My sister, Caroline, and I went for a tour of DreamWorks. Our hosts were Daniel (assistant to Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco) and Kristen (DW's online marketing wiz). Near the end of our tour, they surprised us with three clips from The Croods and a brief sit down with Sanders and De Micco. I was so nervous that I completely wasted this opportunity. How so, you ask? Well, my two goals -- no, make that MY TWO DREAMS -- for this visit were to (1.) tell Chris Sanders how much his films meant to me, and (2.) to ask him for a signed sketch of Stitch. I did neither. That said, it was WONDERFUL to meet them. And then, as if things hadn't been amazing enough, James Baxter (the pencil behind Belle!) invited me and my sister up to his studio to see a character that got cut from the film! WHAT. A. DAY. Now the tour had ended, and Kristen, Daniel, Caroline and I were headed to the parking garage, saying our goodbyes.
Can't Stop, Won't Stop
Poor Kristen and Daniel. I had just unloaded a lengthy, long-winded and embarrassingly sincere set of thanks upon them, yet there I was, clearing my throat for round two. They were probably counting the single digit steps to our car, wondering why I was insisting on dragging this farewell out any further, but I simply could not stop. What they had done for me (and yeah, sure, for my sister Caroline) was INCREDIBLE. How could I not hammer them over the head with their own awesomeness?
"Thank you for the lunch, " I gushed. "Thank you for the tour of the studio. Thank you TONS for introducing us to Chris Sanders, Kirk De Micco and James Baxter. Thank you for showing us the three film clips, and thank you for setting aside an entire afternoon to make an unofficial Croods blogger feel like a part of something bigger."
"Kristen," I continued, "you know how much I've wanted to meet Chris Sanders. Heck, I would've been on cloud nine with nothing more than a quick handshake and a head nod. But you and Daniel whipped up a MINOR MIRACLE for me today! How long did we get to spend talking to him about animation and The Croods and A Charlie Brown Christmas? It had to have been at least a half hour!"
"And you're both so nice," I said, unable to stop even if I'd wanted to. "You noticed how nervous I was, right? Well, that had nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. Plus, it was being around you guys for a while that finally relaxed me. Cuz you're both so...so NICE!"
Here's where I forced them both to pose for a picture. After all they had done for me, you'd think that I'd have spared them an unexpected photo op. But I had a plan. A plan to make them the co-stars of this trip report!
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Poor Kristen and Daniel.
As soon as the photo was taken, Daniel touched his nose and flew up the chimney, while Kristen shrunk down to a tiny ball of incandescent light that floated off into the sky. I'll have to call Caroline to confirm this, but I think they might have used one of those classic, "Look! The Goodyear Blimp!" lines to distract me long enough to make their magical getaways. I can't blame them, though. Had they stayed around any longer, I probably would've launched into another round of unbridled gratitude...or started crying...or singing...or insisted on an uncomfortably long group hug.
Hey -- NO JUDGMENTS.
My emotions were running unusually high that day. After all, they had made this fella very, VERY happy.
So let's see. Caroline and I got into our car, put on our seat belts, started the engine, and THE FIRST THING she says to me is, "I thought you were going to ask Chris Sanders for a sketch of Stitch?"
I screamed. I admit it. Not an angry scream. Not a crazy, psycho scream. Just the scream of a man who has had a dream for, like, EVER, then gets the chance to make it come true, and then COMPLETELY FORGETS to do so! Not only that, but I hadn't even remembered to tell Chris Sanders how goddamned much I loved Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon. That should've been the first thing out of my mouth, right? I mean, I only had TWO GOALS. And I forgot them both! How does such a thing even occur? I dunno exactly. The terms 'star-struck' and 'giddy as a school girl' immediately spring to mind, but my mind is clearly not to be trusted with anything other than remembering to breathe. And even then...
Caroline and I drove back to her place, and for the whole drive (and the rest of that day) (oh, and a little into the next) I kept begging her to tell me not only her take on the tour, but also everyone else's.
"Was I cool around Kirk De Micco?"
"Did I say ANYTHING intelligent in front of Chris Sanders?"
"Did James Baxter really think I was going to rip his pencil tests"
"Did Daniel and Kristen see that I was silent because I was nervous, and NOT because I was bored or rude or an anti-evolutionist who finds the Croods' animalistic characteristics to be a slap in the face of God and The Creation Museum?"
Reassure me, Caroline! REASSURE ME!
It took a li'l over a week for me to finally put the whole tour into perspective. It was only after I'd flown home and began typing these trip reports that I was actually able to let go of all of my residual nervousness and second-guessing and simply BASK IN THE EXPERIENCE. And it was quite a magnificent experience.
I know I've put a lot of importance on the signed sketch of Stitch. (Full disclosure: This hasn't changed. I'd still really, REALLY love one!) But if there's one thing that writing these trip reports has impressed upon me, it's THE EXPERIENCE that was truly important, truly invaluable and truly irreplaceable. Getting invited to DreamWorks, getting a personal tour from Kristen and Daniel, watching James Baxter animate his artwork in front of me, chatting one on one with Chris f**cking Sanders as we speed-walked though the halls, then having him and Kirk De Micco personally introduce and explain three separate sequences from their film -- this was literally A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY. Even if a moment or two could be re-created at a future press junket or tour of the studio, this day, THIS PERFECT DAY, could never be topped or repeated.
Needless To Say, I've Got A Lot Of Folks To Thank
Caroline: I am SO glad you came. You are friendly and personable where I am inexplicably mute and unintentionally angry-looking. While I will never forgive our parents for giving you the good genes, I really do appreciate you letting me benefit from them once in a while.
James Baxter: Thank you so much for taking me and Caroline up to your studio to show us that cute little horse/dog hybrid that got cut from the film. Even more than that, thank-you for flipping that stack of pencil tests for us. Seeing an ANIMATION MASTER bring his artwork to life right in front of my eyes was a genuine thrill for me, and not something I'll ever forget.
Kirk De Micco: I know that the clock is ticking and the release date is nearing and that THE LAST THING you needed to worry about was making sure some unofficial blogger's visit to DreamWorks was a memorable one, YET YOU DID. Thanks a million for showing me and my sister the three scenes from The Croods. Hearing your intros and off-the-cuff commentary was actually more exciting for me than the scenes themselves -- and I LOVED the scenes!
Chris Sanders: You are the reason this blog exists. Your first two films, Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon, mean the world to me. Lilo and Stitch, in particular, helped me and my family through a very tragic, very trying time. I meant to say all of this to you back in Glendale, but I foolishly froze up upon meeting you. Oh, well. I guess it made for a funnier -- and far less predictable -- trip report this way. Anyway, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for fitting us into your day, for showing us the clips from The Croods, and for suggesting that we all take a group photo. Now I have proof that this wasn't some fever dream brought on by jet lag and food truck food!
Kristen and Daniel: Thank you. For everything. You read all of the stuff I said up top? Now read it again. And again. And again, ad infinitum. I mean it, you ever need an unofficial blogger for anything else in the future, I'm your man. I don't care if it's some creepy, cult-y religion you're starting or a rapidly ticking doomsday clock you need updated every hour on the hour, look no further than this long-haired layabout with a penchant for sudden and sustained silences. I owe you both. BIG TIME. Thank you!
Fast-forward three months and a trip to New York City...
Turns out, dreams really DO come true!
This post originally appeared on December 21, 2012