On Tuesday night, Disney's El Capitan Theater was home to the 20th anniversary celebration of one of my favorite movies, The Rocketeer. A brand new never-before-seen print was screened for the sold out crowd, and writer/director Kevin Smith hosted a Q&A panel with director Joe Johnston, star Billy Campbell, seven time Academy Award winning make-up artist Rick Baker, screenwriters Paul De Meo and Danny Bilson, and artist William Stout.
Before the screening began, I introduced myself to Billy Campbell - The Rocketeer himself! - and he signed my ticket. While he was signing autographs for fans, some jackass poked his head into the crowd and told Campbell, "Hey man, this was one of my favorite movies when I was six!" Everyone shot him a look, and I instantly responded, "This is one of my favorite movies NOW." Campbell smiled to himself and nodded at me slightly.
The movie is as awesome as it ever was, and watching it in the same theater it premiered in exactly twenty years earlier was one of the best moviegoing experiences I've ever had. I JUST watched this movie about two weeks ago (introducing it to my roommate for the first time), so I was a bit worried that I might get bored watching it. Not for a second - this thing holds up, and Kevin Smith called it "the best comic book movie adaptation of all time."
Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us take any audio or video of the Q&A, but Smith did a great job moderating the panel and spreading time between the guests: Rick Baker talked about creating Lother's facial prosthetics, Bilson and De Meo talked about bringing the project from the comics to the screen with the help of Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens, and Stout told stories of sharing studio space with Stevens when Stevens came up with the idea for the character and drew the first drawings. Smith geeked out on Johnston in particular, after referring to the panel as "the people who shaped our childhoods," singling out Johnston as the creator of the AT-AT in Star Wars and pointing out his Oscar for Raiders of the Lost Ark (all to the roaring approval of the crowd, naturally). He asked Campbell what his experience was like on set, and Billy recounted stories of being excited to be on his first movie set after working at a Renaissance Faire immediately before being cast. Smith alluded to Campbell's real-life relationship with co-star Jennifer Connelly, which Campbell sheepishly admitted was true. Smith pointed out there is real chemistry on screen between the two, and jokingly asked Johnston if he ever had to repeatedly say "CUT!" at the end of a romantic take. After some chuckles from the crowd, Johnston responded, "No. I wanted to watch." He basically brought the house down with that one. (Smith could only reply, "Good Lord.") He then showed us the never-before-seen trailer for his upcoming film Captain America: The First Avenger, which won't be released to the public until Thursday. (Needless to say, the movie looks pretty rad.)
The party moved down the street to the Hollywood Museum, where the Disney Archives had a series of props and costumes on display from the movie. I've posted all of the pictures here, including a miniature Lucky Lindy statue, mini plane, the real jet packs from the film, and more. It was a great event, and it's clear Disney really has a lot of love for this film. If you haven't seen it in a while, give it another viewing - it holds up very well.
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