Captain EO

Captain EO. Why it’s important, and what the toys might look like


What is it:

Like the title says I’m going to talk a little bit about a film called Captain EO. I’ll cover what it is, why I think it’s important, and lastly since I’m a toy design geek I’ll show you what I think an action figure based on the title character would look like.

First off, what is Captain EO? Captain EO is a 3-D effects film that was produced by LucasFilm for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The film was released in 1986 at Disneyland and Epcot Center at Walt Disney World. It stars Micheal Jackson as a space captain that travels to a cold and baron world to bring the gift of music and color.

STOP! I’m going to stop here for a second because I probably lost most of you with that last line. DO NOT close the web browser! I’m getting to the interesting parts.

Captain EO poster

Captain EO poster from Wikipedia.

Why it’s Important:

The film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Executive Produced by George Lucas with music by James Homer. Lucas’ involvement as producer on the film falls only a year or so after the release of the Star Wars film Return of the Jedi. Being so close in production to RotJ it has a lot, and I mean a lot, in common visually with both the original Star Wars Trilogy and with the other film developed by LucasFilm for Disney at the same time Star Tours. This really makes Captain EO feel like a mini episode of the Star Wars franchise. The spaceships look like something from the Star wars universe. The special effects and space shots used for them look like Star Wars. As well as a few other examples I explain further below.

Star Wars / Captain EO spaceship comparison.

The environments that the characters are put in are right out of Star Wars. Here we see the trench run from Star Wars: A New Hope along side a very similar shot from Captain EO. The shots of the ship entering the trench are also very similar to the same scene in Star Tours.

Star Tours and Captain EO trench comparison.

The characters are also very similar to Star Wars in that it is an intergalactic cast made up of humans, droids, and alien creatures of all shapes and sizes. Here we see the Captain and his crew, looking like the typical clientele at Jabba the Hutt’s palace in the Star Wars Universe.

Star Wars and Captain EO creature comparison

So we’ve covered a few of the things that were taken from Star Wars to help create Captain EO, now lets look at what Captain EO did to influence Star Wars. There are a few different visual ques in Captain EO that would later reappear in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Most notably at the end of Captain EO when the planet has been restored to it’s former glory, we see a culture and world much like the planet Naboo from Episode 1. We see it in the presence of the lush vegetation, the Roman column of the palace, and even in the funky gradient color scheme from two of Queen Amidala’s dresses.


Outside of Star Wars there is something else sci-fi related to mention about Captain EO. The mechanical forms of the planets inhabitants are totally the Borg, first seen in Star Trek, The Next Generation. That is if it were not for the fact that Captain EO pre-dates the Borg’s debut in that series by at least two years.  So for all you Trekkies out there, the next time you see the Borg, just think to yourself “Hey, that’s a total rip off of a Michel Jackson video.”

 Star Trek and Captain EO Borg comparison

The Toys:

So now that we all know that Captain EO is kind of like a mash-up of Return of the Jedi and the music Video for Thriller, we are left with the real question behind this post. What would the toys look like? Well we kind of already know what the toys would look like because they made some, but not all of the characters, and none of the Captain himself. A number of plush toys of some of the cute creatures have been made as well as a few small PVC figures (I have the Major Domo PVC but have not seen others).

But hey, I’m an action figure geek. And I want a pseudo-Star Wars figure based on my favorite pseudo-Star Wars movie. I want a 1:18th scale representation of “power of music Jedi” that can go on adventures with Han Solo or have a battle of the bands with Darth Vader. That would be bad ass. As a geek and freelance designer I decided to kick the idea around and come up with what a figure might look like. I started the way most projects do, by doing as much research as I possibly could. I learned everything I could about the visual style of the film and thought about what the toy would look like. I decided right away that he needed to have a light up feature in his chest so the rainbow on his t-shirt could glow like in the movie. I also thought he should have a defiant, more exciting action pose to stand in to give the figure some character. I also decided on a 7-points of articulation that would be cheaper to produce since this figure would most likely be a theme park exclusive item if it really existed.

Often times, when I work on freelance gigs I’ll draw for 15-30 minutes before I go to work to kind of warm up and get my brain thinking about shape and color. I took up this project thinking it would be great to work on for warm ups. I have seen the movie maybe 100 times in my life (I’m a huge Disney Parks geek too), so I thought to myself this project will be easy because his outfit is all white and it won’t take long to do. I said this because I’m an idiot and did not realize just how detailed his costume is in the film. So this project ended up taking like three weeks to do, 15 minutes at a time around other things, but here it is:

So what we’ve got here is a basic Captain EO figure in 1:18 scale done up just like a typical Star Wars figure like those produced by Hasbro. He includes a light up action feature utilizing a small LED light and small batteries that give the appearance of this chest glowing. The front half of the torso is molded in a translucent red plastic and then covered in white paint applications to cover what we don’t need to glow. Even though the figure doesn’t come with any normal Sci-Fi accessories like a laser pistol or light saber, you’ll notice his hands are still designed to hold them so he is 100% compatible with other 4″ figures. He also includes his side kick Fuzball, who’s tail is designed to wrap around EO’s arm so he can sit on his shoulder, and two energy beams that go over EO’s hands.

Captain EO figure sculpt sheet.

Sculpt sheet for Captain EO action figure.

Once the design of the figure is settled I specked out the paint applications and colors list on a deco sheet (<- fancy industry term). Almost every part of this figure including his accessories have some kind of paint application that must be added to them. Here you can also see a list of the colors to be used and their corresponding Pantone reference numbers so that the color can be exact matches.

Captain EO figure deco sheet.

Deco sheet for a captain EO action figure.

I tried to stay as faithful as I could to the design and deco while still making it feel like it would fit with other toy-lines. Over all, I’m pretty happy with how it came out. As always please let me know what you think by posting here or on Facebook.  And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Facebook (links are at the top of the site.)

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