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Sue Kruse
The Atlantis Experience

If, Dear Readers, you are among the impatient -- the sort of person who just can't wait to see the newest thing -- then have I got some news for you. Disney's latest animated effort, Atlantis: The Lost Empire opens to most of the world on June 15, but here in the Los Angeles area, you have a chance to see it starting today at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Afterwards, you can have a little fun next door at Destination Atlantis.

This past Sunday, columnist Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix and I were treated to a sneak peek of not only the movie, but of Destination Atlantis. Instead of walking through an ordinary entrance into the El Capitan Theatre, we were ushered through a giant "A" and led down a plush, blue, water-like carpet to the theater's entrance.

A New Entrance to the El Capitan
A new entrance for the El Capitan

If you have never had the pleasure of setting foot inside the El Capitan, Dear Readers, then let me try to describe it for you. The entry looks just as an old-fashioned theater would, with golds and beautiful muted dusty mauves and garnets. It feels rich, as though there are layers and layers of ornamentation. In fact, the theater is heavily encrusted with the lavish decoration common to the art deco period. It's pleasurable just to look at the beautifully adorned ceiling. The seats are comfy, plush, and provide a terrific view of the screen no matter where you sit.

As you wait for Atlantis to begin, a selection of Disney music plays for you on a glorious Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. It's a treat to hear Topsy Turvy played on a gigantic, gold colored confection of a musical instrument. Can it get any better?

The Wurlitzer Organ
The Wurlitzer Pipe Organ

Why, yes, it can. The multi-layered theater curtains begin to draw back, one by one, peeling away until you see the screen and begin your underwater journey to Atlantis...

I am not, Dear Readers, going to describe the movie for you. For that, you must return to MousePlanet next week.

Instead, let's move next door to El Capitan's Destination Atlantis exhibit to understand why, considering the price of the ticket, you want to see Atlantis at El Capitan. You not only get to see the movie, but you are also treated to an "underwater adventure." This is where the fun begins, and this is what makes going to see Atlantis at the El Capitan more than just a movie, but an event.

Once you enter Destination Atlantis, you step from the threshold of our world into the ruined underwater city of Atlantis and the Underwater Adventure room, decorated with gigantic columns and other artifacts from the movie. Everything is lit in cool blues and greens, making you feel as if you are underwater. All around are large fish tanks filled with amazing sea creatures: jellyfish, sharks, stingrays, and sea horses, just to name a few. It's quite a wonderful display, and as well it should be, since it is provided by the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific.

Real tidepools!
Real tidepools!

From the underwater adventure area, you can choose your exploration. The first is Atlantean Laser Tag. In its "mission briefing area," you learn from Atlantis' heroes, Milo Thatch and others, how Atlantean Laser Tag works. Each player is outfitted with a vest and a laser gun, then instructed by the finest Disney expert in Atlantean Laser Tag on how to succeed. You are then led into a maze-like glow-in-the-dark "battle ground." The Disney folks have provided a viewing area if you are not up to a rousing game of tag.

Adrienne and I decided to leave the laser tag for a less strenuous activity and ventured back downstairs to the "Whitmore Library," which turned out to be one of my favorites. Along the walls are glass display cases filled with props and sketches used by the animators in creating the film. You can see a model of the Jules Verne-like submarine featured in the film. Each of the film's characters has donated a few personal artifacts to the display for your viewing pleasure. You can see the hat worn by Audrey, the chief mechanic, some of Vinnie Santorini's demolition equipment, and some things belonging to our hero, Milo Thatch.

The Whitmore Library
The Whitmore Library

You can go down a flight of stairs and explore "The Vortex." If you're a big fan of computer games, this room is for you. Disney Interactive has set up dozens of stations where you can play the latest PC action-adventure game based, of course, on Atlantis. If games are not your forte, there's still plenty to do here. You can climb aboard and ride a ketak, an Atlantean vehicle that looks like a big silver fish, and which is important to the ending of the movie. There is also an aquatic obstacle course that involves navigating on stepping-stones. Last, but certainly not least, are small tide pools filled with ocean creatures. And not unlike real tide pools, you may gently touch the sea stars and sea slugs that live in the shallow pools. Aquarists are on hand to guide you and answer questions you may have concerning the invertebrates.

If all of that is not enough, there is one more room to discover. You must venture deeper into the hidden treasures of Destination Atlantis to find it but it's worth the exploration. Exit out of "The Vortex" and down another flight of stairs into the "Deep Sea Activities" room for a wealth of things to amuse you. I would say that kids should love this room a lot, but heck, so did I.

For starters, you can learn to speak Atlantean; to which I say, good luck. It's pretty hard. There are translator machines that are a lot like listening to a Berlitz tape. You put on headphones (good thing because it's pretty noisy in this room with all the other activities going on), press a button on the machine, then make your selection from a variety of useful Atlantean phrases such as, "yes" "no," "please," and "thank you."

Learn to speak Atlantean
Learn to speak Atlantean

Do I hear you say, Dear Readers, that you don't want to learn to speak Atlantean? Well then, how about writing it? You can download the font from Disney.com and have fun with it. The font is available in both PC and Mac versions and the page provides setup instructions.

Learning a new language is a bit taxing, so how about a nice game of Game Boy? There are plenty of Game Boys with the Atlantis game available and when I was there, they were not lacking for play. It looked to be a very popular part of the room. Also popular was a clever little area where you can build your own Atlantis from wooden blocks, then hear the rumble of the volcano, watch your city find destruction, and finally, crumble into the sea. It's not quite that dramatic, but it is good fun.

Build-Your-Own Atlantis
Build Your Own Atlantis

Equally as much fun was the hunt for crystals and shark teeth. You are invited to try your luck at digging for crystals and shark teeth in a large trough of sand. If you are lucky enough to locate a treasure, you can turn it into a necklace that you can proudly wear, and tell all your friends that you found it during an expedition to Atlantis.

There are two other merits to the "Deep Sea Activities" room, both involving artwork. I'm a big fan of letting kids draw and this has been well provided for here. Did you want to draw on your walls when you were a kid? Did you? I did. Luckily, I had a mom who encouraged such behavior. She gave me crayons and said, "This is your wall," and let me go at it. I'm sure most parents aren't that keen on kiddy artwork on their walls, though, so if this has been your most secret desire, you may now fulfill it. Wall and chalk are provided and you can decorate to your heart's content. While I was there, I watched a little girl busily decorate a column in the room with the most charming drawings. She was quite intent and I'm sure she loved every minute of it.

Lastly, there are tables set up where you can create a rubbing. Each table has four different raised-surface drawings of an Atlantis character. Place a sheet of paper over your favorite character, grab a crayon, rub over the surface, and voila! You have instant art. I decided to try my hand at this and ended up with a very nice rubbing of Milo Thatch for my collection.

A rubbing of Milo Thatch
A Milo Thatch rubbing

As I'm sure you have gathered by now, Dear Readers, that there is plenty to do for the price of your admission ticket. And yet, there is still one more thing left to describe. Bring your camera so you can take your picture with Milo, Princess Kida, Mole, and Santorini. These kind folks have left their Atlantean digs and graciously traveled to Hollywood to visit with us for a while.

It was good fun chatting with Milo. Do you know he has this very interesting journal? He was nice enough to show it to me and Adrienne. If you ask nicely, he may show it to you as well.

Milo and his journal
Milo and his journal

Princess Kida is very pretty and seems almost luminous. She has a very interesting crystal she wears around her neck that sometimes glows. I suspect it may have some secret power but did not get the chance to discuss this with her. Perhaps you may discover its secret.

Molière, or Mole as he likes to be addressed, is a large and somewhat imposing fellow who likes dirt. I decided not to talk to him.

Vincenzo Santorini, though quite accommodating to picture-taking requests, seemed like someone to be wary of. He was chewing on the end of a large matchstick and carrying a bundle of what looked like dynamite.


One last note, Dear Readers, is to Lakers fans within the proximity of the Disneyland Resort.

If you desperately want to view one of the Laker playoff games, but haven't the wherewithal to do so, get yourself over to ESPNZone at Downtown Disney the day before any game. If you spend $20 in food (basically, buy yourself dinner), ESPNZone will give you two free tickets (per person) to watch a Laker game on their big screens.

Thursday morning (June 7) there was a long line of folks waiting for tickets for the June 8 game. You must pick up tickets the day before a game. For the price of a meal, you can enjoy some good food and watch a basketball playoff game in the company of like- minded folks on a really big screen. Why, it's just like being at the game (without the expense).

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More Information

The El Capitan Theater

Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire plays at the El Capitan Theatre from June 8, 2001, through July 15th, 2001. You can purchase tickets by phone at 1-800-DISNEY6 or online.

Ticket Information

General Aadmission:
Adults $13.00
Child (3-11) $11.00
Senior (60+) $11.00
Group $9.00
Groups should call:
(818) 845-3110

VIP admission is $22.00 and includes popcorn, a soft drink, reserved "best seat in the house," early admission, and no waiting in line.

El Capitan is located at 6838 Hollywood Boulevard, on the south side of Hollywood Boulevard just west of Highland Avenue and east of La Brea Boulevard.

The El Capitan's History

El Capitan Theatre first opened its doors on May 3, 1926 for the play, Charlot's Revue. At the time, Hollywood was still mostly a quiet mix of residential and agricultural land. Real Estate developer, Charles Toberman, set out to establish a theater district in the area and in the end, he managed to build 36 buildings, including the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and three grand theaters, the Egyptian, the Chinese, and the El Capitan.

Throughout the years, the El Capitan has been host to more than 120 live plays, has seen such stars as Will Rogers and Clark Gable, and has fallen into disrepair. In 1989, The Walt Disney Company, along with Pacific Theatres, began a museum-quality restoration of the theater, which took two years.

In 1991, certified as a national historic site, the El Capitan reopened with the premiere of The Rocketeer. Since that time, in an effort to provide their audiences with the best there is to offer, Disney has performed additional restoration, adding state-of-the-art special effects equipment, and returning the theater's stage to its original 1926 dimensions.

  Links of Interest

The El Capitan Theater

Sony Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific

CLICK HERE to buy album from Amazaon
CLICK HERE to purchase the soundtrack via Amazon

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