Back for a second season this week is the Disney+ original series “Behind the Attraction,” which takes an in-depth look at the creation of some of the Disney theme parks’ most memorable attractions and experiences.
Brian Volk-Weiss, who serves as executive producer alongside Dwayne Johnson (Disney’s “Jungle Cruise”) and Dany Garcia, returns as director for the six new episodes that cover iconic attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, as well as more unexpected topics such as Disney Food and Nighttime Spectaculars. He recently spoke with me about what to expect from the new season of the series.
DMK: So you’re back with a new season. As a huge fan of the show’s first 10 episodes, I’m thrilled. How long did it take to put together this second season?
Brian Volk-Weiss: We made fewer episodes than Season 1. So in that regard it was faster to make. But as it relates to the putting together, it took just as much time. About four months of research and scouting, so that’s exactly what we did for Season 1. And then, once all of that is done, shoot was just under two months, all around the world. Really, we’re very thorough.
DMK: So even though you say that it took about the same amount of time to develop the second series as it did the first, did you have different challenges? Did you find it easier, because you’d already done the first season, to do this second season?
Brian Volk-Weiss: It’s the understatement of the year to say Season 2 was easier than Season 1, as it relates to Disney, because in Season 1, many times we would go into a facility that no “civilian” had ever been in. And not only are we there, we’re coming in with cameras and microphones and a 15-person crew. The people who work there were like, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! What’s this?” And we were with Yellow Shoes (Yellow Shoes Creative Group, Disney’s in-house advertising agency), so Yellow Shoes was like, “No, it’s cool. Don’t worry.”
Season 2 was the exact opposite. We’d walk into a facility that we’d never been into before, but the people who work there had seen the show. So Season 2, they would be like, “Did you know about this? Did you see this? Did you know about that?” And we would be like, “Don’t get fired showing us this stuff!” It was like a 180 in that regard. It was exponentially easier.
The thing that made it much harder was we were in post-production on Season 1 when Covid hit. Season 2, we were filming as Covid was winding down. So that’s one thing to say in the United States. That’s another thing to say in Japan and China… You know, we went all over the world. And in Japan there was no messing around. Unless you were in your hotel room, you were wearing a mask, 24/7. There were a lot of rules. Don’t get me wrong. There were rules, of course, in the United States, as well. We had a slightly smaller crew when we were in Asia because of Covid, because they were very cognizant about how many people could go into any room. So it was tricky.
DMK: I was curious as to your choices of attractions this season. The first season, I think it was pretty obvious. There were the iconic, classic attractions — Haunted Mansion, the Castles. But I really like how in this second season you’ve taken a look at some unorthodox things… How did you come about deciding on those topics?
Brian Volk-Weiss: The four episodes that were not experiences (Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Indiana Jones Adventure and Epcot), to be completely honest with you, that was just what was the back-up for Season 1. We only had 10 episodes, and we basically had about 16 ideas that we wanted to do… We just couldn’t get it all into Season 1.
But food was a really interesting situation. While we were in post-production on Season 1, everybody at Disney loved the show and was like, “What else do you want to do?” And we had developed a show with [former head of Disney Imagineering] Bob Weiss that was all about the food in the parks. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this thing called Covid? But Covid happened and things happened. And it basically became apparent we would not be able to do Behind the Attraction Season 2 AND a show about food. So somebody had the great idea, “Well, why don’t we just take that and put it into Behind the Attraction?” So that’s how the food episode happened. And then, basically, because “food” was greenlit, then it was like, “Well, I guess we can do experiences now. Why don’t we do Nighttime Spectaculars?” That’s how that all happened.
Epcot was a little different.
DMK: How so?
Brian Volk-Weiss: Tell me how often you hear this. I’m a huge ROY Disney fan. I have a gigantic Disney collection at home. Thirty percent of it is dedicated to Roy. What I have always found very powerful, to the point where I always have to give a preface… I apologize if I tear up now, because it’s always, to me, a very powerful story. But there’s no better story, in my opinion, that sets up the relationship that Roy and Walt had with each other better than Orlando (Walt Disney World), and specifically Epcot… When Walt died — between his diagnosis [of cancer in November 1966], and him passing away [in December], it was extremely fast. So Roy, one would think, would be like, “OK, you know I’m very sad my brother passed away, but at least I don’t have to do this big, crazy thing in Florida.” Right? Well, not only did he do that (Walt Disney World, without which Walt’s dream of Epcot would never have happened), but you know he, Roy himself, died very soon after Disney World opened. So he obviously literally used the remaining years of his life to finish his brother’s dream… To me the perfect story was this Walt and Roy story, because it was about brothers. And even though I’m an only child, who CAN’T relate to two brothers working together, playing together, squabbling together? And their life’s work is still going strong in 2023. For me, the Epcot episode encapsulates that.
DMK: Of the episodes this season, which was your favorite then? The Epcot episode?
Brian Volk-Weiss: No. Absolutely, Indiana Jones. It’s my favorite attraction by far. I always get weird looks for that. But it’s by far my favorite attraction. And I mean, I was walking the track at 2 in the morning with [Disney Legend and former Imagineer] Tony Baxter. Can you believe that? So I’m sitting there with a guy who designed it, the guy who built it, and I’m on a quasi-private tour with him. And, by the way, the show lights are off, all the work lights are on, and it’s the most — I’ve done nothing better in my career.
If the Indiana Jones Adventure is your favorite attraction, too, it’s featured in Episode 3 of the new season of “Behind the Attraction”. All six episodes of the new season are available for streaming on November 1 on Disney+.
Check out the Season 2 trailer for a glimpse of what’s in store!