In 1994 a show called Walt Disney World Inside Out aired on Disney Channel. And while the show only aired for a single season (the concept we’re discussing here only lived for one season, the series continued for another year in a different format, one co-hosted by George Foreman), it was hugely influential, especially for young Disney fanatics growing up in a time before the internet and the more in-depth specials that now air regularly on the Travel Channel.
Walt Disney World Inside Out was show was hosted by stand-up comedian Scott Herriott, who had an affable, goofy quality to his delivery, occasionally slinging well-placed barbs at resort guests during his many on-the-street segments, and adding irreverent commentary to familiar attractions (“Posture is very important,” he told his hitchhiking ghost at the Haunted Mansion). The show would mix in nifty challenges (guests were forced to hold a cup of water in their mouths on some of the resorts thrill rides, with points awarded for least amount of water spilled), behind-the-scenes demonstrations of things like the then-cutting-edge virtual reality experiences that would become commonplace at Innoventions and DisneyQuest, taped segments with celebrities (Gilbert Gottfried played a private detective investigating the Hollywood Tower Hotel shortly after Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened), and an informational rundown of events happening in the parks in the coming months (“What do Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone have in common besides rippling biceps? They’re opening a brand new Planet Hollywood, the newest nightspot in Pleasure Island!”)
The show is well remembered, largely because of Herriott’s prickly delivery, the New Orleans-inspired theme music and the red couch with Mickey Mouse-shaped polka dots that they would cart around to various locations within Walt Disney World. Looking back on the show, it offers up fascinating tidbits to the resort that once was, acting as a sort of snappily edited time capsule, with old shows like Splashtacular at Epcot (which ran for seven months) getting as much screen time as bona fide classics like Splash Mountain. (It’s also fun to hear Epcot being referred to as “Epcot ‘94” and “Epcot ’95,” naming that was implemented after the EPCOT Center moniker was dropped the year before the show aired.)
We were so driven by our love of Walt Disney World Inside Out that we tracked down Herriott, who now makes nature documentaries about long distance hiking and the legend of the bigfoot (more on that in a minute). He was kind enough to share stories from the production of the series, including what it was like filming in Walt Disney World and whatever happened to that crazy couch.
How were you first approached?
A friend of mine recommended me to audition for it. And it just worked out. I got the gig and I don’t think I was doing any stand-up in a club. It was just a normal audition.
What was the shooting schedule like? Were you living down there?
No. It was really nice. I was living in L.A. and Disney would fly me out there for a week. It was basically five to seven days. You would shoot one episode a month. What I liked about it was that we were snarky and we were making one of the more sarcastic shows that had been done on Disney Channel. We were trying to be hip without being hip…I liked the idea that we were trying to get behind the scenes and show some of the workings and the technological aspects of it.
Were you a Disney fan before doing the show?
I wasn’t obsessed but what kid growing up doesn’t, to one degree or another, love Disney? And growing up in the southland, we would go to Disneyland quite a bit. I remember, as a kid, going to the Haunted Mansion for the first time. It was such a big deal.
What was your favorite aspect of taping the series?
I remember meeting the celebrities was always fun. Nancy Kerrigan was on. And the Gilbert Gottfried remote he did separately from my filming. We didn’t interact at all. But one that just came to mind was Splash Mountain and I’m dressed in a lab coat, sitting behind people, using some horrible eastern European accent. I also loved all the stuff about the Haunted Mansion, because I loved it as a kid. It was neat to see that work.
You also got to capture things that wound up not being a part of Walt Disney World forever.
Yeah I mean obviously things change. There was ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. That was a fun thing to do.
What about that couch?
I always kind of liked the idea of that couch. I thought it was cool and funny. And always, while I was doing the show, it was the number one thing that people asked about. “Did you get to keep the couch when you were done?”
Have you been back since?
I haven’t been back to Walt Disney World, mostly because I’ve been doing my documentaries about long-distance hiking, available at Squatchfilms.com. I’m on the other side of the country. So no, I haven’t been back.
You’re now a bigfoot enthusiast. There’s the yeti at Matterhorn and there’s a Bigfoot at Expedition Everest. Where does that fascination come from?
I don’t know. But it didn’t come from the Matterhorn, because I’ve had this fascination since I was a little kid. I’ve always thought it’s been a genuinely fascinating mystery. It’s fun, it’s goofy, but it’s a real mystery too. I’ve made two films about it: Squatching and Journey Towards Squatchdom. And those were the first things I did after Disney. I’m a comic and I wanted them to have a comedic bent but also take the phenomenon seriously. Yes, I think there’s an unclassified hominid but do I also think there’s tons of misperception, absolutely. That’s what makes it an interesting phenomenon.