March 27, 2018 - Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero - The World Premiere
Regal LA Live 14, Los Angeles
by Bill Betten, Co-Director California WW1 Centennial Task Force
Although the typical, dramatic searchlights out front were not there, in classic Hollywood fashion the Red Carpet was rolled out, the reception rooms decorated, the pre-viewing party food and drinks were in place, introductions and speeches of honored guests planned, and the viewing theater had been properly prepared. Another film debut in Los Angeles was about to start and I and my wife had been invited to the premier. We were to join the "celebrities" on display that night, and I wondered who we would meet. As one of the California WW1 Centennial Task Force Managing Board members invited to attend the March 27, 2018, world premiere of the animated film Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero, I did not really know what to expect of the film, though I was somewhat familiar with the Sgt. Stubby story.
As was expected, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero, retells the truestory of the most decorated American canine of WW1, and all U.S. military history for that matter. But, what was unexpected was what the film delivered.
Alongside California WW1 Centennial Task Force Co-Director Courtland Jindra, I was joined by national Commissioner Zoe Dunning, and Chief Technologist and national Program Manager Theo Mayer to walk the "red carpet" and represent the WW1 Centennial Commission at the world premiere in Los Angeles.
The Pre-viewing reception area, decorated with a WW1 semblance of full-scale French towns and battlefield trenches set the background environment that was enhanced by colorful posters from scenes from the movie, actual WW1 artifacts, and a larger than life-sized ice sculpture of the star of the movie, Sgt. Stubby.
But, soon we found that the real celebrities who drew the most attention were to sit in the audience. They were the hundreds of children invited to the viewing by the producers and Variety –The Children’s Charity of Southern California. Co-hosted by Fun Academy Motion Pictures the premiere witnessed the great number of kids from the local Variety Boys & Girls Clubs.
Although the children were the last to arrive on buses, and never were allowed to venture upstairs where the adult refreshments were being served, they did pass through the amusement park-like setting, shake hands with a walking Sgt. Stubby, and get a free popcorn and memento before being brought directly into the theater.
Eagerly the children all took their seats on the ground floor of the theater. The director of the film, Richard Lanni, stepped out to introduce cast members, and of course when the voice of Sgt, Stubby's owner in the film, Logan Lerman (The Vanishing of Sidney Hall [2017,] Fury [2014,] and the Percy Jackson franchise,) walked uponstage the audience exploded. Their excitement and enthusiasm was to make for a wonderful showing of the feature film.
The horror of war is a very difficult issue to share with young children, while still making it interesting enough for older audiences as well, but upon viewing the film I found that the producers have succeeded in doing just that. Additionally, they have offered classroom teachers a way to address the topic in a manner any school districtor school board can accept. As a retired teacher with over three decades experience in the elementary classroom and now, a grandparent, I was very impressed with the possibilities of using this film in the school, and at home.
Sgt. Stubby was based upon the true story of an American military canine, the real Sgt. Stubby of the 26th "Yankee" Division. As the story tells, he joined the YD's, 102nd Infantry Regiment, composed entirely of National Guard units, as a stray in New England. This brave division was the first reserve component to see action in World War I.
I was not the only audience member at Regal's LA LIVE Barco Innovation Center in L.A. thrilled with the Sgt. Stubby film. Patrons young and old at the typically posh début freely declared their approval, and on its website Variety reported, "...the film is sufficiently intelligent and entertaining to engage most grown-ups and, no kidding, fascinate history buffs."
Logan Lerman, as the voice of Stubby's adopted master, Pvt. Robert Conroy did a superb job, as did Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter franchise, the Alice in Wonderland franchise, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street .) She stars as the narrating voice of Margaret Conroy. With his trademark French buoyancy, Gerard Depardieu of The Life of Pi [2012,] The Man in the Iron Mask [1998,] and Cyrano de Bergerac [1990,] stars as the jovial poilu, Gaston Baptiste.
Director, co-writer, and producer, Richard Lanni, a native of Ireland, was readily on hand to greet guests and answer questions about the making of the film, as were co-producers and a crew presenting a variety of accents demonstrating the film's transnational sponsorship.
For example the music for Sgt. Stubby, an original score, was composed by Scottish film composer and Academy Award nominee Patrick Doyle (Murder on the Orient Express [2017,] Thor [2011,] Rise of the Planet of the Apes [2011,] Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [2005,].) The excellent score was verymuch inline with the story, and I personally had to compliment Doyle for the work. I told him that all too often the music of a film destroys the "fourth wall," (leaving the audience's mind to muddle around in the orchestra pit, sometimes getting lost there.) Mr, Doyle expressed appreciation for the observation.
Though the real Sgt. Stubby was an American, he was a hero to many nations, so it is only fitting that the film of his life is played by a global cast supported by an international crew. Pre- and post-production was done in Paris, France; animation production in Montreal, Canada; Foley art and sound effects were recorded in Cornwall, United Kingdom; while voice-over recordings were made in Santa Monica, California; Columbus, Georgia; London, England; and Paris, France.
My fellow Task Force Co-Director, Courtland Jundra, commented that, “It was especially good to find how historically accurate it was.” Though I personally questioned one particularly unbelievable depiction, that of Stubby saluting, it appears that really did occur. According to Curt Deane, grandson of J. Robert Conroy, Stubby's real adopted owner one hundred years ago, the dog did impress officers with his ability to salute, a trick which Private Conroy taught him.
Commissioner Dunning of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission also pointed out the accuracy of the film adding that, "The graphics were very well done."
The film opens this Friday to the general public and the California WW1 Centennial Task Force encourages all to take the time to see it.
In theaters April 13, 2018
Learn more at http://www.stubbymovie.com