This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Of Our Favorite Shows That Went to Disney World. A while back we took a look at the locations in Walt Disney World used in Thunder in Paradise; a camp classic “action” “adventure” show featuring Hulk Hogan in the mid ’90s. Most people, thankfully, haven’t seen Thunder, however they did catch many of sitcoms of that era who also made their way down to Florida.
Now it should come as no surprise to anyone that all the shows featured aired on ABC, and all but one of them shortly after ABC merged with The Disney Company. This was corporate synergy in action. Many of our favorite shows (most part of the hugely successful T.G.I.F. lineup) went to the vacation kingdom of the world. Despite having all the sophistication of a Beetle Bailey comic strip, many people that are a certain age fondly remember these shows, including Your Humble Author. Today we are going to take a look at all the ABC shows that ventured to the House of Mouse and examine The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of each. So sit back, try not to have Urkelbot flashbacks, and let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – Boy Meets World “The Happiest Show on Earth.”
Season 3, episode 21
“I don’t know. I mean I made a mistake. I thought we could be friends like you and I are but, you know when I see Topanga I want to hug her, hold her, kiss her. When I see you I have no interest in any of those things.” – Cory
Boy Meets World going to WDW is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. The charisma of everyone in the episode is off the charts and you can see why the show is so beloved. However the actual content of the show is little more than a ’90s version of Three’s Company, and by that I mean the entire episode hinges on a non-stop series of coincidences and people seeing things completely out of context. Now sitcoms aren’t generally known for Emmy-award winning writing, especially back then, but the episode could have been just three minutes long if any of the characters just talked to each other instead of letting people think the worst. It’s basically one of the reasons most people had a very negative reaction to the recent Batman v Superman movie.
With that out of the way, this Boy Meets World episode was a fun one. To get the characters down to WDW, schoolmates of Corey (the main character of Boy Meets World) wrote papers for the Environmental Essay Awards. The three winners just so happened to be Topanga (Corey’s ex-girlfriend), Ronnie (the lothario of the school known as “Lips”), and Kristin, a girl Corey had just dated and accidentally called “Topanga” after kissing. Knowing Topanga and Ronnie would be together down in Orlando, Corey’s friend Shawn hatched a scheme to get them down there as well. There was actually a wonderful moment where right before they announced the winners of the contest, Shawn finally turned in his essay. To cover for Corey, his brother Eric created a ridiculous looking dummy and planned a Weekend at Bernie’s situation. It works because it’s so ridiculous. Big thumbs up.
Shawn and Corey finally arrived in WDW. Topanga and the rest of the essay finalists were brought to The Living Seas to study and observe dolphins. They were introduced to a particular dolphin that was being taken care of who had been separated from her mate and had been refusing to eat. Some very good bits with Shawn and Corey together, including one great moment where Corey was mad they had just spent 30 minutes in line for a ride and it was revealed they were just in a line for churros. Thanks FP+.
After Topanga tells Corey to stop chasing her, the story gets next level bananas. Corey goes back to the Living Seas and runs into Dana from the show Step by Step. WHAAAAAAAAT?! She is never mentioned by name, which is made stranger by the fact that she specifically asks Corey what his name is. After meticulous scouring the episodes of Step by Step that go to WDW, she at no point would have been at EPCOT alone for this. This was legitimately one of the most bonkers things I have seen on any TV show. Dana tells Corey that animals are like people and have emotions too. This leads to Corey having a heart to heart with a dolphin, explaining that he loves Topanga and that it’s hard to live without her. This was the same dolphin who was not eating after being separated from her mate, but after Corey’s story the dolphin ate a fish. LIKE I COULD MAKE THAT UP.
Then it was revealed that Topanga was secretly standing in the back listening to all of this, like John Lovitz in The Wedding Singer, and later told Corey she loved him too.
The funniest part of the show may have been the clip right before the credits. Here we get to see Corey’s parents react to their son being gone for days (they had not been acknowledged all episode.) It was done really well with a good gag involving Disney snow globes and Corey’s eight year old sister flabbergasted by how lenient Corey’s punishment was. “A month, I got more than that the time I said BLEEEEEEEEEP!” Her parent’s were shocked. “Morgan! Get up to your room! You’re grounded for two months!” Absolutely fantastic.
Be sure to check out Boy Meets World: Season 3 on DVD.
# 5 – Step By Step “We’re Going to Disney World”
Season 5, episodes 22 and 23
“Proceed to Nine Dragons restaurant. Advance team has shrimp lo mein waiting for you.” – Mark Foster. (And here I thought the first time I would hear “Nine Dragons” on a TV show it would be on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares)
Step by Step doesn’t get nearly the love that all of the other shows on our countdown do, but their trip to WDW is a must watch for Disney fans. To get the family down to Orlando, the gimmick was that their grandmother was “giving them their inheritances early” with a trip to Disney. We start off immediately at Old Key West, so you know this will be a good one. It’s interesting to note that the characters never mention Old Key West. In fact, all the shows that stayed on Disney property never said the name of the Disney resort they were at. Not once. That’s odd. Maybe that would violate some sort of FCC regulation about mixing advertising and programming (doubtful considering almost all the episodes are nothing but commercials for WDW).
Now the actual plots of Step by Step, and there were FOUR OF THEM, were all razor thin, but they went to some amazing places at WDW to make up for that. For example, while almost every show featured the monorail, this was the only one which showed the Resort Launches. The girls went to Pleasure Island, and you can even see the old Jessica Rabbit sign in the background. The boys basically did a souped up version of The Ultimate Touring Plans, which would include hitting every ride, show, food place, and gift shop in WDW within four days.
The “main” plot of the two episodes was the character Jake attempting to do everything at WDW within the four days to take the record back from a Russian. Now I’ve seen a lot of Step by Step episodes and I don’t even remember Jake. He may be the shows Cousin Oliver. No offense to the actor, who certainly was good in every other way, but he talked like the squeaky voiced teenager in the Simpsons. It was completely distracting every time he opened his mouth. That said, he went to a ton of awesome rides including Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the Astro Orbiter, and even the old Mike Fink Keel Boats.
In one super bizarre sequence, Jake plays the role of Indy during the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. He did this after finding out the show was going to be cancelled because the person who was scheduled to be Indy for the show couldn’t make it. Jake was standing next to a kid in line who saved the Stunt Spectacular for last because he loved Indy, and was now going to miss the show. Okay, so it’s crazy enough that we are meant to believe that Disney would use a guest to play a highly trained role within the park. But hey, it’s TV, we can overlook that. HOWEVER, they did the complete first sequence of the the Stunt Spectacular and FULL HOUSE HAD ALREADY DONE THE EXACT SAME THING THREE YEARS EARLIER. Absolutely crazy.
Jake ends up beating the Russian’s record and taking the pride and honor back to the good ol’ U S of A. It a great sequence the show played the theme of Rocky as he made his final run to the castle and celebrated with Mickey Mouse and the family. This was a very good scene.
The show closed with Frank and his wife Carol realizing what all of us do, that once you start bringing kids to Walt Disney World (and Universal) it’s not about you anymore. It’s about seeing the magic through their eyes. As the kids were in shock watching IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, the parents took a step back and realized that this is what a Disney family vacation is really about. The memories that you bring home and will always bring a smile to your face.
# 4 – Sabrina “Disney World”
Season 2, episode 23
“Why don’t you take me to Paris and not let me eat the food!” – Sabrina, after finding out she couldn’t spend any of her time at Disney World on rides
Sabrina: The Teenage Witch has two incredible things going for it: the off the charts charisma of Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina, and the fact that the show focuses on Disney’s newly opened Animal Kingdom. These two things are so great they make the show transcend the weaker parts, including an awful subplot featuring Sabrina’s two aunts. The show doesn’t even bother having a legitimate reason to get everyone down to Florida, it just has the Quizmaster Albert character show up and bewitch the principal into saying “class trip to Florida!” While the rest of the students get to enjoy the park, Sabrina has to pick up various elements to create a potion for a wizard exam.
Sabrina and her family stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, and while there were establishing shots of the outside of the hotel and actual rooms inside, they never mentioned the hotel by name. One of the subplots was that that a “cool girl” in the school was after Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey, but one of Sabrina’s aunts bewitched him into a spieler on Kilimanjaro Safaris. This was good stuff because Harvey would just make up facts.
The near intolerable plot of Sabrina involved her two aunts finding a bone in Dinoland USA and eventually transforming it into a caveman. For a show that had some really sharp writing (the school’s principal – played by Martin Mull – and Sabrina’s cat Salem had some wonderful lines) the bits with the caveman were awful. Sabrina’s friends ended up accidentally drinking her potion and turned into zebras on the safari. Sabrina turned them back into humans, and thus passed her test. Any show that spends an entire day in Animal Kingdom is A-OK in my book.
Click HERE to get Sabrina, the Teenage Witch: Season 2 on DVD.
This article seems to be running a bit long, even for SATURDAY SIX standards, so how about we see you over in PART TWO to continue with the rest of our countdown? CLICK HERE for even more sitcoms going to WDW goodness!