Sunday, May 27, 2012

D52 - Week 21 - Robin Hood

I do believe this is the first official full-length Disney animated feature of the 52 (but certainly not the last) to feature no human characters whatsoever. I do wonder what it would be like if the whole thing were done with people instead. It would probably be...less fun. But that also makes me wonder what it would be like if the human-heavy films would've been improved by enfurrification. This goes back to my imagining Ichabod Crane as an actual crane.
As I have been saying and will probably say more, this project is all about context. In a similar way that full-feature Cinderella was refreshing after seeing a long line of package films, I found the relatively cohesive story in Robin Hood a breath of fresh air after watching the loosely-strung-together-(though entertaining each on their own)-scenes of The Jungle Book and the mix of unnecessary and unrelated scenes comprising The Aristocats. That story isn't great (I haven't read the book but imagine there's more going on than what we see in the Disney version), but I appreciate that the characters do a better job of moving it along. Those characters aren't as loveable as those in The Jungle Book, but...again, maybe I'm making too many comparisons. Though I can't think of any reason to dislike "Robin Hood," I can't think of any reason to love it either. It puts me in that hard-to-describe feeling where, although I remember being entertained well enough I don't remember why or particularly feel like watching it again either.

Favorite character: Alan-A-Dale is a GIANT CHICKEN, I TELL YOU. Unless...the largest animals (like the rhinos and elephants) are smaller than they're supposed to be? Kind of funny how most of the Animals are scaled to human proportions, yet there are still "mouse-sized" mice. I think that's why the appearance of the mice in this picture seemed a bit jolting. You get used to cartoon sizes and realistic sizes seem out-of-place. I suppose it would seem even weirder if the mice were about as big as everyone else, huh?
Least necessary character: You would think the turtles would come in handy for back-up during scenes where arrow fire needs to be dodged. But nope, none of the turtles are willing to offer themselves as shields. How useless!

Overall: For lack of any strong feelings about "Robin Hood," how about a slightly cheeky opinion?

Amanda's contributes

What is there to say about Robin Hood?  I like it, I guess.  There's nothing that makes me annoyed or upset, but there's not much that makes me laugh or get excited either.  Is it a musical? I suppose so, but there are only three songs and none of them are at all memorable and the movie would have been just as easy to follow without them. 

For me what makes this movie memorable is the huge amounts of deja vu! I don't think any Disney film before or after it had as many scenes with reused animation.   Granted, the characters were most of different designs, but the actual actions are unmistakably from previous films.  I'd do a play by play of the many scenes, but you'd do better to just head on over to youtube and check it out.

Favorite Character: Alan-a-Dale! Not only is he a giant chicken, but his minstreling keeps the story going when the movie seems to forget what is supposed to happen next. Runner up: Sir Hiss I love if only because he's such a broad character filling in the gap for whatever is needed at the time.  Sometimes he's stuffy and offended and other times he's a drunk party guy and still other times he's a concerned doormat.
Least necessary Character: Cute baby rabbit who talks with a lisp, You're not cute.  I'm just not enamored by the inability to talk.  It's superfluous and annoying, but we all have our own tastes, so there you have it.
Overall: There's a lot of action, some of it pretty amusing, in this film.  If for no other reason, it's fun to watch the zany stuff happening.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

D52 - Week 20 - The Aristocats

Kevin's Groovy Part:
It's tricky to judge The Aristocats as a whole because it comes across as more than one movie going on at a time. There's the story of a mother cat and her three children (what happened to their original father anyway?) making their way back home in an awfully familiar (101 Dalmatians-esque, down to recreating at least one certain scene) way and meeting an alley cat on the way. There's the story of a butler who seems to have pulled off the perfect crime but has to go back to cover his tracks, running afoul of two hounds in the process.There's a scene with a drunk goose (I notice his feathers have a tint of grey. I wonder what type of alcoholic beverage he prefers best?). There's a mouse solving a case with his ADORABLE LITTLE SHERLOCK HOLMES HAT AND COAT AWWWW. There's a group of swingin' alley cats, who are the characters I most identified with the movie for the longest time, largely due to the trailers (I remember when I was much younger not knowing what an aristocrat was and not yet having seen The Aristocats but having seen the trailers and assuming being an aristoc(r)at had something to do with playing music).
The Duchess story is sweet enough, helped by O'Malley not being as creepy as he could've been made out to be. But going back to the 101 Dalmatians comparison. Whereas there was a sense of danger that the dalmatians could be found by Cruella or her henchmen at any moment, here the only fear is...that Duchess's owner heart-broken. But it's quickly enough established that O'Malley will be a able to help them greatly on their way, and since the butler already thinks he's solved his problem we know he's not going out to look for them, so they don't really have any apparent threat to keep them from eventually coming back home. Imagine how boring "Homeward Bound" would be if the pets didn't encounter threats like bears, a lion and a porcupine. Not to say that I want to see animals in dangerous situations. I do have to say, though, that it is rather refreshing to see a "swept down a river" seen that does not end with a waterfall (not being sarcastic here)! It's funny how O'Malley considers it more of an annoyance whereas any other TV or movie character would be in danger since every single non-Aristocats on-screen river has currents too strong to allow simply swimming to the shore.
My favorite character is Roquefort. He deserves a spin-off or something. But what was up with that scene where he hung on to the motorcycle only to be tossed off and ... then...then he, gave up and went back home, or something? Seems like there was a scene missing there. As if it was leading to him, as a result of being dropped at that point, running into the geese, who he could tell to follow the butler or relay a message. As it was a distractingly loose thread. But speaking of the least necessary characters, why did the gabbering geese have to be in this picture? Just change the script so that O'Malley knows how to get to London on his own, and bam. No need for geese. I guess chattering ladies were just funnier back then, somehow. Uncle Waldo was even less important (his character's function seemed to be a reason for the girls to go off on their own), but at least he has some great facial animation. He deserves his own comic strip. The butler scenes as as funny as some of the better Disney shorts (and speaking of shorts, huh-huh!). Same with the scat cats sequence. They obviously have something to do with the main plot, but they also could've very well been just the stars of a Make Mine Music-style music video short. And how about that jumpin' number "Ev'ry body Wants to be a Cat?" Yeah! Now quick, name any of the other songs before it!
And overall the unjointedness doesn't make The Aristocats a poor movie, as most of its scenes can be fun to watch, but it makes it hard to consider the whole thing "a movie."

Walt Disney World-related note, hoping you're not sick of hearing about Walt Disney World already: Guess which of the characters from The Aristocats could be met and gret in the France pavilion in EPCOT, at least as of January 2011. You would think it would be the most memorable possible character, like...uh, maybe O'Malley, or Duchess? It'd be funny if it was the butler, with some sort of pants-dropping mechanism.

Answer: Marie. I wonder how many kids actually recognized her and knew which movie she was from, as opposed to the ones who just wanted to see "the cute kitty-cat."


Aristocats needs a sense of focus.  Even more, it needs a sense of its OWN focus.  When I watch this movie, I can't help but think about the other movies that came before it.  101 Dalmatians comes to mind with the hitch-hiking and cross-country trekking.  Jungle book comes to mind when meeting random characters just to have a quick scene and maybe a song.  Lady and the Tramp comes to mind when trying to have a pair of domestic animals enjoying a love scene. Even Melody Time comes to mind when I think of a bunch of cats playing a song in bizarre mood lighting.

What I really see here is the loss of Walt himself.  Of course we all know that the last film he was able to work on before his death was Jungle Book, and with Aristocats directly following it, it's very clear how much influence he had over every detail. Granted, he had moved much of his focus to live action by that time, but his approval was still all over every film that came through.  Therefore what I see in this film is a group of artists who had always had outside direction, now finding themselves without it and turning instead to what had already been finished and had passed approval before. "Remember when Walt liked that scene? Let's do that one again but with cats."

Favorite Character: George! Why can't all little old men grow up to be fun loving hilarious octogenarian hipsters?
Least Favorite Character: Ah, I can't say I have a least favorite character for this movie.  Everyone was relatively bland and everyone served a part if even a small one to the story, some less convincing than others.  If I had to pick, I guess I would pick the butler, Edgar.  His motives make no sense at all to me.  Even if she leaves her fortune to the cats, he'd only have to wait until they die and even while he was waiting, he'd still be living in the huge mansion with the power to use her riches as he saw fit as long as he could invent a silly excuse as to how it benefits the cats.  Least logical villian (also least intimidating) ever.
Overall: Just because there's no focus doesn't mean it's not fun to watch.  Every scene reminds you of some other movie, but that alone is pretty enjoyable.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

D52 - Week 19 - The Jungle Book

The Recollection of Kevin

The Jungle Book the book is to Disney's The Jungle Book what the 60s TV show Batman is to The Dark Knight. There's no point in saying one is "better" than the other because, despite sharing characters and plot points, the tones and directions are so different that there's barely a point in comparing them at all. But I do enjoy the campy Batman because I've seen The Dark Knight and can be amused by how different it is, and I think it's having read The Jungle Book that makes me amazed at how something with so much fun can me made from something that the word "fun" has no business being anywhere near.
Speaking of comparisons, I'm also reminded of Alice in Wonderland, in which we get a small child spending episodic amounts of time with each of the colorful sets of the inhabitants of a colorful set piece. And like Alice, Mowgli isn't terribly interesting. But luckily the Animals he encounters are more engaging than the Wonderland dwellers, and they each have varying personalities, rather than all of them just being loony. I've noticed how that a character's sadness has a much more meaningful impact when that character is happy and carefree most of the time. That's why Baloo's troubled talk to Mowgli can - well, get to me, anyway.
And the songs! Even if you watch The Jungle Book just as a music video jukebox, it's still worth the trip. Damn you, Sherman Brothers and your ridiculously catchy tunes!

Favorite character: Kaa showcases great animation, great voicework and a song that's entertaining without necessarily getting stuck in your head for the rest of forever.
Least necessary characters: What was the point of the elephants, again?
Overall: It has its highs and lows, but the highs are high enough to make at least one viewing worth it.

-Why do elephants in this picture have heads of hair?! It sort of works with the monkeys and the vultures, but why the elephants? I suppose I should just be thankful all of the animals didn't have mop tops.
-When Baloo dresses as an ape to dance around with King Louie, is Louie interested because [ ] he's a fun-loving guy who likes to dance with others in general or [ ] he thinks Baloo is a female ape? GIMME YOUR INTERPRETATION.
-I could've sworn there used to be a Jungle Book "kids" television show, featuring the animal characters as youngin's. Amanda backed me up on this, but I can't find any info whatsoever online about it, such as what it was even called. Who would like to rise to the challenge of solving this mystery? And no, we're not thinking of TaleSpin.
-My favorite Disney sound effect, "POIT" makes an appearance in this one.

The Song of the Amanda

There's a type of film that I like to call a "Hobbit" film.  Did you ever notice that in The Lord of the Rings, Frodo rarely has to do anything or make any decisions for himself except for nearing the very end of the movie/book?  Everything is either done for him, decided for him, and sometimes he's even whisked away against his will or without his knowing.

That's what this movie is.  Mowgli is just aimlessly having a nothing time doing nothing in particular jungle things and then suddenly vignettes start happening all around him.  Now don't get me wrong! The vignettes are generally very entertaining! Each one is accompanied by an upbeat song and dance number with mostly memorable well-acted characters and that's just a darn good time.  Not only that, every character that is introduced is extremely well developed such that I can understand the heirarchy of the jungle and imagine their everyday lives (not that I'm at all interested in Jungle Cubs as that was when they were young and hadn't actually developed personalities yet. Yeesh!).  At the very end he makes his own decision, but he only got there through the workings of everyone around him.

Fave Character: I liked Khan.  He's got so much going for him and so much dignity and a fabulous design.  I am so utterly convinced of his power and status.
Least Fave Character: The creepy girl at the end.  She was what? 10?  Was she trying to be seductive? Gross.
Overall: It's mostly a rollicking good time, but turn it off as soon as you hear "Father's hunting in the forest" unless you want to be thought a pedophile.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

D52 - Week 18 - The Sword in the Stone

---Declaration of Kevin The Page---
I usually don't explain my previous experience with these movies because most would be "I think I remember seeing it as a kid but not the whole thing maybe." But here is an exception, because I do remember watching TSITS twice or thrice or maybe even more because it would regularly be shown on weekend mornings on TV when I was a preteen. And I do remember liking it at the time. Merlin's a lovable old coot (though not in the way that you would actually want to hang around him in real life) with a lovable old curmudgeon of an owl (all cartoon owls must be either grumpy, stuffy, or both!) and, forces combined, they succeed at making it a fun trip through the story. This is important, seeing as how the story itself, if you were to break it up and study it, is frankly a mess. Later on in Disney history there would be straight-to-DVD sequels of beloved classics, some of which could be called "midquels," because they show previously unseen events that (SUPPOSEDLY) happened during the course of the original film. The Sword in the Stone feels like a midquel to another movie that doesn't exist! I realize the point is to show what life was like for Arthur before he became king, turns out [this version of] his story wasn't interesting enough for it to have needed be told at all! Maybe it would've worked better to have broken up the story into the different stages of his pre-adult life (since this movie is very episodic anyway). I'll gather that the Three Animal Stages Wart undergoes are already symbolic, but imagine if he started, as a child, as a mere lowly fish...learned in the trees about love as an adolescent...then graduated by literally spreading his wings, as a bird. As it is, anyway, the movie ends with Arthur pulling the sword from the sto....uh, anvil. Stone anvil? Sword in the Anvil in the Stone? Anyway, you would think it ends there, but then there's the awkward scene afterward that exists for some unclear reason. Just to establish that Merlin eventually returns? Well, at least I can be thankful that we don't get a shoehorned-in love interest for Wart (we know he will find a wife eventually anyway), despite the squirrel scene seeming to give the impression that it's setting it up.
As a kid, none of that really mattered though. What really made me love The Sword in the Stone was the magical fight scene between Merlin and Madame Mim. Yes, it's unnecessary plot-wise and pure padding. But it's damn-entertaining filler! Nowadays I still love it. Whereas with Alice in Wonderland I would start off enjoying the movie immensely only to experience a sharp dip in interest near the end, with The Sword in the Stone it's the opposite. I find myself just waiting for the dueling scene. Maybe it's that I'm a sucker for fights where someone uses what seems like a disadvantage cleverly to get the upper hand. But it plays out so entertainingly that, really, if it instead existed only as a short, I would easily rank it as one of my favorites of all time. And it ends on a satisfyingly genius twist.

Favorite character: Artemis is my favorite fictional owl. Can you think of a better one?
Least necessary character: We don't even actually even see Hobbes, do we?
Trivial thing: Merlin, you go through most of the picture relying on spoken incantations for your spells, but for your battle with Mim you didn't need to say anything to transform into various creatures. Can you explain that for me?
Overall: The fun characters and their engaging episodes do, I think, win out over any loss of sense that you're actually seeing a story being told.

---Something of Amanda the Something---
This is one of those movies that I liked very much as an adolescent and now that I'm grown, I'm not sure what was so exciting about it.  Of course we all know the basic gist of the story.  A young boy from a lowly upbringing is destined to be the King of all England.  He is taught as a child and advised as a man by the wizard Merlin and thus thanks to wisdom and compassion becomes the most beloved King England has ever known, many adventures to follow.

I feel that this movie would have been a great deal better and perhaps even more successful if it were made during the time of the Disney Afternoon and instead of a movie each one of Wart's lessons as an animal could have been an episode of "Merlin's Many Magical Lessons."  As it is, it feels very much like watching three episodes of just such a thing. It could be perhaps that the lessons of life can't really be condensed into something that is a mere one movie long.  The three lessons of Wart seem rather trite and without reason in the grand scheme of things. The thought that there would be another lesson in a coming episode would certainly increase the moral weight of the story and would even open up the opportunity to show more of the delightful magical fights between Merlin and the only obvious villian Mim.  I suppose Wart's family could be considered slightly antagonistic, but it's a bit of a stretch.

My biggest gripe is certainly the stilted ending.  If we could open the movie with a book, why couldn't we close the movie with a book and perhaps a quick fanning through the pages to establish the many adventures to come (Take a look, it's in a book).  At least that would be a little less abrupt.

Fave Character: Definitely Archimedes!  His histerical laughter at Merlin's failed airplane launch is without a moment's doubt the funniest 30 seconds of the entire movie.

Least Favorite Character: Can Kay possibly get any jockier or dumber... or Uglier? Yikes.
Overall: Pretend that this is a set of shorts and you'll really enjoy it.  All together, it might start to feel tedious or confusing.