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|Jolly Holiday - Dedicating the Julie Andrews Soundstage|
ONE | TWO
Thursday morning August 2nd, 2001, a very special ceremony took place at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. And with that ceremony, in the pantheon of soundstages, Stage 2 became little more important.
The construction of Stage 2 began in February 1947. The first tenant was a Jack Webb television show called Dragnet. In 1950 and 1951, Walt Disney filmed his Christmas specials there and from 1955 to 1959, Stage 2 was home to The Mickey Mouse Club. When Walt was building Disneyland and the Imagineers found they needed a large space in which to construct the Mark Twain steamboat, they looked to Stage 2, one of the largest stages on the west coast.
Many motion pictures have been filmed on Stage 2, including, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, Armageddon, and Disney’s newest film, The Princess Diaries. I would be remiss, Dear Readers, if I neglected to mention, what is to my mind, the most famous movie shot on Stage 2, Mary Poppins. During the production, the entire length of Cherry Tree Lane including No. 17, the home of the Banks family was built on Stage 2.
On August 2nd though, Stage 2 went from the ranks of ordinary soundstage, to a stage with a pedigree and in the process, gained a very famous name. Roy Disney, Vice Chairman of the Walt Disney Co.; Richard Cook, Chairman of the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group; The Princess Diaries Director Garry Marshall and actress Anne Hathaway; comedian Dick Van Dyke; and Richard Sherman of the Academy Award™-winning songwriting team The Sherman Brothers, all joined forces to recognize the talent of Disney Legend, Julie Andrews.
Now, Dear Readers, what would you think would be an appropriate trophy to give to someone like Julie Andrews? She already has an Oscar, so would a plaque do? Of course not, this is Mary Poppins we’re talking about. And so, the Disney folks gave Ms. Andrews what is probably the ultimate in recognition of one’s talent. They rededicated Stage 2 as The Julie Andrews Stage.
When I set out early Thursday morning for the Disney Studios, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It could have been short and sweet, "Hi how are you, cut the ribbon, thanks for coming, good- bye." As it turned out, it was a pretty spectacular little ceremony filled with wonderful anecdotes delivered by the participants. I was pleased and not a little too thrilled to be a witness. Let me tell you about it...
It began with a small crowd of guests and media gathered around a stage set in front of the outside of Stage 2. "Is that a band I hear?" Someone within the crowd uttered. I could hear a very familiar version of Zip- a- dee- doo- dah and sure enough, pretty soon the Disneyland Band came marching down the street to take their place on the stage, where they changed the mood a bit with a few bars of "Super- cali- fragi- listic- expi- ali- docious."
A nice- looking gentleman in a navy blue business suit stepped up to the podium, "Good morning, on behalf of Bob Iger, President of the Walt Disney Company; and myself, I’d like to welcome you to the Walt Disney Studios. I’m Dick Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group. Today we are here to honor the Academy Award™-winning legendary star, Julie Andrews and to celebrate her return to Disney in The Princess Diaries by rededicating Soundstage 2 in her name as the Julie Andrews Stage."
Mr. Cook remembered a few of the movies shot on Stage 2 and then handed over the podium, "I’d like to introduce someone who observed first- hand the making of Mary Poppins, Roy Disney, the Vice Chairman of the Walt Disney Company."
The Disneyland Band struck up Jolly Holiday, and two penguins emerged from the soundstage with Roy Disney in tow. "Thanks Dick," he looked at the penguins, "I’m not sure of their names, but thank you." The remark drew a lot of laughter. Roy didn’t miss a beat and continued, "Only at Disney would you have an instruction in the script that said, Roy enters escorted by two penguins."
"I’m so pleased to be here today," Roy continued, "as we honor Julie, our great friend and family member in a very special way. I have many fond memories of walking past Stage 2 and seeing Julie, Dick Van Dyke, and a band of dancing chimney sweeps rehearsing their choreography in the sweltering heat of the Burbank mid- summer. It really does seem like only yesterday. And I remember at another time you could walk right into the heart of Victorian London and see a sky full of nannies swirling over Cherry Tree Lane."
"And Julie, with her commanding presence, and the ever-present twinkle in her eye, instantly became everyone’s favorite nanny. She taught us not only to take our medicine, but to like it. She opened our imaginations to jolly holidays and to tea parties on the ceiling and to the joy of caring for others. Julie made Mary Poppins sing in more ways than one. I’m sure you’ll all agree that Mary Poppins is a practically perfect movie in every way."
"Richard and Robert Sherman wrote some of the most memorable movie music of all time. And, they’re still creating beautiful tunes together to this day. We’re very happy to have Dick Sherman here with us for the ceremony."
Roy asked Mr. Sherman to stand and the crowd acknowledged their approval with loud applause as he turned and waved to everyone.
Roy continued, "It’s hard to imagine a more perfect cast, Glynis Johns, David Tomlinson, Ed Wynn, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, and the incredible Dick Van Dyke."
The audience again broke into applause, "Dick is here today too, and he’d like to say a few words."
Roy invited Dick Van Dyke to the stage and the penguins scurried over to escort him to the podium. The Disneyland Band struck up "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and like old friends, "Burt" and the penguins skipped a couple of dance steps to the center of the stage where Dick began to speak, "Thank you." Burt took over, in his Cockney accent, "Ain’t it a beautiful day," he sang, "bright as a morning in May. I feel like I could fly."
You could almost hear Mary Poppins reply, "Ahh, Burt, none of your larking about," and the crowd hooted and hollered their approval.
"I don’t know how you didn’t remember the names of "those two penguins," Dick admonished Roy, "That’s Dorkus and Phyliss."
This remark drew quite a bit of laughter, who but Dick Van Dyke, Dear Readers, would remember the penguin’s names?
"I remember all their names," Dick added.
"It is such a pleasure for me to be here today and I cannot believe it was 37 years ago. It seems like yesterday," he emphasized. "That set was the most magical thing you have ever seen in your life. We’d walk into it; you couldn’t believe it, the Banks house and that lovely street and the park... it just blew me away. No one could believe it wasn’t shot outside somewhere in London. It was that beautiful."
Dick turned his attention to Julie Andrews, "She is not only talented, and graceful and beautiful, but," he hesitated to find the perfect adjective, "royalty, in every sense of the word. And," he continued, "She is also one great broad."
I’m not sure that’s an adjective I’d apply to Julie Andrews and I guess the audience felt the same way as everyone laughed politely.
"A terrific, terrific, gal," Van Dyke carried on over the laughter, "And one of the happiest, most fun, few months I ever spent in my life, and Roy," he turned to address Roy Disney, "You were right about the heat. We were rehearsing the chimney sweep number on the back lot on roofs made out of plywood and it was 98 degrees out there. We rehearsed all day. We danced our brains out. I lost something like 15 pounds. I never gained it back, actually," he joked. As he said this, Van Dyke looked at Julie Andrews and started to laugh. Then, he shared that joke with us, "Julie said, ‘I gained it.’"
"I wish more people could be here," Dick reminisced, "I’ll never forget the day that Walt Disney asked me over to show me he had several offices full of all the drawings of all the scenes and I walked through there and I said, ‘My goodness, this is going to be the best thing that ever happened.’ And then, I went in and I heard the Sherman Brothers play that score and I just knew, I just knew. We all loved every minute of doing it, but little did we know that it would live so well over the years. I now have a great-grandchild to go see it. I just had her last weekend and I can’t wait for her to see it. I think it’ll always be around. Julie Andrews will always be with us."
Mr. Van Dyke wrapped it up by thanking the crowd for their attention and much to our delight, exited with a Burt-like jig.
Then it was Garry Marshall’s turn. If you read my column on the premiere of The Princess Diaries, you probably have an idea about how entertaining this man can be when he gets a hold of a microphone. Looking a tiny bit scruffy in the Burbank summer heat, Garry was escorted center stage by the penguins as the Disneyland Band played Pretty Woman.
"Pretty Woman, done a different way," he nodded to the band."
"Hi, how are ya? What a great time." He delivered the lines with all the skill of a stand-up comedian. "It is a wonderful pleasure for me to be here. Not quite wonderful enough for me to wear a tie."
You can imagine, Dear Readers, how we all laughed at Garry’s droll delivery of that line.
"I’m very excited about Princess Diaries, the story of a person who’s trying to run a country without the help of Dick Cheney."
More laughter, of course, Garry is funny. He took a minute to thank (and name) all the folks who helped work on Princess Diaries, and then continued, "What can you say about Julie Andrews? She’s aaaaa," he drew out the a for a few seconds, "a queen-type person."
He told the stories about living in the same house as Julie and shooting Princess Diaries on the same soundstage as Mary Poppins, and commented, "It made us very happy to work together because we had something goin’ for us goin’ in. There really is nobody better to work with particularly when you have nine people in the cast under eighteen. So, she understands children, she stood there in this one scene in a tiara."
He stopped his anecdote to comment, "The lady can wear a tiara. Many people can’t. You should see my sister Penny (Marshall), in a tiara."
He really needed to stop making us laugh so much, Dear Readers, it was like being in a mid-morning comedy club, which is just wrong (but ever so funny).
"She stood," he continued with his story, "with the tiara just doing a great speech and the kids were off camera throwing paper airplanes by her head, like this," he motioned with his hands, "and she was just giggling around with it. So, this was a lady with class who understands her fellow actors and I truly am very proud to work with her."
"I’ve had the opportunity to discover new people and the only way you can do that is if you get somebody like a Julie Andrews who gives them room to work, somebody who’s been there and is a legend. Everything’s been said about Julie Andrews, but what’s not been said is that she allowed, on Princess Diaries, these kids to work and to be something. You always need somebody there to give it room and not push on these new people. That resulted in what, I think, is a new star and possibly a, I hope, a new star at Disney."
After issuing a few more accolades, Garry Marshall introduced Anne Hathaway, the young actress who plays Mia in Princess Diaries, "I have to take a few minutes to acknowledge her," he said, "She turned 18 in the middle of the picture. We got the cake. I paid for it,"
I’m telling you, Dear Readers, he really should do stand-up.
"It was very good."
He continued the introduction, "I think she’s on her way to a big future. We’re all behind her, Julie and myself, and I would like you to really acknowledge a future star. Very few come along. Ladies and gentlemen, Anne Hathaway."
Anne, looking quite smart in a lime-green suit, stood up to say hi to the crowd.
Then, in his inimitable style Garry exited with, "Thank you very much. I have to go stand by the penguin now. Nice to see you all."
Disney has kindly provided press information for the Princess Diaries movie if you'd like to know more about it.
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