Los Angeles Film & Music Preview: LACO @ THE MOVIES CELEBRATES WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS (The Theatre at Ace Hotel)

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by Tony Frankel on June 8, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles


Saturday June 13 is one of those magic days for entertainment choices in Los Angeles. Along with theater, dance, opera, the L.A. Film Festival and the Hollywood Fringe Festival, classic film is represented across town in classic movie palaces. Chaplin’s masterpiece City Lights is showing at the beautiful Los Angeles Theatre—the very structure where it premiered in 1931. Or you may want a double feature of the 1953 3-D versions of Kiss Me, Kate and Miss Sadie Thompson at the Egyptian.

Mickey Mouse in The Band Concert (1935)

logoIt’s a damn tough choice. Yet when I discovered that the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra is celebrating the music of Walt Disney Animation Studios at the stunning The Theatre at Ace Hotel, I cleared up my schedule posthaste. This truly will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. LACO will be playing live to nine classic Disney shorts, the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment from Fantasia (1940), and the Academy Award-nominated short Get a Horse! (2013), which uses archival recordings of Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse. The orchestra will be led by Get a Horse!’s six-time Emmy Award-winning composer Mark Watters.

Reams have been written about Walt Disney’s uncanny ability to foster some of the greatest songs ever written for the movies, often banking on unheard of composers and lyricists. But when Disney created the first sound cartoon—Steamboat Willie (1928) starring Mickey Mouse—he instinctively knew that the music would have to be more than straightforward, incorporating sound effects and using unusual instruments.

Get A Horse! (2013) © Disney Enterprises, Inc.

In the 1930s, he often looked to classical music as a source of inspiration in the Silly Symphony series of shorts. The selection I am most excited about is from 1935: Music Land. In this twist on a Romeo and Juliet story, the son of the King of the Isle of Jazz falls in love with the beautiful daughter of the Queen of the Land of Symphony. The cartoon gets by without conventional dialogue—the characters speak with the voices of musical instruments. When the two lands go to war in the Sea of Discord, the Land of Symphony blasts its rival with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, blowing holes in the rococo saxophone skyscrapers on the Isle of Jazz.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Africa Before Dark (1928)

Many will meet an original Disney character for the first time: Oswald, The Lucky Rabbit. This profitable silent cartoon star—along with some of Walt’s animators—was essentially taken from Walt in a sneaky contract deal by Charles Mintz in 1927. Now that the Walt Disney Company has acquired the intellectual property of Oswald, the adorable and likeable little creature, all soft curves and energy, is making a huge comeback at Disney California Adventure. He had no voice, being a silent star and all, but you will see in the inventive and well-constructed Africa Before Dark (1928) and Poor Papa (1928) that the Disney animators were becoming more skilled than their competitors at that time. Mr. Watters has composed an original orchestral score for each film, both of which haven’t been seen in more than 50 years.


You’ll also see the first Mickey Mouse cartoon: the iconic Plane Crazy (1929). Inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s first solo-flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, it was originally made as a silent, but the success of Steamboat Willie had Disney go back and add sound later. Also on the program is plenty of Mickey: the 80th anniversary of The Band Concert (1935), the first color Mickey Mouse cartoon to use the Technicolor process; Lonesome Ghosts (1937), in which Mickey, Donald and Goofy run a ghost exterminating agency; and Mickey’s Trailer (1938), a “road picture” with Mickey, Donald and Goofy involving a car separated from its trailer traveling down a mountain incline.


This is also a great way to discover The Theatre at Ace Hotel (previously United Artists Theater), built in 1927 in a heavily ornate Spanish Gothic style. The photo here, taken from the balcony, shows the ceiling, which is decorated as an enormous sunburst, with the oval dome at the center tiled with mirrors and hung with thousands of crystal drops.

still photos © Disney Enterprises

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
LACO @ The Movies Celebrates Walt Disney Animation Studios
Mark Watters, conductor
Saturday, June 13, 2015, 7 pm
The Theatre at Ace Hotel
929 South Broadway St in Downtown LA
for tickets, call 213 622 7001 or visit www.laco.org

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