Sunday, August 13, 2017


          It's not a "lost" documentary. Nor was it banned. Nor is it even a documentary.
          "Alien Encounters From New Tomorrowland" aired briefly in 1995, then got promptly shelved.
          Written and directed by Andrew Thomas, "Alien Encounters" features narration by Robert Urich taking a decidedly unprofessional approach for a documentary by treating the subject as established fact.
          Plucked from obscurity, Thomas followed directives and presented Disney with the product as requested. Strangely, the Disneyland ride ostensibly promoted received scant attention.
          After being randomly aired in a few cities in only five states, Disney pulled it. Strange way to conduct a marketing campaign.
          Especially considering that then-CEO of Disney Michael Eisner surprised Thomas by getting his own camera crew to film him introducing "Alien Encounters". Apparently Eisner thought the show was important. So why did it get pulled?
          In the late-1950s, promoting Tomorrowland, Walt Disney had Wernher von Braun appear in three space-related films. Von Braun, a former member of the Nazi SS, invented the V-2 rocket. But he died in 1977, so in 1995 Disney went with likable, trustworthy Robert Urich.
          It does seem a tad askew for Urich to state as fact through Disney that beings vastly more technologically sophisticated than ourselves regularly visit, and the government lies about it in order to stay in power. Particularly when the material was written by someone with no prior knowledge of the subject.
          By contrast, UFOs: Past, Present, and Future (1974) does the job right. Based on the book by Robert Emenegger, the documentary attempts to uncover proof of the existence of aliens. Presented by Rod Serling, and narrated by Burgess Meredith and Jose Ferrer, the film was re-released a few years later due to the popularity of the subject with films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
          It wasn't a "publicity stunt". If the director had pretended to be abducted by aliens in order to draw attention to the Disney ride before the show aired, then that would be a publicity stunt.
          And the 40-minute film has nothing in common with Orson Welles' radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Orson Welles altered the book by H.G. Wells significantly, and started the Halloween broadcast with a disclaimer that many listeners failed to catch.
          "Alien Encounters" is nothing like that. It's not particularly well done, but it does feature information found in more reliable sources. And it remains a mystery.
          Freely available online.

Stewart Kirby writes for

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