September 5, 2010

Time for faith, trust and pixie dust…

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies at 6:21 pm by dinaheng

The sound of a mighty Wurlitzer organ fills the 1,000 seat house of the El Capitan Theater, a beautifully renovated landmark in Hollywood that has become the home of Disney special events and movie premieres.

Before most shows, theater-goers are treated to a pre-show concert by theater organist Rob Richards, and a dazzling light show tribute to Hollywood. This week, through Sept. 19, a special live appearance by Tinker Bell will proceed the showing of “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue,” a new film scheduled for release on DVD September 21.

The El Capitan is the only theater in the country where the film will be seen on the big screen.

Originally opened on May 3,1926, the El Capitan served as a venue for live stage performances for its first 15 years, featuring stars like Clark Gable, Rita Hayworth and Bob Hope.

“They were transitioning into movies at the time, and probably honed their talents here,” says Ed Collins, director of operations for the El Capitan, who was in charge of its restoration for Disney. “The Wurlitzer organ was used to accompany silent movies because the organist could replicate the sound of 37 instruments. Then in 1928, sound changed the movies.”

Real estate developer Charles E. Toberman built the El Capitan, and partnered with impresario Sid Grauman to build the Egyptian Theatre and the Chinese Theatre, establishing Hollywood as a commercial theater district.

In 1941, most theaters were owned by movie studios, and when Orson Welles was unable to find a theater owner willing to screen his then-controversial “Citizen Kane,” he appealed to Toberman. The El Capitan hosted the premiere of “Citizen Kane,” and Toberman decided to convert the live theater venue into a movie house.

The structure was cast in an art moderne style that remains today, with an elegant Spanish Colonial exterior and an East Indian interior designed by San Francisco architect G. Albert Lansburgh. In 1942, it was renamed the Paramount Theater, and served as the flagship movie house for Paramount Pictures until 1989.

Disney reopened the theater as the El Capitan in 1991 with the premiere of “The Rocketeer,” and now has a Soda Fountain and Studio Store next door that offers treats and merchandise.

While the tots in today’s theater eagerly await the latest Tinker Bell release, they probably have no idea that in Sir James M. Barrie’s original 1904 play, “Peter Pan, Or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up,” Tinker Bell was seen as a flying point of light.

When Disney made Barrie’s play into a movie in 1953, animator Marc Davis turned Tinker Bell into a winged pixie that some thought looked a little too sexually suggestive with her  womanly figure.

But Tinker Bell went on to fly through the skies over Disneyland, and now has her own DVD series.

In “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue,” Tink meets her first human friend, years before meeting Wendy and the Lost Boys, and reminds us all that with “faith, trust, and pixie dust,” there’s nothing we can’t do.

So cue up the music, and let the show begin…

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