From the Set to the Red Carpet - NOT A Very Bad Day at All

Sit back. Get some popcorn. I have a wonderful "full circle" type story for you today.

Jonathan worked on the film, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day last summer as a featued background actor. 

It started almost exactly a year ago when Jonathan decided he might like to give acting a shot. He signed up with a casting agency that specializes in background actors. Specifically kids. Because we homeschool and his high school classes were all online, there were no scheduling difficulties. 

He started working almost immediately as he was 17 and a few productions needed teenage background actors. I recall we were on vacation when I received the email asking if he was available to work for a few days in September on an upcoming Disney movie. 

Wait. WHAT?

Disney had a film in production and they needed a few kids to work "featured" background." They were calling them the Prom Kids. That's all the information they gave us. 

Edith Head and Me

We saved the filming dates and the next thing we know, Jon and I are on our way to the Edith Head Building at Universal Studios for a wardrobe fitting. 


Having worked as the costume person (and a huge fan of Edith Head) for theater productions for years, I was completely over-the-moon-out-of-my-skin-excited for the opportunity. I may or may not have made a complete fangirl fool of myself asking a bizzillion questions of the costume people. (Please notice the costumes from Once and Barbra Streisand's skating outfit from Funny Girl. That is all.)


 We still knew nothing about the what or why of the scene or the film, but dutifully followed all the directions we had.


Jon was delighted with his skinny, Euro-tailored suit and Italian leather shoes. Also, the wardrobe people were just lovely. 


We arrived on the set a few days later. Call time was 8:00 am for the days we were there for filming, which meant we left our house at 6:00 am. I know. "Wah, wah...we had to get up early to go work on a Disney movie." (Not complaining at all.)

Getting Camera Ready

First thing in the morning, Jon would check in with the wardrobe, hair, and makeup people. 





Then we were off to the set to "hurry up and wait."

The Prom Kids

There were 5 "featured background" kids - 3 guys and 2 beautiful girls. They quickly bonded - it's a strange feeling being dressed and made up for prom for an entire day, waiting for your scene. They began calling themselves "The Breakfast Club." (Early call times, you know.)


The Japanese Restaurant 

These particular days, the filming took place at a Japanese restaurant in Pasadena, which, in the film is called Nagamaki.  With a bit of movie magic and the change of a sign, we were now in the world of Alexander and his family.


This is where we were esconced during the filming of the restaurant/prom scene. Gratefully, it was air-conditioned. (Which proves the existence of God as far as I'm concerned.)

Hanging with the Talent

All the actors, including the background people, were in different rooms of the (air-conditioned-thank-you-God!) Japanese restaurant waiting for their scenes to be called. 


It was sooo accidentally cool to be:

  • Working on a movie set.
  • With Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.
  • Keeping our fingers crossed that Jon's "prom moment" would make it into the film.



Steve Carell was truly gracious in allowing photos with the kids. Jon may or may not have said, "You...are my biggest fan," which got a laugh out of Steve. He also bought pizza for 80 people the night we had to stay late on the set. Lovely human.



Is He or Isn't He?

There are two moments in the film, and I mean moments, as in, if you blink, you missed them, where the Prom Kids are featured. 

One is where the characters of Celia and Anthony, played by Bella Thorne and Dylan Minnette see their friends at the Japanese restaurant on prom night.


Cue the Prom Kids.



They took turns walking in with a different person, in a different order. In the film, their "moment" is cut to less than 2 seconds. And no, Jon didn't make the cut. (Note: I totally would have made the same decision if I were the director. It makes sense to the plot of the film.) But still...*sigh*



At the end of the craziness that takes place in the restaurant (by the way, Steve Carell actually caught all those shrimp in his mouth with no CG, but that's not important right now) there's a scene that takes place just outside of a limo. 


They filmed the kids walking to the limo, getting into the limo, sitting in the limo. In the scene that actually made it into the film, Jon is IN THE LIMO. So, no, you don't see him at all on film. But he's IN THE LIMO. 

This has now become the running joke around here: "JON WAS IN THE LIMO!" Or hashtag: #jonwasinthelimo. I guess you had to be there...

What Was It Like on the Set?

You know at the end of a film when they roll the end credits and they go on for miles and miles? Well, those people are my heroes now. I know the stars and the director and producers are the ones who take the bows, but the people who make all the magic happen - the lighting, props, effects, makeup, wardrobe, best boys, and key grips and all that - they are my heroes. 

Not only were they super professional and hard-working, they were delightful and happy to answer all the questions that the über-curious Cuban mom threw at them.

Truthfully, I was giddy and happy and bouncing around with such enthusiasm because I was so happy to just be there (even in the inflatable cast I was wearing around this time) as this was all happening. I don't know if they felt sorry for me, or if my crazy was contagious. I could so appreciate all of their artistry. 


Seriously, prop people, what a fun job!


The Walt Disney Studios

So, here we are one year later and the film, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is ready to be released. Imagine my delight when Disney invited us to pre-screen the movie at the Disney Studios in Burbank. They were gracious enough to let Jon invite his friends. (Thanks, Disney people!)


We prepared them for the two scenes which Jon may or may not have been in.

Afterwards, they were wonderfully supportive (as only good friends can be in that moment when you find out your scenes have been completely cut from a Disney film) and consoled him with, "But, Jon, you were IN THE LIMO!

The Red Carpet Premiere

On Monday, October 6th, we were invited to the Red Carpet Premiere of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day at Disney's El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. (<--Please appreciate that sentence and be appropriately impressed and freaked out with me. Thankyouverymuch.)

Of course, I've already told you about the Press Junket.

As we walked the Red Carpet, I couldn't help but feel grateful at how we had come full circle and had the wonderful opportunity to experience the movie-making process from wardrobe fitting, to being on the set and working on the movie. Now here we were walking the Red Carpet on premiere night. What a gift.



The After-Party

As if it wasn't enough that we had the privilege to see the film with all the stars at the gorgeous El Capitan Theater, we were also invited to the after-party. 

Wait. What? (Somebody pinch me.)

I know. It was so much fun to be a part of the celebration. Dylan Minnette, who plays big brother, Anthony, remembered Jonathan from the days that he spent on the set.


Ed Oxenbould, who plays Alexander is an absolute delight.


We ate, we mingled, we discussed our good fortune to have been invited. I was proud of Jon in that he handled the disappointment beautifully and quickly went back to being his wonderful, goofy self. This whole thing has been a bit surreal.

So there you have it. That's the story of the journey that Jonathan and I took from Movie Set to Red Carpet. I'm still a little bummed that Jon didn't make it into the film at all, but so grateful for the amazing experiences I got to share with my son this past year.


Also, when you go see the film, please remember that: JON WAS IN THE LIMO!

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day opens everywhere on Friday, October 10th, 2014.

Saving Mr. Banks - a love story

The year was 1964 and my family had just moved from Florida to California. (Obviously, we've been here ever since, but that's not important right now.) I was nine years old.

One of the very first things we did was visit Disneyland. It had captured our imaginations from early on and we were so excited to visit the iconic park. Of course, as you know we fell in love with all things Disney at that point and pretty much never looked back. (Read about my mom's special Disney wish, made the year I was born.)

Another thing that happened in 1964, was the release of Walt Disney Pictures' Mary Poppins. My older sisters took me to see it in a theater in Westwood, as I recall. I can still even remember where I was sitting. The impact on my young imagination was immediate and visceral. I have never in my life had a theater experience like that one. I was completely captivated.

Immediately, I started begging for the long play album. In stereo. *sigh* The Disney magic is quite a force to be reckoned with. I played it and played it and memorized every song and practically wore out the grooves on that LP. Good times.

Mary poppins lp

Recently, Lucy and I were invited to a pre-screening of the film, Saving Mr. Banks, which was being shown in the Frank G. Wells Screening Room on the Walt Disney Studios lot.

Disney pictures tower


So, to clarify...we were going to see Saving Mr. Banks, which is about the relationship between Walt Disney and the author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins on the exact same lot that both pictures were filmed. If you've seen the trailers, you already know it's a beautiful thing. (Somebody pinch me.)

Having grown up during this specific time period, I can testify to the fact that Disney got the 60's look just right. Having been a lifelong Disneyphile (<--is that a word?) I was hardly surprised by how intensely I responded to the film. Almost the same reaction I had to seeing Mary Poppins back in 1964.

My favorite part of this clip is when songwriter Richard Sherman talks about how the film makers and designers did their job so well that he felt it was like watching a home movie.

Picture me and Lucy bouncing around the studio lot (seriously - there was bouncing) going from one spot to another. "Look at this! This is where that one scene was shot! Walt's office was up there!"

We had just seen the film and our emotions were still raw and the excitement was spilling out of us.

Animation studio then and now

See what we did there?

A few days later, I was invited to the press junket for Saving Mr. Banks, which made me feel sooo accidentally cool and a bit stressed at the same time. Burning question: What does one do at a press junket? And where exactly did that word come from?

So I dragged Eric along with me to the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel where I would get to ask questions of the actors and film makers.

Beverly hills hotel

The List of People at the junket made my head spin.

  • Tom Hanks ("Walt Disney")
  • Emma Thompson ("PL Travers")
  • Colin Farrell ("Robert Goff Travers")
  • Jason Schwartzman ("Richard Sherman")
  • BJ Novak ("Robert Sherman")
  • Bradley Whitford ("Don DaGradi")
  • John Lee Hancock (Director - he also directed The Blind Side.)
  • Kelly Marcel (Writer)
  • Alison Owen (Producer)

Emma thompson and tom hanks

Seriously. Somebody pinch me.

Cast of saving mr banks

I loved being a part of this day. The cast was brilliant as they patiently answered our questions. They were also were delightfully entertaining. I especially loved this moment when Tom Hanks describes the day he took his grandaughter to Disneyland. (Please excuse the herky-jerky, grainy, potato-phone video and enjoy the story.)

When the press event was over, some of us bloggers kind of rushed Tom Hanks for photos. He was very accomodating for a few minutes, but was being called to another appointment. We are all pushing to document the moment and get on camera with Tom Hanks.

Here's how this went down...

Me: "Tom! Selfie?"

Tom Hanks (starting to lean in)

Disembodied voice: "Mr. Hanks, we have to go now."

Tom Hanks look up to respond to the voice.

Marta snaps this shot.

Selfie with Tom

I lead a charmed life, don't I?

My opinion of the film? Oscar worthy. Beautiful. Iconic. Magical. Not-Enough-Superlatives.

Emma Thompson is by turns electrifying and cringe-worthy as the fussy P.L.Travers. An amazing performance. Tom Hanks is the embodiment of Walt Disney himself. Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak are phenomenal as the legendary songwriters, Richard and Robert Sherman. Colin Farrell breaks your heart.

Full disclosure: I cried. Not just a single tear escaping the corner of my eye, but I wept. Openly and loudly. I guess you could call it "ugly" crying. Having said that, I encourage you to go see this film. Much the same way that Mary Poppins affected me back in 1964, my imagination has been captured and so has my heart.

Also, guess what's playing on a constant loop at my house right now?

Saving mr banks soundtrack

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

See the film. And take tissues. You've been warned.

Disney's Saving Mr. Banks opens everywhere on December 20th, 2013.

The Circle of Life - Lion King 3D and Eternal Disney Uber-geeks

Back in 1994, I took Amy and Adam to the premiere of the Disney film, The Lion King at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. This was obviously before Lucy and Jonathan were born. We all loved the film so much that we couldn't wait to own it when it was released on VHS. (Yes, this is waaay back in the day.)

A few years later, when we added two more little ones to our family, our love for The Lion King never diminished.

When my son, Jonathan, was very little, he loved watching Disney's The Lion King on our VHS player. He's almost 16 now and I imagine that like most of his generation, they grew up watching Simba grow from cub to king and knew every moment of the film and every song by heart.

Simba presentation

In the first scene, when all the animals come to the presentation of Simba, Jonathan would stretch his arms out for someone (usually me - Wait! Would that then make me the monkey??) to pick him up and "present" him. He would usually signal his older siblings to bow down, and to my endless astonishment and to their everlasting credit, they always did.

Jonathan D

We've also enjoyed watching the live musical production of The Lion King. Seriously, so much love for this movie and show.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a preview screening of The Lion King 3D at the Walt Disney Studio Lot with my friend, Jana (The Summer House). 

We were wide-eyed and amazed and feeling sooo accidentally cool to be visiting the Walt Disney Studios. You can imagine what that was like for a Disney-uber-geek like myself. (Pinch me!) 

Studio sign

First of all, the film itself (even though I knew every line by heart) stands the test of time. It's completely as fresh and funny and poignant as it was so many years ago. The 3D effects make the scenes just that more thrilling (particularly the wildebeast stampede, but that's not important right now).

Lion King 3D

Having the privilege of seeing it at the Walt Disney Studios just gave me another thing to put a checkmark next to on my Bucket List. (I'll have to tell you all about it in great detail, but that's a post for another day.)

Do yourself a favor and GO. SEE. THIS. FILM. It's only in theaters for the next two weeks. In 3D, people! (Not the roller-coaster-stomach-churning 3D, the very cool-modern-the-characters-look-so-real 3D.)

Take your kids who were so little when it was released in theaters the first time, so they can enjoy the full effects. Encourage your teenagers and young adults to go see it again on the big screen so they can relive the magic. Seriously. You'll thank me.

As for Jonathan, who wants to one day be a film maker, well.....he just can't wait to be king. ;-)

Jon at the Walt Disney studios

Do you have some good memories of The Lion King? Please share.