Disney+’s original content has had some hit and misses, but its recent addition Prop Culture is a home run. The eight-episode series follows long time movie prop collector Dan Lanigan as he hunts down and reconnects major movie history with its designers, creators, and actors of the beloved Disney film. Each episode highlights a different movie that Disney has created over its span of 97 years. Mary Poppins, Tron, The Muppets Movie, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Nightmare Before Christmas, Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit are all featured this time around. One would think that Disney would have kept most of these amazing movie props, but viewers learn along the way that some did go to various places. The adventures of hunting them down are what this show is really about. A great example is Fozzy’s Studebaker car from The Muppets Movie ended up in the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana. This car was custom made to fit both puppeteers and a driver, something unheard of in 1979.
The amount of knowledge and stories that come out of these episodes are absolutely amazing. The true Disney fanatic would have a field day with tidbits like the original “Feed The Birds” snow globe used in Mary Poppins is still in Walt Disney’s office. Did you also know that there were over 400 different hand-sculpted heads of Jack Skeleton for Nightmare before Christmas? Or that Johnny Depp’s hat in Pirates of Caribbean was cast in rubber because he threw it into the water so many times? In the same aspect, the series shows how absolutely delicate and handmade most of these movie pieces were. This is especially true when they take a look at the carousel horse used by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke during the Jolly Holiday sequence. Julie Andrews was saved by Disney ever since they filmed the movie but unfortunately, Dick’s had to be bought back at some point. His horse obviously has seen better days but can’t be restored. Another great example is the Tron costuming that was originally made with foam and stickers in certain parts. The stickers are starting to lift up on most pieces that have been collected as movie history. Thankfully most of the pieces that are talked about in the series either went to the Disney archives, various museums, or to the personal homes of those who created or acted with them.
One of the best parts of the series is, frankly, all the stories told by the creators, designers, or actors of the movies. In fact, Rick Moranis from Honey I Shrunk The Kids makes a rare televised appearance to talk about his time filming. He shares that he still owns every pair of glasses he wore from each movie he acted in because they all had to be done with prescription lenses for him to see. Karen Dotrice who played Jane Banks in Mary Poppins was in near tears seeing the jacket she originally wore on set. Charles Fleischer jumped into character when he saw his Roger Rabbit stand-in model and explained how they filmed such an amazing art piece for its time. When these people are reunited with items from the movie, you can tell in their faces immediately how much it means to them.
Dan Lanigan does a great job of using his movie prop knowledge to get these people to open up. Disney could have easily paid to put any celebrity host into the show, but it’s Dan’s enthusiasm and knowledge that makes the show what it is. He got the biggest grin out of Danny Elfman when he told him that his “Jack Clause” model he had was in great condition given some of its pieces liquefy after two to three years. I personally learned a lot of things about some of my favorite movies. It actually made my husband want to watch all the movies featured since there were some he hadn’t even seen before. The series is great for all ages and puts a smile on everyone’s face. I sincerely hope they make another season with more movies being featured. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check out Prop Culture on Disney+ and let me know what you think in the comments below.