Disney Parks have the best attractions in the world, and Disney Plus‘s Behind the Attraction is about to show fans how they make the magic happen. The new series offers behind-the-scenes looks at a wide variety of Disney landmarks, from the Haunted Mansion to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the iconic castles. It’s as much of a backstage pass as you can get without being an Imagineer.
Behind the Attraction executive producer Brian Volk-Weiss and several of Disney’s top Imagineers joined Nerdophiles to preview the series and talk about their favorite memories putting together the rides and locations that have brought joy to so many people around the world. Plus, what attractions didn’t make it into the ten episodes? Learn that and more in our interview.
Nerdophiles: Disney has already opened up about the Imagineering process with another Disney Plus release, The Imagineering Story. What makes Behind the Attraction distinct from that?
Brian Volk-Weiss: What we try to do is we really get into the the fun. We went away a little bit from the history and the protocols of building these attractions, and just really went for these fun nuggets that either helped build the pop culture that we live in now, or are part of what’s coming that is allowing Disney to continue to have such a big voice in the culture.
NP: Imagineers are by definition behind-the-scenes people. You do your jobs well but we generally never get to meet you. What was it like for you to step into the spotlight with this series?
Jeanette Lomboy: We are tasked to do impossible things, fun things, magical things. And if we’re trying to bring those stories to life, you can bet that there’s a lot of stories about bringing it to life that guests never hear; they just see the end product of that. So to talk about it, to be asked questions that were not typically asked about—like why did you do it this way and what did you really mean by that, and were there challenges, and was it fun—it really was great for us to [go] through the process of what we go through together to make these things come to life.
And I think I learned a lot, too. I was asked a question about whether or not the initial feeling for Jungle Cruise and what Walt [Disney] wanted out of that, which was a true-life adventure, actually seeded Animal Kingdom. And the truth is Animal Kingdom is a fulfillment of Walt’s vision of Jungle Cruise. He wanted to deliver guests into Africa with animals, and that’s what we did years and decades later. That connective tissue runs strong and we don’t get to talk about that enough. We just get to show our guests what the end product looks like. So it was a lot of fun, and there were so many other stories that we haven’t even been able to share yet.
Mark LaVine: What was so interesting to me, working on this…has been a through line that goes all the way back to Walt…Those of us who are Imagineers today, there’s a direct lineage to those Imagineers that first started this work. And you see that in the show. You see this connection of almost 70 years of people doing this kind of work. It’s an exciting part and it’s certainly part of it now. And I see the lineage of what Imagineering and everyone involved in park creations have done.
NP: Attractions are by nature in-person experiences; they’re things that metaphorically and sometimes literally move us. How do you convey that same gravity in a TV series like Behind the Attraction?
BVW: What we’re trying to do is start small and tell that story about the pipes and wires being laid three decades before they’re needed. Over the course of the rest of the episode we add a little context here, a little context there. And by the end of the episode, if we balanced everything correctly…it’s like connect the dots, where it’s a bunch of dots. And then at the end, after all the things, it’s like oh, it’s a dragon. That’s what we try to do. We start small and then we just connect the dots.
NP: Dwayne Johnson is an executive producer on the series. How involved was he in the project, and what did he bring to the table?
BVW: His involvement was awesome, for lack of a better word. You probably want some specifics and not just some vague word. Anything we asked of him—to make a phone call, to shoot a text, anything we needed from him—he was there. And I think he made 89 movies while we were making the show. (laughs) He was always there for us.
But the other thing that was great about Dwayne was, it’s so funny working with celebrities; there’s what you see and then there is what you get. With Dwayne, whatever you see him doing on television—when you see him interviewed, anything like that—that’s him. He brings an enthusiasm and an energy to every conference call, every Zoom, every meeting. Everything we did with him was high energy. We were laughing…And I would say he loves Disney as much as anybody. He’s been going to it forever. To call it awesome [would be a] tremendous understatement, actually.
NP: There are hundreds of attractions across all the Disney Parks worldwide, and only ten Behind the Attraction episodes. Is there anything we didn’t see that you’d love to have included if the show comes back for season 2?
JL: My favorite attraction of all time is Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, but it is expressed differently [in other Disney parks] and our most recent Pirates of the Caribbean in Shanghai is such an amazing technological masterpiece and really one of the finest rides in the world. I would love to see that covered.
DL: Avatar Flight of Passage [at Disney’s Animal Kingdom].
BVW: Indiana Jones. Rise of the Resistance edged it out, but I went to the park once and every Fastpass I did the entire day was Indiana Jones. I know everything that’s coming and I am still always surprised. I always find something I hadn’t seen before. So that really was number 11.