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There was a time as a kid growing up, when I, like so many, had dreams of attending a “Hollywood Premiere.” You saw it on television – the excitement, the stars, the glamour, the ideals that one typically thinks of as being “Hollywood.” As an adult, my life and career has gone in many directions, and often in waves. I went after a serious career as a screenwriter and film director for awhile, aspirations that didn’t quite work out as planned (or promised – long story) – but I did find some work as an actor and occasional crew member, and those are skills that still serve me well today as “The Rock Father,” a position where sometimes it feels like I have to be everything. I still direct and edit music videos, I can’t shut up write daily, I pop-up on-camera on YouTube (and sometimes television), but the closest I’d ever come to attending a Hollywood Premiere was back in 2002, when my wife and I attended the “green carpet” premiere of Pete Jones’ Matt Damon/Ben Affleck-produced STOLEN SUMMER, the first movie to come out of HBO’s PROJECT GREENLIGHT, when it made a huge debut at the Chicago Theatre. But my main gig now is that of a work-from-home parent, so how, in 2016, am I in Lake County, Illinois one day – then walking the red carpet at The World Premiere of Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK in Hollywood the next? Well, my life is wonderfully strange sometimes, and my I’ve been very fortunate to be in a position that allows for somewhat uncommon adventures. 

The Jungle Book - World Premiere
(L-R) Actor Ritesh Rajan, producer Brigham Taylor, composers John Debney, Richard Sherman, actor Giancarlo Esposito, Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, Alan Horn, actors Lupita Nyong’o, Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley and director/producer Jon Favreau. Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

My friends at The Walt Disney Studios invited me back to Los Angeles (on Mickey’s dime, disclosure and all) as part of a rotating crew that assembles in groups of 25 writers and bloggers at a time – each of them operating within the family pop culture realm. We’d been invited to take part in the launch of director Jon Favreau’s live-action reimagining of the 1967 animated classic, based on the works of author Rudyard Kipling. It is an unexpectedly astonishing and beautiful film, not only in terms of visuals, but in terms of content and weight. While my formal review is forthcoming, to say it must be seen on the big screen is an undeniable truth.

The Rock Father at The World Premiere of Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK

The experience of attending a red carpet premiere is something that’s still very special to me, particularly because I’ve only done it twice (though never before on this scale)… and because many will never get to experience an event like this at all. For THE JUNGLE BOOK, the famed El Capitan Theatre was decked-out in appropriately-themed decor – Hollywood Blvd shut-down to make way for hundreds of spectators, each hoping to glimpse some stars as the carpet made its way under and through a pop-up jungle, complete with live plants, video screens, and plenty of room for photo ops. I felt right at home, despite stepping a bit out of my comfort zone – leaving the shorts and chain wallet behind in favor of a tailored suit. To my own surprise, I actually felt pretty good – and received a lot of compliments… something I’m really not used to. 

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A photo posted by James Zahn (@therockfather) on

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After taking some photos on what’s often-called “The Oscars Steps,” it was time to walk the carpet. I witnessed young star Neel Sethi getting his first taste of the autograph seekers…

Neel Sethi

Stood steps from Sir Ben Kingsley doing interviews…

Sir Ben Kingsley

And watched Lupita Nyong’o (whom I’d recently met on the STAR WARS press circuit) pose for the agency shots…

Lupita Nyong'o

I paused as former MTV star Bill Bellamy snapped photos of his kids in front of me… took some pictures of my friends going full-selfie with Perez Hilton… and stepped aside for Disney CEO Bob Iger and Director Jon Favreau to be photographed underneath the glowing marquee. I got one, too…

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A photo posted by James Zahn (@therockfather) on

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Inside, we prepared to watch the film from the second row, the cast of Disney Channel’s STUCK IN THE MIDDLE seated in front of us, the cast of THE JUNGLE BOOK right behind as a jazz band kept the crowd entertained in the pre-show moments. There was a film to be seen, and what a film it was…

Afterward we headed across the street to OHM Nightclub for the official after-party, a celebrity-packed affair that brought some Disneyland staples into a different realm, including a Churro stand, Turkey Legs, and Dole Whip to snack on. There were photo ops, Disney Infinity games to be played, more live music, and a celebration of film and family. Amongst the excitement while hanging out with a great group of people, I did get a chance to tell Jon Favreau something very simple, yet very true – “great job.”

The film will certainly speak for itself, but you’ll be hearing much more about it in my conversations with the talent involved. Keep an eye on http://www.therockfather.com/thejunglebook in the days ahead. Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK opens in theaters everywhere, Friday, April 15, 2016. Get tickets now via Fandango.

On The Oscars Steps
The #JungleBookEvent Crew – April 4, 2016, Hollywood, California
Thanks to Joyce Duboise of Women and Their Pretties for the photo.
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