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Clips and Contraptiles

October 29, 2014

I’ve been reading Adam Nedeff’s excellent book series chronicling notable dates in game show history. I’m into volume two, and am still enjoying reading things I didn’t know. Imagine my surprise when I read his too brief entry about Disney Channel’s first, and to date only hit game show CONTRAPTION. CONTRAPTION was on the schedule from almost day one, and stayed on almost through the end of the 1980’s. I thought this show deserved more than one page, especially when you take a good look at the show.

The object of the game is simple enough: two teams compete to earn the most scoring “contraptiles” (square pieces of yellow plastic with a hole in the middle) by watching classic Disney clips, and answering questions about them (like SCENE IT?), then compete in mini races for more tiles. The team with the most tiles after four themed rounds wins Disney prizes, as does the other team. Nice touch, nobody walks away empty handed.

Now, don’t be fooled. These questions are not as easy as you might think. The one episode on YouTube had me scratching my head trying to get some answers. It was kid-friendly, but challenging. Detractors would say it was too kiddie because of the cartoonish music package, and the look of the race vehicles. But that would be an unfair assessment. Disney was best known for animation, so the wild look of the vehicles fits, and the music seems to evoke  more 1930’s jazz, plus since the show IS called CONTRAPTION, odd sounds are not out of place. The game stations were absolutely striking to look at, decked out in lights, the screens hidden behind the center of the station, and some set pieces moved at the start of the round. It fit the producer’s idea of this being a life-size board game perfectly.

So, three cheers for CONTRAPTION, and its long life on Disney Channel. Who knows? Maybe a future exec at Disney will ask “Why don’t we bring back CONTRAPTION?”, and a classic will be reborn.

MINI UPDATE:  According to the comments in the first part post on YouTube, CONTRAPTION taped at C.B.S. I’m thinking they used the Bob Barker Studio (stage 33), as it’s the largest studio there.

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