have the childhood he never got.

  8. Great articles Terri. Feel free to write about whatever you want — just keep’em coming!

  9. Ken – they used Angelica Huston because she’s a great ACTRESS!!! The storyline was about releasing our inner-beauty. Geesh!!!!

  10. I am for another installment!

  11. This is great! Captian EO is my favorite attraction and I was finally able to take my five year old daughter to see it in April. She loved Idy and Ody.

  12. (In best “Oliver” voice- )
    Please Terri, can we have some more?

    Another great article with hilarious and revealing insight behind the attraction, and the REAL people behind the roles. I’ll never be able to watch Captain EO the same way again knowing all this! (not a bad thing, that’s a compliment! Knowing more about the Making Of is a GOOD thing).

    You should probably clarify about the timing of people defending MJ, as the allegations from Evan Chandler came in 1993, not prior to Captain EO’s release -which the wording in the article sort of implies (Jordie’s father made the complaint, not the boy himself, and this was after MJ refused to bankroll his Hollywood dreams, audio of Evan Chandler vowing to destroy MJ if he doesn’t get what he wants is freely available. Jordie later divorced his own parents, and Evan Chandler committed suicide after Michael’s death).

    VERY much looking forward to anything else you share, Captain EO related and anything else. Thanks for taking your time to share with us Terri! -Q.

  13. Loving this! The more Captain EO stories you have the better! I’ve seen the “making of” video that Whoopi Goldberg hosted when they finally showed Captain EO on like Mtv in the 90s (which I remember recording and still have the VHS tape packed in a box somewhere) but I knew there was stuff they were leaving out. Yeah Michael was an odd duck, but when you think of the way he was brought up, he really never got to have a real proper childhood because his dad worked him and his brothers ragged with performing all the time. But anyhow… I loved Captain EO in the 80s and I love it now. I adore it so much I had my aunt make my Duffy bear a Captain EO costume for Halloween a couple years ago. It took her 2 weeks to make (I sent her photos of Michael in the costume) and it turned out awesome. He was a smash hit at the Halloween party at WDW that year. Everyone got so excited when they realized who he was dressed as.

  14. Would love another installment, Terri. I’ve always believed Michael was misunderstood, and my greatest regret was never getting to see him in concert. I wish you had some behind-the-scenes photos to go with your stories!

  15. Terri,
    I just discovered you and I am both fascinated and inspired. What an amazing person you are!