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A Magical Night at the Movies

From the first moment my 12-year-old daughter, Sophie, and I watched the Cruella trailer — just days before we were invited to the red carpet world premiere, gasp! — we had been looking forward to watching the movie, with plans to see it in the theater opening weekend. I'm fully vaccinated and Sophie received her first dose of the vaccine, so we were finally feeling comfortable with the idea of going back to the movies. After more than a year of missing the big screen, plans to go to the movies seemed like a good baby step to begin our journey back to "normal life."

A rare opportunity arose and before Sophie and I could lose our minds over the excitement, we were checking in at Will Call at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. We swiftly made our way to the red carpet, but because of the pandemic, it was a small event (not the usual red carpet to-do that you see on TV with tons of people). There weren't a lot of talent or media outlets on the red carpet (and no fans), and because we're not celebrities, we had to bypass the red carpet and go directly to the theater (but not before taking selfies in front of it, of course). At one point, I attempted to joke my way onto the red carpet with one of the security guys, and he howled with laughter at my lame attempts. Sophie and I were hoping to see Emma Stone — and I wanted to see Emma Thompson — but we couldn't see anyone from our vantage point, so we dutifully entered through an arch framed by red velvet curtains underneath a marquee that read: "Cruella World Premiere."

It was a short walk into the theater, and we stopped to take pictures every few feet — next to a huge picture of Emma Stone as Cruella, movie posters, a step-and-repeat, and underneath the lit El Capitan sign. This was our first time attending a red carpet world premiere and we wanted to enjoy and memorialize every minute. Inside the theater, there were tables set up with plastic buckets of popcorn and chilled bottles of water and soda. Ushers invited us to help ourselves, so Sophie and I grabbed a bucket and a bottle of water. We paused at a glass display of the red dress Cruella wears in the movie, and then again as we looked up to the two balconies inside the theater displaying mannequins outfitted with more of Cruella's outfits.

[Disney did a good job at enforcing COVID-19 protocols. They purposely kept attendance low in the theater, with only two to four people sitting in each row. Not every row had moviegoers in it, and everyone was required to wear masks.]

The movie, aka “How to fall in love with a villain”

Sophie and I both LOVED the movie. We loved the music, the fashions (oh, the fashions!), the photography, and the production design was rich and gorgeous. I'm predicting Oscar nominations for costume design and production design. Emma Stone and Emma Thompson were both incredible, and you could tell they relished playing their roles. It was a good script (lots of witty one-liners), and after learning Cruella's origin story, you want to give her a hug. The writers did an amazing job making you love a character known for wanting to skin dogs for their fur. The setting is 1970s London, so the whole thing felt very punk rock, powerful, and edgy. Of all of Disney's live-action reboots, this one is easily my favorite, and in my opinion the best one of the bunch. Sophie said, "I can't believe that was a Disney movie! I definitely want to see that again!" In addition to making plans to see the movie again on opening weekend, I promised her we would buy the movie as soon as it's released.

The mind-blowing bonus

As we exited the theater into the lobby, we recognized a few people from the red carpet (based on their outfits). Many of them were clearly celebrities since they had been interviewed on the red carpet, but because everyone was wearing a mask, we didn't recognize anyone. Some people were dressed to the nines but there were also "regular folk" in the crowd, so we didn’t feel out of place. Sophie was DisneyBounding as Minnie Mouse and received tons of compliments throughout the night on her red polka-dot dress.

Although we didn’t want the night to end, there didn't appear to be anything else happening, so we decided to leave. We were steps away from exiting the theater when a woman with red flowing locks in a dark suit leaped in front of us to hug a woman on my left. When they let go of their embrace, the redhead swung around, facing me, and I asked, "Are you Emma Stone?"

Despite her mask, I could tell she was smiling. Without hesitation, she answered, "Yes!" I asked if I could take a photo of her with my daughter and she kindly agreed. I fired up my camera phone and … nothing. The screen was black. For some unknown reason, the viewfinder was not working. My heart sank and I panicked for a second, not knowing what to do. Emma was warm and patient, so I had to come clean. "Emma,” I confessed, “I'm so sorry but my phone is not working." She immediately moved toward me to help.

As we said goodbye and made our way out of the theater, we could not believe our luck. Attending our first red carpet event, our first world movie premiere — and our first night back out to the movies since before the pandemic — was gift enough. Meeting Emma Stone and getting to take a photo with her — wow!

"Oh, no! Let's see what's going on," she said, looking over my shoulder while I opened and closed my camera app a couple of times. The third time I opened my camera app, it worked. "You got it!" she said and went back to stand next to Sophie. I snapped a few photos of the two of them together and then asked Emma if I could jump in and take a selfie with the three of us. She graciously agreed, apologizing for needing to keep her mask on.

As we said goodbye and made our way out of the theater, we could not believe our luck. Attending our first red carpet event, our first world movie premiere — and our first night back out to the movies since before the pandemic — was gift enough. Meeting Emma Stone and getting to take a photo with her — wow!

The next morning as I woke Sophie to get ready for school, we immediately began recapping the night. "When you were taking my picture with Emma,” said Sophie, “all I could think was, 'I can't believe my arm is touching Emma Stone!'"

For a couple of hours, we forgot we're still living in a pandemic, and it felt like regular life again for a bit. Cruella was a great escape, and running into Emma Stone was the cherry on top of an already magical night.

Can't get enough of Cruella? See what others are saying about the movie.

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