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.