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The strange origin story of a video that taught sex ed at Disney’s Epcot for almost 20 years

Filmmaker Glenn Gordon Caron: “He said, ‘You know, they don’t pay you for these things.’ And I said, ‘Really?’”

Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

Glenn Gordon Caron’s career has taken him from the heights of television — where his ’80s detective drama, Moonlighting, was one of the most groundbreaking series of its era — to steady work in the film industry in the ’90s. (He’s directed movies like Wilder Napalm, written by a young Vince Gilligan, and the Jennifer Aniston vehicle Picture Perfect.)

But the project of Caron’s that has likely been seen by the most people and provoked the greatest response is The Making of Me, a short film about sex created for Walt Disney World’s Epcot. The film, which stars Martin Short, opened at the park in 1989 and depicts the story of how babies are born, with forthright humor.

The Making of Me was last shown at Epcot in 2007, but you can still watch it today on YouTube (both here and in the video embedded above). However, Caron doesn’t think that’s the ideal way to take it in.

“It was in Super Techniscope. YouTube doesn’t give you the full experience,” he says in the latest episode of my podcast, I Think You’re Interesting, when I mention the film is available in full online.

But just how did the creator of one of the 1980s’ most notably adult dramas end up making a movie for kids about how babies are born, for the Walt Disney Company no less? Caron reminisces about how a quick favor turned into a chance to hang out with Jim Henson, shortly before the Muppets’ creator passed away.

He says:

I spent a year and a half of my life preparing to direct Evita with Madonna. [Caron eventually left the project, with Alan Parker finally directing the film, which was ultimately released in 1996.] We were doing that with Disney — Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Disney. Michael Ovitz, who was my agent at the time, called me and said, “Michael Eisner is going to call you and ask you for a favor, and you should do it.” I said, “Okay!”

Phone rang, it was Michael Eisner, and he said, “We’re opening a new exhibit at Disney World in three weeks called ‘The Wonders of Life.’ It’s paid for by” — some big insurance company. He said, “We’ve been working on a movie for three years. I’ve just seen it. It’s awful. And it’s about how babies are born. I think this is really important, because, frankly, a lot of teenagers are giving birth to a lot of babies, and there has to be a way to have this conversation, and I’d love for it to happen at Disney World. Could you think of something?”

So I literally sat down, dashed off in two days, this script. For me, it was, well, if I’m doing it with Disney, maybe they’ll let me do animation. I had a minute-and-a-half animated sequence, big dance numbers, all this stuff. I sent him the script, and he said, “This is fantastic. Can you direct this?”

I went and did this 15-minute movie that starred Martin Short. Martin Short played himself, his father, his grandfather, and his child. It was really about how babies are born. How we meet someone, and we have this moment. It was sort of a gentle conversation starter for children and their families. And there were protests! [laughs]

But it was enormous fun. Here’s the funny part: I was halfway through it, and Ovitz called me again. He said, “You know, they don’t pay you for these things.” And I said, “Really?” And he said, “No, but you can ask them for a gift, and they’ll give you anything.”

My family had never been to Disney World, so I said, “We’d like to go to Disney World,” and Jeffrey was on the jet with us, he flew us from Los Angeles to Florida, and we went to Disney World for three days. I spent four or five hours with Jim Henson shortly before he passed away.

It played every 15 minutes for about 15 years. They finally retired it because everybody’s hairstyles were starting to look silly. But I did that.

For much more with Caron, including his take on the famous “Moonlighting curse,” his thoughts on his latest job as the showrunner of CBS’s Bull, and his incredibly elaborate, incredibly funny story of how he broke into show business, listen to the full episode.

To hear more interviews with fascinating people from the world of arts and culture — from powerful showrunners to web series creators to documentary filmmakers — check out the I Think You’re Interesting archives.

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