Directed by STEPHANIE HUBBARD
Bible Storyland is a documentary film about an LA-based art dealer named Harvey Jordan and his obsessive, decade-long search to uncover the fate of a Bible-themed amusement park designed to rival Disneyland.
The film plumbs the depths of the many facets of amusement theme parks, the magic of Disney, the power of bible movies and the allure of celebrity in our culture.
Bible Storyland was conceived in the 1950’s when Bible films such as The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur were enormously popular. At the same time Walt Disney introduced the “first interactive entertainment experience” — the theme park. Bible Storyland is a combination of these bible characters and stories and Disneyland! “Ride to Heaven” and “Dante’s Inferno” with Lucifer himself greeting tourists are amongst the amusement rides designed for the new park.
“Brilliant!” thinks Harvey. How can this miss? But whose idea was it? And why wasn’t it ever built? And could Harvey take up the cause and build the park today?
Over the course of the ensuing years, Harvey tracks every lead that comes his way, determined to discover who was really the heart and soul of this epic endeavor. Slowly but surely, Bible Storyland takes over Harvey’s life.
Celebrities and visionaries, Harvey observes, have in a way bested death – they will live forever. He can’t help but think, in his own charmingly earnest way, that Bible Storyland was dropped in his lap, perhaps, to ensure his own immortality.
But this journey has many twists and turns and amusing characters along the way. And only a man obsessed would have the stamina for the trip. Will his wife Debi finally crack and leave Harvey? Will Harvey discover the mystery that thwarted Bible Storyland? Can Harvey perhaps resurrect the park himself or will the curse get him first? And who will pick up the pig poop?
Filmmaker Stephanie Hubbard’s sense of fun propels the unusual story of Bible Storyland. The film is greatly enhanced by her use of amusing animation sequences inspired by those captivating theme park drawings. She also utilizes a series of black and white, noir-style comic book images to “re-enact” portions of Harvey’s tale. Dream sequences provide a window into Harvey’s psyche and this being both a Hollywood and Bible story, film clips from Cecile B. DeMille’s biggest Biblical epics appear for dramatic effect.
Themes and context are provided by Hubbard’s decision to enlist university professors and a pop culture humorist to explore the influences of theme parks and Disneyland on America’s landscape. Prominent religious historians are also brought in to discuss the influx of “sword and sandal” films of the 1950’s as well as the state of religion during the post WWII period.
All these decisions raise the enjoyment level of the film and engage the viewer to the very end and the resolution of Harvey’s quest for meaning. It’s inspired filmmaking that would have not been nearly as enjoyable in the hands of a lesser filmmaker.