Two thousand was the magic number at Disney’s sellout black-tie gala on New Year’s Eve, held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Exhibition Hall. Two thousand guests braved the rain to get an early peek at “Fantasia/2000,” and those who sprang for Joachim Splichal’s beef Wellington dinner in addition to the screening and party paid a hefty $2,000 for the package.
The sequel to the 1940 animated classic is tailor-made for a millennial celebration, observed Disney Motion Pictures Group Chairman Dick Cook.
“The original ‘Fantasia’ is the crown jewel of the Disney library while ‘Fantasia/2000' is a giant leap forward in terms of technique and technology,” he said. “This is the perfect vehicle for looking forward and looking back.”
Who Was There: Virtually no celebs attended. Still, there were assorted dignitaries, Rose Queen Sophia Bush and her court, plus a contingent from California Institute of the Arts (the source of 58 “Fantasia/2000" animators and recipient of an undisclosed portion of the Pasadena proceeds). Disneyites, who paid only $500 for the event, turned out en masse. Top brass included Joe Roth (chairman of the Walt Disney Studios), Thomas Schumacher (president of Walt Disney Feature Animation) and Peter Schneider (president of the Walt Disney Studios), who, clearly, would have preferred to pass. “I hate parties. I hate New Year’s Eve. I hate all this millennium stuff,” Schneider said, flashing a grin.
The Star: Roy Disney, chairman of the studio’s feature animation division and executive producer of the movie, who not only introduced his labor of love to the audience, but served as grand marshal of the Rose Parade the next day. “My wife says I’m a late bloomer,” Walt’s notoriously shy 69-year-old nephew cracked when asked about his recent transformation.
The Buzz: The standing ovation was music to the ears of Schumacher, who had inhabited “Fantasia/2000" for nine years. “This was the biggest bite of an apple I’ve taken,” he said. “I never felt like I was choking, but, with so many ideas and pieces of music, I sometimes felt overfed. Screening it at last and getting this response--I feel like Sally Field.”
The crowd was particularly taken with the synchronicity conductor Derrick Inouye and the Philharmonia Orchestra of London achieved between image and sound--a feat that eluded conductor James Levine and the musicians in previous stops on the world tour.
The Millennium Moment: The veteran band Chicago ushered in the new year with “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Earlier, guests (and 30 imported professional dancers) jitterbugged to the beat of swing specialists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Local jazz vocalist Barbara Morrison performed during dinner, then relocated to the Y2K lounge.
The Challenge: Pressure was on to create the “celebration of a lifetime,” as one studio higher-up described it--in the face of Y2K hysteria and ticket prices that caused other millennium events to fold. Lylle Breier VP of special events at Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, calls it the tallest order she’s tackled. “Harder than building a theater on Alcatraz for ‘The Rock’ or getting New York City--and apartment owners--to turn off the lights during our ‘Hercules’ electric light parade down Fifth Avenue,” she asserted.