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.