22. THE MOUSE – Part One … ‘Drugs, the Hollywood Bowl and Team Disney’..

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For those of you who missed the first LA story a while back …

An invitation to meet MICKEY MOUSE in LA confirmed my belief that Planet Disney was as bizarre and surreal as I imagined (and hoped) it would be – stories to make your toes curl, your jaw drop and to ignite your warped sense of humour … here’s a taster – arriving in LA! 

It started, I guess, how we meant to carry on. I needed help for a sojourn in LA – working with one of the biggest corporations in the world. Facing a galaxy of top executives in the Disney boardroom on the Top Floor of the ‘Team Disney’ Tower was somewhat daunting and potentially intimidating – so I took a great friend and colleague to help and advise throughout the challenging project. Danie Brant was someone with a wicked sense of humour and a fierce intelligence. We arrived at LAX airport very late, somewhat the worse for wear it has to be said. A particularly heavy Customs Officer spotted our erratic behaviour (lurching and laughing mostly) and honed in on us immediately. ‘Do you have drugs?‘ he sneered, taking off his Ray Ban’s and searching deep into our eyes. ‘Oh, I’m sorry,‘ said Danie. ‘If I’d known you were short – I’d have brought some with me.

Here we go,’ I thought …

Later … Danie and I managed to find ourselves in the infamous biker bar Billy Idol used to hang out in. We needed a nightcap. Maybe not such a good move being jet-lagged and drunk … but hey, we were in LA to meet the Mouse and needed to prepare for our meeting the following morning with the ‘team’ from Disney. 

They’d asked us to ‘phone-in’ on arrival to confirm we’d be at the meeting. Executives and artistic directors attending numbered a dozen or so we figured. There were only two of us which was a little intimidating. After a few Butterscotch Schnapps at the biker bar (yes – Butterscotch Schnapps – hey, I don’t know why!) – we had an idea. We called in to confirm our arrival. ‘How are you guys?‘ ‘Good’ we said, ‘but if it’s possible we’d like to change the time of the meeting tomorrow.‘ ‘No problem,‘ was the courteous reply. ‘Should we make it 12 instead of 10? You guys must be exhausted.‘ ‘No,‘ we said. ‘We’re a little concerned about how much time we have to organise what needs to be done. Can we bring the meeting FORWARD an hour?

As English art directors we were allowed the luxury of a certain eccentricity. Eccentricity, by nature, is fairly unpredictable. That was our ace card we decided to act on. To give Disney its due they complied with grace and generosity of spirit. We knew the moment our conversation ended – a flurry of phone-calls to those attending the meeting would inform them of an earlier start. We figured that simple shift out of their comfort zone could work to our advantage. We figured ‘Who the fuck are these guys?‘ from them, couldy conceivably put us on a more even footing. Our move wasn’t threatening – a bad idea – but did mean they’d realise they were dealing with an unknown quantity .

I’ll get to the meeting later  ….


… but I need to lay the groundwork for the project. It was Gerry again who was responsible for our involvement. Somehow he’d persuaded Disney they needed his team to provide the merchandise for a tour of America – that they needed to move beyond their traditional approach and allow him to provide the attitude their ambitious project demanded. Gerry was good – challenging the most conventional and most conservative corporation in the US to trust his judgement and, in turn, to trust his design team was no mean feat. He’d convinced them that we would not only provide brilliant visual solutions but were sassed and experienced enough to handle the complicated internal politics we would inevitably have to deal with.(You’ll see just how complicated in the next blog!).

Gerry’s confidence was well-founded but even he had no idea what Danie and I were like together. As you’ve gathered from Danie’s exchange at the airport – he manages to get away with comments most of us would be arrested for – or at the very least be viewed as seriously confrontational. Somehow (and even now after working with him for decades) I still can’t figure out how he gets away with what he says. Humour is the key I know, but what he says is delivered with such audacious honesty and wit that people are reduced to helpless disbelief – unable to react with anything other than good humour and laughter. So …

The Project …    

 

With the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra, a choir and over two hundred Disney characters – singers and dancers – the Disney Corporation was ready to launch its ‘SYMPHONIC FANTASY‘ – a wildly extravagant theatrical production of its ‘greatest cinema achievements’. It would open at the Hollywood Bowl and then tour America, visiting dozens of major cities. We’d been selected to organise photograhs at rehearsals at the Bowl and design and produce the lavish programme for the tour.

No pressure there then …

NEXT … The first meeting … Goofy … The Hollywood Bowl … and photographing MICKEY 

COMING UP

EMBARRASSING MOMENTS with MICK and KEITH in Rotterdam…
AXL ROSE throws wobblies and tables in a London hotel bar …
and MUCH more …

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