Remembering Michael Jackson: The ‘Captain’ Was Surreal

Here are a few words on Michael Jackson from Diane Fredel-Weis, a Los Angeles-based writer. Diane worked on the marketing for Jackson’s “Captain EO,” a 3-D sci-fi short featured as an attraction at Disney theme parks. The film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by George Lucas and starred Jackson alongside Anjelica Huston and Dick Shawn. Diane, who met the late pop star while working on “EO,” was kind enough to detail some of her experiences for MTV readers.

by Diane Fredel-Weis

When I walked onto the Culver City soundstage of “Captain EO” in early 1986, it was a thrill on many levels. The sets were mind-blowing. Dark, complex, coiled metal environments. Actors walking around in alien costumes. Dozens of people busy with the production. And of course, the star of the film, Michael Jackson, was there.

I was on an assignment for Walt Disney World marketing to watch the filming of the new 3D film/attraction, developed by Walt Disney Imagineering, to run at Epcot Center.

A rep for The Disney Co. introduced me to Jackson, who was wearing his white “world-saving” jumpsuit. I remember Michael was polite and shy. It was surreal meeting him — a superstar whose music I had grown up listening to since “The Jackson 5.”

After we met, he returned to the set for the shoot. Right before the camera started to roll, he waved at me. I was thunderstruck. It wasn’t like being selected to join Bruce Springsteen on stage, but it was a moment I will never forget.

“Captain EO” came at the high point of Michael Jackson’s career. Many years before it seemed he was spending more time in courtrooms than in concert.

The day I was on the soundstage, they filmed the dance sequence for “We are Here to Change the World.” I was in awe of not only Michael’s dancing talent but of the caliber of talent the dancers that surrounded him demonstrated. It was mesmerizing.

During my short visit, I also had the opportunity to spend time with [“Star Wars” creator] George Lucas, the executive producer of “EO.” I also met Anjelica Huston, who portrayed “EO”’s evil Supreme Leader.

When I returned to Orlando, I started working on ideas for TV, radio and print advertising for “Captain EO.” I tried to come up with an original tagline for the poster but realized the song title, “We Are Here to Change the World,” would work perfectly. Graphic designer Scott Feldman created the striking logo and H.R. Russell produced the illustration.

When I heard the news of Michael Jackson’s death, this extraordinary experience came flooding back. Like the song “We are Here to Change the World,” there is no denying that Michael did indeed impact the world with his influential contributions to music and culture.

Diane Fredel-Weis is a writer in Los Angeles.

Here is a picture of me in 1986, the year I went to the EO set and met Michael. As you can see, I was definitely influenced by his style: