We can easily take the artistry of theme park attractions for granted, especially ones where the work is less obvious. We marvel at the animatronics of Pirates of the Caribbean or the thrills of Space Mountain because the work is right out in front. That success is more subtle with the filmed attractions, particularly in Epcot. A perfect example is Impressions de France, an opening day attraction in 1982. It’s more than just a travelogue and creates a dream-like feeling of drifting through the French countryside. There is a reason the film hasn’t received an update while playing constantly for more than 35 years.

[Guest] on this episode of The Tomorrow Society Podcast is Rick Harper, who directed Impressions de France. He also worked in the model shop at WED during the 1970s and shot the Circle-Vision film American Journeys. During this extensive look at his career, Harper and [his host] discuss the following topics:

  • How did Harper get started at Disney and what interested him about working there?
  • Who were the Imagineering legends that mentored Harper in the model shop?
  • What excited him about directing a movie for the French pavilion?
  • How were the music selections chosen and used while shooting the film?
  • What were the biggest challenges with using the massive camera?
  • How was the editing handled while shooting in the pre-digital era?
  • What was it like to shoot the climactic scene with the camera moving up the Eiffel Tower?