Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Worst to Best: Walt Disney Feature Animation

This is obviously going to have nothing to do with Stephen King.  Let's all agree to just be okay with that.

But, just because I feel like doing it (and because a brand-new Disney animation just opened in theatres), here is a Worst to Best list of the 53 animated feature films produced by the Walt Disney Studios feature animation division(s).  

We begin with a series of Honorable Mentions, for movies that are not, technically-speaking, counted as Disney Feature Animation releases, but include segments animated by the Studios.

But before that, we actually begin with a Dishonorable Mention:




Dishonorable Mention -- Enchanted (2007)
  
  
Obviously, Enchanted is courting nostalgia for classic Disney animated fairy tales, and to prove it, there is about 13 minutes of animation.
  
None of which were animated by Disney Feature Animation, on account of how the entire department had been disbanded by Michael Eisner before he was forced out of the company.
  
So . . . yeah.  Great movie; but for those in the know, it can't help but leave a bit of a sour taste in the mouth.

Honorable Mention #8 -- So Dear to My Heart (1948)
 
 
  
  
Never seen it; no clue what it's about.  I bought the DVD a few years back, and I'll get around to watching it the next time I plow my way through my Disney movies.

It's mostly live-action, but has animated segments.

Honorable Mention #7 -- Pete's Dragon (1977)




This is a live-action film, but with a major character who was entirely animated by Disney Feature Animation.

I loved this movie as a kid, but the last time I tried to watch it, I thought it was kinda terrible.

Honorable Mention #6 -- Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)




Again, live-action with animated segments.  It is obviously an attempt to replicate the success of Mary Poppins; it isn't a failure, but it's certainly no Mary Poppins.

Honorable Mention #5 -- The Reluctant Dragon (1941)




Not sure why this one doesn't count, to be honest.  There is about 40 minutes of animation, which is more than is in Saludos Amigos; and that one counts.  So what gives?

It's a mystery, but either way, this is a fun movie, one that mixes live-action scenes (consisting of a semi-fictional tour of the Disney Studios) with the titular animated short.  Good stuff.


Dishonorable Mention #2 Honorable Mention #4 -- Song of the South (1946)




I'll leave it for others to debate the issue of whether this movie is racist.  All I know is that it's entertaining, with awesome music, gorgeous animated sequences, and a wonderful performance by James Baskett.  It's a shame you have to resort to piracy to find a copy.

Or is it?

You be the judge.


Honorable Mention #3 -- Victory Through Air Power (1943)




Here's another one that really ought to be counted, and isn't.  But in this case, the reasons are obvious: the movie was not made for entertainment purposes, but was produced as a piece of wartime propaganda, one designed to boost the strength of America's air force.

And evidently, it worked.

This is a fascinating piece of work, with terrific animation (though there is a fair bit of live-action, as well).


Honorable Mention #2 -- Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)




With no doubt, this movie's success was a key component in the late-eighties resurgence of Disney animation, and maybe of the medium in general.  It's a blast, and the fact that there has never yet been a sequel seems vaguely criminal.  Or, at the very least, a shame.

And, for the record: the title does NOT include a question mark.  Just sayin'.


Honorable Mention #1 -- Mary Poppins (1964)




One of the best movies ever made, as far as I'm concerned.  There isn't a lot of animation in it, but what's there is superb.

And now, on to the 53 films that DO get counted on the list.  We begin with:


#53 -- Winnie the Pooh (2011)




I am putting this in last place, but only because I have not actually seen it.  Which I keep forgetting, and which I kind of feel terrible about.  The movie came out during a particularly rough time for me personally, and between that and the quick death the movie died at the box-office, I just didn't have time to see it in its initial release.

And since then, I've been busy working on this (mostly) Stephen King blog, plus my James Bond blog.  I've just not been in Disney mode.

But, I do own a copy, and I'll get around to it.  Eventually.  A friend who is also a Disney fan assures me that I will like it; he did, and he actively dislikes the Pooh characters.


#52 -- The Sword in the Stone (1963)




It has its fans, and I apologize if you are one of them . . . but boy, do I hate this movie.  I hate the music; I hate the animation; I hate the "humor"; I hate the voice acting.  It's just not good, in any way.

Your mileage may vary.


#51 -- The Three Caballeros (1944)




The Disney studio came very close to dying in the mid-'40s, partially as a result of labor disputes but mostly due to the economic strain caused by World War II, which not only shut the studio off from numerous important foreign theatrical markets, but also -- remember Victory Through Air Power? -- found the company having to devote a huge amount of resources to the war effort.  All things considered, that was probably a bad thing for the company, which had been on a streak of sheer brilliance up to this point, but found it impossible to continue Bambi-level projects in the face of the numerous challenges.

Part of the solution involved producing cheap, easily-produced "package features" consisting of loosely-connected animated shorts, sometimes supplemented with live-action sequences.  In the case of The Three Caballeros, the package was also aimed at the Latin American markets.

There are a few good sequences, but it's also an incredibly weird movie; the extent to which Donald Duck wants to have sexual congress with Carmen Miranda is disturbing.


#50 -- Chicken Little (2005)




Because combining the story of Chicken Little with an alien invasion makes so much sense, he said sarcastically...

This is a lame, unfunny piece of work that has none of the charm and elegance one expects from Disney animation.  It's a DreamWorks wannabe, and boy, that's not what I expect from Disney.


#49 -- The Black Cauldron (1985)




I don't hate this movie the way a lot of people seem to hate it.  In fact, I actually kinda like it.  But in deference to popular opinion, I am placing it close to the bottom.

It was a box-office car-crash, and very nearly got the animated division permanently shuttered.


#48 -- Meet the Robinsons (2007)




It isn't as dire as Chicken Little, but essentially, this movie suffers from the same problem: it was evidence that nobody at Disney had any idea how to make Disney movies for a half a decade or so there.

I'm sure there are kids who love this flick; good on 'em, I guess.


#47 -- Saludos Amigos (1942)




The first of the two Latin America-themed package features, this one is, for my money, easily the better.  If nothing else, it's got a terrific Goofy segment.
  
I am a sucker for Goofy.  This is likely a surprise to nobody.  And like Vern in Stand By Me, I, too, have no clue what he is.


#46 -- Melody Time (1946)




One of two mildly low-brow package films that served as less artistically engaging companion pieces to Fantasia, this is the second, and the lesser, of the two.  I do like the "Johnny Appleseed" sequence, though.


#45 -- The Great Mouse Detective (1986)




It's a fun movie, but it feels mechanical and uninspired in some way I can't quite put my finger on.  Still, fun.


#44 -- Hercules (1977)





I hate this movie.  I was tempted to rank it near the bottom of the list, but out of deference to some odd mental impulse I do not understand, I am ranking it here, which is as high as my conscience will allow me to place it.

Who put the "glad" in "gladiator"?

Hercules.

Ain't no gladness in me for this movie, though.



#43 -- Home on the Range (2004)





"Bust A Moo," y'all.

Bust.

A.

Moo.

One of the worst taglines ever, there can be no doubt.  But I like the movie; it's very funny, and the songs are terrific.  I think it's about time people began rediscovering this one.



#42 -- Brother Bear (2003)





Do I own a copy of that poster?  Yes, I do.  Do I currently have it hanging in my bathroom above the toilet?

Yes, I do.

This is not to say the movie is crap.  It isn't.  It's actually quite good, with good Phil Collins songs and gorgeous animation.


#41 -- Fun and Fancy Free (1947)




Another package film, this one consisting of two stories: the bear-centric "Bongo," and a Mickey / Donald / Goofy team-up that takes on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale.  It's that latter story which really makes the movies, despite weirdo introductory scenes involving Charlie McCarthy.


#40 -- Oliver & Company (1988)




This canine reboot of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist was arguably a weird idea, but ends up being a lot of fun.  Good songs, including a great one by Billy Joel and another great one by Huey Lewis.


#39 -- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)




This one is a cheat, but Disney counts it, so I have to, too.

It's a cheat because it was a collection of previously-released theatrical shorts starring the A.A. Milne characters.  So not, in the strictest sense, an original production, and therefore dubious, as far as I'm concerned.

It's pretty good, though.  Pooh is made for the wee kiddies, and if you aren't able to enter that mindset a bit, you may be bored to tears by this movie.


#38 -- Alice in Wonderland (1951)




I hate this movie.  Hate, hate, hate it.

Which is not to say that I think it's a bad movie.  I don't.  It's a good movie.  But I do hate it.  These are not contradictory opinions.

The animation is wonderful, the music is terrific, the voice actors all do great work.  But for me, the cumulative effect of the movie is draining, wearying, and galling.

It's better than the Tim Burton movie, though.


#37 -- Robin Hood (1973)




If you were a child during the seventies, as I was for a bit more than half of that decade, then you almost certainly have some fondness for this movie.

If I were being objective, though, I'd have to say it's a bit of a mixed bag.  That is the case with pretty much all of the animated films the Disney studio turned out after Walt's death in the late '60s, and remained the case up until the late '80s, when The Little Mermaid ushered in a new era of glory.

Still, Robin Hood has its moments, many of them courtesy of the voice actors.


#36 -- Dinosaur (2000)




The funny monkeys almost wreck the entire movie for me, so unfunny do I find them to be.  Still, this is a fairly strong movie overall, with exceptional animation and my favorite James Newton Howard score not named The Village.


#35 -- The Rescuers (1977)




Pretty good stuff here; the animation is shaky at times (as was typical of the '70s studio output), but the story compensates for it.  The music isn't all that great, which is a mild problem.  Still, pretty good.


#34 -- Treasure Planet (2002)




One of my favorite Disney posters, if nothing else...

To be honest, though, I think this movie is way better than its reputation.  It died a miserable death at the box-office, and to this day I do not quite know why.  It is a beautifully-animated movie, with exciting sci-fi sequences and a solid score.  Some of the jokes don't quite land, and it is an admittedly goofy concept (although given how mashup-oriented our culture has become, it seems a bit ahead of its time now).

Needs to be rediscovered.


#33 -- Bolt (2008)




What's not to love about a movie featuring a hamster in a wheely-ball?

This is another underrated Disney flick, one that --blessedly -- broke the curse established by crapola like Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons.  It didn't do well at the box-office, though; such is the extent to which those movies had poisoned the well.


#32 -- Sleeping Beauty (1959)




Of the Disney films that are generally acknowledged as classics, this is probably my least favorite.  But it's pretty good, with sumptuous widescreen animation and lush music.  The problem for me is that it feels like watered down Snow White.


#31 -- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)





Evidently, there is some discrepancy over whether to spell out the "101" or use numerals; I leave it to you to pick which you prefer.  I prefer to vacillate.

It's a good movie; a bit thin, in some respects, though.


#30 -- The Aristocats (1970)




Featuring (among others) the voice of Dick Hallorann himself, Scatman Crothers, this is a delightful little movie with great music and occasionally iffy animation.  It was the first animated studio release to have been entirely produced after Walt's death; his absence shows in some ways, but his legacy shows through in others.

Either way, I like the movie.


#29 -- Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)




Stepping outside its comfort zone for (arguably) the first time since the disastrous Black Cauldron two decades previously, Atlantis was a moderate hit.  It ought to have been a bigger one; this is a fun, technically-brilliant adventure film with great voice acting and another dynamic James Newton Howard score.

Vastly underrated, for my money.


#28 -- The Rescuers Down Under (1990)




Released in between the twin cannon-blasts that were The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, The Rescuers Down Under got lost in the shuffle a bit, and seems a bit on the obscure side these days.

That's a shame.  This is a very fun movie that is even better than the pretty-good original.


#27 -- The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)




This two-story package flick adapts The Wind in the Willows and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and while I've read neither, I can say that my perception is that the latter was better-suited to the sort of lean, economical treatment the two stories receive in this movie.  The Mr. Toad segment is fun; the Ichabod segment, on the other hand, is an all-time classic.


#26 -- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)




One of the many Disney movies of this era to deal with the topic of learning with be okay with being whoever you are, I would have this particular one ranked much more highly if not for those damned singing gargoyles.  Those things . . . well, I was about to say they suck, but that's not entirely fair; they aren't horrible, and they have one great song.  But they do, in my opinion, weigh the movie down a bit.

Otherwise, it's kind of great.  Some of THE best songs ever to appear in a Disney movie.


#25 -- Tangled (2010)




It should have been (and, in some countries, was) titled Rapunzel, but by any name, this is a pretty damn solid movie.  Surprisingly so; I expected, based on the marketing, another lame-o Disney CGI 'toon.  Instead, I got a witty, lush, semi-modernistic/semi-classical fairy tale with good music and great voice acting.


#24 -- Make Mine Music (1946)




I probably have this one ranked a bit too far up the list, but I'm doing so based on the strength of three segments: "Peter and the Wolf" (with its terrific animation of the Prokofiev piece), "Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" (which will break your heart), and "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met" (which break the fuck out of your heart).

I also like "Blue Bayou" a lot; it contains footage that was animated for Fantasia but was cut from that movie.  On the Fantasia DVD you can see it in its original form, set to "Claire de Lune"; it's pretty good here, but there, it's magnificent.


#23 -- Pocahontas (1995)




I probably should care about the historical inaccuracies and whatnot, but boy, do I not care.  Only a fool would look to this movie for anything other than mythology and fairy-tale, and frankly, I like the idea of taking a story like this one and turning it into a fairy tale.  Maybe that's a bad impulse on my part; if so, it must be my ka to not give a crap.

Either way, the movie is lovely; great music, excellent animation, and strong voice acting.  Just as I'll take the Disney versions of most of the fairy tales, I'll take this over "real life" (whatever that is...).

And yet, the alterations to Greek mythology in Hercules piss me off to no end.

So yeah; I'm a hypocrite.  Ka.

Ka like a wind.  Which, according to this movies, has colors.


#22 -- Tarzan (1999)




This is a strong movie in almost every facet . . . but boy, do I hate Rosie O'Donnell in it.  And that "Trashin' the Camp" sequence is just abysmal.

Otherwise?  It's great.  And I love the music.  The reputation of the songs has suffered over the years, mainly because Tarzan was unlucky enough to win an Oscar that ought to have been won by one of the songs from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.  That was a hell of a year for animation: in addition to the South Park movie, animation classics from 1999 include The Iron Giant and Toy Story 2Tarzan has maybe gotten a bit lost in the shuffle.

That's not as it should be; it's a very, very good movie.


#21 -- Frozen (2013)




The marketing of this film has been god-awful.  For one thing, the title ought to have been The Snow Queen; Frozen will make more sense as a title after you've seen it, but still.  For another thing, the marketing has mostly tried to keep it a secret that this is a sumptuous old-school Disney musical.
 
And it's a good one.  "Let It Go" is an immediate Disney-song classic, and a few others come close.

It's funny, it's romantic, it's great to look at, and the acting is top-notch . . . there's really nothing to not like here.


#20 -- The Emperor's New Groove (2000)




Look . . . if you hire Tom Jones to sing the couplet "an enigma and a mystery / in Meso-American history," then you automatically get my approval.

This is one of THE funniest Disney movies, and it's even funnier if you were with me at Disney World in the mid-'00s, when, for about two days, I was able to do a flawless Kronk imitation on command.  And then the ability died, without warning or explanation.  But while it lasted, it was glorious.

I gather that a lot of people don't like this movie much.  Their loss, says I.


#19 -- The Princess and the Frog (2009)




This is just a beautiful movie.  It's got great songs from Randy Newman, it's got that classical hand-drawn style, it's got a rather upsetting death.  Why this sucker didn't make $300 million at the box-office is a mystery to me; I suspect it might end up being a bit of a last gasp for traditional hand-drawn animation.

If so, it's a fine one to go out on.


#18 -- The Fox and the Hound (1981)




Too high?

Yeah, to be honest, it probably is; this is perhaps a bit of nostalgia at play.  Specifically, nostalgia based around the fact that this was the only Disney animated movie I ever saw in a theatre when I was a kid; the only other ones that came out when I was in the prime Disney demographic were The Rescuers (which came out when I was only three) and The Black Cauldron (which I was not interested in).  So really, this was it for my Disney childhood, which was surprisingly nonexistent.  I knew about most of the movies, but somehow never actually saw any of them; not in their rereleases, and not on television.

But I saw The Fox and the Hound.  And for that, I have a special place in my heart.

It's a good movie; I wish the music were a bit better, but I also wish Scarlett Johansson liked shiftless fat dudes.  Some wishes go ungranted.


#17 -- Lilo & Stitch (2002)




Saw this one back-to-back with Minority Report, which is a fine day at the movies.

It's one of the all-time great marketing campaigns, with Stitch crashing into various Disney classics.  But apart from that, it's a great movie; tender and affecting at times, raucous and hilarious at others.  Bonus points for the obvious Elvis reverence.


#16 -- Wreck-It Ralph (2012)




Among modern American animated films, this is one of the very few non-Pixar films that can actually stand shoulder-to-shoulder in quality with Pixar films.  It's better than at least a few, and for my money, it's the best animated Disney movie in the better part of two decades.

It's witty, it's touching, it's got flat-out awesome voice acting, and it's bound to tickle anybody who enjoys video games, or did once upon a time.  Back when they came in arcade form.

Great stuff.  I'm gonna wreck it!


#15 -- Mulan (1998)




Let's get down to business (to defeat the Huns); did you send me daughters when I asked for sons?

This one didn't receive a huge amount of attention when it came out, and I think it's still underrated.  But boy howdy, is this a good movie.  Yeah, yeah; some of the humor falls flat at times.  But a lot of it doesn't.  The songs are great; the Jerry Goldsmith score is great; the animation is as good as it gets; and the use of Chinese culture in an American kids' movie is a welcome change of pace.

I saw this one in tandem with The X-Files: Fight the Future on opening day back in summer 1998.  Thought I had a date, but that turned out to not be the case.  Said the heck with it; went anyways; was bummed out, but still had a great time.


#14 -- The Jungle Book (1967)




Louis Prima, playing an orangutan, singing the lines "I'm the kind of the swingers, oh / the jungle V.I.P. / I've reached the top and had to stop / and that's what's worryin' me."  Does it get much better?

Not really.

"The Bear Necessities" comes close, though, and based on those two sequences alone, this has to rank near the top of any Disney animation list.

I think the scene with the vultures weighs it down a bit, though; that hasn't aged terribly well.


#13 -- Peter Pan (1953)




As far as I'm concerned, this is the version of the Peter Pan story to beat, and is likely to remain such for quite some times to come.  It's not a flawless movie -- the "What Makes the Red Man Red?" sequence kinda makes you grimace these days -- but when it works, it WORKS.

The flight out of London to Neverland is still one of the best animated sequences ever filmed; it's even better if you've been on the corresponding dark ride at one of the Disney theme parks.


#12 -- Fantasia 2000 (1999)




Technically, it was released in 1999, so . . . yeah.

This isn't as good as the original Fantasia, but it's awfully good on its own merits.  There are seven new segments, and every single one of them is genius; the music is awesome, the animation is awesome, and together, something magnificent is created that exceeds the sum of the two things being merely added together.

My personal favorite segment?  That's a tough one.  Pressed, I think I would say "Pines of Rome"; but the Donald Duck-as-Noah "Pomp and Circumstance" is awfully good, too, and "Rhapsody in Blue" is superb.

Flip a coin among those, really.

More people need to talk about this movie, dammit!


#11 -- Aladdin (1992)




I'm not entirely sure how well I think Robin Williams' schtick has held up in the past two decades.  Despite that hesitancy on my part, I would have to say this movie is a nearly-unqualified triumph in every way.

It's funny, it's a fun adventure, it's a killer musical; the animation is great; it's just a classic, really.  I'm sure that there are people who don't like it . . . but do you want to talk to them?

Me neither.


#10 -- Cinderella (1950)




When I Googled to find the above poster image, the search engine offered me the option of clicking on posters not for the animated movie, but for the '80s hair-metal band.  To which I saw: it's a fair question; you know me well, Google; you know me well.

Look, seriously . . . who doesn't love this movie?  My frickin' DAD loves Cinderella.

'Nuff said.


#9 -- Lady and the Tramp (1955)




The only downside to this movie is the extent to which it has harmed the reputations of Siamese cats.  Although, to be fair, it's probably well-deserved.

Speaking of that sequence, do we consider it racist today?  Beats me.  Even if it is, I don't care too much.  We are Simese if you please; we are Siamese if you don't please.  Now we're looking all around your domicile; if we like, we stay for maybe quite a while.

My favorite song in the movie, though, is "He's a Tramp," sung -- like all the songs -- by the super-hot Peggy Lee.


#8 -- The Lion King (1994)




Ain't no passing craze; this one is simply a classic, now and forever.  What a year 1994 was for movies!  It boasts four legitimate all-time classics: this, Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and (see how I keep finding ways of mentioning Stephen King?) The Shawshank Redemption.

The Lion King might actually be the most revered of all of them, though.  And if so, it's a fair state of affairs.

Funny story: I was at Disney World once, doing what I do at most of the indoors theatrical-type attractions (i.e., falling asleep from exhaustion).  This was a puppet-show recreation of The Lion King, with audio from the movie.  During the sequence in which heavenly Mufasa appears to Simba, the voice of God James Earl Jones woke me up by booming from the loudspeakers.  Never have I awoken in so dramatic a fashion.  Quite memorable.  I do not necessarily recommend it.

The movie?  Unreservedly.


#7 -- The Little Mermaid (1989)



It's probably not a dignified choice, but my favorite song from this one is "Les Poissons," in which the guy who played Odo on Deep Space Nine sings maniacally about murdering fish.  The song has the gall to rhyme the phrase "les poissons, les poissons" with that steretypical "hee-hee-hee, hawhn-hawhn-hawnn" Frenchman laugh.  Genius; among geniuses, that would still be genius.

That aside, the movie is just terrific in every way.  One great song after another, and such a return to fairy-tale form that it's almost hard to imagine a world in which this movie never happened.  What a piece of crap that world would have been.


#6 -- Pinocchio (1940)






I've got one major problem with this movie: Pinocchio drowns toward the end, and yet, elsewhere in the movie there is an entire sequence in which he's just fartin' around on the bottom of the ocean.  Look, dude can either breathe underwater or not; and if he can, seems like drowning ought to maybe be off the table.

That aside, this is gloriously good filmmaking.  The multiplane animation is so good it's staggering.  And "When You Wish Upon a Star" is one of the best things created in all of American history; we've done a lot wrong, but dadgum it, we did that right!


#5 -- Beauty and the Beast (1991)




A great many people would probably have this at #1, and I wouldn't argue with them much.  This is a nearly perfect movie.  When a character sings "I'm especially good at expectorating!" in your movie, your movie being at #1 on a list is almost always going to pass muster with me; and if I don't quiiiiiiite have it that high on my own, don't take it as a slight.

One of my favorite songs in the movie is not technically in the movie.  "Human Again" was written for the film initially, but the sequence was cut before final animation happened; later, it was resurrected and put into the Broadway musical, and when a special edition of the movie got released, Disney decided to go back and animate the sequence and drop it in.

Typically, I frown on those sorts of re-editing shenanigans, but in this case, I think it worked like a charm.  It's a great song, and ought to have been kept in the first place.


#4 -- Dumbo (1941)




I remember watching the (hilarious and underrated) Steven Spielberg movie 1941 years ago and seeing the scene in which an Army general is watching Dumbo in a theatre and weeping, and thinking the scene was funny as hell.  What moron would cry at a cartoon?  What a doof!

Years later, I see Dumbo for the first time when I buy the special-edition DVD; alone in my apartment, I watch the movie, and the resultant cascade of tears is sufficient to make one think I was the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy had just slapped me on the nose.  It was an embarrassing, unmanly moment; one of many, I am chagrined to say.

But if it was okay for Robert Stack, it was okay for me.

And it's okay for you, too.


#3 -- Bambi (1942)




Hailed by Stephen King as the first movie to scare him in his entire life, Bambi is also one of the most beautiful films ever made.  The animation is as good as animation gets; to this day, it is as good as it gets.  This is the sort of thing that WWII kept the Disney studio from being able to continue to make; and as far as the shames resultant from that war go, that's low on the list . . . but still, it's a genuine shame,

Evidence indicates that this was also the final animated film that Walt himself devoted huge amounts of personal attention toward; afterward, he was less involved, partially as a result of not being able to bear the indignity of having to produce package films to weather the war years, and partially because he was a man constantly driven to succeed in new ways.

So in some ways, this can be looked at as the final Walt Disney animated film.  What a gorgeous one to end on.

I also offer for your consideration a bit of knowledge about Walt himself: in 1938 he and his brother Roy, flush with their massive success, bought their beloved mother a new home in California.  She complained of a gas problem, and the Disneys sent studio repairmen to fix the problem, but the fix did not take, and a month later, she died of asphyxiation in the home her sons had lovingly bought her.  This accident is said (understandably) to have haunted Walt and Roy to the end of their days.

Cut to 1942, and Bambi is released; it includes one of the most profoundly upsetting deaths in all of cinema history.  The death is, of course, of Bambi's mother.

If that doesn't break your heart, then you, sir (or madam, as the case may be), are a hard-hearted bastard.


#2 -- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)





The first full-length animated movie ever remains one of the all-time best.  It is impossible for modern audiences to understand the extent to which this movie was considered a technical marvel at the time of its release; in modern memory, only Toy Story gets close to replicating it, and really, it didn't get all that close.  Nobody had ever seen anything like this before.

And only occasionally did they see anything like it again.

This is about as close to flawless as movies get.


#1 -- Fantasia (1940)






This might make my all-time Top 10 list of movies; I'd have to think about it a while.  But I think it probably would.

I would go so far as to say that this is as close to perfect as art gets.  NO art can actually be perfect, of course; but it can get close, and I'd argue this does.

I wrote a 4600-word essay on the movie about a decade ago, and I'd intended to pop that sucker into the end of this post.  However, the Word document and Blogger do not like each other at all, and the formatting is treating each paragraph in such an insane manner that I don't even want to consider dealing with it.

So that will have to do it for now, I guess.  I hope I've angered at least a few Sword in the Stone fans; if not, then honestly, what good is life anymore?

Be back soon with a series of reviews of Four Past Midnight.

80 comments:

  1. I could probably come up with an argument for some of these deserving to be higher or lower, but not a good one

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    1. That smells like the statement of a "Hercules" fan to me...

      ;)

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  2. Massive effort, here. Nice. I hadn't realized until seeing this list how many Disney movies I've somehow failed to see. Those Pinnochio posters are great, especially that first one.

    Love the crap out of Fantasia, so I'm happy to see that at the top spot. I bought Fantasia 2000 on VHS when it came out at the supermarket and when I got home it never played properly. The image and sound was all warbled. Ah, the old days. Anyway, did they bury it or something? It's strange that they never made a bigger deal of it than they apparently did. I loved it. From what I remember, my favorite was the Rhapsody in Blue sequence.

    I've got Victory Through Air Power and have watched that one a lot. I bought both the Disney At War collection and the one with Tomorrowland (or Futureland, and Davy Crockett) ones when I worked at Virgin Megastore way back when. Love those. The Paul Frees-narration and Ward Kimball animation never sounded or looked better than in those.

    I like Alice In Wonderland, me, but hey. (Watched that constantly as a kid. And it always freaked me out and still does a little.)

    Ditto for Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I watched that all the time from the age of 7 to 9 or so then didn't for many years. Last time I saw it, I realized just how much of it went sailing over my head. That marching off to war sequence at the end in particular.

    Darby O'Gill doesn't count, of course, for animated feature, but love that one. While we're here.

    Did Disney do the Pecos Bill cartoon? I watched that one a lot as well. It might be in the fine print, up there, for one of those collections. (Ditto for Sleepy Hollow?)

    My only eyebrow-raiser is: no Tron? Perhaps only as an honorable mention, as it mixes live action and animation, or is it absent because you, like more than one ex-girlfriend, despise that one? haha - it provokes strong opinions, I guess. It does in me, but very much for the positive.

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    1. Yessir, that Disney At War collection is genius. I don't have all of the Disney Treasures sets, but I have a lot of them (including both the others you mention), and they are all pretty great.

      I second the love for "Darby O'Gill." It's a wonderful movie.

      The "Pecos Bil" short is a part of "Melody Time" (or possibly "Make Mine Music," but I think it's "Melody Time"). "Sleepy Hollow" is, of course, part of "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad."

      As for "Tron," which is a movie I do quite like -- and ditto for the underrated sequel -- I've got a simple explanation: the animation was not produced by Disney's animation department. It was produced by Steve Lisberger's company.

      That also explains the absence of dozens and dozens of animated films -- some theatrically releases (like "Planes" and "Return to Neverland") and others (like the "Lion King" sequels) direct-to-video releases -- that I did not include. All of them certainly count as Disney movies, but since the production of the animation was farmed out to one of the company's subsidiaries (such as Walt Disney Television Animation or DisneyToon Studios).

      My reasoning is simply that the company tends to save its prestige pictures for Disney Feature Animation to produce; those are the "real" animated Disney films. Which is not to say that the other subsidiaries have never produced anything worthwhile; for example, I rather like "A Goofy Movie" (DisneyToons did that one), and if "The Nightmare Before Christmas" was eligible for my list (it isn't -- not sure what the name of the company that did the stop-motion is called, but I know it wasn't Disney's feature animation department) it'd be in my top five.

      In some ways, it's a meaningless distinction; and it's certainly one that most people will not be aware of unless they are interested enough to figure out why some resources refer to -- as one example -- "Frozen" as the company's 53rd animated feature. Seems like there are way more than that.

      All of which is a long-winded way of saying that there is a distinction between Disney animation and animation released by Disney.

      Which reminds me that I'm going to have to upgrade my Disney DVDs to Blu-rays one of these days. Oh, the agony that's going to cause my creditors...

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    2. I did not realize all the sequels to the Disney movies weren't animated there. Half the time they are crap anyways.. and not worth my time to watch.

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  3. Totally missed Ichabad and Mr. Toad, up there, my bad!

    Thanks for the explanation. Makes sense to me.

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  4. Some random thoughts on the list, and Disney in general.

    No. 51: Ah, Las Caballeros. I've snippets from a lot of these films on the old Disney channel, this was one of them. I haven't seen all of it, though, and mean to get around to it one day. My greatest thought, as a Latino based on watching an old film about Latinos: Good gosh, give me a f#ckin' break! I'm just going by what I my own experience here. Though, in it's own favor, it is showbiz. Also, the animation sequence? First head trip in a film, EVER!

    The rest of the list is sort of interesting in that while I'm still more or less a Disney fan, a lot of my favorites are of the more unorthodox variety.For instance, if i had to give a list of my favorite Disney films it would go like this:

    1. Fantasia
    2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    3. Return to Oz
    4. The Great Mouse Detective
    5. 101 Dalmatians
    6. The Rescuers
    7. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
    8. Fun and Fancy Free

    That's a very short, maybe even off kilter list. I think a lot of it is explained by the fact that most of the material, while not high on most fan lists, does count as some Disney's more darker fare. And if there's a reason for my liking Disney films with that kind of material, I think it's because Don Bluth got to me first.

    An American Tale wasn't the first animation I ever saw, but it was the first that made me sit up and take notice, that was able to work an artistic, dramatic effect on me. While looking at it today, even with it's flaws, it's still a great film for me, and I think it was the first film that determined sort of what I look for in both live action, and other animated films. Hence my liking for a film like Watership Down.

    I think what's interesting about an animator like Bluth is how he seems to have progressed the Disney style. By that I mean that Disney was always able to do dark in it's early years, but after about 1941, they seem to have stopped trying, or not trying as much as with films like Pinocchio.

    What Bluth seems to have done is take up where those films left off. At least for a time; during the nineties he seems to have made the mistake of courting Hollywood for funds by making formula pictures, and I don't think it worked all that well.

    Still, for a time, I think he carried on the real Disney tradition.



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    1. Bluth was a big deal when I was a kid -- even I knew who he was, and a great many people, as you say, looked on him as being the heir to Disney's mantle. I remember "The Secret of NIMH" as being THE big animated movie of its day, moreso than even "The Fox and the Hound."

      But somehow, Bluth was seemingly never able to translate his work into genuine commercial success, or at least not on an ongoing basis. And once Disney had its resurgence beginning with "Roger Rabbit," it was a long time before anybody else was able to really break that monopoly they had.

      I'm no expert on Bluth, but it beyond doubt that his name ought to be mentioned in any serious discussion of animation during the post-Walt / pre-Mermaid period.

      Now, on the subject of "The Three Caballeros" and "Saludos Amigos," let me extend an invitation to give me your thoughts on that subject. I am not a huge fan of either movie, but they both sort of fascinate me; they are both obviously designed to have raked in as many South American dollars as possible. As a gringo of the deepest, palest shade of white, I have to confess that I do not grasp some of the subtleties of the situation (or, as the case may be, the LACK of subtleties). The movies seem broad and stereotypical, and therefore suspect along the lines of cultural sensitivity . . . but my question would be, is that a function of the movies themselves having problems, or is it more a case of the period in which the movies were made?

      In other words, was there genuine racism at work on the part of the filmmakers, or was it more a case of a movie being made by a group of well-intentioned white folks who simply didn't know any better?

      My guess is that it's the latter. But do I guess that simply because I myself do not know any better?

      It's a valid question, and if you've got an answer, I'd love to hear it.

      Either way, yes, there is seriously trippy stuff in "The Three Caballeros." Racial/cultural issues aside, that is a deeply weird movie. So is "Return to Oz," and I'm glad to see it has another fan 'round these parts.

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    2. What criticisms I have about Caballeros, I never actually thought about it from a racist perspective, now I think of it.

      For me, it was more a basic compare and contrast deal, where I was taking what I knew from the Barrio where my grandparents spent their entire lives, to seeing how Mexican culture was portrayed in a Hollywood film.

      ...I sort of wondered if the only way anyone in Tinseltown would notice he was surrounded by other people was if everyone was acting as flamboyant as they were in that film. Because I never once saw anyone fellow Mexicano act lthe way people do in that film.

      In fact, I think around my grandparents neighborhood, the film might have been accused of "putting on airs".

      For me, Latino culture is devided into positive and negative, on the positive, there's stoical hard-working class, and the negative isn't any one thing, however it's best summed up by the example of the Cartel from Breaking Bad (I've never really seen any of that personally, people like that I doubt would ever hang around places like my grandparents neighborhood).

      In those terms, I find the film incredibly amusing at how much of a fundamental outsider Anglo-Saxon America was Latin Culture (a culture which, I guess I should add, spawned the Saxon Protestant zeitgeist, in effect meaning white America was sort of a stranger to itself on some bass-ackward I really don't understand).

      It shows all the hallmarks of an insular society that is sort of cut off from a lot of the other currents that make up not just Mexican, but American life in general. It just seems to have been the dominant outlook for most Americans at that time.

      However, and possibly for those reasons above, I never bothered worrying about racism. If the film is racist, then it's of an odd, unconscious, almost plastic, self-revealing sort. I don't know if it's possible to spawn racism in a collective cultural naiveté, but I suppose it's possible (Huck Finn might be fictional, but I have no doubt it's based in part on real life).

      Still, I don't know, and my biggest reaction now, from what other snippets I've seen is to just adopt an incredulous "get serious" attitude, but that's as far as it goes.

      I can say this; I remember seeing an unrelated Disney cartoon that takes place in a bullring, where a matador is facing off against a heifer that's said to be the strongest, and the meanest.

      In real life, while it's not my sport, I know that whole stadium, including the players, would have been on their feet and raring to go, most likely not cowering like human slapstick gags.

      ChrisC

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    3. Almost certainly. That sounds like "Ferdinan the Bull," which -- if I remember correctly -- was one of their numerous Oscar-winning shorts.

      Thanks for the insights!

      I've had a fascination with Disney-related things for about a decade and a half now; I even hoped at one point to teach a field-study course on the subject of Disney World, but those plans never came to fruition. (I spent a wee amount of time in graduate school in what was essentially a cultural studies program, and the two potential thesis subjects I tried to decide between were one on horror fiction and one on Disney theme parks. I ended up dropping out after less than a semester, on account of . . . well, on account of me just not fitting in with the program, I guess, is the easiest way to say that. It's kind of a shame, really. But that's life sometimes.)

      My take on "Caballeros" and "Amigos" is that they probably do reflect some inaccuracy and insensitivity, but no more than would have been standard among white folks of the era. And I think that one of the ultimate points of the films was to show how cool the various cultures depicted therein were. Some of that was probably fantasy, in terms of the specifics (such the flamboyance you are correct to single out); but if so, I think it was probably done with good intentions at heart.

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  5. Getting back to Disney. With recent films like Enchanted, Disney seems to be once again trying to reinvent itself....by going the DreamWorks/Shrek route almost. They even have a retelling of one of the classic Disney animated features. I swear I'm not making this trailer up:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=704EXbJ-b5k

    My honest opinion: sort of hoaky, and clumsy in not any particular detail I can pinpoint.

    What's interesting though is the evolution of Disney's animation. According to animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in their book The Illusion of Life, they state for the record that due to cost cutting, Disney more or less abandoned the style of drawing that made a name for the studio.

    In essence, sometime after Bambi and Fantasia, Disney seems to have never again used the kind of style that went into the earlier pictures. So that in a way, Disney wasn't even animating Disney. It was this that I think was Don Bluth's major complaint during his tenure there.

    The complete irony is I think a case could be made that the next time audiences saw the classic Disney style, it was in a non-Disney production, The Secret of Nimh. It kind of has to say something when non-personnel can copy a technique that isn't theirs.

    ChrisC

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    1. I'd seen that trailer already, and I agree with you: it looks clumsy. I think it's nothing more complicated than the fact that Maleficent's head-dress looks cool in animation, but looks ridiculous in real life. But apart from that, the movie just looks tedious.

      And, of course, it's not the first time Disney has done this sort of thing. "Alice in Wonderland" came out a few years ago, and there was a live-action version of "The Jungle Book" during the '90s. In theory, I don't mind. There's been talk of making a live-action movie adaptation of the Broadway adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast," and while that's a crazy notion, I think it could potentially be very cool. It all depends on how the filmmakers approach the material, and based on that one teaser trailer, I think the people who made "Maleficent" -- including a first-time director (rarely a good sign) -- are probably not doing anything that is going to end up interesting me.

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    2. Now, as for what you say about Disney's animation style changing at some point, you are 100% correct. I actually wanted to talk about that in my post above, but I decided not to for fear that the post would all of a sudden triple in length; once I open one door like that, seven others tend to want to open in response!

      From what I remember, the change in animation was indeed a cost-cutting thing. Part of it involved xeroxing in some way or another; the specifics elude me. I seem to remember that it was -- coincidentally enough -- a response to the fact that "Sleeping Beauty" had been outrageously expensive, and did not rake in quite as much profit as it needed. The downgrade occurred with the next movie, which was "101 Dalmatians," and continued all the way through the next three decades. I don't have the vocabulary to explain it (or the memory to do so even if I did), but my eye can see the evidence of it; and you can see traces of it even as late as "The Little Mermaid."

      So if "The Secret of NIMH" really is an attempt to reverse that trend, then I need to watch it again -- it'd be right up my alley.

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    3. On the subject of Disney chasing DreamWorks, etc.:

      For a while there, that's definitely what they were doing. After "Tarzan" in '99, they basically didn't have another genuine animated hit until "Tangled," which was a return to the classic fairy tale, albeit one that was heavily modernized in tone. (One exception: "Lilo & Stitch" was a big hit, and its irreverence was much more DreamWorks-like than Disney-like.) "Frozen" is that, too, plus a return to the '90s-style Disney musical. "Wreck-It Ralph" was basically a Pixar-esque piece of postmodernia (released the same year that Pixar released its attempt at crafting a Disney-style fairy-tale in "Brave"!).

      The animation division definitely has some issues in terms of its identity, but given how much competition is in the marketplace -- something that was not an issue for the first five, and maybe even six or seven, decades of its existence -- a certain amount of tail-chasing makes sense. And with their past few movies, they've at least figured out how to make good movies again.

      So, reinventing themselves...? I'm not sure. I think it's more a case of simultaneously trying to redefine themselves and keep from seeming hopelessly old-fashioned and out-of-touch. Not an easy task, but I think they're making progress.

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    4. I think for a time Pixar was almost free of Disney an raring to go it's own direction. This would have been when Wall-E was released before Disney bought it out. I actually don't mind, as I think whatever helps keep an iconic institution afloat.

      I came upon a series of Disney/Pixar related vlogs recently.

      One an interesting sociological look at Incredibles:

      http://blip.tv/theothersocio/the-other-socio-on-the-incredibles-6678883

      And a two part vlog on Wall-E:

      http://sfdebris.com/videos/animation/walle.php

      I also found this interesting vlog about a superhero parody show by Disney, which has many parallels to The Incredibles:

      http://blip.tv/the-blockbuster-buster/honest-review-darkwing-duck-6459393

      As for Disney's treatment of Alice, the only thing I would keep would be the animation of the main character, as I somehow think it's the one thing they got right. As for Burton...less said, the better.

      I haven't seen many decent Carroll adapts, but I do remember this one memorable 70s version (even if it does look sort of corny now) and luckily I'm not the only one who remembers it:

      http://cinemassacre.com/2010/02/18/alice-in-wonderland/

      As for Don Bluth, well, I found also these vlogs that deal with the film everyone calls his best work.

      One of them asks, What does the Secret of Nimh mean?:

      http://blip.tv/nostalgiacritic/nc-what-does-the-secret-of-nimh-mean-6604679

      And another comparing it with An American Tale (of which I kind of disagree with the final verdict):

      http://blip.tv/nostalgiacritic/nc-what-does-the-secret-of-nimh-mean-6604679

      Yeah, this is a perfect example of what happens with too much free time on one's hands.

      ChrisC

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    5. Apologies, I reposted the same Bluth vlog when I meant to post this one:

      http://blip.tv/theanimatedheroine/reel-vs-reel-ep-9-an-american-tail-vs-the-secret-of-nimh-6161592

      ChrisC

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    6. Fascinating conversation here, Chris and Bryant, thank you - I knew virtually none of this stuff.

      But man did I likes me some Secret of NIMH back in the day. Liked it so much I tracked down the book, which is quite a different story. I ended up liking the book much better. but the movie's still pretty cool. At least, in my memory at least.

      Now do a post on the 4-disc Animated Soviet Propaganda set!

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    7. Er, I'm gonna be torn apart by a whole legion of Bluth fans for this but...

      My major complaint against Nimh is just how promising it all is, and yet it never really delivers for me. It's got a great opening, great middle, and then the pay-off is only so-so.

      This doesn't make it a bad film, just not as good as it couldn't be.

      For me, what it all comes down to are several things. First there's the source material novel and the different priorities it has from Bluth's film.

      My honest conviction about the novel is that Robert O'Brien is just riffing on Watership Down. Both novels are about anthropomorphic animals, and how thy go about constructing societies. However whereas Down was both gritty and epic, while managing to say something about human society by putting everyone in rabbit suits (there's an image), Nimh seems to get bogged down in detail. It's like a civics lesson instead of a drama with an important theme.

      The movie Nimh, however seems to toss politics and sociology aside for the most part. The main complaint (as stated in a vlog link above) is that the fantastic elements in the movie come out of nowhere (which seems to disregard the fact that talking animals is itself a pretty far out conceit). To all this I respond that it was obvious to me that it wasn't politics or science, but rather the question of transcendence that interested Bluth.

      I don't say he was trying to write a parable or allegory, but I do think he must have seen the potential to make a film that would tap into the all the Big Questions of life. The problem, and one I've seen in a lot of other Bluth projects (anyone remember (shudders) the Pebble and the Penguin?) is that Bluth sometimes comes up short on story ideas.

      The ending of the film is different from that of the book, and there's a neat vlog that goes a bit into the differences between both:

      http://blip.tv/pop-arena/a-look-at-the-secret-of-nimh-1982-6474560

      While the ending Bluth thought up isn't bad, it's not as interesting for me as what came before with all it's promise of some grand reveal involving a necklace the main character receives. Also the film's big image that everyone remembers is one of those that seems to deserve a better story rather than the pay off it gets.

      The image itself is fine, yet unless a good premise goes with it, it just, well, sits there.

      I do remember once thinking, "What if after escaping the farm, she gets caught by Nimh, and the rest of the story details her experiences of being examined by the scientists, and the resolution would revolve around the necklace, which in thi version becomes a much more important story element, one the rest of the characters begins to focus in on?

      ...I'll go take my meds now.

      ChrisC

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    8. You're probably right on NIMH (the book) being a knockoff of Watership Down. Which suits me okay, as I've never been able to get into Watership Down. Made several attempts. Just not my thing.

      I remember people who were into such things telling me Don Bluth (and Ralph Bakshi) were the best animators around when I grew up. I never saw it, myself. I'm not an animator and not an especially huge fan of the genre, but I never saw it, myself. Their stuff always looked dark or choppy to me. (shrugs) I had the same problem with Ren and Stimpy in later years. I worked with 2 guys who were really into animation and illustration, and their praise for John K was so over the top. I just looked at it and couldn't figure out what the hell they were so ebullient about. I'm the first to admit I should be nobody's go-to for animation know-how, but all I can say is (and this goes for WD, too, I guess, for fables) I know what I like.

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    9. I've never been able to understand the love for Bakshi. Granted, I've only seen two of his movies. Those were "The Lord of the Rings" (which has its moments, but is also heavily -- and unappealingly -- rotoscoped) and "Heavy Traffic." I hated every second of "Heavy Traffic." I dunno, maybe I just didn't have the proper context for enjoyment or something.

      Going back to Chris's Pixar comments, I would have to say that at this point, I'm as big a Pixar fan as I am a Disney fan. To some extent, they are one and the same, and while people were for a while discussing the idea that Don Bluth might be the new Walt Disney, I think someone could persuasively make the claim that Pixar's John Lasseter actually IS the new Walt Disney. Or, at any rate, the closest thing we're likely to see.

      When Disney bought Pixar, Lasseter became the chief creative officer for Walt Disney Animation Studios -- and it's him, as much as anyone else, that you can thank for the company's resurgence in that field. The reason why this was a great fit is identical to the reason why Pixar became such a big deal in the first place: their attention to story and to unparalleled technical excellent in their animation is heavily reminiscent of what Walt Disney and his team of animators were doing in their '30s and '40s heyday. Lasseter and Pixar may or may not have been consciously trying to replicate that success; either way, it worked for them.

      So, in a way, Pixar simply IS Disney. For a while there, it was more Disney than Disney was. Thankfully, with Lasseter's help, Disney has begun remembering how to simply be itself again.

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    10. Another name that ought to be mentioned here is Hayao Miyazaki, whom many would name as being the world's best-ever animator. I've not seen all of his movies, but of the ones I've seen, I would say that they are uniformly genius.

      This is also the point at which I must again confess to being a typical American (i.e., forgetting about the rest of the world). I'm not very knowledgeable at all about non-American animation, with those few Miyazaki films excepted; there might well be some other company out there that gives Disney and/or Pixar a run for their money in every way. If so, I rely on somebody to eventually tell me about it.

      Other than Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, though, I don't think such an entity exists.

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  6. Quite an effort there Bryant!
    I love New Groove it's like 75 minutes long and hilarious. Alladin and Lilo were great too.
    No Brave Little Toaster, was that not a Disney flick when it came out?

    I was not allowed to see Bambi as a child bc my mom thought it would scare me too much. But when I was 9 they let me watch John Carpenter's the Thing. Who knows.

    I have wanted to watch the Fantasias on blu-ray but Netflix doesn't rent the blu-rays out.
    I think Secret of Nymh scarred me for life, still can;t believe that was a kid's movie. Awesome but dark as hell.
    -MikeC

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    1. I believe both of the Fantasias are currently in Disney's vault (i.e., out of print until such time as the company decides to reissue them with a heavy promotional push -- which, at this rate, I'd guess might not be until the 75th anniversary in 2015).

      I'm not sure who released "The Brave Little Toaster" (which I've never seen); it might have been released by Disney, but if so, it was produced by someone else and merely distributed by Disney.

      Glad to see that "The Emperor's New Groove" has at least one other fan!

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    2. You should watch Brave Little Toaster. I love that movie so much. It really is a touching movie!

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  7. I didn't grow up in a Disney household so besides the 90s resurgence movies and a few here and there I haven't seen or liked many Disney films.
    But I do love animation and I tend to lean toward foreign animation bc the story tend to be more serious or more time is put into the story and the animation serves the story.
    I am a huge fan of Miyazaki's 2000s run, Spirited away is a masterpiece. It's funny that he said he loved Disney movies and he was trying to emulate them in his work but I feel his movies are way better but I am watching through adult eyes, so it's hard to judge it from a child's perspective if that's the goal.
    That's why I was so excited for Up and Wall E, they were excellent movies as well as great children's fare. I was hoping for quality or something special from the USA Pixar but since Disney
    re-upped their contract the movies have been not nearly as good.
    The problem usually lies in watching a beautifully animated movie with subtitles on. Where does the eye go?
    -MikeC

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    1. Curiously, I've never been an anime fan. For whatever reason, it just never caught on with me. Maybe it's the stylization or something, but I've just never been able to warm to it.

      However, with that said, I think Spirited Away does deserve it's classic status based on it's story, and not it's imagery.

      As for Wall-E, I just know I kept waiting (hankering is more exact word) for some good old fashion rage-against the-machine in the story. I'm writing this from the perspective of a Prisoner fan, if that helps.

      On some more Disney front, the official web page for Saving Mr. Banks now has more behind the scenes vids for those who'd like to know more:

      http://movies.disney.com/saving-mr-banks

      From what I've read of the advance reviews, it seems to be a well told story. Some of the papers are even hinting at the possibility of an Oscar candidate. Other than that I don't know much else, it's not released worldwide as of this writing.

      I do know that the trailer shows P.L. Travers chewing out the Sherman Brothers for one of their most famous songs. The funny thing about it is long before I ever knew this movie existed I'd run across this Peter Gabriel tune that bears an uncanny resemblance to that Sherman tune.

      Not only that, but based on what I've seen of the trailer, a lot of the imagery in the music video for the Gabriel song looks like it could have been lifted from this upcoming film. At the very least, I'm convinced the images in the Gabriel vid might bear a thematic relation to Saving Mr. Banks.

      I wonder what the real Travers would have thought if the Sherman's had composed something like this instead the Cheery song:

      http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x18vhj_peter-gabriel-kate-bush-don-t-give_music

      ChrisC

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    2. I am definitely looking forward to "Saving Mr. Banks," which other than "The Desolation of Smaug" and mayyyyyyyybe "American Hustle" is the movie I'm most looking forward to right now.

      Mike, since you are a fan of foreign animation, you might be be a good person to answer the question of whether there is an animation company out there -- other than Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli -- that stacks up against Disney and Pixar in terms of the extent to which they've influenced the industry.

      You are entirely correct on the subject of "Spirited Away." Movies don't get much better than that one. Of the other Miyazaki films I've seen, none are AS great as that one, but they were all pretty great; "Kiki's Delivery Service" was probably my favorite of them, or maybe "Princess Mononoke." I am looking forward to "The Wind Rises," which looks terrific.

      I've heard other people say that Pixar suffered a drop in quality after Disney took them over, and I would say a few things about that. For one thing, yes, they were bought by Disney; but Pixar has had a much more significant impact on Disney than Disney has had on Pixar, and it's been a positive impact.

      For another, I dispute that there has actually been a significant drop-off in quality since the acquisition. "WALL*E," "Up," and "Toy Story 3" -- all of which are masterpieces -- were released after Disney purchased Pixar. Since then, I guess you could say that the movies have been less good; but not, in my opinion, to a significant degree -- I liked "Cars 2" a lot as a weirdo James Bond parody, I thought "Brave" was a pretty good attempt at making a Disney fairy-tale story, and I thought "Monsters University" was only very slightly less good than "Monsters, Inc."

      Not everyone agrees with me on these points, obviously. But I stand by them, and would add that the worst of Pixar's movies -- which I would say is either "Cars 2" or "Brave" -- is still better than most of their competitors' best films.

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    3. Getting back to an earlier subject, I literally ran across a vlog yesterday by that Nostalgia Critic guy in which he discusses the on Disney film that get all the controversy, Song of the South.

      To be fair, as someone who's never seen the whole film, but only snippets of it, this vlog did sort of manage to give a good overview of the film and it's (major!) flaws.

      The sad thing is how it sort of convinces me that note of the controversy was ever really meant by anybody. In fact, the real tragedy of this film seems to have been that all along they might have been trying to be ever so slightly pro-civil rights by inserting a pro-abolitionist message into the film's story.

      You'll have to watch the vlog in order to get what I mean, however, all that said, for me at least, I can't really give this film a pass, no matter how well it might have meant.

      Here's the vlog:

      http://blip.tv/nostalgiacritic/disneycember-song-of-the-south-6698540

      So as not leave a bad vibe, here's another vlog by the Critic in which he reviews one film I forgot to put on my list of favorite Disney flicks:

      http://blip.tv/nostalgiacritic/disneycember-20-000-leagues-under-the-sea-6698754

      ChrisC





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    4. I don't like that guy's stuff even a little bit, so I'm going to opt to not watch those.

      What I'll say in defense of "Song of the South" is that whatever one thinks of its potentially racist content, I don't think that burying the movie is the correct way to handle it. Someone once put forth the notion that Disney ought to release it on home video, but in a prestige format targeted at adults. And from there, deal with the controversy head-on; make a documentary talking about the filmmakers' intent, and offer up criticism from people who think it's racist, people who think it isn't, and people who think it's both simultaneously.

      Make it an educational tool. Or, in other words, make lemonade out of lemons.

      Delete
  8. Bryant, as far as I know there is no other studio-like foreign animated movies. Brown Bag films in Ireland is pretty close but they haven't put out many features. Secret of Kells is very good but quite sad. I think in many non-US countries the film industry is paid or commissioned by their government which might have some influence on how many of the films are released and what kind.

    Also, Sorry I was totally wrong about the Disney/Pixar thing I thought it was later than that. But everything after Up has been a disappointment to me. TS3 was good.

    "worst of Pixar's movies -- is still better than most of their competitors' best films." Yep.
    Their short films preceding the movies have still been excellent though.

    The technology behind MU is incredible though:
    " it took Pixar’s server farm about 29 hours to render each frame of Monsters University"

    http://venturebeat.com/2013/04/24/the-making-of-pixars-latest-technological-marvel-monsters-university/

    Chris, I think the imagery in Sprited Away is amazing. The shot of her standing at the train station in the middle of the ocean is one the most original things I've ever seen. Just the idea of the train running in 3 feet of water in the ocean blows my mind that someone could think of that and execute it in a non-cheesy way is incredible. I enjoyed Ponyo way more than I thought I would, there's some great stuff in that movie.
    But I understand where you're coming from as far aesthetics, I dig it though. There's lots of great styles out there.

    -mikeC

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    1. It took me a little bit of time to process what I was seeing in "Spirited Away" -- for about the first half hour, I thought it was absolutely horrible, but once my eye got a feel for what it was seeing, I thought it was gorgeous. When I saw it a second time, I loved the entire thing.

      I really need to build myself a Miyazaki collection one of these days. And I probably ought to just make it a Ghibli collection; I saw "The Secret Life of Arrietty" and liked it a lot, too.

      Mike, I hear what you're saying about Pixar. I think more people are in your camp than in mine regarding their past few movies.

      Did anybody see "Toy Story of Terror," the half-hour Halloween special that Pixar did for ABC? It was awesome.

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    2. I didn't see that one. But not sure if Fantastic Planet has come up yet? If not, I dig that one. Tres trip-py. (He says in mock French accent.)

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    3. While I still can't say i'm a fan of the anime style, I will admit the images on the train are pretty good, or at least striking.

      As for the worst of Pixar....

      Nothing will ever redeem the car's franchise in my mind. At least with Brave I could have fun imagining ways that would have made the story a bit more interesting. I can't what anything could be done with the Cars franchise (worst use of Bruce Campbell EVER!).

      Again, while i don't disregard imagery, it's always the story I pay most attention to. If the question were asked, which style of animation do i think is best, well, the truth is I'm not all that sure.

      If i had to give an answer I suppose i could nominate Disney's classical 30s style, yet I'm not sure how certain I could be of such a decisions since i also like the deliberately messy style of Yellow Submarine, or the 70s children's nature book brought to life style of Watership Down, to say nothing of 80s era Don Bluth, or Richard Williams.

      For those who are unfamiliar with Williams, I'll allow Stefan "Mr. Coat" Ellison to explain in this vlog tribute:

      http://blip.tv/mister-coat/mr-coat-a-tribute-to-richard-williams-6581878

      Still, the problem again is I'm how I would, or even should scale it all. It's not the imagery I concern myself with much, but the story a book or film has to tell. Hence, why I tend to like American Tail more than Nimh (which I secretly think is a retelling of Ralph Bakshi's American Pop. just a thought I had). It's also how I can say "Kells" is a great movie to watch despite it's animation being nothing special (in fact, the only complaint I can make is that ending does show signs of being rushed, but if all rushed endings could be as good as this one, Hollywood should count itself lucky).

      If you wanna see trippy though, I'm not sure but i remember a Richard Williams film I I watched on the Disney channel way back when: Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure (i could be wrong, but I think Williams more or less went straight from this whatever it is to Working with Spielberg and Zemeckis. All of which proves Hollywood works in strange ways).

      ChrisC



      ChrisC

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    4. I continue to simply not understand the disdain so many people seem to have for "Cars" and "Cars 2." I think they're both funny, beautiful to look at, and occasionally even heartwarming. Even the "Mater's Tall Tales" shorts crack me up.

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    5. I do admit I've heard this one odd theory about the Cars-verse in relation to Wall-E.

      Basically, both films are in the same universe, and the Cars franchise can be thought of like King's Before the Play to Wall-E's Shining. It would basically mean that we're seeing earth sometime after the humans had left it and the machines were left to run around on their own, and by the time we reach Wall-E almost all the machines, including the cars, have rundown leaving just this one garbage collecting receptacle.

      A theory is all it is, yet I couldn't help noticing certain elements in Cars 2 that raise slightly disturbing questions. For instance, there's a reference to Gusteau's from Ratatouille, and at one point the characters are clearly shown watching Toy Story on a plane.

      Both these references clearly indicate there's been a human civilization here before, and not only that, but that it might have been the same civilization as shown in Ratatouille. Which would mean, we're seeing Remy's dream several who knows how many hundreds of thousands of years into the future after everything went to some kind of hell.

      That's rather chilling idea when the pieces are fit together.

      ChrisC

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    6. I haven't thought of that Raggedy Ann musical cartoon in forever. My sister and I watched that over and over again. I was just talking about that and thinking of getting it for Evelyn when she gets a little bigger.

      That same VHS tape had, if memory serves, a Jack and the Beanstalk cartoon and "Hey Cinderella," some kind of faux-Muppet take on the fairy tale.

      I actually quite liked Cars - haven't seen pt. 2.

      Interesting theory. I've seen variations of it before with regard to Aladdin. It's amusing (well, to me) to think Disney/ Pixar are working from such premises. Basically, we all know the age of man is on the wane and the Age of Cylon is upon us; we just all act/ react in our own way.

      Anyway, I highly recommend a midnight showing of Fantastic Planet if it ever comes through town. Or a midnight screening at the domicile - an important piece of world animation, says me, the guy who really knows very little about animation (world or otherwise.)

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    7. Okay, confession time.

      I had actually run across a vlog review of William's Raggedy and Andy by this guy who specializes in out-of-the-way cinema, and this was the first time I'd seen footage from it in a while.

      ....Oh my gosh.......

      It's telling when I originally decide NOT to post one of these things. I just honestly don't know either how to react to this film or how others may react to it, and I'm just talking about a frickin' review of the flick.

      This movie.....Oh my gosh......

      Well, here goes nothing. From the Movie Explorer:

      http://blip.tv/themovieexplorer/ftm-raggedy-ann-andy-a-musical-adventure-1977-6085565

      ChrisC

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    8. Oh thank gosh I'm not too late (I Hope).

      Final confession. I actually stopped on watching this review, twice, and have only jut finished it now.

      Let me say up front. I AM SORRRRRRRRRRRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Just do yourself a favor, delete my last post! Seriously, you'll thank me for it!

      ChrisC

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    9. Wow. That really is terrible. PSYCHEDELIC FREAKOUT!!!!!

      You know...I'm keenly aware that at the bottom of things, I am just a chump sitting at his computer writing about Stephen King and James Bond and whatnot, and therefore I probably have very little room to judge. But I feel as if at the very least, I know enough to avoid being on camera. And even if I didn't have the sense required to stay off camera, I like to think I'd have the sense to not suck with wild abandon, which that guy does.

      More power to him, though; we all ought to be doing what we enjoy doing.

      I've never seen that "Raggedy Ann & Andy" movie, by the way. I'm not even sure I knew it existed. Same goes for "Fantastic Planet," but in that case, I think I'm pretty interested in seeing it at some point.

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    10. I always enjoy reading the theories people come up with about "Cars," and the existential horror it seems to prompt. I can't deny that it's a valid reaction, although in my case, I find it to be kind of delightful.

      Even creepier: if you want to include the (non-Pixar) spinoff movie "Planes" in the mix, the main character is a cropduster who actually dusts crops.

      WHO ARE THEY BEING GROWN FOR?!?!?!?!?!

      "Planes" is a thoroughly mediocre movie; not even the animation is above run-of-the-mill level. If you didn't like "Cars," you will hate "Planes."

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    11. Actually, I always saw planes as being set in the Car-verse.

      Taking things to the nth level, it occurred to me to wonder, what if what's happened in Cars and Planes is similar to whatever caused the phenomena in King's original Trucks short story?

      As for the crops, you know I honestly think they're performing a function without a purpose (assuming humans no longer live/exist? in this fictional world).

      Another idea was that of electronic evolution and de-evolution. In Planes and Cars, the life displayed by machines is fairly complex (though whether any of it is actual thought or just programming is up for grabs) whereas in Wall-E it seems more rudimentary, like machines are trying to ape human behavior.

      ....I really gotta take my meds now.

      ChrisC

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    12. This always makes me think of the scene in "Stand By Me" where the kids are trying to figure out what the hell Goofy is. It amuses me greatly to consider that there are going to be thousands of kids having this conversation -- many of them stoned to the sky -- in a few years.

      Delete
    13. It gets worse. I just literally had this thought out of nowhere, wondering if maybe the explanation for the behavior of a character like Mater, if he's a machine, would indicate that his programming had developed one to many glitches, thus causing a downgrade in the AI's operating, making the behavior similar to that of Larry the Cable Guy.

      Then it hit me that all the Car characters are just machines, because that is the only way to explain the behavior of Michael Caine's character. It makes no sense for him to make the shoddy judgment he makes throughout the film, especially with regard to Mater.

      However, it you take the view that the character is a machine operating on solely on programming, it makes perfect sense why he would discount such obvious clues that he's dealing with a character who has the mind of a "Deliverance" extra.

      In other words, none of the characters are ever truly reacting to one another, but are following the dictates of their artificially assigned (by the absent humans) functions as machines.

      Going further, the villains of Cars 2 could be looked at as machines who's programming has more or less failed entirely, hence, they are stuck in anti-productive tasks such as sabotaging other cars.

      Further still, what if the behavior of cars like Mater and the villains is the first sign of a massive system wide operating failure, which by the time of Wall-E has shut down all but the most basic machines (including those on the Spaceship in the later film), reducing characters like Wall-E or Eve back to the basic level of Artificial Intelligence (in fact, not even intelligence, more a kind highly sophisticated action/reaction system)?

      The real sad part? None of the above was conjured up with the help of any kind of illegal substance whatsoever.

      Chris

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  9. I kind of love that theory, Chris - well done!

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  10. First I want to say that I love your honorable mentions. Some of them I had never even heard of. Though I can't stand Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Never could. Awful movie to me... I don't know what it is .. the annoying rabbit???

    I love that you put them in order of what you liked. Perhaps when I finish my Project Disney I am going to do a post like this. Though I looked through my Project Disney for next year and there are so many films I won't finish till like August of next year! WHAT!!!! I am only doing animated films though so there are a few on your list that I won't be including.

    I am surprised at how low Hercules falls on your list. I thought it was a great movie... the humor was spot on. The cartoon series that branched off of it was great too!!

    Dinosaur better then Robin Hood and Alice??? WHOA!

    I agree about Treasure Planet. That is a good film and is too bad that it bombed and didn't get more fans. Really that was a neat and good movie. I totally agree too about Frozen's marketing. WHAT ! I just did my Project Disney on that film actually. Disney is afraid to have any movie be like their classic movies now with the popularity of Pixar. I prefer the old school Disney movies and am glad that this one is like that.

    The Emperor's New Groove is just one of the best Disney movies EVER. I too feel bad for people who don't love it. I mean... LOVE IT!

    Lilo and Stitch would go on the very bottom of my list. BOTTOM. Maybe I need to re-watch this one but man I just don't like it.

    I like that you have Bambi as #3. I really didn't like that movie a whole lot of as a kid (the mama dies) but I re-watched it recently and just loved it. The book too.

    Fantasia as #1 is great. I would put Cinderella as #1 but Fantasia is up there. I love music and to put art with music is pretty great. I am actually covering Fantasia 2000 for Project Disney next week and can't wait!! I am excited to re-watch it. Plus all the songs are on youtube now anyways for all to enjoy. Love this post!!

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    1. PS.. I love Bedknobs and Broomsticks so much I run the fan page on facebook! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bedknobs-and-Broomsticks/124443477613015

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    2. Also.. after reading through most of the comments I didn't see a mention of A Disney Halloween http://angelasanxiouslife.blogspot.com/2012/10/favorite-fictional-character-halloween_10.html I think that is one of the BEST animations Disney produced and I am sad that it isn't available on DVD nor do they ever show it on TV.

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    3. I totally forgot about A Disney Halloween! That, and Halloween Treat defined October for me.

      I guess is got to more to add to my list, along with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

      ChrisC

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    4. I'm sure I must have seen "A Disney Halloween" on television at some point when I was a child, but I'd forgotten about it. I've seen all of its components parts, though, and they are mostly pretty great.

      Glad to hear you like both "Treasure Planet" and "The Emperor's New Groove." Sorry about all the "Sword in the Stone" bashing; I'm just not a fan of that one, sadly.

      You are not by any means the first person I've ever heard of who disliked "Roger Rabbit," but you might be the first I've heard from who disliked "Lilo & Stitch." Who could dislike that cute, destructive little face?!? And it's got Elvis songs! It is awfully manic, though, and it shares that with "Roger Rabbit," so I can see where you're coming from.

      As with any large canon, it's unlikely that any two Disney animation fans are going to see 100% eye to eye. But that's part of what makes conversations like these so fun and interesting!

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    5. I will say that since I have been re-watching some films as an adult I have found that I enjoy them more. For example Bambi. Not my film at all as a kid.. and watching as an adult I liked it a lot. So perhaps I should give Roger Rabbit another chance.

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    6. Who knows? Maybe. The thing with "Roger rabbit" is, I think you know within about two minutes whether it's your cup of tea or not; so if it isn't, you can bail out pretty quickly.

      Delete
  11. Well Angie, if you're a fan of Robin Hood, here's a fun vlog review by Eli Stone, current head of a charit vlog community known a Red Ribbon Reviews. Aside from vlogs about pop-culture, RR raises funds for HIV treatments.

    http://blip.tv/thatguyinthecape/the-cartoon-hero-presents-disney-s-robin-hood-6643440

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    1. Thanks for the link. It was a little long but really really enjoyable! I feel the same way about the music in Robin Hood. I love how neat the music is and relaxing. I am checking out this guy's other videos.. he is fun!

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    2. The way I see it, any Disney film that has a character that can remind me of Bob Dylan gets a pass in my book.

      By the way, here's a link containing all of Stone's reviews thus far and counting:

      http://www.reviewersunknown.com/category/cartoon-hero/

      Hope this helps.

      ChrisC

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    3. That makes me wonder if there was ever a Bob Dylan-esque Muppet. Because if there wasn't, there really should have been.

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  12. Wow, I just realized how many of these I HAVEN'T seen. Dumbo was always a favorite as a child (I would probably still cry at that scene where Dumbo visits his mother when she's all chained up in the shack if you showed it to me now). Right now, I'd probably rank Aladdin at No. 1 with Beauty and the Beast a very close second. Cinderella is pretty well perfect - I named my cat Lucifer because of that movie, haha. Never liked Fantasia all that much, although I can't remember the last time I saw the whole thing, if I ever did!

    As for your honorable mentions, I fucking LOVE Who Framed Roger Rabbit and, probably moreso, Bedknobs and Broomsticks! God, I watched that so much as a child, wanting to visit the Island of Namboombu and being all creeped out at the army of armor at the end.

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    1. There seem to be a lot of "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" fans looking in on this post. Very cool. It's one of the few listed here that I don't own; I think I'll wait for a Blu-ray edition to come out before springing for it, though.

      If you DIDN'T cry at that "Dumbo" scene, I'd probably think a little bit less of you. I get misty-eyed just hearing the song ("Baby Mine") that plays during the scene.

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    2. Here's the funny thing, the more I think about it, the more I actually DO like Bedknobs over Mary Poppins.

      Blasphemy, I know, but for whatever reason, even as a kid watching Poppins, while I didn't hate it, I can remember being bored for great swaths of it. With Bedknobs, I didn't get that.

      Also, in reference to the final battle scenes, apparently I was a Tolkien fan, even before I ever knew his works existed, because even at 6 years or so, I just found the idea of all these soldiers uniforms from different eras of British history coming to life somehow riveting.

      The irony is, Bedknobs was the film that actually introduced me to the Nazis.........Yeah. Can't say I'm proud of the fact, but at least I was, not eased into such discoveries, but made aware, at least. Also the fact that Disney of all things would tackle a subject like the Nazis or the Blitz shows an incredible amount of maturity the more I think about it.

      ChrisC

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    3. On final thought.

      There is an interlude segment in Bedknobs that takes place in this fictional neighborhood where all different ethnicities and nationalities mingle together.

      I could be wrong, but I think this segment might be based on the Liverpool Cunard dockyards. These shipping channels were supposed to be like the backbone of the UK armed forces during WWII, and later would gain fame for shipping American rock records to Britain, and anyone who's anybody should know where that lead.

      ChrisC

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    4. Chris, you are definitely making me want to watch "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" again. I don't actually remember a whole heck of a lot about it (example: I do not remember the Nazi angle AT ALL), and you're making it sound pretty damn good.

      I will say, though, that I love the song "Portobello Road," which is on one of the compilations of Disney songs I own. Great stuff!

      Sigh...all of this is making me realize that I'm going to have to create a Disney-centric blog at some point. I contemplate it with considerable zeal, but also with considerable dread, because on the one hand, it'll be fun; on the other, I can't even keep up with the blogs I've got now, much less adding another into the mix!

      Someday, though; someday...

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  13. Now that Mr. Banks is out, I'm looking forward to any thoughts about it on this blog. Oh I sure as hell got my opinions (though mostly it has to do with a lot of the criticism I've seen lobbed at it, though i'm going to wait for a better place to vent all that).

    Meanwhile, since there's no place else I can think of, here's John Cawley's online ebook webpage edition of his "Animated films of Don Bluth". It's got an interesting section on Nimh, where Bluth shares some intriguing ideas about the nature of the Rats:

    http://www.cataroo.com/DBconts.html

    ChrisC

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    1. I've seen "Saving Mr. Banks." I thought it was a very good movie. That said, I have to admit that the accusations of it being a bit on the, uh, disingenuous side do make me a bit less enamored of it than I might otherwise be. I don't expect a movie to always be 100% historically accurate, or even 50% accurate. Unless it is expecting me to take it that way. When that happens, I am more inclined to demand truthfulness.

      What I haven't decided yet is whether this is one of those movies. I think it probably is, in which case I would have to mark it down as a well-made, entertaining piece of bullcrap.

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  14. Well, I finally made time to watch the 2011 movie "Winnie the Pooh." I liked it a lot. I'm not going to bother to rewrite this post, but I think I'd probably sandwich it between "Hercules" and "Home on the Range."

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  15. Getting back to an earlier topic. I just remembered this movie that tackled the topic of the portrayal of race in early Hollywood, albeit in a very veiled way.

    The film is 93-4 effort called Cats Don't Dance, and I found out about it's racial themes from this vlog review by some guy called Isaac232, a.k.a. the Media Hunter:

    http://blip.tv/media-hunter/cats-don-t-dance-review-4250508

    I can at least say it was an interesting attempt to critique the film making business.

    ChrisC

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    1. The one thing I do appreciate about this animated film is a scene where a kind of tribute is paid to what might be called the artistic sense, and the way they handle it is interesting from a symbolic standpoint.

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    2. I remember that movie coming out, but I never saw it.

      One of my favorite non-Disney animated films, by the way -- I say this apropos of nothing, apart from 'coz I felt like it -- came out a few years later. "Anastasia." Very good; or so I remember it.

      Seen that one?

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    3. Actually, no, I never have yet fully seen Anastasia, but I was made aware of it through this vlog by a guy named Joey Tedesco, he runs a review called Cartoon Palooza (and apologies, yes, turns out he's a bit of a super fan of the film).

      http://blip.tv/joey-tedescos-cartoon-palooza/anastasia-the-cartoon-palooza-review-6627318

      What I do know of it is that it seems to have all the standard Bluth trademarks, i.e. a family friendly surface with a pretty twisted sub-layer that verges on the outright freaky (bless his sick little mind!).

      ChrisC

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  16. Just for the sake of doing it, I am now going to briefly run down my list of Pixar's 14 movies, from (in my opinion) worst to best:

    Honorable Mention #4: "Mater's Tall Tales" -- This collection of the Cars Toons shorts featuring Mater is probably only going to please people who love Mater. People like me, in other words. Mater cracks me up. These shorts are the same joke over and over and over again -- Mater tells a ridiculous story, then ups the ante by claiming that Lightning McQueen (to whom he is telling the story!) was in attendance, and then provides the astonished and befuddled McQueen with proof of his own involvement! Sounds dumb, right? Well, yeah, it kind of is. But that's the point, and it works on me.

    Honorable Mention #3: "Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 2" -- Some beauts on this one, including "Presto," "La Luna," and "Day and Night." But it's a significant step down from the first volume. The Toy Story toons are a hoot, though.

    Honorable Mention #2: "Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1" -- It's be worth having if only for "Luxo Jr." and "Geri's Game" (nothing at all like "Gerald's Game," for the record). But there's plenty more goodness where that came from.

    Honorable Mention #1: "Toy Story of Terror" -- This 2013 half-hour Halloween television special is every bit as good -- albeit shorter -- as the Toy Story features. Which is saying something.

    #14: "Brave" -- Yes, I think "Brave" is Pixar's worst movie. Guess what? I loved "Brave." Pixar does the Disney fairy-tale here, and they did it well.

    #13: "Cars 2" -- Mater gets mistaken for an American secret agent by the British agent Finn McMissile, played by Michael Caine. Jesus Christ, there's nothing here to NOT love! But a lot of people really, really don't.

    #12: "Cars" -- Gorgeous animation. Genius voice cast (regardless of your opinion of Mr. Cable Guy). Heartwarming story. This stuff is brilliant.

    #11: "Monsters University" -- Might go higher once I've seen it a few more times; for now, it's only the once. But I thought it was pretty great, and as far as prequels go, it's one of the better.

    Top 10 to follow...

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    1. #10: "A Bug's Life" -- A lot of people slag on this one. I don't get it. It's funny as hell, the voice acting is superb (less so if you hate Dave Foley), and the animation remains effective. The bloopers at the end were a stroke of genius.

      #9: "Ratatouille" -- I've got a poster of this signed by Brad Bird. Oh yes I do. Great movie, too.

      #8: "Monsters, Inc." -- That scene where they're in the enormous room full of the doors is still one of the best things I've ever seen.

      #7: "Toy Story 2" -- That a masterpiece like "Toy Story 2" could ever rank a mere #7 on virtually ANY list of movie is an indication of a truly awesome 1-6.

      #6: "Finding Nemo" -- If the upcoming sequel, "Finding Dory," is even half as good, it'll be worth seeing. If they hit 2/3rds as good, it'll be one of the best films of 2015. Thomas Newman's score is one of the best of the century so far.

      #5: "WALL*E" -- Not only is this one of the best animated movies ever made, it's one of the best sci-fi movies ever made. The sound design alone is worth the price of a viewing.

      #4: "Up" -- That opening scene is arguably one of the finest sequences ever committed to film. I suppose the rest of the movie is a letdown, but (SQUIRREL!) if this is what a letdown looks like, I want more letdowns.

      #3: "Toy Story" -- Pixar has refined its animation style, but everything here still works. And the concept is, in a word, perfection. A film for the ages.

      #2: "Toy Story 3" -- I thought about flip-flopping the placement on this and the original, but ultimately, I think the third is a superior movie. It can only be such with the contributions of the first two films providing context, granted; but still, this movie has such a richness of emotion that 99.9% of all live-action movies are left eating its dust.

      #1: For me, it's "The Incredibles" -- which is not only one of the best animated movies ever made, not only one of the best Disney movies ever made, but also THE best superhero movie ever made. What's an "Avengers"?!? Pretty good, but it ain't no "Incredibles." The score by Michael Giacchino is one of the best things about it, but I'm not about to start listing the rest, because who has the time?

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    2. Believe it or not, I actually did have an inkling of where an Incredibles spin-off TV series could go.

      The first season would chronicle the rise of new super villains, as well as introduce the character of Jack Parr as the latest superhero in the Incredible family (yes, that was the name of the baby rom the film, think back to what he's called by other characters and then remember the family name. Could have been worse, the family could have been named Palance). The two running threads through the first series would the initial public enthusiasm falling to misgiving as supervillain attacks begin to escalate, leading to the second plot thread that someone is targeting the Incredibles, and it ends with a cliffhanger reveal that it's people who either work for or within the government.

      In season two, public misgiving has turned to outright fear, leading to some awkward situations when any of the family saves the day. My thinking on this stems at least in part from Stan Lee's X-Men, however the bigger influence in my mind was Tom Shippey's thoughts on Tolkien's elves. To summarize, Shippey points out how Tolkien draws on traditional folklore about elves and how they seem to have deleterious effect on people's sanity. The leap from there was the logical question, wouldn't it be impossible for people to live an ordinary life in a world of superheroes, and wouldn't that inability to have a normal life ultimately drive a person insane. That, I decided, is what's fuelling public distrust of the Incredibles

      Season two also features the re-emergence of Syndrome (admit it , everyone wants to see him make a comeback) as the one who's been targeting the Incredibles (big surprise). What is a surprise is how he's helping drum up mistrust when out of costume, and that out of costume he does work for the government

      The second season comes to a head with Syndrome targeting the Incredible kids in their school playground surrounded by other children. Just when it looks like he's got the main characters cornered, an "I'm Spartacus" moment occurs as various kids step forward and publicly proclaim and display their own superpowers, along with the names they've chosen for themselves. Syndrome is outnumbered an thwarted, and now it's revealed that their are more superheroes around than originally thought (see movie for what I'm talking about).

      ChrisC

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    3. In season three, things get interesting. The reveal of half the kids in the world as supers winds up adding to that strain I talked about above, and lots of people do start losing their minds. This is especially difficult when the people in question are the parents of some of the super kids. A perfect example is this one idea of a kid who's Dad is barely held together and is all but ready to disown him when, in a desperate bid to get his Dad's approval, the super kid attacks the Incredibles. They escape, but his actions result in the kid and his Dad bonding and growing closer because of this act of insanity. They become this kind of sick parasitical version of a boy and his Dad.

      What it leads up to is some families and their super kids siding with the Incredibles, and some going bad. This gets awkward in places like school or at the mall. Syndrome, meanwhile has been busy. He finally comes to the Incredibles and other supers with an offer in the form of a formula.

      My thoughts on the finale of the series I actually owe to Alan Moore. In a way, the ending could be thought of as the opposite of the Miracleman ending. If Moore posited his ending as a worst case scenario, mine is a bittersweet best case.

      The formula would neutralize whatever gene cause people to become supers, and everybody winds up taking it. The final moments are when Jack Parr chooses over whether to keep his powers or join his family in being life size. In the end, he opts to play catch with his Dad.

      Yeah, I don't know where any of that came from. The irony is, I wasn't a big super comic reader before I thought of it and now that I have, I still haven't read any. Go figure.

      One superhero show I have a growing fondness for, surprisingly, is not only put out by Disney, but it's also like the Incredibles. The way it works is this, what would Mr. Incredible be like if he had no powers and yet still had a hankering for crime fighting?

      I first found out about this show when I was a kid watching the Disney channel back in 89-94 but I never did catch except one episode, and I sort of forgot all about until I found this vlog review by a guy named Eric Rodriguez. See what you think:

      http://blip.tv/the-blockbuster-buster/honest-review-darkwing-duck-6459393

      ChrisC

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    4. Never saw any of "Darkwing Duck," but it'd probably be worth my time to check it out.

      I'd be surprised if we didn't get a sequel to "The Incredibles" eventually. I appreciate Pixar not rushing one, though; pumping a ludicrous (if entertaining) sequel to "Cars" is one thing, but doig the same to "The Incredibles" would be another thing altogether.

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  17. Consider yourself unlucky kid.
    I'm a Sword In The Stone fan.
    In fact, if I was talking Disney in general, I'd rank the film as #10 on my top 10 list, following
    9. Beauty & The Beast
    8. Peter Pan
    7. Great Mouse Detective
    6. Hunchback Of Notre Dame
    5. Mary Poppins
    4. Robin Hood
    3. 20000 Leagues Under The Sea
    2. Fantasia
    1. Pinocchio

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    1. The important thing is that "Fantasia" is in your top two. For that, I can forgive a little "Sword in the Stone" love.

      ;)

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  18. All of these movies are completely fantastic. There is definitely nothing better than Disney.

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    1. I need to try to remember to update this list at some point. Maybe later this year, after "Zootopia" and "Moana" have come out.

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  19. I couldn't believe how low you ranked my beloved Pete's Dragon until I just re-watched it with my kids. The animation is really seamless in spots but the movie is so long and dragged out. This is the perfect movie to remake: great idea but mediocre execution. I've thought for a while a great blog would be having both myself and my daughter rate each Disney movie, I've often felt that some movies that kids love get bad reviews but are loved my children year after year. Example: Daddy Day Care. Terrible reviews and I certainly don't love it but I've shown it to kids for 10 years now and every year it is a huge hit, which I would think is the goal of a good kids movie.

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    1. You make a good point. My preference would be for a movie that works equally well (albeit in different ways) on both kids and adults. Disney's history is full of movies like that.

      I'm hopeful that the new "Pete's Dragon" is going to be a new entry on that list.

      I like that blog idea. Get it going and send me a link! ;)

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  20. Have you seen Pete's Dragon yet? I thought it was pretty well done. Definitely better than the original although there was something magicall as a kid about that traditional animation grafted on to a live action movie. This is just a regular movie with cgi but at least the story pulls you in unlike the original where I am completely bored anytime Elliott is offscreen.

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    1. I have not seen it, but I've heard good things about it. My parents and their grandkids loved it.

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