By Matt Pascarella
Have you ever watched a movie and thought ‘I wonder how they made that prop?’ Or ‘I wonder where that prop came from?’ Well, Disney+’s Docuseries ‘Prop Culture’ sets out to answer some of those questions. This half-hour eight episode series, is hosted by prop collector and cinephile, Dan Lanigan, as he travels all over the country finding and learning about props from ‘Mary Poppins,’ ‘Tron,’ ‘The Nightmare before Christmas,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl,’ ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids,’ ‘Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ and ‘The Muppet Movie (1979).’
Lanigan brings parts of his collection to each episode and talks with individuals who worked on that movie about their experiences and what they remember from designing the various props. Despite the immense popularity of many of these movies, many of the props are hard to find or non-existent.
In the first episode, Lanigan tries to track down the original umbrella used in ‘Mary Poppins’ and Disney designer Kevin Kidney states he doesn’t know where the original is. However, he has plenty of replicas and recreations of the famous umbrella with the parrot head.
In the ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ episode, you learn that sketches from Tim Burton had this originally as a stop motion short film. One of the very cool pieces you see in this episode is the original Jack Skellington which was created in 1982. You also get to see the Santa Jack prop, in his sleigh with his ghostly reindeer – which is very cool. A fun fact about this movie: there were 227 puppets made to make ‘Nightmare Before Christmas.’
Set in 1947 film noir Hollywood, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ is a fan favorite. Lanigan sees early versions of Roger and learns Jessica Rabbit was based off actress Lauren Bacall. Plus, you see the venetian screen prop that Roger ran through, leaving a Roger shaped hole in the screen.
Lanigan talks with Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson, as he gives behind the scenes information about his dad working on ‘The Muppet Movie.’ Lanigan tracks down the van the Electric Mayhem traveled in and has an interview with Gonzo the Great, after Lanigan finds some of Gonzo’s original clothing from the movie. Plus, the episode ends with a reveal of a special prop used by a well-known frog.
Being a collector myself, it was very cool to see pieces from Lanigan’s collection and hear about many of the props from these iconic movies. The interviews from the people who worked on the movies are interesting. It’s fun to find out how they controlled certain creatures or characters in a time before computer generated imagery (CGI). If you’re looking for a series that semi-educational and entertaining, I recommend this one. Jack Skellington gives it two thumbs up.