Archive | March, 2012

Post #7: Analyzing Home on the Range

27 Mar

For those of you who have read and looked at my blog, you’ve learned a few things about me. I’m a bit of a Disney fanatic and I love just about everything Disney.

Well, I thought I did. As I’ve moved along and started to watch some of the more modern Disney animated features, I have found the occasional movie that just didn’t sit right with me. Last week, I watched Home on the Range for the first time, and let’s just say it’s not my favorite Disney movie.

Before I get into the reasons that I thought made it weak, let me give it some props. The movie was very colorful, the animation was crisp, and it had it’s fun moments in it. It definitely was entertaining enough for a younger audience, which at the end of the day, is the main audience.

But now for the things that I thought were problematic about the film. The first thing that was blatantly apparent was just how fast paced the movie moved, but it wasn’t in a good way. It felt like everything was being rushed, and for the first hour or so of the movie, I was just dying for the plot to slow down and bit.

The problem with this quick pace of the movie was that it didn’t allow anything to really develop. There was about 30 seconds of exposition, and within it felt like 10 minutes we were into the heart of the plot. The problem didn’t have enough of a chance to sink in to the viewer as to why it was important, and by barely meeting the characters, it’s hard for me to care that their farm is being repossessed.

Speaking of the characters, they were very bland and forgettable. Part of that was because the pacing was so fast that we never really got to meet them, but part of that was because how simple they were. With the cows, you had the fat one, the British one with the hat, and the dumb one. That’s about as far as their characters go.

The only character who had any memorability factor was the horse, Buck, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. I think I liked him so much because his cocky character was fun, but because he also had a legitimate character change over the course of the movie and had reasoning for everything that he did. The same couldn’t always be said for our main characters, and again, I just found myself not caring about them as much as I should have.

The music was also surprisingly dull and forgettable for a Disney movie. Obviously anything compared to the classic Disney songs of the 90’s is going to fall short, but these songs were just bland, and didn’t really add any life or personality to the film.

Part of the issues I think lied in the run time. The movie ran only 76 minutes, as opposed to say the 84 minutes that Beauty and the Beast ran. Eight minutes doesn’t sound like much, bit I truly think that had the movie used eight more minutes in the beginning to introduce plot and characters more fully, the movie would have been overall better. Not great, mind you, but better.

You’ll notice that I really haven’t talked much about character names or the plot, and that’s because overall, this movie was just forgettable to me. Originally, this was supposed to be Disney’s last traditionally animated movie, and I’m really glad that didn’t end up being the case, because it would have been an extremely lackluster way for traditional animation to go.

In the end, I wouldn’t exactly recommend this movie, but if you want to see how a Disney movie can miss the mark and maybe see a movie that makes you appreciate the classics that much more, then why not, go give it a watch.

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Midterm Post: Looking at the Disney Eras

21 Mar
Disney movies come in all sorts of types, and the easiest way to break down the type of Disney movie you are watching is through the various eras and sub-eras of Disney movies, that stretch from the very beginning in 1937 all the way to today. The eras that I’m looking at specifically have to do with the Disney Animated Features, as the entire Disney company has a much longer and extensive history with its own breakdowns of time periods.
We start with the Golden Era, which is all your classic movies from 1937 until about 1959. These were traditionally animated, hand drawn in cells, and tended to be big budget productions. The Golden Era, particularly in the early going, also featured many hit and miss features, at least initially. Snow Whitewas released to major critical and financial success, which led Walt Disney to see the future of the company in animated features.

Sleeping Beauty was one of Disney's crowning achievements in animation

Despite the wild success of Snow White, Disney’s next two features, Pinocchio and Fantasia, would struggle financially, and cut funding for future products. The next real success in terms of the box office would be Dumbo, which ran only 64 minutes due to the need for an economically efficient movie. After the war effort, with finances again low, Disney basically had everything riding on their 1950 film, Cinderella, which came through as a complete success and propelled the Disney company to go on and complete some of their best works. The Golden Era closed with Sleeping Beauty, which many consider to be Disney’s greatest visual masterpiece.
Within the Golden Era, there was the Wartime Era. The Wartime Era ran from 1942 through 1949. Due to many Disney animators participating in the war effort, supplies being low, and funds being lower, Disney had to resort to focusing on shorts and putting them together for theater releases as compilation films. These included the Latin American films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, as well as compilations such as Make Mine Music and Melody Time.

Mickey and the Beanstalk, featuring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, helped Disney get one of their biggest box office smashes at the time

Within the Wartime Era, however, was 1947, which became Disney’s highest grossing year to date. Thanks to the wild success of Fun and Fancy Free, a film featuring the story of Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk, Disney started to get enough finances together to relaunch work on a full length feature, which led to the creation of Cinderella and the restart of the Golden Era.

Then there was the Silver Era, which began in 1961. The Silver Era was highlighted by Disney’s use of cheaper methods to make movies, in order to try and raise funds for the company. Different animation techniques, such as transferring artist’s drawings to cels via Xerox, cut costs and raised productivity.
In many ways, this era is arguably the most important in Disney’s history, as it finally alleviated many of the financial problems that the company faced, and set them up for the box office smashes of the future. This would also feature the last movie that Walt Disney had a personal hand in, with the Jungle Bookin 1967.

The Jungle Book was the last film Walt Disney had a hand in creating

What becomes tough is the next era, which some argue is part of the Silver Era, but others argue is a bit more of the Transitional Era, as it was just after Walt Disney died. During this time period, the focus from the Disney company was more on the opening of their biggest theme park venture, Walt Disney World, and many of their movies during this time period, such as The Black Cauldron, became a bit forgettable.
One major milestone to come out of this era though was with The Fox and the Hound, which featured a whole new generation of Disney animators. It would be this group who would go on to be a part of Disney’s greatest theatrical successes.
Next was the Disney Renaissance, which was the most successful point in Disney theatrical releases, both economically and critically. This time period started with The Little Mermaid in 1989, and lasted all the way until Tarzan in 1999. The Renaissance featured many of Disney’s most critically acclaimed movies, such as Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, and Aladdin.

Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture

This time period also featured a rebirth of the Disney musical, and Disney songs once again began to rack in awards as well as be entered into popular culture. Many people to this day still recall this period and these movies as some of the best that Disney has ever created.

The period after that has not exactly been defined yet, so most people just call it the “Modern Age” for now. Disney started to stray from the traditional musical at this point again, and after 2004’s Home on the Range, Disney had claimed that the age of traditionally animating their movies was over.
This proclamation would only last until 2009 however, as the Disney company had acquired Pixar in 2006, and with this, decided that there was still a place for non-CGI animated movies, such as The Princess and the Frog. Disney’s biggest success during this era so far as been Tangled, which was released in 2010.

Tangled has been one of Dsiney's most successful purely CGI films

Personally, my favorite era of Disney movies the Renaissance. Part of it is because it was going on during the time I grew up, but part of it is because I just feel it was the perfect blend of impressive animation, fun characters, strong storylines, and spectacular music.
But hey, that’s just my opinion, how about yours?
*Note: Disney: The First 100 Years  by Dave Smith and Of Mice and Magic by Leonard Maltin used as sources.

Post #6: Why Does Hercules Get a Bad Rap?

6 Mar

So the other day I was bouncing around the interwebs and I found this review of Hercules that really bashed it. I was surprised that there was someone out there who really didn’t like the movie, and looking at the comments and around other websites more, I actually found that there is a good amount of people who dislike Hercules.

I found this to be really shocking, as Hercules was one of my personal favorites. One of the criticisms was of the muses, and how they may be hard to understand or just didn’t fit in with the overall movie. I never really understood this criticism, as I thought that the muses gave Hercules a distinct feel. Instead of the music being this big Broadway style, which we had seen countless times before, the muses helped give the movie a Motown like feel, which is something I had not seen in a Disney movie before and enjoyed. Does Motown quite fit with Greek mythology? Not necessarily, but since when does Broadway fit in the jungle or in the streets of Agrabah?

The other major criticism that really boggled my mind was that the story wasn’t at all like the actual story of Hercules. Well no duh!

Let’s be honest, since when is any Disney movie a blow by blow recap of the original? They are all inspired by the source material, but never a recreation of them. I know that this is a general criticism of Disney films, but this one always baffled me in terms of Hercules, mainly because it would come from people who had no problem with say Pocahontas, but did take offense to this one.

The story will be changed for Disney. They want a happy ending and it still needs to be kid friendly. If you didn’t expect this, then clearly Disney movies are not for you.

My reasons for liking Hercules are simple. I love the music, for one. Go the Distance was one of my favorites growing up, and Won’t Say I’m in Love (seen below) has definitely grown on me as I’ve gotten older, from the storytelling lyrics to the unique Motown sound from the heroine.

I also just loved the characters. Hades is easily the most charismatic bad guy in the Disney family of villains, Phil is always good for a laugh, and I have always loved Hercules. The guy has this superhuman strength, and yet all he wants is just somewhere where he feels that he fits in. I can’t tell you why, but something about that resonates with me.

So yeah, it baffles me why Hercules gets picked on so much. For my money, it’s still one of my favorites, and really, I don’t care what everyone else says. What about you? Like or dislike Hercules?

 

Post #5: A Complex Disney Villain

6 Mar

Disney movies tend to be fairly simple. There’s always the clear cut good guy, and always the clear cut bad guy. Maleficent, Jafar, Scar, Lady Tremaine, they all had very clear intentions and all were clearly evil.

This is why I was so impressed by Treasure Planet. The reimagining of Treasure Island featured all of the characters that we knew from the classic novel, including the villainous pirate, Long John Silver.

In most Disney movies and in the usual Disney formula, Long John Silver could have been a prototypical bad guy. He could have been shown to be pure evil, manipulative, and made to truly be hated by the audience. And yet, Disney actually took a different path with him.

Personally, I liked Long John Silver. He was a fun character to watch and within the story, had a lot of redeeming qualities. I thought this was interesting coming from Disney, as it was the first time that they gave us a villain that wasn’t truly evil.

On the contrary, you could argue that Long John Silver isn’t evil at all, just opportunistic. Just watch the scenes of him with Jim in the clips below. Not exactly actions you expect from the villain. We’re actually given true emotions from the villain, and actual dilemmas over what they should do and what they want to do. Instead of just blindly being evil, like some of the great villains in the past, Silver was actually incredibly complex.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love a good old fashioned maniacal bad guy, but that being said, it was a welcome breath of fresh air to finally have a bad guy who made me think and who made me have to judge what I thought of him by the end of the movie.

It’s one of Disney’s lesser known movies, but take a look at Treasure Planet and at the end of it, you tell me, if Long John Silver truly evil, or was he just a good guy with some bad intentions every once in a while?