January 11, The El Capitan Theatre opened their limited engagement of the Disney classic Peter Pan.
To mark the occasion, they had a live panel of folks involved with the making of the film, moderated by noted film critic Leonard Maltin.
Making up the panel were Ted Thomas, son of legendary animator Frank Thomas; Margaret Kerry, live reference model for Tinker Bell; and Kathryn Beaumont, voice actress for Wendy.
Each panelist subsequently told a number of anecdotes about their recollections of the film-making process. Beaumont remembered how accessible Walt Disney was–how she would see him walking the hallway or waiting in line at the cafeteria, just like all the other team members. At the time, they were still recording the voices with the actors together, which she remembered being much more conducive to dynamic reads. She was particularly excited to find herself recording with Hans Conried, the voice of Mr. Darling/Captain Hook, as she was a big fan of his from his radio work.
The always-irrepressible Kerry discussed the persistence of the (false) rumor that Marilyn Monroe was actually the physical model for Tinker Bell, and the joy she found in doing the voice (as well as the body) of the red-headed mermaid–which led her to pursue other voice work in her career.
Thomas recollected his father at the time of the making of the film, and how he was assigned to animate mostly villains after the war, leading to him designing Captain Hook. Between performing all night each night with the Firehouse Five Plus Two at the Mocambo in Hollywood and an eight-week bout with pneumonia, he eventually hit on the combination of menace-with-elevated-self-image that embodies the Captain Hook we have today.
To finish the panel, we were then treated to a teaser trailer of Thomas’ new documentary “Growing Up With the Nine Old Men,” in which he catches up with the other animators’ children and they discuss their shared experiences. It looks fascinating, and will be included on the upcoming DVD release.
The next part in the program was a short pre-show with Jake, from Jake and the Neverland Pirates, which was then followed by a never-before-seen episode from the show.
So then the feature presentation played, and wow, but it looks great. Between the fantastic line drawing and the Mary-Blair inspired backgrounds, there is absolutely no surprise that it is such a classic. The animation is meticulous to the point that each character–even secondary ones like Mrs. Darling–are so well developed that there isn’t a frame they’re on screen, when you cannot look at their faces and tell instantly what they are thinking, and what their point of view is. If you haven’t seen Peter Pan in its entirety before (full admission: I had not. Don’t ask.) you owe it to yourself to see it on the big screen because it is a masterwork of a type of animation that simply isn’t done anymore.
Once the movie is over, your experience continues with photo-ops in the lobby.
Next door in the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store, there is a variety of food-related experiences to partake in–a character breakfast with Jake and a specialty sundae–that tie in with the movie. There is also a plethora of merchandise to purchase, enabling you to take the magic home.
Peter Pan runs multiple times a day at the El Capitan Theatre until February 7, 2013. For more information, please see http://elcapitan.go.com/