Well, Moriarty.... I told ya so. You see folks, Moriarty and I have been arguing back and forth about Disney's TARZAN. I agree with him about the Rosie O'Donnell decoolbrilating effect on the movie which almost threatens to 'gargoyle' TARZAN up like HUNCHBACK.... BUUUUUUUUUT, for me the rest of the film was soooooo STRONG... It doesn't matter. The movie has the potential to dethrone LION KING in my opinion. I wholeheartedly love it, that is why I am so passionate about my hatred for the Rosie character.. It is the shiny penny that breaks the magic spell. BUT this is such a magic spell... it keeps entrancing you. Now... at the same time, there is what this movie could have been, which is the greatest adventure animated work since the Fleischer SUPERMAN cartoons.... Studying Burne Hogarth or Neal Adams.... Playing it straight, becoming the first ILLUSTRATED MOVIE, instead of a cartoon. But... what a cartoon it is. It will be successful beyond expectations. The songs will go triple platinum. The movie is going to work on the public and capture imaginations... And for the few of us that know... it could have been even more. But hey... here's MORIARTY'S coverage....
Hey, Head Geek...
Well, ShoWest has finally drawn to a close. I say "finally," even though it's actually only been four days. As soon as I am back in the Moriarty Labs, I will download all the information I've gathered into the powerful computer brain of the Labs so I can get all my reports out to you. I still owe you all a write up of the whole Warner lunch, the Tuesday night Awards ceremony, the digital cinema demonstration, and today's Miramax lunch. Tonight, though, I'd like to share with you my impressions of the Disney event, the thing that capped it off for all of us.
Most of the convention has taken place at the Bally's Casino and Hotel, but for this one event, Disney offered buses to everyone that would carry them up the strip to the MGM Grand. I just drove over from my hotel, parked my car, and went inside. It took a little while to find my way around, but I eventually located the Grand Garden Arena, where people were already walking in. I flashed my ticket and made my way into the Arena itself. At first glance, I was underwhelmed by Disney's efforts. The Arena hadn't been decorated at all. You have to understand -- all I've heard all week is that Disney really knows how to spend, Disney really knows how to throw a party, Disney's going to knock your socks off. Well, I would say that I was anything but impressed. I found a seat, settled in for the wait. A half-hour later, after the place was completely packed (this was easily the largest turnout for any event, including Fox's STAR WARS event the night before), the lights went down and Michael Eisner walked out.
He was loose, relaxed, and totally confident as he said that he wasn't going to come until Joe Roth told him what they had planned. Eisner revealed to the crowd that they weren't going to show us any clips for anything tonight. Instead, they decided to show TARZAN in its entirety. He warned the audience that the film is only 80% done, but that they felt it was worth the chance to show it to an audience now since they're so excited about the film and confident in it. With that, Eisner left and the film began.
Now, I reviewed TARZAN about eight weeks ago here on the site as part of my IRON GIANT article. If you look around, you'll find it. At that time, I got a number of e-mails that said, "You saw the wrong cut," or "They've fixed it," or "You didn't see the right film." After seeing it tonight, I can confirm that the print I saw was EXACTLY the same as the print they showed tonight, except that less of it was in color. The story, the characters, the ending... identical. The problems I had with the film still stand. Clayton is a terrible antagonist... he's dull, just some guy who wants to shoot a monkey. Jane's father and Rosie O'Donnell's ape character are deadly unfunny, even though they're the most obvious stabs at comic relief. The musical number in the campsite when Rosie and the other apes launch into a STOMP-style scat singing musical number is still painful in the extreme. The whole film still feels like a collection of moments and not a cohesive whole.
Despite this, let me say that TARZAN is going to be a monster, monster hit. There's a lot that is genuinely good about it. The animation is sensational. Glen Keane's work on Tarzan is just astounding. The backgrounds are lush, dense, and hypnotic. The Phil Collins songs are great. They work a lot like Randy Newman's songs in TOY STORY, providing a counterpoint to what we're seeing, a sort of guiding voice through the film. The opening 30 minutes or so of the film are just fantastic (except for every teeth-grinding moment of Rosie) as Tarzan goes from being a lost baby adopted by Kala to becoming a man, Lord of the Jungle. I applaud the way the film is cut up front, and wish it could have sustained such an exceptionally high level of quality. The crowd around me loved the movie. I am definitely in the minority with my complaints. That's fine. As I said, I expect this to make buckets of cash for Disney, and in many ways they deserve it. I can't help but wonder what this film would have been if the same creative team had worked under Jeffrey Katzenberg. I have a feeling it would be deserving of Disney's favorite overused word -- a masterpiece.
When the film ended, the lights didn't come on. Instead, the screen rose, revealing that there was a band set up onstage. Three drummers, a keyboardist, three guitar players, four backup singers... and Phil Collins himself. He kicked into the first of 10 songs, using the opening music from the film. The crowd came to their feet and went nuts. They were already high from the movie, and seeing Collins live only made them crazier. He played three songs from TARZAN, then launched into seven more songs from throughout his career. Through it all, the crowd stayed on their feet, applauding, cheering, and going crazy.
And it hit me as I sat there... even though I personally was really excited by last night's SW party, Fox and Lucasfilm really, really blew it. They had a chance to make every exhibitor feel involved in STAR WARS. They had a chance to convince them that there is no reason to fear anything regarding the film. They had a chance to throw an event that would have left these people buzzing for months. Instead, Disney has completely stolen their thunder. Oh, sure... we STAR WARS fans are going crazy about the new trailer. After all, it's on TV, it's on the Web... it's everywhere. That's the problem, though. ShoWest is about giving these people something extra. It's about getting them on your team 100%, and Lucas showed them the same trailer and poster that he released to the world less than six hours later. All I heard today was grumbling and grousing from everyone about how much of a non-event the whole Fox thing turned out to be. The exhibitors were actually pissed off at Lucas. I heard the same questions all day: Couldn't John Williams have played more? Couldn't he have played new music? Couldn't the orchestra have performed while new PHANTOM MENACE clips were playing? Couldn't Lucas have brought something that was truly unique? Personally, I am still just trying to soak the whole trailer in. I loved it. But this convention is about the people who will be the final step in putting your film in front of the public, and those are the people who felt burnt. You can bet that when Phil Collins played "I Can't Dance" tonight, no one in that Arena was feeling burnt. They were all jamming the stage, dancing, out of their minds with happiness.
By now, I was convinced that Disney won. Their presentation was clearly the biggest "event" of the week. (The actual biggest event, of course, being the debut of the EYES WIDE SHUT footage) When these people go back to their cinemas around the world, it's Phil Collins' excellent music from the film that will be playing in their heads. When they're gearing up for the summer and decoration their lobbies, it's TARZAN they'll think of first.
Once Collins played 10 songs, finishing with "Sussudio," he thanked everyone and left the stage. The prototypical happy plastic Disney voice came over the PA, inviting us all to dinner in the Grand Convention Center Ballroom. This was a mere 15 hour hike from where we saw the film. I can only imagine what people must have thought when they saw the stream of thousands and thousands of people (literally) surging through the complex. Everyone just got out of the way, let us through. When we reached the Grand Ballroom, I was forced to reassess Disney's comittment again. They whole place was decorated with a strong jungle theme, down to a tiger and a leopard in cages near the door, monkeys and birds inside, and greenery everywhere. We were each given the first CD single from the soundtrack as a gift. With that, Disney turned us loose and fed us well. I used the event to say goodbye to some of the tremendous people I met here -- Steve from St. Petersburg, Helmut and Joaquin from Germany, John from Australia (not Patrick as I wrote last night... told you I was drunk), Jim Kozak (the man responsible for AICN being there, and one hell of a decent guy who just happened to have the best damn hair at ShoWest), David Poland (whose cool mention of this site in Thursday's HOT BUTTON column over at www.roughcut.com was greatly appreciated), everyone who sat at table S4 for all the Event center functions. I really can't emphasize how gracious and friendly people have been. I hope I have made some genuine friends over the last four days, people I will speak to and see again. It sure felt like it.
Walking around, listening to people, I just kept thinking how smart Disney is. This film is going to explode when it opens. Everyone will see it. No matter what my complaints are, the good outweighs the bad, and most people won't even care about what is bothering me. This is one of their most confident pictures since Katzenberg's departure, and their return should be incredible. There was some concern about my having seen the film until it was pointed out that me reviewing something I've already seen is dull. It was at least two hours before I left the party, and I was one of the last few out. As I walked back through the MGM Grand and realized ShoWest was actually over, I grew very sad. Can't the studios just stay forever and keep showing us goodies and giving us free things and throwing huge lunches for us?
And now, having shared that with you, I must head back to my hotel and begin to prepare for my return journey in the morning. All this travel lately leaves me somewhat discombobulated. I am looking forward to spending my weekend writing those articles and relaxing. I am also looking forward to the next time I'm able to do something like this. I enjoy being your eyes and ears inside these things, everyone. I know we can't all get to ShoWest, but I'd like to pass on the whole experience. If I've done that to any extent, then this whole trip and all the late hours and all the unexpected expenses were worth it. Start looking for the rest of this coverage on Saturday. Until then...