- “This is your brain, you will eat with it, sleep with it, you will never leave it. Without you, the brain is nothing; without your brain, YOU are nothing.”
- ―General Knowledge
Cranium Command was an audio-animatronic theatre show in Wonders of Life at Epcot. It was a humorous, educational presentation on the importance of the human brain and its relationship with the body. It was directed by Jerry Rees, who also directed The Brave Little Toaster and the pre-show was the first directing effort of Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, famous for later directing Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
In the early development of the Life and Health Pavilion, plans for two animatronics-driven shows were proposed: The Tooth Follies; a Rolly Crump designed show focused around dental hygiene, and The Head Trip; a show about the functions of the brain and vital organs. Only the latter would move on to active development. The Head Trip featured a space theme loosely inspired by Star Trek and a crew of three brain pilots representing Intellect, Emotion, and the Nervous System. The show would shift in theme to that of a military operation and be retitled "Brain Command" and later, "Cranium Command". The three pilots would be condensed into a single character named Captain Cortex, a cocky confident young brain pilot.
When Wonders of Life and Cranium Command went into full production, all of the body interior scenes were to be animated and the eyes would close to "think things out" and shut out the live-action world to illustrate the educational points. However, this initial cut of the show was deemed too juvenile and patronizing, resulting in a massive rethink. Jerry Rees was brought aboard the project, the body part segments were redone in live-action with celebrity actors, and the eyes always remained open to better immerse guests into the story.
Wonders of Life opened on October 19, 1989. During its operation, Cranium Command received few changes, with the show entrance being redesigned during the 90s and an animated billboard advertising the show being erected outside the pavilion. In 2004, Disney began operating Cranium Command and the rest of Wonders of Life on a seasonal basis before closing it permanently on January 1, 2007.
During the 2007 International Food & Wine Festival, the entrance was used as a wine presentation. The actual theater has remained intact as backstage space, with Buzzy still being installed there as of the summer of 2018. Currently, Disney is still deciding whether to keep using Wonders of Life as festival space or to build a new attraction inside the pavilion. On December 21, 2018, it was reported that the Buzzy animatronic remaining in the abandoned theater was stolen. However, according to an Incident Report from the Orange County Sheriff's Office, it was Buzzy's Personal Items which had been stolen, not the actual animatronic itself, these items included Buzzy's hat, jacket, and hands. Supposedly, the animatronic's clothing items were sold to NBA player Robin Lopez. Footage by urban explorers prior to the animatronic being stolen shown that the animatronics had a "Do Not Destroy" tag, meaning Disney had plans to put it in the archives.
The preshow consisted of an animated segment featuring General Knowledge (voiced by Corey Burton) briefing the Cranium Commando troops on their mission: to pilot human brains and keep the people they operate out of trouble. A bumbling little soldier named Buzzy (Jared Rushton) had been given one of the most difficult missions of all: piloting a twelve-year-old boy.
General Knowledge explained the dynamics and individual functions of the brain. In one instance, he showed a picture of Albert Einstein, as the example of a highly, well-developed brain and Ernest P. Worrell (a popular fictional character played by Jim Varney, who was appearing in series of feature films produced by Disney at the time), as the opposite. At the end of his briefing, he facetiously asked the guests, "Where do you think you are, Disney World?" and ordered everyone into the main theater.
The main show was presented in a theater which was designed to represent the inside of a human head; the outside world was seen on video displays where the eyes would be. Buzzy (Scott Curtis) was an Audio-Animatronic on an articulated seat so that he could move around during the performance. He pilots the twelve-year-old boy (also played by Scott Curtis), and via the appearances on other video screens above the eye-shaped ones we are introduced to the logical Left Brain (Charles Grodin) and the wacky Right Brain (Jon Lovitz). The screen below the "eyes" depict a hungry Stomach (George Wendt), the panicky Bladder (Jeff Doucette), the Adrenal Gland (Bobcat Goldthwait) who was prone to overreacting, and the heart's Right and Left Ventricles (Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon, reprising their Hans and Franz roles from NBC's Saturday Night Live).
The Hypothalamus (voiced by Kirk Wise), which regulated autonomic bodily functions, was represented via Audio-Animatronics as a robot. The show took Buzzy's host through a typical day: getting up, skipping breakfast, running to school, meeting a cute girl named Annie (Natalie Gregory), getting involved in a food fight at lunch, getting sent to the principal (Kenneth Kimmins), and being thanked and kissed by Annie. At each point in the day, the various organs talked to Buzzy and explained the problems they were facing. In the end, they overcame their differences and learned that with teamwork and cooperation, nearly anything could be done.
- The 2015 Pixar film, Inside Out is thematically similar to the show in that they feature characters within an adolescent's mind trying to help them through tough times. Pete Docter, who would later direct the film, animated part of the preshow where his head is also featured.
- General Knowledge makes a brief voice cameo in The Walt Disney World Explorer, which is partly narrated by Corey Burton, who points himself out after he does his General Knowledge voice as he narrates Cranium Command's slideshows in the application.
- B.J. Barie - Bully
- Michael Bavaro - Bully
- Dana Carvey - Right Ventricle
- Scott Curtis - Bobby
- Jeff Doucette - Bladder
- Bobcat Goldthwait - Adrenal Gland
- Natalie Gregory - Annie
- Charles Grodin - Left Brain
- Kenneth Kimmins - Principal Herbert Hardcase
- Jon Lovitz - Right Brain
- Kevin Nealon - Left Ventricle
- George Wendt - Stomach
- Corey Burton - General Knowledge, Chicken, Male Recruit, Drill Sergeant
- Scott Curtis - Buzzy (main show)
- Jared Rushton - Buzzy (pre-show)
- Gary Trousdale - Trousdale
- Kirk Wise - Hypothalamus