Final Post: Chicken Little and the Disney-Pixar Relationship

8 May

Trying to stay on top of my Disney history, I figured it was high time that I took a look at Chicken Little, Disney’s sometimes forgotten first foray into the world of exclusively CGI animation.

The story of a chicken who thinks that the sky is falling is a fun little movie, and honestly, I thought it was decently entertaining. The voice acting was really good, and really, the animation was fairly impressive, using all sorts of new technology for Disney animators to achieve a full length CGI feature. Clearly Disney animation had come a long way from the hand drawn cels of Snow White nearly 68 years prior.

The theatrical poster for the movie. Simple, yet effective

One of the biggest knocks on the film, and the reason why it never really was considered a classic despite it’s strong performance at the box office, was the weak storyline. Honestly, I can see where the critique comes in, and what frustrated me was that the movie had a lot of good elements going for it.

For one, I actually liked the character of Chicken Little and I was enjoying the dynamic between him and his father, who Chicken Little believes doesn’t believe in him. The story of Chicken Little trying to earn his Dad’s love is apparent, but not fully fleshed out, and that I thought was a miss on the part of the studio. I understand that the whole “sky is falling” storyline needed to take center stage, but I can’t help but feel that there was a way to look at both storylines while doing both due justice. There was also a quick and forced love angle between Chicken Little and his friend Abbey Mallard that I could of done without, but hey, that’s just me.

The other odd thing, though not necessarily a bad thing, was how modern the movie seemed. When’s the last time you saw cell phones in a Disney movie? It almost seemed out of place, with so many of Disney’s films taking place “Once upon a time.”

Look at that track list. Not an original song to be found, which is a true rarity for Disney movies

There was also an unusual amount of cultural references and one of the most unique soundtracks you will ever find on a Disney movie. This movie clearly showed that gone were the days of the Disney musical and the dramatic, original scores in favor of the more modern pop songs and covers sung by the characters. Instead of getting “Hakuna Matata” and “A Whole New World,” we were treated to renditions of “I Will Survive” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” Like I said, it wasn’t bad, so much as very different, and for my money, I’m still a fan of the original music. I don’t know, it just feels more like Disney that way.

This movie was extremely important for Disney, particularly in its relations with Pixar. With the Disney-Pixar deal expiring after 2006′s Cars, this movie helped decide who would have the leverage in negotiations between the two companies. If it did well, Disney could argue that they could do CGI just as well as Pixar. If it bombed, Pixar could argue that Disney needed them to produce quality CGI films.

The man, the myth, the legend John Lasseter is the man behind some of Disney and Pixar’s most famous movies and characters

Chicken Little‘s modest success led to the two sides agreeing that they were better off with each other than without, causing Disney’s huge acquisition of Pixar in late 2006. The film also helped change the face of Disney’s creative decisions and their creative team in general.

John Lasseter, the mastermind of many of Pixar’s greatest hits, was placed as the chief creative officer for both Pixar and Walt Disney Animated Studios, a position which he still holds today. Lasseter’s influence was felt immediately for Disney, as he completely retooled an upcoming feature Meet the Robinsons, which met favorable critical reviews and is a personal favorite of mine.

The acquisition of Pixar also allowed Disney to once again return to traditionally animating feature films. Although not every movie since has been traditionally animated, such as Tangled, with Disney no longer needing to compete with Pixar for creative and economic leverage, they were allowed to return to some traditional means for making animated films, which enabled many formerly laid off employees to return to Disney and was welcome news for those who grew up watching Disney’s traditionally animated films.

Overall, Chicken Little is definitely an important film in the Disney canon for a host of reasons, and certainly has a different feel from any Disney movie that preceded it. I thought it was an enjoyable little movie that actually had me laughing here and there, but what did you think?

My Comments (UPDATED 4/8)

8 May

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Post #12: Aquamania

1 May

Seeing as I had so much fun looking at a Disney short last week, I figured I’d do another one this week.

This week I’m looking at Aquamania, a 1961 short featuring another one of Disney’s main characters, Goofy.

When I was little, I remember that some of my favorite cartoons were the Goofy documentaries. Usually they entail a voiceover explaining how to do something, such as play tennis or baseball, or just commenting on his observations of Goofy playing basketball or camping, while Goofy attempted, and usually comically failed, to do the things the short was based around.

I don’t know why, but these shorts always stuck with me, and I find myself watching classics like Double Dribble and The Olympic Champ. This short was a nice blend of all the different types of Goofy cartoons, and mixed the three major topics that Goofy shorts were usually about; sports, being a father, and being a documentary subject.

The film shows Goofy, or “Mr. X” as he is called, and his “aquamania,” or obsession with boats. Goofy buys a boat and takes his son out to the lake to teach him how to do all sorts of things, including water skiing. Naturally, Goofy ends up reluctantly becoming part of a water skiing race, and after a lot of slapstick, ends up winning the race.

A few of my observations were that the short almost felt like it was two stories in one. At first, it felt like it was going to talk about Goofy’s obsession with boats and how it took over is life, but then it shifted and primarily became about the water skiing race and the comedy that came from that.

Also, how about seeing this version of Goofy’s son? For us 90’s kids who grew up with Goof Troop and A Goofy Movie, we all know that Goofy’s son is Max. I have no idea who this kid is, but it was interesting seeing this first incarnation of Max.

I also liked seeing this older version of Goofy. He still was similar and recognizable based on how he looks and acts today, but I don’t know, he seemed less goofy to me in this older incarnation, if that makes any sense.

As for the animation, I love it. I thought it was interesting seeing this opening, with a title sequence and a “Walt Disney Presents” as opposed to just the picture of Goofy that the audience had become accustomed to.

This short is also significant, as it again was nominated for Best Animated Short Film in 1962, as well as receiving the distinction of being the last Goofy animated short of the Golden Age of Disney animation.

Once again, this is a fun short with a classic character who is beloved by a lot of people, and with it only being eigt minutes, there’s no reason not to check it out.

Post #11: Donald’s Crime

26 Apr

So I decided that while watching Disney movies is great, to truly get a sense of all things Disney, I need to look at some of their short films too.

As I talked about in my look at Disney eras, the mid 1940s to late 1950s were marked by many short films, due in part to many animators fighting overseas in World War II and part to financial troubles of the company. As we looked at in class, many of the short films in the early 1940s were war propaganda films.

Donald’s Crime was made in 1945 and is a parody on film noir, which was starting to gain popularity at the time after films such as The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Double Indemnity (1944).

The short follows Donald Duck who is preparing for his big date with Daisy, but realizes that he doesn’t have any money. This causes him to steal $1.25 from his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, but afterwards he feels terrible about it, and sees himself as a gangster on the run from the law.

The animation on this is real fun, particularly when Donald goes “on the run.” Seeing him in a prototypical gangster outfit and going through typical Donald Duck physical humor is just fun for me, being a fan of film noir and a huge Donald Duck fan.

This short is particularly entertaining for people who have watched classical film noir, because it does make fun of the typical conventions of the genre, again, in the scenes after Donald’s date with Daisy. For example, when Donald is trying to hideout on the roof and goes to the edge to look at another far off building and the narrator tells him “Jump! All gangsters have to do that.”

The short is significant in Disney lore for being nominated for Best Animated Feature in 1946 (it lost to Quiet Please, a classic Tom and Jerry short) as well as being the first time that we hear Daisy’s true voice. As for me, I enjoyed the short immensely, and it has one of my new favorite lines of all time, “I’m financially embarrassed.” Trust me, I’ll use that one at some point in the near future.

Below is the short, and if you have 8 minutes to spare somewhere, I’d give it a watch. It really is a classic.

Post #10: Chicken Little – Disney’s First Full Attempt at CGI

12 Apr

Trying to stay on top of my Disney history, I figured it was high time that I took a look at Chicken Little, Disney’s sometimes forgotten first foray into the world of exclusively CGI animation.

The story of a chicken who thinks that the sky is falling is a fun little movie, and honestly, I thought it was decently entertaining. The voice acting was really good, and really, the animation was fairly impressive, using all sorts of new technology for Disney animators to achieve a full length CGI feature. Clearly Disney animation had come a long way from the hand drawn cels of Snow White nearly 68 years prior.

One of the biggest knocks on the film, and the reason why it never really was considered a classic despite it’s strong performance at the box office was the weak storyline. Honestly, I can see where the critique comes in, and what frustrated me was that the movie had a lot of good elements going for it.

For one, I actually liked the character of Chicken Little and I was enjoying the dynamic between him and his father, who Chicken Little believes doesn’t believe in him. The story of Chicken Little trying to earn his Dad’s love is apparent, but not fully fleshed out, and that I thought was a miss on the part of the studio. I understand that the whole “sky is falling” storyline needed to take center stage, but I can’t help but feel that there was a way to look at both storylines while doing both due justice. There was also a quick and forced love angle between Chicken Little and his friend Abbey Mallard that I could of done without, but hey, that’s just me.

The other odd thing, though not necessarily a bad thing, was how modern the movie seemed. When’s the last time you saw cell phones in a Disney movie? It almost seemed out of place, with so many of Disney’s films taking place “Once upon a time.”

There was also an unusual amount of cultural references and one of the most unique soundtracks you will ever find on a Disney movie. This movie clearly showed that gone were the days of the Disney musical and the dramatic, original scores in favor of the more modern pop songs and covers sung by the characters. Instead of getting “Hakuna Matata” and “A Whole New World,” we were treated to renditions of “I Will Survive” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” Like I said, it wasn’t bad, so much as very different, and for my money, I’m still a fan of the original music. I don’t know, it just feels more like Disney that way.

This movie was extremely important for Disney, particularly in its relations with Pixar. With the Disney-Pixar deal expiring after 2006’s Cars, this movie helped decide who would have the leverage in negotiations between the two companies. If it did well, Disney could argue that they could do CGI just as well as Pixar. If it bombed, Pixar could argue that Disney needed them to produce quality CGI films.

Chicken Little‘s modest success led to the two sides agreeing that they were better off with each other than without, causing Disney’s huge acquisition of Pixar in late 2006.

Overall, Chicken Little is definitely an important film in the Disney canon for a host of reasons, and certainly has a different feel from any Disney movie that preceded it. I thought it was an enjoyable little movie that actually had me laughing here and there, but what did you think?

 

Post #9: An “Incredible” Triumph for Pixar

12 Apr

So the other day, I found myself watching The Incredibles from Pixar, and I gotta say, after watching it through, doing some research on it, and listening to Brad Bird, the director, I’m really very impressed, and for my money, The Incredibles may have been one of, if not the, most important films that has come out of Pixar.

Up until 2004, Pixar had been a juggernaut. Already with two popular and successful Toy Story movies as well as the wildly successful Finding Nemo, it truly began to feel like Pixar could not miss. A big fear for the chief creative officer at Pixar, John Lasseter, was that the animators and higher ups at Pixar would become complacent with this success.

Enter Brad Bird.

Basically, Bird had been trying to pitch his movie about a family of superheroes for a number of years, before finally, Pixar picked it up. The movie was going to be technically challenging, almost to the point of impossibility, which was what scared most animators and why I think it is so impressive. Through this point, Pixar had not really touched humans, aside from the occasional views of a glassy looking Andy in the Toy Story movies.

Due to this, new systems had to be created in order to achieve making a convincing looking human. Beyond that, there were over 90 different locations and effects ranging from wind weight, and water for animators to contend with.

All of that made for a visually stunning movie, and for my money, one of Pixar’s biggest triumphs. The movie did spectacular at the box office, and the drive to animate humans as well as go for a children’s movie with a complex storyline ended up paying major dividends down the road for Pixar.

The story of The Incredibles is actually really heavy. There’s aspects of how past decisions can affect the future, how people react to their midlife crisis, and even a subtle, albeit strong, look at trust issues within marriage. Pixar’s decision to not just pander to children and give an interesting and mature storyline helped make this movie accessible to all different age ranges, and opened the doors for future features to have emotionally driven mature storylines as well, particularly Up, which was universally acclaimed for its use of emotion.

Without Pixar refusing to rest on its laurels and just continue to make buddy films featuring bugs, toys, monsters, or whatever else they could find, they decided to go big for a technical and theatrical challenge, and it not only paid off in 2004, it is still paying off in 2012.

My Animation

10 Apr

Here is a link to my animation: http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/13275233/history-of-animation