Tuesday, May 29, 2012

D52 Review - The Many Adventures of Winnie-The-Pooh

I’m surprised just how much I recalled from this film from when I watched it as a child. Truth be told, I didn’t own this particular film, I owned the first two stories, Winnie-the-Pooh and the Honey Tree and Winnie-the-Pooh and the Blustery Day. I recalled all of it very vividly, the live-action opening, the storybook outline (which I am not going to complain about because it definitely warrants it here, as well as the package film layout) all the characters, the voices…it all came right back.

The songs I still remember all the words to (especially Tee-eye-double-guh-err’s and Heffalumps and Woozles) as well as all the characters. Watching it as an adult, it is kinda cute to the point of embarrassing, and you also realize that Pooh is pretty much a gleefully ignorant freeloader. Also, his stitches broke when he was exercising, yet not when he was too fat to get out of Rabbit’s house. Go figure. (Also, why didn’t he just go out Rabbit’s back door?)

All three stories were humorous and enjoyable, and this was generally a pleasant film. Heffalumps and Woozles was more unsettling than I remember, reminiscent of Pink Elephants on Parade from Dumbo, but other than that, it’s exactly what it appears. It’s just a nice film to kinda clear our palette from Robin Hood and get ready for the next film. It’s a film I loved as a kid and didn’t mind seeing again.

Friday, May 25, 2012

D52 Review - Robin Hood

(In reference to where my Aristocats review is, I wasn't able to find a copy to view in time. My apologies.)

Robin Hood is a movie that I had not seen as a child. I’ve never seen a VHS copy, and I don’t remember seeing it on DVD either. (There’s an urban legend passing around the internet that Disney chooses not to give it a wide-spread DVD release because it’s a cult classic among the furry community, but I digress.)

From both the urban legend and the fact that it’s a new, relatively unknown film to me, I was really looking forward to this! I was rather quickly disappointed. There were so many borrowed voice actors, characters and other things from The Jungle Book. (Also, Baloo is apparently the only voice that actor knows how to do. Good to know.)

It’s really not that great of a film. I don’t remember finding anything I got explicit joy in. The songs (especially the rooster character – was I the only one who was reminded of Rock-A-Doodle?) felt extremely out of place, Robin Hood and Maid Marian’s romance could’ve been much more well done (and as my handsome skox pointed out, there are close up eye shots that have been much more well animated than this) and the ‘sucking thumb’ gambit got old and uncomfortable really quick.

Though, the sucking of the thumb was probably done as an easy giggle for its target demographic of young children, and that made me wonder – would I have laughed more if I were five years old at the time? Or would I have laughed then and not laughed now? It’s interesting to think about some of these movies from an adult standpoint when we remember that they weren’t technically made to be viewed by adult audiences.

Though, to argue for my side, I highly disagree with just slapping down cheap laughs and bad animation and expect kids to enjoy it without question. The thoughts that go through the minds of people who make crappy kids movies are that kids will eat shit as long as you jump through flaming hoops to give it to them and cover it in ice cream sprinkles. Kids deserve better than this! And to the parents who go “Oh, it’s just for kids, it doesn’t need to be good. Besides it keeps them quiet while I fix dinner.” Kids deserve quality programming too. They’re your KIDS. Besides, you know they’re gonna make you sit through it with them eventually, and you’re gonna not want to be checking your watch and wondering when it’s over.

Well, tangents aside, this movie underwhelmed me. I wish they had taken the premise and done it better. But we’ll see how it goes with the other animal-themed movies coming up.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

D52 Review - The Jungle Book

Out of all the movies we’ve seen so far, this is the movie I watched most ad nauseum as a child. And upon a repeated viewing, it’s still a really great film! Probably the best one so far in this project (second only to 101 Dalmatians.)

As I watched this film, I saw so many scenes that I forgot about until being suddenly reminded and going “Oh, yeah, I remember that!!” We first learn that baby wolves are much cuter than actual babies, and apparently don’t want to eat the soft, pink-fleshed Snausage that lay before them. Eventually he grows into a loincloth-ish wearing youth named Mowgli, who surprisingly knows the man language since the animals…also know the man language.

Bagheera the Panther decides to take the boy to the man village so he can thrive and avoid Shere Khan, the deep-voiced tiger who doesn’t endorse sugary cereals. En route, they meet some military marching elephants and a baby Heffalump, a Winnie-the-Pooh snake with a mind control fetish, Baloo the bear who’s bringing slacking back into style, a group of mop-top Liverpudlian vultures (who were apparently supposed to be voiced by The Beatles but Lennon was being a douchebag) and Mowgli’s first cock tease from the man village.

The songs are catchy and memorable, ‘Bare Necessities’ (basically the ‘Hakuna Matata’ of its day) , ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ (which I’ve actually done in karaoke a few times – you’d be surprised how much the drunks dig Disney tunes) ‘That’s What Friends Are For’, even that weird ‘Fetch the Water’ song. I don’t remember any one of them failing, and that’s an impressive feat for any movie.

Something that struck me odd at the end of the movie, though – we don’t know where Mowgli came from. He was just randomly found in a canoe. There’s only one man village around, apparently. How do we know that his relatives aren’t still there? How do we know they’re not still living? How do we know that girl who’s flirting with him isn’t his damn sister, a la Star Wars? For sanity’s sake, I’m gonna believe they aren’t, but still….odd thought.

The movie definitely still holds up today, and I was very pleased viewing it again and not being crushed and disappointed that it wasn’t as good as I remember. If anything, it was better than I remember. This was a great film and I’m happy to have the songs stuck in my head once again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

D52 Review - The Sword in the Stone

This viewing came straight after I finished reading King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Robert Lancelyn Green, so I was curious as to how the stories would interlock. Of course, this is based on the story of the same title by T.H. White that I haven’t read (yet) so I’ll try not to nitpick any differences too much.

The animation is gorgeous, and the storybook opening fits the story really well, unlike with things like Sleeping Beauty. Arthur is treated as a servant boy by his foster father and stepbrother, and they call him ‘Wart’. Naturally, they encounter Merlin, and Arthur nor his stepfather has ever seen or heard of him before, which is odd because in all variations of the story (I think, feel free to call me out on this) Merlin took Arthur from his father Uther Pendragon and placed him with a foster father until the time was right. So naturally, wouldn’t they have met before?

Merlin is one of the better characters I’ve seen in a Disney film thus far, I love pleasant, whimsical old men. So, Gandalf – I mean Merlin – decides to show Arthur the values of using his brain and having an education. He does this by changing him into various things like a fish, a squirrel and a bird – with hilarious results!

Dumbledore – I mean Merlin – actually has a few songs in this movie. And they’re really not bad! This being my first viewing, I wasn’t expecting it, and it didn’t feel all that out of place. All of the animal variations had their morals, but the squirrel story was kinda heartbreaking. A female squirrel decides she loves Arthur, then Merlin changes him back into a boy and she looks like she’s completely heartbroken and scarred for life. And that’s the last we see of them. Why do you wanna make me cry, movie?! What did I do to you?!

There’s also a wizard duel between an old, haggard witch and Merlin, where they change themselves into various things – she can even turn herself into a really not-sexy hooker! But eventually Merlin wins, naturally, and they go back to the castle.

The next few scenes are pretty much Arthur gets mistreated, old people in old times can’t accept new things, Merlin disappears to Bermuda and comes back dressed as a hippie, Arthur gets removed as his stepbrother’s squire, then gets put back in since the other guy is sick or something, and he realizes his brother needs a sword. Thus, the sword in the stone is pulled, he is crowned king, and he is absolutely, positively freaked out by this.

In the story I read, the sword was pulled right at the beginning of the book, and Arthur pretty much immediately welcomes it and is completely ready to become king at the age of 16. The movie version, oddly enough, seems more accurate of what a kid would act like if they suddenly realized they were put in control of the whole United Kingdom. But Merlin agrees to become his advisor and Arthur decides to calm down and give this king thin a try.

This was a good film, I didn’t like it as much as 101 Dalmatians, but it’s one of the more underrated films that deserves more credit than it gets. Seeing as how The Jungle Book is next week, I think Disney realized they were doing something right with this whole cohesive story thing and decided to stick with it, and I’m very glad they did.

D52 Review - 101 Dalmatians

This is what I count as the turning point in Disney, where the films started to really get their act together. I think I only saw this movie once or twice as a kid, but there were parts that I recalled and enjoyed just as much as an adult. This is the story of Pongo; a Dalmatian who desperately wants to get his owner laid, and gets a bonus in the process.

It starts out with a nice jazzy opening credit sequence, and it was so nice not to have the familiar choir, which was really starting to get on my nerves at this point. I like peppy music like that, and it really did a good job of getting me excited for the film. The animation was noticeably stepped up, and I’m glad they did a movie within its own era, that is, the sixties.

The movie starts out narrated by Pongo, and I love the ‘pet thinks it owns the human’ trope. It works really well for this film, much better than Lady and the Tramp, since in this film you like the owners just as much as the dogs. They don’t neglect them once other things come up, they work as a team. They really treat their pets as equals, and it shows.

Cruella DeVil makes her entrance, and this is one of the Disney villains I love to hate. She’s hideous, eccentric, selfish, greedy and vain. Anita can’t help but welcome her into her home because they have some sort of history together and since she’s British, she has to be painfully polite. Cruella is one of those villains that you could easily meet in real life, someone rich and selfish who thinks of the latest fashion at the expense of cute, cuddly little animals. (This movie was made in 1961, before the rallying cry of ‘fur is bad, mmkay’ started to penetrate the media, but you still see that Cruella is a huge bitch for wearing fur.)

Pongo’s wife, Perdita, is pregnant and worried that the owners will give away their puppies to someone who will slaughter them. Soon, she gives birth to fourteen – no, fifteen – wait, fourteen again – and finally fifteen puppies. The puppy ‘dying’ after birth is one of the scenes from the movie I vividly remember, and I remember not quite realizing what ‘we lost one’ meant as a kid. I thought that he just had to shake the puppy to wake him up. Though I wouldn’t recommend it in real life.

Cruella tries to make a bid for the puppies, and Roger gives a rather polite version of ‘fuck off bitch, and the mink you rode in on’. Soon the puppies are grown (one more than the others, since Disney still can’t get away from the ‘fat is funny’ trope) and they love to watch TV. Awww, they think they’re people.

(Also, whoever wrote the fake commercial jingle for ‘Kanine Krunchies’ clearly did their job, since it got stuck in my head after viewing it. Stupid jingle.)

Cruella sends a cockney version of Laurel & Hardy to steal the puppies for her, and the maid foolishly only threatens to call the police instead of actually doing so. It makes front page news (I guess news is pretty slow in London) and it introduces another factor I love about this movie – the dog telegraph system. Whenever I see movies with animals in them, I start to wonder what their barking really means, and I also start to feel bad for shushing them when they might be trying to warn me of something important. (Where else could you get yelled at the most for doing your job? Oh, yeah, retail.)

Pongo and Perdita set out to try and find the puppies, and they encounter an old General terrier, a horse, and the most unrealistic thing of all, an obedient, non-sociopathic cat. Movies come up with the strangest things! And apparently there are even more Dalmatians in London than they realized, since they have 99 of them all joined up. They manage to meet up with the parents, and the dogs decide rather quickly to take them all in. It’s a very subtle, blink-and-you-miss-it moment, but I thought that was one of the most touching moments of the movie. 84 puppies that you’ve never met before and are suddenly willing to take in and care for? That’s amazing, and the owners also get major points for being okay with it as well.

They travel far and run into Cruella, who, after wondering vaguely why there are 99 Labradors walking around, discovers that they WERE the droids she was looking for and goes on a chase with a crazy, manic look in her eyes. (Something else that I didn’t remember until viewing again). But they make it back home, Roger has written a song about Cruella with none of those nasty libel suits clouding the issue, and all live happily ever after – except the neighbors.

I really liked this movie, and I find it surprising that I didn’t watch it more as a kid. It’s kind of underrated, and a much better dog based movie than Lady and the Tramp, as well as much more romantic, from a pet and human standpoint. There’s a lot of subtlety to it, and while there are tropes that do need to be done away with, it’s getting much better and the films are getting tidier. It’s definitely the beginning of some excellent Disney films to come.