Monday, November 30, 2009
Disney's Princess and the Frog and Ultimate Disney Experience: a review
I was fortunate to attend one of the hottest tickets in town... the premiere of Disney's The Princess and the Frog. The premiere ran in New York and Los Angeles, and online the tickets sold out long ago. Obviously, after the years of hype and controversy, many of us wanted to finally see the film. The result: an instant classic.
The songs, the animation, the story, the setting... all top notch. My ticket also came along with the "ultimate Disney experience", which I will also review. The experience consisted of a host of related events that took place at a separate location, including Meet the Princesses, Bayou Adventure, Learn to Draw from a Disney Animator, a peek at the Disney Archives, games, crafts, and more.
First off, I suppose only Disney would attempt to create an 'experience' out of a movie premiere... at least an experience in which one stands out in the cold two hours before showtime, gets hassled in line, and then has to walk three blocks away at movie's end to another location to complete the experience... in 90 minutes time! Confused? You won't be, after this blog. :0)
The movie premiered at the Ziegfeld theatre, and the ultimate experience was held at the Roseland Ballroom, three blocks away. When I arrived at the theatre, a little after five for the seven o'clock show, I asked innocently to the guy out front when a good time to come back for the show would be. He pointed behind me, and said "Now. I'm not kidding. We were swamped at the last show." Behind me were two lines already forming; one for the Royal Ticket holders, and one for the implied 'rabble'. I paid extra for Royal status, so got the Royal treatment. This included some purple beads with the movie logo on them, and the feeling that I was special because I was in the shorter line.
All this was great until they started harrassing us for our cameras. Yes, this was a Premiere, so we were lucky to see the movie a week before anyone else. God forbid we show the world pictures or video of the film that millions were going to see a week later. I mean, we could upset the apple cart quite severely, I suppose, although with a film this good, I am sure that any publicity will be good. I know, Disney is extremely cautious, and perhaps with good reason. Still, I don't think the fear of bootleg video warranted being threatened while I stood in line. They took people's cameras, put them in bags, and returned them to the people after the show. After the first wave, however, they started saying things like "We mean it! If we find you have a camera, then "insert threat here"." Some weren't so bad... I heard one guy offer a lady the chance to sign a waver instead of surrendering her camera, but they did take the camera in the end. The joke was, of course, that once we were in the theatre, the cell phones came out and people were taking photos left and right.
Enough of the complaining. Overall, the experience had the usual difficult moments, with standing in line too long here, standing in line too long there, and people around you complaining. However, the experience was enjoyable, and those uncomfortable moments were forgotten when the good times rolled around. The film was great, the Princesses were professional, and I got to take an Animation class with a top Disney Animator, which is always enjoyable. Our instructor was Anthony DeRosa, who was friendly, courteous, and fun, and incidently was an Animator on such films as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast! The class was great, although I find these classes to be rather fast-paced... and I'm a professional! I think Disney designs these classes to give people an idea of just how difficult it is to be an artist, but at the same time, the sense of urgency keeps people from fussing over their work and just drawing. It's fun, and I recommend anyone interested in art to take similar classes at Disneyland or World.
The rest of the experience was crowded, and full of wild children running amock, so I avoided the Bayou and craft areas. I did enjoy the archival material, such as Elizabeth Swann's dress from Pirates of the Caribbean, and props from movies like Narnia. The games seemed rather quiet, but I did not take the opportunity to check them out.
The evening ended with me realising that I had lost my tickets. I realised this when I was told that I couldn't recieve my free lithograph without the ticket, even though I had my wristband, purple beads, and an angry expression on my face. Eventually, after discussion with several managers of arying politeness, I recieved my lithograph. As an Artist, and art collector, I was looking forward to this. Sadly, I was disappointed. The lithograph had the muddy murkiness of an amatuer artist who doesn't know when to stop adding colors. Admittedly, it was a night scene taken from the film, but there were so many more beautiful moments they could have captured, or at least they could have captured this scene a little better.
But this does lead me to a very important realisation about this film: it has to be seen in its entirety, and in its medium of motion. I have not been impressed with any still ads I have seen for the film. The characters do not grab your attention at all until you see them on the big screen. It is the animation itself that truly brings this film to life, and makes it so magical. The characters must be seen in motion, and heard, and observed, and then they become so real and interesting. This particularly goes for Mama Odie, but can be said for any of them.
Again, despite the few glitches, the evening was fun, interesting, and worth traveling to New York for. The movie was the highlight, as it should be, but the experience had enough to interest everybody who attended it. And for those of you with kids? The Disney Princesses are wonderful, and always make your kids feel special.
Cheers, JOHN :0)
PS On a more personal note, I am a big fan of Disney's two great dark rides, the Haunted Mansion and the Pirates of the Caribbean. The setting of the Princess and the Frog is New Orleans, of course, which fits right in there with those rides, and their location in Disneyland. I can't believe that noone at Disney has noticed this, and i really would have loved to see some 'tributes' in this movie. However, many elements were already there to remind one, from the stately manor houses to the meandering fireflies. Hopefully they will incorporate Princess into New Orleans square... without taking out any of our beloved places already there. :0)