The year was 1995. The cast of Full House had already gone to Disney World, but Roseanne hadn’t yet enjoyed her very sarcastic Orlando vacation. The Family Matters crew was into their sixth season, and it surprised me to learn that they were still pretty much on top of top of their game. They’d slipped some in the ratings, sure, but they wouldn’t start to perform abysmally until the next season.
It was especially surprising to me because this episode is full of everything I hate about Family Matters: Myra (Urkle’s more annoying girlfriend) and Laura acting totally and completely out of character (crazed by her love for Stefan … whatever). But the storyline is totally classic Family Matters, and there are some amazing moments with son Eddie and his BFF Waldo (coo!) as well as a great subplot with Carl.
The two-episode arc kicks off without any pretense at all: Urkle is going to Disney World because his incredible inventing skills have won him a spot in a contest taking place on property. (Sound familiar? A contest also drew our friends from Boy Meets World to Disney World.) It’s actually a great idea: Why don’t they host science fair-type events in Innoventions?
The whole thing is a little crazy, actually: Steven gets to bring guests with him. And since Myra can’t come (for some unexplained reason), he’s taking the Winslows. All 7 of them?! The family drives down in a minivan (all 7 of them?! From Chicago?!) and rolls up in style to the Wilderness Lodge. Which is looking mighty fine and only a few months old when they filmed the episode.
Carl goes through a super fun arc: At first he doesn’t want to go because he’s just so busy at work. But when he takes just one look at the entrance to Magic Kingdom … his whole demeanor changes, and he suddenly totally gets it. He’s a Disney person! He just didn’t know it.
This is such a great moment for me because I know exactly what he’s feeling. Who doesn’t want to shake their tail feathers with Donald and bounce with Tigger? No one who’s being honest, that’s who. Carl eats, like, six Mickey bars. Because Carl knows what’s up. But my favorite Carl moment is when he sees Gertie, the Echo Lake dinosaur, and he mimics her look with some red vines. Too classic and adorable, and I love that she got her moment like that.
But, of course, all Disney vacations have to come to an end, and eventually Carl realizes that he can’t quit his life and live in Orlando full time. We all know exactly how that feels, too. Really, it’s a totally recognizable and totally sympathetic plotline for any true Disney fan.
The meat of the episode is about Urkle, whose Transformation Chamber is up against a “car” in a suitcase and a Jetsons-like super microwave. It’s really no contest, and he’d totally have won … if Laura hadn’t busted his machine and made him unable to transform from Stefan back into Steven. Because she’d totally risk his life by tugging on some wires of his complicated DNA-shifting machine and then let him get inside. (I’ve never been able to reconcile her romantic love for Stefan, her platonic love for Steve and her absolutely reckless behavior with their emotions and safety. It’s such an odd thing to me.)
The end result: Laura gets to spend a couple of romantic days running around Disney World with Stefan. Culminating in an over-the-top proposal on the forecastle stage, where thousands of guests (and Cinderella) look on as Stefan proposes to Laura. And they got to be in the Main Street Electrical Parade. (Clearly whoever made this episode knew the ins and outs of a fabulous Disney vacation.) But ultimately, Laura feels guilty that Myra’s heart is broken, and she convinces Stefan that it’s only right for him to turn back into Steven. Cue the sad music.
But before he turns back, the couple and their whole family enjoy MK and Hollywood Studios in a series of montages that make me happy and show off a lot of the Parks looking lovely. We even get to see a brief moment of the old Studio Backlot Tour as it ran through Streets of America. But I do find it odd (and sort of hysterical, actually) that the family doesn’t spend much time having fun in EPCOT. Mostly, they only visit that Park for the science contest events and a bit of shopping in the World Showcase. Even 20 years ago, EPCOT wasn’t getting no respect.
In an amusing subplot, Eddie and Waldo planned to drive down themselves … which of course led to Waldo driving toward Canada, and then Eddie picking up a hitchhiker who steals their truck. And the two of them missing the whole trip.
Fun fact: Apparently, when Nick at Night was running Family Matters reruns, they never aired these two episodes because … well, Disney. Luckily, I was able to catch these episodes when they reaired on Centric.
What’s your favorite moment from the Winslows’ visit to Disney World? Let us know in the comments below!