Disney encounter lifts UFO believers

Article from The Orlando Sentinel, May 3, 1995.

Bo Poertner

ACROSS VOLUSIA

Disney encounter lifts UFO believers

Within the next five years, we might be exploring the universe in an alien spacecraft.

That's what believers in UFOs say - the aliens are coming.

Walt Disney World wants us prepared for the experience.

Disney is revamping its Tomorrowland attraction and the corner- stone of the $100 million project is The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien En- counter.

To help spread the word about its new attraction, Disney produced a film about UFOs, alien abductions and a government cover-up. The hourlong film was broadcast locally on WOFL-Channel 35 in Lake Mary on March 18.

"Alien Encounters from Tommorow land" attracted little attention from the public, perhaps because it ran at midnight. But it captivated followers of the UFO phenomenon.

They are in a frenzy of delight over the film, which promotes the new attraction but wraps it in a boldly written documentary that leaves no doubt about the existence of alien intelligence - at least in the minds of believers.

"No one believes "Alien Encounters" has anything to do with Alien Encounters at Disney World," said DeLand resident Don Zanghi, who counsels UFO abductees.

"We believe the purpose of it is that the government is doing a con- trolled release of information and the best way to do it is through Disney," he said.

Disney recruited free-lance film-maker Andy Thomas, a UFO believer, to research, write and produce the film which is narrated by televi- sion actor Robert Urich. Word of the film and its contents is spreading quickly throughout the national UFO community, Zanghi said.

In the film's opening sequence, a "spacecraft" flits across the sky while Urich intones:

"This is not swamp gas. It is not a flock of birds. This is an actual spacecraft piloted by alien intelligence - one sighting from tens of thousands made over the last 50 years on virtually every continent on the globe.

"Intelligent life from distant galaxies is now attempting to make open contact with the human race and tonight we'll show you the evi- dence."

The next sequence is classic Disney - Mickey Mouse and dancing paint brushes, Tinkerbell and fireworks exploding around Cinderella's castle. Disney CEO Michael Eisner even appears on camera.

Then there's Urich again, explaining that America unintentionally in- vited aliens to Earth by exploding the atomic bomb in 1945 and creating a "cosmic calling card."

Retired Air Force intelligence officer Kevin Randle explains that the federal government found it imperative to withhold UFO informa- tion. Technologically superior civilizations invariably undermine the social structure of technologically inferior civilizations and cause their collapse, he said.

So, was the film created for the government to confess to past mis- deeds, to let the public in on its secrets?

Nah.

"The government has nothing to do with the television show. It's strictly a TV vehicle to promote the new attraction," said Tim Klein, senior producer for broadcast marketing at Disney.

A huge financial incentive exists for Disney to get as much market- ing mileage as possible. Steve Baker, a theme park consultant in Or- lando, told The Orlando Sentinel in January that the new Tomorrow- land could draw up to 1 million visitors - depending on the strength of Disney's marketing.

Perhaps Zanghi and Disney both will get what they want. Disney wants more visitors at the Magic Kingdom.

And Zanghi is glad to see the UFO story told in a strong, positive forum. "What is there [in the film] is what we have been saying all along, only in stronger terms."

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