Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Paris present The European Charity Premiere Of T H E L I O N K I N G In association with the Elton John AIDS Foundation At the Odeon Leicester Square, London WC2 Thursday, October 6th 1994 at 7.15pm With the support of DHL a report by FP
This was written shortly after I returned from London. From today's point of view, some of the temps may be wrong.
I have just come back from a most exciting trip to London, where I saw - no - experienced the european premiere of Disney's thirty-second animated motion picture.
But before talking about the premiere itself, let's have a look at the past, at what had to be done before setting of for London.

Note: If you don't want to hear about my adventures to get the ticket, click here. But I recommend reading it. It's a really weird story ...

Getting to the Premiere

I live here in a small town near Frankfurt/Germany, and I never would have heard about this event if I didn't have rec.arts.disney. I first heard about it about two months ago, and since then, I have desperately tried to arrange everything. The first thing I had to take care of were obviously the tickets.

At first, I went to our local Disney Store. I didn't expect anything of them (for they have failed me several times), but at least they gave me a phone number of Buena Vista in Munich. So I called there. I told the man at the other end of the line about what I wanted, but (after listening patiently to everything) then, he told me I had called Buena Vista Home Video and that he didn't know anything. So he gave me another phone number in Munich (he didn't even offer to put me through). I called there, and told my story again. As I was finished, the other man asked me who gave me his number and why anybody would think he was responsible - for he was not, and didn't know anything either. Now I gave up the hope to find help inside Germany and asked him for the number of the number of Buena Vista in London, which he could dig up at last.

I tried not to think of my phone bill as I dialed the foreign number. Again, I told the woman on the other end again about what I longed for, only this time I had to stummer out everything in English. I was lucky the phone line was surprisingly clear; better than any local call.

And I was also surprised by her reaction, because she not only understood my English, but she also understood what I wanted and put me on hold. There, I had a chance to pick up some of the music of the TLK soundtrack. Not only it doesn't sound quite as good over a phone line, but I also had a feeling as if I was calling the Australian time-telling service.

I had to wait for some more than a minute until I finally heard a voice saying "Lion King Premiere Office". I made it, and I told my story a fourth and last time. They told me they weren't quite finished with planning the premiere, but they would send out a brochure to me two weeks later if I left my address. I did so (with some difficulties in spelling my name and address) and was finished.

I waited one week, I waited another week, and I also waited the third week, then I couldn't resist calling them again. They said they had sent out the brochures just three days ago, but then they weren't able to look up my address in the computer. They explained that I had probably been talking to "the wrong person before". Very encouraging. I spelled (or tried to) my address one more time for sending the brochure, but they also told me a phone number where I could order tickets directly (couldn't they have told me that before?).

Of course, I jumped at this offer, and called TicketMaster. The man at TM was very friendly (he just drove me crazy by repeatedly calling me "sir"), and took my order and address. He then asked me if I wanted the ticket to be sent out to me. They would charge me extra money, but I said yes. He also told me I should call again if I hadn't received the ticket by September 28th.

Now I thought everything was set with the ticket and started planning the rest of my trip. And September 28 crept closer and closer. And my fears were justified, I did not receive the ticket on time. I was quite busy with an examination then, so I did not have any chance to complain until about two days later. So I called once again.

Again, the people at TM were very friendly, and so they told me in a very friendly manner that they do not send tickets abroad. I was put through to some "headquater" "to sort something out". We finally agreed that the ticket would be placed at the box office. When I got to London, they told me, I could go to the cinema's box office and get my ticket. I asked why I was told before that sending a ticket to Germany would be no problem. The flat response was "You were told wrong".

So I went to the box office on October 5th (the day after I arrived and the day before the premiere), and the people at the box office told me they had no ticket for me. I told them it was for the premiere, and they answered "The premiere is handled by ticketmaster (as if I didn't know that), but we aren't ticketmaster". They also said that TM would take over the box office on the day of the premiere at 6 o'clock. The premiere itself started at 7.45. I clenched my teeth, getting more angrier and more nervous by the minute.

Then the day had finally come. And even hours ago, madness took over the place where the premiere was held. Gates were set up, leaving only two entrances to the theatre. At 6, they were still unguarded, so I could safely make my way to the box office. But - TM wasn't there. This time, I was told they would get there by 6.45. And I was also told that the theatre would be blocked up by the police at 6.30, and only ticket holders were allowed to pass.

Obviously, I had a problem. I had to get to the box office to get my ticket. I would not get to the box office without a ticket.

Luckily, I found Chris, another Disney fan like me, facing the same problem. We ended up by phoning TM again. I was lucky to have found Chris, because he could do the phoning much better than me. The phone call lasted some 15 minutes, in which we had to face some more bad news. TM insisted that they had sent the ticket to me! I couldn't help myself but break out into laughter.

The main part of the 15 minutes, Chris was arguing with them about what to do with me. In the end, they agreed to print a replacement ticket for me. They also said that we just could proceed courageously through the guarded gates.

And this time, finally, they were right. The police had a list of those names that were allowed to pass without a ticket (in order to pick them up at the box office). All names (including Chris's) were printed, save mine, which was scrawled beneath. The police obviously just got my description via their portable phone.

So Chris and me passed by the police, through a narrow gateway, with a crowd of several hundred people gaping at us (you could tell their interest in us was nil), to the box office, where we finally got our tickets (after I had almost lost hope). I felt like Jafar when he got The Lamp.

We had to break up then (he sat in a different section), so I'd like to thank him again from here. Chris, thanks again, I don't think I would have made it without you!

The inside

The inside of the theatre was already darkened, and the screen showed up a camera view from the place before the cinema, with all the celebrities arriving. There were thunderstorms of flashlights, but I didn't recognize any of the local celebrities. So I paid much more attention to the premiere brochure.

The premiere brochure has about 50 pages. The most of it are advertisements, but there are also a couple of pictures showing scenes from the film or the characters. Also the background story is told in a few sentences, and all the credits are shown. The premiere brochure was not sold in the cinema, but people were running around with baskets (for the money). The price of the brochure was "As much as you wish to donate to the Elton John Aids Foundation". I had only a few pences in coins, so I had to draw out a 10 pound note - ah well, it was for charity.

At 8pm, the show began with two speeches. According to the program, the first speech should be held by Elton John himself, but he didn't show up in front of the audience; the speech was held by some other member of the foundation instead (you could tell the speech was quite improvised).

Afterwards, Roy Disney showed up in person (along with some other member of Disney), and introduced the movie ("Although the movie is primarily intended for children, maybe that's all of us") as well as some of the key figures which were present in the auditorium, mainly Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Rowan Atkinson, Tim Rice, Hans Zimmer and Elton John.

Now the musical extravaganza started, beginning with characters from Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and the Fantasia Mickey singing something about the Magical Moments of Disney.

Following were performances of Part of Your World, Beauty and the Beast, A Whole New World, Friend Like Me, Under the Sea and Be my Guest. The first three were quite close to the original. Ariel first sat on a seashell, and later took off into the air (before a water-like background). Beauty and and the Beast danced together their ballroom dance while two singers sang the music in a duet. Jasmine and Aladdin floated on a "magic carpet" right through mid-air.

The later three pieces were just dancing performances. Some of the lyrics were sung, but completely different from the original intonation. At the end of "Be my Guest", confetti was shot into the auditorium.

The musical show ended like it begun, with all characters praising together the "magic of disney", ending with some fireworks. All in all, it lasted maybe 20 minutes.

After a short while, in which the stage was cleared and the screen was prepared (the time was shortened by an organ player playing some Disney theme), the feature began. The audience seemed quite cool. No cheering or anything, it was completely quiet during all the 89 minutes. And the applauding afterwards did not seem to last forever. Also, nobody stood up while clapping. The whole crowd of people just left more or less quietly.

It should also be said that the theatre was not the best. From where I sat (officially named "Best Seats"), the screen was too far away and therefore too small. My place also was too far on the side to be considered a best seat (maybe too many people wanted best seats and so they reconsidered the definition of best seats). The sound could have been better, too. Because of the distance to the main speakers, the sound was not loud enough. And they had too few surround speakers. I barely heard any surround effects (consciously, I heard them only three or four times in action); maybe the volume was again too low.

We now all moved on to the partyplace, somewhere beside the Themse. Some carriages were provided, but it was only a couple of minutes footwalk away, so I walked there. To get in, we had to line up in quite a long queue. Obviously, they had not planned so many people to come, because inside, it was very cramped, too.

The party place were some tents linked up together. It was dark inside. A few palmtrees were set up to give an impression of Afrika. Don't laugh, they had advertised it as being set amidst the wild of Afrika. In some places, backgrounds from TLK were placed, with the paper figures of the characters (just two-dimensional) before. The main reason why you would believe you're in Africa was the unbearable heat. And as the evening continued, it became even hotter from all the people inside.

In a few places bars were set up, where you could get or order any kind of drink. Sadly, they had about nothing non-alcoholic there, so I chose a glass of wine. More people walked through the crowd with plates, from which you could pick something too eat. I don't know what it was, but it tasted very good. For anyone who is interested, all the catering was done by a team from "Planet Hollywood". And, needless to say, all the drinks and snacks insite were free.

I just walked around for some time, trying to find some of the important people to sign the inlet of my TLK soundtrack that I brought along. But suddenly, I heard two people talking German! I couldn't believe it - I didn't think anyone was as crazy as me. So I introduced myself to them. But they were not like me. The one was Andreas, some animator from Amblin in London ("During the film, I sat beside Rowan Atkinson, and I didn't have a pen for him to give me an autograph"). And the other one was also named Andreas, Andreas Deja, the supervising animator of Scar! Later, they also introduced me to the animator of Timon, Michael Surrey. You can tell that I was quite thrilled to have met so important people. I also felt some pity for them, because they were key figures in making the film what it has become, but nobody was interested in the animators at all.

Later in the evening, we wondered why we didn't see all the other celebrities around, and eventually found out about the VIP section. Only, the entrance to that section was guarded, and we didn't have the key (a sticker with a lions paw print) to enter. But luckily, we had Andreas with us. He told the guards to get (someone from Disney) to the entrance. And then, the we all were let in! Sadly, we heard that Elton John had left only some minutes before. What a pity, since I wanted so much to get an autograph of him.

Elton obviosly was not the only one to have left early (it was about 11.30 then); we also couldn't find Roy Disney or Rowan Atkinson. In fact, the only one non-Disney we recognized was Boy George. But nevertheless, it was better in here, not too crowded and only quiet music (in the other tent, some Africans had just began to play their drums, and it was amplified to the volume where talk almost gets impossible).

In here, I took my chance to get my Soundtrack inlet autographed. I found Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer. And I had already collected an autograph of Jonathan Taylor Thomas before. The two animators I met not only gave me their sign, they also drew me little figures of Timon and Scar. And they did a very good job, they both look wonderful. Only, Scar doesn't look as nasty as he used to be but a lot more lovable ...

All in all, I had a great time at the party and left about 1.30am (I still had to get the youth hostel where I used to live).

This experiences of the premiere alone were justification enough for my trip to London. It was an evening I will never forget.

"Will I like the premiere?" - "It's to die for!"

BTW: There was quite a lot of press present at the theatre as well as at the party. The day after, I bought two papers (The Independent and The Daily Telegraph), but they didn't mention this event at all. Obviosly, the film is is not received very well in Britain. What I found in the papers were reviews of the film. All very, very negative. Read yourself!

Frank Pilhofer <fp -AT- fpx.de> Back to the Homepage
Last modified: Fri Apr 7 13:26:02 1995