March 22, 2012
Thursday Treasures: Disney Film Premieres
By: Pedro Hernandez
Back in the day, there was something that Disney
used to do very, very well, and that was treat its animated movies
like big, once in a lifetime, events. It was more than just a movie
that was out at the time and then released on home video a few
months later, it was something that needed to be experienced while
you could! Disney spared no expense in making sure people went to
see these movies and would be entertained from the minute the
opening credits roll till the last note of the musical is heard,
even if it meant invading New York or New Orleans and put on the
biggest show ever in honor of the latest Disney Animated Classic.
That's precisely what they did in 1995, 1996 and 1997 when
Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules
Have you ever heard the wolf cry to
the blue corn moon?
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grins?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
After the grand success of The Lion King, it
seemed like Disney saw that the rest of the Disney films could
benefit from this momentous occasion. The next film after The
Lion King would have to be treated as something that was beyond
special. Pocahontas was the movie premiere that Disney
thought would give them great prestige. While film critics and
audiences would think otherwise as time went on, Disney decided that
its premiere would have to be more than just a press event for the
stars and production team members to exclusively enjoy.
Pocahontas would have its premiere in New York, most
specifically in Central Park, on June 10, 1995. The event was huge
to say the least as four giant screens adorned the park and
displayed the movie to thousands of New Yorkers and Disney fans. It
wasn't televised on the Disney Channel at the time, but they sure
did talk about it a lot. And for good reason! Regardless of whether
you love the film as a romantic period piece or hate it with a
passion you have to agree that this was something that many would
remember for its sheer ambition alone.
Everything is upsy-daisy!
Everyone is acting crazy!
Dross is gold and weeds are a bouquet!
That's the way of Topsy Turvy day!
The next film premiere, however, was indeed
televised. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was considered at the
time to be an epic and bold film. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo,
this was no mere animated film: it set out to tell an emotionally
charged story with one of the unlikeliest Disney heroes ever. Even
if the story featured themes of social cruelty, injustice and
corruption of the church, Disney still had a lot of jolly good fun
to celebrate. The film's 'Feast of Fools' scene is easily the
lightest part of the entire film with this wacky visuals and upbeat
music. So with that scene in mind, Disney put on a massive show in
New Orleans that included a parade that ran through the French
Quarter, and a huge concert featuring music from the Disney
classics. Titled 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame Festival of Fun
Musical Spectacular,' Disney recorded and then aired the event on
the Disney Channel in the summer of 1996. The concert was held at
the Louisiana Super Dome and featured talent from many of the modern
Disney films, like Jodi Benson and Sam Wright (The Little Mermaid),
Paige O'Hara (Beauty and the Beast), Lebo M (The Lion King),
All-4-One (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and many more. They
sung various of the modern songs and concluded the show with a
massive show stopper featuring nearly every Disney character that
ever existed at the time appearing on stage along with a fireworks
I remember taping it off of TV and thinking it was
one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. It made The
Hunchback of Notre Dame a film I would remember as being an
event that shouldn't be missed. I never saw the movie while it was
in theaters, but I was there when it premiered (well, not physically
there, but you get my point) and was hyped as almost the second
coming of Disney animation.
I am on my way, I can go the
I don't care how far, somehow I'll be strong!
I know every mile, will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere
To find where I belong!
The next year, Hercules was set to premiere
and take its place in the grand line of animated classics. Disney
returned to New York to hold its premiere. This time, they came with
a Disney theme park tradition: The Main Street Electrical Parade.
You all know what Main Street Electrical Parade is all about: a
pageant of lights bringing to life some of the most beloved Disney
classics of all time. For years, the parade has delighted theme park
guests with its bright imagination and colorful aesthetic. Knowing
how important and iconic the parade is, Disney took it to New York,
added two Hercules-themed floats and called it 'The Hercules
Electrical Parade'. The Hercules floats lead the way, the first one
featuring Hercules, Phil and Meg as Pegasus pulls on the float. The
second float was that of Hades and featured his henchmen, Pain and
Panic. The classic Main Street Electrical Parade followed not far
behind. This too was also televised on the Disney Channel. In
between the parade footage they would show interviews with the cast
and crew behind the film and further sing the praises of this film.
It's funny how three of Disney's most 'controversial
films' (in terms of critical and general audience reception)
received the biggest premieres ever at the time of their release.
With Mulan, though, they kept things quiet and on a smaller
scale. Sure the hype for the movies after Hercules was there.
We still got the McDonald's toys, the commemorative plates and cups,
the toys, the video games and making-of specials on the Disney
Channel (more on those things... later), but none of them would top
the scale these premieres presented. There's a reason why the Disney
Animated Classics have become more than institutions of our
childhood, destroying the barriers of adulthood and becoming
something that would stay with us forever. A lot of love and care
went into the creation of these films, and they deserved the best
when they were finally presented to the world. Once more, it doesn't
matter if you loved these three films in particular or see them as
the weakest of the line-up, it was awesome to see something so big
and so magical come to life in front of our lives.