Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Backstage Magic at The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood
As the nation's attention turned to Hollywood for last weekend's Academy Awards, let's stay in that area for a look around another historic theater. Last October, I had the chance to visit a monument to Hollywood's past, the The El Capitan Theatre, as part of the Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic tour.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre (almost directly across the street), so it appears his vision was not only a success in his lifetime, but has also stood the test of time. For much of the El Capitan's lifetime, the building operated under the Hollywood Paramount Theatre moniker, but an early 1990's restoration brought the property back to its glory years and restored the original name. The Walt Disney Company assisted with those restoration efforts and today acts as the primary tenant of the theater, which shows films from the Disney Studios' library and current releases from the various Disney film companies. A brief history of the theater is available of Disney's web site.
Rob Richards performed a wide range of Disney standards before the organ sunk into the floor and the theater fell dark when it was time for the movie to begin. This YouTube clip isn't exactly what we heard, but gives you an idea what the prelude to the movie was like.
Trick or Treat ran before the feature presentation, followed by a brief (video) introduction by Director Burton. The 3D feature was clear and smooth and the movie sounded great. The fourth dimension to the 3D film adds effects in the theater to the movie, such as Christmas lights, smoke, and snow at different times, synced with the film. The add-ons to the movie didn't change the cinematic experience all that much, but could be a fun addition to a familiar film and are definitely not part of any DVD or Blu-ray extras that you can see at home.
Disney's Soda Fountain & Studio Store, a good place to grab a snack before or after your trip to the theater. The Soda Fountain also hosts regular events for the always active Disney pin trading community, including limited edition releases (I left with one of a 500 pin Limited Edition run recognizing this year's showing of Nightmare, featuring Oogie Boogie). The night after we saw Nightmare, our Adventures by Disney tour treated us to an "ice cream social" at the Soda Fountain and afterwards some of our group got to see the El Capitan play host to the world premiere of Disney's Wreck-it Ralph. In our short time there, we saw evidence of just how busy Disney keeps this theater. We got a taste of the history of the property and a glimpse into its role in modern day Hollywood.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Backstage Magic at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
The Chinese Theatre, for years known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre in honor of its founder Sid Grauman, has always been a highly sought out location for Hollywood movie premieres and was the first theater to host the Academy Awards ceremony, after the event outgrew the hotel ballrooms where it was originally held. The Chinese Theatre is also known for its Forecourt to the Stars, home of celebrity hand and footprints. I had the chance to tour the Theatre in October, as part of the Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic tour.
Levi Tinker, greeted us in the Forecourt, where our tour group had taken some time to explore the marks celebrities ranging from the voice of Donald Duck to the cast of the Harry Potter movies have left their marks for generations. Levi took us through the lobby and into the main building, where he offered a brief history of the origins of the Theatre before taking us into the seating area. The history of the property is reasonably well documented on the Theatre's web site and Levi fired out facts faster than I could write them down, so my attempt to tell the site's history will be far less complete than what you can read elsewhere. What I can tell you is that Theatre is a significant part of Hollywood history, having hosted premieres, as a shrine to the luminaries who have brought films to the public for many years, and even as a location where movies continue to be filmed to this day. Our tour touched on all of those elements.
For anyone visiting Hollywood with an appreciation of movie history, architecture, or celebrities, a visit to the Chinese Theatre will be time and money well spent.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Naples: Make Your Own Pizza in Disneyland's Downtown Disney
Naples Ristorante in Disneyland's Downtown Disney.
While this was a special surprise for our Adventures by Disney tour group upon our arrival at Disneyland, the same experience is available to any group visiting Naples, though I suspect doing so requires reservations and a fair amount of advance notice. According to the Naples web site you can give them a call at 714-776-4000 to setup your own pizza party.
Some Tips from the ChefOur gracious host, Naples' Chef de Cuisine, Stefano Ciociola, offered the following tips for us when we went home to try our own hands at pizza making.
- Naples uses flour, water, and salt to make their dough (no eggs and no oil)
- Let dough rest for a few hours at room temperature before making your pizzas
- Make balls of dough and store them as half spheres, then cover while it rests
- Do not use flour while making the initial balls of dough (though we used copious amounts of flour on the tables while working our dough after it finished resting)
- We used 8 oz of dough for our personal pizzas
- When it is time to cook the pizza, use oil on the pizza pan
- Cook at 475 F for thin-crust pizza or a lower temperature for thicker-crusts
- Cook pizza until the crust is browned
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Illuminations Celebrates 25 Years
Last week, Illuminations celebrated 25 years of entertaining Epcot visitors. While the show has changed over the years it continues to provide a dramatic and sometimes poignant end to the day of anyone who finds a reasonable viewing spot around World Showcase Lagoon. D23 recently published one cast member's reflections on the show along with some statistics about the spectacle, past and present (Illuminations: 1988 from D23). I'll share some recent photos from the current incarnation of the show, Reflections of Earth.
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