A statement staircase greets guests at the entrance. The click, clack of heels and dress shoes echo against the tiled walkway as individuals in elegant attire approach. 

Their shoes meet a red carpet, their wide smiles welcome camera flashes. 

Welcome to the 2023 Leonard Maltin Industry Tribute Gala at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort on Nov. 11, the ultimate showcase event for the 2023 Coronado Island Film Festival.

On that red carpet are individuals whose artistic contributions have made an incredible impact in Hollywood, and their work was featured in the eighth annual film festival.

Coronado’s love affair with Hollywood

Coronado has had a steady love affair with Hollywood for decades, beginning with the iconic Hotel del Coronado and the array of celebrities who have stayed within the hotel’s victorian walls over the years. 

Heba Thorisdottir, Artistry of Filmmaking Award honoree for CIFF, has worked on Kill Bill, Suicide Squad and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, among numerous other Hollywood blockbusters. Staff photo by Madeline Yang.

Heba Thorisdottir, frequent collaborator with Quentin Tarantino for make-up artistry, said she was inspired to visit Coronado after seeing “Some Like it Hot,” starring Marilyn Monroe at the Hotel del Coronado. 

Thorisdottir was one of the honorees of the 2023 festival. She has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood over the course of her career. 

On the carpet, she mentioned her work with Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, Cate Blanchett and Florence Pugh to name a few. 

“I’m so happy to be back,” Thorisdottir said. “That was back in 2006, so it’s changed but it’s just glorious.”

Involved with festival since it launched

Lisa Bruce, this year’s head juror for narrative features, knows Coronado’s love affair with Hollywood well. She has been involved with the Coronado Island Film Festival since it launched in 2016. 

Lisa Bruce, Oscar-nominated producer and CIFF juror answers questions at the CIFF gala. Staff photo by Madeline Yang.

She was a producer for the “The Theory of Everything,” which received nominations for four Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and 10 British Academy Film Awards. 

She was also a producer for “Darkest Hour,” in which Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill won him an Oscar in 2018. 

As a two-time oscar nominated and award-winning film producer, Bruce has attended her share of film festivals. 

To her, Coronado’s festival is a streamlined opporturtunity for filmmakers to ask questions and make connections apart from the overwhelming magnitude of larger festivals, which she equated to “drinking water from a fire hose” because of their sometimes 300 plus movies. 

It has a lot of glam, but it’s also very intimate and you can really can connect with people in a deeper way.”

-Lisa Bruce, this year’s head juror for narrative features on CIFF.

“It has a lot of glam, but it’s also very intimate and you can really can connect with people in a deeper way” Bruce said about the island’s film festival. “People really connect in a way that might actually bear fruit in the future.” 

Discussing work with Leonard Maltin

After gracing the red carpet, guests meandered to the Commodore Ballroom for dinner, an array of elegant tables waiting.

Guests enjoy dinner at Loews Coronado Bay Resort for the CIFF gala on Nov. 11.. Staff photo by Madeline Yang.

Under the attention of bright stage lights and the admiration of guests, the 2023 tribute honorees discussed their work with Leonard Maltin, one of the world’s most respected film critics. 

This year’s honorees included Thorisdottir, Diane Ladd, Carol Guzy, Paul Raci and Andreas Deja.

Deja was the recipient of the Leonard Maltin Award, an honor especially significant to someone who has known Maltin for a long time. 

Andreas Deja, Leonard Maltin Award honoree, has worked on Lion King, Lilo & Stitch and Aladdin, among many other family favorite animations. Staff photo by Madeline Yang.

“It’s just really special because I’ve known his work longer than I’ve known him,” Deja said. “When I was an art student in Germany, where I grew up, I was familiar with his early books and his early writings about film and animation, and it was really inpiring to find out about animation history”

Deja went from being an art student to working at Walt Disney Animation Studios as the supervising animator of some of the most memorable Disney villains: Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast,” Jafar in “Aladdin,” Scar in “The Lion King” and Queen Narissa in “Enchanted.”

He also animated Roger Rabbit in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” King Triton in “The Little Mermaid,” the title character in Hercules, Lilo Pelekai in “Lilo & Stitch,” Mama Odie in “The Princess and the Frog” and Tigger in “Winnie the Pooh.”

Deja just finished his first independent film, “Mushka,” which will screen twice on Nov. 12.

Among Deja, the other four tribute honorees received their awards for their creative genius—a token of appreciation for their artistic contributions that have impacted the film industry and culture at large.

Diane Ladd is this year’s Legacy Award honoree for CIFF.. She’s a Golden Globe and British Academy Award winning actress. Staff photo by Madeline. Yang.

The night ended with Ladd’s impactful words, leaving everyone in the ballroom speechless, including Maltin who refused to follow up her speech with questions. 

“Every one of you that is here tonight, is a winner,” Ladd said. “Do you know why? Because you are a carer, a searcher for answers…And through films, we can help open the door of the next generation’s mind so that maybe they will ask the right questions. Let them stand on our shoulders and maybe the young ones will see further than we have.” 

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Sofie Fransen is a staff writer for The Coronado News. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University, majoring in English-Education and minoring in Journalism. She was the Opinion Editor of The Point student newspaper. In the summers, she has been commercial fishing for the sockeye salmon run in Alaska. She can be reached by email or at 360-527-5848.