I want to say a huge thank you first and foremost to D23 for working with the studio to allow the lucky few of us to attend tonights event. There is no way in the world that I would ever have had a chance to enjoy something like this without D23. Now, on to my report!
I live some distance from LA and left work early to arrive around 445, just wanted to be safe, never know about the traffic! Hollywood boulevard was it’s usual frustrating self – my first visit there had been in 1977 for “Star Wars” at the Chinese a week before it opened nationwide, and many since, including the recent D23 Up all night event. But this was my first “red carpet” event and I wasn’t taking any chances on delay – so after parking at Hollywood and Highland I headed over to the El Capitan to check things out. No visible event signs really at that point, but they eventually put up a few displays for “Ponyo” (not on the marquee, unfortunately). I checked out the studio store next door, they had no Ponyo goodies (but the did have “Up” posters for $5, 75% off, and some pins for $4 each from other things). I decided to ask at the store if they had any D23 expo buttons, and they referred me to the box office – the helpful box office attendant found someone inside who asked me to step in, whether there was any particular button I was looking for (very nice, but I was not) and then went into the office to get me one – Chip and Dale! Superb guest service, really went out of their way considering what a busy night it was going to be for them. Thanks El Cap crew!
After I got a nice sandwich at Quizno’s across the street (all my budget could allow), I strolled around the Grauman’s courtyard a bit but did not find the recently opened Madam Tussauds, I thought it was going to be right there. Anyway, I returned to the El cap where they were now setting up tables and red carpet, and found my guest as well. We shopped around the store a bit and I gave her the Chip and Dale D23 button, having already pinned my Sorcerer Mickey button on my vest – surely the least I could do was publicize the expo! Then we learned that we could get our tickets even though it was not yet 6 pm, so we just visited outside the theatre. We also learned that an area down the street a bit and through an alley next to the theatre is where press had checked in to take photos of arriving celebrity guests, as they would be entering through the side, so no public access there. And, we confirmed we would have to check our phones and cameras at the entrance, so no pics inside. Oh well – I got one outside sort of on the red carpet as a souvenir.
Upon entering the theatre itself we were told food was upstairs – and we enjoyed a variety of salads, little meat items, skewered chicken, etc. along with free sodas, popcorn in buckets, etc. As it turned out, food was downstairs too, and they had little cream puff desserts as well – was the upstairs for the “front entrance nobodies” and the downstairs for the “side entrance somebodies”? ? Hm. Anyway, our seats were downstairs, and there was no restriction on strolling around, but we were firmly told “no in and out”. Although I don’t smoke, I asked what about smoking, and just got a shrug. That’s the Disney way – rules are rules, don’t ask for exceptions! We did ask, however, about a nice sort of heavy figural display of Ponyo and some other movie related items that were on a couple of tables – with Japanese characters – but were told they were not for sale, just for display. I wonder if any disappeared that night? Not to my house, however!
We looked at the side entrance for “celebrities” but saw none and the lights blinked for seating. The organ was being played “live” while we waited for the start of the show – we had seen Alice Davis in the front lobby, and my guest knew Alice personally so they chatted a bit, and she was actually seated a few rows behind us (We were in E, on the side just off center, very nice seats). My guest did ask Alice if she was going to the Academy event the next evening, and … well, let’s just say she is. It is great to see her out at events enjoying the art! I decided to get up and check the downstairs entrance for celebrities again and this time was rewarded a bit more than my guest, who had seen Harry Hamlin earlier. I saw Jo Ann Worley, and was surprised to bump into Jeffrey Katzenburg – surprised because of his somewhat testy relationship to Disney in the past. But, it was nice to have him attend. Cloris Leachman entered and Jo Ann greeted her with her own unique whooping sound which I cannot attempt to emulate with language. And, I do believe I saw Miley Cyrus, but her hair appeared quite a bit darker than I thought (you should know I am in my 50’s and not really following Miley et al constantly). Then Mr. Miyazaki entered, I was actually surprised he was not surrounded, apparently just with a couple of friends. I could easily have chatted with him but I am sure he gets plenty of that already, so I just smiled. Then I returned to my seat. I noticed Cloris was a few rows back in center, then just before the lights went down the recognizable Jonas brothers were seated in the row just one back and to the left of ours, with at least 2 burly security men ensuring no fans bothered them (although thankfully the security men did not remain in the aisle long!) The younger son voices the main character in the film so it was nice his family came along to support him.
John Lasseter bounced up in front of the stage and thanked the descending organist to great applause, and introduced Mr. Miyazaki (whose words were translated). Both had only brief remarks, expressing their appreciation for one another (Miyazaki hugged Lasseter) and also Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. I must say I am a bit mystified at their role in producing the English language version, as although they have a long and successful history with many films, they are not usually associated with Disney. I wonder if in fact it was their funding and encouragement, along with Lasseter’s, that led to the Disney release; Ponyo is not even being featured at the El Capitan, since the gerbil spy movie (whatever it is) is playing there through Labor day. Someone should have rethought that booking in my opinion.
Thoughts on the movie – I should preface by sharing that based on critical reaction I made great efforts in prior years to travel to see Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away on the big screen. And, despite the universal adoration for Miyazaki’s work, I just cannot ignore that, to me, Studio Ghibli’s style suffers from much of the same tonal and structural issues as most anime. The movement is sometimes jerky, limited rather than fluid; facial expressions are very basic, simplistic; and the emotive “feel” and “flow” of the narrative is sometimes jarring and disassociative. By that I mean that, perhaps as a result of cultural differences, the flow between scenes, characters and events are not always what we might find in North American productions. Before anyone jumps on me about that, I still admire the work, but I do not find myself among those who proclaim SG’s work monumental – still, it is significant in terms of the craftsmanship and effort compared to most of what is produced here the last several decades.
To me, this was an extremely enjoyable film, with much humor, beautiful use of color and style and line, and likeable characters. I certainly would recommend it to anyone without reservation (which is something I most recently did only with Iron Giant). I think the English voice acting is really superb, especially with Frankie Jonas and Noah Cyrus (great work is hard to get from kids!) and also Liam Neeson. Oddly, Betty White’s character had far more lines than Cloris Leachman, it was unfortunate she was not there to enjoy the film (they portrayed residents of a senior center). There is of course much fantasy element and the mystical elements that are always present in Miyazaki’s better known work. The animation is beautiful, and the imagination is breathtaking at times. But, comparing the underwater scenes to work in Pinocchio – there is no comparison. I know there will be those who disagree, and of course we can never see those days again in terms of current production. I was also a bit puzzled at the end, expecting some major test of the boy’s character to prove his love for the girl/goldfish – but it seemed all he had to do was say he would love her even if she could not do magic anymore. Just seemed a bit underdeveloped to me, but then again, I am not doing the work, am I? All in all – a wonderful animated family film, again better than most product of the past 10 years.
As the film ended, security immediately zoomed to the aisle by the Jonas brothers and family, but they wanted to stay through the end credits for the “song” recorded by Frankie and Noah – definitely American pop that was not in the original Japanese release! To me … it will be used in commercials and played on radio Disney to promote the film, and that is the way it works. I should say the score for the film proper was immensely lovely – soaring, intense then quiet, uplifting and yet not overpowering. Cannot say the same for the song, but I am not 12. Anyway, as they did depart through a back curtain and passed me, I smiled at Frankie and said “Great job, kid!” and he said thanks. I am sure those kids have trouble having any kind of “normal” life and wish them well.
We exited through the throng to retrieve checked items, noting that Cloris was kindly visiting with a young girl in her seat still, and Alice Davis had left. The table to get stuff was thronged and a girl near me was thrilled to greet Masi Oka, from Heroes, who had attended the film. Fans were waiting out front and were sad to hear the Jonas brothers had left through the rear – not sure how long they had been waiting. But, we eventually got out, got to our cars and hit the road home. No “parting gift” for us, or “goodie bag”, so our souvenirs will be the tickets and the wonderful memories. I hope the Studio was happy with how D23 worked with them to fill the seats and that there will be future opportunities at other screenings for more members, as this truly was unforgettable and I would not have wanted to miss it for anything! Thanks D23 team!
Oh, I wanted to mention also - Snow White is coming to the El Cap around September 11, tickets are on sale now, so if you are coming for the D23 convention you might want to plan a trip to see it in Hollywood on the Big Screen!
hahaha tonight was very fun indeed!
i wish i would of gotten more of that food. yum.
i'll post a few pictures later even though there wasn't much to photograph (when we were allowed to have cameras).
p.s. the song at the end of the movie was actually in the original film version (but of course it was in japanese, hahaha) it just didn't have the remix ending that the american film has. very cute, catchy song though, hahaha.
Great Event!! Movie was good, my wife and I laughed about the Jonas brothers. My friends kids love them. One day I pretended to be "hanging out" with them and had my friend pretend to be one of the brothers on the phone. Theyfreaked out. So, when I told them it was a joke they were mad... We knew they wouldnt believe us this time!! I dont think Miley Cyrus was there...
My only complaint was the song at the end... it was horrible. I have it stuck in my head though. I guess if you use the word Ponyo repeatedly it would get stuck there.