As you’ve probably gathered by now from my many references to traveling with family (see exhibits A and B), it’s something I do a lot. Probably more than the average bear. It’s something that was ingrained in me from the time I was little: We always lived far away from our extended family, so holidays were spent hopping back and forth between grandparents’ and aunts’ and uncles’ houses.

Now that my crew of siblings and cousins are all grown up, we’re even more scattered around the country (and sometimes the globe). It can make it challenging to keep in touch, but it gives us all kinds of opportunities to plan trips to see each other!

My most recent family “destination hangout,” as I like to call it, was booking a spontaneous flight to L.A. to support my older sister at screenings of the animated short she co-directed and -produced.

This short has been no small undertaking: Jac and her partner, Nasheet, spent six years directing a volunteer crew of over 150 people to create this short out of thin air. It’s a passion project on steroids that will hopefully open doors for them in the film industry, in which they both have spent their entire careers. (Find out more about One Per Person on its Kickstarter page.)

So, understandably, Jac was a ball of nerves.

I, on the other hand, was brimming with excitement because:

IN L.A.!

This brief visit was going to be the. shit.

Driving in Los Angeles, California

Let’s do this, L.A.

So here’s what we did.

First: SUR

LVP! One of my favorite reality show stars (closely following Heather Dubrow and Bethenny FrankelLove them). Her lounge, SUR, in West Hollywood, is the setting for my and Jac’s favorite guilty pleasure to beat all guilty pleasures, the reality show Vanderpump Rules. #NerdAlert.

While no cast members were there when we visited (because, let’s face it, they probably only work when the cameras are rolling), it was still cool to see the “set” and get to dine at one of LVP’s establishments. Talk about a reality show being the best way to market a restaurant ever, amirite?

Second: Animation Studios

We visited two studios while we were in town (Jac actually went to a third after I left, a little place called DreamWorks Animation that you might have heard of). Unfortunately, we’re only able to talk about one of our studio visits because legal. Grr.

Thankfully, the one we can talk about is undoubtedly the most famous animation studio in the world, and the one that started it all: Disney.

Disney Animation Studios


Marissa and Jac at Disney Animation Studios


Marissa and Jac at Disney Animation Studios

I can’t feel my face.

This is where the Disney Magic literally happens. The original artwork on the walls from the studio’s past films is kind of overwhelming. I was strangely emotional looking at concept art from some of my favorite films of all time, each of which had an impact on my childhood. Jac worked on Tangled when she herself worked for the studio.

But the main event was Jac’s screening at the in-house theater. We got everything set up and then took copious amounts of photos in the director’s chairs, because duh.

One Per Person screening at Disney Animation Studios

Melissa, Jac and Nasheet hamming it up.

One Per Person screening at Disney Animation Studios

I’m not a director, but I can play one on TV.

Blazer: Banana Republic Factory (similar)
Blouse: Banana Republic (similar)
Pants: Gap (similar)
Heels: Anne Klein (similar)

One Per Person screening at Disney Animation Studios

This was right about the time I lost my VIP privileges.

Then people began streaming in. It was 5:00, otherwise known as beer-thirty, and dozens of people had lined up outside the door to see the film holding their refreshments of choice. Some had worked on it. Some were former co-workers. Others were just curious.

Before I knew it, the short was playing. I hope you all can see it one day. It was an eight-minute emotional rollercoaster that was thoughtful and meaningful and gave me all the feels. Jac, Nasheet and their team did an outstanding job, and I can’t even fathom how much effort went into creating it.

After the film concluded, the all-female leadership team (!) took questions from the audience. As an outsider, it was cool for me to see the level of interest that these important studio employees and executives had in the film. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of my sister.


Afterwards, we had to celebrate with some bubbly. Which leads me to our last stop of the trip.

Third: Marche Wine Bar

We were both exhausted after the long day, but needed a drink and some food. We headed to a local wine bar in Burbank to unwind.

Marche Wine Bar, Burbank, California

Cheers to a successful day!

The sparkling wine was good, but the lavender goat cheese and salmon bilini won the evening.

After one glass, we both agreed that we were dog tired and headed back to the hotel to rest.

And just like that, the visit was over. It was so meaningful for me to be able to be there to support my sister during one of the biggest moments of her career. I was reminded that I will never regret a dime I spend on traveling to spend time with family – it makes lasting memories that we will cherish forever!

Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California

The sun setting on… wait for it… Sunset Boulevard.

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