Tuesday, October 23, 2007

As you probably saw, if you followed today's "reading list" below, Michael Barrier has answered my comments on his post from yesterday. I remain unconvinced by his arguments, but love reading his answers, as ever.

I believe that in this specific case Michael is falling into a very common trap: to consider the Walt Disney Company as a living and thinking entity, instead of the sum of its components. The company is only as good as its members: if someone in the publishing department was ill-advised to authorize or sanction Neal Gabler's flawed bio of Walt, I do not believe this should tint Lasseter's artistic choices for DCA. I do not believe either that we can accuse John Lasseter or WDI to use Walt as a crutch in this specific case: there are quite a few original ideas that are not directly linked to Walt in those new plans for the park. Finally, using Walt as the unifying theme to salvage a park about California built in California (an absurd initial idea that Lasseter is obviously not responsible for) is probably the most satisfying solution that exists, if we exclude destroying it and rebuilding it from scratch.

Does that mean that no new ideas coming from Disney today are quite cynical or pure exploitation of Walt (one thinks of the conversion of the Disney Gallery at Disneyland into a high-price suite)? No, of course ot. But with the new management on board I believe we should see less and less of this and more honnest hommages to the man.

Speaking of the DCA redo, Jim Korkis was kind enough to send me yesterday this great piece about the Carthay Circle Theater:

[I am very excited that there will be a Carthay Circle Theater at the new Disney's California Adventure just as I am disappointed that none of the press releases delve into the full connection between Disney history and that historic movie palace. So, once again I am putting on my Disney Historian hat and sharing the following information from my files:

"Carthay Center" was developed by J. Harvey McCarthy in 1922 as an upscale residential district along the San Vicente Boulevard line. The development included the Carthay Circle movie theater, at San Vicente and Crescent Heights Boulevards. The official address was 6316 San Vicente and Dwight Gibbs was the architect. The style of this movie palace was "Mission Revival" and it seated around 1500 people. Along with Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Carthay Circle hosted more big West Coast movie premieres than any other Hollywood theater. "Gone With the Wind" premiered at the Carthay Circle in 1939.

In the "Our Gang / Little Rascals" episode "The Big Premiere" (1940), the first five minutes of this film was shot on location at the Carthay Circle theatre where the gang tried to crash a film premiere and the theater looks very similar to when "Snow White" premiered there.

In the letter box version of the 1967 Doris Day comedy, "Caprice", you can clearly see a great deal of the theater interior and exterior before it was demolished in March 18,1969 because it was no longer earthquake safe. Two low-rise office buildings and a city park occupy the site today.The last film to play the Carthay Circle was "The Shoes of the Fisherman".

The Disney history with the Carthay Circle Theater actually begins in 1929. Walt decided to produce a new animated series, the Silly Symphonies, and the first installment was "Skeleton Dance". However, when Walt sent the film to his distributor, Pat Powers, Powers replied, "They don't want this. MORE MICE."

Walt knew if he could get the short shown in a prestigious theater that an audience would love it, just as he had done with "Steamboat Willie". Walt found a salesman he knew at a local pool hall and convinced him to contact Fred Miller, the owner of the Carthay Circle Theater, and gave him a print of the film. Miller liked it and booked it into the theater in August 1929 where it was a huge hit. Walt sent the reviews back to Powers and the short was eventually booked into the New York Roxy Theater where it launched the successful Silly Symphony series.

It was this success that convinced Miller to take a chance on the first feature length animated cartoon, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". It premiered at his Carthay Circle Theater December 1937. That famous premiere is available on the "Snow White Platinum Edition" DVD on Disc Two where there is the “Los Angeles Premiere”, a brief newsreel of sorts (1:10), with appearances by various celebrities and Walt Disney along with performers costumed as the dwarves and Mickey, Minnie and Donald duck, and the “Original Premiere Radio Broadcast” (30:00) that features interviews with those at the premiere and some audio from the film itself.

Disney Historian J.B. Kaufman who knows things I never ever knew in decades of research has stated: "Snow White was at the Carthay Circle for four months. The Spanish-language edition of the feature, Blanca Nieves y los siete enanos, was unveiled at the Carthay Circle on Sunday, 27 February 1938, and became a regular Sunday-afternoon feature during the remainder of Snow White’s run there."

However, the Disney connection doesn't end there. The Carthay was only one of two theaters (the other being New York's Broadway Theater that used to be called the Colony Theater and was where "Steamboat Willie" premiered) to be fitted with the full Fantasound equipment for the premiere of "Fantasia".

In addition to the recreation of the Carthay Circle Theater on Sunset Boulevard at the Disney/MGM Studios at Walt Disney World, the Carthay Circle Theater is also found in a mural at Hollywood & Vine restaurant along with other local landmarks such as the Warner Brothers Studios and the Columbia Ranch.]

The Dwarfs at the Snow White premiere

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There were 12 complete Fantasound installations and two more in the works when the plug was pulled. A list of the cities and theatres was a part of the supplement on "The Fantasia Anthology" DVD, and derived from a ton of research conducted back in 1990 by Tim Hauser.