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Sue Kruse
The Princess Diaries - Press Event

Disney has had a busy summer releasing new movies. First there was Pearl Harbor, then the animated Atlantis. Now Disney has released a third movie, The Princess Diaries, starring Julie Andrews and Hector Elizondo, and directed by Garry Marshall.

Julie Andrews and Hector Elizondo at the premier of The Princess Diaries, promotional photo © Disney
Julie Andrews and Hector Elizondo at the premier of The Princess Diaries, promotional photo Disney

As with many of its movies, Disney is showing The Princess Diaries at its El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles. As a special accompanying event, the theater is also hosting "Disney Princess Tea" at El Cap. As a kick-off to this engagement, Disney held a very special and exclusive event called "Royal Princess Tea" on Saturday, July 29.

The royal caravan arrives, there are movie stars inside those limos!
The royal caravan arrives, there are movie stars inside those limos

How special was the Royal Princess Tea event? Well, is there anyone out there who has not heard of auction Web site eBay? Put Disney and eBay together and what do you have? A chance to buy the Disneyland sign, as actor John Stamos has done, purchase vintage attraction vehicles and one- of- a- kind Disney treasures ... or the opportunity to be the winning bidder for a special event not open to the public.

Julie Andrews limo has the appropriate plates!
Julie Andrews limo has the appropriate plates

That's right, Dear Readers. The Disney branch of eBay auctioned the opportunity to experience Royal Princess Tea for two. The event also included a screening of The Princess Diaries, along with a chance to meet the film's star, Julie Andrews, and director, Garry Marshall.

Hector Elizondo speaks to the press outside the theater
Hector Elizondo speaks to the press outside the theater

While I did not bid on this auction, my friend Carroll and I were fortunate to be able to attend this event. Dressed in our finest attire, Carroll and I set out for Hollywood's historic El Capitan Theatre this past weekend. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but were thrilled at the prospect of being in the same room with Julie Andrews. We both love her. How can you not? Thoroughly Modern Millie, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, classics all, and every one of them starring Julie Andrews.

We parked the car, found our way out of the parking structure maze, and headed for the El Capitan Theatre. I flashed our princess- themed pink tickets at the door, and we were in. First stop, the concession stand, where we were each handed a bucket of popcorn and a beverage of our choosing, then, it was on to our seats. A costumed usher escorted us to the proper row and we sat down.

Slowly, the theater began to fill up, and as we listened to Rob Richards play various Disney tunes on a massive gold Wurlitzer organ, Carroll and I played spot- the- celebrity. Across the room we saw Danny Bonaduce, of Partridge Family fame, with his cute little daughter. Also there: Susan Egan, who played Belle in the stage version of Beauty and the Beast, Anson "Potsie" Williams from the Garry Marshall television series Happy Days.

Before long, Rob and his Wurlitzer organ slowly started to descend beneath the depths of the stage and suddenly, Garry Marshall and Julie Andrews were standing at the front of the theater. Carroll and I looked at each other and quietly giggled. We were in the same room as Julie Andrews.

Garry Marshall
Garry Marshall

"Hel--loooo. How are ya?" Garry Marshall, using a Bronx accent, addressed the packed room. We all started to applaud wildly. We were in the same room with Julie Andrews, after all.

Full of questions, Garry Marshall asked, "Where do ya think that man went?" as the stage gobbled up the last of Rob Richards and the Wurlitzer. "Down there somewhere."

"You know who that was?" Garry Marshall asks. "That was Rooooooob," drawling the name out as if announcing the contestant of boxing match, "Richards!" And tacked on, "at the mighty Wurlitzer."

"I knew that," a crisp English accent rang out.

Julie Andrews and Garry Marshall
Julie Andrews and Garry Marshall

Julie speaks! Carroll and I look at each other with the silent giggle again. We are in the same room as Julie Andrews.

"You did know Rob?" Garry queried, looking at Julie. "It's Rob, right? I don't have my glasses on. Does that say Rob?" Garry waves the cue cards in his hand back and forth.

"Rob Richards," Julie follows Garry's now animated cards, somehow managing to read them.

"Yes! Rob Richards."

Somewhat distracted, Garry addresses a kid in the front row of the theater. "Where do you think he is? Buffy the Vampire's down there? I don't know..."

"We're here," Garry got back to business, "to welcome you to Princess Diaries." At this point, Carroll leans over to me and whispers, "I think I'm going to have apoplexy." After all, we are in the same room as Julie Andrews.

"And all you kids," Garry continued, "I'm sure you've been to the movies with your parents and you've seen certain kind of pictures where in the middle of the picture, they put their hands over your ears, your mother grabs your face and goes like this to you."

Garry pantomimes the frantic covering of a child's face.

"They won't do that today. All right? Nobody's gonna grab your face at Princess Diaries. And after the film, there's going to be a special thing and Julie Andrews is gonna tell you about what's gonna happen after."

Now, Mr. Marshall's manner of speaking is endearing. He probably would read that statement and think, "whatta load uh c...," but it's true. You must hear it in your mind as you read the words. "The" becomes "duh," "here" is more like "he-yah," and "going to" is always "gonna." He was charming and funny, and I just wanted to be his friend, to sit and listen to his stories. And I bet he has great stories to tell.

You must also imagine the contrast between his voice and that of Julie Andrews. She speaks in a more leisurely manner, giving each word importance, whereas Garry Marshall seems to discover each word as it leaves his lips. Julie Andrews is every bit the lady you would expect her to be, a refined and regal jewel to Mr. Marshall's unpolished gem.

"After the movie," Julie began in her proper English accent, "We're all going to have tea together. There are four rooms and we're going to be serving a real high tea, just like they do in England, and now, they're doing it here. We're going to have finger sandwiches, and scones, and clotted cream, and jam, and fruit salad with real Genovian pears, which you'll hear talked about in the movie. And we're going to have cakes and tea and all kinds of goodies."

"There were not a lot of teas in the Bronx," interjected Garry Marshall, "where I came from."

"I come from England where there's a lot of tea, so I'm going to be right at home this afternoon."

Garry then added, "And it's gonna be a great event and we sincerely hope you enjoy the film. Annnnd ..." Appearing distracted by a popcorn- eating member of the audience, said, "Ya got enough popcorn? Wait a second, you're not gonna have room for a scone."

"They'll force themselves," Julie Andrews kidded, trying to draw Marshall's attention back to the matter at hand.

"Well, that's all we have to say, really." Marshall said as he began to wrap things up. "Welcome, have a good time. If you enjoyed our little talk, my name is Garry Marshall and this is Julie Andrews. If you didn't like our talk, my name is Barry Levinson and this is Elizabeth Taylor."

The crowd seemed to love this remark.

"Thank you for coming," he added.

"Enjoy yourselves and we'll see you later," Julie Andrews instructed, "Have a nice time. Good bye everybody."

She waved to the audience and started off, but I think Garry Marshall wanted to be left with the last word.

"A Disney picture. It's G," he blurted out.

The pair exited, handing the microphones over to the Disney folks. Julie Andrews looked at Garry Marshall and quietly mouthed the words, "Barry Levinson and Elizabeth Taylor?

Costumed trumpeters herald our arrival
Costumed trumpeters herald our arrival

As promised, at the conclusion of the movie we were all treated to a real English tea served up in grand style. A group of costumed trumpeters heralded our arrival as we made our way from the theater down the red carpet to the tearoom. I was quite astonished to see the very same room recently appointed with Atlantis decorations, now completely transformed into a stylish tea room complete with crystal chandeliers, beautiful bouquets of flowers, and very tasteful place settings of china and crystal. A juggler tossed tasty Genovian pears in mid-air, while jewelry- making tables awaited.

Pear juggler, it only looks easy...
Pear juggler, it only looks easy...

Our tickets assigned us a table for the fete, so Carroll and I began the hunt for table number 20, making our way downstairs into the Iris Room. We spotted Leeza Gibbons with a cameraman interviewing Julie Andrews and stopped to quietly giggle once again. Servers walked around, passing out glittering, faux diamond tiaras and disposable cameras as Garry Marshall worked the room schmoozing with everyone.

Garry Marshall, Julie Andrews and Leeza Gibbons
Garry Marshall, Julie Andrews and Leeza Gibbons

Alas, I missed the chance to get a tiara because I was too busy taking pictures to share with you, Dear Readers. A large display case housed many of the props from the film, including the tiara worn by Anne Hathaway, the "Faberge" merry- go- round that was a present from her character's father, and the locket given to her by her grandmother, Clarisse. The centerpiece of the room was a large portrait of Queen Clarisse. All are shown below...

Princess props

Princess props

Princess props

Princess props

We finally located table number 20 and sat down to tea with our tablemates, including the most lovely Jessa, who had just turned 3. Looking quite regal in her little tiara and fluffy pink skirt, Jessa seemed very excited to be there. She was so cute posing with the Disney princesses who visited our table as her dad snapped picture after picture. Watching her enjoy the event, I couldn't help but think that the chance to visit the El Capitan for tea and a viewing The Princess Diaries would be a wonderful family outing even with a small child. (You may want to also read Adrienne Krock's column about the tea, she provides lots of useful information about it to help plan a visit.)

Princess alert!
Princess alert!

As cute as Jessa was though, there were other matters to attend. Tea and those "other goodies" Julie had promised. What a scrumptious display! There were scones with Devonshire cream and raspberry jam. A delicious assortment of various finger sandwiches was served from silver trays.

There was Earl Grey tea and iced tea and when we had our fill of that, our spectacular waiter brought around a tray of petit fours, rich chocolate cakes, and Genovia pear tarts. I was in tea heaven.

Now you may be wondering, Dear Readers, given our excitement at being in the same room as Julie Andrews, did Carroll and I ever get to actually speak to her? Yes. Shortly after we sat down to tea, we decided we should tell her how much we enjoyed her performance as Queen Clarisse. I think everyone in the room had the same idea. We waited patiently for our turn, and then suddenly, there she was, directing her attention toward us.

"Would you mind if we took a picture, Ms. Andrews?" Carroll asked.

"Not at all, come here," she replied with her arms outstretched, motioning for Carroll to join her.

Our photo of Julie Andrews!
Our photo of Julie Andrews!

I snapped a picture and we began to chat. Carroll told her how much he enjoyed her performance as Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

"Thank you," she replied, "I had a wonderful time making that film."

"Have you had a chance to see the new musical?" I asked.

"No, but I'd like to," she replied. "I hear the girl (playing Millie) is quite good."

"Oh she is," I replied.

"You've seen it then?"

"Yes, in La Jolla. I think you'd enjoy Sutton Foster's Millie. You really should see it if you get the chance."

"I'd like to, I hope it goes to Broadway."

Carroll told Ms. Andrews that the new musical version of "Millie" is indeed Broadway- bound. We discussed her involvement with The Princess Diaries and she expressed the thought that it was a good family film that everyone can enjoy together. She added that she, "really enjoyed making Princess Diaries and working with all the girls who were wonderful to me."

And then, it was time to let someone else enjoy the pleasure of Julie Andrews' company for a few fleeting moments.


And what about the movie? Well, The Princess Diaries, which begins in theaters August 3, is indeed, a nice little family film. At the premiere July 29, Garry Marshall emphasized the film's family orientation, "And, let's say all together, G. A good rating, G, it's a good rating."

Larry Miller, Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. Promotional photo  Disney
Larry Miller, Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. Promotional photo Disney

The Princess Diaries has a plot so predictable, you can probably write the dialogue yourself. Imagine the ugly duckling taunted at high school, and then suddenly transformed into a swan. Throw in a little royalty for good measure, and you have the gist of the plot. It doesn't offer anything inventive, and the storyline's holes are so huge, you really have to just leave your brain behind to watch it. And yet, it's enjoyable good fun. Best of all, it's a film you can take your kids to, not worry about objectionable language, violence, or sex, and not be bored out of your mind.

Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway. Promotional photo  Disney
Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway. Promotional photo Disney

For my money, there are three reasons to see this film. The first, of course, is Julie Andrews. Ms. Andrews has been gone from the screen too long and it's awfully nice to have her back. The last time she made a film for Disney was 36 years ago and she won an Academy Award for that one. You may remember it; it was a nice little family film too, Mary Poppins.

When Ms. Andrews is on the screen, she pretty much lights it up. Her character, Queen Clarisse Renaldi of Genovia, shows up one day to inform her granddaughter Mia, played by Anne Hathaway, of her birthright as princess of Genovia. Mia takes "princess lessons" from Queen Clarisse and eventually must decide if she will assume the duties of ruling Genovia, or pass and stay a geeky San Francisco teenager. There is a comical scene, worth the price of admission, with Clarisse teaching Mia how to walk like a princess. To see Julie Andrews slump across the screen as the queen, imitating Mia's posture, is classic.

After the film, I commented to Julie Andrews that I thought she was the reason to see the film. She thanked me and added, "Oh no, Anne is terrific; she will be the reason to see the film." I thought that was the nicest thing she could have possibly done. She's such a big star, she could have thanked me for the praise and let it go at that, but she made certain that attention was focused on Anne Hathaway. And for good reason.

Princesses sometimes travel in packs. Actress Anne Hathaway (center) with some other rather famous Disney ladies at the premiere. Promotional photo  Disney
Princesses sometimes travel in packs. Actress Anne Hathaway (center) with some other rather famous Disney ladies at the premiere. Promotional photo Disney

Anne Hathaway is my second pick of reasons to see The Princess Diaries. Before the premiere of the movie, introductions were made. In them, Garry Marshall said of Anne Hathaway, "This is a name you're gonna remember a long way. She was named the same name as Shakespeare's wife, so you figure if your parents do that, they don't want you to grow up and be a chef..."

Completely charming as the ugly duckling you know will turn into the swan, she holds her own against such veterans as Julie Andrews and Hector Elizondo, and plays both the geek and princess with believability. Although her clumsy scenes are a bit overdone - it's not really that hard to put on panty hose - she plays them in fine comic style that wins the audience's heart.

Anne Hathaway and Hector Elizondo. Promotional photo  Disney
Anne Hathaway and Hector Elizondo. Promotional photo Disney

I did say there were three reasons to see this movie, didn't I, Dear Readers? The third is a purely personal pick. As Joseph, Queen Clarisse's chief security officer and Princess Mia's bodyguard, Hector Elizondo steals every scene he's in. He is fatherly when he protects Mia, and exudes a suave sexiness as he dances with Queen Clarisse.


Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo and Robert Schwartzman. Promotional photo Disney

The film also features Heather Matarazzo as Lilly, Mia's best friend, and who was so wonderful in Welcome to the Dollhouse. Robert Schwartzman plays Michael, Lilly's brother and the boy Mia should date. There is always the boy that should be the date and with that you need a handsome cad the heroine goes for, until she wises up. In this movie, the other fellow is played, to perfection, by Eric Von Detten, who was also the voice of Sid in Toy Story.

You will enjoy watching The Princess Diaries if you don't expect too much from it. It's not thought- provoking, but it is fun. And even though this kind of movie really isn't my cup of tea (excuse the bad pun), I have to admit I liked it. Go see it with your kids; you'll like it too.

The Princess Diaries

ALSO:

Adrienne Krock tells you all about the Princess Tea Parties at the El Capitan

To make reservations for the The Princess Diaries and Disney Princess Tea, call 1-800-DISNEY6 (I-800-347-6396.) For group sales, call 818-845-3110. You may also order tickets online (and even print them at home) via the elcapitantickets.com website.

Disney has kindly provided press information for the movie if you'd like to know more about it.

CLICK HERE FOR THE OFFICIAL SITE

The official movie site is quite extensive, and offers a lot to do and see.

The soundtrack album is now available via Amazon, click on the graphic below to purchase it

CLICK HERE TO BUY

DON'T FORGET:

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