Sunday, 4 September 2011

Where they Cut Off Your Ear if they don't Like Your Face

I'm afraid my "review" of the London screening is going to be a little late.  We didn't get home until midnight last night and a trip to the walk in centre this morning (no worries, nothing serious) threw out my planned blogging time as I had prior commitments this afternoon/evening.  So I'll update this post Monday/Tuesday with a proper update.

For now I'll just say it was an amazing, emotional experience, and yes it was the original lyrics for "Arabian Nights"!

Sorry for the delay everyone!  I've still not had chance to put the pictures on my computer so I'll add them soon (hopefully this weekend).

After an early morning start (like 5am early!) Jane and I drove from Manchester to London.  Yeah, I "dragged" my poor wife with me, not that she was complaining, the only thing that upset Jane was that Beauty and the Beast (her favourite Disney Classic) was on the week before and had sold out before we remembered BFI was doing The Disney 50!  We were lucky that the weather was really good so we got to spend a nice morning walking around the city before heading to the cinema to pick up our tickets.

The first thing I saw in the cinema was the old poster which straight away brought back memories.  We collected our tickets, went back outside for an ice cream, then went back in just in time to hear an announcement asking the audience to make their way to their seats as the film was ready to start.  I've not been to the BFI before and I have to say it's a really nice cinema with comfy seats and an intimate atmosphere.  The screen is set back (they still have the old fashioned curtains) and isn't as high as most modern cinemas so you don't have to strain your neck if you're on the front row like we were.

The curtains opened partially and they played the classic black and white short Donald's Crime.  It was a treat as I'd never seen it before and it really did help to take me back to being a kid again when Disney used to play the shorts before the main feature.  It was also gave a good feeling for the atmosphere the screening was going to have.  Going in I'd been expecting a mix of parents taking their children to see the film (maybe they'd seen it themselves growing up or maybe they were a bit older than that and just thought they'd take their kids to a Disney movie) and people who were mid-20s to mid-30s who had grown up with the film like me.  Instead the audience was almost full of people in my age range, there were a few kids but no where near the amount I'd expected.  The atmosphere was fantastic, really relaxed and yet at the same time there was an excitement, an anticipation for seeing an old childhood favourite on the big screen once again.

Once the short had finished the lights came up briefly as they let a few stragglers take their seats, then the lights went down again, the curtains opened fully, and the old Buena Vista International logo came on the screen, followed by the classic Disney Castle logo.  Now, I love the new castle logo and I think the castle looks beautiful, but seeing the old logo on the big screen with the classic music behind it almost teared me up, maybe it's an emotional connection to the past but it just has a quality that no CG image can match.

Honestly, I'd been expecting them to use the re-mastered DVD version of the film but from the slight grainy quality to the logo it was apparent that they were using one of the original film prints.  The real surprise came when the Narrator started to sing "where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face, it's barbaric but hey it's home".  I think I missed the next line just picking my jaw up off the floor in surprise!  I'd never seen the original film before (Aladdin only came out in 1993 in the UK so the lyric changes had already been made).  As far as I was aware this was the first time this version had been shown in the UK, though I later found out there was a London screening last year that also used an original US print of the film, not sure how I missed that!

As much as I love seeing the fully re-mastered vibrant colours of the DVD, I have to admit there was something refreshing to watching the original with the grain, its more muted colours and slightly less fluid animation.  I'd love it if Disney actually included the unrestored original versions on their DVD/Blu-Ray releases as bonuses, but sadly I don't think that'll happen any time soon.  Though I do have to admit digital has one major advantage over traditional film reels - this particular print of Aladdin had obviously been repaired at somepoint and lost a second or two of footage as Iago now says "I'm embarrassed, I'm blush-" before the film quickly cuts to the next scene!

The atmosphere, as I said earlier, was absolutely amazing.  You could tell from the laughter that everyone was having a great time and still loved an old childhood favourite (and now got all the jokes they probably missed when they were younger!) and it was refreshing to see it with an audience of people who probably haven't watched the film almost constantly for the last 20 years.  When you've seen the film so much that you can quote the next 5 lines without even trying, it can sometimes become a little mechanical.  You still love it, but you know where your favourite parts are, you know all the strengths and weaknesses, you know where to laugh.  To see it again with people who probably haven't seen it since the DVD came out, or maybe even earlier, lets you see it through new eyes.  I found myself laughing at parts I haven't laughed at in a long time and enjoying the film on another level.

What really got me more than anything else was the applause at the end of the film.  I'm not sure if it's a big deal in the US, but in the UK it almost never happens unless it's at a fan event (like midnight openings for Star Wars).  I was a little emotional anyway just seeing it on the big screen again, but the clapping really touched me and yeah I'll admit it made me cry a bit as well, and for that moment I felt a connection with everyone in the room.  And everyone stayed till the end of the credits.

Whilst Aladdin fanbase is strong and full of amazing people, we alone are not enough to keep a Broadway show open.  But sat in that cinema last weekend (and next weekend) were the people who can.  The casual fans who enjoyed the film in their childhood, who still love it and probably own the DVD, but don't visit fansites or message boards or blogs.  I don't live in London but as far as I'm aware there's been little to no advertising for the BFI's Disney 50 event, but Aladdin, like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King sold out.  A 20 year old animated movie, easily available on DVD (Aladdin was re-released as a Musical Masterpiece after the Platinum Edition went back in the vault so unlike the other 2 it's never been off the shelves over here) sold out.  And it didn't sell out to families with young children, it sold out to adults who loved the film as kids and who still love it as adults.  The same audience who I'm sure, along with their friends and families, helped to fill 5th Avenue every night in Seattle for most of July. The audience is there for Aladdin: The New Stage Musical, if Disney just reached out and asked for it.

Oh, and we decided to visit the new M&M's World in Leicester Square and it's actually bigger than the one in Times' Square!  And they have human sized M&M's that dance The Macarena!  It has to been seen to be believed!

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