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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2001

Love, war in Hawai'i: Disney production 'Pearl Harbor'

 •  'Pearl Harbor' steers clear of major commercialization
 •  'Pearl Harbor' at Pearl Harbor: Graphic of USS John C. Stennis movie opening
 •  Advertiser special: The Pearl Harbor Story — Major Movie, Real Memories

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer

Even by Disney's grandiose premiere standards, the Hawai'i "Pearl Harbor" debut hoopla is huge.

World War II-era airplanes and black smoke filled the sky above Pearl Harbor during last year's filming.

Andrew Cooper

This is, after all, the studio that chose to open 1995's "Pocahontas" on outsized movie screens in New York City's Central Park, and launched 1998's "Armageddon" with a grand premiere at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

"Oh, this is big," said Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group. "It's certainly the biggest media premiere we've ever had."

The week of events, almost all of them limited to invited guests, will include official presentations, review screenings, interviews with the film's cast and crew, and tours for more than 500 worldwide press members.

Those events will be topped off with a lavish red carpet film premiere and after-party for 2,000 invited guests aboard the USS John C. Stennis, the aircraft carrier that will arrive in Pearl Harbor this week.

The public will be treated to a massive fireworks show over Pearl Harbor simulcast to a live on-deck performance of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra — but there will be no public viewing on base.

From the start, Hawai'i was the location of choice for the world premiere, Cook said.

"It was always our desire to do it in Pearl Harbor because of the significance that the harbor played and because, obviously, it's very hallowed ground. There are a lot of reasons (for staging the premiere at Pearl), but to pay tribute to those that lost their lives there it's just so much better for us to be at Pearl Harbor."

Not that the studio wants to talk about its enormous private party. Disney has required the local and Mainland businesses and organizations providing services in connection with the movie to sign non-disclosure statements.

Walt Disney Studios' senior vice president for special events, Lylle Breier, said that a major part of the event was planned, designed and orchestrated in-house but some of the vendors are local and some are from the Mainland.

Here's what else is known:

The Stennis arrives in Pearl Harbor Tuesday from its home port of San Diego, having departed Wednesday. No ceremonies are planned to herald its arrival.

On Wednesday, a commemorative gift presentation by attack survivors to "Pearl Harbor" director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer will coincide with an unveiling of "never-before-seen" attack memorabilia. The afternoon, media-only event will also reveal further details about a $10 million national fund-raising campaign to renovate and expand the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center and Museum.

Media previews of the film will be on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday through next Sunday, Disney will introduce cast and crew to the news media, along with technical consultants and historians. Scheduled to be aboard the Stennis for interviews are Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Cuba Gooding Jr., Kate Beckinsale and Alec Baldwin, as well as Bay, Bruckheimer and screenwriter Randall Wallace.

The big event will be Disney's just-past-sunset premiere of the film on the Stennis' 4.5-acre flight deck May 21, four days before the film's nationwide release.

Ben Affleck, left, and Josh Hartnett are two of the movie's stars.

Touchstone Pictures

The premiere's invited guests are being asked to arrive after 5 p.m. to navigate the considerable length of red carpet leading to the carrier, which will be moored at Hotel Pier, just makai of the USS Arizona Visitor Center.

Pua Mana and Halau I Ka Wekiu will entertain arrivals as they step on the red carpet.

Disney has treated the guest list for the event with utmost secrecy. Breier would confirm only that much of the "Pearl Harbor" cast and principal crew will attend as well as other celebrities, local military heads including the Pacific Fleet commander, Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, and a large contingent of survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

Gov. Ben Cayetano and his wife, Vicky, are on the list, as are Mayor Jeremy Harris and wife Ramona.

Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Aloha Chapter president Bob Kinzler, who also was invited, hopes the director's depiction of the actual attack is as factual as possible, regardless of what he does with the fictional storyline.

"The rest of the story can be the love story ... two guys, one girl," said Kinzler. "I think I'm just going to go for the entertainment of the film and not be too critical. At least I don't think I will."

Fellow survivor Everett Hyland, also attending the premiere, was willing to be a bit more lenient toward Disney.

"As long as they get the basics right ... that Pearl Harbor is in Hawai'i and it was the Japanese that launched the attack, it'll be fine with me," he said with a laugh.

Maj. William Harrison, Air Force spokesman, said that 17 surviving members of Maj. Jimmy Doolittle's famed Doolittle Raiders, whose bombing runs over Tokyo are one of "Pearl Harbor's" key set pieces, also will attend the premiere.

Military attendees have been instructed to show up in dress uniforms, but the official dress code for the evening, according to Disney's official invitations, is something called "aloha crisp."

Once on the Stennis, attendees will have their pick of a number of shipboard activities until Disney's official event program begins at 7:15 p.m.

"We'll have some of the best bands and musical groups that the military has to offer," said Cook.

He said a number of vintage and modern aircraft from the Navy and Air Force would perform fly-bys near the carrier as well. Already on the Stennis deck during initial shipboard stage construction in San Diego last week were a P-40 fighter and B-25 bomber, both of which are featured prominently in the film, as well as the Navy's modern F/A-18E fighter.

Guests will also be able to view the massive stage and screen set-up, designed and constructed specifically for the premiere. "We're going to build a state-of-the-art motion picture theater on the deck," said Breier. "Every single one of the seats will have a great view."

The outdoor open-air theater will have a stage deck with giant screen, surround sound, and raised stadium-theater-style bleacher seating for 2,000. The film will be projected from a specially built booth behind the audience.

Set up near the stern of the ship, the stage — which Breier said resembled that of a large stadium concert — will house the suspended movie screen and provide a performance setting for the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and the U.S. Navy Band's Sea Chanters chorus.

Constructed on the Stennis' flight deck while the ship was moored in its San Diego home port, the stage was disassembled for transport across the Pacific and will be reconstructed at Pearl Harbor this week. Both stage and screen will face Hotel Pier, providing guests on the bleachers with full views of the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri on either side of the scaffolding.

Formal opening ceremonies begin at 7:15 p.m. with a welcome, introduction of dignitaries and the playing of the national anthem.

Hawai'i Air National Guard spokesman Maj. Chuck Anthony said that the guard will stage an F-15 fighter jet missing man salute over the ceremonies, as a tribute to those who died during the attack.

"We're clearly and definitively paying tribute to the men and women who were in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941," Cook said.

Fireworks synchronized to the music of the Honolulu Symphony will explode over Pearl Harbor at about 10:45 p.m., having been launched from floating barges around Ford Island. The only portion of the evening festivities visible to the general public, the fireworks will unfold to the Symphony's Disney-specified song list of "patriotic Americana" tunes. The symphony performance will be simulcast on KSSK AM and FM radio.

After the fireworks, guests will retreat to the carrier's massive below-deck hangar, which will be done up to resemble a 1940s USO club, complete with swing bands from all military branches and dancing. Also entertaining at the post-premiere party will be The Brothers Cazimero.

Chef/restaurateur Glenn Chu — whose Indigo Eurasian Cuisine is doing the entire evening's catering — said that a prescreening selection of "munching food" would be followed by a gala cocktail reception heavy on sushi and grilled meats.

The evening is expected to conclude with guests leaving the Stennis well after midnight.

Cook shrugged off questions about the event's price tag and suggested that a widely reported $5 million figure might be somewhat overblown. More important to Cook is that a certain group of invited guests walk away from Disney's multimillion-dollar party with a night's worth of treasured memories.

"The survivors are the real heroes," said Cook. "We want them to take away a wonderful feeling that what they have done is so honored, appreciated and loved by everyone there. If they can take that away, I think that would be the greatest gift of all."

Advertiser staff writers Mike Gordon, Mary Kaye Ritz and Beverly Creamer contributed to this report.