By Mary O’KEEFE
Hollywood is more than just a district in Los Angeles, more than just a general term used to describe the film industry –Hollywood is also a place where people live, have businesses and strive to keep arts in the hearts and minds of their community and beyond.
It was that spirit of promoting art that the organizers of the 28th Annual Charlie Awards stepped on stage at the historic Blossom Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Awards in seven categories were presented by the Hollywood Arts Council on April 26. Richard M. Sherman was given the Music Arts Award, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles received the Cinema Arts Award, George Pennacchio received the Media Arts Award, Open Fist Theatre was given the Theatre Arts Award, Pink’s Hot Dogs was honored with the inaugural Culinary Arts Award, Christy McAvoy, Historic Resources Group received the Preservation Arts Award and the Hollywood Christmas Parade, produced by Associated Television International, was given the Entertainment Arts Award.
The award ceremony is also a fundraiser to benefit the council’s arts programs for underserved children in Hollywood.
The afternoon began with students from Selma Elementary School performing several songs from the Sherman brothers, Richard M. and Robert B. The Sherman brothers are well known for their music and lyrics from Disney classic movies like “Mary Poppins” and “Jungle Book.” Robert Sherman passed away two years ago; his brother Richard was on hand to hear their renditions including “It’s a Small World” and “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” and to accept the award for Music Arts.
Sherman continues to work on projects including the stage versions of “Jungle Book” and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.”
The Sherman brothers had a very good relationship with Walt Disney. In 10 years, they wrote over 200 songs that were put into Disney productions.
With all those songs, one would think writer’s block may have been an issue, but Richard said that was not the case when the story was strong.
“It is the story that inspires,” he said. “People don’t understand the real hero is the story. If you care about these characters and you care about the story and what the outcome is, our job is so much easier.”
The recent film, “Saving Mr. Banks” chronicles the making of and inspiration behind Disney’s “Mary Poppins.” In this movie, audiences got a small glimpse of what it was like to be in the Walt Disney, Inc. studios and work with Walt Disney.
Richard said the movie captured the real working experience between Disney and his artists, which included him being part of everything yet allowing the artists to do their job.
“He would steer us and he would say if he didn’t want something, but for the most part before we started a project he would give us the feel [of the story]. He was a wonderful storyteller, really he would become the characters when he told the story,” Richard said.
The songs from the films the Sherman brothers wrote may have been animated or had animation in them, but they can’t be classified as children’s films.
“Our songs never talked down to children. We have respect for the audience,” he said. “We never thought of them as kiddie films.”
There are two levels to the songs in these classic films: one level for children with fun lyrics and music, but then another level that adults can enjoy and realize the subtlety. Richard said it was rewarding for him when an adult realized these two levels.
The Hollywood Arts Council serves thousands of elementary school children through their project S.O.A.R. (Students Overcoming All Risks). Each year the council holds its Annual Free Children’s Festival of the Arts. The funds raised at the Charlie Awards go to promote and sponsor these projects as well as other outreach opportunities. The recent award event raised $110,000.
Supporting the arts is important to Richard as well. He listens to all kinds of music and likes many different styles; however, he admitted his favorite composer is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
His advises kids who want to compose to listen.
“Listen to all music and enjoy it all. Find an instrument that you like to play and really try to become good at it. Learn to read music so you are not just somebody who hears a tune and sings it, but you read the intelligence of the music and you can write it,” he said. You really have to study these things, and if you are possessed with that you desire and have a tremendous hunger to feed and if you can do that you can become a composer. It is a very competitive business and there are a lot of talented people. You have to be good, but not only very good, but lucky. I can’t explain luck, but I do know you have to work hard. I know I worked hard and my brother worked hard.”
Next week, check back with the CVWeekly for the rest of the story.