Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Coming In 2012...


Well, after a long and relatively successful Disn-A-Thon 2011, I have decided what my task will be for the on-coming year.  Considering I watched all of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 2010 and every Disney Animated Classic in 2011, I think I should avoid the TV/movie-themed blogue entries for a year or more.

So, what is one of my main interests besides TV/movies?  Why, music of course... and boy howdy, do I have a lot of music.  As of right now, I have somewhere upwards of 275 different artists in my collection.  Good god, that doesn't even count any of the "Various Artists" crap... like the 168 disc jazz collection... Man, I haven't bothered counting in so long.

Anyhow, here's what I will be doing next year:  First, there are 52 weeks in a year (stick with me here folks), and there are 26 letters in the alphabet...  So this means I can go through the alphabet twice, with a letter per week.

"But what does this mean?" you may ask.  Well, I will tell you.

During the first half of 2012, I will be going through my artists alphabetically, selecting one(1) artist per letter, one(1) letter per week, listening to everything I have by the chosen artist (which usually is the entire catalogue), and finally writing my weekly blogue post as a review of the aforementioned artist and their music.

During the second half of 2012, I will be doing essentially the same thing, but with albums instead of artists.  An album from my collection starting with A, then the following week a B-named album, and so on...

What this does is it starts my year off with a fairly intensive marathon of blogueing, the second half of the year finishes with posts that can and probably will be a tad more simple.  This way, by breaking my marathon into two(2) parts, it won't feel like so much of a chore by the end of the year.

About the first section (the artists) of my 2012 -thon (which will be named soon enough), I will be trying to pick a personal favourite from each letter, and I will be doing my best to stick with lesser-known or merely under-appreciated artists, in hopes that people will be open to expanding their knowledge and tastes in music.  That's really the key point to me in the coming year.  I would like to introduce some music to people who are interested.

There will be audio clips, probably streamed from YouTube, and my posts will range from detailed chronology to my own personal opinions.  Sources may come from my own personal knowledge, Wikipedia, or an artist's band/fan pages.  I'll do my best to cite at the bottom of my post, but we'll see how it all works.  I'm going to be winging it as I go, which will be nice.  It won't be quite as template-based as my last few -thons... and that excites me!

So prepare yourselves for some of my favourite music...  I hope people enjoy it.  I know I will!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Winnie The Pooh (2011)

During an ordinary day in Hundred Acre Wood, Winnie the Pooh sets out to find some honey. Misinterpreting a note from Christopher Robin, Owl convinces Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet,Pooh, Kanga, Roo, and Eeyore that their young friend has been captured by a creature named "Backsoon" and they set out to save him. [imdb]
Alright, here's the last post of my Disn-A-Thon 2011, and I am going to make it a short and simple one.

Despite Disney being well known for their direct-to-video sequels, along with a few theatrical sequels, not many Disney Animated Classics get a sequel that also falls into the classics canon.  In fact, up until this year, there was only one: The Rescuers... and then there came Winnie The Pooh.

1977 saw the release of The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (which I posted on here), and it was followed by one or two theatrical sequels and a whole slew of video sequels.  Most, if not all of these were close to the standard set by the original, but I have to say that this year's sequel is right up to par.

I think one of the most amazing parts of this new movie is how close most of the voices sound to the originals... Pooh's voice especially.  You would never know that Sterling Holloway wasn't providing the voice.  Even the inflections were perfect.

The whole movie made me happy, but I can't say the same for the blu-ray set.  There were some nice deleted scenes, a short little segment about the history of Pooh, a couple shorts, and that's about it.  I would have liked a commentary or at least something a bit more in depth on what they went through making a sequel like this 35 years after the original.

But oh well, the movie was great and very heartwarming.

And this ends my Disn-A-Thon 2011.  I'll probably be posting something in a week or so about next year's project.  It's a good one, and I can hardly wait for it!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Tangled (2010)

After receiving the healing powers from a magical flower, the baby Princess Rapunzel is kidnapped from the palace in the middle of the night by Mother Gothel. Mother Gothel knows that the flower's magical powers are now growing within the golden hair of Rapunzel, and to stay young, she must lock Rapunzel in her hidden tower. Rapunzel is now a teenager and her hair has grown to a length of 70-feet. The beautiful Rapunzel has been in the tower her entire life, and she is curious of the outside world. One day, the bandit Flynn Ryder scales the tower and is taken captive by Rapunzel. Rapunzel strikes a deal with the charming thief to act as her guide to travel to the place where the floating lights come from that she has seen every year on her birthday. Rapunzel is about to have the most exciting and magnificent journey of her life. [imdb]
Alright, this makes two perfectly fantastic movies in a row.  Tangled takes the story of Rapunzel and slightly tweaks it to be another of the best Disney animated features yet.  What The Princess and The Frog did with traditional animation (ie, perfected it), Tangled did to Disney's computer-generated animation.

I honestly have no problem whatsoever with this movie.  It's fun, exciting, and very classic.  The first time I saw the film, it reminded me of all the things I like about films like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid.  The music is typical top-notch Disney, the animation is superb, and the backgrounds and CG artwork in general is stunning.

The story doesn't disappoint, drawing you in just right through the characters... Basically, it does everything right.

My only disappointment doesn't come in the movie, but in the packaged set.  Despite being a blu-ray (and having loads of room for data), there are very few special features on this set.  No commentary, which is truly disappointing, but there are a few deleted/alternate scenes.  There's a "making of" little thing, which is basically just Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi spouting a bunch already-known bits of trivia, most of which have little to do with the movie itself...  It's like a Disney Channel half-hour special geared towards small children.  What about us fanatics who want all the actual behind-the-scenes details?!

Anyways, I highly recommend this movie to anyone, young or old, male or female.  It's a great movie.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Princess and The Frog (2009)

A modern day retelling of the classic story The Frog Prince. The Princess and the Frog finds the lives of arrogant, carefree Prince Naveen and hardworking waitress Tiana crossing paths. Prince Naveen is transformed into a frog by a conniving voodoo magician and Tiana, following suit, upon kissing the amphibian royalty. With the help of a trumpet-playing alligator, a Cajun firefly, and an old blind lady who lives in a boat in a tree, Naveen and Tiana must race to break the spell and fulfill their dreams. [imdb]
I can not state too much just how much I love The Princess and The Frog.  I think I can honestly state that it's in my top five(5) Disney films... Definitely my favourite since The Emperor's New Groove and The Little Mermaid.  It's just a magnificent and beautiful movie... and the fabulous return to traditional animation.

When John Lasseter took over the creative aspect of the Disney company, one of the first things he did was decide to bring back traditional hand-drawn animation.  The next decision he made was to bring back Ron Clements and John Musker to write the new film.  This excited a lot of the animation department, who rightly missed their "lost" art, abandoned by their previous department head.  Many animators had left or been fired from Disney after the change to CG animation, so Lasseter had as many brought back as possible.  Really, it was just a re-structuring back to the way it should have always been...

If you've ever seen this movie, you could probably attest to how stunning it is visually.  It's almost hard to grasp that this movie was entirely done by hand, even so much as the hand-painted backgrounds.  I can't even think of another hand-drawn movie that looks this clean, even by the classic "Nine Old Men" of Disney past.

So we have classic-style animation, fully traditional artwork, the best-of-the-best in the animation department, and... Randy Newman.  Another brilliant move by Lasseter was to bring in Newman to write the score and soundtrack... while making sure other artists sing the songs to make sure no one confuses the film with a Pixar movie, where Newman's voice is best know in this generation.  Another full musical, The Princess and The Frog has about as many songs as time could possibly permit, sung mostly by the characters themselves... Another long-lost gem of Disney movies.

I can't speak enough praise of this film.  From the moment I heard about it in pre-production, through to even now, it just thrills me.  I love the new twist on the old story, the characters are fantastic, and just everything about it is "Classic Disney" and that is exactly what I wanted from them.

Let's hope for more traditionally-made Disney films.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Bolt (2008)

Bolt, a Swiss White Shepherd, has lived his whole life on the set of his action TV show, where he believes he has superpowers. When separated from the studio by accident, he meets a female alley cat named Mittens and a hamster named Rhino. He's trying to find the way home, to the studio. Along the way, he learns that he doesn't have superpowers and that the show is not real. [imdb]
Bolt is another of those movies that I just didn't expect to like... but it hardly took long before I just fell in love with this film.  Aside from being well-written and filled with great characters, it's just truly visually beautiful.

I would encourage anyone to watch the movie through, merely paying strict attention to all the artwork, backgrounds, animation, etc... at least just once.  Despite being computer-generated, the layouts and backgrounds all look and feel hand-painted, sometimes like watercolours.  Yet still, they were able to give certain textures a very realistic feel, and both the depth of focus and lighting are true to how our vision really works.

Obviously, I found the "Look of Bolt" featurette the most intriguing.  It really gives a better appreciation for the art and animation in Bolt.  Absolutely stunning.

Of course, everything else about the movie is just fun and wonderful.  I really can't say much of anything against this film.  Sure, it has Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, but even that can't ruin it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Meet The Robinsons (2007)

Lewis an orphan wants to see what his mother looked like. So he invents a machine that looks through your brain so you can see your memories. But this weird kid says he's from the future and warns him about a guy in a bowler hat. The bowler hat guy messes with his invention and it fails. He decides that he's a failure and no one wants him. But the kid that warned him about the guy is here on a mission to find the bowler hat guy that wants to destroy Lewis. To prove he's from the future he takes lewis to the future. But the time machine breaks and he's stuck in the future until he fixes it. In the meantime he spends quality time with the family. But the bowler hat guy is about to alter time and it's up to Lewis to save the future. [imdb]
In 2005, the Disney Company went through a series of massive changes internally that I personally feel were for the best.  First, Michael Eisner was ousted and replaced with Robert Iger... who then essentially cut practically all of the directors and department heads appointed by Eisner, bringing in some new people and many old, familiar faces who had since been "disassociated" from the company.  Without going into a lot of detail, Iger's mission seemed to be taking the company back to the glory of Walt Disney's lifetime, while simultaneously moving it further forward into the future.
A big part of this was, of course, the animation department.  A major play in this internal shake-up involved the aforementioned Pixar union, and ultimate resulted in ex-Disney animator (and major Pixar name) John Lasseter becoming the new chief creative officer for the Disney Company... which may very well be the ultimate salvation of Disney animation.

Despite being one of the few "Let's see if we need Pixar" movies, Meet The Robinson is a really fantastic movie, and I am incredibly certain that having Lasseter's input helped it a LOT.  According to the commentary and behind-the-scenes stuff, the film had been in production for quite some time, but when Lasseter came in to see it, he was able to point out various story flaws and weaknesses.  The film-makers then stripped the movie back down and re-wrote a lot of it (60% according to Wikipedia), and made the changes that I agree were necessary.

I will admit that this one has me hooked.  It's got beautiful animation, a fun story, some nice (but slightly expected) twists, and some wonderful, lovable characters.  It's funny, fun and exciting... Really, I just love it.

If you haven't seen it, you really should.  I would recommend it to anyone.  Some of the animation kind of put me off at first, to be honest, but I quickly warmed up to it... and I'm glad I did.  So don't let any initial reactions you have deter you from seeing this one.  It truly is fantastic.

I almost forgot... The Disney quote at the end of the movie sums up the entire message of the movie, which are the words "Keep moving forward."  I always thought they got that from the Disney quote and wrapped the movie around it.  As it turns out, they had the movie basically done before the director stumbled onto the quote, noticing that Walt had at one time said those exact three words which appeared throughout his movie.  He brought the coincident to the attentions of Lasseter and the other producers, and they decided it should be quoted at the end of the movie.  I'm glad they did, because it always brings a warm smile to my face.

Okay, I'm done rambling about this one... Rent it and watch it if you haven't seen it.  If you have, watch it again.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Chicken Little (2005)

After Chicken Little causes widespread panic--when he mistakes a falling acorn for a piece of the sky--the young chicken is determined to restore his reputation. But just as things are starting to go his way, a real piece of the sky lands on his head. Chicken Little and his band of misfit friends, Abby Mallard (aka Ugly Duckling), Runt of the Litter and Fish Out of Water, attempt to save the world without sending the town into a whole new panic. [imdb]
I'm going to have to say that I enjoyed Chicken Little even more this time around than any previous viewing.  I actually like that it's not the normal tale of Chicken Little...

Normally, an acorn hits Chicken Little on the head, and (if memory serves me) a hungry wolf convinces him that it was a piece of the sky.  The dumb little chicken then goes off and works everyone up into a frenzy, telling everyone the classic line "The sky is falling!" and the wolf directs everyone to his cave, where he traps and then eats them.

The Disney version here takes place a year after the title character gets hit on the head by what actually appears to be a piece of the sky, and after the crazed frenzy, the towns-people then decide it was actually an acorn, causing Chicken Little to become a mockery.  Being a year later, he's still a living joke, being made into a major motion picture called "Stupid Little Chicken" or whatever... and he has severe emotional problems, mostly due to feeling he has to earn the approval and trust of his father.

After joining the baseball team and actually becoming a hero, he finally feels a connection with his father, only to be then struck by yet another piece of the sky.  An alien "invasion" then unfolds, and all hell breaks loose...

I really like the newer take on the classic story, and it might be one of the few Disney animated films that could really connect with a current audience of the younger generation.  Normally, we leave that to Pixar, but I honestly think Disney pulled it off here, pin-pointing what I am sure is a real issue with a lot of young people these days.

Speaking of Pixar, apparently their distribution contract with Disney was about up in 2004 and was hinging on the success of Chicken Little.  If Disney could pull off a CG animated film well, they may not have needed Pixar around... or something like that.  Either way, the result was Disney buying Pixar and (after a few CG films, the ousting of Eisner, and a full entire restructuring of the animation department... and the whole Disney company really) eventually directing the CG 3-dimensional animation to them.

I look at Chicken Little (and a few of the up-coming movies) as a bit of a test for Disney.  They can successfully do 3D computer-generated movies... but I don't think they should.  The eventual outcome of fully teaming with Pixar, while re-directing their own animation department back towards traditional styles was the right choice to make... as we'll see in a few weeks.

But I refuse to say that this movie is anything but fun, cute, and enjoyable simply because the animation isn't "classic".  It's a great movie that apparently gets better each time you watch it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Home On The Range (2004)

Alameda Slim, a wanted cattle rustler, uses an alias to buy up properties all over western Nebraska, and his next target is the Patch of Heaven dairy farm, where the widow owner cares more for her 'family' of yard animals's welfare then for profit, so she just hasn't got the cash to keep in business. The other animals, mainly carefree youngsters, being unable, three cows of very different temperament and manners rise to the desperate occasion and set out to do battle for their dream home, teaming up unnaturally with each-other, the sheriff's megalomaniac horse and any other animal who can possibly help, even a crazy lucky rabbit and an invincible buffalo, hoping to beat the crook to the Patch's auction, or anything it takes... [imdb]
So this is a hard one... Home On The Range is far from incredible, anything but groundbreaking, and isn't memorable in the slightest... but it's fun and enjoyable.  A really cute little movie, Home On The Range is about some cows who set out to save their farm.  That's about it, plain and simple.  But sometimes plain and simple is a good thing.

Originally meant to be a ghost story western with human characters, the movie went through quite a few major changes before finally settling on cows.  I actually think their original idea would have been neat to see, but I still like the final product.  They made some fun characters and got some great vocal talent...

I really can't put my finger exactly on it why this one seems so bland and flat-lined, as far as the "classic" sense goes... Perhaps it's the lack of detail in the artwork, or the fact that the story isn't anything spectacular, or maybe it's just that it's a bit too simple.  Whatever it is, this is probably the least-known of the whole set.

Rosanne pretty much carries the movie, followed very closely by Meg Tilly who voices an air-headed tone-deaf cow very well.

I honestly don't have anything really against the movie, in fact I like it... but I'd be lying if I said it gains anything more than a shrug and a "Yeah, it was cute." from me.

Not really much to it, but I'd still recommend seeing it at least once.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Brother Bear (2003)

Long ago, as the Earth was emerging from the Ice Age, there were three brothers. After a bear takes the life of the oldest brother, impulsive youngest brother Kenai kills the bear in revenge, only to be transformed into a bear himself. Denahi, the middle brother, comes upon this bear and, thinking it killed Kenai, vows revenge. Now brother hunts brother and Kenai's only hope for survival is to befriend his own worst enemy, a grizzly cub named Koda. Koda main goal is to show Kenai the real meaning of brotherhood. [imdb]
Okay, I really like Brother Bear.  It's almost entirely hand-animated in the traditional style, with only a few CG segments... and it's a very fun and friendly film that has a lot of the quality Disney was originally known for in their animated features.

While we've covered typical North American native tales and.or characters, here we are treated to a further North American Inuit tale.  A subtle combination of Alaskan and Canadian influence, Brother Bear tells a story of a native American who gets turned into a bear to find the true meaning of love and brotherthood, etc etc etc...  The story is a bit predictable really, but that's overshadowed by the beautiful animation and enjoyable characters.

The ultimate highlight of the movie for me was the casting of Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis of SCTV and Strange Brew fame.  They play a couple of moose brothers who talk essentially just like Bob & Doug McKenzie.  Another related highlight is the incredibly non-informative audio commentary, done by the aforementioned moose characters.  The two actors are highly adept at improv, so it hardly ever got boring or old... although I admittedly would like to hear a real commentary track someday.

There's a bunch of special features, namely a 45-minute documentary on the making of the movie, paying a bit too much attention to Phil Collins and his soundtrack and score for the film.  The music is good, of course... but it also seemed like half of the featurette was about the music.

Anyways, this was the last 2D, hand-animated film made before they shut down the Orlando studio... in favour of making more computer-animated films, a decision they seem to have properly reversed as of late.  I don't know if they've re-opened the Orlando studios, but I know they've begun to leave the 3D CG movies to Pixar while veering the animation department at Disney back towards hand-drawn 2D films.

So yeah, Brother Bear is good and cute.  I like it and hope for more like it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Treasure Planet (2002)

A futuristic twist on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Treasure Planet follows restless teen Jim Hawkins on a fantastic journey across the universe as cabin boy aboard a majestic space galleon. Befriended by the ship's charismatic cyborg cook, John Silver, Jim blossoms under his guidance and shows the makings of a fine shipmate as he and the alien crew battle a supernova, a black hole, and a ferocious space storm. But even greater dangers lie ahead when Jim discovers that his trusted friend Silver is actually a scheming pirate with mutiny on his mind. [imdb]
On one hand we have the classic story Treasure Island, on the other hand it's set in space and is called Treasure Planet, and on the other hand it's a fairly accurate re-telling of the story, while on the other hand it's practically a "steam-punk" Disney movie, but on the other hand it's really fun and enjoyable, but on the other hand there's a random Goo Goo Dolls song wedged absurdly into the middle of the movie... yet still on the other hand... Martin Short.

Overall, I'd have to say that I like Treasure Planet.  It's fun, it's funny... and aside from the Goo Goo Dolls song, there isn't much wrong with it.  Really, if you want to fix your film into a certain date and cause it to not age well, throwing a song by a mid-90's alt-rock band is about the best way to do that.  There's NO way this movie doesn't feel dated now, simply because of that song.

But I really can only complain about that.  A lot of people complain about the extensive use of 3D computer-generated animation, with the only hand-drawn 2D animation being most (but not all) of the characters, but the only time that really bothered me was in one shot... which looked like a cheap video game cut scene.  See if you can find it!

Treasure Planet does use more computer animation than any films before it, and it's obvious... but considering the futuristic spacey-waceyness of the movie, it fits well.

Despite the video-injected commentary, there wasn't a whole lot to learn about the making of the film.  It seemed pretty standard aside from the computer combination with hand-drawn etc. etc.... Although I was surprised to find out that the original idea for this movie was pitched at the same session as The Little Mermaid, and by the same person as well.  So, they had this on the back-burner, working on story ideas bit by bit, for a long long time.

Anywho, although I personally would have like a more "era"-based official telling of Treasure Island, I am well aware that Disney already did a live-action version years ago... which is one of the reasons for the space-based version now.  Also of interesting note is that the old movie was Disney's first all live-action film.

Alright, enough of this fun, on to the next one...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Lilo & Stitch (2002)

In a place far, far away, illegal genetic experiment #626 is detected: Ruthless scientist Dr. Jumba Jookiba has created a strong, intelligent, nearly indestructible and aggressive being with only one known weakness: The high density of his body makes it impossible for the experiment to swim in water. The scientist is sentenced to jail by the Grand Council of the Galactic Federation. The experiment is supposed to be transported to a prison asteroid, yet manages to escape Captain Gantu, who was supposed to deliver him there. With a stolen police cruiser (the red one), the destructive being races towards a little and already doomed planet: Earth. Stranded on Hawaii, experiment #626 can't actually do much harm: water all around, no big cities and two well-equipped representatives of the Galactic Federation already following close behind to catch him again. But Dr. Jookiba and the Earth expert Pleakley never could have guessed that earth girl Lilo adopts the experiment as dog... [imdb]
Okay this post won't be quite as good as the one that for some reason didn't publish like it was supposed to... I'm too pissed off to write something as long or as good as what I already wrote, so I'll just try to sum up a bit.  My apologies.

Lilo & Stitch is a fun, entertaining movie that was crafted and made by a relatively small team with an incredibly small budget.  What came of this "Here, go make a movie and let us know when it's done" technique is a fantastic little gem of a film.  It has aliens, Hawaii, and it's not based on any classic fairy tale or novel, which makes it easily the most unique movie in the "animated classics" line.

The behind-the-scenes special features were in the form of a self-made video journal, shot in studio and on location in Hawaii by the writers and director, with their small crew of animators.  It touched on the watercolour backgrounds used in the film, the general creation of the movie including some brainstorming sessions, and the step-by-step production of the whole thing.  This was actually kind of neat to see, and far more informative than the many times we simply hear people talk about how these movies are made.

I like the movie and I like the special features.  Great fun was had by me, and I can't complain much... except about the damn post getting lost.  Still pretty mad about that.

Good movie though.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

1914: Milo Thatch, grandson of the great Thaddeus Thatch works in the boiler room of a museum. He knows that Atlantis was real, and he can get there if he has the mysterious Shephards journal, which can guide him to Atlantis. But he needs someone to fund a voyage. His employer thinks he's dotty, and refuses to fund any crazy idea. He returns home to his apartment and finds a woman there. She takes him to Preston B. Whitmore, an old friend of his Grandfathers. He gives him the shepherds journal, a submarine and a 5 star crew. They travel through the Atlantic ocean, face a large lobster called the Leviathan, and finally get to Atlantis. But does the Atlantis crew have a lust for discovery, or something else? [imdb]
A lot of people give Atlantis: The Lost Empire a lot of grief. I've heard people complain about the lack of music, animal sidekicks, and just about every other standard Disney animated film convention you can think of... But Atlantis isn't a standard "once upon a time" fantasy movie. It's an adventure movie, through and through.

In every commentary, interview and behind-the-scenes clip you can find, the film makers repeat again and again that this is an "Adventureland" movie... not a "Fantasyland" movie... and those are both integral parts of the Disney experience. In fact, it's almost hard to fathom that they had never made an "adventure" animated movie up until this one.

Drawing inspiration from many of the 60's era Disney live-action movies such as Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Atlantis sends our cast of characters on a mission to find (of course) the lost city of Atlantis.

A lot of standards were actually cut from the movie, including pirates, vikings, a few mythical monsters, and the aforementioned animal sidekick... but what we end up with is a rather amazing and well-made film with a lot going for it.

There's a strong vocal cast, including Michael J. Fox, James Garner, and a final performance by the late Jim Varney. The art style was drawn from darker comic books (graphic novels) even going so far as to involve the maker of the Hellboy comics in the general creation of the movie. Yet one of the most impressive features of Atlantis has to be the seemless integration of 3D computer animation with hand-drawn 2D animation.

Many of the backgrounds during action sequences or vast landscapes were rendered digitally, hand-painted to maintain some resemblance to the classic Disney style, and then merged in with the hand-drawn characters, creating a gorgeous style utilizing nearly every department in the studio.

I watched the 2-disc special edition which has a vast amount of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a whole load of art galleries. I can't think of anything really missing... There's a commentary, little documentary, deleted scenes... It's a pretty nice package of information.

Anyways, if you're a hater of this movie, I'd suggest giving it another go. I honestly can't complain about it at all. (Which is rare for me.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

In this animated comedy from the folks at Disney, the vain and cocky Emperor Kuzco is a very busy man. Besides maintaining his "groove", and firing his suspicious administrator, Yzma; he's also planning to build a new waterpark just for himself for his birthday. However, this means destroying one of the villages in his kingdom. Meanwhile, Yzma is hatching a plan to get revenge and usurp the throne. But, in a botched assassination courtesy of Yzma's right-hand man, Kronk, Kuzco is magically transformed into a llama. Now, Kuzco finds himself the property of Pacha, a lowly llama herder whose home is ground zero for the water park. Upon discovering the llama's true self, Pacha offers to help resolve the Emperor's problem and regain his throne, only if he promises to move his water park. [imdb]
When the title of The Emperor's New Groove was first announced, my initial reaction was disgust.  I had no desire whatsoever to see some bastardized hip-hop version of The Emperor's New Clothes.  How could Disney stoop so low in their attempt to ride the coat-tails of modern trends like that?!  I would never bother to watch this piece of crap.

Then one day, I was at Blockbuster and caught a single scene of the movie (for those of you who've seen it, it was the scene where Kronk is attempting to dispose of the emperor's body)... I wanted, no I HAD to see this movie.  So I rented it, and I watched it... and watched it... and watched it... and bought it and watched it... and so on.

This is definitely one of my favourite and most-quoted Disney films of all time.  It was also the start of yet another era in Disney's animated films... This is Disney in the 21st century.

The movie is chock full of pop culture references and jokes, and it is very self-aware.  There's no real similarities between the source of the title and the movie, and the complete lack of historical and cultural accuracy is very apparent.  In fact, there are times they just seem to be gloating about the modern day references they've thrown in.  This is far from a complaint, because it just makes the movie that much more relatable to the current viewing public.  It's never done in a distasteful manner, and the insanely fast pace of the dialogue and story help the nit-picky mind wash over every fallacy.

The commentary was enjoyable as well, but I was a tad disappointed by the behind-the-scenes featurette.  It was just trying a bit too hard and wasn't very insightful about the real making of the movie.  In fact, I discovered more about the history of the project by reading the Wikipedia entry (linked below) than I did the featurette.  I won't go into much detail, but I would recommend reading on it if you enjoy the movie.  Suffice it to say that I am far more happy with the way it turned out than the original intent.

So if you are at all like I was at first, and have yet to see this movie... Get it. Watch it. Love it.... Squeaken.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Dinosaur (2000)

During an attack on a pack of Iguanodon, an egg is separated and ends up with the possession of a group of lemurs. The lemurs care for this egg and the young creature born from it, which they call Aladar. When a meteor shower hits earth, Aladar and his family must leave their homeland. Away from home and as close to danger as they have ever been, they meet up with a huge group of dinosaurs, led by Kron and Bruton. All together they are trying to reach the nesting grounds, but it's not going to be easy. [imdb]
I'd have to say that I was looking forward to watching Dinosaur.  Of all 51 films in the Animated Classics line, this was the only movie I had yet to ever see.  Apparently it was officially added as an "Animated Classic" back in 2008, a whole eight(8) years after its release...  I still am not sure why this decision was made, but I guess it sort of fits.

Dinosaur combines both computer-generated and hand-drawn animation with live action backgrounds and landscapes to create a rather unique style of movie... So I suppose it can qualify as an "animated" film.

Altogether, the movie is quite enjoyable.  It doesn't have any songs, ballad or otherwise, sung either by character or off-screen popular artist... So that's a bit different from the rest of the classics line as well.  Throwing songs in here would diminish the movie though, so that's not a complaint in any way.  Actually, the movie is a bit darker than most as well, and apparently the film makers had to remove a lot of blood and gore to get the rating they wanted.

I don't think this will ever fall in as one of my favourites, but I still like it nonetheless.  I am very glad my first viewing was on blu-ray.  The visuals look incredible in hi-definition.  That's the most redeeming quality of the film: the visuals.  They did some magnificent work there, even though the computer animation is a bit dated.

I did find it odd that the special features are spread out over both the blu-ray disc and the DVD, instead of all being on the blu-ray and then duplicated in part to the DVD.  No big deal there though.  It actually makes having both discs useful.

Well, if you haven't seen Dinosaur yet, maybe you should.  It's a pretty good movie and definitely under-appreciated.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Fantasia 2000 (1999)

In this update of Disney's masterpiece film mixture of animation and music, new interpretations of great works of music are presented. It begins with an abstract battle of light and darkness set to the music of Beethoveen's Fifth Symphony. Then we see the adventures of a Humpback Whale calf and his pod set to "The Pines of Rome." Next is the humourous story of several lives in 1930's New York City, scored with "Rhapsody in Blue." Following is a musical telling of the fairy tale, "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" set to Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2. Then a goofy Flamingo causes havoc in his flock with his yo-yo to the tune of the finale of "Carnival of the Animals." This is followed by the classic sequence from the original film, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" starring Mickey Mouse and followed by "Pomp and Circumstance" starring Donald Duck as a harried assistant to Noah on his Ark... [imdb]
Months ago, I watched the first disc of two(2) on the 4-disc blu-ray set of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000... (my review of which can be found here) ... Now I've watched every single bit of the second disc, containing Fantasia 2000 and a whole slew of various special features.  This isn't so much of a sequel to Fantasia, but a continuation.  One thing mentioned in virtually every commentary and featurette on both of these discs is that Fantasia was originally meant to be a continuing movie.

Every year, re-release the movie with a few segments dropped and a few new ones added.  The initial box-office failure of the movie caused Disney to drop this idea, although over the years, Walt and many of his crew would start work on bits only to either abandon them or place them elsewhere.  Some of the "unused" segments made it into films like Melody Time or released as simple short segments alone.  Others were vaulted and appear on this set in fully animated or storyboarded forms.

And still others were completed and formed into the feature film Fantasia 2000.  Only one segment remained from the original film, of course being The Sorcerer's Apprentice.  Personally, I wouldn't have minded one bit if they had left that off as well... but oh well.

I really enjoy this new take on Fantasia, possibly more than the original in some places.  One thing that sticks out to me is the seamless integration of computer-generated animation with traditional hand-drawn animation.  In fact, it's so seamless that parts I could have sworn were done with computers were in fact done entirely by hand.

There's commentary and a segment about a lost attempt at rehashing Fantasia, called Musicana... but the real stand-out here is Destino, the collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali.  A rather long featurette about the history of the short... and its fate in the Disney morgue... and subsequent revival... followed by the newly finished short film itself.  It's actually very good, and I almost feel it's hidden by being packaged on disc 2 of the Fantasia set.  This is something that needs to be emphasized by itself for what it is.

The next best stand-out feature on this disc is the Disney's Virtual Vault, which is basically every special feature from the previous DVD releases of both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.  Hours upon hours of documentaries and alternate takes and storyboard sequences...   In fact, I started writing this blogue entry before they even finished.  I hit "Play All" hours ago, and it just now finished.  Phew.

Well, if you're a fan of Fanatasia in any form, and you own a blu-ray player with an internet connection (for the Virtual Vault), I'd definitely suggest getting this 4-disc set (2 blu-ray discs and 2 DVD's).  This is something I will be holding on to for quite some time.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Tarzan (1999)

The movie is about the life of Tarzan. Tarzan was a small orphan who was raised by an ape named Kala since he was a child. He believed that this was his family, but on an expedition Jane Porter is rescued by Tarzan. He then finds out that he's human. Now Tarzan must make the decision as to which family he should belong to... [imdb]
Okay, let me start by saying that I've always been one to complain about the use of ballads and artists like Phil Collins as music in the slew of 90's-era Disney films... but after watching Tarzan, I have to admit that it was a pretty nice fit.  I will still complain about the lyrics to all the various songs descriptively matching exactly what's happening on the screen, which is kind-of a no-no when it comes to making music for movies.  That, and it's rather annoying to anyone who pays attention to the lyrics as well as the action on screen.  I don't need musical narration explaining that people (well, a person and an ape) are holding hands.  I can see it for myself.

That all being said, Tarzan is actually a rather good movie.  I quite enjoyed it this time around and found myself thinking it one of the better in the canon.  It comes very close to Jungle Book meets The Lion King, but consciously staying enough away from both of those films to remain unique.  The story is good, especially after seeing some of the ideas that were left undone, and the animation is lovely.

I wish I had the 2-disc set that came out at some point along the way, but I only have a single-disc edition that apparently is lacking a few behind-the-scenes featurettes.  The commentary track helped make up for that a bit, but I look forward to any future blu-ray release for more special features.

I forced myself to sit through 3 Phil Collins music videos, one with N*Sync... and another music video of some all-girl pop group singing a song from the film "live" although I spent much of the time wondering where the drum sounds were coming from if there was no drummer on stage.  Ah well, it's Disney...

Tarzan's another movie I think anyone should give another chance, if they find themselves with bad memories of it... It's oddly simple, but obviously not thrown together.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Mulan (1998)

This retelling of the old Chinese folktale is about the story of a young Chinese maiden who learns that her weakened and lame father is to be called up into the army in order to fight the invading Huns. Knowing that he would never survive the rigours of war in his state, she decides to disguise herself and join in his place. Unknown to her, her ancestors are aware of this and to prevent it, they order a tiny disgraced dragon, Mushu to join her in order to force her to abandon her plan. He agrees, but when he meets Mulan, he learns that she cannot be dissuaded and so decides to help her in the perilous times ahead. [imdb]
Alright, I've given Disney a lot of grief over most of the past few films I've watched... but I have to say that I like Mulan. In fact, I think I like it more every time I watch it.  Perhaps it's just one of those movies that grows on you, or maybe it has to do with the shit movies that came just before it.  Either way, this is a nice movie.

Based on an old Chinese poem and legend, Mulan is a film about a young girl who defends her country and family's honour by going to war disguised as a boy.  Obviously, they threw in a moral of something about how one person can make a difference or whatever...

Anyways, the makers of the film went to China (of course) to study a lot of the architecture, landscape, art, heritage, culture, etc. for research.  I'd have to say they actually did a very good job conveying that in the art and style of the movie.  Even the music fits well with the cultural aspect.

Eddie Murphy kind of plays the "Genie from Aladdin" role in this movie, and he really does a good job at it.  A lot of the time, he's a bit too over-the-top for me (ie, annoying), but I think he was the perfect fit for this role.  I also enjoyed the little cricket, who was designed by Joe Grant, who had been a character designer as early on as Snow White.  It really had a classic Disney feel to it, obviously due to Grant.

While the movie isn't perfect, the audio commentary track was fun simply because the writers would actually make jokes about all the various times the viewer needed to suspend their disbelief.  To me, this makes a movie even more enjoyable, simply by knowing the film-makers obviously were aware of any lack of realism.

Whelp, I definitely think Mulan is a few steps up from the last few... If you haven't seen it recently, I'd suggest it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Hercules (1997)

Hercules, son of the Greek God, Zeus, is turned into a half-god, half-mortal by evil Hades, God of the Underworld, who plans to overthrow Zeus. Hercules is raised on Earth and retains his god-like strength, but when he discovers his immortal heritage Zeus tells him that to return to Mount Olympus he must become a True Hero. Hercules becomes a famous hero with the help of his friend Pegasus and his personal trainer, Phil the satyr. Hercules battles monsters, Hades and the Titans, but it is his self-sacrifice to rescue his love Meg which makes him a True Hero. [imdb]
"What have we here at Disney yet to cover?"
"Greek mythology."
"Alright... sounds good. What sort of music goes well with Greek mythology?"
"How about Southern Gospel?!"
"Do it!"


Yes, I still don't quite get the connection there, and it will always annoy the shit out of me. A very obviously Christian-infuenced style of music as a method of telling the strory of a traditional Greek demi-god. Yeah, that makes sense.

As for artwork and animation, there really is nothing ground-breaking or even breath-taking about this one... which is alright I guess, but there were several times I felt I was watching a Warner Brothers movie, not Disney.  There is one bit of solid detail, in the floor of Zeus's temple or whatever... Lots of detail in the little tiles, and it seems very out of place considering there's no other form of close detail in the entire rest of the movie.

Now for the story... While Disney has been well known for changing stories and "dumbing them down," this is really the only one that truly annoys me. They took a good story that really already had a good moral or point to it, and they changed it to an overused coming-of-age story with the moral of "to be a true hero, follow your heart" or some shit like that.  Once again, it wouldn't have been quite so bad if they hadn't blatantly drilled their point home on so many occasions throughout the film.  I found myself sighing and rubbing my face on more than one occasion, simply because of how tedious their moral felt.  You don't need to have every one of the characters state the moral of the story directly and openly every fifteen(15) minutes.  It just starts getting dumb.

While I will admit to not being very fond of this movie, I won't say it's not enjoyable.  There are some fun parts, and it's not a waste of time.  It's just not the best film they've made, by far.

I was hoping the "making of" featurette would shed a bit of light onto some of the purpose behind why this movie even exists, but it really didn't....
There was also a Ricky Martin music video.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

In 15th century Paris, Clopin the puppeteer tells the story of Quasimodo, the misshapen gentle-souled bell ringer of Notre Dame, who was nearly killed as a baby by Claude Frollo, the Minister of Justice. But Frollo was forced by the Archdeacon of Notre Dame to raise Quasimodo as his own. Now a young man, Quasimodo is hidden from the world by Frollo in the belltower of the cathedral. But during the Festival of Fools, Quasimodo, cheered on by his gargoyle friends Victor, Hugo, and Laverne, decides to take part in the festivities, where he meets the lively gypsy girl Esmeralda and the handsome soldier Phoebus. The three of them find themselves ranged against Frollo's cruelty and his attempts to destroy the home of the gypsies, the Court of Miracles. And Quasimodo must desperately defend both Esmeralda and the very cathedral of Notre Dame. [imdb]
I really enjoy The Hunchback of Notre Dame, especially coming off of Pocahontas, of which I wasn't really all that fond.  It's actually a relatively serious movie as far as the story goes, eased in by light-hearted humour and fun (typical Disney) characters.

I am going to straight-up quote Wikipedia here for a moment in the description of some of the more "grown-up" elements of the film:
Despite the changes from the original literary source material in order to ensure a G rating, the film does manage to address mature issues such as lust, infanticide, sin, profanity, religious hypocrisy, the concept of Hell, prejudice, and social injustice, as well as acceptance that Quasi yearns for. Songs also contain rather mature lyrical content such as the words "licentious" or "strumpet" which introduce the concept of sexual indulgence, as well as frequent verbal mentions of Hell. Also notably, it is the first animated Disney film to use the word "damnation".
As for the artwork and animation, this is the first of the animated films to truly blend usage of hand-drawn and computer generated animation.  Prior films occasionally had some backgrounds or certain scenes that wiggled some CG bits in... but never to the extent that The Hunchback of Notre Dame brought.  As the film-makers stated in the commentary, the movie is essentially a "tour de force" of everything the Disney animation department could do at that time.

For the background, the animators went to Paris where they took pictures and even rubbings (used for stone patterns) of the Notre Dame Cathedral, which gave a bit of realism and actuality to the art.  It also helped that many of the segments were animated in France by French animators... They knew their subject well.

In all, this is a fine movie... and the DVD release is alright.  There weren't many special features... but there was a commentary track and a "making of" featurette hosted by Jason Alexander that tried a bit too hard at being funny.

Anyways, I'm done with this one for now... On to the next movie.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Pocahontas (1995)

Capt. John Smith leads a rag-tag band of English sailors & soldiers to the New World to plunder its riches for England (or, more precisely, for Governor Ratcliffe, who comes along for the ride). Meanwhile, in this "New World," Chief Powhatan has pledged his daughter, Pocahontas, to be married to the village's greatest warrior. Pocahontas, however, has other ideas. She has seen a vision of a spinning arrow, a vision she believes tells her change is coming. Her life does indeed change when the English ship lands near her village. Between Ratcliffe, who believes the "savages" are hiding the gold he expected to be plentiful, and Powhatan, who believes these pale newcomers will destroy their land, Smith and Pocahontas have a difficult time preventing all-out war, and saving their love for each other. [imdb]
Well, Pochaontas isn't all that bad a movie, but I don't think it was their best... Maybe it's just the forced vibrato in all the songs.  Call me picky, but forced vibrato just annoys the shit out of me.  That aside, I still don't think the movie was all that thrilling or even creative.  The story is rather cliche and bland, to be honest... but I have to admit I enjoyed it more this time around than I used to.

It's a beautiful movie as far as animation and art direction goes.  I noticed the background artwork is rather reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty, especially in the design of the trees.  That much I really liked, and the colours are just lovely.

But I still think the story is pretty bland.  Perhaps the whole thing just seems somewhat "cookie-cutter" Disney movie.  They got a formula and they stuck with it.

Anyways, the DVD set is alright... Commentary, slightly extended version with an added song, half-hour documentary on the making of the film, a couple games and activities, and some music videos.  Actually, come to think of it, even the DVD set is somewhat cookie-cuttered...

Yeah, now I'm just making myself even more disappointed in this thing... On to the next one.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Lion King (1994)

A young lion prince is born in Africa, thus making his uncle Scar the second in line to the throne. Scar plots with the hyenas to kill King Mufasa and Prince Simba, thus making himself King. The King is killed and Simba is led to believe by Scar that it was his fault, and so flees the kingdom in shame. After years of exile he is persuaded to return home to overthrow the usurper and claim the kingdom as his own thus completing the "Circle of Life". [imdb]
"Bambi in Africa meets Hamlet." It's hard to believe now that no one really wanted to work on this project when it was first introduced, but it's true. While most of the main Disney animators were working on production of Pocahontas, others were working on the "B Film": a little moive about a lion.

Originally meant to be an animated version of their live-action nature films, The Lion King became one of Disney's biggest hits.  Once they gained a bit of direction and brought on Elton John and Tim Rice to write the music, the story started to fall right into place.  Many of the people working on the film stated that it would either be a giant hit or a giant failure... I'd have to say it was a hit.  A massive hit that led to sequels, spin-offs, merchandise, and a Broadway stage show.

There's a wealth of special features on the 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD set, but I have to admit that I am a bit upset this came on my Disn-A-Thon 2011 a few months before the new blu-ray edition will be released.  I will watch it again once that arrives, and I look forward to any new special features included.  That being said, I really enjoyed the three(3) different ways to go about the immersion of special features.  It got a tad confusing at times, mostly just in wondering if I missed anything, but there was a lot to plow through.

There are also a couple different versions of the movie: one with an added song (which I detest) and the original theatrical cut.  Have I mentioned that I detest the added song.  I was initially planning to state that it was the "low point" of the movie, and then I remembered that it wasn't even in the original version.  Thank heavens for that.  They couldn't even get the singing voice of Simba to remotely match the speaking voice.  I'd have to say that was the worst vocal matching Disney's ever done.

Anyways, there's a commentary track to the original cut, and you all know how much I love commentaries!

Well, I really can't think of anything else to add about this one except that I'd suggest holding off on buying this one until the blu-ray comes out (along with a new DVD edition, I'm sure)... and there's also a huge multi-disc set, which also includes the two(2) sequels (also on both blu-ray and DVD) which I only wish I had the money to spend on.

Next....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin is a street-urchin who lives in a large and busy town long ago with his faithful monkey friend Abu. When Princess Jasmine gets tired of being forced to remain in the palace that overlooks the city, she sneaks out to the marketplace, where she accidentally meets Aladdin. Under the orders of the evil Jafar (the sultan's advisor), Aladdin is thrown in jail and becomes caught up in Jafar's plot to rule the land with the aid of a mysterious lamp. Legend has it that only a person who is a "diamond in the rough" can retrieve the lamp from the Cave of Wonders. Aladdin might fight that description, but that's not enough to marry the princess, who must (by law) marry a prince. [imdb]
Following very close on the heels of The Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin is a far more lighthearted and "loose" movie that ushered in yet another new style of animated film.  Another of Howard Ashman's final works, he and Alan Menkin brought a fun, jaunty sound to the music, with the help of Tim Rice after Ashman had passed.

Where Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid were "princess" films, this technically could be called a "prince" film.  The main focus is a scoundrel of a thief who, along with his pet monkey Abu, find the help of a genie to woo the beautiful princess, Jasmine.  Of course, there's the evil guy who tries to get in the way, some drama caused by Aladdin's selfishness, a magic carpet ride to a most-popular song, and a lot of fun jokes from the genie, voiced by Robin Williams.

The genie's jokes and impersonations seem a bit out of place, being modern and "now" compared to the setting of the movie. This is the biggest difference between Aladdin and many of the other animated films that came before it.  In the commentaries, this was explained (in a very deus ex machina fashion) with the understanding that the genie could transcend time and therefor understood many modern references while the other characters in the movie didn't.  The only time this concept was used prior to this (that I can recall) was in Sword In The Stone, when Merlin went "on vacation" to the 20th century.  Anyways, this brought about a new feel to the animated films, where characters would make modern references despite the setting of the movie.

There were a lot of special features on the 2-DVD set, not as many as my last review obviously, but still a great deal.  There were a few commentary tracks, which gave varying perspectives on the making of the movie. Also included was a pop-up trivia track, which was essentially just another subtitle track filled with lots of random bits of information... I suppose for people who don't like audio commentaries.  A nice documentary on the second disc was rather informative, but what I really enjoyed was the talk with the composer, Alan Menkin.

In all, this was a great set, but I can't help but want a nice blu-ray set for this one.  I'd love to see this (as well as every other film) in high definition.  Still, it's a fantastic film either way.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Beauty and The Beast (1991)

Belle is a girl who is dissatisfied with life in a small provincial French town, constantly trying to fend off the misplaced "affections" of conceited Gaston. The Beast is a prince who was placed under a spell because he could not love. A wrong turn taken by Maurice, Belle's father, causes the two to meet. [imdb]
Beauty and The Beast is another story Walt had considered (and tried) to turn into a feature film, only to be dropped and then picked up half a century later by the revived studio.  In the late 1980's, the animation department tried working a script together for a non-musical version of the story, and after a few rewrites, a new team was brought on board.  This included Alan Menkin and a semi-reluctant Howard Ashman (also working on Aladdin at the time) who would turn it into a Broadway style musical film.

The result is a fantastic and gorgeous animated motion picture, a bit more mature than many of the films that came before it.  Returning to the Cinderella and Snow White "princess" style fairy tales, Beauty and The Beast was a bit less "happy-go-lucky" and brought to the screen a female lead that was more proactive than reactive.  Instead of letting things simply happen to her, she was strong and secure and took charge of herself and her surroundings.  Following on the heels of success brought about by The Little Mermaid, this new style of heroine was becoming a standard for Disney princesses.

This was my first time watching the blu-ray release, and boy am I glad I have a high definition TV.  There were more than a few times I found myself muttering "Holy shit..." and rewinding simply to see the scenes again.  The transfer and depth is just beautiful.  It made me immediately disappointed to find out the next film on my -thon is only on DVD and not blu-ray.

And the amount of special features... Well, for starters, there are a few different versions of the movie to watch.  There's an extended version, containing an added song that had been cut from the original film.  It's sad to think such a wonderful song had been cut, but in the behind the scenes and commentary, a good explanation was given.  I can't complain too much, because it's back in and wonderful.

Then we have the original theatrical version of the film, followed by a picture-in-picture with the original un-completed screening version...  There's commentary for the extended, so this made a nice special feature for the theatrical version.  Then there's a few games, at least two(2) music videos, and about a gazillion (estimated) various bits and pieces about the background of the film.  And to top it all off, they threw in a really long interactive behind-the-scenes feature.  As you watch the documentary, pop-ups allow you to click through to watch even MORE features, sometimes moving even another level deeper beyond that... and then at last returning seamlessly back into the original documentary.  All of this has a special index, allowing you to see if you've missed anything....

I was in special-feature heaven (or hell for some people).  This was easily one of the best sets I've seen during my -thon, and I hope as much care goes into each and every subsequent release.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Cody, a boy from Mugwomp Flats responds to a distress call about a trapped giant Golden Eagle called Marahute. Freeing her, he gains a close friendship with the bird. However, Cody is soon abducted by the murderous poacher, Percival McLeach, who is after that bird which is of a highly endangered species and therefore an extremely profitable quarry. In a panic, a mouse Cody freed from one of McLeach's traps sends a desperate call for help to the Rescue Aid Society in New York City who assigns their top agents, Miss Bianca and Bernard to the task. With transportation provided by the goofy Albatross, Wilbur, the agents arrive in Austrailia and link up with the RAS' local field operative, Jake The Kangaroo Rat. Together, the trio must race against time to find Cody, stop McLeach and save Marahute. [imdb]
Disney is known now for all the many sequels, a few making it into the theater, but most of them incredibly horrible and direct-to-video. The Rescuers Down Under is the first (and only, until this month's Winnie The Pooh movie) to make it into the "Animated Classics" series.  It's also, apparently, the first feature film to be "assembled and completed within a digital environment" [Wikipedia], and the second in the classics line to not have a musical number.  All that makes this movie quite unique.

Aside from all the uniquenessicity, it's just a cute fun movie.  I guess Oliver and Company was originally intended as a sequel to The Rescuers, but in the end, they worked it into this story instead.  I think that was a pretty smart move.  Another smart move was getting John Candy to voice the albatross.  I just love John Candy...

Well, what else really is there to say about this one aside from "cute, fun, entertaining, Bob Newhart and John Candy"??  That is all. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Little Mermaid (1989)

Loosely based upon the story by Hans Christian Andersen. Ariel, youngest daughter of King Triton, is dissatisfied with life in the sea. She longs to be with the humans above the surface, and is often caught in arguments with her father over those "barbaric fish-eaters". She goes to meet Ursula, the Sea Witch, to strike a deal, but Ursula has bigger plans for this mermaid and her father. [imdb]
The Little Mermaid enters in the era known as the Disney Renaissance.  After a decade of only a few animated films, most of them relative failures, The Little Mermaid is very deservedly given credit for breathing life back into the animation department.

There's a wonderful behind-the-scenes featurette on the set that goes into strong detail about the making of the film.  This made me happy, because the past eight(8) or so films I've watched have been very bare as far as information goes.  A little bit that I found only in the commentary (yes, there's thankfully a commentary track) is that Walt himself had been planning a version of The Little Mermaid back in the 30's.  Coincidentally, many of the story changes his story men had made were also many of the same changes made in the 80's by writers who had no clue there had even been any prior work...  Perhaps that had something to do with the film's success.

I list this film as my third favourite of the set, behind Lady and The Tramp and Dumbo... and I've been complaining about the lack of dark-ride attration at Disneyland for years.  Turns out they planned one back in the early 90's, but the project never went beyond development.  For this, I blame some of Eisner's people, specifically the head of the parks.  I don't recall his name, but he's the guy who stated that people only went to Disneyland for the food.  Anyways, there's a special feature of a digital animated ride-thru of the attraction, which I think is glorious.  Actually, I maintain that for EVERY movie that has a corresponding attraction, they should be doing this...

Thankfully, I think they are planning to re-work and finally complete the Little Mermaid ride soon, for California Adventure.  Good enough.

So yeah, the music is always fun on this film, the story is great, and I think there's an energy to the movie that hasn't existed since The Jungle Book.  I am sure the energy played a huge role in making this film a success... and I'm glad it did, or we may never have had any of the films to come.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Oliver & Company (1988)

Inspired by Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist". A homeless kitten named Oliver, roams the streets of New York, where he is taken in by a gang of homeless mutts who survive by stealing from others. During one of these criminal acts, Oliver meets a wealthy young girl named Jenny Foxworth. This meeting will forever change his life. [imdb]
Ahh the 80's.  If you pick one film to represent a 1980's Disney movie, Oliver & Company would be the one to pick.  With a soundtrack by Huey Lewis and Billy Joel (who also voices a major character), this movie keeps with the normal trend of transforming a classic story to a fun, whimsical little animated film.

The movie follows a little orphaned kitten (Oliver) in a modern-day (for the 80's) New York City, where he teams up with a gang of ruffians (dogs) and their master, a scroungey thief named Fagin who owes the film's antagonist a ton of money.  Honestly, I think Fagin was the best and most enjoyable character in the movie, which is saying a lot considering they were all great.  Anyways, in a heist gone wrong, Oliver ends up separated from his new friends and in the arms of a wealthy little girl.  The gang of dogs decide to "rescue" their new friend, leading to kidnapping and danger.

Despite my general issue with many of the films of the late 1980's (and their inherent 80's-ness), I really love this movie more and more with every viewing.  For the time, I don't think they could have done this one any better.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

In Victorian London, England, a little mouse girl's toymaker father is abducted by a peglegged bat. She enlists the aid of Basil of Baker Street, the rodent world's answer to Sherlock Holmes. The case expands as Basil uncovers the crime's link to a plot against the Crown itself. [imdb]
Well we're just past the half-way mark with The Great Mouse Detective. Number twenty-six (out of the current 50) and just after the drastic failure of The Black Cauldron, this movie gave the Disney executives hope that there still might be a market to keep the animation department up and running... This was a good thing, considering coming up soon is The Little Mermaid, a movie which (not to get ahead of myself) considerably revived interest in Disney animated movies.

This film is quite charming and sweet... entertaining and fun... Basically, I really can't find much wrong with it.  It's easy to invest yourself into the characters, specifically the little mouse, Olivia. It may help that pretty much everyone in the English-speaking world is familiar with the character of Sherlock Holmes, who the titular character is based on.

I really can't help but imagine that the Disney company caught wind of the up-and-coming Amblin film An American Tail, and decided to make another mouse-based film ASAP... getting it to theaters mere months earlier. There are a few striking similarities between the two, mainly the premise of a little mouse child trying to find his/her father... Maybe it's just me reading into things, but the fact that ex-Disney (slightly disgruntled ex-Disney, I might add) director Don Bluth helmed the Amblin film might have really caused a bit of competition.

Anyways, back to the Disney film... Vincent Price.  That's all I really need to say. Well, maybe this is better: Vincent Price sings.  Yeah, that's pretty awesome.  Really, there's only like three(3) songs in this movie, and one is sung wonderfully by Price who plays the villain.

One bit of interest in the "making of" special feature: certain backgrounds were drawn out in wireframe on computers (remember, this is 1985-6...) which then sketched out onto sheets, where they were then inked and coloured as normal... Early CGI animation.  I really wish they did this NOW, because then even the computer generated aspects would still have a very hand-done feel to them.  I was really shocked to find out that computers were involved at all, considering how natural it looked.

So yeah, I enjoy this movie and I think it's one of the cutest of the whole set.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Black Cauldron (1985)

Centuries ago, in the land of Prydain, a young man named, Taran is given the task of protecting Hen Wen, a magical oracular pig, who knows the location of the mystical black cauldron. This is not an easy task fot The Evil Horned King will stop at nothing to get the cauldron. [imdb]

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Fox and The Hound (1981)

A young fox named Tod is taken in by an old woman after his mother is killed by a hunter. Full of mischief, Young Tod befriends Copper, a hound dog pup. As they grow up, however, their friendship becomes endangered by what they have become; Copper is a hunting dog, and Tod is his prey. [imdb]

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Rescuers (1977)

When a bottle containing a plea for help from a little girl named Penny makes its way to the Rescue Aid Society, a mouse organization in the basement of the United Nations building dedicated to the rescue and well-being of anyone in need, it is up to the brave mouse Miss Bianca and her chosen partner, the shy janitor Bernard to rescue the girl. Searching for clues at her home at Morningside Orphanage in New York City, the two mice discover that the girl has been kidnapped by the evil pawn shop owner Madame Medusa and her companion Mr. Snoops. On the back of Orville the albatross, Miss Bianca and Bernard travel to the terrifyingly gloomy Devil's Bayou island where they learn the shocking truth: The innocent young girl is being forced down into a dangerous, dark underground pirate's cave where she must find the Devil's Eye, the world's largest diamond and Madame Medusa's greatest obsession... [imdb]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1977)

Pooh, a bear of very little brain, and all his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood sing their way through adventures that encompass honey, bees, bouncing, balloons, Eeyore's birthday, floods, and Pooh sticks. [imdb]

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Robin Hood (1973)

Retelling of the Robin Hood legend with animals for the characters. Robin Hood is an outlaw who starts to form a gang in Sherwood Forest to fight the injustices of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who levies unpayable taxes upon the people. [imdb]

Friday, April 29, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: The AristoCats (1970)

Retired madame Adelaide Bonfamille enjoys the good life in her Paris villa with even classier cat Duchess and three kittens: pianist Berlioz, painter Toulouse and sanctimonious Marie. When loyal butler Edgar overhears her will leaves everything to the cats until their death, he drugs and kidnaps them. However retired army dogs make his sidecar capsize on the country. Crafty stray cat Thomas O'Malley takes them under his wing back to Paris. Edgar tries to cover his tracks and catch them at return, but more animals turn on him, from the cart horse Frou-Frou to the tame mouse Roquefort and O'Malley's jazz friends. [imdb]