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Jack Smith

. . . And a good time was had by all at a Mickey Mouse evening at Hollywood Bowl

August 25, 1985|JACK SMITH

We mounted a perilous expedition the other evening--we took our entire family to the Hollywood Bowl for Disneyland's 30th anniversary show.

There were 12 of us, including the five grandchildren and a little friend of one who was invited. We came in three cars. We had three adjoining boxes. The women brought separate parts of the picnic dinner. I brought the wine.

It started out poorly. We were to pick up our younger son and his family at their house at 5:30 p.m. We got there at 5:30 on the dot, in keeping with my obsession about being on time. My son was in his old clothes, working in the garage. His son was in the shower. Our daughter-in-law was not home.

I decided that that particular phase of the operation was never going to get on the road. We left them their tickets and went on alone.

They arrived at the Bowl hardly 20 minutes after we did. I don't know how they did it. Youth, I suppose. Our older son arrived later with his wife and their three children, but of course when you have a 2-year-old you have problems other people don't have. That has been explained to us.

Morry Pynoos, president of the Children's Museum, stopped by our box and told us there were several celebrities in the crowd, including Mayor Bradley himself.

"And there's your friend Michael Jackson right over there," he said.

Our three older grandchildren screamed "Where!" with one voice, and I realized the irony of being a modest celebrity, only to have your name usurped by the idol of teen-aged millions. My Michael Jackson, of course, is the cerebral conductor of KABC's morning talk show. He used to be the Michael Jackson.

The show was a benefit for the Children's Museum, which attracts 260,000 children a year to its present quarters above the City Hall mall. (It is looking for a bigger home.) Most of its visitors have never seen the Civic Center before. Pynoos had sent tickets for this night's performance to 3,000 chidren, and it was certain that most of them would never have been to the Hollywood Bowl before, or even known that it existed.

It is some measure of my business acumen that when they started breaking ground for Disneyland, more than 30 years ago, I predicted that it would be a financial disaster. My comment was, "Who wants to drive all the way out to Anaheim to ride a merry-go-round?"

Half the world, that's who.

I also predicted the Disneyland anniversary show would be a bore. What was the point of animating characters, only to put those characters back into three-dimensional form and make them dance on a stage? What made animation fascinating in the first place was that it was animation--right?--drawings come to life.

Wrong. The children seemed to love the familiar figures when they came out on stage in three-dimensional form, with their comical masks and costumes. There is something about a Disney bear that is absolutely lovable.

Though there were obviously people inside the elephants that soft-shoed out, Snow White's Prince Charming arrived on a real white horse. I guess there is nothing comical about a prince's white horse.

Of course there is no doubt that Walt Disney made better animals than God does. I happened to meet the great man many years ago when I rode with a party of businessmen on a special train to visit Sam Mosher's orchid farm above Santa Barbara. In the club car Disney was talking about the problems they had turned up in stocking Adventureland, and he explained about the monkeys.

"At first," he said, "we tried using real monkey hides. But they began to deteriorate. We found out that nylon is better."

So there you are--nylon is better than nature.

Suddenly the stage was clear of Disney creatures and the orchestra played the "Nutcracker" suite. If I hadn't known the music was by Tchaikovsky, I might have thought it had been written especially for Disney. My 7-year-old granddaughter, Alison, smiled sweetly at me and said, "I recognize that."

I remembered that we had taken her to Long Beach a year ago Christmas to see the "Nutcracker" ballet. I was gratified that she "recognized" the music, and that she could use so big a word so exactly.

On the other hand, we pay a price for sophisticating them. When the big red toy soldiers came out to march to "Parade of the Toys," my oldest grandson pointed out that they weren't as precise as the Rockettes had been at the Shrine Auditorium Christmas show. Can't beat those showgirls.

As Times Staff Writer Lewis Segal wrote in his review of the show, it was "staged at just slightly less than the scale of the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics."

It was cozier when Richard and Robert Sherman came on stage with a piano to run through some of the dozens of songs they have written for Disney, playing and singing them just the way they had first presented them to the man himself, including their Oscar-winning songs for "Mary Poppins."

Mary Poppins, by the way, is my favorite Disney character. You can't make a better Julie Andrews out of nylon.

In the end, of course, the orchestra played "It's a Small World (After All)," the audience joined in with the Master Chorale, and I suspect that even the conductor, John Lanchbery, was singing along.

Then fireworks lighted the heavens and everyone went home happy.

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