My girlfriend's a sucker for talking-animal movies.
Garfield, Babe, you name it. If it has an anthropomorphic critter in it, Jeanne's there. Whether it's in the theater or at the video store, it doesn't matter. She'll hunt it down and see it, usually more than once. Now, my taste in movies (aside from Disney) runs more along the lines of serious drama and explosions. Die Hard: Stuart Little's Revenge would be the perfect date movie for us.
So when the invitation came to attend a DVD launch party for Disney's new family flick Air Buddies at The Walt Disney Studios, I was all over it.
"Honey, wanna see a talking-dog movie before anybody else? My treat."
We made the trip down last Saturday, checking in at the Sheraton Universal before heading over to Burbank in the late afternoon. I'd never been to the Disney Studios before, so I was pretty giddy about the whole thing.
We drove up to the main entrance on Buena Vista Street . . .
. . . and checked in with Security. It's always cool to have your name "on the list."
We wandered the parking lot a little, just to take it all in.
The Disney soundstages:
The ABC building, adjacent to the main studio:
Heading toward the event, we passed some Christmas finery:
Ahh, this must be the place:
This was originally intended to be a private party for members of the Young Presidents' Organization, a professional leadership group Air Buddies producer/director Robert Vince belongs to. Inviting the press was kind of an afterthought, but Disney took good care of us.
See? They even rolled out the red carpet for us.
The big attraction of course was the puppies. Meet the Air Buddies:
In the movie, the Air Buddies are the offspring of the original canine-cum-sports-star Air Bud. Each of them has a particular sports specialty. Rosebud is the female soccer star; B-Dawg is the blinging basketballer; Bud-dha is the meditative Zen baseball player; Mudbud is the down and dirty king of beach volleyball; and Budderball is the oversized football jock. When their parents are kidnapped, the Buddies must work together as a team to save the day and foil the bad guys. And of course they talk, even though humans can't understand them. Think The Incredible Journey meets Home Alone meets Toy Story.
There were some human guests at the event too.
Actor Richard Karn (Home Improvement - left) is interviewed with Robert Vince.
Paul Rae plays bad guy Denning:
Rae is a big, loud, gregarious guy who seemed to be having more fun at the event than anybody else. I really liked him.
The red carpet ran in front of the studio commissary. Being a family event, the food was very kid-friendly. Behold the main course:
PB&J and mac and cheese. Gotta love it. Not pictured: pups in a blanket (seriously).
After chowing down, we met with some of the cast and crew at a very informal press conference:
(l. to r.) Rae, Trevor Wright (the other bad guy, Grim), Dominic Scott Kay (voice of Bud-dha) and Tyler Guerrero (spoiled rich kid Bartleby Livingston).
(l. to r.) Kay, Guerrero, Christian Pikes (neighbor kid Henry) and Karn (Patrick the dad).
(l. to r.) Karn, Skyler Gisondo (voice of B-Dawg) and Vince.
Our press conference facilitator with Disney, Karen Idelson:
Topics of conversation ranged from Vince's passion for family films to Paul's physical shape and ability to kick Trevor's butt to 10-year old Kay's experience as a director (no lie--the kid directed Kevin Bacon in a short film. Keep an eye on this one).
The press conference completed, hands were shaken, pictures were taken and it was showtime.
Walking to the studio theatre, we crossed the most famous Hollywood studio intersection around, the corner of Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive:
We passed the original animation building . . .
. . . directly across from the theatre:
That's Jeanne walking in on the left.
Directly in front of the entrance are handprints of Disney Legends in cement a' la the Chinese Theatre:
Note Ward Kimball's mysterious six fingers on each hand. Yes, it was meant as a joke.
On the floor of the theatre lobby is a large Mickey medallion . . .
. . . and that's as far as we can go with the camera. No pictures inside the theatre please.
So how was the movie?
It's all silly fun and perfect for kids, extolling the virtues of friends, family and teamwork. It's fast paced with plenty of slapstick moments and some good voice cameos (Michael Clarke Duncan as a menacing wolf, Wallace Shawn as a helpful goat and the late Don Knotts, in his last role, as an old hound dog). Air Buddies is a definite cut above what you'd expect from a direct-to-video release.
Jeanne gave it a thumbs up.
Of course, it's hard to go wrong with a talking-animal movie.
Air Buddies debuts on DVD December 12th.