With just a little under a month of operation so far, Disney+ has already positioned itself as a provider of compelling and entertaining content, from phenomenal original works such as The Imagineering Story and The Mandalorian, or the wildly entertaining series, The World According to Jeff Goldblum. One highly-anticipated project, hyped by Disney so much that it was teased as a “top-secret project” over the summer, titled One Day At Disney, sadly falls flat. With the most unfortunate disappointment that this project perhaps had the greatest potential of all, it set out on the major task of highlighting the incredible people that create the magic of Disney in a single day, but it sadly never truly scratches the surface, and never soars beyond its ability to be a flashy corporate fluff piece.
For anyone who keeps up with the workings of The Walt Disney Company each day, it’s evident that the magic of the company does not happen by itself. Instead, it is the dedicated, hard-work from hundreds of thousands of employees (or Cast Members, as they’re known in most divisions of the company), who clock in for their frontline shifts, drive to work at the crack of dawn to look over animation dailies, or the folks who stayed up all night perfecting the design of a new product or experience that will be tested and cherished by millions of fans worldwide. Disney is a company in which hundreds of thousands of employees have found not just a job, but a calling in bringing brilliant stories to life and fulfilling their lifelong dreams. With so many great topics to choose from and so many great stories to highlight; why does One Day at Disney feel so flat and uninspired? The documentary has a great deal to say, but its lack of direction leads it to sadly, say nothing at all.
The documentary, which also was released in conjunction with a coffee-table book of the same name, fails because it doesn’t feel any different than the promotional material produced by the Disney Careers team highlighting various roles at the company. It never truly scratches the surface of the personal stories that make up The Walt Disney Company. This is a storytelling company after all, yet the stories of these talented individuals fail to truly shine; it essentially reads like the type of in-company promotional reel that would be screened at an employee onboarding session, but it doesn’t have much to say beyond ‘Disney is a great company’ (it certainly is, but that doesn’t always make for a compelling one-hour documentary).
Its problem isn’t necessarily the subjects of the documentary, but it does no service in showing the true work of the team. There’s no discussion as to how the culture at each company supports the work of the individuals featured, nor is there a compelling showcase of the actual process of their work and shows far and few meaningful accomplishments they have had in their career. One shining piece was hearing Good Morning America host Robin Roberts share her story and journey with Disney, which is a nice change of pace from the rest of the film, but overall it has trouble making its way through the subject material.
Finally, the documentary fails to capture a particular narrative, and its narration does little to add any connectivity between the concept and themes of this feature. First, there’s the official narration by Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), and an interview by Disney CEO Bob Iger, which at times works as a narration. With the ability to utilize Iger as a method for showcasing the Disney culture, it would have been far more compelling to see Iger be the narrative that ties the film together, rather than a mere interview. The film begins by showcasing one of Iger’s visits to Pixar Animation Studios to talk about film ideas, but these ideas aren’t utilized beyond a mere glimpse. There’s no moment that showcases what life at Disney is truly like around the world from the moment the sun rises and sets in jobs that truly make millions of people happy. There’s no discussion of the reward and achievements in making the impossible, possible, and never is there the real talk of why any of these employees truly came to Disney in the first place.
One Day at Disney is a brilliant idea that had so much potential. With this being the launch of a long-series of short episodes featuring Cast Members around the world, we hope that this concept will work better in short-form, and in its accompanying coffee-table book of the same title. Until then, at least we have The Imagineering Story to rewatch again.
One Day at Disney is now streaming on Disney+