Category Archives: Film Exhibit Reviews

TCM Classic Film Festival 2024 – Film Exhibition Report

Turner Classic Movies went through quite a year since the Festival held in Hollywood in the spring of 2023.  In the midst of all the cost cutting going on at offices of Warner Brothers Discovery, the parent company of the beloved cable channel, there were rumors that TCM may have been on the chopping block as well.  This was thought to be the case when a massive round of layoffs were passed down in the TCM offices.  It lead many to speculate that the channel itself was on it’s way towards shutting it’s doors completely, or perhaps be merged into another channel under the WBD umbrella.  This worried many fans of the network, and it lead to an unprecedented intervention on the part of high profile figures like Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson personally imploring Warner Brothers CEO David Zaslev to spare TCM.  With TCM shedding so much of it’s staff, there was also the worry that some of the collateral of that shake-up could include the end of one of TCM’s greatest yearly traditions; it’s annual Film Festival in the heart of Hollywood.  Thankfully, the worries of an end to TCM and it’s Film Festival were relieved when it was announced that the network was going to live on, as well as the Festival.  And it’s a great thing that both survived into the next year too, because 2024 happens to be a landmark celebration for both TCM and the Film Festival.  This year marks 30 years since TCM first hit the airwaves in 1994 and for the Festival, this is it’s 15th year (though not the 15th edition, since 2 years were cancelled due to Covid).  For many classic movie fans who come to Hollywood every year from all over the country (as well as the local ones like myself) this is an especially welcome thing to see happen given how close we all thought it might be coming to an end.  I of course have my Festival coverage below, broken up by each day I attended, and I will give you my movie by movie breakdown of this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, including all the special guests I saw, the experiences of seeing these classics on a big screen, and just my general overall thoughts about the vibe of the Festival.  So, let’s get started.


Like with the last couple of years, I have had to work my day job during the festivals first two days.  This limits me being available only to see the evening and nighttime showings at the fest.  Thankfully, the Festival doesn’t actually begin until 6:00pm on Opening Night.  So, right as I got off work, I made my way cross town quickly to get to the Hollywood and Highland complex, now called Ovation Hollywood.  Here is the home of all the main venues of the Festival; the legendary TCL Chinese Theater as well as the Chinese Multiplex.  Thankfully, this year’s Festival marks the triumphant return of another iconic venue to the Festival that has been missing the last couple years; Grauman’s Egyptian Theater.  The Egyptian had been closed since 2019 in preparation for a massive remodel to the century old structure, and it’s construction had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Finally, the theater re-opened last November and it has now been returned to the stable of venues for the TCM Fest.  The American Legion Hollywood Post, which had filled the vacancy these last couple years was retired as a venue this year, with no word on if it may be brought back in future Festivals.  The Legion is a fine and beautiful theater and it’ll be missed this year to be sure, though I feel a lot of Festival patrons are happy this year that they don’t have to make the half mile trek up the hill any more to get there, with the Egyptian being refreshingly closer.  And like year’s past, the Egyptian is also bringing back one of the Festival’s most unique attractions; screenings of ultra-rare Nitrate prints.  For this first night, My focus was on some of the smaller screenings in the multiplex.

The first film I chose to start my Festival experience with was a bit of  last minute choice.  Basically, I needed to pick a movie that started at a time late enough for me to get to from work on time, but not too late to make it harder to fit in another movie after it.  So, what I ended up choosing was the Rock Hudson and Doris Day romantic comedy Send Me No Flowers (1964).  Thankfully, it worked out on my schedule and I was able to find a seat for this film fairly easily, given that it was playing in one of the Chinese multiplex theaters.  The film was introduced by TCM personality Alicia Malone, who gave us some context for the film we were about to watch.  This was the third and last collaboration between Hudson and Day, and it was also an early film for one of the rising star filmmakers who would help define the next generation of cinema in the decades ahead; the late Norman Jewison.  To conclude her introduction, Malone called on four members of the audience to share any trivia about Doris Day that they’d like to share.  One of the four just so happened to be in the middle of writing a book about Ms. Day and he shared his own personal experience about meeting her for an interview.  Each person called up was given a TCM Festival pin as a prize, and after that it was ready to get the Festival rolling with the first movie of the night.  This was the first movie of this year’s festival that would be a first time viewing for me.  I can tell you it’s not my type of movie, but it was interesting to see this very specific era of film in the way it was intended to be seen on the big screen.  It’s also neat to see the versatility of Norman Jewison on display, especially comparing this to his later work like In the Heat of the Night (1967) and Fiddler on the Roof (1971).  So, a low key but nevertheless successful start to this year’s festival.

While my first movie was playing, the Festival was having it’s official opening night kickoff in the iconic Chinese Theater.  Those opening night shows in the Chinese are limited to just the highest level pass holders, and even among them it’s a hot ticket event.  Being someone who solely goes through the standby lines, I of course go in knowing those shows will be closed off to me.  I can, however, take a look at the pre-show red carpet for that screening, albeit from the opposite sidewalk across Hollywood Boulevard.  I didn’t see much in the way of famous faces, though I did find it interesting that this year they included a spectator bench to the Chinese Theater courtyard for a select number of fans to watch the celebrities as they arrive; ala what they do in a similar way at the Oscars.  For this year, the big event is the 30th anniversary screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), with John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Harvey Keitel as the special guests.  But, I needed to quickly make my way to the next and final show of my night.  This one was going to be tricky, because it was playing in the smallest of theaters at this festival; Chinese Multiplex Auditorium #4.  Capacity in this venue is only 150 seats, so a standby ticket is hard to come by.  Remarkably, I was able to get one of the very few available.  Once inside, I could see that the room was nearly full, and I grabbed the closest single seat I could find.  The pre-show discussion was already started, which for this movie included a sit down interview between TCM host Jacqueline Stewart and character actor Stephen Tobolowsky.  Tobolowsky was there to talk about the movie we were about to watch, the Oscar winning Grand Hotel (1932), and more specifically about it’s star, Greta Garbo.  As a self-professed Garbo fan, he talked at length about what the movie meant as part of her legendary career, including giving her the most famous quote of her movie career, “I want to be alone.”  One of the other perks of getting a covet seat in Theater #4 is that it is one of only two venues playing film prints at this festival, the other being the Egyptian.  It was a first time viewing for me, and though the print was very scratched up, I am grateful that I saw it with fresh eyes the way it was meant to be seen, on celluloid.  This was a great way to start off this year’s fest and there are still three more to look ahead to.

FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2024

After another work day, I planned to spend the following evening trying to catch at least another two movies.  Instead of heading straight to the venues from work, I decided to focus on the late night showings on my second festival day.  Unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of great movies on this Friday, including a screening of 101 Dalmatians (1961) at the El Capitan Theater across from the Chinese (the only use of that venue for this festival), a screening of The Silence of the Lambs (1991) at the Chinese with Jodie Foster as the special guest, and another Chinese Theater screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) with Steven Spielberg as the special guest.  A lot of sadly missed opportunities that I had to skip because of work, but this Friday night still offered some important screenings that I was eager to attend.  Chief among them was a 9:45pm screening of the horror thriller Se7en (1995), with director David Fincher as the special guest.  I made sure I got myself in line early for this one, because even though it’s a late night show, a big ticket attraction like this one still could turn into a sold out show.  Thankfully, being prepared worked out and my placement in line was early enough to get a standby ticket for the show.  What I found interesting was that the Chinese Theater’s IMAX screen was fully opened up without masking, meaning we were going to get this film shown in an IMAX format.  I didn’t even know that there was an IMAX version of Se7en, but apparently there is.  Though there was a good amount of people in the theater, it turned out not to be a sell-out, and I was able to get a good seat not too close to the massive screen (the largest in North America according to the festival’s fact sheet).

There was a little hope in me that we would get a surprise special guest from the movie to join David Fincher on stage, similar to how George Clooney joined director Steven Soderbergh in the last minute at the screening of Ocean’s Eleven (2001) at last year’s festival.  Actor Morgan Freeman was scheduled to be at the Festival for the Saturday afternoon screening of The Shawshank Redemption (1994), so I thought there might be a chance he’s show up to this one too, but alas it was not the case.  Still, our screening still had David Fincher who was definitely worthy of the wait in line to see this night.  He talked about how this movie helped to save his directing career after the disaster that was his debut with Aliens 3 (1992).  He also talked about the difficulty of convincing the studio to keep the identity of the actor playing the villainous John Doe a secret in the marketing, so that it would be a surprise when it’s revealed to be Kevin Spacey.  It was an interesting interview, conducted by Noir Alley host Eddie Mueller, and helped to give us some interesting insight into the movie we were about to watch.  In IMAX format, I can definitely say that Se7en looked pretty incredible.  Even after nearly 30 years, the movie look pristine and the IMAX presentation really made the film feel even more engrossing, which could be very spine-tingling given the subject matter of the film.  Unfortunately, because the movie started so late into the night, I had to make a tough choice; do I stay and watch the whole movie and have it be my one and only movie for the day, or do I duck out early to catch the midnight screening happening in the multiplex?  It was not easy, but I wanted to get another movie in before I left for the night, so I chose to leave with ten minutes left in the movie.  Unfortunately, those are the most famous ten minutes of the movie Se7en, the “what’s in the box?” scene, which turns the film into a tragic masterpiece.  But, I’ve seen the movie before so I knew what I was going to miss and was fine with my choice.

So, leaving the main show behind, I made my way quickly to the Chinese Multiplex Auditorium #6, which was hosting the midnight show for this evening.  The movie selected was a pre-Code era sensationalist film called The Road to Ruin (1934).  This was one of those cautionary tale movies to teach audiences about the evils of a debaucherous lifestyle, while at the same time indulging in it for the shock value on screen.  The movie was introduced by Quatoyiah Murry, an author for the TCM Underground and a former channel manager for TCM’s YouTube page.  She gave an interesting rundown about the movie’s history, and how it skirted the restrictions of the Hays Code by positioning itself as “educational.”  Thus far, I have to say since I started attending the midnight showings at the TCM Film Fest in these post-pandemic years I’ve had the most interesting mix off films.  In 2022, I watched an 80’s apocalyptic thriller and last year I saw a Mexican sexploitation super hero movie.  This pre-Code film era film is another interesting choice for a midnight show, and it is a fascinating relic of it’s time.  I was shocked to see a movie, made just shortly after sound became mainstream in Hollywood, that had a scene where a woman is shown topless.  That kind of moment in a film of that era is shocking to see, knowing how much the Hays code cracked down on anything deemed remotely sexual in any way.  It really gives you a sense of just how much the art of film was allowed to go in it’s early days before things changed and censorship became the norm.  The movie itself kind of reminded me of Reefer Madness (1936), with the way it exploits it’s subject for shock value, while also lecturing the audience with it’s heavy handed morals.  And with that, a second day is finished.  The next two will be where the bulk of my Festival experience will take place as I have the weekends off from work.


Day 3 is typically where my TCM Film Festival experience really ramps up, and this year was no exception.  I began the morning later in the day after sleeping in because of the midnight show from the night before.  One of my goals this year was to attend one of the few screenings using a nitrate print.  These rare and fragile film prints made on the highly flammable film stock are always an interesting thing to see screened, and I’m very happy they have returned this year, along with the theater that hosts them; the Egyptian.  This isn’t my first time back in the Egyptian Theater.  I paid a visit back when it first re-opened in November 2023 and saw a screening of Bradley Cooper’s Maestro (2023) there.  Suffice to say, the remodel is spectacular and the Egyptian finally looks the way it should with it’s interiors finally restored to their original ornate glory.  The seating has been greatly improved as well, with more space and cushioning.  Eye levels are also much better, and the theater’s acoustic levels are amazing.  This year’s festival only has their Nitrate screenings on Saturday in the Egyptian, so I had to choose the later to fit in my schedule.  The nitrate movie I ended up seeing was the 1950 musical, Annie Get Your Gun, starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel.  Before the movie started, host Eddie Mueller brought up the manager of the theater to speak about the safety precautions we needed to know before the start of the screening.  Essentially she reassured us that the film was in the hands of trained professionals, but in the case of a fire breaking out, she pointed to the nearest exits.  It was good to know that they were adamant about letting us know the risks involved in screening these rare, volatile prints.  The screening itself was interesting, given the condition of the print.  It’s definitely an old copy, likely from it’s first run in theaters, and it’s got all the scratches and stains to show for it.  In some ways, this improved upon the experience because you are in a way going back in time watching a movie this way.

With the first show of the day complete, and one of my must sees scratched of the list, it was time to head over to the Chinese for my second show.  This one would be a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959), a movie that I’ve seen a dozen times, but never on the big screen before, so it was something I was looking forward to.  The problem at the same time is that many other people also had the same goal.  When I got in the standby line, there were already 50 other people in front of me.  There was a chance that this would be my first sold out show of the festival.  Thankfully, I was able to get in, but it took quite a while to funnel us standby ticket holders inside the Chinese Theater, because there were so many pass holders getting in there first.  I found my seat pretty close to screen and off to the side.  The auditorium was close to the fullest that I have ever seen, which is pretty remarkable for the 912 seat venue.  Given the lengthy amount of time it took us to get in, the pre-show discussion was already in full swing.  TCM host Alicia Malone was present and her guest was writer/director Nancy Myers.  She was there to mainly talk about the film’s star Cary Grant.  While I missed most of her interview, I was able to catch perhaps the highlight at the end.  Myers talked about her early days as a writers assistant, and one of her jobs was working with legendary film critic Gene Siskel.  Siskel just so happened to be granted a sit down interview with Cary Grant and somehow Nancy Myers got roped in to assist, and she recounted how she was able to spend a whole weekend in the company of Cary during the whole interview process.  That’s quite a story to hear, and I’m glad that I was able to catch at least this part.  Of course, seeing North by Northwest on the giant Chinese Theater screen was worth it too, and it’s definitely the kind of movie that was made for this kind of venue.

From there, I had my eye on one of the more unique programs at this festival, which was a special presentation called Back from the Ink: Restored Animated Shorts.  Apparently the UCLA Film Archive and The Film Foundation have collaborated on restoring old animated shorts from the 30’s and 40’s that had deteriorated into poor condition and this festival was going to premiere the results of their efforts.  Most of the shorts were from the now defunct Fleischer Animation studios and were languishing in the public domain, so quite a few of these have been largely forgotten and unseen by audiences.  This special program was going to be hosted by animation historian Ben Model and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.  It was something that I was looking forward to seeing, but alas, this became my first sell out of the Festival.  Probably should have seen it coming given the near sell out that I experienced at the Chinese.  This was in the smaller Multiplex screens, so it makes sense that high demand among pass holders made this a hard to get into program.  So, I went with my back up showing, which was in the same multiplex.  It was a screening of Ernest Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner (1940) which I chose as a back up because it was yet another movie I hadn’t seen yet.  No special guests, other than an intro by Eddie Mueller.  For the final film of the night, I chose to see Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954), mainly because it was the next earliest screening available.  The screening was the easiest to get into, as the 300 seat Auditorium #1 only got half full.  Thankfully, we had a special guest for this screening; British film director Mike Newell.  Newell is famous for movies as varied Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) which had anniversary screening at the Festival, as well as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2004).  He had an interesting talk about Fellini, as well as noting that his wife once acted in one of Fellini’s films, which is where he managed to encounter him.  While the movie played, we unfortunately had a mishap as the fire alarm started blaring.  The movie was paused and everyone had to evacuate.  Thankfully, it was a false alarm but it made for a odd finale to my third night of the Festival

SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2024

So, here’s the conundrum that I found myself in on my final day of the Festival.  My favorite movie of all time, Lawrence of Arabia (1962) was being screened in the morning, inside the magnificent Egyptian Theater with a pristine 70mm print.  How could I pass up an opportunity like that.  Well, I did.  It was very tempting to see Lawrence in the best imaginable presentation, but given the movie’s 3 hour an 40 minute run time, it would’ve left me with very few other options for the rest of the day, and I wanted to spend that day watching as many movies as I could.  So, I chose to use the same amount of time watching two other films that I hadn’t seen before.  My first show of the day was a 9:00 am screening of the movie National Velvet (1944) starring Mickey Rooney and a then 12 year old Elizabeth Taylor.  The special guest for this screening was Ms. Taylor’s personal assistant during her last several years, Tim Mendelson.  It was interesting to hear him talk about being in the legendary actress’ inner circle towards the end of her life.  One of his main duties was to help her with the management of her perfume line, White Diamonds, which he generously brought free samples of for the whole audience.  Of the never seen before movies that I saw at this year’s festival, this may have been the best discovery.  I found it to be an especially charming little film with incredibly beautiful Technicolor cinematography.  It was also crazy not just to see Elizabeth Taylor so young, but also her co-star, the late Angela Lansbury, who was a teen when she made this.  My second movie of the day was in the Chinese Theater.  It was a 70th anniversary screening of Billy Wilder’s Sabrina (1954).  The special guest of this screening was not anyone associated with the movie, but more so a famous fan.  Actor Kin Shiner of General Hospital fame was there to introduce the movie, and mainly to talk about actress Audrey Hepburn, whom he had gotten to meet on several different occasions during his career.  Again, it was great to have my first experience with this movie on a screen as big as the Chinese, and while it isn’t exactly top tier Billy Wilder like Double Indemnity (1944) or Sunset Boulevard (1950), it was still a fresh and funny little romantic comedy.

The next movie that I had planned for the day was a 70mm screening of John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) at the Egyptian.  My hope was to get in one more screening at the festival inside the returned venue, and to also get the opportunity to see this classic in pristine 70mm.  Unfortunately, this was another extremely popular event at this year’s festival.  The pass holder line pretty much filled up the entire Egyptian courtyard, which has also been beautifully restored.  My place in the standby line was number 69, so it was going to be a miracle if I got in.  Not only did a miracle not happen, but not a single person in standby made it into the screening.  I believe even a few pass holders were even turned away.  So, my number of sell outs numbered 2 this year.  But, there was one more goal that I had yet to complete, and this was perhaps priority number one for the entire Festival itself for me.  The closing night show in the Chinese Theater was going to be a screening of Spaceballs (1987), and director Mel Brooks was going to be attending.  I knew this was going to be a big deal showing, given that Mel is now 97 years old and you don’t really know if he’ll ever come to one of these Festival screenings ever again.  I could fit another movie in between as a back up for my sell out at The Searchers, which might have likely been the current screening of Chinatown (1974), also in the Chinese Theater.  But, seeing that would mean getting into the standby line for Spaceballs too late.  So, I decided to cut my total number of movies short at 11 total instead of 12, and I took my place in line a full 3 hours before showtime.  There were already two other people there before me with the same idea.  We ended up killing our time in line by talking movies, so thankfully I wasn’t standing there bored.  That’s one of the great things about the TCM Festival is that it’s easy to find strangers in line with the same passionate love for movies as I do, making small talk easy to participate in before the movie starts.  Despite what looked like an impossibly long line of pass holders giving us the impression that we might be in for another sell out, they did thankfully let in standby guests, and my lucky number 3 paid off.

The theater looked as full as the North by Northwest screening the day before, and there were plenty of people seated close to the front, likely in anticipation of seeing Mel up close.  I was seated a few rows back, with a good enough view of both the stage and the screen.  Before the start of the interview, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, who I realized was absent from every one of my screenings at this festival until this one, came up to the podium and gave shout outs to all of the behind the scenes staff who put the festival on this year.  Of course, the moment of the evening was here and Ben brought out Mel Brooks to thunderous applause from the 900 strong in the Chinese Theater audience.  Mel, for someone of his advanced age, still looked fantastic and in great spirits.  And most importantly, he still has the power to make us all laugh.  During the interview, he mentioned how he got his first role by having a great impression of a cat, which he hilariously demonstrated.  The he said he also does a great Hitler too, to which he pulled a comb from his pocket and held it up to his nose making it look like the dictator’s distinct mustache.  The interview was a blast to listen to, especially with all of Mel’s hilarious tangents.  I especially liked his summation of the Star Wars movies, saying it’s got a lot of “zaps.”  I’m sure the interview could have gone on for as long as both Ben and Mel wanted, and Ben seemed almost emotional as he thanked Mel for being there, but they had to end the interview so they could start up the movie and bring the Festival to a close.  It was my third time seeing Mel Brooks at the TCM Film Festival, the other times being for screenings of The Twelve Chairs (1970) and High Anxiety (1977).  I’m grateful for every time I get to see one of my heroes like Mel Brooks live in person, and I feel that this one will be especially monumental, because it could very well be the last time.  The movie of course was great, and though I’ve already seen it many times before, this was a first on a big screen.  It’s also always great to end the TCM Film Festival on a comedy, because of that high of laughing together with a crowd of other film lovers in an amazing cinematic venue like the Chinese Theater.

So, there you have my chronicle of my experience at the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival.  Though I was disappointed that I missed my record goal of 12 movies in total, I still got up to 11 movies overall, and even better, I got into my top priority events as well.  I was especially happy to be back at the Egyptian this year.  The Egyptian was very much missed over the last couple Festivals.  While it’s too bad that a great venue like the Legion Theater was left out to make way for it’s return, I don’t feel like the shuffling up of locations deterred the overall experience.  I also managed to catch at least one movie in each of the venues at this year’s festival, including the elusive Auditorium #4 at the multiplex.  I was also able to see some great special guests at the Festival this year, with Mel Brooks and David Fincher being the highlights.  One thing that I still wish was available are the program books.  Those always made great souvenirs from each festival.  Sadly, all they give out now are fold-up schedules that don’t tell you anything about the movies.  Instead, you have to look up the details on the app.  Even still, there is little to complain about with this festival and I commend TCM on their organization and flawless presentation.  It’s just such a great experience spending four days out there in the heart of Hollywood mingling with other die hard cinephiles and sharing our love of cinema.  It’s also a great way to make new discoveries with movies that are new to me at each festival, helping to keep my love for classic cinema burning brightly.  I hope the big wigs at Warner Brothers Discovery are taking note and seeing the value of the TCM brand and how beloved this Festival is to so many.  I will definitely be looking forward to next years Festival, and I feel confident that the TCM Classic Film Festival will remain an essential part of Hollywood’s annual festivities.

TCM Classic Film Festival 2023 – Film Exhibition Report

It took a long while, but we are back to regular programming.  The TCM Classic Film Festival has been a yearly tradition for me and a major event that I cover for this blog each year, but the Covid-19 pandemic put the tradition on pause for two long years, until the festival returned last year.  Despite the gap in between, I was happy to see that little had changed with the festival and it was the same wonderful experience that I had enjoyed in years before.  Now, one year later, it is time to gear up for yet another TCM Film Fest.  Like many years past, each of the festivals have a theme to them.  For this one, their theme is tied in much more with the parent studio behind TCM.  The classic movies station is a part of the Warner Brothers Discovery company, which this year is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Warner Studios.  As a result, the programming of this year’s festival is skewed much more heavily with films from the Warner Brothers library, spanning across their 100 year history.  The films date as far back as the mid 1920’s, and are as recent as Steven Soderberghs’s Ocean’s Eleven (2001), which gets a prestigious Friday night showing.  There are other studios represented in this year’s program, but the Festival is put on by a wing of the Warner Brothers Discovery company, so it stands to reason why they would indulge themselves a bit more this year.  Thankfully with movie theaters in recovery, the venues this year are just as vibrant as they have been in past years, though sadly the Egyptian and the Cinerama Dome are still M.I.A. because of ongoing refurbishments.  Hopefully those two will be back at next year’s festival.  This year, the Chinese Theater, the Chinese Multiplex, and the American Legion Hollywood Post are all back to thrill us classic movie fans with not just great movies but great atmosphere as well.  I will be chronicling all four days of the Festival with my own first hand experience.  My hope is to not only see a few new movies this year that I have missed up to now, but to also see some of the VIP guests that have often been the highlight of these Festivals, especially if they are very old-timers.  So, let’s take a look at my TCM Classic Film Festival 2023 experience.


Just like last year’s festival, I have limited time for movies on the first two days due to work, but it’s far less of a problem on the first day, as the festival itself doesn’t begin until the evening hours.  Heading to the festival central straight from work, I caught the earliest show that was available to me.  The main venue of the festival, the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theater, naturally was closed off to everyone except for passholders; and it was exclusive to a few even there.  I was able to get across to the other side of Hollywood Blvd. to catch a view of the red carpet set up they had for all their special guests.  There wasn’t too much to make out from a distance, but it certainly looked glitzy.  Every opening night showing in the Chinese Theater is reserved for a special premiere with especially high profile guests in attendance.  This night was no exception.  Before the film, there was a special sit down interview between TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and directors Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Warner Brothers CEO David Zazlev.  Their discussion was primarily about film preservation, and the importance it should have in the industry.  The subject tied in with the marquee showing of opening night, which was the movie Rio Bravo (1959), directed by Howard Hawkes, which Warner Brothers just recently completed a 4K restoration on.  That new 4K remaster was making it’s big first look premiere at this festival, playing on the giant Chinese Theater screen (the largest in North America as the festival hosts were constantly reminding us).  After the discussion with Spielberg, Anderson and Zazlev, Ben Mankiewicz then interviewed one of the stars of Rio Bravo, Angie Dickenson.  I was on the outside looking in, so there’s not much else I can say about the opening night premiere.  I had a different movie to catch.

The Chinese 6 Multiplex situated within the massive Hollywood & Highland complex (now re-christened as Ovation Hollywood) was also hosting a few screenings this opening night.  For my selections, I went with two different experiences for me; a film I have seen but not on the big screen, and a film that I hadn’t seen at all.  The first movie was the one I had seen before, which was Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Shadow of a Doubt (1943).  The movie was thankfully easy to get in for all, even for the standby guests.  Given that I am attending these festivals on a budget, I always have to use the standby lines, which means the last pick of the seats.  It’s a gamble seeing the movies this way, as the likelihood of being left out due to a sellout is much higher than with a pass.  But, off all the screens in the multiplex, this one was playing in the largest.  I got a seat closer to the screen than I normally do for most other movies mainly because it gets me close enough to having a close look at the special guest for the showing.  In this case, it wasn’t anyone involved with the film (which would be difficult for a now 80 year old movie) but rather a famous fan of the film.  The guest in question was actor John Hawkes, who was there to express his own longtime appreciation of this movie, and especially for it’s star Joseph Cotton; an actor that especially looks up to as a model for his own acting career.  Interviewed by TCM host David Karger, Hawkes discussed the subtleties of Cotton’s performance in the movies, and how he brought such effective menace to the villainous Uncle Charlie in the film.  For a movie it’s age, the film still looked remarkably good on a big screen, and it was nice to finally have the oppurtunity to see the film this way.  Immediately after the film was over, I got right back in line for the next movie of the night.

The second and last movie of Day One for me was a film that I had yet to see, which was the 1953 film The Wild One, produced by Stanley Kramer and starring a very fresh-faced Marlon Brando.  Brando had already debuted on the big screen as Stanley Kowalski in the classic A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), but The Wild One was his first true starring role, and it’s the first movie to really cement him with this bad boy, rugged image, which followed him for most of his career.  The film is pretty much a B-Movie with not much of a plot, but Brando definitely stands out, especially considering his more modern style of performance is so different from all the other actors in the movie.  This screening of the movie offered up an unexpected surprise for those of us in the room.  The listed guest who was going to introduce the movie for us was supposed to be the Archive VP of the Motion Picture Academy, Randy Haberkamp, but he was not present at this screening.  Instead, we got an unannounced special guest; famed movie director Joe Dante.  The man behind such classics as The Gremlins (1984) and The Howling (1981) offered up his own short introduction to the movie.  He discussed the impact that the movie had on Marlon Brando’s career, how well Brando and co-star Lee Marvin worked together(and didn’t work together), and various other little tidbits about the movie.  The fact that I was not expecting to see someone of Joe Dante’s ilk at this late night screening was a special surprise, and it marked a good start to my festival experience.  The following day was going to be especially challenging though as it had a movie that I believe would be the most difficult to get into out of all four days.

FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2023

Because of work, I missed out on 3/4’s of the entire day’s offerings.  But, I had already planned on focusing on one movie in particular for this night, so I wasn’t concerned on missing out on the rest.  I made sure that I was very early in line for the 9:30pm showing in the Chinese Theater.  This particular showing was for the movie Ocean’s Eleven (2001), the all-star remake of the Rat Pack classic.  The reason why this was going to be a must see was because of who was going to be the special guests.  Initially the guest was listed as just director Steven Soderbergh, who would’ve been a great draw just on his own.  But, a last minute addition was announced just the night before, as Danny Ocean himself, George Clooney, had committed to joining his collaborator on stage to talk about the movie.  So, given the fact that a major star like Clooney was going to be there, I definitely had to try to make this show no matter what.  I showed up plenty early and got almost the front spot in the standby line.  Unfortunately, things got a little weird and scary during the waiting time for the movie.  Down the street from where I was waiting, a loud bang could be heard.  It seemed like nothing at first (maybe a car had made the noise.  But soon, police cars and an ambulance were racing down Hollywood Blvd.  Soon after, a security team for the festival were gathering all of us in the standby line and moving us indoors.  Then the alert came across on the Festival App, telling everyone to shelter in place.  A person had been shot near the festival venues, and the shooter was still at large.  It was a tense and scary moment, but thankfully brief.  The assailant was apprehended quickly in the nearby subway station and the alert was lifted no that the coast was clear.  I only saw the aftermath later, as police tape had roped off the area where the incident took place.  Thankfully, the quick resolution of the situation allowed the rest of the festival to go on uninterrupted, and I am very grateful for the resourcefulness of the security team to make sure we were all safe in line.

After all that drama, I was able to make it into the screening, as the massive Chinese Theater was able to accommodate just about everyone.  The theater did fill up fairly well, so it seems like word got out that Clooney was going to be there.  After a brief introduction from Ben Mankiewicz, who shared that the first Clooney/Soderbergh film Out of Sight (1998) is one of his all time favorite films, both George and Steven took the stage.  Their conversation touched on a number of things, namely their long time relationship in the business, being co-producers on a number of movies including 6 of which George Clooney starred in, and why they were interested in doing this remake of the Sinatra classic.  For Soderbergh, this was what he saw as the best avenue for him to make what he considered a “mainstream” studio film, which he commonly didn’t do.  And Clooney was interested in moving his career in a decidedly different direction, given that this was not too long after his disastrous stint as Batman.  The two also talked a lot about the movie’s late producer, Jerry Weintraub, who was quite the character in his own right.  They also talked about the assemblage of all stars that they had for their film, including long time vets like Elliot Gould and Carl Reiner.  George Clooney remained entertaining throughout the interview, offering up some hilarious stories and anecdotes, but he also did a great job of not taking the spotlight away from Soderbergh, who also got his fair share of time to talk about the movie.  Ocean’s Eleven is a movie that I missed the first time around on the big screen, and only finally watched it on home viewing later.  It is still a movie that is fun to watch and it holds up well over 20 years later.

The movie finished very close to midnight, but I wasn’t finished just yet.  Just like last year, I was interested in catching one of the midnight screenings at this festival, though this time I had it planned rather than doing it as a backup.  The choice for the midnight showing this second night of the festival was an interesting one, because it was a campy B-Movie from Mexico called “La Mujer Murcielago” or in English, The Batwoman (1968).  This movie, it would appear, takes heavy inspiration from the 1966 Batman series (especially in the color palette) but the similarities end there.  The heroine is no Adam West, as her costume is stripped down to just a two piece bikini with a cape and cowl.  The film is pretty ridiculous, but it does offer an interesting look into mid-century Mexican cinema.  The film does also present some stunning visuals of the port city of Acapulco throughout the movie.  The guests for the film were people involved in the recent 4K restoration of the film.  They were restorationist Peter Conheim, Restoration producer Charles Horak, and Viviana Garcia-Besne, the founder of Permanencia Voluntaria Film Archive, who were responible for the restoration of the film.  Viviana was especially focused on discussing the needed value of restoring films, as many of the movies made throughout Mexican cinema history have been damaged or lost over time given the lack of resources need to preserve them.  She and the others recommended to those of us in the audience to read more about the organizations that are working hard to preserve the vast library of Mexican films needing care, many of which are funded through generous donations.  It was very interesting to see a movie from a film industry that I still know so little about, and yet I’m learning a lot more about how important it has been.  Multi Oscar winner Guillermo Del Toro himself considers The Batwoman one of his favorite films from his childhood, and given what we see in the movie itself, it stands to reason that he took quite a bit of inspiration from it as well.


Given that I went to the midnight showing the night before, I decided to arrive a little later to start my third day of the festival.  The earliest shows this day were nothing I was dying to see, and it gave me the opportunity to prepare for the one I did want to see with time to spare.  My first showing was at the multiplex; the 1984 Oscar winner Amadeus, which was a movie that I had seen many times before but not on the big screen.  My one gripe is that the screening was in one of the smaller venues of the festival and not on any of the more massive screens like at the Legion Theater or the Chinese.  A lavish period film like Amadeus calls for a larger screen, but that’s a preference that is out of my control.  Seeing it in a theater with an audience still helped to make the experience of watching it this way still worthwhile.  For this screening, the festival was also honoring a special guest; the film’s Oscar-winning Production Designer Patrizia von Brandenstein.  After playing a short career retrospective, she was brought to the stage to be interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz, and right away she pointed out that they got the pronunciation of her name all wrong.  The moment got a chuckle from the audience, as well as from Ben, who then went through all the many credits that Patrizia has had in the film industry.  Patrizia talked more about what it was like working on the film, as well as collaborating with director Milos Forman.  It was a fascinating talk and it’s nice to see an unsung legend in Hollywood get her due recognition for a lifetime of great work; including her historic Oscar winning work on this film.  Given the near three hour length of the film, there wasn’t much time I had afterwards to get to my next must see film.

After Amadeus, I made my way quickly to the line for Bye Bye Birdie (1963), which was being screened in the Chinese Theater.  Despite getting in line fairly late, I somehow managed to get a low enough number for the standby line that allowed me to get into the show.  I would have thought that this would be one of the harder shows to attend given that the special guest was one of the film’s stars, Ann-Margret. But, I guess the Chinese Theater is a more spacious venue than I give it credit for.  The theater still filled up pretty well, but everyone who wanted to see the movie and it’s star got in.  TCM host David Karger welcomed Ann-Margret on stage to discuss the movie, and it was an engaging interview.  Ann-Margret mentioned the funny thing that she did this film which pokes fun at the Elvis Presley craze, and then the next movie she worked on was Viva Las Vegas (1964), where she acted opposite the real Elvis.  She also talked about what it was like to work with her co-stars Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, and Paul Lynde.  Once the interview was over, David Karger had a special surprise in store for Ann, since she has a birthday coming up this month.  A special birthday cake was made for her by chefs from the Food Network (a sister station of TCM under the Warner Bros. family tree) and on top it was decorated with dancing legs sticking out of the top; a nod to Ann-Margret’s own dancing legs seen in so many movies.  She was very happy to receive this surprise and all of us in the crowd sang her “Happy Birthday” before she made her wish and blew out the candle.  As for the movie, it was my first time seeing it.  I wouldn’t say that it’s among my all time favorite movie musicals, but it’s a cute enough movie to appreciate, and Ann-Margret is certainly the highlight with her then impressive dance and singing skills.

Halfway through my goal of 12 movies at the festival and I’ve been able to get into every movie I wanted.  That however came to an end when I arrived at the Multiplex for my next movie.  I decided I wanted to see the film Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), starring Barbara Stanwyck, mainly because it was another film that I had yet to see.  Unfortunately, this was where my winning streak ran out.  The film sold out without a single person from the standby line getting a chance to go in.  I heard that even some passholders got turned away too, which is shocking that this one movie would be so popular out of all at the festival.  Thankfully for me, I did have another option available starting at the same time.  It was the heist comedy How to Steal a Million (1966), starring Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn.  The reason why I passed on this film initially is because it’s a movie I had seen before.  But, given that my first choice was unavailable, I decided that this was the next best option, given that it was in the same location and it would still give me enough time to reach my next film, though less than I would have with Sorry, Wrong Number.  I got into the screening late, and the interview with the special guest was just winding down.  The guest in question was David Wyler, son of the film’s director William Wyler.  I caught too little of the conversation to get a sense of the whole interview, but I was able to catch the entire film itself.  While I had seen the film, watching it on a big screen was new to me, and it had been a while since I had seen it last, so the experience was still worth it and I didn’t mind that this was a back up movie in the end.

After the movie was over, it was time to head up the hill to see my first film at this festival in the American Legion Theater.  It was hard to know how busy this screening would be, because it was the late night showing, but it was also one of the marquee films of this festival.  It was a 50th Anniversary screening of the legendary Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon (1973).  The film was preceded with an interview conducted by the Director of the Academy Museum Jacqueline Stewart of the film’s screenwriter Michael Allin and hip hop performer and producer RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan.  The interview was interesting from two perspectives, considering that we had one person involved with the movie as well as one whose career was heavily inspired by the movie.  RZA talked about how the movie Enter the Dragon was released the same year that hip hop started in the music scene, and that the film’s legacy runs parallel with that of the new breakthrough form of music.  Naturally, RZA took inspiration from Bruce Lee’s kung fu movies as a part of crafting the sound and character of the hip hop identity of Wu-Tang, and he sees Enter the Dragon as this major cultural touchstone for both Asian and African-American communities, particularly with how inclusive the movie was in showing martial arts masters of all races.  Michael Allin offered up some interesting personal stories of working with Bruce Lee and what he was like on and off screen.  The most remarkable story he shared was the quick turn around the movie had.  Allin wrote the screenplay in only three weeks and the movie from script to final cut was accomplished in as little as five months.  This was a first time viewing for me, and while I may not be a kung fu movie person, it was still good to finally see this movie that I’ve heard so many things about.  So, thus ended my full third day of the festival.  It was time to head home to prepare, with far fewer hours of sleep in between.

SUNDAY, APRIL 16, 2023

So, I have come to my final day at the 2023 TCM Film Festival.  There was no time to waste as I was starting early in the morning this time.  My first show ironically was in the same venue that I ended the night before in; the Hollywood Legion Theater.  Not only did I need to get to the venue early, I had to get there with an uphill climb.  Thankfully, early morning shows rarely sell out, and I was able to get into the theater without waiting.  This morning I was seeing the Henry Fonda/ John Ford military comedy Mister Roberts.  The main reason why I was seeing this movie was because it’s another that I had never seen before.  Here I was getting the chance to watch it on a big screen in a venue built for war veterans, so that gave the showing an extra bit of meaning.  Unfortunately, it was little more to it than that; no special interview or introduction.  Just one of the TCM hosts giving some pre-show backstory.  After the film, I made my way back down the hill to my next show.  In order to give myself some extra time before the big show of the day, which would come in the afternoon, I chose to see the comedy The In-Laws (1979), directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Alan Arkin and Peter Falk.  This screening, which was at the multiplex, did have a pre-show interview with two of the film’s co-stars; actresses Nancy Dussault and Penny Peyser.  Though he was unable to attend, Alan Arkin did write a letter for us attendees, which Penny Peyser read out for us.  It was a nice little talk about, where the two ladies discussed what it was like working with actors like Falk and Arkin.  They also discussed the way that director Arthur Hiller approached the comedy in the movie, which the director usually wasn’t too involved in having made movies in the past like Love Story (1970).  Though dated in some ways, the movie was still very funny for the most part, and it was an interesting discovery for me, considering that I wasn’t familiar too much with the movie before.

From that, it was off to the big draw of the day.  In the Chinese Theater for the afternoon show, they were screening the 1962 musical extravaganza The Music Man, with actress Shirley Jones as the special guest.  Unlike the other films I had seen at this festival, there was no interview before the movie, but instead the moment would be saved for after the film.  I had seen The Music Man before, but not on the big screen.  Just like Bye Bye Birdie the day before, there’s just something extra special about watching a lavishly staged musical film on the “largest screen in North America,” and The Music Man did not disappoint.  These grand widescreen movies splashed with color demand to be seen in this fashion, and it made the whole experience worth it just for that.  I even love the way that the audience I was seeing the movie with would applaud at the end of the musical numbers.  One thing occurred to me about this, that musicals made back in those days often had a moment of pause at the end of the songs where audiences could applaud.  That’s something that you just don’t see in movie musicals anymore, as modern musicals don’t pace themselves like stage productions but rather like other movies without a pause at the end of songs.  For a movie like The Music Man, it works well because an audience can applaud without missing anything in the movie; which makes me think that audiences back in those days must have been doing it too.  But, we had a good reason to be applauding, as Shirley Jones, the film’s star, was watching it along with us.  The appreciation must have been heartfelt for her, as she took the stage at the end of the show to a standing ovation.  The cool thing is that she brought all of her grandkids with her, and they all got to share the spotlight and take in her special moment by her side.  She didn’t stay long, but still made it known how much she appreciated the warm reception.  This was the last movie that I felt would be a challenge to get into, so I’m very happy to have checked it off my list and not have missed it.

The last show for my Festival experience was also in the Chinese Theater.  It was the 40th Anniversary screening of the Lawrence Kasdan movie The Big Chill (1983).  The screening was the official closing night presentation, so host Ben Mankiewicz started off the presentation by reading off the names of all the behind the scenes people who worked to make this Festival happen.  He especially noted the Security team, given that they were in the unprecedented situation of having to deal with an active crime scene near the center of the Festival.  The audience showed their appreciation with a very heartfelt applause to the Security staff.  For the movie itself, two of the film’s stars were there to talk about the making of it; Tom Berenger and Jobeth Williams.  They talked about having to live together during the film shoot in the single location that was the house in the movie, and how they passed the time playing games and other things.  They talked about their co-stars Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Meg Tilly, Jeff Goldblum, and the late William Hurt, as well as director Lawrence Kasdan.  Jobeth told the funny story of how she was mistakenly speaking with Berenger’s stunt double thinking that it was actually him, which Berenger found very funny.  Ben Mankiewicz also joked that they had a third cast member at this screening, Kevin Costner, but in the spirit of the film, they were going to keep him backstage and out of sight, referencing the fact that Costner was the one playing the corpse seen in the opening of the movie (of course he wasn’t really there).  After that, then it was time to see the movie.  It’s fitting that the night ended on another movie that I had yet to see.  Overall, of the twelve movies I saw this year, 7 were new to me, which is a pretty good tally.  After the movie, I slowly left the Chinese Theater, soaking in the waning moments of this year’s Festival before heading home.

This year had some high moments to be sure, but at the same time, I felt that there were some issues that concerned me as well.  It seems that this year that there was some downsizing compared to Festivals in years past.  For one thing, one of the things that I always keep with me as a souvenir from each Festival is a complimentary booklet that features descriptions of all the movies playing at the festival along with a flip out program schedule.  This year, they didn’t have those, instead choosing to have guests download the Festival app as their guide.  There was a program schedule available at info desks across the Festival venues, which was little more than pamphlet sized, but it just re-enforced a feeling of downsizing that I was getting from this year’s festival.  The reach of the festival’s footprint also feels lesser.  Yes, the Egyptian and Cinerama Dome are still unavailable in general, but other venues from past Festivals that are open like the Avalon and the El Capitan across the street were not a part of this year’s festival either.  My hope is that this is not another symptom of the budget cuts conducted by David Zazlev and the Warner Bros. accountants in their re-structuring of the company post-merger.  Hopefully next year when the Egyptian is re-opened we’ll see it as part of the Festival once again.  Apart from my gripes in these matters, the Festival still delivered when it came to the screenings and the interviews with the special guests.  I’m hoping that we’ll see a more robust Festival come next year.  Ben Mankiewicz said in his closing night remarks that this is his favorite week of the year, and for many of us classic movie fans, this is indeed something that we look forward to every year.  Hey, I can’t complain too much considering there was a point for two years during the pandemic when we didn’t have any Festival to go to at all.  So, I’m glad I was able to share yet another TCM Classic Film Festival adventure with all of you.  Here’s hoping for something special next year that will be just as good if not better than the one I was able to enjoy this last weekend.

D23 Expo 2022 – Film Exhibition Report

It’s been a long break for the D23 Expo.  The ultimate fan event for all things Disney has been on a bi-annual schedule until the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible for most large gatherings to happen.  Though scheduled initially for 2021, the continuing surges of that year convinced Disney to delay their marquee event for another year, pushing it into 2022.  Now with the pandemic thankfully heading into the rear view, at least with regards to major outbreaks, Disney is ready to invite it’s most dedicated fans back to the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center for it’s 7th D23 Expo celebration.  I have been covering the Expo since my first year writing this blog back in 2013, and I have been eagerly awaiting to return.  Just like having the TCM Film Festival back after a long pandemic hiatus, this is yet another movement for me back to having things back to normal, and I’m sure the same thing is felt for a lot of other dedicated Disney fans.  Apart from moving past the pandemic, this D23 Expo is also coming to us at a very important time in the history of the Disney company.  For one thing, Disney is using this Expo to kick off what will be a multi-year celebration of The Walt Disney Company’s 100 Year anniversary.  The namesake of the D23 fan club is the year the the company was officially founded; 1923.  Disney certainly wants to mark this milestone with a lot of pomp and circumstance and the Expo we are going to see this weekend will hopefully be a great representation of that.  This Expo also sees the company in transition, trying hard to rebuild itself after a shaky pandemic affected blow to it’s theatrical and theme park business.  This will also be the first Expo of the Bob Chapek era, the new CEO and successor of Bob Iger, the former head of the company who oversaw the launch of D23 and the Expos.  There’s no doubt about it, this is going to be a D23 Expo that will have a different air of importance than those of the past, and that puts a much brighter spotlight on it than we’ve seen before.

I am once again attending all three days, and I’ll be sharing my day by day account of all the sights and sounds that I’ll see there; complete with my own pictures.  I’m going to try my best to get into the big shows; the Animation panel, the Live Action panel, and the theme parks panel being the most important.  I will also try to find interesting smaller panels across the weekend as well, while at the same time hopefully getting a good in depth look at all the different booths on the show floor.  There are going to be archive exhibits across the Expo that I also want to check out, and most intriguingly Disney is also bringing Walt Disney’s private jet to the Expo, giving it a showcase all it’s own in an up close look for all the Expo attendees.  It will also be interesting to see how fans of all things Disney will react to all the future plans that the company is going to showcase at this Expo.  Beyond just Mickey Mouse and company, Disney is home to a wide array of brands; Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, ESPN, Hulu, and 20th Century Studios.  This will be the first major Expo since the finalization of the Fox merger, so it will be interesting to see how much of a presence the 20th Century brand now has at this Expo.  Regardless, I’m ready for a long three day adventure.  Below, you’ll find my account and final thoughts, and I hope to have this published as soon as I can.  With that, let’s take a trip to D23 Expo 2022.


Like I have in year’s past, the key part of my plan to get the most out of my D23 Expo experience is to be extra prepared.  So, I started off the beginning of my event experience with leaving my hotel room very early in the morning in order to line up at the security gate to enter the Anaheim Convention Center.  Even at 4 am, the line to enter was pretty significant.  Though Disney clearly stated that this time there would be no overnight queuing, people still showed up well before the 5 am gate opening.  We were let in and allowed to wait for the official opening in the underground Hall E, which is where the queue for the big Hall D23 shows would be.  One of the new things this year that they introduced was a randomized Show Pass system.  Each attendee had the opportunity to select a ranked selection of shows and experiences that they wanted to have a pass for, which guarantees them a seat or place in line.  Obviously the big Hall D23 shows were the most sought after.  I always try to hit the big three (Animation, Live Action, and Theme Parks), and this year I managed to snag a reservation for the Friday afternoon show, which was the Animation Presentation.  Because of this, I really had no need to show up so early, but I decided to do so anyway because it gave me a chance to see how these shows were going to be lined up and seated throughout the Expo.  There was a line-up for people to see the first show of the Expo, the Disney Legends induction ceremony.  This year, Disney was honoring the new inductees into their hall of fame style Legends pantheon, which included Frozen (2013) cast members Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Kristen Bell, and Indina Menzel; Enchanted star Patrick Dempsey, and the late Chadwick Bosemen of Black Panther (2018), honored posthumously. I haven’t attended this show before and had a better opportunity this time with my reservation, but I instead decided to dive right into experiencing the show floor itself.

At 9am, the doors opened for us and I got to be among the first to see the floor first hand.  The spacious floor was again filled with massive booths for all things Disney.  The first thing in front of me was the Marvel booth, which looked much like it has in years past, with a large space designated for fan congregation, as well as a stage and a place for talent and fan interaction.  One fun new thing they added was a photo opportunity in the back themed to the AvengerCon seen in the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel.  Beyond the Marvel booth was a Lucasfilm booth, with of course Star Wars being the centerpiece attraction.  The whole Lucasfilm booth was more of an exhibition this time, with costumes on display from their recent and upcoming projects.  There were costumes from The Mandalorian TV series, as well as the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi mini-series, and the upcoming Andor series for later this month.  In addition to Star Wars, there were costumes on display for other Lucasfilm properties, such as the upcoming Willow Disney+ series, and of course Indiana Jones.  Seeing the Indiana Jones costumes up close was especially neat, as they span across the series, with Harrison Ford’s iconic ensemble, to a costume from the villainous Toph in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s costume from the upcoming movie.  Across from that was the expansive Disney Bundle pavilion.  Here the showcase was for all the streaming services under the Disney banner, which includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+.  Disney+ of course occupied the largest footprint here, with a full presentation stage of it’s own that hosted special discussions throughout the Expo.  The Hulu and ESPN+ booths were smaller and on the edges, but still offered some fun photo opportunities for fans.  I didn’t spend too long here, although there was a fun little foot-pad experience that showed off a neat shadowbox projection effect, promoting current and upcoming Disney+ programming that was worth trying.  What I had my sights on next was one of the biggest and most interesting exhibitions in the entire Expo.

In the southernmost side of the convention center was the Wonderful World of Dreams exhibit, which was the one that was put on by Walt Disney Imagineering.  This is where the Disney company showcase all of the projects they have currently in the pipeline for their theme parks and vacation destinations.  This particular exhibit, I have to say, is the most impressive and largest one yet seen at the D23 Expo.  It was a sprawling set-up, well laid out with exhibits separated into the different theme parks around the world.  First up in the gallery was the newest park Shanghai Disneyland, which spotlighted the upcoming expansion it will be adding based on the movie Zootopia (2016).  They showed some concept art and models of potential rides coming to the park, but what was also included was a fun demonstration of the street atmosphere.  Occasionally, live performed puppets of Zootopia would open up doors in the wall and begin interacting with each other.  If this is a taste of what is to come, the Shanghai Disneyland guests are in for a definite treat.  Next, there were small exhibits for the other international Disney Parks in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Paris.  What was spotlighted in these were new attractions dedicated to the movie Frozen, with Tokyo’s ride being part of an expansive Fantasy Springs expansion to their Tokyo Disney Seas theme park.  Of course, the largest room was dedicated to the two theme parks central to the company, those being Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California.  On the Disneyland side, they had displayed models of their current Mickey’s Toontown re-imagining, which will include the new ride Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway railway, housed in the hilariously named El Capitoon Theater.  In the Walt Disney World section, there was a replica of the new founder’s statue of Walt Disney that will be installed soon in Epcot.  In the middle of this space was a model of a project coming to both parks, which is an upcoming re-imagining of the Splash Mountain ride with characters from The Princess and the Frog (2009), which is named Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.  The next room was an interesting look at the tech they are working on in the parks, which includes a new type of character interaction technology for large characters, such as Marvel’s Hulk. The last exhibit was devoted to Disney Cruise line, which included looks at their new ships and destinations.  A full and very satisfying exhibit worth multiple viewings.

After walking around for a while, it was time to start seeing some shows.  With my reservation, I was granted a bit more time on the first day to do whatever I wanted, so I decided to check out one of the smaller shows at the Expo.  Available at what they called the Premiere stage was a presentation devoted to Disney and Marvel video games.  I managed to get a chair way in the back for this one, but I wasn’t able to watch the whole show, because I had a conflicting reservation.  Suffice to say, it was a Marvel heavy collection of games with a couple of cute Disney ones here and there.  But it was neat seeing the new Premiere stage, which is debuting at this year’s Expo, housed in the convention center’s new expansion.  Quickly making my way to the underground Hall E, I only had to wait an extra 30 minutes to be seated for the Hall D23 Animation presentation, a welcome change from year’s past, which had me waiting hours prior to show time.  Spacious Hall D23 looked as grandiose as I remember it, and after 3 long years, it was great being back.  The presentation started with a montage celebrating all the media that the Disney company has put out in the last couple of years, and it concluded with the premiere of the brand new Disney 100 logo that will play in from of all their upcoming movies both in theaters and on streaming.  Then, onto the stage walked actress Cynthia Erivo, who most recently starred in Disney’s live action remake of Pinocchio (2022), playing the Blue Fairy.  After a round of applause, she began to sign her rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” which was very lovely.  Afterwards, newly promoted Walt Disney Pictures president Sean Bailey walked out on stage and welcomed the crowd.  He promised plenty of new surprises in the show we were about to watch.

The first selection of films presented were a few Disney+ exclusives, which included Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) and Disnenchanted (2022) with which the entire cast was there to promote.  Once we got to the theatrical set of projects, we learned that we were getting a new Haunted Mansion movie.  This cinematic reboot is being directed by Justin Simien, who brought with him a first look at the movie.  Afterwards came one of the show’s highlights, which was the announcement of who would be playing Madame Leota.  A Doombuggy ride vehicle rolled onto stage, spun around, and revealed to the audience Jamie Lee Curtis, who waved happily at the cheering audience.  Disney concluded this live action segment talking about upcoming remakes of their animated movies.  One was Snow White, starring Rachel Zegler and Gal Gadot as Snow White and the Evil Queen respectively who were both in attendance.  The other was The Little Mermaid, which director Rob Marshall showed us a full 4 minutes of, that being the whole “Part of Your World” sequence.  Afterwards, the actress playing Ariel, Halle Bailey walked on stage to thunderous applause.

Next, was the Animation portion of the presentation.  First up, Pixar Animation, which has honestly had the roughest couple of years during the pandemic, with most of their movies going straight to streaming.   Pixar Studios head Pete Doctor walked out to tell us about the exciting new projects they’re working on.  The first one shown was next summer’s release Elemental (2023), which was best described as Pixar’s first rom com, but with their usual twist on established formulas.  Here, the characters are made of actual elements, with the main characters being literally made of fire and water.  We were shown a few test animation samples, as well as a few quick scenes of the movie.  Finally they introduced us to the voices of the two leads, Mamoudou Athie and Leah Lewis, who were accompanied onto stage with actual fire and water rising from the stage and falling from the ceiling.  It was a neat theatrical trick to add some panache to the presentation.  After the showcase of Elemental, Pete Doctor began to discuss the first original long form series by Pixar for Disney+, called Win or Lose.  The show is going to be about a week in the life of a little league baseball team, and each episode will tell the story from a different character perspective.  Lastly, they announced the follow-up film to Elemental called Elio, which is about a shy kid who is abducted by aliens and must be a representative of Planet Earth in the cosmos, despite struggling to fit in even when he’s living at home.  The visual development stuff that they showed us looked really interesting and it definitely peaked my interest to see how this film turns out.  As a special surprise, Amy Poehler walked out onto stage to officially announce that Inside Out 2 is in the works, while at the same time playfully chiding Pete Doctor who wanted to keep things more secret.

Finally, the presentation ended on Walt Disney Animation, the bedrock of the company which is also celebrating 100 years.  We were shown a glimpse of the upcoming Disney+ series Zootopia+, but most of the focus was on the upcoming fall release of Strange World (2022).  The film’s director and writer, Don Hall and Qui Nguyen, were joined on stage by a few of the cast members of the movie, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Jaboukie Young-White, Dennis Quaid and Lucy Liu.  After a short talk, we were presented an extended scene from the movie.  It was an engaging moment that gave a good sense of the movie, and thankfully we don’t have to wait long for the rest.  Finally, the show ended with the announcement of Disney’s special 100th anniversary release.  In this one, they are imagining the origins of the Wishing star seen in so many of their movies.  So, the movie is conveniently titled Wish.  In it, we meet a princess named Asha who befriends a literal star.  Asha also has a pet goat named Valentino, who is going to be voiced by Disney lucky charm Alan Tudyk, who was there to demonstrate his many roles live.  To close out the show, we were presented a special debut of one of the songs from the movie, sung by the actress playing Asha, Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose.  Overall, a pretty eventful show with a lot of exclusive looks.  I was especially happy to see Disney committing more to theatrical releases with some of their titles, and not just dumping them onto Disney+.  So, a little more walking around for an hour and Day one came to a close.  Unfortunately, Southern California was getting a brush by from Hurricane, which led to us exiting the convention center in pouring down rain, right on the heels of a heat wave no less.  Thankfully, I packed an umbrella and it was off to rest in my hotel for Day 2.


This was the day that was really going to test my preparedness for this Expo.  I left my Hotel very early, and not surprising very few people were honoring that 4:30 am rule.  Arriving a little before 4:00, I found the line to already be substantial to get in.  Once the gate finally opened, I’d say the line to get in probably stretched all the way down the block, though I couldn’t quite get a confirming look.  Why was it so busy you might say?  Because the Saturday Morning show, always the busiest of this Expo, was the one where Marvel and Star Wars were going to present their upcoming projects.  Suffice to say, I wasn’t just contending with Disney fans here.  I had to go up against two other rabid fan bases.  Once through the gates, we quickly made our way to Hall E to queue up.  Even as early as I got there, and as much as I rushed, the line still filled up quickly.  I had no reservation for this show, so I had to contend with stand-by, which itself filled up.  Thankfully, I made it before they closed stand-by to anyone else.  But even here I had no certainty.  I was put in what was essentially the standby of the standby; the distinction being who made it early enough to get a wrist band.  After hours of waiting, the queues were finally walked into Hall D23.  I watched as the regular standby managed to get in, and one line of the standby standy’s.  A cast member made a head count and I got #53, hoping that it was a good sign I might get in.  Alas, another cast member broke the news that the show was full, and that we had to exit the queue.  So, for the first time ever, I struck out getting into a Hall D23 show, and it was the one I was most looking forward to.  Dissatisfied, I walked back to the floor hoping to cheer myself up.  I saw there was another presentation in one of the other halls running at the same time, and I managed to easily find a seat.  This one was about the Disney 100 exhibition that was going to be launched next year in museums across the United States and internationally as well.  It was an interesting break down of a neat exhibition that I hopefully may one day cover for this blog.  It will feature a collection of artifacts from across the spectrum of Disney history.  I just wish I had seen this show without the crushing blow of missing the Star Wars/ Marvel presentation.  From what I understand, there weren’t a whole lot of internet breaking announcements made, so maybe it wasn’t too bad of a loss.  I also got a nice Disney 100: The Exhibition poster after the show, something that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t been there.  From what I understand, the big Hall D23 presentation only gave out posters as well, plus 3D glasses to watch clips from James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water (2022).

With the extra time freed up, I decided to take the opportunity to visit one of the marquee attractions of this Expo; an exhibit dedicated to showcasing Walt Disney’s Private Plane.  Dubbed Mickey Mouse One, the plane itself was flown in from Orlando where it had been parked for years at the Disney Hollywood Studios’ backlot.  It received a refurbishment and was presented here at the Expo, making it by far the largest Disney artifact on display here.  It not only needed it’s own room, it was presented in the Anaheim Convention Center’s spacious arena, which in the past had been used for 2nd-tier panels; the ones below Hall D23 in importance.  Though guests couldn’t get up close to the plane, they did have a roped off area close enough to get some good picutres, including a special overhead shot that the Expo provides for everyone in line.  After getting my photo, I checked out a bit more of the nearby gallery.  In it, there were other artifacts from inside the plane like a passenger seat, some of the catering materials, as well as special baggage and paraphernalia that Walt gifted to guests who rode with him in the plane.  The whole exhibit was nicely set up, and it made good use of what usually was show space.  Literally as you walk right into the exhibit, the nose of the plane is staring right at you once you go through the doors.  The exhibit also played some era appropriate ambient music, which really set the scene nicely for the kind of time period that Walt would have been flying around in this plane.

Still, I was determined to not leave the floor that day without at least checking out something in Hall D23.  Unfortunately the afternoon presentation was for Disney Branded Television.  This primarily encompasses original TV shows that fall outside of the major studio brands, so it was pretty much a lot of Disney Channel and a couple Disney+ kid-friendly shows; stuff that I honestly care the least about with the Disney company.  But, I was willing to give the show a fair break.  There was no problem getting in through standby, and the Hall unfortunately only filled half up, which made me feel bad for the special guest and performers on stage.  While most of the stuff they showed was very uninteresting to me, like most of the Disney Channel programming and original movies such as Zombies 3 and High School Musical: The Series, there were still a couple nice surprises.  First, the show opened with a special appearance from a few Muppets.  And not just any Muppets, we got Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, there to promote a new Muppet variety show for Disney+.  They led off with a rousing rock song which honestly helped to improve my mood immediately for the show.  Another wonderful surprise was a presentation for a live action fantasy show called American Born Chinese.  The show itself was intriguing enough, and they did a neat traditional dragon puppet dance on stage.  But what made the presentation for this show even better was meeting the cast members.  They included not one but two of the stars of the breakout hit film from this year, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (2022), those being Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, who earlier in the day got to be part of a now viral photo with his Temple of Doom co-star, Harrison Ford at the morning Hall D23 presentation.  Also on stage was the show’s producer, Daniel Destin Cretton, who himself also has made news recently being selected to direct the next Avengers movie, The Kang Dynasty.  There were also a couple of other special celebrity sightings, including Disney Legend Tim Allen, who was there to promote his upcoming series, The Santa Clauses, based on his series of hit movies.  Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson, was also on hand to present a look at a documentary series that she’s producing for Disney+.  I will say that despite my cynicism for the stuff being presented and the sour mood I had going into the show, the showcase was still entertaining.  The dancers they had throughout the show really put their heart into their performance, so I have to applaud them for that.  Still, Day 2 was not my best at this Expo, and missing out on the big show sadly cast a pall over my day.  I can’t blame Disney for that.  They only had enough seats, and my number came up just short.  For me, it was leaving me with reconsidering how I should plan for these days going forward.  With so many seats being taken up by reservations, the rush for standby is very competitive now.  Unfortunately, I had one last chance to get into the show I wanted, and I had no guarantee of getting into that one either.


In the past, I have seen that the Sunday morning show, which almost always is theme parks, doesn’t fill up as fast as the Saturday morning show.  Still, I was taking no chances.  I arrived in line about the same time as I did for Saturday, and again it was a substantial line waiting for me.  Already I grew nervous, and was keenly looking at how fast they could get us through the gates, and how quickly I could rush my way there.  So, once the gates opened, and I went through the security checkpoint, I speed walked my way down to Hall E.  Thankfully this time I got there soon enough to receive a regular standby wristband, but as I observed before, anything could happen.  My anxiety rose even further as they seated everyone pretty late.  The 10:30 am presentation began pretty much on time, and yet I still saw about half of even the reservation seats still waiting to be let in.  Thankfully they got through all the reservation seats, so it was left to standby next.  By this time, the Disney Parks president, Josh DiMaro, had already welcomed actor and filmmaker Jon Favreau on stage.  About 10-15 minutes into the show proper, they did finally walk us into the Hall, so thankfully I wasn’t let down two days in a row.  Sadly, Favreau’s segment was already over and he was already off stage, but the next guest was just as big, if not more; Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige.  He shared details about the new Avengers attraction that was coming to Disney’s California Adventure, which includes a storyline tied into the current Marvel Multiverse Saga.  In the ride, the characters will be battling a new multiversal villain known as King Thanos.  This new ride promises to feature a wide array of characters across the Marvel multiverse, though details of the ride system used were vaguely hinted at.  Next, Feige and DiMaro were interrupted by a video message from Mark Ruffalo, who asked when we would see the Hulk in the parks.  As it turns out, we got our answer as a fully built costume of the Hulk, built with the Project Exo technology shown in the Imagineering gallery, walked onto stage.  The size of this character was truly impressive, and it will be interesting to see it in action up close in the parks, which DiMaro told us was happening in a week.

They continued the Parks presentation talking more about the big projects currently being worked on.  One was the Mickey’s Toontown re-imagining, which I saw the model of in the Imgaineering exhibit, as well as the Princess and the Frog changes to Splash Mountain.  One of the cool things that they did for all of us as we walked through the doors into Hall D23 was that we all got a silk handkerchief with the logo for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure printed on it.  After they talked about what they planned for the ride, the team behind the ride asked us to take out those handkerchiefs and swing them over our heads in a New Orleans fashion as they welcomed a surprise musical guest, the voice of Princess Tiana herself, Anika Noni Rose.  She performed two songs from from the movie with a back-up dance troupe on stage with her, and the audience responded with enthusiastic swinging of those white handkerchiefs.  Josh DiMaro then moved on to news about the expansion coming to the Downtown Disney shopping and dining district in California.  He shared the exciting news that Porto’s, a very popular bakery in the Los Angeles area, would be opening a new location there.  To celebrate the news, he added that everyone in the Hall D23 audience would be leaving with free pastry samples courtesy of Porto’s.  Afterwards, the focus went to projects going on in the international parks.  We got to see a look at a Zootopia themed expansion coming to Shanghai Disneyland, and they also talked about the Frozen themed lands that are coming to the Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris parks.  Next, DiMaro went into a presentation of Blue Sky project ideas that are floating around the halls of Imagineering at Disney.  These include attractions themed to Moana, Zootopia, Coco, Encanto, and the ever popular Disney villains.  It remains to be seen if any of these project become a reality, but I think part of the reason they were shared here was mainly to gauge fan interest.  They also talked about Disney Cruise line and the addition of their 6th ship into the fleet, called the Disney Treasure.  Finally, they concluded with news of brand new nighttime shows coming to the Disneyland Resort to celebrate the 100th anniversary.  It includes a new World of Color show at Disney’s California Adventure, as well as a new fireworks show at Disneyland.  The show ended with a performance of the song that will accompany the Fireworks show, and we all exited, lining up eagerly to receive our individual boxes of Porto’s.

Having managed to get into the show I wanted, and getting a tasty treat out of it too, my morning mood was much better this day.  And honestly, it kept being positive for the rest of this final day too.  I had a really good final day at this year’s D23 Expo, and that helped to salvage it from the disappointment of Saturday.  I decided to catch at least one more panel on this day, which was going on at the Walt Disney Archives stage on the second floor of the convention center.  This panel was about the long running Main Street Electrical Parade, which this year was celebrating it’s 50th anniversary at Disneyland.  I had been catching it myself all throughout the Summer, thanks to my annual pass.  But, this panel offered an in depth look at the history of the parade, which honestly was far more fascinating than I had imagined.  I forget the names of those involved, but they had the show director there, as well as the composer, and the current lead at Disney Parks entertainment who was responsible for the recent revival.  They discussed a lot of interesting tidbits about the ride’s history, from it’s inception, to it’s disastrous rehearsals, to all the additions that have been made and since retired over the years.  One of the most interesting stories was that the original composer of the parade’s them, “Baroque Hoedown” had his music sold to Disney by his agent without him knowing, and he only learned about it after having visited the park himself and hearing his own tune playing during the parade.  It’s smaller shows like this that I think are the special little treasures one can discover while at the Expo.  If you are not interested in competing for a spot in the Hall D23 shows, then these are perfectly good and worthwhile shows to check out too, not to mention also fascinating in their own right.

The rest of my day was spent playing everything else by ear.  I made a visit to the Archives Gallery this year, which to be honest was a bit underwhelming compared to years past.  This Disney 100: A Step in Time exhibit was basically laid out like a walkthrough timeline, with different spaces devoted to important milestones in Disney history.  There were a couple artifacts found there, but mainly each section was more or less a photo opportunity spot, and not much more.  The first spot was for the premiere of Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie (1928).  The next was devoted to the premiere of Walt Disney’s first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937).  Afterwards, there was a spot dedicated to the opening of Disneyland in 1955, which did have the neat artifact of Disneyland Ticket #1, which was purchased by Walt’s brother Roy for $1.  The next section spotlights the classic Mary Poppins (1964), had two of the carousel horses used in the film, as well as a dress worn by Julie Andrews.  The next section was devoted to the opening of Walt Disney World, and they showcased a mock-up of the attic scene in the Haunted Mansion attraction to spotlight it.  The next section was a surprise as it spotlighted the movie Tron (1982), celebrating 40 years this year.  Some of the props from the movie were displayed here, as well as a replica of the neon Flynn’s arcade sign.  The next room was likewise another surprise, as it spotlighted the film Dick Tracy (1990), complete with the iconic yellow coat and fedora that Warren Beatty wore in the movie.  Finally, and not surprisingly, the last room was devoted to Star Wars, a recent addition to the Disney family, and in that section, they had full size replicas of all the droids: C-3PO, R2-D2, BB-8, and D-O.  Layout wise, it was very well put together, but I wanted there to be more substantial things to look at inside, and not just backdrops to make for good Instagram posts.  But, that was the only downside to my day.

I spent much of the rest of my D23 shopping and soaking in the atmosphere while I was still allowed in the Halls.  And it was in these closing hours that I really got to appreciate what makes these Expos such a great experience each year.  For one thing, I just loved spending hours meeting strangers throughout the day and sharing our common love for all things Disney.  That community experience is especially what makes this worthwhile.  While waiting in line for the Steps in Time gallery, I just struck up a conversation with the two ladies in front of me in line, who were dressed as Disney Princesses, but with pajamas on.  Just by complimenting their costumes and speaking with them about their experience thus far, they shared that they came to the Expo the day before dressed as Princess Ghostbusters.  It’s little things like that, people sharing their fandom in a three day fan event that I love every time I go there.  Yes, I felt pretty down on Saturday by missing the show I wanted to see more than any other, especially knowing that it included a first look at the next Indiana Jones movie, with Harrison Ford on stage to present.  But, my overall experience was still a positive one, especially with Sunday going as well as it did.  As I made my way into the final hour, I just made my back through my favorite parts of the Expo, like the incredible Imagineering gallery, the small vendors Emporium, the Animation pavilion, which had been updated with the new announced projects from this Expo.  I could honestly feel it from all the other guests, we were sad to say goodbye after such a fun time, but also grateful to have this back after a painful, pandemic delayed absence.  Hopefully, they are back to their bi-annual schedule again, and barring any other calamities, we will hopefully be seeing D23 grace the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center again.  As I returned home tired and with a filled to the brim swag bag, I can definitely say that I had a great D23 Expo 2022, and I’m glad to have shared my experience with all of you reading this.  Thank you Disney and D23, and as the they said on the Mickey Mouse Club, “see you real soon.  Why?  Because we like you.”

TCM Classic Film Festival 2022 – Film Exhibition Report

One of the sad things that was lost almost immediately in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic was the annual Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival.  Usually set in the month of April, the planned 2020 Fest was well in the planning stages and advance passes were already being purchased.  But, as it became clear that the spread of Covid across the country was imminent and that movie theaters were going to be forced to go dark to help stop the spread, the team at TCM had to make the terrible but unavoidable choice to cancel the imminent festivities.  Passes were refunded of course, and as I’m sure was the case with everyone worrying about the future, fans of the festival were worried about what the state of the festival would be in the future.  TCM tried to make up for the disappointment by holding a “virtual” festival across their media platforms.  It was not the same, but it’s all that TCM could do in the era of social-distancing.  As the pandemic stretched into a second year, and movie theaters were still in the early days of re-opening, TCM decided to also put on hold plans for returning in 2021, and they again took their festival virtual last year, adding the HBO Max app as an extra platform to share their programs on.  But now, with the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, TCM is finally returning to the heart of Hollywood with an actual in-person festival, another thankful sign of life returning to normal; at least for us LA based movie theater fans.  And, as it appears, TCM is picking up right where it left off, not making any drastic adjustments to their festival format and instead giving us fans exactly what what we’ve loved from them in the past.

There are, however, some things that the pandemic has unfortunately changed about the festival.  Most prominent of them is the loss of two of the festivals most beloved venues.  Both the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd. and the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd. have not reopened since closing for the pandemic lock down two years ago.  Now, the Egyptian is planned for a future reopening after it’s current renovation is compete in celebration of it’s 100th anniversary and it’s new ownership under Netflix.  Unfortunately, the Cinerama Dome doesn’t have as hopeful of a future as the Egyptian does, as it’s previous owners (Pacific Theaters) effectively went bankrupt.  There are hopes of a possible return of the legendary venue in the future, but there has been little news to go on to say when or how it will happen.  As a result, both of this beloved theaters are not a part of this year’s festival.  For many people, the Egyptian was an especially popular place to screen a movie, because of it’s exclusively film based projection.  The prospect of getting to see a movie in a rare nitrate print presentation has been in recent years one of the festival’s most interesting attractions.  That, unfortunately will not be a part of this year’s festival, and that is a shame.  Thankfully, all the other venues of the past in this festival are open and welcoming guests this weekend.  Among them, the crown jewel of the TCL Chinese Theater, the adjoining Chinese Multiplex Theaters, and the American Legion Post Theater, which made it’s Festival debut in 2019.  In addition, the legendary Roosevelt Hotel (host of the first Oscars) is ground central for all Festival activities, as well as the host of Poolside screenings at it’s rooftop swimming pool.  Being a long time fan of this festival, I’m of course taking this opportunity to once again attend and revive my long dormant report to all of you.  My goal is to take in as much as I can across all four days of the festival.  So, without further ado, here’s my report of the TCM Classic Film Festival 2022.


Given that I have a 9-5 job during the weekdays, my first two days of the festival are going to be truncated in comparison with the weekend.  Thankfully, the Festival doesn’t begin until the afternoon on the first day, so I’m not missing much.  Like most festivals in the past, the opening night begins with two major events held in the Chinese Theater that is only available for those with only the highest level event passes.  One of those events is the presentation of the Robert Osbourne Award, which is sort of their lifetime achievement honor given to a particular noteworthy individual within the film community.  It can be a filmmaker, or a film historian, or technician of note.  This year, the recipient is famed film critic and historian Leonard Maltin; a frequently seen face at these annual festivals and an absolute deserving choice for the Osbourne Award.  What I’m sure is also a great honor for Mr. Maltin is that he’s getting the honor on opening night from none other than actor and director Warren Beatty.  In addition to the Robert Osbourne presentation, the Opening Night of the festival is also being marked by a 40th anniversary screening of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982). Held in the massive Chinese Theater, this is a marquee event, almost like a film premiere, and just like most film premieres, the festival also rolled out the red carpet just for this event.  The reason this screening in particular is so exclusive is that in addition to having it played on the big screen, it will also be preceded with an exclusive Q and A with director Steven Spielberg and select members of the cast and crew.  Joining Spielberg are producer Kathleen Kennedy (now head of Lucasfilm), and actors Dee Wallace, Robert Macnaughton and Drew Barrymore.  Unfortunately for me, the price level for passes into this event are still way out of my price range, as I am once again using the standby option.  So, my best look at this year’s opening night event was from across the street, behind the barricades.  Still, it’s nice to see the Festival once again kicked into high gear, even from that vantage point.

I arrived a little after 5:30pm to the Roosevelt Hotel to check in at the vaccine validation desk.  This year’s festival is taking no precautions for granted and is only allowing in guests who have proof of Covid vaccinations and are requiring everyone wear a mask inside the venues.  Thankfully, once you show your proof of vaccine at the table, you receive an armband that can be worn through the rest of the fest.  So, I got my armband and immediately made my way to my first film.  Unfortunately, my first choice was at the American Legion Post Theater, which was a half mile walk up the hill from the rest of the festival.  It’s not a terrible walk, but a hassle if you’re in a hurry.  I thankfully had enough time to spare and got there a good hour before show time.  Because I wanted to focus on movies I haven’t seen yet, I chose this venue first, because it was playing an Oscar winning movie that I have missed until now.  That film was Tender Mercies (1983) which is noteworthy for being the movie that Robert Duvall finally won his Oscar for.  It was a nice, easygoing movie to start out the festival with, and it made it especially special that it’s one of the movies screened at the festival with one of the stars in attendance.  Duvall’s love interest in the movie was played by actress Tess Harper, and she was at this screening, interviewed by TCM host Eddie Mueller.  She was a delightful interviewee, discussing how this movie was her big breakthrough as a movie actor, what it was like working with Robert Duvall and director Bruce Beresford, and what it was like shooting on a small budget in rural Texas.  She had some really funny stories, like how she bit into her screenplay when she first got it just so she could make sure it was real.  She also gave a nice perspective of the film’s quiet but respectable legacy over the years.  For a first show of the night, I think this ended up a good choice for me.  Like Eddie Mueller jokingly said, “Who needs to watch E.T. again anyway.”

After the movie at the Legion Post, I made my way back down to the Chinese Multiplex for what I was hoping would be my ideal second film of the night.  That movie was going to be Topkapi (1964), an Oscar-winning heist film from Jules Dassin.  The reason why I wanted to see that film in particular was because it was the only one that evening playing in 35mm, and at this festival, if I can watch a movie on actual film, it’s an opportunity not worth passing on.  Unfortunately, this was my first strike out of the festival.  The screening sold out before any of us in the standby queue were even let in.  So, the option was to go home disappointed or stay and watch something else.  Not wanting to end the night on disappointment, I opted to watch a Preston Sturges comedy instead.  The movie was Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), starring Eddie Bracken.  To introduce the movie, the festival invited producer Michael Uslan; most famous as the executive producer of the Batman franchises at Warner Brothers.   Uslan is certainly a fan of Sturges’ comedies and he detailed for us the historical context of this film, which was set in and made within the midst of WWII.  The patriotic fervor is palpable throughout the movie, but at the same time you can see where Sturges managed to find the humor in it all.  The movie is certainly a product of it’s time, and perhaps doesn’t hold up in certain ways like other comedies of the era, but it’s certainly entertaining for it’s madcap energy.  At least watching this movie helped me to get a good start to my overall count for the festival.  In a rare oddity for the Los Angeles area, I exited the theater to find it pouring down rain, and because I left my car at home, I had to brave the elements just to get home by subway.  A certainly odd start off to my festival experience, but, the forecast was good for the rest of the weekend, so it would hopefully make the rest of the festival a pleasant experience.


Returning late because of work, I missed out on the morning screenings, which has been the case before at past festivals.  But, I arrived at the Hollywood and Highland complex ready and hopeful to have two more screenings complete that night.  For my first choice, I ended up going with the movie The Letter (1940), a Noirish drama starring Bette Davis and directed by William Wyler. I chose this because it was another movie that I hadn’t seen before and it peaked my curiosity.  However, I wish I knew what I was passing up, because screening at the same time in the Chinese Theater itself was a brand new 4K restoration of George Stevens’s classic Giant (1956).  Now, I have seen Giant before, but never on the big screen, and I only realized later that there was a surprise unannounced guest at that screening.  Apparently, Steven Spielberg showed up to help introduce the movie alongside previously announced guest, George Stevens, Jr.  Both were interviewed by Festival Master of Ceremonies Ben Mankiewicz, and if I knew that this was part of the screening, I would’ve absolutely been there instead.  However, The Letter itself was not a bad movie to pass on either.  The movie was introduced by TCM host Alicia Malone, who was there to interview the co-founder of the Bette Davis Foundation, and author of her biography, Kathryn Sermak.  Ms. Sermak gave a nice insightful look into the latter years of Bette Davis’ life as she had once worked closely with her as an assistant, all of which she details in the book.  It was interesting to hear how Davis could be a handful if she felt she was being disrespected and Kathryn managed to win her respect strangely through silence, which Ms. Davis characterized as intelligence.  It was an interview that definitely helped to shine a light on the iconic status of Bette Davis’ stardom, and after watching the movie itself, you really see how she embodied every bit the ideal of a movie star.

Leaving The Letter, I immediately got into line for my next preferred film, which was I, The Jury (1953).  Now, why would I want to watch an obscure detective movie from the 1950’s. That’s because this one was being screened in 3D.  Any chance to watch an old 3D movie in the way it was intended is definitely an experience not worth passing up.   Unfortunately for me, this was strikeout number two for this year’s festival.  Some standby guests did manage to get a seat, but my place in line was too far back, and after about 5 people, they had the show sold out.  Because this was around 10pm at night, there were no other options left; except for the midnight show.  Every festival, they save slots past midnight for edgier movies that probably are contrary to the tastes of some of the older classic movie fans.  Because I again didn’t want to end a night on disappointment, I stuck around for a couple hours, taking in the sometimes chaotic nighttime atmosphere of Hollywood Boulevard, before getting in line for that night’s midnight showing.  Thankfully, getting into this one was easier, as there were plenty of available seats.  The movie screening that night was a movie best described as meet-cute romance combined with post-apocalyptic thriller.  It’s called Miracle Mile (1989) and it’s a movie that clearly had escaped my radar before because I had never heard of it.  But, one who had was TCM host Eddie Mueller, who really was championing this movie.  Joining Mueller in the introduction was the film’s director, Steve De Jarnatt.  De Jarnatt gave an interesting backstory for his movie, saying that he wrote the script right out of film school at the American Film Institute in 1979, but he didn’t get around to filming it until ten years later.  The movie is interesting for it’s clever use of limited budget and locations to tell this big story about the end of world through nuclear war.  For anyone familiar with the geography of Los Angeles, they’ll get a kick out of recognizing that all the locations used in the movie are just in small block radius of the Wilshire and Fairfax intersection, which of course is dubbed, “The Miracle Mile” like the movie’s namesake.  I have been hesitant in the past about doing a midnight showing, because of the time constraints because of work and the options of the festival, but I’m glad I finally gave myself the opportunity to try it this year.


Because of my choice of going to the midnight show the night before, I opted to skip the morning screenings on day three of the festival.  Thankfully, none piqued my interest, either because I wasn’t interested in the movie, or it was one that I had seen before.  So, I gave myself a couple extra hours of sleep and made my way back to the festival venues for Day 3.  For my Saturday start, I chose to begin in the crown jewel of the Festival venues; the TCL Chinese Theater.  Though the theater has been re-opened since the end of the lock down last spring in 2021, this marked my first actual return into that theater since the last TCM Film Fest in 2019.  And it is such a treat to be back in such an iconic place again.  Unchanged since my last visit, the Chinese Theater is majestic as always.  My first movie here is a screening of the musical Annie (1982) which is another movie having an anniversary; 40th, just like E.T.  I’ve made it known here before that movie musicals are not particularly my thing.  Still I wanted to check this out because I’ve never seen it before and it is a cinematic rarity being the one and only musical ever directed by the legendary John Huston.  The movie itself is a little too sweet for my tastes overall, but I do adore the supporting cast which includes a few of my favorites like Albert Finney, Tim Curry, and the always amazing Carol Burnett in a scene-stealing role as Miss Hannigan.  For this screening, the Festival gave us a wonderful introduction by little Annie herself, the now grown-up Aileen Quinn.  Interviewed by host Alicia Malone, Ms. Quinn talked about working at such a young age with  these icon, and she held John Huston up in very high regard, seeing him as very grandfatherly to her.  Despite my feelings about the movie, it was still a majestic experience watching it play on the undisputed largest screen in town.  Next up, I went to the multiplex to catch a quick little over an hour long Western called The Tall T (1957).  This Western, starring Randolph Scott and Richard Boone, just received a brand new 4K restoration, and the results are pretty outstanding.  It’s a slight Western, but was beautifully shot, which the restoration really highlights.  the movie was introduced by historian and author Jeremy Arnold, who talked extensively about the work of director Budd Boetticher and where this movie stands among his body of work.

Having two movies complete in quick succession, I made my way to stand in line for the next big show, which was a screening in the TCL Chinese Theater of the film Heaven Can Wait (1978).  The reason why I was determined to attend this screening was because the special guest in attendance was going to be the movie’s co-director, co-writer, and star Warren Beatty.  One of my goals at each of these festivals is to take the opportunity to see at least one of the old timer screen legends live in person while they’re still here.  It’s what introduced me to the festival in the first place, back in 2012 when I made my way there to watch a screening of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with a then 95 year old Kirk Douglas in attendance.   At this year’s fest, I had two both excellent options, of seeing either Beatty or the also very iconic Bruce Dern, who was one of this year’s spotlight honorees.  I elected to go with Beatty ultimately, and hopefully I can have another chance to see Mr. Dern another time.  For Warren, this was one of the rare instances of the discussion happening after the conclusion of the film.  This was a first time viewing of the movie for me, so I’m glad that the interview followed afterwards, just for the context.  Warren is certainly up there in years now, but he’s still very insightful about his experiences working on the film.  It’s interesting that only two people have ever nominated for an Oscar for acting, directing, writing and producing for the same film; one is Warren for this film, the other was Orson Welles for Citizen Kane (1941).  And Mr. Beatty accomplished that feat twice, doing it again for Reds (1981).  It was interesting to hear Warren talk about working with the legendary James Mason in the film, as well as sharing directing duties with Buck Henry.  Interviewer Ben Mankiewicz also noted that Warren was also working again with Julie Christie, who he’d worked with before on movies like McCabe and Ms. Miller (1971) and Shampoo (1975), while also being romantically involved at the time.  By the time they made Heaven Can Wait, their relationship was over but they remained on good enough terms to continue acting together, which Mankiewicz observed as being well reflective of both of them.

The audience of course was very pleased to see Warren Beatty, and he received two standing ovations from the crowd in the Chinese.  Once that was over, I made the trek up Highland Boulevard to the Hollywood Legion Post again for hopefully my last show of the night.  The showing was the Barry Levinson movie Diner (1982), another movie celebrating it’s 40th anniversary at this festival.  This was going to be a high demand movie, because the special guests at this show were four of the film’s stars; Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, Steve Guttenberg, and Paul Reiser.  I really had to hustle, because it’s a half mile walk uphill between the Chinese and the Post, but when I got there, the standby line was already 20-30 people deep.  I took my place in line and as expected, strikeout number three.  The venue completely filled up with pass-holders alone, and everyone in the standby queue had to look at their other options.  For me, I wanted again to find an alternative.  So the best possible choice in that moment was to go back to the multiplex and pick one of the late 9:30pm showings.  What I ended up choosing was a screening of the Jackie Chan kung fu action flick, Drunken Master II (1994).  I missed the opening introduction by TCM host Jacqueline Stewart, but I arrived just as the opening credits were concluding.  What I’ve learned about this movie since watching it was that this was sequel was made 16 years after the original and it was Jackie Chan’s first tradition martial arts movie in nearly a decade.  Naturally, after that long of a gap, Mr. Chan was going to pull out all the stops and really take things to the next level with this movie.  And that includes many death defying stunts that Jackie himself performed.  Some of them are pretty crazy, like Jackie falling on real inflamed coals or being actually set on fire multiple times.  Suffice to say, the audience I was with was eating all that up, and were having a uproarious time watching this movie.  I was certainly impressed with the movie as well, just given the level of work that went into all those stunts, and how relentless they are throughout the whole movie.  What I thought was interesting was the fact that this was the North American premiere of the original uncut Hong Kong version of the film, as only the poorly dubbed English version had been available before.  Suffice to say, I salvaged my night with an uplifting choice.  Now it was time to get ready for the final night.


After a very short turnaround to get as much sleep in as I could, I made my way to the heart of the festival again the following morning, starting off with another of my must watches of the festival.  At the Hollywood Legion Post, they were going to being screening a brand new 70mm print of the classic historical epic Spartacus (1960).  It’s a movie that I have seen many times before, but never on a big screen.  It was something worth getting up bright and early in the morning, no doubt.  I managed to make it there just as the standby seating was beginning, and thankfully for me, it wasn’t a sell-out (morning screenings at the festival rarely are).  There was still a fair amount of people in the quite large venue, but I still got an ideal seat in the middle of the row, fairly close to the screen.  Jacqueline Stewart, the TCM host and curator for the Academy Museum on Wilshire Blvd. (my review here ), told us that this print came from a new 4K master and that it would be presented in it’s Roadshow format, complete with Overture and a 15 minute Intermission.  I can’t tell you just how majestic it is to see a film screened in 70mm.  It just has a texture when projected that is unlike any other format, and it’s especially wonderful to see a classic film like this presented in that way.  It was also neat to see the Legion Theater recreating the way Roadshow films were presented back in the heyday of Hollywood, with the curtain drawn closed over the screen as the Overture plays, opening once the studio logo appears on screen and closing once again over the Intermission title card.  There was a little hiccup in the middle of the show, as the screen went dark in the first half; something that’s unfortunately is a common hazard with screening film, as the projector can sometimes not work properly.  They resolved it within minutes and the movie played on without incident thereafter.  What really stuck me about the movie this time is how breezy the film feels with it’s 3 and 17 minute runtime.   And, it’s the first time seeing this movie after Kirk Douglas’ passing in 2020 at the age of 103, and it just reminds you of how much of an icon he was on the big screen.  This is the kind of cinema that just demonstrates what’s great about the movies, and seeing the magnificent epic grandeur put on screen by director Stanley Kubrick in the way it was meant to be seen.

Because of Spartacus’ epic length, the run time extended well through the morning, and by the time I got out of my screening, the next round of movies that morning had already begun.  This was planned for on my part, and thankfully, it didn’t interfere with my remaining plans for the day.  So, I had a lengthy break in between movies, which I used for grabbing lunch and to visit some of the other attractions in the area.  I took a look at the work in progress renovation of the Egyptian Theater.  The preexisting, 1922 structure looks like it’s being retained, but the whole courtyard out front is torn-up and filled with dirt, so it looks like there’s still a lot of work left to do.  Hopefully, it’s all done in time to have this as a venue at the next festival; complete with it’s capabilities of screening nitrate film like in past years.  After my break, it was back to the Chinese Theater to watch my next film; 1973’s The Sting.  The Best Picture winning film, best known for reuniting Robert Redford and Paul Newman after their iconic pairing in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), was being presented here with a discussion after the film with the film’s two producers, Michael Phillips and Tony Bill, as well as the screenwriter David S. Ward.  Seeing David Ward at the festival was especially cool to see, given that he’s someone I’ve personally interacted with as a student in his thesis screenwriting class at Chapman University.  The remarkable thing about the trio was just how young they were when they made this movie; Phillips and Bill were just a little over 30 at the time, and Ward was 28 when he wrote the script.  And they were collaborating at that young of an age with established icons like Redford and Newman, as well as director George Roy Hill.  They had a lot of interesting stories, including the intriguing alternate casting of Peter Boyle in the role played by Paul Newman.  There was also a lot of talk about how tricky they had to be to make the twist at the end land as well as it does.  As they said, the key was to keep the audience as much in the dark about what was going on as the mark of the grift in the movie, played marvelously by Robert Shaw.  The movie itself still manages to hold up almost 50 years later, and it was great to see these three important players from the movie get a major honor of seeing their movie playing again at the Chinese to a pretty large and entertained audience.

So, coming to the very end, where would I go for my final film of this year’s festival.  Well, the clear choice had to be the Chinese Theater, despite the fact that I had just been there one movie ago.  There was a good reason to be there though because it was the closing night presentation, and thankfully standby tickets were available.  For this special showing, the movie selected was the 1992 Penny Marshall film A League of Their Own.  The movie, marking it’s 30th anniversary, is one that I certainly remember seeing in a theater when it first came out, and I enjoyed it quite well.  Seeing it on the big screen again is something that I certainly wouldn’t want to miss, and at this festival, we get the added bonus of seeing the movie with many of the film’s original cast.  Sadly no Tom Hanks, or Geena Davis, or Madonna.  But, the ones there were quite a great assortment.  In attendance were actresses Lori Petty, Megan Cavanagh, Ann Cusack, Anne Ramsey, Patti Pelton, as well as comedian Jon Lovitz, who played the part of the talent scout in the movie.  Ben Mankiewicz was there to moderate, but the panel pretty much was a conversation between long time friends sharing memories than it was an interview.  Lovitz of course offered his own humorous anecdotes throughout.  They of course touched upon how much they appreciated working with Penny Marshall, what it was like working with Tom Hanks and Geena Davis, and of course the surreal aspect of sharing the screen with Madonna, the biggest pop star in the world at the time.  There was also a very welcome surprise for us at this screening, because another guest of honor was one of the actual Women’s League baseball players that were the subject of the film.  Her name is Maybelle Blair, and though she wasn’t a participant in the panel itself, she did get a shout out and a standing ovation from the audience.  It was also pretty adorable that she was supporting herself with a walking cane shaped like a baseball bat.  That special connection to history helped to make this a very special screening, and in deed, the audience was really into this showing.  There were quite a lot of cheering and clapping at several points in the movie, especially at Tom Hanks now iconic line, “There’s no crying in Baseball!”  Overall, a good choice to close out the festival experience on.  I left the theater exhausted from a long four day stretch but at the same time a little sad that it was all done.  Sticking around for just a couple more minutes of atmosphere, I headed to the subway and made my way home, with another TCM Film Fest experience complete.

I think what really made this festival different from others in the past was the feeling of relief that it was finally here again.  It was one more thing that the pandemic took away from us that we finally got back and of course absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Though the festival was still affected by the absence of some past venues, it still felt like old times again for those of us who have made multiple trips throughout the years.  I for one managed to get the most out of my experience.  I saw 11 films in total (one short of my record in 2019) which is still quite an accomplishment, even with my three strikeouts.  I don’t feel like I wasted any opportunities, though that Giant screening with Spielberg is one that I wish I had prepared better for.  It was also wonderful being in these different venues again and having the chance of watching these classics in the way they were meant to be seen.  I got to see Warren Beatty live in person which was a nice experience, and I also watched a beautiful new print of Spartacus be screened in stunning 70mm.  Also, I managed to add a first to my festival experience and watch one of the midnight showings for the first time.  That’s a side of the festival that certainly differs from any other.  My hope is that this return of the festival proves as successful as years before and that it will be back in full force next spring.  The level of attendance seemed pretty strong so I think it’s a definite probability.  Hopefully the refurbished Egyptian will be added back to the roster of venues and also (fingers crossed) the Cinerama Dome as well.  After a two year absence, I am so happy to be sharing these experiences will all of you again.  It was a rough pandemic for the movie going experience, but the level of popularity in this festival that I saw over the weekend makes me hopeful for the future of the movie theater experience.  There is nothing better for a cinephile like me than to be able to watch so many classic movies in the heart of Hollywood in the most famous movie theaters in the world.  Thank you for bringing this back to us TCM Classic Film Festival.  Hope to see you again next year.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures – Film Exhibition Report

In it’s 90-plus years of existence, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has established the literal gold standard for preserving the arts and advancement of the cinematic medium.  They are the caretakers of so much of film history, as well as the makers of movie history themselves, being the creators of the Academy Awards.  But apart from the Oscars, what they have also done over the years is use their clout to advance the art and technology of film within the industry through Fellowships, Libraries and Venues for special Screenings and Presentations.  They have also amassed a varied collection of artifacts throughout the years related to the history of film ranging from documents, to props and costumes, to set pieces, and promotional pieces like posters and lobby cards.  However, despite having a robust collection at their disposal, the Academy hasn’t had a place to show it all off publicly.  There have been Academy run exhibitions throughout the years in various places, but there has never been a permanent home for the Academy to present it’s history to the world.  That is until now.  After sitting abandoned for several years on the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire in Los Angeles, the iconic art deco May Co. Building was purchased by the Academy with the intent on turning it into the Academy’s first ever museum devoted entirely to the art of film.  The position of the new museum is an ideal one, right at the heart of Los Angeles’ famed Museum Row; across the street from the Petersen Automobile Museum and next door to the sprawling Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) complex, as well as a short distance from the famous La Brea Tar Pits.  With the ideal location set, the work was ready to begin on this expansive new remodel of the nearly 80 year old building.

Taking place over the course of several years, the Academy Museum slowly but surely began to take shape.  While much of the exterior of the iconic building remained unchanged, inside saw the whole structure gutted and rebuilt to fit the needs of the new museum as well as retrofit the building up to modern, earthquake ready standards.  But that’s not all that was planned for the project.  Taking up much of the projects time, money and effort was an add-on to the existing building that in itself became a new icon for the neighborhood.  Knowing that a movie museum would need a movie theater of it’s own, the construction plans included a massive theater complex unlike any other.  Free-standing behind the May Co. Building and connected via two glass enclosed bridges is the David Geffen Theater, a nearly 2,000 seat facility that is a structural wonder in of itself.  Inside is a state of the art theater with wall to wall opulence, but on the outside, the building is remarkably elevated off the ground via only a couple of sturdy columns.  Visitors to the museum can literally walk underneath the massive structure suspended above them, and a walkway on the top floor also allows for guests to walk on top of it, with a massive glass dome encasing the open air terrace.  Here guests are treated to an enviable view of the Hollywood Hills, that spans across from Beverly Hills all the way to the Griffith Observatory in a stunning panorama.  And this wonder is just the first thing you will see once you arrive at the museum.  After several delays, the project finally was set to open for the Holidays in 2020, but then the Covid pandemic hit, and the long wait continued.  Despite being practically done for over a year, the Academy Museum had to wait longer to welcome it’s first guests in, and that moment finally arrived last week on September 30.

Without hesitation, I got my tickets for the earliest possible opportunity to visit this new museum and see if all the hype was worth it, especially after waiting even longer through the pandemic.  I have visited the LACMA museum before for special movie related exhibits, specifically those dedicated to Stanley Kubrick and Guillermo Del Toro, but they were short term exhibitions in a wing of the sprawling museum.  This new museum is a permanent home for exhibitions related solely to the art of film, and it’s long overdue to find such a museum in the shadow of Hollywood itself; especially one run by the Academy itself.  I was lucky enough to get a place reserved for the opening weekend, which thankfully saw perfect So Cal weather for such a trip out into the city.  The museum of course was still operating under local Covid protocols and everyone was required to wear a mask indoors at all times and show proof of vaccination upon entry.  The entryway was on the backside of the main building, making everyone arrive in the courtyard that the massive David Geffen Theater looms over.  Here you get a real sense of the scale of this complex.  The Geffen Theater looms over the courtyard like a massive spaceship that has descended to the ground.  Some have jokingly referred to it as the Death Star, given it’s similar curvy shape and futuristic look.  Given the often common California heat, the museum also wisely set up benches underneath the Theater, where people can relax in the cool shade of the massive shadow the theater leaves on the ground.  Once pass the health and security checkpoints, it was into the main building’s first level that we enter.  The lobby is modest, bearing some of the characteristics of what had been there before, including the exposed concrete columns that support the building.  A gift shop is naturally found there, but there is also a full service restaurant found on this level.  Named Fanny’s, this eatery offers a full dining experience as well as cafe and lounge for casual diners, which includes an outdoor patio.  I was not hungry during my visit, so I passed on eating there at the museum.  Instead, I began my journey through the musueum by making my way to the first gallery there in the lobby.

Housed in the Spielberg Family Gallery on the first floor is the first room in what is meant to be the core exhibit of the entire complex.  In this room, there were large flat screen TVs playing a loop of great moments from movies throughout the history of film.  Here, we see the first part of the core Stories of Cinema exhibit.  It’s a simple but elegant introduction to give guests a reminder of the incredible art of film in it’s final form.  What I liked here is that the various clips shown are assembled in no particular fashion.  They are just images without context or theme.  Some are moments that are among the most iconic that have ever been put on film, while others are just random bits pulled from a variety of movies.  They also span across genre, nationality, and social level, showing how cinema in general is a singular art that affects everyone in the world and collectively is it’s own work of art.  The people in my vicinity took a lot of extra time to stick around and watch the different clips play out on the screens in front of them, having a little fun guessing which clip belongs to which movie, which was sometimes harder than many of us thought.  A lot of the clips play in silence but every now and then a clip would include audible sound or dialogue, which created it’s own kind of symphonic experience there in the room.  The dimly lit space gave a nice sense of visual stimuli to help remind us what film is in the simplest sense.  From this point onward, the remainder of the museum was going to show just why those moving images are so important and why they have become works of art on their own.

Ascending to the second level aboard a row of escalators, we arrive at the second part of the Stories of Cinema experience, which is also the single largest gallery of the museum.  One thing that I did notice on the way there is that to get to the next level of the gallery, you bypass an in-between level which is actually the entryway to the Geffen Theater; lined with a red carpet of course, which extends even across the glass walkway.  Past the front doors of the Stories of Cinema exhibit, guests are greeted by a massive projection wall.  Here we see a bigger version of the gallery downstairs, with projected images from various films creating a mural effect in front of you.  Unlike downstairs, however, the mural’s images follow a theme throughout the different montages.  Past this wall of movie images we finally arrive at the first true gallery of artifacts.  Here, the gallery separates into different aspects of the filmmaking profession, with different movies and individuals highlighted.  For screenwriting, the movie focused in the first section is Citizen Kane (1941).  Immediately, you eye will be drawn to the centerpiece item in this area, and that’s the famed Rosebud sled.  This actual movie used prop is the only surviving Rosebud from the film, and it’s great to see it preserved as well as it is.  From there, a section devoted to editing spotlights Thelma Schoonmaker, and it includes a model of an editing bay that she likely worked with in her early days piecing together movies like Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980).  Another section devoted to cinematography spotlights Emmanuel Lubezki, with many of his on set photographs displayed throughout.  A room devoted to movie stars next to it spotlights Bruce Lee, and contains both the outfit he wore in Enter the Dragon (1973) and his pair of num-chuks.

Beyond this section we arrive at an area that I’m sure was going to be especially important to the Academy when planning out the museum.  It’s a section devoted to the history of the Academy Awards.  You enter this section with a beautiful circular room draped in gold with display cases all along the wall each containing an Oscar from many different eras.  The Oscars span pretty much every decade that the Oscars have been held, going from the very first Oscars in 1927 to one from 2016.  The winners vary from legends like Clark Gable, Billy Wilder, and Sidney Poitier to more recent winners like Alfonso Cuaron and Barry Jenkins, who surprisingly lent out their Awards to be displayed here.  What struck me upon seeing all these real awards up close is how little the award has changed over the years.  The pedestals that the awards sit on has changed the most over the years, but it appears that the golden statue itself has used the same mold since the beginning.  I also thought it was neat that an empty case was left to acknowledge the award given to Hattie McDaniel, the first person of color to ever win the Award.  The whereabouts of Hattie’s award are unknown, hence the absence here, but it is nice that the Academy chose to spotlight the significance of it here, hoping that one day it might reappear and find it’s way into this very gallery.  In the room next to this, we get a large table-like structure that displays a full year-by-year timeline of the Oscars.  On top on this table are also a few artifacts, including Rita Moreno’s Oscar dress from the 1962 ceremony, and Cher’s infamous black showgirl outfit that she wore to the 1986 Oscars.  There’s also a menu from the first Oscar banquet, as well as the infamous envelope from the La La Land/Moonlight mix-up.  And along the walls, acceptance speeches throughout the years are presented.  Anyone, like me, who is fascinated by the history of the Academy Awards will definitely see this area as a highlight.

The next room spotlights the Director, and in particular, the one given focus here is Spike Lee.  The room is full of numerous artifacts from the director’s movies, as well as noteworthy memorabilia of the director’s own flamboyant persona.  It includes the tribute purple suit that he wore to the Oscars to honor both Prince one year and Kobe Bryant a couple years after.  There’s also Spike’s two Oscars on display.  But what I found most interesting was the fact that throughout the room were memorabilia and posters from Spike’s own collection that he’s had signed by many of his own creative idols.  This includes directors like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, movie stars like Kirk Douglas and Sidney Poitier, as well as sports icons like Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali.  It’s just an interesting insight into the man to see that he’s an autograph collector.  Beyond that is a room devoted to production design and spotlighted here is an all-time classic; The Wizard of Oz.  There are interesting artifacts to be found all over this area, including the Witches hat, some of Dorothy’s dresses, and the Tin Man’s oil can.  But what is clearly the centerpiece of this gallery, and what I am sure is going to be one of the most visited and photographed artifacts in the entire museum, is the Ruby Slippers; specifically the ones used in the film for close-ups.  They are still in remarkable condition over 80 years later, and I’m sure the museum knew just how valuable an addition to the gallery these shoes are.  Beyond that room we arrive at costuming and make-up, and this is another impressive collection that spans all eras.  In here, guests will find one of Shirley Temple’s dresses, as well as famous costumes that include Marilyn Monroe’s red dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1952), Jeff Bridges Big Lebowski (1998) bathrobe, Russell Crowe’s battle armor from Gladiator (2000) and the flower dress from Midsommar (2019).  The make-up display includes interesting artifacts as well like a fake chest of scars that Leonardo DiCaprio wore in The Revenant (2015) and facial prosthetics that Charlize Theron wore to look like Meghan Kelly in Bombshell (2019).  After this, it was on to part three of the museum.

On the third level, we arrive at the final part of the Stories of Cinema exhibit.  In the first room of this section, we are presented with a showcase of a particular director’s body of work.  In particular, this room was spotlighting the works of famed Spanish auteur Pedro Almadovar.  Throughout the room are projection walls that display select moment from his movies.  It’s an interesting experience walking across the room and seeing all the movies this man has made displayed in front of you.  It might even be a bit confusing if you’re not familiar with his work, but it could inspire to seek his movies out.  Along the outer walls are posters from all of his movies throughout the years, some from his native Spain as well as many international ones as well, and a few domestic American ones.  It’s a little different from the flow of the rest of the exhibit, and I feel like this is the section that is likely going to change very frequently over the years, probably spotlighting many more filmmakers along the way.  In the next room we are presented with an overview of animation history.  Along the walls you’ll see artwork from all the different areas of animation, from studios of all kinds.  There are early pioneers spotlighted here like Windsor McKay, independents, and big names like Disney, Warner Brothers, and Pixar too.  One of the most interesting artifacts here is a fully equipped animators desk; this one specifically belonging to one of Walt Disney’s treasured Nine Old Men, the legendary Frank Thomas.  Displayed in the middle of the room is a section devoted to stop motion animation.  Here they displayed the puppets from some of the most noteworthy stop-motion animated productions, including Jack Skellington head models from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Mr. and Mrs. Fox from Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), a couple of Wallace and Gromit puppets from the famous Aardman shorts, and a puppet of Kubo from Laika Animation’s Kubo and the Two Strings (2016).  For animation fans, this is a great all-encompassing look at the history of the medium, and one that contains a lot of interesting items.

Up next is a room devoted to special effects.  And here is where you’ll find probably the most stunning collection of artifacts gathered in a single room.  Right away your eye will be drawn to R2-D2 and C-3PO, both the actual costumes worn in the movie by Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker.  But throughout you’ll also find a Xenomorph skull from Aliens (1986), the creature costume worn by Doug Jones in The Shape of Water (2017), an animatronic of E.T., some of the Jim Henson studio puppets used in The Dark Crystal (1982), an animatronic head of the T-800 used in The Terminator (1984), and many more interesting artifacts.  There also seemed to be a section devoted primarily to the effects from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992).  This includes large models used for the gothic mansions in the film; matte paintings on large panes of glass, and there’s even the prosthetic nose that Danny DeVito wore to become The Penguin in the movie.  It really shows you the incredible work that went into making a movie like that, as stylized as it is, feel real on screen.  Next to this expansive room is one of the most interesting experiences I found in the whole exhibit.  It’s a room devoted to music in film.  Instead of showing the guest something, the exhibit instead crafted an experience related to music.  You enter through a doorway and enter a pitch black room, illuminated solely with a faint red light bulb.  Visibility in this room is so faint that you can even see the walls.  In the center is a small bench underneath the red light and there you sit.  Unseen around you are Dolby certified speakers that create a haunting soundscape.  Oscar winning composer Hildur Guonadottir (Joker) composed a new piece just for this experience, and it is chilling but also a fascinating experiment.  It’s allowing the guest to experience the music free of visual distraction.  And after that, the Stories of Cinema experience comes to an end.  I should also note that in addition to the exhibits in the last two levels, there is a two level exhibit in between devoted to an artifact so big that it needed to span across two floors.  In this one, called Backdrop: An Invisible Art, it spotlights the long used filmmaking tool of creating a painted backdrop to create the illusion of the outdoors on an indoor soundstage.  For this exhibit in particular, the museum put on display an impressive two story tall backdrop of Mount Rushmore used in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest (1959).  It’s a neat addition, and I almost worry that many people may actually miss it as it’s located in between the main galleries,

Up one floor more, we arrive at the section of the museum devoted primarily to temporary exhibitions.  For this opening season, and continuing on to June of next year, this floor is going to be home to a celebration of the works of Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary Japanese animator.  The Miyazaki exhibit showcases artwork from throughout his illustrious career, and the exhibit itself takes on the aesthetic that is characteristic of his films as well as those of his home production company, Studio Ghibli.  The lighting and staging of this gallery is especially beautiful to look at, particularly if you are a Studio Ghibli fan.  Sadly, photography in this section of the museum was strictly prohibited, probably as a condition of displaying the artwork on loan to the museum.  So, I can only give you a glimpse of the outside signage of this gallery.  I can tell you that the outside only gives a mere hint as to what you’ll see inside.  And it includes numerous hand drawn artwork from Miyazaki and his team, spanning across all his film, including the ones he made in his early years for Japanese television.  Also shown throughout the exhibit are clips from the various movies, which gives a lot of nice context to the artwork that we are seeing displayed throughout.  It’s not as expansive as the other galleries, but still a treat for animation fans.  One nice treat immediately next door to this gallery is a contraption celebrating a studio that was heavily influenced by Miyazaki; Pixar.  Here, you’ll find a small, dark room housing the Toy Story Zoetrope.  The Zoetrope is a 3D sculpture featuring the characters from the Toy Story movies all displayed on a circular roundtable.  The sculpture will begin to spin rapidly and then a strobe light effect will recreate the effect of a film shutter.  As a result of the sculpture spinning and the strobe lighting effect, it makes the many sculptures appear to move just like they are animated, with all the little differences in each sculpture creating an almost stop-motion effect.  I’ve seen this Zoetrope on display before, at the California Adventure park next to Disneyland.  It was removed years ago, and I’m happy to see it has found a new home here at the Academy Museum.

Another small gallery found here also takes a look at the grandfathers of cinema.  Here we see the many inventions over the years that led to the invention of motion pictures.  This gallery called The Path to Cinema: Highlights from the Richard Balzer Collection, has several neat artifacts that show the many different influences that preceded film, like shadowplay, peepshows, dioramas, magic lanterns, zoetropes, and praxinoscopes.  Eventually this little exhibit ends with the very beginnings of cinema itself, with a model of the original Lumiere Brothers camera that created some of the first moving pictures in history.  A screen also displays many of the first short pieces that both the Lumiere’s and their American contemporary Thomas Edison were making in those early days at the turn of the 20th Century; including so remarkable early film images of Paris, London, and New York that have survived a century later.  For a really good understanding of what led to art of film becoming a reality in the first place, this section is really worth checking out.  Also located in these upper levels is a separately ticketed section called The Oscar Experience.  I chose to not include this as a part of my trip, as I was more focused on the exhibits themselves, but from what I understand, this is a immersive experience that recreates for the guest the experience of accepting an Oscar on stage in front of the audience at the Dolby Theater.  I’m sure that this is a fun little experience for some people to enjoy, but for the $15 price, it might be a little too much for too little.  I’d rather not spend my money on living a fantasy, but that’s just me.  Still, I did see a fair amount of people lining up for this, so I guess it was a smart addition for the museum to add.  I just wonder how it’s done in there.  Is it accomplished with VR, or with projection effects?  How effective is the immersion?  Maybe curiosity might lead me to check it out, but I was fine with skipping it on this day.

After that, the tour of the museum is pretty much over with.  All that is left is ascending to the top level where you’ll find the final glass bridge across to the terrace atop the Geffen Theater.  If this is where your tour comes to a close, it is certainly a worthy finale.  The view from this terrace will really take your breath away.  At a height of over 100 feet, you get a pretty good, unobstructed view of the surroundings.  Immediately in front of you is the famous Farmers’ Market and adjoining Grove mall.  Behind that is CBS Television City, where many shows like The Price is Right are filmed.  To the left is West Hollywood, the Sunset Strip, and the eastern edge of Beverly Hills.  You’ll also see the Beverly Center mall in your view and the famous Cedar Sinai Hospital.  To the right, the heart of Hollywood itself.  Unfortunately, landmarks like the Chinese Theater and the Cinerama Dome can’t be viewed past the high rises in the area, but you do get a good look at the all important Hollywood sign, with which no view of Hollywood is complete without.  And your panoramic view can extend as far as the sight of the Griffith Observatory, made famous in movies like Rebel Without a Cause (1954) and La La Land (2016).  Outside of the terrace view, looking to the side of the building, you’ll see a large construction site currently going on, as LACMA is replacing it’s long standing structures with a new facility in it’s place; which includes a section that will span across Wilshire Boulevard itself.  After a long day on your feet within the galleries, there are benches set up on top here just like there are underneath the theater.  I imagine this terrace will host many events in the future such as parties and even concerts, and I’m sure that it was designed with that in mind.  Across from it in the main building, there is even more indoor event space, so I’m sure the Academy hopes to use this top level for special private events.  But when they aren’t, the terrace is open to the public and it gives every guest a nice place to relax and enjoy the majesty of Hollywood before them.

And that in a nutshell is what I saw on my first trip to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.  As a passionate cinephile living in Los Angeles, I have long wanted to see a large scale museum devoted entirely to the art of cinema, and thanks to the Academy, we finally have one.  It will be interesting to see how the exhibits change over the years.  For a start, this collection of exhibits did a fantastic job of launching this new museum onto the cultural stage of this city.  And even with the 5 1/2 hours that I spent in there, I still didn’t cover the whole thing.  For one thing, I still haven’t been inside either of the two theaters there; the large scale Geffen Theater that I’ve previously discussed, and the smaller 300 seat Ted Mann theater that is found in the main building’s basement.  I would love to come back soon just to watch a movie in wither one of those theaters, and thankfully I learned upon leaving that the Academy is going to have a continuous program of screenings throughout the year.  For this month, they are spotlighting horror movies for the Halloween season, and on the night I was there, The Bride of Frankenstein was the movie being shown.  Unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead and the screening was already sold out.  So, one more reason to make a return there again.  Even if I’m not going to a screening, I can think of a dozen reasons to make a return visit.  It was really cool seeing all these different artifacts on display, the Oscars room, the Back Drop room, and the Animation room being particular highlights for me.  And after the Miyazaki exhibit has come to an end, I am really interested in seeing what the Academy Museum will replace it with in their rotation.  I’m sure that movie lovers from all over the world will definitely want to check this new museum out, and I strongly recommend that everyone does.  Even the most casual of movie fans will find something that will peak their interest in there.  It’s open every day of the week and each day of the year.  Admission for Adults is $25, $19 for senior, $15 for students, and free for guests under 17.  The Oscar experience is an extra $15 if that interests you.  Overall, it was worth the extra weight and I’m glad that it did live up to the hype.  It’s especially nice to see that they managed to repurpose an already iconic building and breathe new life into it; in a way reflecting the mission of the museum itself.  It’s there to honor the past while also getting us excited for the future of cinema.  Whether you already live in Los Angeles or are just passing through, definitely give the Academy Museum a visit, as it is a marvelous shrine to the glory that is the Art of Cinema.

50 Years of the Disney Archives at the Bowers Museum – Film Exhibition Review

When we watch the movies, the illusion of reality is meant to remain as invisible as possible.  Every filmmaker’s job is to absorb the audience into a world and make them forget what they are watching is make-believe.  That’s why so much importance is put into making sure that everything that is captured through the lens of a movie camera doesn’t betray the artifice that is behind it.  But what goes into making everything on camera look as close to perfect as possible involves a lot of hard work behind the scenes from multiple departments, from costuming to set design to prop-making, not to mention all the pre-production work needed to determine how a shot will look in the first place.  As a result, before the making of every movie, there is a great amount of writing, drafting, and crafting that needs to be accomplished.  And once the cameras have rolled and the many different materials built for every production have served their purpose, the filmmakers and production companies are left with a lot of artifacts of their collaborative efforts.  In the old days of Hollywood, very little regard was given to all the different props, costuming and paperwork needed to make each film; they just took up space and were discarded to make way for the next round of production material.  But later on, special movies gave rise to the desire to preserve materials with sentimental value to the film community; think Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers or the sled from Citizen Kane (1941).  After Hollywood’s golden age, there came a much more concerted effort to preserve these relics of the past as a way of preserving the history of the industry itself.  Thus began a move to create archives at all the major studios in Hollywood, with the intent to curate all the artifacts of past classic films that they could find, but also to give each studio a place to have all the same materials readily available for future filmmakers and historians to have access to for the purpose of research.

One of the first studios to undertake such a project was the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.  In 1970, a young librarian from UCLA named Dave Smith was given access by the Disney Studios to look through some of their archived material that had been gathering space in a dark secluded part of the Studio lot that was dubbed by many as “the crypt.”  Dismayed by the haphazard conditions that all the priceless archive material was being stored in, Smith wrote a proposal to the Disney Studios offering up his plan for a permanent and safely secure archive to house all of Disney’s many artifacts from it’s extensive history in entertainment.  The Disney Company agreed with Dave’s proposal and hired him on as the first head of their newly created Archive department.  From that point on, Dave Smith and the Disney Archive team procured a vast collection of art, props, costumes, and merchandise that spans across all the nearly 100 years of the Walt Disney Company.  Before Dave Smith’s passing in 2019, he oversaw his archive project grow from a little side office on the Burbank Lot to a vast, multi-facility operation where you can find just about anything related to any Disney project preserved for all time.  Of course, once you’ve collected all of these amazing artifacts over the years, you want to also show them off to fans from across the world.  Many Disney artifacts have made it into various galleries and special displays temporarily all over the world.  But to celebrate the special 50th anniversary of the founding of the Disney archive, a special exhibition has been set up for the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California; just a short drive away from Disneyland itself in Anaheim.  In this special exhibition, people will not only get a chance to have an up close encounter with many amazing artifacts from the Walt Disney Archives, but they will also have the chance to learn the story of the Archive’s creation and how it is set up and operates today.

Settled not far from the center of Downtown Santa Ana, the Bowers Museum is a modest but still exquisite gallery of Californian artwork and world culture artifacts.  The museum planned on holding the Disney Archives exhibition from March to August of this year.  However, due to significant periods of shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum has ended up extending the Disney Archives exhibit into early 2021.  In order to remain open after getting the go ahead for operations again, the Bowers Museum strictly enforces mask wearing at all times in the galleries, and conducts temperature checks at the front door.  Upon entering the museum, guests are greeted by a sculpture of Dumbo the Flying Elephant, suspended from the ceiling.  After walking underneath Dumbo flying above you, we arrive at the entrance to the gallery itself.  On the first wall, we see the famous photograph of a young Walt Disney with the shadow of Mickey Mouse cast on the wall next to him.  Alongside it is a greeting from the Disney archivists that put on this special exhibit, giving us an introduction to what we are about to see in the halls that follow.  The first room around the corner focuses on the two men most responsible for the archive’s existence: Walt Disney himself, and archive founder Dave Smith.  The first of many eye-catching displays once you enter this room is a recreation of Walt Disney’s private office.  It is noted that the entire display is a facsimile and contains nothing from the real thing, but for someone that has been in the actual office from a tour I took of the Studio Lot a few years back, I can say that it is a pretty good representation.  The display itself does have an interesting history of it’s own.  The desk and assorted knick knacks were actually props used for the movie Saving Mr. Banks (2013), where they were used to recreate Walt’s office for the movie.  So, sure Walt Disney never sat behind this desk, but actor Tom Hanks certainly has.

On the opposite wall is a recreation of the Disney Archive entrance, which in itself is a bit of a mini-museum with it’s own rotating display of artifacts that it often houses there on the Studio Lot.  On this recreation, actual artifacts important to Disney history are found, specifically ones related to the creation of nearby Disneyland.  In the case display is housed the survey equipment that was used to measure the terrain of what would become Disneyland, including the surveyor box itself, markers and the earliest known layout map of the park.  In the case as well is a recreation of the first ever conceptual map of Disneyland that Walt commissioned artist Herb Ryman to draw up, which he was then going to show to potential investors in order to gain the funding for his dream park.  It’s a nice simple way to introduce the idea of what the archives were meant to protect with regards to displaying the larger Disney story.  On the wall opposite, the exhibit honors the late Dave Smith, spotlighting the impact that he had on saving and preserving all the things that we are about to see in the gallery, as well as all the things still kept guarded back at the Archives itself.  In the proceeding rooms, the gallery breaks things into the different kinds of spaces that one would encounter upon entering the Archives.  In a nice little touch, the gallery also tries to recreate much of what the different parts of the archive might actually look like if you were to visit it yourself.

The first room we enter is what’s known as the “Reading Room.”  This Reading Room is the only part of the archive that was open to us on the Studio Lot tour, and for the most part, it is also the only part of the archive that is open to non-archivists on the Studio Lot as well.  It is mainly the area where many people from Disney come to conduct research, much like the reading rooms of your local library.  The Archivists retrieve the materials that the researcher is requesting from the back rooms and bring it out to the reading room for them to examine hands on, with the strict guidelines that it not leave the room itself.  In this gallery recreation, we are greeted by a cut-out image of Walt Disney waving to us to enter.  Across from him is one of the first big displays of an actual artifact from the studio lot itself.  On an elevated platform is one of the animators desks that was used in the Animation department at the studio.  Though it doesn’t indicate whose desk it actually belonged to, the display does give us a good representation of the animator’s workspace; which used to be the core of the company itself.  On the walls around the desk are various conceptual artwork that was made for the movie Fantasia (1940).  Some of the art are facsimiles, but there was also one or two original pieces there on display as well.  Past this first section of the reading room, we arrive at the heart of the “Reading Room”.  In a subtle recreation of the actual room itself, the opposite wall drapes banners that make the space more like a library.  A reading table like the one found at the actual archive, gives us a sense of how different material is examined within the room.  Most of the artifacts found here are important pieces of paperwork preserved by the studio, including meeting dictations, notes, correspondence, special marketing material, and assorted sketch drawings.

Included in the displays here are some of the most important documents in Disney history.  One of the most remarkable artifacts is the very first contracts ever signed by Walt Disney himself, this one in regards to gaining a permit to film for one of his historic Alice shorts, year before Mickey Mouse.  This contract marks the beginning of Disney Studios as an operating company, so you could say that the Walt Disney Studios began the moment this piece of paper was officially signed by Walt himself.  The fact that it was found at all and survives to this day almost a hundred years later is a great testament to the dedication of the archivists, and to Walt Disney himself for never throwing anything that important away.  Other incredible finds here that may go unnoticed are interesting artifacts like Walt Disney’s original passport, dating back to 1917.  There’s also Disneyland ticket #1, the first one ever sold, bought by Walt’s brother Roy for a dollar, as well as the Western Union correspondence that Walt sent to his brother after loosing his contract with Universal which then led to the creation of Mickey Mouse soon after.  Walt’s own personal effects like reading glasses and a pen, as well as a business card from Roy Disney round out the other interesting artifacts here.  On the walls are also the official portraits of Mickey Mouse that are always commissioned from artists at the studio for special anniversary years.  In another case is found an artifact that had a special connection for Walt, but for many years was considered lost until recently found in the archives; the snow globe from Mary Poppins (1964), which itself once sat in Walt’s private office for many years.

Moving on, we arrive in the next room, which is called the “Back Room.”  This is the room that only the archivists are allowed to enter and collect artifacts from.  Gathered throughout this area is a nice collection of what might be held at any given time at the on Studio Lot archive building, which runs the gamut of pretty much everything from the studio’s long history.  The first thing that greets us at the beginning of this section is the display case that really is like a hall of fame of noteworthy Disney props from it’s early years.  In there, you’ll see the coonskin hat worn by Fess Parker in Davy Crockett (1954), the sword used by Guy Williams in the TV series Zorro, the magical ring from The Shaggy Dog (1959), the bedknob from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), as well as two artifacts from Mary Poppins, the stack of blocks that spell out her name, and Mary’s famous carpet bag.  This display is certainly one of the more popular in the gallery, just because of the iconic items that are held inside.  Apart from this, you see displays of many different types of artifacts that the archives hold.  This includes early Disney merchandise, like the original Mickey Mouse dolls; animation cels from different movies and series, posters used by the studio in it’s advertisement; matte paintings used by the effects department on several different live action films; an animatronic prototype of Abraham Lincoln’s head used for his likeness in the Disney Parks’ attraction; several character maquettes used for animator reference; and so on.  Probably the artifacts that caught my eye the most were the actual story books used in the movies Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Cinderella (1950), and Sleeping Beauty (1959).  These were the physical books that you see open up at the start of each film, and it’s nice to see them here up close and looking good so many years later.  Knowing the importance of those movies to the history of the company, it’s great to see that the only physical props used in their filming are still kept preserved with great care.

Moving out of the “Back Room” section, we enter what is by far the largest portion of the exhibit, which is the “Dimensional Collections” section of the gallery.  This Dimensional Collection section is representative of the many storage facilities that house the Disney Archives’ vast collection.  Mainly it’s the stuff that the limited space at the Studio Lot archive can’t find room for.  And it spans a vast amount of interesting artifacts that range from everything from costuming, to props, to disused theme park attraction artifacts, to even movie used vehicles.  The first thing that greets you into this part of the gallery is a disused window display from the Main Street Emporium at Disneyland, this one showing the evil Queen from Snow White.  It’s the first physical Disney Park artifact found so far in the gallery, but certainly not the last.  Just beside it are three figures from past attractions across the many Disney parks, including a Xenomorph animatronic from the old Great Movie Ride at the Disney Studios Park in Orlando, Florida, a Mayan chief figure from the El Rio del Tiempo ride in Epcot, and the old robot pilot from the Star Tours attraction at Disneyland. Across from that are tombstones from the Haunted Mansion, as well as discontinued Hitch-hiking Ghost animatronics.  And displayed across an entire wall is a collection of costumes from across the whole Disney Studio history.  These include Warren Beatty’s yellow coat from Dick Tracy (1990), Glenn Close’s Cruella De Vil dress from 101 Dalmatians (1996), Emilio Estevez’s team jacket from The Mighty Ducks (1992), as well as the flight uniform from The Rocketeer (1992).  Disney subsidiaries, past and present, like Touchstone and Miramax pictures are also represented here, as Julia Roberts’ dress from Pretty Woman (1990) and Dame Judi Dench’s elaborate Elizabeth I costume from Shakespeare in Love (1998) are also found.  In this area, you also get the first representation of the newest addition to the Disney family, 20th Century Fox, as some of their artifacts have found their way into the Disney Archive.  The first piece shown in this area is the fish man prosthetic makeup that was worn by actor Doug Jones for the movie The Shape of Water (2017), a Fox Searchlight film.

Past the costumes we find a section devoted to movie props both large and small.  Among them includes a life size model of Roger Rabbit that was used as a stand in on set to help give the crew and actors an indication of how to stage the scene for a character who would be drawn in later.  There’s also another famous iconic prop delivered from the Fox Archives found here, which is Wilson from the movie Cast Away (2000), looking just as tattered and weathered as it did in the film.  Another display also features a collection of on set puppets, including one of Winnie the Pooh from the recent film Christopher Robin (2018), a couple of hand puppets from the Bill Murray comedy What About Bob? (1991), and some stop motion puppets from the Wes Anderson animated film, Isle of Dogs (2018).   Right next to that is one of the more striking large props found so far, and one that is iconic to my generation, and that’s the shrinking machine from the Rick Moranis action comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989).  The prop itself has seen better days, but the archives have done a recent restoration helping to bring it back to as close to it’s original state as they could.  Having grown up with the movie since my childhood, it was pretty neat seeing this prop up close and catching all the details that I never noticed before.  Adjoining this prop section of the gallery, the Dimensional Collections section moves into an area focusing on some of the newest additions to the archive collection, which displays various things like Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent costume, to costumes from the recent film Mary Poppins Returns (2018), to the sword used in the recent Mulan (2020) remake, which was forced to debut on Disney+ due to the pandemic closing most theaters in America.  In this area, the gallery states the continued interest that Archives has in preserving all the things that are going to be coming in the near future form the studio, including from all the projects on Disney+.

The final major part of the gallery belongs to the Disney Vehicle section.  Here, we find the actual full scale vehicles that have been used by Disney at various points.  Dating back to Walt Disney’s time, there is the Model T Ford used by Fred McMurray in the film The Absent Minded Professor (1961), still preserved in a pretty good state, though highly doubtful that it flies through the power of flubber like in the original film.  Next to that is a piano on wheels, which had been used outside the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland to entertain guests.  A very talented performer basically plays on the piano on wheels as they pedal it forward throughout the park.  Next to this is probably the one vehicle that every guest will recognize right away, and that’s Herbie the Love Bug.  This particular model of Herbie was used for the more recent Herbie: Fully Loaded reboot from 2005, starring Lindsay Lohan and Michael Keaton.  Though it’s not the original from the 1968 film, it’s still nice to see this iconic Disney vehicle represented here, and it almost certainly is going to be one  of the most photographed artifacts in the gallery as a whole.  Not far away, and right next to the final room, is a vehicle from the Fox collection.  It’s the race car used in last year’s Ford v Ferrari (2019), starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale.  In addition, the racing outfit worn by Bale in the film is displayed right next to it.  On the wall nearby, it displays a statement about the Archive’s commitment to work just as hard with the Fox archivists towards preserving all the treasures from this likewise legendary studio with it’s own share of amazing artifacts collected throughout the years.  No doubt the archivists at Disney are dedicated to making sure the past is not lost over time, and with the company growing even bigger now with Fox on board, their amazing task has become even more monumental.

To conclude the exhibit, a recreation of Disney Legends Plaza is displayed for guests to walk around.  The Legends Plaza is the one in front of the main corporate HQ building, famous for it’s colonnade roof that is supported by stone figures of the Seven Dwarves.  Along the plaza are pillars that hold plaques dedicated to the many Disney Legends that have been inducted and honored over the years.  Celebrated at special ceremonies over the last 25 years, most recently held at the D23 Expos, each legend is given a special statue and are given the chance of immortalizing their handprints in cement, unless the honor is given posthumously.  It’s a great way to honor the legacy of all those who have made the Disney Company what it is today, and sadly most of the general public never gets to see it, unless they are invited to the studio itself.  I have thankfully gotten my chance to see it during my tour of the studio years back.  Just going through all the names on pillars reveals an incredible look at all the amazing people who have contributed to Disney’s legacy, including noteworthy figures like Stan Lee and George Lucas who became a part of the Disney family much later on.  In this gallery, the plagues are just wooden recreations of the actual ones you would see at the Legends Plaza, but it does give you a good sense of who you would find honored there.  Some of them are names may not jump out to you right away, like those of the animators who worked at the studio, but others like Julie Andrews, Robin Williams, and Betty White almost certainly will.  At the very end of the exit, a banner with the entire Archive team pictured is found, alongside a thank you message for those who walked through the gallery.  A fine curtain call for a very pleasing exhibition.

For any Disney fan out there, visiting this exhibit is a no brainer.  You’ll get a very up close look at some of the most amazing artifacts found in Disney’s vast archive, including a few that rarely make it out into public view.  What I liked about this exhibit in particular is that it really gives you the sense of the history of the archive itself, the way it operates, and why it is so important to maintain.  When Dave Smith sent his proposal to Disney 50 years ago, he knew how important it was to preserve the past treasures of the Walt Disney company, and that it would be a monumental undertaking.  In the 50 decades since, the Disney archives now safely houses pieces of history spanning all the way back to the days when Walt Disney was just a young kid with a dream.  Walking through the exhibit only gives us a small sampling of the Archives’ true scale and scope, but what is found here is certainly enough to excite any Disney or movie fan in general.  I especially like the way they focused on the vast expanse of the Disney company as well, not just the animated films at it’s core.  There’s stuff from the live action films, the theme parks, and personal effects related to the man himself on display here.  A lot of it is also surprising finds that I don’t think would normally would make it out to exhibits like this.  Every corner does an amazing job to give you a sense of the importance of the Disney Archive’s existence, and it just reinforces why archives are such an essential part of the film industry in general.  If you are in the Southern California region and are a die hard movie and/or Disney fan, I strongly recommend checking this exhibit out.  Thankfully it’s been extended a few months, so you have until February to see it, barring another pandemic shutdown.  And also take in the rest of the Bowers Museum collection as well, which is quite interesting on it’s own.  It’s where art and history collide, and I couldn’t think of a better setting for Disney to celebrate it’s Archive’s 50th year.


Mission Tiki Drive-In Theater – A First Ever Experience in One of the Last of It’s Kind Movie Venues

It’s a weird time for movies right now.  This would have been the first weekend of the 2020 Summer movie season, and the launch of a new blockbuster film (originally in this case was Marvel’s Black Widow) would have kicked things off into high gear.  But, as of right now, movie theaters across the nation remain closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  This has thrown the state of cinema into unprecedented territory, as there is no other place to go for entertainment other than what is available on streaming services.  This has caused a lot of friction between studios who impatiently want to generate income for the movies they’ve already spent millions of dollars producing and the movie theater chains who are on the brink of collapse.  This led to a squabble between Universal and the theater chains AMC and Regal, as Universal was trying to back out of a distribution deal so that they could release more of their movies online, due to the success of Trolls World Tour (2020) in digital rentals.   It’s a dispute that I hope resolves itself, because once the crisis is over, both sides are going to need to work together in  order to bring things back to normal.  And that normal may not even be what it once was.  Movie theaters may take years to recover from this, if at all.  And that is an unfortunate thing for those of us who are huge fans of the theatrical experience.  I for one don’t see the VOD option as the future of cinema, because there is always going to be that desire for the communal experience of a movie theater.  Until things get better, that option is unfortunately unavailable to us, except if you are lucky enough to find it.  Yes, there is still one big screen option left in the country, and it’s one that many people thought was long gone into yesteryear.

The Drive-In Movie Theater was believed to be a relic of a bygone era, when car culture dominated the landscape.  Now, in the era of social distancing, it’s something of a godsend because it’s the only option left for watching a movie on a big screen.  The only problem is, because of it’s decline over the last few decades due to the rise of the multiplex, drive-in’s began to disappear across the country, with only a handful left in operation.  The Drive-in Theater first started in Camden, New Jersey in 1932, but it didn’t hit it’s zenith until the post-War years.  As people began moving out to the suburbs, the rise in car sales skyrocketed, and this in turn led to a rise in businesses accommodating to the automobile.  Fast food began to be delivered through Drive-Thru pickup, and of course, a rise in the Drive-In theater.  Families, couples, and even just a casual single attendee could pick the best spot in front of a massive white screen with the sky as it’s backdrop, and never have to leave the comfort of their own car.  The experience would be improved even more as convertibles became more fashionable, which would open up the outdoor feeling even more.  The Drive-In Theater has become an iconic part of that romanticized post-war American ideal, and it’s still seen as an important part of cinematic history.  At it’s peak, 4,000 Drive-In theaters operated across just the United States alone.  However, with the rise of multiplexes, and the beginning of home entertainment, not to substantial cost of operational and property expenses, the Drive-In theater declined sharply in the decades ahead.  Most sold off their substantial properties off to developers, or in many cases converted themselves to full time swap-meets.  Today, only 300 Drive-In’s remain, and even fewer are operating normally under the stay at home orders given during this pandemic.  Fortunately, one of those last remaining theaters is within an hour’s drive of my apartment here in the Los Angeles area.  It’s the Mission Tiki Drive-In Theater in the sleepy little town of Montclair, CA and it holds the distinction of being the first Drive-In movie theater I have ever been to.

Opened in 1956, “The Mission” as it was originally called featured only a single screen to begin with.  In 1975, the theater was expanded to four, making it one of the largest operating Drive-In venues in all of Southern California, which itself was one of the hubs of the Drive-in Theater craze due to it’s ideal climate.  Though never closed like so many of it’s contemporaries throughout the years, the Mission did fall into disrepair due to neglect from past operators.  A restoration effort began in earnest in 2006 to save the aging venue, and it brought the property up to speed with the times.  The booths was retrofitted with spiffy new, top of the line digital projectors, the concession kitchen was spruced up and renovated, the screens were given clean new metal boarding, and the entire lot was repaved.  The new operators also gave the venue it’s new Tiki theme, with the front gates re-themed to Polynesian style huts and the addition of a rock garden with Easter Island style statues.  And though the re-theme is new, it does fit within the character of the retro cinematic experience.  Great care was taken to make this not only a functioning Drive-In theater, but also a prosperous one as well.  Delivering a generous $10 entry fee for adults ($1 for kids 9 and under) this is a perfectly suitable alternative to the rising entry fees at other chain theaters.  Also, during it’s daytime hours, it operates as a swap meet, like most other Drive-In’s do, even the ones no longer playing movies.  Up to this year, Mission Tiki was one of only 3 Drive-In’s still in regular operation within the Los Angeles area.  But, because of the pandemic, not only is it the only Drive-In Theater still operating, it is the one and only movie theater in all of Los Angeles County still playing movies at all.  The other two, Vineland Drive-In in the City of Industry and the Paramount Drive in in Paramount closed all operations due to the pandemic, but for some reason, Mission Tiki still found a way to stay open.

One of the reasons for this I believe is because of the sheer size of the property.  Driving into the grounds of the theater you get a sense of the expanse the venue maintains.  The actual screens themselves are so dwarfed within the open space of the property.  The Mission Tiki also benefits from something that the other drive-in theaters in the Los Angeles region don’t have, which is a sense of enclosure.  A tall grove of trees encircle the property, helping to close off the world from view.  This was especially for a newcomer like me, who was worried that I would have my eyes too distracted by traffic passing by on the bordering roads, but the owners of this theater have made sure to maintain a satisfying enclosure from the natural treeline border.  I imagine that the original theater itself benefited from the fact that they had so much room to work with and establish such an enclosure, due to the wide open land that likely existed here long before urban sprawl crept up to it thanks to suburban sprawl.  As the city itself grew, the likewise growing trees helped keep it hidden from sight, leaving only the screen and the sky above to catch your eye.  But, if you are there early enough, you might be able to take in a spectacular sight from the north side of the property right before sunset.  The peaks of Mt. Baldy and Mt. San Antonio of the San Gabriel Mountain Range are easily visible above the treeline and create a magnificent pre-show backdrop for those arriving before the first screenings of the night.  Even within a short drive outside of a mega city like Los Angeles, the backdrop of the mountains helps you to feel transported while you’re settling down to watch a movie.

The set-up to get to the screens themselves was thankfully easy to follow.  Specially marked lanes direct you to the central hub where the concessions and projection booth structure are located and from there you are branched off to your selected screen.  Once in your lot, you cannot turn around and move to another screen between movies.  Though once you are in your spot, you can stay for as long as you like.  Each screen plays a double feature throughout the night, including new releases, which makes the $10 value extra worth it.  Considering the fact that most of the movies that were supposed to have played in the last few months have been moved to later this year, what’s left over are what remains of the Spring releases that just barely made it to screens before the shut down happened.  That, and a couple movies that are receiving concurrent VOD releases.  Trolls World Tour just so happened to be one of those movies the night that I was there; the only big screen that the movie will likely ever be seen on this year.  It played on a double bill with last year’s The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019).  Another new release playing on demand as well as solely in Drive In Theaters is Justin Kurzel’s new film True History of the Kelly Gang, starring George MacKay and Russell Crowe; a smaller film following Troll’s release example.  My night however was devoted to watching two movies that I had missed during their original run in the multiplex theaters.  Those were the new Vin Diesel action film Bloodshot and the new Blumhouse re-imagining of the horror icon, The Invisible Man, starring Elizabeth Moss.  Sparing you from a through review of both, I’ll say the better of the two was obviously the Invisible Man, which was the second feature of my double bill.  But of course it’s not the movies themselves that I was interested in watching; it was the experience itself that had me far more interested.

Growing up in Oregon, I was never exposed to the Drive-In experience.  The collapse of the Drive-In theater happened right before I was born, and the concept always felt like a relic of the past that would always escape me my entire life.  The closest I had ever gotten to a Drive-In theater up to now was in seeing a long abandoned screen propped up on the side of a freeway way out in the boondocks of rural Oregon; just sitting there in an open field unused and forgotten, rotting away more and more each year.  Still, the image of that movie screen in the open outdoors always captured my imagination because I always thought it would be cool to watch a movie outside.  Once I became an adult and learned more about the history of film, and the long decline of the Drive-In experience, it made me long even more to know what that experience was like.  I’m very surprised at myself for taking this long to actually seek one out.  It’s probably because I had become too used to watching movies in the traditional theater setting, especially since moving here to Los Angeles, which has some of the most storied theaters in the world.  But with all of them shut down because of the pandemic, I no longer had an excuse.  And upon discovering that one of them, Mission Tiki, was still operating in the middle of the shutdown, and was not terribly far from where I lived, I figured that this was the moment to finally do it.  So many years after seeing that first dilapidated screen off the I-5 corridor in Douglas County, Oregon was I now finally going to experience the Drive-In experience for real, and in many ways, it both exceeded my expectations but also left me with a sense of sadness for a pastime that I will never know fully.

As a Drive-In Theater goes, Mission Tiki is as best as you could ask for.  State of the art, spacious and yet still intimate, and with a professional staff that kept everything running well, I have nothing negative to say about the experience itself.  There were many things that took me by surprise as well.  The pavement of the lot features humps that allow you to park at an incline.  I don’t know how old this feature is, but it’s a great idea because it points the nose of your car directly at the screen and it helps to keep the cars in front of you from blocking your view.  I also liked the way they provide the sound for the movie, which is pumped to you vehicle directly through an FM transmitter.  This took a little figuring out at first, because I up to now didn’t know how to run my radio without running my car engine.  Eventually I figured it out, and was surprised to learn that it didn’t drain my car battery all that much.  My hybrid vehicle still had enough juice to drive myself home, even after 4 hours of use.  This is a great example of how advanced technology has improved the Drive-In experience, because before the Drive-In’s operated small radios for ever space that were not always reliable and were probably a maintenance nightmare that probably sped up the decline of the business.  Now, with FM transmission, the sound gets picked up by the cars themselves for playback, and depending on how new your car is, it’ll sound as good as any home theater.  But even with all this, I feel like technology has both improved the experience, but also subtracted from it as well.  In order to prevent a cacophony of sound all around you, the movie plays best in confinement of your car, which kind of robs you of the outdoors element of being at a drive-in.  How I long for the old days of convertibles and hatchbacks that allowed one to watch a movie beneath the stars.  Mission Tiki gives the best we can ask for, but our modern day world has left some of that original appeal behind, with social distancing from this pandemic only compounding the isolation.

So, for a first timer, I was very happy with my experience at the Mission Tiki Drive-In.  As the only operating movie theater in the Los Angeles metro area it is an essential experience for anyone longing to see any movie on a big screen right now.  It may not quite capture the exact feeling of what it was like to watch a movie there during it’s heyday, but it’s still great to see that a lot of effort was put into preserving this place for future generations and keeping it up to date with the times.  We may not see movies play on the big screen in the traditional sense for a long time, and the total number of screens may even dwindle overall, so it’s important to support it where you can, and Mission Tiki is very deserving of your support.  Hopefully, it will continue to serve the community of Montclair for many more years and, who knows, it might even be an example of what’s to come in the future.  If social distancing does make screening movies in a confined theatrical setting impossible over the next couple years, we might even see the Drive-In resurrected as an alternative in the next few years, with maybe even completely new Drive-In’s popping up across the country.  It’s wishful thinking, but one thing did give me hope from my experience there.  Throughout the night, I was surprised to see how many people were actually parking all around me.  And not just at my screen, but all across the lot.  All four screens were playing to possibly hundreds of people each, which gives me hope that there is still a desire to watch movies on a big screen as opposed to seeing it at home.  No doubt the low ticket price helps, which the big chains should maybe consider as a way of bringing the crowds back in large numbers again.   For anyone who lives in Los Angeles and wants to see movies the way they were meant to be seen, on a big, bright screen, then driving all the way out to Montclair is well worth the money.  And even when things do return to normal, consider extending your patronage there.  The fact that they are still providing this service at a time when everything else has shutdown gives me a glimmer of hope in this devastating time.  If you are lucky to have a Drive-In theater near you, Angelenos or otherwise, do yourself a favor and take a nostalgic drive over to these long overlooked but nevertheless important monuments to cinema.

D23 Expo 2019 – Film Exhibition Report

The magic of Disney returns once again to the Anaheim Convention Center, and it only continues to get bigger with every passing year.  Since the last Expo in 2017, Disney has broken new records at the box office, opened up their largest theme park expansion ever, and has acquired an entire movie studio as part of the largest media merger in history.  The addition of 21st Century Fox as a part of the Walt Disney Company in particular has been the most monumental change in the last 2 years, and it should make for an interesting  showcase over the next few days as Disney lays out what lies in the near future for the company.  In years past, the focus has largely been on giving the Disney fans a chance to fully explore all the many facets of the Disney company in a fun and informational environment.  Every time, more and more of the expansive Anaheim Convention Center gets utilized and Disney has even more to show off this time around.  I have tried my best to get in all the major sights of the Expo, with a particular emphasis on catching the major announcements made throughout the 3 Day event.  This year, Disney introduced the somewhat controversial addition of advanced online reservations for this year’s Expo.  Naturally, like buying tickets for a midnight showing of Avengers: Endgame, the online registry was flooded with passholders hoping to get one of those coveted seats, and many people unfortunately were left out.  I myself ended up missing out on reservations for the shows I really wanted, but there’s still the standby queues available, so much of my upcoming Expo experience will probably involve waiting in long lines.  At least I’m not as focused on waiting in line for merchandise or talent signings; it’s all panels and booths for me, so hopefully I can plan it all well enough to enjoy my time there.

This will be my 4th overall D23 Expo.  Again, like the last two, I will be spending all 3 days there.  I hope to have daily updates loaded onto this site for all of you to read, hopefully with plenty of pictures as well.  It’s going to be a hectic couple of days, but I will spend any moment I can to write down my thoughts about all the experiences I will have during the Expo.  After having gone through this 4 times now, my hope is that I’ve become an expert navigator through the convention experience, but who knows how much the online reservations added this year will have an effect.  In any case, as a lifelong Disney fan, I am extremely excited to see what awaits all of us behind those convention floor doors.  Please enjoy my following day by day chronicle and let’s all take a look at this wonderful world of Disney on display at D23 Expo 2019.

DAY #1 (AUGUST 23, 2019)

If there is one thing that the last three Expos has taught me, it’s to be prepared, and very much so.  Given how I didn’t know what effect the online reservations might have, I prepared myself to be extra ready for all the stuff I wanted to see and possibly even guard myself for some disappointment.  As such, I left my hotel room extra early, at around 3:30 in the morning to be exact, and made my way to the Convention Center.  This was already a smart decision as there was no wait at the security checkpoint.  Once through the metal detectors, me and the other guests were directed down to the Convention Center’s entry.  Out front, we were greeted by the first major photo spot for attendees to pose in front of; the expo logo spelled out in giant 3D letters, which looked really great with the Convention Center facade in the background.  Those of us who came this early were taken down to the Center’s Hall E, which is located in the basement.  I’ve already had many hours spent in this spacious hall from past Expos, and once down there, we were all split into groups; those of us who wanted to attend the first show of the Expo (the Disney Legends induction ceremony) or those who wanted to be the first ones through the doors into the Expo show floor.  Because my goal was to attend the second big show of Day 1 (the Disney+ presentation) I opted to go to the show floor queue instead of Legends.  Already, I could tell that 10 years of Expos has improved Disney’s crowd control performance, as the many swaths of people were expertly escorted upstairs and formed into nicely organized rows once it came time to open the doors.  So, for the first time ever, I managed to walk into the show floor right at the stroke of 9am, already making me feel happy that I planned well ahead.

And first impressions of the show floor were very positive.  Disney has thankfully found the best ways to lay out all their many different booths to fill up all the available space within the show floor.  One thing that really stuck out right away was the enormous push that Disney was going to put on their streaming platform that launches in November; Disney+.  Located very near the center of the entire open show floor was the massive Disney+ booth.  The Disney+ set-up included a stage at it’s center with kiosks lined up at it’s front, flanked by costume displays for two of the platform’s most anticipated launching programs (the Star Wars series The Mandalorian and the Lady and the Tramp remake) and demo rooms on either side of the stage.  This booth was clearly built to be the star attraction of the show floor.  The stage was there to host both demonstrations as well as interviews with special guests.  There was even a special press balcony located over one of the demo rooms for even more space to conduct special press coverage and interviews throughout the day.  The kiosks out front were there for guests to take advantage of a special offer.  Just for guests at the Expo, they would be able to sign up for 3 years of Disney+ for a 30% discount (roughly $4 a month) and in turn they would be made part of what Disney calls the Founders Circle, which got them an exclusive pin as a reward.  Just around the corner and on the backside of the Disney+ booth, were two other streaming platforms already available through Disney and are going to be available as part of a bundle with Disney+ in November; Hulu and ESPN+.  Hulu’s booth featured artifacts from some of their exclusive programming on display (The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock), while ESPN had sports memorabilia, including an entire wall devoted to the history of sneakers.

Being one of the first on the floor, I decided to take advantage of the short lines that would no doubt fill to capacity in an hours time.  Just so I could get it out of the way, I went over to this year’s Walt Disney Archives exhibit.  In past years, the Archives have displayed incredible artifacts from their vaults, like a collection of ride pieces from Disneyland attractions of the past, or the last Expo’s incredible exhibit devoted to Pirates.  This year, the exhibit was devoted to costuming, and in particular, they had it focused on Disney heroes and villains.  Dubbed Heros & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume, this sprawling gallery contained original film used costumes from across the entire history of live action Disney films.  The first room, which worked as a bit of an introduction, was devoted to spotlighting some of the designers who have contributed to the Disney films that were going to be represented in this gallery.  Theses included Oscar winners like Sandy Powell and Coleen Atwood, who’s dresses for movies like 2015’s Cinderella and 2010’s Alice in Wonderland.  This space also replicates what their offices probably look like, with the results of their work (the costumes themselves) sitting within the center of the rooms.  After the introduction, the exhibit opens up into a wide open floor with the costumes lined up all along the walls.  From here, you will find costumes ranging from the witches dresses worn by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy in Hocus Pocus (1993); Tim Allen’s Santa outfit from The Santa Clause (1994); a dress worn by the legendary Bette Davis in Return to Witch Mountain (1978); and most prominently, many of the costumes from the several recent Disney remakes like Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Aladdin (2019).  Some of the most interesting sections of the gallery include a corner devoted to Mary Poppins, with the famous grey coat and flower hat worn by Julie Andrews in the original, flanked by two new dresses worn by Emily Blunt in the recent sequel.   There was also a large section devoted to the character of Cruella De Vil, with several dresses worn by Glenn Close in the 1996 remake of 101 Dalmatians on display.  In addition to the costumes, there was also the Cruella De Vil limousine from the movie sitting in the corner, which was one of the largest props put on display here, along with the golden pumpkin coach from the Cinderella remake.

After visiting the exhibit and getting my first look at this year’s show floor, I made my way back to the lobby to get ready for my top priority for this first day; seeing the Disney+ presentation in the expansive Hall D23.  Interesting enough, this afternoon slot on the Expo schedule used to go to the Animation Studios presentation, which this year got lumped together with the live action studios for the Disney Studios presentation on Saturday.  This once again shows how much Disney wants this Expo to spotlight their upcoming streaming platform.  The last of Hall D23’s standby for the Disney Legends were just getting seated around 10:30am, a half hour into the show, and then they finally opened up the line for those of us who were waiting for Disney+.  We were escorted down to Hall E in the basement, where the line was again split up into separate queues.  Being a D23 Gold Member, I was able to line up in a priority queue just for Gold Members, and since I was early enough, I was nearly at the front of the line.  I still didn’t know if it was a guarantee of having a seat, but to my incredible delight, Gold Members were seated even before those with online reservations.  As a result, once they started letting us in after a couple hours of waiting, I was able to get a fairly good seat.  Albeit, I was in a line for Section A, which is off-center from the main stage, but my seat put me fairly close to the screens that would be displaying all the exclusive footage.  Surprisingly, we were allowed to have our phones out for this show to capture the moments on stage as they happened, though security were around to stop people from video taping the exclusive footage.

So, to start of the show, we were treated to a live stage performance by the cast of the upcoming series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.  This hard to describe series takes place in a school that provided the shooting location of the original made for Disney Channel movie, and now the students there are putting on a staging of their own and that’s the plot of the series.  Hope you got all that.  Even still, the musical performance got the show off rolling and we were introduced to the MC of the presentation, Community star Yvette Nicole Brown.  Wearing a sparkling Disney+ shirt, she preceded to enthusiastically introduce all the many Disney executives and talent who were there to show off what we were expecting to find on the platform when it launches November 12.  After the High School Musical segment was complete, we moved right into Marvel’s slate of programming.  Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige walked out on stage to kick things off.  First off, we were given more detail about the exciting new animated series What If…?, which will be an anthology of multiverse variant stories with characters from across the Marvel Universe.  Many of the characters will be voiced by their original actors, with Jeffrey Wright debuting as a narrator character known as the Watcher.  Surprisingly they had finished animation to show us in a debut trailer.  Some of what we saw looked amazing, especially the hybrid CG/hand drawn style that is reminiscent of a comic feel.  The footage really spotlighted a story line where Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and not Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) gets injected with super serum and becomes Captain Carter instead.  After showing the clip, Feige welcomed Haley Atwell on stage, who seemed very excited to be returning to the role.  But Feige was not done.  He continued to talk about the shows already announced at Comic Con in July, including Loki, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and WandaVision.  Each time, he introduced cast members like Anthony Mackie, Sabastian Stan, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and a video greeting from Tom Hiddleston.  But after that, Feige surprised everyone by making three previously unknown show announcements that will be part of Marvel’s Phase 4.  They included Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, and She Hulk.  It’s nice to know that even with the huge comic con Marvel presentation that they still save some surprises for us at D23, and the Marvel presence on Disney+ is something to definitely be excited for.

So, after Marvel’s big showcase, the show moved on to non fiction programming.  First off was a new reality series starring everyone’s favorite celebrity weirdo, Jeff Goldblum.  His new show basically follows the Jurassic Park actor around as he tries new things and activities, all with his oddball personality providing much of the entertainment.  Goldblum of course was there to introduce the trailer, and as I was watching it, I couldn’t help but wonder why no one though of a show like this before, because it looks like a lot of fun.  Afterwards, actress Kristen Bell arrived on stage to talk about a reality series that she’s producing called Encore.  In the show, people who had stage performing backgrounds from high school are given a chance to return to the stage and put on a musical after many years having not performed.  After this, we saw a first look at a special secret project that Disney had been working on which is a documentary series called One Day at Disney, which follows around several employees of the Walt Disney Company, from animators to theme park cast members and chronicles a day in their life.  After this, the presentation moved on to feature films, where we saw sneak peaks of young adult and children films called Star Girl and Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.  Primary among the feature films however was the premiere of the trailer for Disney’s Lady and the Tramp live action remake.  And, as we learned after, MC Yvette Nicole Brown has a role in the film as Aunt Sarah, and she walked on stage with the real life dogs who portray the characters Lady and the Tramp in the movie, one of which she has adopted herself

However, Disney knew what to close out this presentation with in a strong way, and we segwayed into the platform’s lineup of Star Wars programming.  Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy walk out on stage to deliver all the announcements.  She started off by saying that all previous and future Star Wars films would be available to watch on Disney+, and then she talked a little about the upcoming revival of the beloved Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series.  After this, she then told us that they are currently working on a brand new series spun off of Rogue One, specifically centered on the characters of Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) and imperial droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk).  Both actors came out on stage and within seconds just started riffing off one another, showing their strong chemistry that they hope to continue in the show.  After that we arrived at the most anticipated new show on Disney+, and perhaps the most anticipated program to launch on the platform period; The Mandalorian.  This new show, created by director Jon Favreau, explores the years after the fall of the empire in Return of the Jedi (1983), and shows the lawlessness that comes in it’s wake; in particular, focusing on bounty hunters that roam the galaxy.  The show focuses on a Mandalorian, the same race that Boba Fett is derived from, and shows him navigating his way through this new world order within the Star War’s galaxy.  Favreau appeared on stage and welcomed the cast which included Pedro Pascal as the Mandalorian himself, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, and Taika Waititi.  They all talked about how excited they are to be in this show, with Favreau also expressing how much he wanted to make this into a series, going as far back as when he was working on Iron Man (2008).  They then showed us a first look trailer, and I can tell you that it looks really good and is something that I can’t wait to see.  This was the last part of the show, but Kathleen Kennedy remained on stage to deliver one last surprise.  She then welcomed actor Ewan MacGregor on stage.  Despite many a rumor, this was the big confirmation that MacGregor will indeed be returning to the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in his own Disney+ series, which he seemed very excited about.  And with plus sign confetti raining down from the ceiling, Yvette Nicole Brown brought the show to a close.  So, with Day 1 complete, I managed to successfully attend at least one of the must see presentations.  But, as I’ve learned in years past, it’s the Saturday morning show that would become the biggest challenge to attend.

DAY #2 (AUGUST 24, 2019)

Showing just how much bigger this Expo has become over the year, just as I exited the Convention Center there was already a lengthy line going from the security gates all the way down Katella Avenue to the very next intersection half a mile away.  You can bet that I got right back in that line.  After a few hours, they started letting us reenter past the security gates and back to the Convention Center itself.  I got back into Hall E at about 11:00pm, four hours later, and was about to spend the next 10 hours waiting for the hotly anticipated Disney Studios presentation.  It was hard getting a little shut-eye while laying on the cold concrete floor, but I was ready for what was next.  I had my Gold Member place saved in line and that gave me the peace of mind that I was going to get in.  At around 9:00am, we finally started seating and I can tell you that it filled up to capacity very quickly.  My seat was not as close as it was for Disney+, but it was at a distance that I could still see enough.  After a short sizzle reel, the show began and Studio chairman Alan Horn walked on stage to begin the presentation.  Surprisingly, one thing that they have saved for Expos in the past was used as their opener this time around; Star Wars.  The finale to the 40-plus year Skywalker Saga as it is known now comes out this December with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and it was the primary thing that was going to be talked about with regards to Star Wars.  Kathleen Kennedy once again took the stage and she welcomed director J.J. Abrams on to talk a little about the film.  He spoke about the incredible pressure he now has to close out this long ongoing story, and how excited he was to be working on it.  He also spoke about the important impact that the late great Carrie Fisher had on his experience making Star Wars.  Later, cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, and Billy Dee Williams came out on stage to talk about the movie.  After that, the very anticipated premiere of the new trailer came on screen, and we got a major surprise at the very end that quite literally stunned the entire 7,000 strong crowd of Hall D23.

After that, we launched right into Marvel’s section of the show, again surprising given that they were the closer of the last Expo’s presentation.  This year, there wasn’t much for Marvel to present.  We are past Infinity War and Endgame, and much of the upcoming stuff is either too far down the line or is coming to Disney+.  Kevin Feige did come on stage with one major announcement, and to help him with it, he welcomed director Ryan Coogler.  Coogler was there to announce that Black Panther II is in the works, and though he couldn’t detail anything (not even the official title) he still was able to tell us the premiere date; May 6, 2022.  Afterwards, Feige began to talk about the very next Marvel film currently in production; Black Widow.  Star Scarlett Johannsen, and co-stars David Harbour and Florence Pugh were unable to attend but they did send us a video greeting from the set.  Afterwards, we got to see the first available trailer footage of the movie, which looked quite good.  It had a nice Jason Bourne feel to it, which does make it feel different as a Marvel film.  There’s also a cool and brutal fight scene between Black Widow and her sister (Pugh).  After that, Kevin Feige talked about the next film in their calendar, Eternals.  No footage was shown, but he did welcome the cast on stage, which included Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Dong-seok Ma, Lauren Ridloff, Selma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Barry Keoghan, and Angelina Jolie.  Feige also confirmed that Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington was joining the cast, though he himself was not at the Expo.  And, just as the cast members were about to leave, the screen above revealed the first official image of them in costume.

After Marvel, the focus shifted to Disney Studios proper, and we were about to learn more regarding the upcoming live action remakes in the Disney pipeline.  One was for the upcoming origin film called Cruella, which of course follows the early years of the beloved fur coat obsessed baddie, Cruella De Vil.  The film’s star, Emma Stone, couldn’t be there but she recorded a greeting for us, which included a bit where she bickers with one of her Dalmatian co-stars.  We were then shown the first ever image of what Emma Stone will look like as the character.  Following that, we were treated to a more in depth look at the upcoming remake of Mulan.  The film’s director, Niki Caro, came on stage to talk a little about the movie, including what drew her to the story and why she felt it was important to tell it in this certain way, which is closer to the original legend.  We were then treated to an extended scene from the movie itself, which shows Mulan’s encounter with a Matchmaker.  The movie looks visually impressive and my hope is that it reverses the downward trend that these remakes have been taking.  The next project discussed was the movie adaptation of the Disneyland ride, Jungle Cruise, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt.  Both came on stage in spectacular fashion, Johnson riding on a replica of a Jungle Cruise boat and Blunt in a fancy old fashion convertible.  They clearly wanted to show off their on screen chemistry, and it was fun to see them share playful jabs at each other.  They even debuted competing trailers as well.  After this, we moved into the animation side of the presentation.  First up was Pixar, with new Studio chief Pete Doctor taking the stage.  He was excited to show the two new films coming in 2020 from the studio.  First up was the less known about film called Soul.  We learned that the movie is set in a world where a person’s soul first forms a personality before a person is born; an interesting Inside Out-like concept.  The movie centers around a wannabe jazz musician who finds himself body-less at the worst time.  We were then introduced to the voice cast, led by Jaime Foxx and Tina Fey.  Given how nothing was known about this movie beforehand, it was nice to finally have the exciting revelations about this movie come to light.

Afterwards, the focus shifted to Pixar’s very next film, Onward.  the film’s director Dan Scanlon arrived to talk a little more about the plot, which uses the premise of fantasy creatures in a modern, suburban setting to tell the story of two elf brothers.  He then welcomed the voices of the characters on stage; Tom Holland and Chris Pratt.  These two probably got the biggest rock star ovation out of the entire show, especially for Holland who has had to go through this week with his future in the Spider-Man franchise going through a huge upheaval, which is currently now over between Sony and Marvel as of this writing.  They showed us a few extended clips from the movie, which shows quite a bit of plot details, and so far it looks like yet another Pixar flick with a lot of laughter and tenderness attached to it.  Before they left the stage, Holland addressed the audience saying how grateful he was to the fans through such a “strange week,” and he concluded by using a line from Iron Man himself in Endgame; “I love you 3000.”  After that genuine moment, we moved on to Disney Animation to finish the show.  Here they were able to announce for the first time their next film after this year’s Frozen II, titled Raya and the Last Dragon.  This film takes place in a world inspired by the culture and folklore of Southeast Asia.  The showed us a beautifully animated clip, which gave us a glimpse of what we were going to see.  After this, they welcomed on stage the voice actors of the film, Cassie Steele (Raya) and Awkwafina (the Last Dragon), both of whom were excited to be a part of the movie.  Finally, the film closed out with a look at this year’s upcoming Frozen II.  Director Jennifer Lee, whose also now the head of Disney Animation, welcomed two new cast members to the stage, Sterling K. Brown and Evan Rachel Wood.  We were then treated to an extended sequence which premiered a brand new song that will be in the movie.  As a finale for the entire show, we were then treated to a live performance by original cast members Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, who sang another brand new song for us.

This would be the biggest show of the entire Expo, and no doubt, what we saw was going to be the talk throughout the rest of the day on the show floor.  As we exited, they handed out a pack of three exclusive mini posters, including a very exciting one for Rise of Skywalker.  Because I now had the biggest must see of the Expo out of the way, I was able to relax and enjoy the show floor for the rest of the day.  One thing that I was able to try out that was new was the Gold Member lounge in the north end of the hall.  There, I could line up to spin a prize wheel, which utilizes the new RFID technology that they programmed into our pass badges.  In addition, there were refreshments and seating available for us members who just wanted to have a relaxing place to rest.   I also got to spin a prize wheel at the nearby Marvel booth, which I have to say was laid out much better this year than at the last Expo.  Two years ago, Marvel had this tiny corner booth that caused major traffic jams throughout the day.  This year, they had a huge booth that could accommodate large crowds, which was a major improvement.  Speaking of Marvel, I finished out the day by attending a panel in the smaller venue of Stage 28, located on the third floor, that was centered on the full 80 history of Marvel Comics.  The panel was hosted by Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski and executive editor Tom Brevoort, and they gave a fascinating overview of the history of Marvel, from it’s early years, to the Stan Lee years, to it’s current time alongside the massive cinematic MCU.  One hilarious moment occurred when Brevoort mentioned their partnership with Sony, which illicited boos from the very pro-Disney crowd.  The two made this a great and informative panel and they informed us that as we all leave, we’d be receiving a copy of the upcoming Marvel Comics #1000, with an exclusive variant cover showing Mickey Mouse appearing with the iconic characters of Marvel; a first in the comic’s history.  After this tiring day, I thankfully had a hotel room to go back to and get myself prepared for the final day ahead.

DAY #3 (AUGUST 25, 2019)

Even with the busiest stuff behind me, I still got myself over to the Convention Center fairly early.  Arriving well before sun up, I headed to Hall E to get in line for the morning presentation of the Disney Parks presentation; the last of my must sees of this Expo.  And just like the last two days, my over-preparedness got me in a good position to have a guaranteed seat at the show.  We were brought in around 9:30am and the room still filled up to capacity.  The show began with Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek taking the stage.  He first discussed the successful debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland over the summer and was eager to see the debut in Disney World in the days ahead.  We were treated to an exciting sneak peak of the next big addition to Galaxy’s Edge which opens early next year; the E-Ticket ride known as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.  After that, he welcomed different team leaders working on projects across the globe at all their different resorts.  One of the most intriguing was a new Star Wars themed resort coming to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  The exciting aspect of this resort is how it’s themed.  Apparently it’s going to create the experience of travelling on a cruise vessel in Space, themed to the Star Wars universe.  The ship itself is dubbed the Halcyon, at it will be home to a two day experience where your stay will be very much like a cruise itinerary, complete with Star Wars themed experiences.  After this, the presentation then began to talk about the exciting new Marvel themed land coming to Disney’s California Adventure.  Currently under construction, the land will have the name Avengers Campus, and will feature new attractions and experiences featuring the likes of Spider-Man (yes, the movie deal dilemma does not affect the theme parks), Ant Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and others.  Placed right next to the already open Guardians of the Galaxy ride, this land will give visitors the immersion into Marvel story-lines that they’ve long wanted to have in the parks.  To conclude the segment, they revealed that this place would also be home to another E-Ticket attraction themed to the Avengers movies themselves.

After those announcements, the presentation moved on to the thing that was going to take up the biggest chunk of the show, which was the vast re-structuring of the Epcot park at Disney World.  We learned that the section of Future World was going to be re-branded into three new sections:  World Celebration, World Discovery and World Nature, which all fits with the branding of the northern section of the park known as World Showcase.  Celebration will see the biggest change to the park’s map, as half of the Innoventions buildings will be removed to be replaced with new gardens and fountains themed around the movie Moana (2016), and it’s connection to the life of water.  Spaceship Earth will remain the park’s central icon, but the ride it houses will see significant improvements.  At the northern end will be a three story structure that will house a garden on it’s roof, which will provide a breathtaking view of the park surrounding it.  The currently vacant Wonders of Life building in the World Discovery section will finally see something installed, which will be themed into a Play pavilion, boasting games and other activities.  Next door, currently under construction, there will be a Guardian of the Galaxy themed ride inside the former Universe of Energy pavilion, which will feature a new roller coaster technology that pivots the vehicles towards show scenes, and will feature a reverse launch.  It will be called Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.  Finally, they talked about the World Showcase, where the pavilions celebrate countries all over the world.  The previously talked about Ratatouille ride coming to the French pavilion was detailed a bit more, but what they spotlighted next became one of the show’s highlights.  Suddenly chimney sweeps rushed onto stage to perform the song “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins (1964), and at the very end, legendary Poppins star Dick Van Dyke appeared on stage.  The 93 year old actor was all smiles at the standing ovation he received and he happily announced that a Mary Poppins attraction was coming to the United Kingdom pavilion at Epcot.  A lot of stuff they showed was exciting, but it makes it even better when you’ve got an icon on stage to deliver it.

It should also be noted that they also announced a new partnership with Target, as Disney is now going to introduce special Disney Store sections to the big box store giant.  As a special gift to those of us in the audience in recognition of this partnership, we were given $10 Target gift cards as we left the show, with one special guest luckily gifted with a $2300 card for a Target shopping spree.  It wasn’t me unfortunately, but I’ll happily take a $10 gift card.  With the third and final big show now complete, nothing was left but to enjoy the rest of the show floor.  I made my way through all the remaining booths that I had yet to experience.  There was a neat little one dedicated to Disney on Broadway, which gave guests a VR experience.  After this, I also went to the Team of Heroes booth, which allowed you to create a Marvel themed gift bag that would go to a sick child in hospitals across the country, with a Disney Volunteer sticker given out to show Disney’s appreciation.  I also took in the Disney animation booth, which feature life sized figures of characters from Frozen, Toy Story 4, as well as a life size recreation of the van featured in the movie Onward, which was a very popular photo spot.  I did get in one final panel inside the spacious D23 Expo Arena.  There we were treated to a panel about The Art of Disney Storytelling.  Hosted by John Stamos and his wife Caitlin McHugh, the panel talked about the approach all the different departments of the Disney company takes to tell stories that connect with people.  Panelists included long time Disney story artist Floyd Norman (one of the first African-American animators who worked for Disney), producer Don Hahn, Imagineer Tony Baxter, and story artist Paul Briggs, who directorial debut, Raya and the Last Dragon was announced the morning before.  It was an informative panel, and gave us an interesting look into the working process that all these icons of their craft go through in order to deliver something that will appeal to everyone.  After that panel, nothing was left but to walk the floor and take in one last trip around the floor before the final minutes struck down.

And so there you have my experience at this year’s D23 Expo.  I’m overall pleased with my experience and especially happy that my years of experience have helped me become an expert in preparedness for this whole thing now.  There were some things that would have liked to have seen that I sadly missed out on.  One was a Haunted Mansion 50th Anniversary celebration in the D23 Expo Arena, which sadly filled up before I could make my way over to it, due to the Saturday Morning Disney Studios presentation going 30 minutes over schedule.  I also didn’t get to see a panel devoted to The Simpsons, a rare presence at this Expo for Fox related properties.  Perhaps it’s too soon after the completion of the Fox/Disney merger, but there was very little of the Fox Studio present at this Expo.  Perhaps, and hopefully, that will change in future Expos, but as for now, The Simpson were the ones carrying that Fox banner into this new era at Disney as part of this Expo.  In general, I was pleased with how well organized this Expo turned out to be.  The online reservations in no way ruined the experience, and in fact resulted in not much change overall.  Hopefully they can revise the reservation process in the future, but it wasn’t the cumbersome disaster that I was worried that it was going to be.   And just like past Expos, it’s still hard to fit in everything even over 3 days.  There’s just so much to occupy yourself with.  Maybe it’s because priority one for me is to get into the big Hall D23 shows, which involves me waiting for significant amounts of time in line.  If I focused on other things like shopping, I might have spent more time on the show floor, but shopping at the stores, which were quite busy throughout the Expo, was never high on my list.  So, I can say unequivocally that I had an excellent time at this year’s D23 Expo.  I hope that Disney continues to give make this celebration a special thank you to all the fans out there.  As the company grows even bigger, the more elaborate this Expo has gotten, and it will be interesting to see what it will look like at the next one in 2021, or even the 2023 Expo, which will mark the Disney Company’s 100th anniversary.  In any case, 2019’s D23 Expo was enormously satisfying and I’m glad I went once again.  Keep making the magic happen Disney.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland – Film Exhibition Report

When movies have blockbuster openings, it’s no big deal, because that’s always been a part of the business.  But, when the opening of a new attraction at an amusement park starts to take on the same characteristics, that’s when people begin to take notice.  And those moments usually coincide with something movie related as well.  Of course, the ones who really brought the worlds of theme parks and cinema closer together to begin with was the Walt Disney Company, with their groundbreaking Disneyland.  Though not all of the attractions in their parks have a correlating film that inspired it, there is a fair amount of their rides and attractions that do; and in a couple cases the rides inspired their own movies.  For the most part, Disney has used their own properties as the basis for theme park attractions at Disneyland, but in the mid-80’s, they brought an outside source into the park for the first time.  Looking to replace their aging Tomorrowland attraction Adventures Thru Inner Space with something more technologically advanced (in this case, based on flight simulator technology), they struck upon the idea of basing the new ride around the blockbuster Star Wars trilogy.  However, Star Wars was not a Disney property (at the time) and they needed to convince the series creator, George Lucas, that Disneyland was the best possible home for an attraction based on his franchise.  Luckily, Lucas agreed, choosing Disneyland over other movie based amusement parks like Universal Studios, and the landmark deal would lead to the creation of the popular ride known as Star Tours.  Star Tours opened in 1987, and has continued to occupy it’s place in Tomorrowland successfully for over 30 years.  It’s success even convinced Lucas to bring his other major creation, Indiana Jones, to Disneyland with an even more advanced park attraction placed in Adventureland.  But, with the $4 billion sale of George Lucas’ properties to the Disney company in 2012, Disney felt that just one ride wasn’t enough to make effective use of Star Wars in their parks.  So, at the D23 Expo in 2015, Disney CEO Bob Iger made the huge announcement that Disneyland was not only getting more Star Wars in the park, but that it would be getting a whole land to itself.

Thus began a four year long construction project that literally reshaped the map of Disneyland.  The Rivers of America, a central body of water that encompassed a quarter of the park’s footprint and has existed unchanged since Disneyland first opened, was shortened by nearly half in order to fit the new land in the back corner of the Disney property.  The Disneyland Railroad that encircles the entire park had to be rerouted for the first time in 60 years, and was out of commission for a year and a half as the first leg of construction commenced.    The new boundaries were completed in the summer of 2017, but even still, a whole 2 more year were still needed to complete what lied beyond it.  One of the impressive feats of engineering from Disney’s Imagineering team is that not a single glimpse of the Star Wars Land construction could be seen from any vantage point beyond the boundary; not even from the elevated Railroad line.  The only glimpses inside could be found from the top of the second lift hill on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller-coaster, and even then you had only seconds to make out any details.  Disney kept the details of their mega-expansion a closely guarded secret, hoping to build up the hype as opening day loomed ahead.  The lead up to opening day almost felt like the marketing for a new film in the Star Wars franchise, and indeed the hype proved to be almost exactly the same.  Closer to opening day, it was revealed that the first month of operation at Star Wars Land was only going to be open to those who set a reservation ahead of time.  The reservations sold out in only a short 3 hours, much like how advanced movie or concert tickets disappear in a blink and you’ll miss them amount of time.  Luckily, I was one of those lucky enough to land a reservation (albeit in the last available window), and with it I was able to get a stunning first impression that I’m going to share with you now in my first theme park report ever on this blog.  Usually I reserve these reports for film related exhibitions, but when it’s a new theme park land based around a single film franchise, and opens up with the same amount of hype that’s usually reserved for a cinematic experience, I feel that it should get the same attention here, so here is my first look at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Thankfully, being a Los Angeles based local with an Annual Pass to Disneyland, there was not much difficulty in getting to the park itself.  All I needed was the reservation, which itself was free on a first come first serve basis.  Everyone who registered in time was given the choice of a four hour block on any day between opening day on May 31 and the last day of reservations, June 23.  I got my time frame on the second to last day, June 22, in the middle of the afternoon.  Sadly it wasn’t sooner, but it did afford me a time frame during the peak sunlight hours, which was better for photography.  Once at the park, everyone with a reservation needed to check-in at the Star Wars Launch Bay, located in the old Carousel of Progress building in Tomorrowland, where they would receive their wrist band for entry.  After getting mine, I was told to arrive at the Critter Country entrance to the new land, which is one of three entries scattered throughout.  They had us enter through this way because it was the least crowded due to the fact that the westernmost section of Galaxy’s Edge is mostly vacant.  This is where the future ride called Rise of the Resistance is going to be located, but it is opening at a later date.   For now, it’s just filled with landscaping and a few full size recreations of Star Wars space ships.  It makes sense to hold the crowds of people waiting for their reservation blocks to start here before they’re all taken into the real heart of the land.  Once it became time to proceed into the land proper, we were welcomed to some truly spectacular sights.  Even before entering the land itself, I just found myself being wowed by the immense scale of what I was seeing.  Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge truly immerses you into this world.  It’s 360 degrees of Star Wars all around you, and that’s even before you enter the heart of the land.  One thing that should be noted is that this isn’t a Star Wars experience that is specifically drawn from the movies; there are few if any movie references at all in the park, apart from the ones that need to be there.  Instead, it’s all meant to be a world that exists within the Star Wars universe, but is it’s own world with it’s own story to tell.

The setting for Galaxy’s Edge is supposed to be the planet Batuu, a far flung world on the edge of the galaxy that has become a favorite outpost for interstellar travel in the Star Wars universe.  It’s a planet with climate not unlike Earth (how convenient), and it’s primary geological feature is what are known as the Black Spires.  The spires are large stone monoliths that jut up from the ground pretty much everywhere you look, and range in size from the trunk of a tree to colossal mountains in the distance.  These spires have given this particular location it’s name, which is Black Spire Outpost, which is a collection of shops and eateries all catered to serve travelers from across the galaxy.  It’s a simple, but effective backstory to explain the existence of this place in the Star Wars mythos, but even more impressive is the commitment that Disney put into making everything within part of the Star Wars world as well.  Everything, from the merchandise, to the food, to even the cast members who serve you inside the land are in character.  The Cast Members speak to you as if they exist in this world, calling guests things like “weary travelers,” and whenever you make a purchase, they ask for credits as opposed to dollars (it’s all the same by the way).  The merchandise even is made to be in-world, like something that was handcrafted by people in this universe, as opposed to manufactured for retail in stores everywhere else.  And the food of course has it’s own Star Wars characteristics, which I will talk about more later.  Overall, it’s a level of immersion that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in a theme park setting, especially to to this degree, and this more than anything is what is going to put Galaxy’s Edge into the history books when it comes to theme park entertainment.

But let me start to talk about the park itself in more detail.  From the moment you begin to reach the heart of the new land, you can see where the maximum effort of the Imagineering went.  The world evokes Star Wars, while at the same time introducing you to something new, and it all feels authentic.  One of the things that I have always admired about Disneyland is their ability to make something brand new feel like it has always belonged there.  This has to do with the great amount of detail that the park puts into making their structures look weathered and old, like they have stood in this spot for hundreds of years, despite the fact that they were only just built.  The Indiana Jones ride, for example, represents this, and that ride is only 25 years old, but it feels ancient.  Galaxy’s Edge does this too.  It’s all brand new, and yet you feel the history of this place with all the weathering and stains applied to the walls and all the props strung throughout.  The landspeeder props that I saw looked especially worn out, and that really helped to play into the immersion.  It makes sense that the land would have parts with a bit of a grungy look, because that was a characteristic of the original films that made them stand out.  It’s not a pristine, clean science fiction world; it’s a world littered with all sorts of clutter, which adds character and history to the world.  Not that this is an unsanitary environment (quite the contrary).  Every corner has a new story, from the power converters littered throughout the land, to the graffiti on all the walls, to the droids that are found up and down the avenues that sometimes interact with guests.  There honestly was no place around that didn’t serve well as a photo opportunity.  Immersion was the Imagineers goal, and they succeeded immensely.

But, of course, the big draw of any new land is the rides.  Surprisingly, given the big build-up to the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, the entirety of the land only has two rides to speak of, and one of them is still not ready to open.  So, Disney is banking heavily on the appeal of their one and only opening day ride at the park.  That ride goes by the name Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, and is naturally centered around the titular star ship.  Marking the only notable element from the movies to make it into the park, apart from the walk-around characters, the ride’s entrance is spotlighted with a full size recreation of the iconic ship.  This marks the first ever time that the Millennium Falcon has been fully and completely realized in true life, albeit as an environmental element and not as a real space ship.  The Falcon has only been presented on screen before as a scale model, or as a partial set.  But this Falcon is not smoke and mirrors; it is a fully built, true to scale model that you can walk all the way around and appreciate in all it’s detail.  Naturally, this was a popular photo spot for many, and I took my opportunity as well.  In addition to seeing the Falcon, the courtyard that surrounds it is also impressive in scale.  The facade of the ride behind the Falcon is huge (the tallest part of the land actually at over 100 ft. in height, and it’s here that you really appreciate the scale of this whole land.  The facade looms high and is easily the most impressive structural part of the entire land.  But this is only where the journey begins.  To the left of the Falcon is the ride’s entrance, which separates into three different queues for standby, Fastpass, and Single Riders.  The standby line takes guests into a garage area where it gradually ramps the line to an upper level.  In the center, you see a land speeder being worked on, and occasionally the voices of unseen mechanics are heard.  They discuss the different tests they are putting the speeder through, and the speeder prop will come to life during each test, helping to give people waiting in line something to look at during their wait.

At the second level, the line passes by large windows that look out at the Millennium Falcon.  From here, you can see all the rich detail put onto the roof of the Falcon prop below.  Past the windows is the first end point of the queue, where guests are split up into two groups and ushered into a large room.  On the upper part of the room, there is a very impressive animatronic character called Hondo Ohnaka.  Hondo is actually an established character in the Star Wars universe, appearing in the popular animated shows Star Wars: Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, and this marks his debut in a non-animated form; though his original voice actor, Jim Cummings, has still been carried over.  The animatronic is one of the most advanced to date, getting pretty close to life-like, and it’s very nice to see the attraction utilizing this tried and true theme park feature here.  He details the premise of the upcoming ride, that we’ve been selected as the crew for the Millennium Falcon, which has been loaned to us by Chewbacca himself for a special mission to smuggle a rare element out of the possession of the evil First Order.  After the intro, the two groups are taken down a corridor and are further split up into groups of six, each with their own color coded tickets.  Every guest is given a special task, to be either a pilot, a gunner, or an engineer.  Because I was riding by myself, I got engineer every time.  Past this point, the corridor opens up into a place that will be very special to Star Wars fans, a full recreation of the interior of the Millennium Falcon.  In this space, which looks very much like it was pulled right from the set of the movie, guests can lounge around until their color is called up by cast member.  Once that happens, they are taken to another corridor, which then opens into a recreation of the Falcon’s cockpit.  In the cockpit is where the actual attraction takes place, and it will feel familiar to fans of the Star Tours attraction as it utilizes pretty much the same kind of flight simulator technology.  The only difference is, everything you see in front of you is influenced by your actions within the cockpit.  There are buttons and levers all around the cockpit seats, and each one has a corresponding effect on what happens in the projected ride movie.  It’s essentially a life size video game, where you are in control of how well the mission goes.  The outcome and most of the twists and turns are pre-determined, but depending on how well you play along with all the buttons and levers, you can prevent things like crashing into the walls or how many TIE fighters you’re able to shoot down.  While not a particular game-changer, it’s still an enormously fun ride, and more than anything, it gives you the experience of flying the Millennium Falcon, which will be a dream come true for most Star Wars fans.

Because of the single rider option, I got in four rides total during my four hour block, which helped me get a good sense of all the random variations that can play out during the ride, as different groups present different levels of experience.  Thankfully, it also allowed me plenty more time to check out the rest of the land without worrying too much about getting through the centerpiece ride.  One of the other noteworthy things I checked out on my visit were the interiors of the different shops in the park.  The marketplace, just off to the side from the Falcon ride, was one of the most picturesque spots to be sure.  Looking like a Middle Eastern open-air bazaar, each little shop was unique in it’s own way, with merchandise only found in this area of Disneyland.  Because everything had to be “in-World,” all the merchandise has to fit that theme as well, and in place of all the plastic action figures found in Tomorrowland, here we had cloth dolls and wooden figures of all the famous Star Wars characters, like they were hand-crafted by someone familiar with the legends that have spread across the galaxy regarding these characters.  In the same spot, you could also find a place to buy your own Jedi robes, or a plus version of some of the famed Star Wars creatures.  Separate from the Marketplace is a bigger store called Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities.  Here you can find some neat looking Star Wars memorabilia, like carved busts of the famous characters, as well as other odds and ends like a replica of Yoda’s walking stick.  But the neatest feature is an animatronic figure of Dok-Ondar himself behind the cash registers, as he manages the store within his office.  All on the walls are other neat ornamentation like the head busts of some fearsome looking creatures.  Next door is an attraction that I’m sure will be a hit for many called Savi’s Workshop.  In their is a “Build Your Own Lightsaber” experience, where guests can piece together a high quality lightsaber piece by piece.  And when I say high quality, I mean $200 per person.  Since this was out of my price range, I decided to skip it.  I did get a glimpse of the Droid Depot experience nearby, where guests can build their own droids in a more affordable experience.  I didn’t participate in this either, but I saw what it looked like, and it took place in this neat little assembly line layout.  If anything, it’s neat to see Disney giving guests the opportunity to craft their specialty merchandise in addition to having them buy it.

Of course, in addition to shopping, every theme park land needs a good place to stop for refreshments, and Galaxy’s Edge has plenty of those as well.  There are the typical popcorn and bottled soda stands available, but even these are given the Star Wars twist.  The popcorn is specially colored and flavored, while the Coca-Cola product sodas are specially bottled in these Star Wars themed bottles that can be found only in this land.  The Coke bottle I bought had this ball grenade shape as opposed to the typical curved bottles found elsewhere.  It shows just how far they went with the theming to where even Coca-Cola had to redesign their products just to fit in.  The main restaurants are both located near the Falcon ride, the largest being Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo.  Docking Bay 7 is a counter service restaurant with neat interior design that makes your dining experience feel very in world.  Here, you find the interesting answer to something that I’m sure the Imagineers of Disney thought long and hard about; what would the food of Star Wars look and taste like.  In this restaurant for example, they serve up familiar dishes like barbecue ribs and chicken, but they are presented on the plate with this alien, Star Wars-y aesthetic.  I’m sure a lot of planning went into the design of each dish, making them look like they belong to this world, and though the aesthetic may be strange, the food is actually quite delicious.  Nearby, another restaurant called Ronto Roasters offers up a Star Wars spin on an old theme park standard; the hot dog.  Only here, the dogs are actually pork sausages wrapped in a pita bread.  Again, it looks alien, but is actually just a clever redressing of a familiar meal.  And the decor of Ronto Roasters is impressive as well, with a huge spit-roast barbecue pit as the centerpiece.  Something that might actually remind a lot of guests of the worlds of Star Wars is the famed milk seen in many of the movies.  You’ll find it available here as well at a Milk Stand within the First Order section of the land.  The stand serves up milk in a small plastic cup in two different colors, blue or green, and thankfully it’s processed there and not milked straight from the sea cow like Luke Skywalker did in The Last Jedi (2017).  The milk tasted fine (a slushy mixture of cream and lemonade), but it was a tad overpriced at $9 a cup.  Still, for those who wanted to know what the Star Wars characters had for their own sustenance, Galaxy’s Edge presents a very good idea of what it may be like.

Though I did get to see a lot, there was one big thing that I sadly missed out on.  It was the final eating establishment in the park called Oga’s Cantina.  In this place, from what I’ve observed from other accounts, is a bar like setting reminiscent of the Mos Eisley Cantina from the original movie.  Because of the limited capacity within the establishment, and the high demand from guests wanting to see it, they had to cut off return times for people waiting in line, and sadly I was one of those who unfortunately came too late.  I have seen some of the pictures of the interior, and it does indeed take heavy inspiration from the movie’s famous cantina scene, but doesn’t replicate it entirely.  The most notable difference inside is that in place of the cantina band, there is a DJ droid providing the music for the venue.  And not just any droid, but one re-purposed from Star Tours.  Before Star Tours had it’s refurbishment in 2011 to update it with a new randomized experience, each cabin that park guests would ride in would have a droid pilot guiding them through called R-3X, or Rex.  Voiced by Pee Wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens, Rex was a fixture of the ride until the update, when he was replaced with the more well-known C-3PO.  Though a couple Rex droids were placed as decoration in the new Star Tours queue, label with a defective sticker, it was still a loss to many long time fans of the ride who had grown attached to the one-of-a-kind character.  Thankfully, Imagineers found a way to bring the character back to life in Galaxy’s Edge by granting him a new job as the Catina’s DJ.  I don’t know if it’s one of the actual original droids from the ride, or if Paul Reubens reprised his role as the voice, since I didn’t get a close up look to tell if that was the case, but even still, I applaud Disney Imagineering for re-purposing something beloved from the old Star Wars attraction and paying homage to the franchise’s past as a part of the park’s overall history.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get a better look inside for myself.  Though I don’t drink alcohol myself, there are other options to indulge in there, including a larger portion of the milk served outside.  This also breaks a long standing rule set by Walt Disney himself to never have alcoholic drinks served in Disneyland itself, which is an interesting precedent to break.  All in all, at least now I’ll have something to look forward to for my next visit.

To sum it all up, the many years of waiting for this place to open were well worth it.  I was blown away by the absolute quality of craftsmanship put on here.  I think it makes sense to cover this as a part of my coverage of movies, because more than any other case I have found in theme parks I’ve visited, this is the best example of movies brought fully to life that I’ve seen.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios is another impressive example, and I wish I had thought to cover that when it opened a couple years back here in Hollywood, but even still, the space used to create the world of Harry Potter doesn’t come close to being as big as what Disney used for Star Wars.  Galaxy’s Edge encompasses a staggering 14 acres, bigger than any land that has ever been added to any Disney park anywhere.  Even the impressive Cars Land across the way in Disney’s California Adventure park only filled out 12 total acres.  This is a mind-blowing accomplishment in theme park engineering, and we haven’t even seen it fully utilized yet.  I can’t imagine what there is left to see when Rise of the Resistance opens later this summer.  For now, I believe everyone will be content with what they’ll find on the other side of the walls separating Galaxy’s Edge from the rest of Disneyland.  What interests me now is what will happen to Star Tours now that Galaxy’s Edge is open.  The ride still exists, but seems a bit obsolete now that Star Wars has it’s own land on the other side of the park, and even a ride that shares a similar experience.  It may be only a matter of time before it is phased out and replaced, much like the ride it took over for.  It will be sad to see such a ground-breaking attraction see it’s final days, but it’s understandable at the same time.  Star Wars has a bigger piece of the park devoted to it now, and that means it’s place in Tomorrowland will ultimately be redundant.  Walt Disney always intended for Disneyland to be this ever-changing and evolving place, Galaxy’s Edge taking the place of Star Tours is another step in that evolution.  It’ll be interesting to see the ripple effect that comes from Galaxy’s Edge’s opening, not just for Disney but for theme parks in general.  Disney has again set the bar high, and this new land will be a benchmark in both theme park and cinema history for many generations to come.  So plan your visit soon and may the force be with you all.

TCM Classic Film Festival 2019 – Film Exhibition Report

Every mid to late Spring here in sunny Los Angeles the film industry usually takes a breather before it kicks into high gear for the Summer, but I have managed to find a special yearly event that hits the right sweet spot for cinephiles from all over here in town.  Turner Classic Movies has put on this annual Film Festival right in the heart of Hollywood, and I have been fortunate enough to not only be able to watch one movie there, but several, even in a single weekend.  It’s a great event for both industry insiders and casual fans alike to gather together and see all our favorite classic films in the way they were intended to be seen, on the big screen.  Every year, I watch a collection of movies that I’ve seen before but never on a big screen, and sometimes I manage to catch a movie that is completely new to me in the hopes of finding that new discovery.  In addition, TCM goes out of their way to bring the actual people involved with the making of these movies to appear and introduce the film we are about to see, making the experience all the more magical and worth the price of admission.  This is, however, a special year as the TCM Film Festival celebrates it’s 10th anniversary.  Playing within the same venues throughout it’s decade of operation (the theaters along historic Hollywood Boulevard), the TCM has grown steadily in popularity every year, and has also managed to get even better over time.  I’ve been fortunate to have caught the last 7 festivals, with this year being my 8th.  And each year, I’ve been topping my total number of films attended.  Even with the unexpected schedule conflict of Avengers: Infinity War keeping me from going on the first day, I still topped my record by seeing 9 films last year.  It’s quite the bump since my first year, when I only saw the one.  Thankfully, Avengers: Endgame is still two weeks off, so I have a pretty good chance of hitting the double digits for the first time this year.

This year, to keep my thoughts and reactions fresh for all of you reading, I will be covering this year’s festival again live as I’m attending.  With updates on each previous day’s experiences throughout the weekend, my hope is to give you an accurate first hand experience of this festival, hopefully encouraging those reading this live in the Los Angeles area to at least give it a look while it’s still going on.  I’ll be sharing all the sights and sounds of my festival experience, telling you what I saw, who I saw, and just anything interesting that I end up seeing throughout the festival.  I’ll even try my best to include pictures along the way, depending on how well my phone’s camera processes them.  One of the most interesting new things about this year’s festival is the addition of a new venue.  This year, films will be screened for the first time at the nearby landmark Hollywood American Legion Post 43 facility.  This art deco styled structure has served the Hollywood Veteran community for many years, and it’s great to see them open their doors to festival goers to watch movies in their well furnished auditorium.  Hopefully, if things turn out well, I’ll be able to include a screening here as part of this year’s festival.  It’s neat to see yet another historic landmark celebrated alongside the Egyptian, the Chinese, the Cinerama Dome, and all these other monuments to cinema, which is another thing that sets this festival apart.  So, with intros out of the way, let’s enjoy this 10th TCM Classic Film Festival.

APRIL 11TH, 2019 (DAY 1)

The afternoon launch of the festival thankfully coincided well with my work schedule, so I arrived just as things were getting started. As they’ve done the past few years, the Festival is launched with a special red carpet screening in the primary venue of the TCL Chinese Theater. This one is limited only to special guests and the highest level pass-holders. Because of that exclusivity, every red carpet screening have to be a special one. Last year marked an even more special event for guests, because it marked the first presentation of the Robert Osborne Award. This newly christened honor is going to be given out each year to a recipient whose work toward preserving and promoting classic movies deserves special distinction. Named after the late TCM host, the first year’s honorees was director Martin Scorsese, who was introduced by actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Of course, this is the special kind of exclusive event deserving of the red carpet treatment, and I’m sure that anyone who attends these certainly gets their money’s worth. I haven’t quite reached that level yet, but there’s still plenty left to see at this Festival.

This year, the red carpet was rolled out for the 30th Anniversary screening of the classic romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally. In attendance for this special screening was not only the director, Rob Reiner, but also the film’s stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. From what I’ve read, this is the first time all three have appeared together since the film’s release, so for any long time fan of the film, this had to be a real once in a lifetime experience if they managed to get in to this screening. When, I arrived, the red carpet was still rolled out, and attendees were still walking up to The Chinese. As close as I could get was to the outer wings, where many other bystanders were looking over the barriers to see who was there. I was amazed to see how many people had dressed up for this. This is very likely the only screening at this Festival where this level of class was necessary. Inside, before the screening, the special guests sat down for an interview with TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, whose schedule for the next few days is likely going to be full of these introductions. In addition to participating in this opening night show, the Festival also has a hand-print ceremony the following morning in front of the Chinese, where one of the night’s special guests gets to add their own mark to the other prints left in the famous theater’s front court. In this case, it’s Billy Crystal who has the honor. But, this is another event that I unfortunately cannot attend, so let’s begin talking about what I did see.

Running almost at the same time as When Harry Met Sally there were other screenings in the Chinese Multiplex next door. These smaller theaters have their own set of classic movies for the Festival, and usually they are of the hard to find kind. For instance, the first movie I ended up watching was a movie called Dark Passage (1947) which was a Bogart and Bacall movie that I’d never even heard of before. After their breakthrough films like To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946), Warner Brothers sought to capitalize on this dynamic film partnership that turned into a real life romance, and this film was one of those results. The movie was introduced by Eddie Muller, who is the host and curator of TCM’s bloc of film noir centered programming called appropriately enough, “Noir Alley”. Muller is ideally suited to introduce a film like Dark Passage because it is quintessential noir. He told us a lot of interesting behind the scenes tidbits, such as the fight that producer Jerry Wald has with Jack Warner over the plan to hide Humphrey Bogart’s face for a third of the movie. It’s an unusual storytelling device, especially given Bogart’s star power, but it makes sense in the context of the film. Muller also talked about the author, the music and all the other things that made this movie stand out in it’s time. As noir films go, it’s a really unusual one, and that’s saying something. This is the kind of movie I especially love to find at these festivals, because they are what you’d call the discoveries. So, with one movie down, it was off to the next.

Since I missed out on one of the special nitrate screenings last year at the Egyptian Theater, I figured it was best to not waste any time this year. With a short two block walk down Hollywood Boulevard, I made it to my next show with plenty time to spare. The Egyptian, operated by American Cinemateque and soon to be under the ownership of Netflix, specializes in screenings of all film formats, and especially with the very rare screenings of the extremely volatile nitrate film stock. For this particular showing, we were being treated to a presentation of the classic Cary Grant screwball comedy The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1948), co-starring Myrna Loy and a teenage Shirley Temple. This was yet another movie I had yet to see, so watching it both on the big screen and with a rare nitrate print was especially fortunate. Even more remarkable, as we the audience learned from the brief introduction, this print not only came from the Academy archive, it was also donated to them by Shirley Temple herself. The movie is lighthearted fluff, but it’s a great showcase for both Cary Grant and Shirley Temple’s incredible on screen charisma. With that, my first night comes to a close, and after working my morning shift in my day job, I’ll be back and ready for day 2.

APRIL 12, 2019 (Day 2)

While cutting it close coming here directly from work, I still managed to get into my first movie of the night. Making my way to the Chinese Multiplex in the Hollywood and Highland Center I got in line for the early evening screening of Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973). The French New Wave classic is Truffaut’s ode to the process of film-making, pulling back the curtain to show the behind the scenes dramas that take place around a film set. For this screening, the film was proceeded by a special pre-show interview with the film’s star Jacqueline Bisset. Talking with Noir Alley’s Eddie Muller once again, the interview was a nostalgic journey through Ms. Bisset’s long career, and in particular, her experiences working on Day for Night. She described what it was like working with Truffaut, with the cast members, and how making films in France was so different from how they are made in Hollywood. One of her most amusing anecdotes was about the confusion they had on set because of the way it was a movie about making a movie. Because Truffaut played the part of the director himself, the cast sometimes were confused about whether he had called “cut” for real, not knowing if the scene was in fact finished. Jacqueline was very gracious in her recollections, and it was a treat to hear her stories before the movie began, especially with the context that her own behind the stories offered. And after this, it was time to head over to the Chinese for the night’s premiere screening.

Over in the Chinese, this second night was reserved for a special 30th Anniversary screening of Spike Lee’s now legendary Do the Right Thing. Introduced by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, it was especially pointed out that this movie was a product of it’s time, but also just as timely today as it was then.  Ben’s introduction was followed up with an interview with three ladies who were very important to the making of the movie.  One was casting director Robi Reed, costume designer (and recent Oscar winner for Black Panther) Ruth E. Carter, and actress Joie Lee who played the part of Jade in the film, and who is also Spike Lee’s real life sister.  All three had many wonderful insights about their experiences working on this film, as well as taking a moment to reflect on the movie’s important impact in both cinema and society.  Joie had the most interesting reflections about what it was like working with her brother, who she acknowledged could be a handful at some points, but always respectful of those who worked on his films.  Ruth discussed the very crucial aspects of the film’s making, including the steps they took to make the feel of a scorching hot day come through in the wardrobes of all the characters.  And Robi Reed discussed how the amazing ensemble cast was formed, which included legendary performers like Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, some of Lee’s favorite frequent cast members like Samuel L. Jackson and John Tuturro, as well as fresh newcomers whose careers were going to take off in the years ahead like Rosie Perez and Giancarlo Esposito.  The interview concluded with their thoughts about the recent Oscar win for Green Book, which none of the ladies were particularly happy about, especially given the fact that Spike Lee’s own film BlackkKlansman lost out to it.  Given that I share their same frustrations, this made me very happy to hear from them, because it needed to be said.  The movie was given a new 4K restoration in anticipation of a just announce Criterion release, and the film looks incredible, especially with the colors which really pop off the screen.  This concluded my second, short day of the festival, but starting tomorrow, it’s nothing but movies morning to night, with hopefully my first glimpse of the American Legion Post.

APRIL 13, 2019 (DAY 3)

If everything went off without a hitch, this would be a day where I could see as much as 5 films in a single day.  To start off this marathon, I arrived extra early to the Chinese Multiplex to see the the first film of the day.  This movie would end up being the 50’s technicolor Sci-Fi epic When Worlds Collide (1951), produced by special effects extraordinaire George Pal.  It fit with my goal this year to watch more newer movies than I have before, plus it was also short, which allowed me more downtime to breath between films.  The extra treat of this show was that it also included a brief interview with one of the film’s stars; the graceful Barbara Rush.  For someone who’s just turned 92 years old, she looked absolutely fabulous and is still in wonderful shape and spirits for her age.  She was interviewed by comedian and guest TCM programmer Dennis Miller, who you can tell is a fan of these classic Sci-Fi films from that era.  Both Miller and Rush had a fun, spirited discussion about the film, with Barbara remembering what it was like to work with her co-stars, as well as the many other projects she worked on before and since making this particular film, talking fondly about how her work has withstood the test of time pretty well.  She even talked about getting to work with giants like Marlon Brando and Paul Newman in other films later on.  After the interview, we were presented with a beautifully restored digital presentation of the film, which really brings the colorful cinematography to full brightness.  The film is what you’d expect, a cheesy relic of it’s time, but the audience was certainly appreciating it.  After that early morning start, it was off to one of my most anticipated moments of this festival; my first movie in the brand new venue.

In a two block walk up hill along the always busy Highland Avenue, the newest theater added to the festival’s venues is found.  The Hollywood Legion Post 43 is a stunning, but often overlooked landmark in this neighborhood of iconic structures.  The outside is this beautiful art deco facade, with plagues dedicated to all the servicemen who have been in charge of operating it over the years. Standing since 1929, the Post has served war vets of the Hollywood community for decades, and it’s members have included the likes of Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, and even Stan Lee.  Though the outside of the Post is impressive enough, it’s the inside that really inspires admiration.  After walking through the subtle but lofty atrium, two wooden doors open up to the structure’s most impressive feature, the auditorium.  Though not as lavishly ornate as the Chinese, the Legion Post’s expansive auditorium has this wonderful cathedral like elegance to it, with arched buttresses descending from the ceiling.  You honestly would never have expected this auditorium to have been this big based on the front facade.  I can see now why TCM wanted to add this to their list of venues, and I’m very glad that the Legion decided to open it’s doors to festival goers.  For a first time visitor like me, see this place in all it’s glory was definitely one of the highlights of this year’s festival.  The venue has always had a projection room, but has not screened films on a regular basis.  I’ve heard that this is about to change as the Legion is planning to have more film events in the future.

Interesting enough, my first experience in the Legion Post was not for a film, but rather a multimedia presentation, which is also part of the usual programming at each festival.  This one in particular was called Fox: An Appreciation.  Of course, the subject was the 20th Century Fox studio and it’s history, which was interesting to watch, notably after the finalization of Fox’s merger with Disney last month.  The presentation was put together and hosted by Fox archivist Schawn Belston, who not only gave us a very fascinating and broad in scope overview of the history of Fox, but he also told us a great deal about the incredible hard work it has taken to preserve all of these cinematic treasures over the years.  Between each point of his presentation, he would present a clip from each of the respective films in his discussion, and by showing all of them, you really get a great sense of the overall impact that Fox left on Hollywood throughout the whole history of cinema.  You sometimes forget how many great and important movies have come out of one studio, and from all different eras as well.  In the course of the 90 minute presentation, we saw the likes of Sunrise (1927), How Green Was My Valley (1941), All About Eve (1950), Cleopatra (1963), Planet of the Apes (1968), M*A*S*H (1971), Big (1988), Die Hard (1988) and Titanic (1997).  He also made special mention of the stars that put Fox on the map, like Henry Fonda, Marilyn Monroe and, of course, Shirley Temple.  It was a great presentation that really renews your appreciation for this once mighty studio.  It also made my first time at this new venue a pleasant one.

Heading back to Hollywood Boulevard, and after getting in a quick lunch, I arrived for my next movie at the Chinese Theater.  It was a screening of Mike Nichols’ 1988 film Working Girl, starring Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford.  The special guest for this screening is also spotlighted as one of the main honorees of this entire festival; veteran casting director Juliet Taylor.  A giant within the industry, Ms. Taylor has cast numerous films that have gone on to become classics, including numerous Woody Allen flicks, The Exorcist (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Terms of Endearment (1983) and Schindler’s List (1993).  For the screening of Working Girl, she was interviewed by actress Ileana Douglas, who asked her about the assembly of the film’s all-star cast.  She talked quite a bit about how she had to make the tough decision to change the casting of the male lead in order to meet the studio’s demands.  Originally, Alec Baldwin was cast opposite Melanie Griffith, but the studio wanted someone more established so they got Harrison Ford.  Baldwin graciously bowed out and took the smaller role of Griffith’s ex boyfriend, and she Taylor was told that her handling of the situation helped to make the transition smooth.  She also talked about how the movie helped launched both Griffith and Baldwin (who were still fairly green) into stardom, and helped establish Harrison Ford in a romantic comedy role, which he was not very well known for.  It made for a fascinating interview and it’s nice to see someone of Ms. Taylor’s significance getting the recognition that she has at this festival.

After that, I made my way back up to the Legion Post where my next film was. It was a screening of the classic William Wyler adaptation of Wuthering Heights (1939) starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon.  I’ve actually never seen this movie before in it’s entirety, so this was a perfect opportunity to do so.  Also, what also drew me to see this movie on this day was the fact that it was being presented by long time Jeopardy host, Alex Trebek.  Trebek recently announced that he is currently in treatment for very advanced cancer, so the fact that he’s made the time to attend this festival and participate in it as well is a really courageous thing to do on his part.  From what I saw, he seemed to be doing alright at this time, not showing any signs of his illness outwardly.  His introduction to the film was an excellent one, discussing his own personal connection to the film such as his first time watching it at a Drive-in theater in his native Canada, to visiting the English countryside that inspired the original book and the home of it’s author, Emily Bronte, with his wife many years back.  It remains one of his favorite movies, and you could tell that talking about this movie meant a lot to him.  As he finished and left the stage, the audience gave him a spirited ovation, showing that they both appreciated his presence at this Festival, and that they are all wishing him the best of luck in the days ahead.

With four down, I had one more shot to make it a 5 for 5 day.  The only question was what was it going to be.  The choice was tough, because this night had two solid options; a screening of the original Star Wars (1977) in the Chinese Theater or a screening of Escape From New York (1981) in the multiplex, with director John Carpenter and star Kurt Russell in attendance.  I initially decided on Escape from New York, because it’s yet another movie I haven’t fully seen plus, it had the bonus of the two main people responsible for it there, including the reclusive Carpenter.  Unfortunately, the film sold out very early; even pass-holders were turned away, because the demand was so high.  So, I tried my back-up option of Star Wars, which was thankfully still seating.  Though I came halfway through the opening discussion, I was still able to get a glimpse of the special guests at the screening.  In attendance were sound designer Ben Burtt, Visual Effects Artist Dennis Muren, and Special Photographic Cinematographer Richard Edlund.  They of course were talking about the ground-breaking visual effects used in the movie, and how much they have gone on to shape the way movies are made today.  Right before the end of the discussion, Ben Mankiewicz asked each one to list how many Oscars each of them have won, and the tally goes Burtt: 4, Murren: 8, and Edlund: 4.  That’s an incredible 16 Oscars between all of them, and Star Wars is what initially propelled their rise in the industry.  Though I have seen Star Wars many times before, I’ve never seen it projected on a big screen.  And let me tell you, it’s an incredible experience.  Also, seeing it in the same theater that it had it’s premiere over 40 years ago gave me a real sense of what that first night must have been like.  Though it was my back-up, I have to say this was one of the highlights of my festival so far, and with one day left, it was a great way to finish my most robust day ever at the TCM Film Fest.

APRIL 14, 2019 (DAY 4)

Three days into the festival, and I’ve already tied my best number to date, so everything today is icing on the cake.  I got up again for an early start (with only about 5 hours of sleep after Star Wars ran past midnight) and made my way to the Chinese for film number one.  This was a 50th anniversary screening of the lavish Gene Kelley directed musical Hello, Dolly (1969).  The film was a financial disaster when it was first released, mainly because of cost overruns and the fact that it came out too late to capitalize on the brief rise of widescreen epic musicals of the 1960’s.  In the years since, it has found a following and has turned a modest profit for it’s studio, 20th Century Fox.  One of those who’s deeply devoted to the movie is super fan Christopher Radko (the guy behind the Christmas Ornaments), who was the special guest at this screening.  He talked about how much the movie has left a big impression on him, to the point where he now lives in the town of Garrison, NY, where much of the on location shooting was done.  He also talked about the special anniversary festival in Garrison to mark the start of the film’s production in their town that he got to plan himself.  Like Star Wars the night before, this is another movie that benefits from showing on the biggest screen possible.  Though the movie does have many flaws, it’s lavishness is impressive to look on on a screen that can contain it’s full majesty.  It makes you long again for a time when movie musicals had this much ambition behind them, but then again it’s that same ambition that made these kinds of movies too expensive to produce after a while.

After Hello, Dolly, I got right back in line for the next showing in the Chinese theater.  This next film is one that I’m perhaps the most ashamed to confess that I haven’t watch the whole way through before.  That film is the now universally beloved The Shawshank Redemption (1994).  This Oscar nominated film has eluded me, purely because I was looking for an opportunity like this one to finally watch; namely seeing it on a movie theater screen.  Shawshank has garnered this nearly unfathomable reputation as this absolute masterpiece, and I was worried that if I watched it the wrong way that it wasn’t going to live up to the hype.  So, thankfully, I now had the opportunity to see it for the first time all the way through in the right manner, and in the Chinese Theater no less.    To make the experience even better, director Frank Darabont was there to introduce the film beforehand.  Interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz, Darabont revealed many interesting details about the making of this movie, like how he turned down a huge sum of money for the script so that he’d be able to direct it himself, and also how the producer came up with the novel idea of casting Morgan Freeman in the part of Red, even though he was originally written as a Irish-American white guy.  He also talked about the challenges he had in adapting the original Stephen King novella, and how he was hesitant to include the film’s very upbeat ending at first.  It was very cool to hear the director’s own take before seeing the movie itself.  Though it’s not going to be anywhere near my all time favorite movies, I can definitely say that this is a movie deserving of it’s lofty reputation and I’m happy to have finally checked this one off my list.

Taking a longer lunch than usual, I was looking to close out my festival experience with just one more film.  I made my way over to Egyptian for their next showing, which was going to be a special type of program that occasionally is presented at the TCM Fest.  They were going to screen the Greta Garbo silent classic A Woman of Affairs, only instead of a pre-recorded soundtrack, it was going to be accompanied with a live, small orchestra.  The introduction was going to be made by critic Leonard Maltin and this year’s Osborne Award recipient, film Preservationist and Filmmaker Kevin Brownlow.  The orchestra would then perform under the direction of Conductor Carl Davis, who himself has composed new scores and orchestrations for many classic silent movies.  Unfortunately, this special presentation was in high demand, and it ended up selling out before the standby line where I was queued up in could be let inside.  So, I was left with two options, leave the festival early disappointed that I couldn’t get into my last show, or try to rush to another venue quick to watch one of the other film starting at the same time.  Strangely, I not only chose the latter, but I chose to rush over to the venue furthest away from the Egyptian; that being the Legion Post.  Even though I ran as fast as I could go, the movie had already started, and I missed out on the introduction done with comedian Mario Cantone and Jennifer Grant, daughter of Cary Grant.  Here, they introduced one of Cary Grant’s popular early screwball comedies, My Favorite Wife (1940).  Since I started my festival with another Cary Grant comedy, I guess it was fitting to end it with one too, and in the venue that was my favorite discovery of this entire festival.  An added plus, the movie was shown on 35mm film, which I know for sure because the projector has a malfunction during the showing.  As a past projectionist myself, I found this amusing since it’s the first time I’ve ever seen this happen at the festival, helping to reinforce the authenticity that we are given a true cinematic experience.  And thankfully, the malfunction was nothing serious.  So, after that, it was time to head home.  I could have fit in one more movie if I wanted to, but having already brought my number up to 12, I felt it was time to head home finally, feeling very satisfied.

With the long weekend finally behind me, I now have a full year to be ready for the next festival.  This was an extra special festival, because of the milestones it was hitting.  TCM as a broadcast channel is marking it’s 25th year of existence, with it’s founder Ted Turner being celebrated throughout the fest, especially for his long history of seeking to preserve and promote classic films.  And, of course this was the 10th year of the festival itself, which some of the TCM personal proclaimed excitement for in each of their presentations.  Some thought it might not last past the first year, so the fact that it’s still going ten years strong is something quite miraculous to many of them.  For me, I feel fortunate to have been living in Los Angeles long enough to have attended 8 out of the 10 festivals.  Though I started off slow, with maybe one movie a year the first couple times, I have continually become more and more determined to experience the full extent of the festival, and this year I managed to hit my best number yet.  I watch a whopping 12 movies in 4 days, and if I didn’t have to work Friday morning, I probably could have seen more.  What is especially great about these festivals is meeting complete strangers in line or sitting next to you in the theater and striking up a conversation out of a mutual love for the movie we were about to watch or for classic movies in general.  It’s a wonderful place for movie lovers of all kind to socialize and appreciate the true bonding experience that watching a film in a theater with an audience can be.  Not only that, but we get to watch these classics in living monuments to film history like the Chinese and the Egyptian.  I especially love that this year they added the Legion Post to the number of venues, because it’s a buried treasure that you didn’t know was hiding in Hollywood this whole time, unless you were already a member of the American Legion of Hollywood.  I’ve covered these festivals 6 times now for this blog, and this was indeed one of my favorites.  I hope that next year’s offers plenty more excitement.  I hope eventually I’ll get the point where I’m earning enough money to have a pass to some of the more exclusive events, but I’ve done alright with the standby lines to feel like I haven’t missed out too much.  Anyway, thank you for reading through my extensive coverage of this year’s festival and hopefully you’ll be back to read next year’s as well.