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  1. #1

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    August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    You're inside the head of a 12-year-old boy. Yesterland now includes Cranium Command from Epcot's Wonders of Life pavilion.


    Please discuss it here.
    Werner Weiss
    Curator of Yesterland, featuring discontinued Disneyland attractions

  2. #2

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    I don't know about today, but about a year & 1/2 ago I snuck into the closed Wonders of Life pavilion, and into the main Buzzy theater. It was indeed all there, and looked like a touch of a button could bring it to life. The monitors were even powered up, sitting on a black screen. This has always been one of my all time favorite WDW attractions, and it was sad to see it just sitting there gathering dust.

    Thanks for the memories, Werner!

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Back in the early 90's our family made it's first and only trip to WDW (just my daughter and myself returned this past Spring). I have to say that out of everything back there, this attraction was my hands down favorite. When it was time to repeat some attractions (we were there for several days) I wanted to go back and see this. It was so well done and very, very funny. Not being an Eastcoaster I had no idea this whole area had been redone and was sorry to hear it was no longer running this last trip.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane and a reminder of a great attraction.

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Our first trip to Epcot was in 2004 and I was astonished to see this humongous building sitting empty. Then several years ago we were able to go inside the building while it was being used as HQ for Food and Wine. Dustysage regaled us with stories of the Wonders of Life Pavilion that was no more.

    Thanks for allowing me to to vicariously visit Cranium Command through your photos and narrative, Werner. I hope to see more of Wonders of Life at Yesterland soon.
    Rick


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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Great update! I too miss this attraction and think it would be great if they updated it. It's a shame that the Wonder of Life Pavilion has so much potential and they leave it to rot.

    I was very fortunate to experience it a few years ago when they opened it temporarily for Christmas for the last time. I did a few run throughs of both Cranium Command and Body Wars.

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Thank you, Werner, for this article. This attraction has a close personal connection to me. My father was the sound designer for this attraction, and he was very proud of his work. He is upset that it's been closed. I never got a chance to see the attraction myself, but there are a couple good videos of the attraction on YouTube.
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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Sadly, I've never seen this attraction. It looks and sounds like it would've been one of my favorites though. Thanks Werner for your part in helping it to live on, if only on the Internet. Now, off to Youtube to find some videos of it.

  8. #8

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Quote Originally Posted by BassBone View Post
    My father was the sound designer for this attraction, and he was very proud of his work. He is upset that it's been closed. I never got a chance to see the attraction myself, but there are a couple good videos of the attraction on YouTube.
    My compliments to your father!

    Cranium Command was a well-designed, well-executed attraction. It wasn't a big budget attraction. It was a case of talented people coming up with something that was entertaining, clever, original, and even somewhat educational—qualities that the best Disney attractions have had since 1955.

    I watched a few of the online videos while doing research for the article. The videos give a pretty good idea of the creative script and quick pace. But the videos fail to capture what it was like to be inside the 12-year-old's "head," with Audio-Animatronic brain pilot Buzzy interacting with the filmed body crew performers and the two "eyes" showing what the 12-year-old was seeing.

    Also, Cranium Command was unique to Epcot.
    Werner Weiss
    Curator of Yesterland, featuring discontinued Disneyland attractions

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    CC was one of the best attractions at Epcot. It was pefectlu themed and got you to learn something about the brain at the same time. I belive that the poor location of the Wonders of Life pavilion was the real blame. It just shows you that every detail counts and not giving proper attenton to location can really kill something wonderful. As they say in business, there are three things that determine success in business: Location, location and location.
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  10. #10

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Quote Originally Posted by JiminyCricketFan View Post
    I belive that the poor location of the Wonders of Life pavilion was the real blame.
    Excellent point.

    If the entrance to Cranium Command had been on the main path between Spaceship Earth and World Showcase, there would still be lines to get in.
    Werner Weiss
    Curator of Yesterland, featuring discontinued Disneyland attractions

  11. #11

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    General Knowlege, lol... I know it's "corny" but there's something about it that just works. The general's name is funny because the whole thing seems fun spirited and kind of tongue-in-cheek. Also, I hate to be a stickler about it since the attraction seems to have a lighter tone, but General Knowledge seems to be more of a "Lieutenant General Knowledge"... he only has 3 stars. I guess after 20 years he was probably due for a promotion anyway, but I just wish they gave him an extra star to make him a real General.

  12. #12

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Corey Burton at his zany best as General Knowledge. I loved this attraction! Also, "Where do you think you are, Disney World?" One of the best quotes in the attraction. And it's funny to still think that characters were used in the attraction, i.e. Hanz and Franz, who I still think were the funniest part of the attraction.

    Great article, as always Werner!
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  13. #13

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Ah, Cranium Command. Throughout all the Disney attractions that have been created throughout the years, none have even reached the smart, irreverent and witty quality of the script this one boasts. I know Rolly Crump and a couple higher-ups had their hands in it, but I'm willing to bet some lower unknowns wrote the script. I want to meet them, but I wouldn't be shocked if they wound up writing television or film comedies. The writing is miles above what usually is found, normally somewhat generic and more cheesy laughs. I haven't seen such hilarity, smart writing and overall edge on a theme park attraction until Universal's "The Simpsons Ride". (okay, Alien Encounter was pretty clever, too)

    Anyways, with that lovefest out of the way (hey, what can I say, I'm a comedy writer), CC had quite an interesting history that was explained in the Extinct Attractions dvd for Wonders of Life. Apparently it was an original planned attraction in the same spot, but there was a Star Trek theme (Trek had become really big in the early-to-mid 80's) and the original title was "Brain Command". It would have many, gnome-esque AAs controlling the brain of a man. The idea was pretty similar to what you saw in the Eddie Murphy flop "Meet Dave". In fact, the writers of that movie are lucky that "Brain Command" was re-imagined with a military theme, because there would be a lawsuit from Disney, the similarties were that uncanny. The most interesting thing about this version was that there was to be interchangable shows. For example, one month the team would commandeneer the brain of a teenager on a school day (the final result), the other the brain of a grown adult on his wedding day, another a man going through a mid-life crisis and then the brain of an old man, withering away to death. (rather morbid for a Disney attraction, don't you think?) This may have been the plan all throughout, but the eventual unpopularity of the Wonders of Life pavillion may of had something to do with the idea getting tossed aside. (as well as Met Life pulling out earlier than planned)

    Because of the high cost of Audio Animatronics, the Trek theme was removed and the AAs downplayed to one. (two, if you count the Hypothalamus) Somewhere in this came out the idea of comparing piloting a brain to commanding a military operation. And so, "Cranium Command" was born with General Knowledge recruiting Captain Cortex (a cocky, young pilot) to pilot the brain of a 12-year-old boy. The transition from a smart-alecky young captain to a naive and bumbling one mirrors the creative process of Star Tours, in which Rex underwent the same transition during the creative process.

    As many people know, the troubles of constantly rewriting the main show script (in which Cortex became Buzzy) had the imagineers totally forget the pre-show. This is what makes Cranium Command a true footnote in Disney history. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise were assigned out of the blue to direct and help animate the four-minute short (and the General Knowledge animation in the main show), which eventually became a tribute to Terry Gilliam and Monty Python more than anything else. (and possibly even more memorable than the main show) You can actually tell the disconnect between the main show and the pre show in the fact that Buzzy is voiced by different voice actors. The pre-show Buzzy sounds like it was voiced by a polished VA, while main show Buzzy is voiced by a young boy (Scott Curtis according to IMDB) in order to show that he and the 12-year-old, Bobby are one in the same. Fortunately enough, both parts of the attraction turn out to be full of witticisms and clever writing. It also happens to feature Corey Burton at his best.

    Anyways, as the story goes, on press day, Michael Eisner was so impressed by CC's pre-show that he soon enlisted Trousdale and Wise to direct Disney's next animated film, the quinesstential "Beauty and the Beast". Who knows, without Cranium Command, Trousdale and Wise may have stayed as mere lowly Disney animation artists and "Beauty and the Beast" wouldn't be the classic we have today. And we could be stuck with an animated feature never having the honor of being nominated for best picture. (though "Up" and the new ten nom rule could change that) No matter how you look at it, this little, clever attraction had a big role to play in Disney animation history.

    So, not only is CC one of the funniest and most clever theme park attractions ever devised, but it also paved the way for arguably Disney's greatest animated film. Not bad for a multimedia show stuck on the back on an extremely unpopular Epcot pavillion. Now if only it can get re-located with an 2000's update. (Cranium Command 2: Electric Boogaloo, anyone?) Maybe Buzzy can control Bobby through a day of college: trying to nap through your most boring class, survivng mid-terms, grabbing a bite to eat at the student union, and endure endless partying in the dorms. Of course, we could go later into the night, but that wouldn't be very family friendly, would it?

    BTW: Does anybody recall how advanced the Buzzy animatronic was? I know it came out the same year as the Wicked Witch in TGMR, but IIRC the last time I saw it (in the year 2002), besides fluid movement of his fingers, Buzzy had very rough movements and his mouth didn't open as much. I've seen videos of the attraction from when it opened in '89, and he looks a little more in shape, but can someone who remembers more clearly elaborate on how well he operated? Thanks!

  14. #14

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    Thanks for that detail, goldenstate5. Very interesting!

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    Re: August 27, 2009: Cranium Command

    *sigh* i never really went on this ride and even if i did my tiny 5 year old brain probably couldnt remember it, oh well, hmm the ever changing WDW reminds me of a scene from aladin when Genie said "POOF, wadda need? POOF , wadda need? POOF wadda need?" maybe thats why Disneyland is a little bit more timeless, it doesnt change every 5 weeks
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