Movie Review: ‘The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head’
Director: Benjamin Lancaster
Cast: Daniel Cooksley, Kate Jenkins, Ron Schneider, Jeff Evans
Plot: A Magic Kingdom cast member working in retail discovers that not only is Walt Disney’s head kept frozen underneath the park, but he’s thawed out annually to oversee company operations.
Review: Quite some time ago we suffered through an absolutely revolting film that presented itself as an incendiary take-down of Disney culture, but same across as an incel’s edgy thesis about why women are evil. The big selling point of the film is that is was secretly filmed within the Disney parks itself, and that the Disney company would be out to get them, but it holds itself back by being…well…awful. Today we’re taking a look at a movie that did something similar but is instead a charming and uplifting story made by people who appreciates the role Disney can play in people’s lives. Putting aside the companies questionable business practises, Disney is often a link to people’s childhoods and family experiences and can help us remember what is more important in our lives and this is a movie that reflects this.
The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head builds its concept of the long standing rumour that Walt Disney’s body – or just his head – is kept cryogenically frozen under the Cinderella castle of The Magic Kingdom park. In real life, Disney was cremated, which is the opposite of being frozen, but in the world of this film he is down there and he is routinely woken up to make the big decisions with the running of his company. Walt (Schneider) has become dissatisfied however, and feels disconnected with from the running of his theme parks, one of his great passions. When a down-on-his-luck employee (or cast member, to use the jargon) stumbles across Walt’s head, the two make a deal for Peter (Cooksley) would get his dream job in exchange for smuggling Walt into the park to experience it for himself.
First and foremost, we have to address the disembodied head in the room. Walt does exist as just a head, stored in a cryogenics case, and achieved by having the actors performance green-screened into the open container. For the most part, the illusion holds up pretty well, even if sometimes it looks like one of those old hologram toys from the 80s. The performer behind the famous figure is Ron Schneider, a former Disney World cast member who played the iconic Dreamfinder character at EPCOT along with a mischievous purple dragon named Figment. For attendees of the parks during his time, he was a popular and beloved figure who maintains an enthusiastic and optimistic outlook regarding his work and he brings that energy to the role of Walt Disney very well. His commitment to the role is one of the strongest features of the film.
What holds the film back are some of the issues that arise with a low-budget, amateur production. Keeping in mind that this is not a movie that was intended for a wide, theatrical release – in fact, you can watch it on YouTube right now – some of this is excusable, but it does prove distracting. Much of the audio is rocky, with inconsistent quality and levels even in scenes where they could control such matters such as in the characters homes. The effect of Walt’s head in a jar is quite good, but then there’s a scene with a park attendee talking to Peter and the chromakey effect to put them in the park looks downright silly. The ambition and goodwill of the cast and crew carry the film through most of these moments, but it can take you out of the experience.
Most of the cast are amateur performers, or have little screen experience, but they are absolutely committed to the material and the writing helps solidify them as believable and sympathetic characters. The main conflict is around Peter and his daughter Molly (Jenkins) dealing with a changing relationship as she approaches adulthood while he’s not yet ready to let go of her childhood. Fortunately for them, Walt recognises what is happening and provides Peter with the guidance he needs whilst coming to terms with his own role as an iconic public figure.
For fans of Disney films and the parks, there is an endless amount of in-jokes and references to giggle at. Walt’s love of trains and model trains comes up a few times, as does the time he gift-wrapped a puppy for his wife’s birthday and the notorious White Wilderness documentary that established the misconception of suicidal lemmings. There’s even a sly nod to the changes made to the ‘Journey into Imagination’ ride that Schneider was an integral part of during its most popular period of operation.
In spite of the technical limitations, this is such a charming film that it’s difficult not to enjoy it. It’s a simple, uplifting story about family with a goofy concept. It’s also free to watch online these days, so it’s worth checking out if you’re a bit of a Disney nerd.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN