Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When I was at USC, I hated it. So I took a year off and got a job working at Disney Studios. It was pretty awesome, because I was at USC film school surrounded by a thousand full-of-themselves film geeks, (I admit being one of them) and a month later I was working with real professionals at a real movie studio on a real movie in real Hollywood. I was the first "production assistant" hired on to Disney's Beauty and the Beast. There were only 17 people on the whole crew. When the film finished production, the crew numbered well into the hundreds.

Don't believe me? Check it out near the bottom (way down there) of the credits under "Production Assistant". Hilarious. I always wonder what happened to those other folks on the list. No doubt they're all making millions now. I knew most of them at one time. I recognize their names in the credits of all the other animated films nowadays and I just laugh. What a bunch of dorks!

Most of the people I worked with were the most creative and artistic people I have ever met, and the whole experience was a profound and enlightening one for me. I was all of 20 years old. The youngest employee on the lot, I believe. I remember when the artists sent me out to get beer and cigars one day. I couldn't. I was 20! (They sent someone else.)

Anyway, my job was a lame one. Photocopy this, run that over there, hang up storyboards... things like that. But I was in story meetings with Hollywood giants like Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy Disney! I was learning more than anyone at USC film school and making a pretty good salary to boot! With full benefits and free Disneyland tickets! And the film became a sensation. It eventually made hundreds of millions of dollars and was nominated for Best Picture. I went to the premiere. (I wore a tie!)

One day at work, a package came in from New York. It was a simple cassette tape. The famed musical-duo Howard Ashman and Alan Menken had just finished the first set of songs for the film. This was in the days before iTunes and the Internet and modern devices like that. I had to put the cassette in the stereo in my office and make fifty copies for the directors, producers, and animators. I was humming along after the second tape. It was February of 1990. I was the first kid in the world to have every song from Beauty and the Beast memorized.

I mention this now because eighteen years later my two-year-old daughter stood up in bed this morning and yelled down the hall: "I want to go to Disneyland!" Mrs. Ditchman rolled over and whispered in my ear, "She wants to go to Disneyland. You're going to have a full day."

Now the little one is listening to Disney music on a CD. She's singing "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast and guess what? I still know the lyrics.


In the original cut of the film the song was sung to Beauty's father, Maurice. They later changed the story so that the song was sung to Belle. (It made more sense, story-wise.) As a result, the song lyrics changed.

But I still sing it to Maurice. I'm probably the only one in the world.