Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coming Attraction: American Ballet Theatre to Perform 'The Sleeping Beauty'

"The Sleeping Beauty," American Ballet Theatre

"The Sleeping Beauty," an American Ballet Theatre production, will be waking at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion July 15-18.

This is especially exciting news given how much CC enjoyed seeing "Cinderella" at the ballet in January. Since then, she has been pirouetting through the living room and her bedroom, raising her little toes in the air and reminding me how much she'd love to see another ballet.

In fact, she has already told me what dress she wants to wear once the next "baby ballet," as she calls productions that allow her in the audience, arrives.

The production, part of the Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center program, is led by ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie and tells the story of Princess Aurora, who is cast under a spell by the evil sorceress Carabosse in which she is forced into a century-long deep sleep. A handsome prince and a special kiss enter the picture, and the rest is fairy-tale history.

"The Sleeping Beauty," with choreography after Marius Petipa and additional choreography by McKenzie, Gelsey Kirkland and Michael Chernov and music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, will be performed by five separate casts.

American Ballet Theatre
"The Sleeping Beauty"
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Performances:
* Thursday July 15 -- 7:30 p.m.
* Friday, July 16 -- 7:30 p.m.
* Saturday, July 17 -- 2 p.m & 7:30 p.m.
* Sunday, July 18 -- 2 p.m.

Tickets:
$30-$120 (www.ticketmaster.com or 800-982-2787)

Photo courtesy of American Ballet Theatre/Gene Schiavone

The Circus Is Coming, the Circus Is Coming

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

It's that time of year again -- the time that CC's been asking about since last July. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Barnum's FUNundrum! is making its way through SoCal and arriving at Staples Center July 14.

Yes, kids, it's now time to up the excitement level for strong men, trapeze artists The Flying Caceres and, of course, clowns, clowns, clowns. CC loved going to the circus last year and still talks about it.

The event celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of showman P.T. Barnum, and according to the release:

"Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson invites the audience to leap aboard the Ringling Bros. Express and go on a family FUNtastic adventure to meet exotic characters and witness thrilling performances that attempt to answer Barnum's FUNundrum, "What special wonders create The Greatest Show on Earth?"

This year, they are also offering The Barnum Award, which will be presented to three Southland kids who are making a difference in their community. Click here to nominate a child between the ages of 8-14.

Produced by Feld Entertainment, Barnum's FUNundrum will be performing at Staples Center July 14-18; Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario July 21-25; and the Honda Center in Anaheim July 28-Aug. 8.

Tickets are $12-$100 and can be purchased by calling 800-745-3000 or visiting Ticketmaster.com or Ringling.com.

*** Special Mom Discount ***

For a special $48 Family Four-Pack of tickets on select performances or $4 off single-ticket prices on select shows, please use the discount code "MOM" when ordering online at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Princess Tiana Swimsuit Makes Splash with CC

CC shows off a Disney Fairies Swim Tote while donning a Princess Tiana Reversible Swimsuit.

While June gloom might be trying to put a damper on summertime fun in the sun, CC and I have still had lots of chances to head to the pool.

So when Disney Store sent over samples of new toys to review, we were quick to get the sunscreen and try out a few playful poolside goodies.

The first item that CC dove for was the Princess Tiana reversible swimsuit (SRP $12.99, but there's a sale now at DisneyStore.com!) that's alternately blue and purple (shown above and right).

"I want purple!" CC exclaimed when she first saw its reversible magic. "No blue! No purple!"

After deciding on purple, that's been her go-to color -- and go-to swimsuit -- every time we head to the pool.

Her other favorite for toy-toting is the Disney Fairies Swim Tote (SRP $9.50, also shown above). She LOVES this bag. Most of her stuffed animals have already gone for a ride in it, but what's especially great about the colorful tote is its durability -- and she has definitely stress-tested that. It's also a fun purple (to match her swimsuit, natch) with tons of glitter.

While the Disney Princess Hula Hoop (SRP $9.50 at Disney Store) held an initial thrill for CC -- there was lots of hip-shaking the first day -- she has since put it down in favor of other toys. At 3, though, she's still a little small to get a lot of use out of it.

What we're looking forward to is testing out the Disney Princess Giant Bubble Maker (SRP $4.50 at Disney Store), which is on our list of things to do at the park. How can kids not love bubbles the size of their heads?

Happy Summer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pee-wee Herman Makes CC Laugh



Honestly, I was a little skeptical about bringing CC to see "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Is the movie really appropriate for kids? It's been 25 years since it was released in theaters, so I was a little fuzzy. Plus, Pee-wee Herman?

After doing a little research, and seeing in the festival magazine that it was listed under "family-friendly," I decided to take the Pee-wee plunge.

So on Saturday, CC and I headed downtown to the Orpheum Theatre and grabbed a couple of seats but not before scoping out the joint. The theater, which opened in 1926, is rich in history. Its stage has held the likes of Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Duke Ellington. The decor is ornate and very ... gold ... a reference Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee) doesn't hesitate to make in the above video.

Speaking of the video, you can hear CC laughing as Reubens refers to a potentially scary moment in his 1985 film. I love it that she laughs when she hears laughter around her. It's infectious.

As for the movie, we only got to see half of it -- not because it was inappropriate. It's not. The story of Pee-wee tracking down his stolen bicycle is funnier and more child-friendly than I remembered.

No, it was time for a trip to the loo -- which CC didn't mind announcing. To everyone we passed on the way there.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

L.A. Story Meets Perry S. Chen of PerrysPreviews.com at LA Film Festival



One of the great opportunities I had while covering the Los Angeles Film Festival was meeting Perry Chen of PerrysPreviews.com and his mom, Zhu Shen.

I mentioned this 10-year-old film critic from San Diego in an earlier post, but I was able to meet him and Zhu in person during the festival, which was a real treat.

Perry is sharp, thoughtful and a big fan of his mom. In fact, Zhu is someone I really admire for her ability to challenge and support her son. What an amazing job she's doing!

While at the festival, I was able to catch two films with Perry and Zhu -- "Waiting for 'Superman'" (which Perry gave 4.5 Starfish; read his review here) and "Make Believe," an endearing family-friendly film from J. Clay Tweel about six young hopefuls from around the world who are preparing for the annual Teen World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas.

"Make Believe" won the Jury Award for Documentary at the festival. Another family-friendly entry, "Thunder Soul," which I mentioned in a previous post, won the festival's Audience Award for Documentary.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

'A Small Act' Interview with Director Jennifer Arnold



I had the opportunity to talk to Jennifer Arnold, writer/director/producer of documentary "A Small Act," screening for free tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles Film Festival.'

The film follows the story of Hilde Back, a Holocaust survivor who decided to donate $15 a month toward a Kenyan boy's primary school education. According to the festival description, "That amount seemed inconsequential to her, but for Chris Mburu, it changed his life."

"Now a U.N. human rights lawyer who understands the importance of education in Africa, Mburu has founded a new scholarship fund, aptly named for his once unknown benefactor."

CC and I Visit ZonePerfect live.create. Lounge at LA Film Festival


Here's a fun pic of CC and me outside the ZonePerfect live.create. lounge at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Yes, I look a little Slouchy McSlouchster, but we had a great time checking out the festival scene. In fact, we had just come from a performance inside the lounge by a magician, who I thought would be a little more child-friendly.

That's not to say he wasn't entertaining. For his trick, he wrapped himself in a straight jacket, and then pulled out two live chickens once he broke free.

Then he left them there. On the stage ... which brought more literal meaning to the phrase "Just us chickens."

Friday, June 25, 2010

'One Lucky Elephant': Review and Interview from LA Film Festival



"One Lucky Elephant," a touching and thoughtful documentary screening in competition at the Los Angeles Film Festival, was 10 years in the making.

The film, directed by Lisa Leeman, follows an African elephant named Flora, and David Balding, the man who adopted her as a pint-sized pachyderm to become the signature act in his St. Louis circus -- Circus Flora.

After years in the spotlight and treated like the daughter Balding never had, Flora becomes visibly restless as the star of the show. It becomes clear from her behavior that she is simply tired of performing.

So what can Balding do?

"She needs a different life," he says in the film, "where she can be an elephant, not a dog or a daughter."

Thus begins his journey to find the proper place for the 10,000 pound animal Balding raised as his own.

After being essentially coddled by Balding for 16 years, where does Flora belong? Should she stay with him? Live in a zoo with other elephants -- something she's never before experienced as an "only elephant"? Or should she be returned to the wild, in Africa, where elephants live naturally in herds?

The film explores with great tenderness the journey of a man who knows he must let go of his "little girl." Whereas parents of similarly aged real children, when sending them off to college for example, recognize the milestone of letting their kids grow up, Balding experiences the same feelings of loss coupled with extreme uncertainty.

And after Balding makes his final decision, the filmmakers don't shy away from examining the fallout -- as well as the questions that linger after such an important decision.

What "One Lucky Elephant" spotlights very well is the paradoxical treatment of wild animals by humans -- something producer Cristina Colissimo discussed with me in the above video. While we want to be able to watch and learn from animals in zoos and be entertained by them at circuses, what are we also taking away from them (physically and emotionally) in the process?

Note: While children are encouraged to watch "One Lucky Elephant," the film does contain news footage of elephants in distress, as well as footage of how elephants are "broken" or trained.

"One Lucky Elephant" will be screening tonight at 5 p.m. at Regal Cinemas and tomorrow, June 26, at 1:45 p.m., also at Regal Cinemas.

Tickets: $12 (door only)

Sponsored Post: 1,000 More 'Juno Baby' DVDs to Give Away!

Juno Baby with Bunny and Indie in "Way to Go, Juno."

Yes, you read that correctly. Together with Heard It From a Mom, I am giving away 1,000 "Juno Baby: Way to Go, Juno!" DVDs.

Click here to get yours.

Not only that, but Juno Baby will be driving through Pasadena on her bus tour tomorrow, June 26.

Juno herself will be on hand at Kidspace Children's Museum from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. to hang with performers featuring kids singing, dancing and playing along to Juno Baby tunes. A green screen will also highlight the festivities, where kids to take Juno-themed pictures.

As you might have read in my earlier post, Juno Baby is a series created by composer-mom Belinda Takahashi, Ph.D., that mixes music with age-appropriate learning.

In the "Juno Baby: Way to Go, Juno!" DVD, Juno and her friends learn how to overcome such fears as the dark, getting a first haircut and even eating broccoli.

Heard It From a Mom (HIFAM) is a site where moms can sign up via email to try out products for free. If you like the product, HIFAM will send moms that you recommend the same product to try -- also for free. In turn, those moms can recommend their friends, and so on and so on while supplies last.

Click here to receive your free "Juno Baby: Way to Go, Juno!" DVD.


Kidspace Children's Museum
480 N. Arroyo Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91103

* Sponsored Posts refer to posts for which I have been or will be compensated. Any opinion reflected herein, however, is my own.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Zem Joaquin Creates Sustainable, Family-Friendly Home for Dwell on Design

Zem Joaquin's eco-friendly sustainable show house from last year's Dwell on Design event.

Dwell on Design, the expansive annual design event, is headed to the LA Convention Center June 25-27, and Ecofabulous founder and mom of two Zem Joaquin is returning with another sustainable home, which will be auctioned off courtesy of eBay.

Joaquin, a California designer who champions eco-friendly materials, created this year's one-bedroom show house from 90% recycled materials, including wood from old barns and a brewery.

"It's giving new life to something that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill," she said, "but instead is turning into a beautiful home for someone."

Not only that, but Joaquin (pictured left) stresses that it's important for her to use local materials, which eBay has helped out with via their classifieds section. She bought her materials mainly from two sellers, one from Texas (where the house is being constructed) and one from Los Angeles.

When she discusses wanting to maintain a healthy home and a more sustainable lifestyle, much of the influence for that comes from her children, ages 7 and 9. In fact, Joaquin attributes the radical changes in her approach to traditional cleaning products -- basically, dumping them for nontoxic cleaners -- to helping her kids overcome asthma.

"They were at the hospital a lot of times," she said. "I'm a working mother. It was hard to be at the hospital all the time. Not to mention how expensive it was, and how hard it was on them."

It was after being told that her kids should take long-term steroids that Joaquin said, "Absolutely not. I will find another way."

"Then it hit me suddenly that it was all the toxins that they were being exposed to -- that I was exposing them to," she added. "I had all these cleaners. I wasn't conscious of it, because I was so busy -- so busy trying to keep everything clean. And really, I was exposing them to really unhealthy products."

And now, she said, she got rid of everything toxic and started over, being as VOC-free as possible. "It's my biggest victory. That's why I started Ecofabulous, because I had to share this information."

Fast-forward to this year's Dwell on Design event, and Joaquin is excited about what will be included in the show house -- particularly a herringbone floor constructed of reclaimed materials.

"It's interesting what you can do with 400 square feet," she added, referring to the size of the home.

"It's like a cocoon. It's got organic Coyuchi sheets, lots of amazing art, Brizo faucets with one-touch technology," which she said is great for kids who might forget to shut it all the way.

There's also an induction cook top from Electrolux that is built it into the kitchen island. Even when it's on, it's cool to the touch. Definitely nice for those active kiddos.

Also, if the winning bid is more than the actual cost of the house, those proceeds will benefit Global Green, a nonprofit organization that fosters sustainable living.

Partnering with eBay makes a lot of sense for someone who is looking to reuse materials.

As Joaquin said, "The greenest thing is often something that already exists."

Tips for Toxin-Free Living:

1. Cleaning supplies: "It can be as simple as cleaning with baking soda, which is an unbelievable sanitizer," says Joaquin. "Baking soda and white vinegar will basically clean anything. But my site is called Ecofabulous, so I still like all those trappings." She also recommends Method products, which she says are inexpensive and easy to find.

2. Organic mattress: "Kids spend so much of their life in a bed. They sleep a lot more than us, and that is the last place they should be exposed to harmful chemicals." Go for the formaldehyde-free options.

3. Personal care products: "Things you put on your kids' skin and what you wash their hair with -- any type of hair care and personal care, you want to make sure it's one of the healthy ones." Joaquin suggests checking HealthyChild.org (where she is a board member) to find recommended products. "Make sure that what you put on your kids' skin is something you'd want them to eat, something that has nutrients."

4. Avoid phthalates in children's toys: "It's that plasticizer that makes toys soft. All of those PVC toys are totally toxic," says Joaquin. She recommends GreenToys.com.

Pictured left is the Green Toys Recycled Plastic Recycling Truck from World of Good by eBay.


Photos courtesy of Ecofabulous and eBay.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Coming Attraction: 'Grease' Sing-A-Long!


How awesome is this?! Singing along to "Grease." In public? Paramount Pictures is presenting Sing-A-Longs all over the country, and on July 8 Angelenos can bust out with "We Go Together" at AMC Century City.

I am a huge "Grease" fan, going back to when I was CC's age and watched this John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John movie for the first time. In the theater.

This was the original "High School Musical," albeit with teen pregnancy issues, beauty school dropouts and underage smoking.

But who can deny the power of those songs? "Greased Lightnin', " "You're the One That I Want," "Summer Nights."

The movie is rated PG-13, so it is perhaps more perfect for tweens than the little ones, especially if you're concerned about the more mature references.

Or it could be a really fun Moms' Night Out. Just don't forget your Pink Ladies jacket.

Click here to buy tickets.


'The People vs. George Lucas' Filmmakers Chat at LA Film Festival



I had the opportunity this afternoon to chat with "The People vs. George Lucas" director Alexandre O. Philippe and producer Robert Muratore downtown at the Los Angeles Film Festival HQ.

Talking about their documentary, screening tonight at 8:30 p.m. at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, Philippe and Muratore explain the love-hate relationship that fervent fans feel toward the "Star Wars" creator.

Did Lucas take a wrong turn with his "Star Wars" prequels, inviting more hate than love, especially when it comes to Jar Jar Binks?

Superfans don't hold back in their video submissions for the film, a new concept of filmmaking that takes advantage of our social-media zeitgeist.

Definitely sounds like a fun film to check out.

Oh, and that last question I ask, I forgot to add the twin Stormtrooper bookends. ... You'll see what I mean.

The People vs. George Lucas
John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
Wednesday, June 23 (yes, that's tonight)
8:30 p.m.
Tickets: $12 at the door

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Waiting for 'Superman': Review From LA Film Festival



Why are our public schools failing our kids?

That's what filmmaker Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth") asks in his latest documentary, Waiting for "Superman," which appeared as a Gala Screening this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

In the film, Guggenheim talks to innovative educators such as Geoffrey Canada, the Harlem-born and Harvard-educated head of the New York City neighborhood's Harlem Children's Zone, who has personally vowed that no child accepted into his programs will be left behind -- from early childhood through college.

Guggenheim also sits down with Washington, D.C., chancellor of public schools Michelle Rhee, whose refreshing candor about the "crappy education" her district's kids are receiving is highlighted only by her kick-ass-and-take-names attitude toward separating the wheat from the bureaucratically stymied chaff.

But it's the stories of the kids he follows -- Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy and Emily -- that offer the most gut-wrenching look into how desperately our educational system needs to be fixed -- and stat.

Watching this movie as a parent was difficult -- especially seeing how stuck the parents felt about their situations. Most were low-income moms and dads who wanted more for their kids. And while they were supporters of their children, they were also dubious about breaking away from a system that doesn't offer a lot of options.

Each child's excitement as he or she talked about wanting to go to college or be a teacher or a veterinarian was both inspiring and devastating. What they were relying on was a lottery, and each of them wanted to be picked to gain access to a better education through a proven charter school.

Their futures literally came down to a Bingo ball.


Guggenheim does a tremendous job of showing a broken system and the people who really advocate for change -- which, seemingly in his eyes, does not include the rigid teachers' unions.

The children he has chosen to follow are all bright, driven and want something better for themselves. So do their parents.

While he does talk to one upper-middle class family, I believe he would have benefited from talking to other middle-class families -- although perhaps their stories might not have been as dire.

Also, there are some related issues that he doesn't mention, including parental involvement, challenging home lives or discipline issues that crop up in public schools that make it a challenge for teachers to actually teach.

More than just offering one answer to a complex problem, Guggenheim lets the educators speak for themselves and offer their own ideas on how to enact change.

But what Guggenheim appears to be saying -- no, pleading for -- is for change to actually happen.

Father's Day Fun


We spent a wonderfully gorgeous Father's Day with Ian's mom, Nattie, who was in town for a long weekend.

Gladstone's 4 Fish in Malibu was our catch of the day, and the offerings were definitely tasty. (I have to recommend the bounteous Grilled Shrimp Tostada. Yum!)

CC, of course, was more excited about leaping into this awesome seaside contraption for a quick photo opp (top).

It was a beautiful weekend made more special by watching Nattie read to CC at bedtime.

Monday, June 21, 2010

And the LA Film Festival Tickets Go To ...

"Thunder Soul" is a family-friendly entry in the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Readers who entered my second Los Angeles Film Festival giveaway are in luck, because I'm giving away 2 sets of tickets and ZonePerfect live.create. lounge passes. Yay bonus!

First, yellowismyfavorite is the winner of 4 festival tickets, good for most films, conversations and chats, and 4 lounge passes. Congrats! (And yes, that's a bonus of 2 extra tickets and passes!)

Secondly, kriz bell can network at the festival with 2 tickets and 2 lounge passes! Congrats!

Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with your full name, email and phone number, and I'll get you both set up!

If you're looking for family-friendly festival fare, "Thunder Soul" (pictured above) is another option.

Screening on Saturday, June 26 at 8:30 p.m., the documentary is part of the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre Screenings associated with the festival.

"Thunder Soul" tells the story of Conrad O. "Prof" Johnson, a band leader that turned a "staid" high school jazz band in inner-city Houston into a '70s sensation. Thirty-five years later, that band, the Kashmere Stage Band, reunites to pay tribute to the man who changed their lives.

Tickets: $12

Friday, June 18, 2010

'Circo': Review and Giveaway for LA Film Festival










While traveling the Mexican countryside, from small town to even smaller village, the Ponce family keeps up a more than 100-year tradition of bringing their traveling circus to customers.

Director Aaron Schock gives audiences an honest glimpse into their itinerant lives in "Circo," a documentary competition entry making its world premiere tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

"Circo" chronicles a pivotal moment in the family's life -- a family that scarcely knows any other existence besides the constantly moving caravan of clowns, contortionists and aerialists -- and of its Circo Mexico traveling circus.

Tino Ponce is the ringmaster of this shoestring operation, and he oversees not only a menagerie of wild animals tucked into small, colorful cages but also his family, aka his fellow performers.

Tino's wife, Ivonne, who gave up town life for the never-ending road of the circus, serves as his right hand and one who also cares for their four young children, who act as laborers, performers and who represent the outfit's future.

It's when Ivonne begins raising doubts about the children's insular lives (lives that do not involve any sort of formal education) and the seemingly selfish motives of Tino's father, Circo Mexico's true patriarch, that relationships start to fray.

Pair that with rising debts and fewer paying customers, and Tino is suddenly faced with either sticking with what he has known all of his life ... or addressing what his wife wants to change.

While this 75-minute film isn't a strong draw for the littlest of viewers, it does serve as a compelling entry in any lineup that includes films with PG-rated family dynamics.

It's truly heartbreaking when Tino's daughter, who must be about 9 years old, admits that she can only write a handful of words: bear, mom, dad, Moises (her brother) and her own name.

Screenings:
Fri., June 18, 7:45 p.m., Regal Cinemas
Sat., June 19, 4:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas
Mon., June 21, 5 p.m., Regal Cinemas

Director: Aaron Schock
Writers: Aaron Schock, Mark Becker
Producers: Aaron Schock, Sally Jo Fifer, Jannat Gargi

***GIVEAWAY***

Today I'm giving away a pair of Los Angeles Film Festival vouchers, good for most screenings outside of the closing night film. With that, I'm also giving away 2 passes to the ZonePerfect live.create. lounge.

Just leave a comment telling me which film you'd most like to see.

Good luck, and I'll announce the winner Monday, June 21!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

'Toy Story 3' Fun Zone Rocks at El Capitan



"Toy Story" fans will not be disappointed when they head to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for the Disney/Pixar franchise's latest adventure.

And don't forget about the Fun Zone!

CC and I were invited to attend an advance screening of "Toy Story 3" in 3-D with the added bonus of checking out the 25,000 square-foot kiddie wonderland after the movie.

It was truly amazing and much bigger than I'd imagined. Big enough to hold a live stage show with Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Jessie the Cowgirl; a Toy Zone, complete with a larger-than-life Time Out Chair, foam blocks, Legos and Super Slinky Steps; tricycle racing (yes, kids racing on a colorful track with trikes!); a Ferris wheel, bounce house and, well, that's just for starters. (And with individual ticket prices for the movie and Fun Zone ranging from $16-$20, it's a bigger bargain than most theme parks.)

The movie itself was yet another slam-dunk for Disney/Pixar. (Really, has Pixar gone wrong at all so far?)

While admittedly a little darker than the original (I haven't seen "Toy Story 2," but CC did get a tad frightened at one point), the characters in "Toy Story 3" are spunky and endearing, and the story is an original take on how children eventually come of age -- and often leave their toys behind with childhood.

Andy is going off to college and has to decide which toys (if any) to take with him, store in the attic or just throw out. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the gang are understandably on edge, thinking that they're all headed for that great toy chest in the sky -- well, actually the dumpster.

When they end up at a daycare filled with unruly tykes and other toys harboring questionable motives, that's when things really get going.

The "Toy Story" movies are all about adventure and plotting an escape back to their home base -- Andy's room. But when the toys believe that Andy doesn't want them around, they wonder where exactly they should escape to. Where do they belong?

This presents an opportunity for the Pixar whizzes to explore honestly how people -- kids as well as adults -- move on.

And it is touching. (Read: Bring tissues.)

"Toy Story 3" and Fun Zone
El Capitan Theatre
June 18-Aug. 29
Admission: Adults ($20); Matinee ($18); Children ages 3-11 / Adults ages 60+ ($16)

Tricycle racing photo credit: © 2010 Disney/Pixar. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coming Attractions: Father's Day at Dodger Stadium, Women's Suffrage Celebration, Pinkberry Unveils Watermelon

Besides the Los Angeles Film Festival, which I mentioned kicks off on Thursday, check out what other family-friendly events will soon be happening in L.A.

Dodger Stadium Hosts Game of Catch with Dad:
The hometown team is hosting a special free Father's Day event on Sunday, June 20. From 10 a.m.-1 p.m., families can go out onto the field and play catch with Dad. Visitors also will be able to park for free, and the first 3,000 through the gates will receive a complimentary Dodger Dog. Score!

Heritage Square Museum Celebrates 90 Years of Women's Suffrage!
To honor the 90th anniversary of ladies having the right to vote, Heritage Square Museum is hosting the exhibit "Their Rights and Nothing Less: A Celebration of Women's Suffrage." Yay 19th Amendment! The exhibit features "ephemera and artifacts ... from the early years of the suffrage movement," according to the press release, and will run June 19-Sept. 26 (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only).


Pinkberry Unveils Watermelon Frozen Yogurt for Summer
CC will love this! For a limited time, beginning June 25, Pinkberry will offer watermelon frozen yogurt topped with watermelon puree and diced cucumber. And to sweeten the deal, Pinkberry outlets will host Watermelon Happy Hours from 5 p.m.-7 p.m., when customers can order any size serving of watermelon yogurt, including toppings, for half price.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Xbox Kinect Makes Huge L.A. Debut



After months of anticipation, Microsoft unveiled its new controller-free Xbox 360 device, Kinect, and Cirque du Soleil was along for the ride.

Yesterday, CC and I had the opportunity to once again explore the innovative venture formerly known as "Project Natal" and take in a performance by the Canadian-based troupe that, ahem, connected technology with the unfettered freedom of movement.

Our first stop was a penthouse in downtown Los Angeles that showcased many of the games on offer for Kinect, an accessory composed of a camera and depth sensor to tie players' movements to that of the video game characters.

Let's just say that CC was not shy about showing off her own moves for games such as "Kinect Adventures" (the only time this 3-year-old will come close to white-water rafting), "Dance Central" (yes, my child rocked out to Lady Gaga) and the adorable and interactive "Kinectimals," in which players can mimic the motions of cuddling with a baby tiger or lion.

It's pretty stunning.

Also stunning was the Cirque du Soleil performance at the Galen Center. CC and I enjoyed seeing "Kooza" last October, and this engagement did not disappoint.

When I first heard that Cirque and Microsoft were teaming up for this unveiling, I'll admit I was a little dubious. What did one have to do with the other?

But the concept -- a movement-based gaming system that gets players off the couch -- blended nicely with the imagination and agility of the troupe.

The performance will be televised commercial-free today at 6 p.m. PT on Nick at Nite, mtvU, MTV Hits and Logo.

Kinect hits shelves in November.

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Vacation in Los Angeles' Backyard?

CC dives onto a bed at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Monica.

Since moving to Los Angeles eight years ago, I have yet to stay in a local hotel. I mean, why would I? I live here, right?

But with the economy being what it is -- sucky, but not as sucky as last year -- people are looking for bargains, and local hotels are looking for travelers, be they from abroad or just around the corner.

This weekend, Doubletree Guest Suites in Santa Monica invited CC and me to get a little taste of how that can work right in our own backyard. (In fact, they're calling it a Backyard Vacation, instead of the ubiquitous "staycation.")

While we didn't spend a night at the hotel, we did enjoy breakfast, a peek at one of their guest suites and a complimentary afternoon with other blogger and journo families at Pacific Park (right) on the Santa Monica Pier.

The suite we saw was definitely roomy and the accommodations generous, but the best part -- at least for CC -- was riding up the glass elevator while looking down on the hotel lobby. Forget amusement park rides, kids could entertain themselves without even leaving the premises.

Spending an afternoon at the pier with other families reminded me that there are so many amazing places in this city that are great for multiple families. The other kids were all about 8 years old and watched over CC so well. They were all hopelessly adorable and included her in everything. It was great to see.

In fact, at breakfast at the hotel, CC and some of the older kids walked over to a coffee kiosk and came back with a small bottle of Sprite.

She held it up for me so proudly, and when I asked where it came from, a little boy looked at me and said, "She got it with her cuteness."

Sounds like my little girl.

While it still seems a little foreign to me to pay for a hotel 20 minutes from where you live, I guess I should consider where we do, in fact, live.

Near the ocean -- with lots of great restaurants and a million amazing things to do.

Friday, June 11, 2010

And the 'Sid the Science Kid' DVD Goes To ...


Congrats Yvonne in LA! You won the "Sid the Science Kid: Weather Kid Sid" DVD. (Drawn from Random.org)

Thanks to all who participated, and stay tuned for more giveaways!

And the Los Angeles Film Festival Tickets Go To ...




Congrats to Jennalee, who won the 4-pack of tickets to selected Los Angeles Film Festival screenings and ZonePerfect live.create lounge passes! (Drawing courtesy of Random.org)

Hope she enjoys Documentary Competition entry "One Lucky Elephant," whose trailer is in the video above. (I'm actually going to a press screening of this film later today, and I can't wait to let readers know how it is.)

Thanks to everyone who entered, and double thanks to those who clicked "Like" on my Facebook fan page.

Jennalee, please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with your full name, email address and phone number.

Stay tuned for more Los Angeles Film Festival giveaways!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Traveling With Kids Just Got a Little Easier



Summer is almost here, and that means road trips, airports and hotel rooms are part of the travel package.

Usually, this causes a few mixed feelings, especially when you have a little one. Vacation! (Yay!) Arranging a play yard or crib for the hotel room? (Not so yay.)

Luckily, participating Marriott hotels (Courtyard Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Springhill Suites, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites) have launched the complimentary Tots Travel Too program, which provides guests, upon request, with a travel crib and other goodies.

The hotel has also teamed with COVERPLAY, a business created by Allison Costa and Amy Feldman that specializes in removable play yard slipcovers. In addition to the travel crib, Marriott hotels will provide a freshly laundered COVERPLAY slipcover.

(I emphasize the "freshly laundered" part because I remember requesting a play yard at a Las Vegas hotel when CC was barely 1, and I thought it had been somehow plucked from 1965.)

Guests can also receive a complimentary animal squirtie for bath time, as well as outlet covers, nightlights and baby shampoo and lotion.

Several other L.A. moms and I had the opportunity to chat with Costa and Feldman last week, and learned about the ups and downs of starting a new business. (CC was happily entertained in the neighboring conference room, pic below, thanks to caregivers, books, snacks and other tykes her age.)

Costa, a mom of twin boys, knows about traveling with kiddos first hand. And in addition to getting her business off the ground (check out their web series here), she also mentioned that it's a challenge balancing business and motherhood.

However, she added that although her new endeavor is time-consuming, showing her kids a strong work ethic is its own reward.

Not only that, but she and Feldman are helping out other moms and dads by giving them a break.

With all the parental stress that comes with lugging car seats, toys, snacks and what seems like a warehouse full of clothing for a family getaway, I'm happy that COVERPLAY and hotels such as Marriott are helping to make parents' lives a little easier.

Bottom photo courtesy of Amy Anderson

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coming Attraction: Jazz Night at Kay 'N Dave's to Support Culver City Parks

Kay 'N Dave's Cantina in Culver City is hosting An Evening of Great Food & Cool Jazz tomorrow night, June 10 from 7 p.m.-10 p.m., that will help support Culver City's Parks and Playgrounds.

The Chaille Percival Quartet will be on hand to entertain parents and children at this family-friendly event.

Just mention Culver City Great Parks, and 20% of your bill will be donated to the organization, which works to improve the beauty and function of the city's parks.

Kay 'N Dave's Cantina
9341 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Coming Attraction: 'Toy Story 3' Movie, Fun Zone at El Capitan

"Toy Story 3" is coming to theaters nationwide June 18, and CC couldn't be more excited. Actually Ian and I are pretty excited ourselves.

Not only that, but in addition to the Disney*Pixar movie itself, the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood is hosting a "Toy Story" extravaganza on June 17, complete with a marathon showing of all three films in Disney Digital 3D, followed by admission to the 25,000 square-foot "Fun Zone" located behind the theater.

The Fun Zone, open from June 18-Aug. 29 following every showing of "Toy Story 3," features photo opportunities with Woody and Buzz Lightyear, games and even a stage show. (CC seriously won't know what to do with herself.)

It's amazing to think that the original "Toy Story" arrived in theaters 15 years ago. The only reference CC has had for this movie are the larger-than-life billboards of Woody and Buzz sprinkled all over the city. So, Ian and I decided to rent the original film for her (we still have to see "Toy Story 2"), and she was instantly hooked.

"Toy Story 3" finds Woody, Buzz and the gang back on the big screen as Andy prepares to leave for college (Ian and I were seriously sniffing at this trailer), and his toys land at a *gasp* daycare. So, the toys are once again looking for an escape route -- this time from handsy babies!

Something I'm sure CC can relate to.

Tickets to the El Capitan's "Toy Story" marathon are $100 each and include an assigned seat, popcorn, drinks, a boxed meal, ice cream, admission to the Fun Zone and a surprise gift. To purchase tickets to this June 17 (3 p.m.) event, please call 818-845-3110.

For tickets to other showings, call 800-DISNEY6 or visit elcapitantickets.com.

Habla Blah Blah Flies to The COOP



Habla Blah Blah has a wonderful way with the kiddos. That's why CC and I were more than happy to check out a live performance at The COOP, a fun kid space in the Valley, last Friday.

Through music, dancing and activities, this Los Angeles-based group teaches children about Spanish language and culture. We visited a class a few months ago, and CC loved it.

Lively singer Jamey Hood, former hostess of the Hollywood Bowl SummerSounds Children's Series, and the gang celebrated her pretend birthday -- Feliz Cumpleanos! -- and sang songs including "Hola" and "Mis Manos."

The COOP itself is a real find for active children. The indoor play space offers a giant ball pit with a twisty slide (right), a bounce house, pretend kitchen as well as a cappuccino bar for the grown-ups.

When CC walked in and saw the ball pit, she wasted no time shimmying up onto the small wall and leaping into the sea of orange, yellow and white balls like a flying squirrel.

After singing, dancing, playing and leaping, let's just say nap time was glorious.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Los Angeles Zoo Gorillas Dine on Local Fare




The Los Angeles Zoo gorillas were ready for a tasty local treat last Thursday, as chefs from all over the city offered veggie-friendly fare at the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association's Beastly Ball 2010 preview.

Chefs from eateries Malo, Celestino Ristorante, Green Street Restaurant, Maison Akira, El Cholo, La Poubelle, Clancy's Crab Broiler and Yamashiro prepared fruits, veggies and salads for the hungry apes, while Pink's provided their famous hot dogs for the event guests -- aka the Homo sapiens.

This year, the 40th annual Beastly Ball fundraiser, to be held June 19, is honoring the ubiquitous and hilarious Betty White. (If you didn't catch her on "Saturday Night Live" last month, you should really check out the skits.) All donations from the fundraiser will support the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

CC and I attended the preview again this year, and she was so excited to catch a glimpse of the gorillas. (You might notice from the above video that she even corrected me as to the difference between gorillas and monkeys. Is there such a thing as being both proud -- of her -- and embarrassed -- of myself -- at the same time?)

Also on hand were City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who reiterated his love for Pink's and briefly chatted with CC, in addition to GLAZA president Connie Morgan and L.A. Zoo director John Lewis.

Lewis noted that Pink's was offering something extra special: "I can't help but say, if you're going to enjoy Pink's hot dogs this morning, you've gotta get the Betty White -- the Naked Hot Dog, named after Betty this year, thanks to Pink's."

That Betty. She's always doing something saucy -- and for a good cause to boot.

Individual tickets for this year’s Ball cost $1,000 each, and table reservations are available starting at $7,500. You may also make a contribution at any level in Betty’s honor. All donations will support the work of the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

For more information on tickets and sponsorships, please call Maricela Vazquez at 323-644-4753.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Giveaway: 'Sid the Science Kid: Weather Kid Sid' DVD


Sid the Science Kid -- the tyke who wants to know everything about everything -- is back and ready with more questions.

In the latest DVD from The Jim Henson Company and PBS Kids, "Sid the Science Kid: Weather Kid Sid" tackles such subjects as why sunscreen is important and how it works, as well as where rain comes from.

Considering Los Angeles has had its share of June gloomy mornings (and it's only the first week of the month) in addition to sunny afternoons, this has been a great opportunity to talk to CC about weather.

In the DVD's first episode, "Sid's Rainy Day Play Date," Sid makes plans with friend Gabriella to have a treehouse play date but is disappointed when rain clouds appear overhead. He wonders if the rain knew he wanted to play outside. While at school, the kids learn how rain clouds form.

"What are clouds made of?" I asked CC.

"Rain water!" she yelled out.

Yay! That's just about right -- it's water vapor -- and I'm glad she gets the idea.

In "Sid's Special Sunny Dad's Day" episode, he learns why sunscreen is so important, and the kids conduct an outdoor experiment using construction paper and sunscreen -- something CC wants to try on her own.

The DVD ($12.99) boasts four episodes plus bonus material.

***GIVEAWAY***

I'm giving away 1 copy of "Sid the Science Kid: Weather Kid Sid," courtesy of The Jim Henson Company.

Just leave a comment below telling me your favorite type of weather (sunny, rainy, snowy, etc.), and I'll announce the winner Friday, June 11. If you "like" my L.A. Story Facebook fan page, I'll throw your name in twice.

Good luck!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

'Exploring Trees Inside and Out' Plants Roots at California Science Center

CC investigates a giant acorn at the interactive "Exploring Trees Inside and Out" exhibit.

Nature is in full bloom at the "Exploring Trees Inside and Out" exhibit, currently on display at the California Science Center through Sept. 26.

The traveling exhibit, which opened May 28 at the Exposition Park museum, is a playful, interactive child's-eye view of how trees fit into our world. An added bonus? It's free.

And CC couldn't get enough of it.

Not only can kids climb and play inside a giant treehouse and slide into a pile of colorful autumn leaves, they can also don ladybug and bird costumes and see themselves fly on screen.

There are also multiple "sensation stations" where children can use their senses to smell cinnamon and maple sap, touch tree bark and listen to the sounds of nature.

Presented by Doubletree Hotels, in collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, "Exploring Trees" is a fun way to have kids stretch their legs and their imaginations.

Doubletree and the Arbor Day Foundation began a relationship about seven years ago, with adopt-a-school programs that focused on environmental preservation, conservation and sustainability.

According to Doubletree executive Thomas Wingham, mentors from the hotel went out into the community to "really connect kids with nature."

The pair kicked the relationship to the next level when the Foundation presented the company with "renderings of what was a tree museum exhibit that would travel all over the country," added Wingham.

"Personally, as a caretaker of an 8-year-old little girl," he said, "I have a vested interest in really wanting to inspire her to appreciate what's outside her door every day."

And this is definitely a place to appreciate nature. CC loved the oversized bird's nest, where she could arrange sticks and sit on larger-than-life blue eggs. She also colored pictures of trees, worked at building a birdhouse and eyed small objects in a magnifying scope.

She also couldn't stop talking about "running through wind" and playing with her (imaginary) "squirrel friend."

The 2,500 square foot exhibit has already traveled to seven other cities and will be heading to Chicago after L.A. In total, about 650,000 visitors have experienced "Exploring Trees," which means lots of kids have learned more about the environment.

CC and I will definitely be going back.

Bottom photo credit: Casey Rodgers / AP Images for Doubletree Hotels

"Exploring Trees Inside and Out"
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037
Admission: Free

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Coming Attractions: Live Kids' Entertainment, Disney Crafts and a Kid-friendly Giveaway

Considering how much fun CC and I had the last time we joined habla blah blah, we're looking forward to this lively event. Also, we've never visited The COOP in Studio City, which looks like a fun place for the kiddos.

The COOP
11118 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
818-760-9613
Admission: $9 per child (While the habla blah blah performance is free, admission fees still apply.)

***

Local Disney Store locations will be hosting tyke-friendly events every Saturday throughout June.

On Saturday, June 5, the stores will host a "Toy Story 3" Craft Activity. According to the press release:

"Now kids can create their very own adventure for Buzz, Woody, Jessie and the whole Toy Story 3 gang with a 2-D playset they will put together in the store (while supplies last). Parents don't forget to bring your camera because there will be plenty of great photo opportunities you won't want to miss. This event will be from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m."

***
Photo courtesy of The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum will host Family Fundays throughout June, beginning June 6 at 11 a.m. with a performance of "Ferdinand the Bull."

Creative PlayGround presents this interactive theater piece, based on the book "The Story of Ferdinand," by Munro Leaf, about a peace-loving bull that winds up in a Madrid bullfight.

According to the press release:

"Audience members participate from the moment they arrive, working with the actors before the show to make pipe-cleaner flowers that are thrown into the ring during the bullfight. Volunteers become the other young bulls of the meadow as well as the Men from Madrid who are looking for bulls to fight. All are invited to help Ferdinand create stories using their imagination and one youngster even becomes the Matador!"

The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga, CA 90290
310-455-3723
Tickets: $8 ($1 per ticket discount for families/groups of 5 or more.)
Note: The outdoor amphitheater is terraced into the hillside of the rustic canyon. Dress casually and bring cushions or blankets for comfortable family seating.

***
Perry's Previews is the kid-tastic movie-review website run by 10-year-old film critic Perry Chen.

This precocious SoCal youngster reviews family-friendly films (G and PG only) and gives them his own trademark "Perrific!" ratings. He rates the movies with 1-5 Starfish, with 5 being the best. Any movie rated 4 and higher is deemed "Perrific!" a term Perry coined for his system.

Perry has teamed with Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment to give away a free "Alice in Wonderland" DVD.

To enter, visit www.perryspreviews.com by tomorrow, June 3, and submit a short essay of your "Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast," or email it to perryspreviews@gmail.com.

Only children ages 15 and younger may enter.

Click here for Perry's 4.5 Starfish review of the "Perrific!" "Alice in Wonderland."
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