Last month, I entered a contest sponsored by SuperHeroHype for a chance to win a ticket to the West Coast premiere screening of the latest DC Universe animated film, The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. Last week, an email arrived in my in-box, from one "Alfred Pennyworth". it said:
Warner Home Video, MTV Geek and The Paley Center for Media proudly present the World Premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, the highly anticipated next entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies.
Congratulations! You have been approved for one ticket to attend the West Coast premiere on Monday, September 24 at the Paley Center for Media (465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills).
Now to be candid, I wasn't really too hopped up on this movie. I'm a huge Batman fan, and this was an adaptation of a highly-praised graphic novel that I read as each of its four issues were first published. It's influenced Batman stories written since its 1986 debut and Batman films from Batman in 1989 to this past summer's The Dark Knight Rises.
I've never been to the Paley Center, but I have seen Q&A panels that have been held there for the TV shows Glee and Castle. I assumed it would be in the same screening room. My email from "Alfred" said to arrive no later than 5:45 p.m. I got there by 5:30 p.m. There was a line outside, but I soon learned a good portion of the line included Media who were allowed in twenty minutes before us. We finally got in after 6:00 p.m. Off to the side was a glass-walled room where we could see all of the Media grouped, assuming waiting for their individual chances to interview the evening's VIPs: voice actors Peter Weller (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Ariel Winter (Robin/Carrie), and Peter Selby (Commissioner Gordon), director Jay Oliva, writer Bob Goodman, voice casting director Andrea Romano, and producer Bruce Timm.
I left briefly to move my car from one parking lot to the one across the street. The first structure I found charged nothing for the first two hours and then $3.00 each 1/2 hour afterwards. But both lots I found offered a flat rate of $5 if you enter after 6p. Since the one across the street closed at midnight, not 9pm like the first, it was well worth the car re-parking drama. (And the event didn't end until 9:45p!)
I entered the screening room and was surprised at how small it was. Looked so much larger in the Q&As I'd previously seen. It had about 120 seats. The two front rows were reserved as were much of the back four rows. Estimating there were only about 40 or 50 of us in line out, I realized just how lucky I was when I won my free ticket!
There was one brief announcement just after 7pm when the screening was scheduled to start to let us know that they were just finishing up with the Media portion and would begin running the movie soon. A marketing rep from Warner Bros. finally greeted us and acknowledged some folks from the Paley Center before the screening started. The lights were lowered and a short promo for the Paley Center played as the panel VIPs snuck in to take their seats in the front rows.
The movie was amazingly great! The pacing, tone, voice casting, sound design, musical underscore and animation were all perfect! And I laughed out loud with the rest of the audience a lot through the movie. Most times they were with the movie. But there were a few, rare moments when the details in the original novel didn't play as well in a movie. The big, hulking Batman running effortless across a wire between buildings being one of those scenes. But the fight scenes were bone-crushing and well choreographed. There's a lot of firepower in the story, Batman battling a mob army armed with all sorts of military weaponry - automatic machine guns, grenades, bazookas - and seeing it acted and sounded out was incredible! And there was a moment when I teared up. I grew up watching Batman and Robin and reading about their adventures together. When Batman is introduced to his new Robin after a dicey battle that went wrong, I don't deny I got really choked up!
As the credits rolled at the end, the sound was dialed down, the curtains were drawn closed and the lights came up. It was at this time that the VIPs were introduced as they took their seats at the front of the screening room for the panel discussion. And we were all allowed to take pictures, just without using any flash.
Some of the things revealed:
• The lines in the second scene between Peter Weller and David Selby were taken about a month apart. But viewing the film, you'd never have guessed that.
• I did not know Peter Weller was a professor. He has a Masters in Renaissance Art and considers comic books an American art form. He said he grew up reading Batman comic books and was happy that he got the chance to add to Bob Kane's legacy.
• I did not know that David Selby was in the original Dark Shadows series.
• I did not know that Ariel Winter is some famous sitcom star. But since I don't watch Modern Family and missed watching the Emmys over the weekend, I can be forgiven. :) I also thought she was darn cute, but then later found out she's 14.
• Peter Weller praised the film score and complimented the composer personally when he was told that the composer, Christopher Drake, was in the audience. He told us the music was inspired by the types of scores that came out when The Dark Knight Returns was first published in the late 80's. So it was done analog, including having to locate old, out-dated synthesizers to use on the recordings.
• Bruce Timm told us the voice actor cast to play the Son of the Batman,Yuri Lowenthal, brought him a photo of himself to show to Timm. It was from 1986 of Lowenthal dressed up for Halloween as a Son of the Batman, straight from the graphic novel.
• Of the voice cast there, Peter Weller was the most vocal and enthusiastic about how great the film was.
• One surprise visual gag in the movie is discovering a bookshelf in a shop with familiar DC Comics titles for sale on it. Director Oliva was asked about that and he said it was his idea, because that's how he remembered comic books displayed when he started reading them. He emailed his staff for suggestions of DC titles to show there from the late 1980's, and DC came back to him with clearances on the ones he could use.
• The cast have already done their recordings for The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2.
• Bruce Timm and the DC Marketing guy who hosted the panel strongly hinted that a release combining Parts 1 and 2 together is in motion. They said to watch for their 2013-2014 release slate to be announced during the New York Comic Con in October.
• Peter Weller is friends with Frank Miller. Asked for what he thought Miller would say about the movie, Weller basically said Miller would just be pleased we were talking about him.
• Bruce Timm said it wasn't very easy to come up with the final character design style for this movie. Studying the original graphic novel, they found that Miller had drawn Batman differently throughout the whole novel. But they did notice that when in combat, Batman was drawn leaner than when he's standing still and can made to appear like a giant of a man.
We were told that anyone asking good questions would received a gift. Damn if I didn't raise my hand every time. But I just didn't get picked. Looked like winning questioners received either an autographed The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 poster or an autographed Blu-ray of the movie. Here are the rest of my photos from the evening. Can't wait for "early 2013" to come around to see Part 2.
Waiting with hundreds of other park guests around the Hub from about 11 a.m. to the time the shuttle flew over, our conversations - based mostly on heresay and fantasy - built up this expectation among us that the Endeavour's flight path would travel directly in line over Main Street U.S.A. between Sleeping Beauty Castle and Main Street Station with hopefully another lap to follow just for good measure.
At 12:25 p.m., that wasn't anywhere near what actually happened.
It began with hearing crowds near the west (Frontierland) side screaming followed immediately by the roar of jet engines approaching. Dozens of arms to my left pointed skyward, and I turned my camera on and aimed westward.
The appearance of the Space Shuttle Endeavour flying over us was surprising, exciting and then quite brief! After it flew over, there were cheers from all the guests that had filled up the Hub ara. But we amateur photogs in what we thought was going to be the "sweet spot" inside the park all wondered, "Would it circle back? Surely it'll fly over the Castle so Disney can take that 'perfect' shot, right?"
A minute later, we saw the shuttle back in view. It was in the distance looking down towards the Disneyland entrance. It was small passing over Main Street Station and flying westward. Westward. Towards the coastline? On its way to El Segundo before landing in LAX? We waited...
...and then, we knew that was it.
There was envy and disappointment. Those standing on the steps of Main Street Station surely got better shots that included the Castle and Main Street U.S.A. in their shots. Everyone in the Hub pretty much got sky for background. Maybe some tree tops, because flew over us. OVER us!
In the end, I have this video capturing the excitement of the moment and some shots before and after. And perhaps more importantly, bragging rights to say "I was there!"
Thank you, NASA! Farewell, Space Shuttle Program.
"The Enterprise Incident"
Over the weekend, Star Trek turned 46 years old.
On September 8, 1966, NBC first aired an episode of Star Trek at 8:30 p.m. The episode was titled "The Man Trap", and it was television audiences' introduction to Captain James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock, Chief Medical Officer Leonard "Bones" McCoy and the missions of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise. Forty-six years later, people the world over recognizes these names along with the phrases "Beam me up, Scotty," "Space, the final frontier," and "These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise."
Star Trek originally ran on NBC for three seasons. I didn't discover the show until the 1970's when it aired in syndication. I would've been a pre-teen at the time. And I ate it up! It wasn't just the atmosphere and adventure of the show that reeled me in or its optimistic view of the future, but the look and structure of it too. There was no Internet back then, but I found books like The Making of Star Trek, the Star Fleet Technical Manual, the Star Trek Concordance, and magazines like Starlog. And the background information they offered on this show that aired just in reruns Mondays through Fridays fed my youthful, voracious interest in the show, schooling me on the meaning of the uniform colors, rank braid on the sleeves, insignias worn by the crew and what all the details about the classic starship were called and used for. I was always drawing as a kid, and I doodled my fair share of starships, phasers and Starfleet officers back then.
Original 1966 broadcast trailer (left) and the 2007 trailer to promote the Remastered version of "The Man Trap" (right).
Neil Armstrong was just months away from taking mankind's first steps on the moon when Star Trek's last episode aired in primetime on 1969. Ten years later, Star Trek was reborn in a series of motion pictures featuring the original cast and later spun off into four new television series. With another motion picture due out next summer, Star Trek continues to thrive with the support of its trend-setting "trekkies" (or "trekkers" if that's your preference).
Waking up last Saturday morning, my only plan to celebrate Star Trek's birthday was simply to pull out my Blu-ray set of Season One of Star Trek that evening and watch "The Man Trap" right at 8:30 p.m. But another notion popped into my head after stimulated by a couple of sips of coffee, a desire to do something else to celebrate. And being that guy who is always taking pictures, I thought about what photos I could possibly take. Looking around my living room that could be a set for The Big Bang Theory, my brain flashed with the idea of calling a row of Star Trek books sitting on a shelf a "return to tomorrow", the significance being that the books documenting the science fiction show's history would be poetically titled after an actual episode of Star Trek.
"Return to Tomorrow"
I loved my idea, thank you very much! And the rest of my morning was dominated by a mix of brainstorming other original episode titles that could inspire other photos and setting up those Star Trek collectibles into pretty pictures. Out of 79 episode titles, I used six. And I am pretty pleased with myself and the results.
I've included two here. The rest you can see in their own collection, or menagerie, on Flickr. Enjoy!
And Live Long and Prosper.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!