A different look at Disney...

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Another Happy Place (continued)

WEISS: You submitted Finding Kraftland to the 2007 Santa Barbara Film Festival, where it had its public premier on January 27, 2007.

KRAFT: It was really strange to walk into a real movie theatre and see our poster in the lobby and the name of our film above the theatre door. I had no idea if anyone would show up to see what is basically a very grand home movie. It was sold out—filled with people I didn't know. They laughed at the right places and seemed to really connect to it. Afterwards there was a Q&A with Adam, Nicky, Stacey and myself. The moderator said that over 2,500 films had been submitted to the festival, and after watching a thousand films on suffering and misery, they were tickled to see something so goofy.

WEISS: What's next for Finding Kraftland? More film festivals? A theatrical release? A DVD release? Showings on premium movie channels on cable?

KRAFT: As far as future plans, we have submitted to a number of other festivals and have been accepted to almost two dozen so far. It is unbelievable. We have been to screenings across the county and recently in Europe. In a way, going to film festivals with Nicky is some cosmic extension of what the film is really all about in the first place. What is so wonderful is having worked so hard in making the film purely out of joy and passion and having zero expectations of it beyond entertaining some friends at a birthday party. Anything that follows that is pure gravy. Having no expectations makes this whole journey a magical joy ride.

If Richard ever decides to sell tickets, he's got the booth.
If Richard ever decides to sell tickets, he's got the booth.

Everywhere the film plays we get to meet amazing people and have extraordinary experiences. We treated the entire audience at the Sonoma Film Festival in raiding a local candy shop. In Mt. Rainer, Washington, our film screened in a yurt... and won the Audience Award, which was the first of a half a dozen awards it has won so far. In Spain, we had the film subtitled, and even with the language barrier it was greeted with lots of laughter and tears. It truly is a small world, after all.

On a pragmatic level, I don't envision a theatrical or commercial release. It might just be ideal for film festivals.

WEISS: What do you hope to achieve by exposing Finding Kraftland to a larger

KRAFT: The best thing about more people seeing the film is the opportunity to share our home and our family with others. I love having visitors come to our house, and the film lets us give a cinematic tour to share in the fun stuff we are so lucky to have. And it lets me share my relationship with Nicky, which is the most important thing in my life.

WEISS: I doubt I'm the only person who will think of the term "self-indulgent" while watching Finding Kraftland. You call it an "incredibly shameless home movie." The movie is primarily about you and your teenage son Nicky (but there's also a loving tribute to your late brother David).

Son, Father and Doombuggy
Son, Father and Doombuggy

KRAFT: I love all forms of indulgence, self or otherwise. As long as nothing is at the expense of someone else, I think everyone should luxuriate in self-indulgence. The TIME Person of the Year was "YOU." Billions of us made it on the mirrored cover because things like My Space and YouTube have shifted the storytelling away from a handful of creators into the hands of everyone.

The truth is, everyone's story is more interesting than 99% of the films that get made in Hollywood. We all have quirks and eccentricities and histories that are rich and ripe and juicy. We live in a blog world where we realize our lives are important and worth sharing.

My life has also had its share of tragedy, having lost my brother, mother and father all in a short period of time. I would much rather "indulge" in celebrating the joys and memories of them than quietly sleepwalking through life. And I have promised anyone who watches Finding Kraftland that I will gladly sit through any slide shows anyone wants to give me on their family trip to the Grand Canyon.

WEISS: Would you have made the movie differently if you had intended it to be for a wider audience?

KRAFT: I don't think I would have ever made the film if it were originally intended for a wider audience. I would have been too self-conscious about what would "they" think. It was quite liberating to make something to just amuse my son and myself.

WEISS: You run a successful agency representing some of the biggest film and theatre composers, several of whom appear in the film. How do they feel about exposing the film to a wider audience?

Dumbo on final landing approach.

KRAFT: My clients are tickled. Most have been with me for almost two decades. They know their agent is a big kid with a Dumbo in his living room. They are getting a kick out of being the Greek choir in the film commenting on my madness. And Marc Shaiman's music video from the film has gotten thousands of views on YouTube. He has been nominated for five Oscars and won both a Tony and an Emmy, and this silly little ditty has gotten him more public exposure than almost anything else.

WEISS: How did you get involved in representing composers in the first place?

KRAFT: Everything good in my life has started with passion. As kids my brother and I were obsessed with film music. By the time I was out of high school I had thousands of soundtracks that we had purchased at thrift stores. My brother and I were interviewing our favorite composers for Xeroxed fan magazines when we were 9 or 10 years old.

I never went to college and instead followed my passion for film and music to Los Angeles, were several of the composers I had met as a kid helped me get into the business. My first client was Danny Elfman, followed by Jerry Goldsmith. Over the years I have been blessed to work with many of my heroes like Henry Mancini, John Barry, Elmer Bernstein and more recently Alan Menken. I cried like a baby after the opening number "Belle" in Beauty and the Beast, I was that overwhelmed by the genius of that score. I still can't believe that I get to give something back to Alan after all the happiness his music has brought me.

As a Disney fanatic, you can only imagine the thrill of being involved in the music of their animated films and theme park attractions. One of my sweetest memories was riding Soarin' Over California with Jerry Goldsmith who was composing the score. We rode it while it was still under construction and were like two giddy kids getting to sneak behind the scenes. While the ride was interesting and novel, I had no idea how extraordinary it would be until Jerry's majestic music was put into it.

WEISS: There are many people who collect popular culture artifacts and Disney memorabilia, but I think it's safe to say that few collections are as extensive as yours or contain actual Disneyland ride vehicles. What are your favorite popular culture artifacts in your collection? What are your favorite Disney items in your collection?

Fries are extra.
Fries are extra.

KRAFT: I really love my Bob's Big Boy in my foyer. I was really lucky to have recently become friends with Richard Sherman and his wife. When they first came over to my house he was totally taken by Bob. He saw it as a real piece of art... a genuine comment on America and Commerce and joy.

After dinner he went over to the piano and started playing requests. There were songs from Poppins and Pooh and Charlotte's Web. After he sang Feed the Birds. I asked him to indulge us with one more song. As he started to sing There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, I looked up. There soaring over this magnificent songwriter was my Dumbo ride vehicle. Every hair stood up on my arm. All of my hopes and dreams as a little kid had magnificently come true in that perfect moment.

WEISS: Any other favorites?

KRAFT: In addition to Dumbo, I love the Mr. Toad car in my library and the Submarine Voyage Sea Serpent by the pool; he always cracks me up. Also love my Sky Bucket, my Space Mountain car and my Davy Crockett Explorer Canoe. Heck, I even like my Rocket Rod, which makes a far better decoration than it did an attraction!

The item I most covet is a Caterpillar Car from Alice in Wonderland. I love his smug, self-satisfied look, like, "I may be your slave schlepping you back and forth over these giant leaves, but I am still superior to you, you tacky tourist."

WEISS: The Bertha Mae, one of the actual keelboats form Disneyland's Mike Fink Keel Boats ride, appeared on eBay's Disney Auctions site in December 2001. The description said that the boat "is not actually a seaworthy craft. It is suitable for display and/or storage on solid ground only..." Someone paid $15 thousand. Now that I've seen Finding Kraftland, I finally know who bought the Bertha Mae!

Love, exciting and new, come aboard, we're expecting you!
Love, exciting and new, come aboard, we're expecting you!

KRAFT: I never went on the Keel Boats when they were in Disneyland. They looked like such a snooze. I was certainly not going to waste a ticket going on one. Then the Bertha May came up for auction. I felt possessed. I had always loved your website, Yesterland. I loved the idea of a cyber-space where all of the attractions of the past lived on. Owning a keel boat would be like really visiting Yesterland. So for quite a bit more than the cost of a "C" ticket, I can now visit Disneyland of the Past whenever I want.

WEISS: Currently, you have the Bertha Mae in storage, but your plans are to build a lagoon for the Bertha Mae on your property. How is that project proceeding? How will you make sure the Bertha Mae is seaworthy? How do you plan to use the Bertha Mae? As a floating work of art? Or perhaps as a floating outdoor dining room?

KRAFT: The original plan was to crane it over our house and build a lagoon in our backyard. I envisioned a picnic area with the keelboat as the centerpiece, sort of like the Chicken of the Sea Ship in Fantasyland. After a few meeting with various engineers and my business manager, reality kicked in. So it has lived in storage ever since.

My son keeps reminding me that when Walt ran out of space in Anaheim he went to Florida. So maybe one day the Bertha Mae might be re-christened in Kraft World! I am also interested in exploring the idea of donating some pieces of my collection to the Walt Disney Family Museum.

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© 2007 Werner Weiss

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