TV Review: ‘One Day at Disney’ Provides Capsule Entertainment But Has Questionable Sustainability

A long time ago in 2008 in a galaxy very, very familiar to us, Dave Filoni and George Lucas released “The Clone Wars” film in theaters as a means of promoting their upcoming Cartoon Network television series. This same strategy is being employed on Disney+ with “One Day At Disney,” a documentary lacing together daily operations stories from a range of Disney employees. The goal is to draw enough warm reception from these behind-the-scenes vignettes to then transition this audience to a 5-7 minute episodic series. With appearances by Bob Iger himself emphasizing the company’s worker satisfaction and creativity appreciation – validated by spirited and emotional testimonials – it’s hard not to be swept up in the allure of Disney recruitment. However, the intimate time spent with these imaginative geniuses from different divisions does eventually feel like an overstay, a sentiment that might not be remedied despite a shorter format.

What’s immediately apparent from “One Day at Disney” is how the company diversifies its staff and treasures its senior employees. People from all walks of life aren’t just welcomed — they’re encouraged to be a part of the magical kingdom they’ve been enraptured by since childhood. Grace Lee, a senior publishing illustration artist who works on feature extension stories, emigrated with her family from Taiwan. Zama Magudelela joined the cast of “The Lion King” show in Madrid, Spain after having one experience in musical theater in her home country of South Africa. The now-legendary Eric Goldberg was working on animated commercials in London when he had a fateful run-in with Disney executives at a convention in Los Angeles. It was through this interaction that Goldberg would eventually become the supervising animator and character designer of the Genie for 1992’s “Aladdin.”

The sobering and pleasant voice of Sterling K. Brown guides the narration without stealing the thunder of any subjects of interest. Viewers are given an audio and visual tour guide of the worker roster and their respective job description. The common thread is how they fulfill their passions by working for Disney, as well as the innovative value of their limitless imagination. Imagineer Eric Baker, who works on the “Galaxy’s Edge” theme park construction crew, gets choked up just by vocally addressing his involvement with “Star Wars” and how proud this makes his grandchildren feel. There’s never a dull moment at Disney when it comes to satiating artistic desire.

Ironically, the best segment highlights the inconsistency of the series’ messaging. Watching iconic newscaster Robin Roberts be so vulnerable regarding her former illness and Iger’s full support during her recovery period demonstrates the value the company places on lasting audience connections. There are many broadcast journalists, but there is only one Robin Roberts, as there are so many singular personalities among the Disney staff that feel like family to viewers. Even if we don’t see their actual faces, their essence is felt in every design, illustration, performance, or story we blissfully consume. It’s a shame more of these snippet “day in the life” pieces don’t have that same emotional rawness. Some come across like peppy career endorsements instead of realistic admissions of the ritual highs and lows that ultimately make working at Disney worthwhile.

The fundamental dilemma of this new series moving forward is waning viewer interest. Many of the vignettes could be interchangeable with a Blu-ray or DVD bonus feature. Netflix attaches their behind-the-scenes content to their relevant titles, so one has to wonder if Disney+ is better off mirroring this model. The personalized nature of “One Day at Disney” proves hard to resist, though returning viewership could be somewhat limited when better selections on the service exist. The extending life-force the show needs to sustain itself is more appearances by Iger showing us how various divisions prove integral to the overall function of the company.

The “One Day at Disney” documentary arrives on Disney Plus on Wednesday, December 3rd. Shorts will then unveil every Friday beginning December 6th.

GRADE: (★½)

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