When it comes to all things Disney, you better believe there is a fandom for it. Whether it’s pin trading or Disney bounding, the effect that Disney has on its fans is quite vast. For most of us, we have nostalgia and/or an emotional attachment tied to Disney. For many, the thought of owning a prop from one of their iconic films would be a dream come true. No one knows that better than film historian and prop collector Dan Lanigan who has amassed one of the most significant prop collections in the world.
For Disney+’s newest docu-series PROP CULTURE, we had the chance to speak with executive producer, creator, and host Dan Lanigan. For those not familiar, PROP CULTURE features “Dan Lanigan reuniting iconic Disney movie props with filmmakers, actors, and crew who created and used them in some of Disney’s most beloved films. Throughout this journey, Dan will recover lost artifacts, visit private collections, and help restore pieces from the Walt Disney Archives to their original glory. Among the films featured this season are Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Mary Poppins, the Muppet Movie, Tron, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?“. Throughout the series, we get to see as Dan travels the US in search of these iconic props, which made me wonder: What sort of challenges did Dan face in creating this series?
“You know, producing a TV show can be difficult, but combine that with trying to track down pieces from films that people generally don’t talk about can be tough, as well as trying to get them to take us seriously as a show” explains Dan. “I’ve been collecting for many years, but that only takes you so far. People had to trust that we were going to represent them and the pieces, you know, honestly and truly.” When Dan was able to acquire the prop, it made everything worth it, though. “Ultimately, we were able to get some pretty cool stuff and some cool people to sit with me on camera.”
He’s not wrong there, as the series features such talent as Danny Elfman, Christopher Llyod, Kathleen Turner, Brian Henson, and more. However, that, along with locating some of the hard to acquire props, was something Dan knew he couldn’t have done alone. “That was tough. Tracking down – trying to find things I’ve been looking for years unsuccessfully – but having the ability to have Disney work with me as a company on this really allowed doors to open and made it easier.”
As a viewer, it’s impressive to see the number of props that Dan was able to reunite with folks as well as their heartwarming, emotional responses to the item. This leads us to the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? episode, a segment that my partner, who has a deep love and appreciation for the film, was anxiously awaiting. Even though we weren’t interacting with the props, I could see his emotional attachment for the film and the excitement of what Dan would recover. It was during Dan’s interview with Benny the Cab stunt driver Charles Croughwell, that my partner realized that the original custom-built stunt car of Benny that Charles owned wasn’t the same as the original custom-built stunt car located at Hollywood Studios Backlot Express Restaurant. So naturally, he put me on the case as to why there were two Benny the Cab stunt cars.
“One of the things we learned in doing this episode was that there were two Benny the Cabs created and [Charlie] told us this.” Dan went on to explain that “there was the Benny the Cab that’s used for 95 percent of the shoot that is pretty much a rough and tumble go-cart which is what [Charlie] has in his personal collection.” This leads us to the mystery of the second Benny the Cab. Dan goes on to say that the one we see at Hollywood Studios is “the extender car which was meant for shots when the wheelbase needed to extend when Benny is going through the alleyway.” Similar to us, Dan hadn’t even known about there being another stunt car out there outside of the one located at Hollywood Studios. “I always assumed the one that was in the park was the one that they used for all the scenes but after researching it and finding out from Charlie, the one at the park was shot on but it may not have even made it into the film. [All of that] was a big discovery.”
Those types of discoveries are part of what makes PROP CULTURE such a fascinating and addictive series. The entire series has something to offer for everyone whether you like the more classical Disney films or the films that have a bit of edge to them. But one thing is for sure, Dan has an immense passion and love for these props and it shines through in each and every episode. So grab the family and prepare to binge through all 8-episodes which are now available on Disney+, you never know what you’ll discover. For more on PROP CULTURE, check out our review here.