Robin Hood – Jon

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Oomph. It’s been awhile since I’ve actually made a post. Sarah and I actually watched Robin Hood quite some time ago, but then I got caught up with a few conventions and work so I haven’t had time to write up my thoughts on anything.

Again, Robin Hood is one of those movies I remember as a kid. Vaguely. In the sense that every once in awhile, I suddenly have the song about “Robin Hood and Little John walkin’ through the forest…” Something, something, something, something “Ooh de lally, Ooh de lally. Golly what a day.”

Ok. I suppose I don’t really remember much. I remembered that Robin was a fox. And there was a foxy fox for Maid Marian.

Phil Harris was apparently back as Little John, although I still can’t hear him as anything except Baloo. I blame Tale Spin. Monica Evans was the voice for Maid Marian and had also done one of the geese in Aristocats, but I didn’t watch much of that growing up, so that voice didn’t have strong associations for me.

As far as the plot goes, well, I’d like to compare it to the “true” version of Robin Hood, but I’m not quite certain I know what that entails exactly. There’s been a lot of renditions of the classic story and I’m not sure which elements have been added in various versions. But I’m pretty sure that Robin didn’t lose his arms in battle but grow himself a nice pair of boobs.

I’m pretty sure that Robin was supposed to have a band of Merry Men, but in the Disney retelling, he’s a bit of a loner except for his hetero-life mate Little John. I suppose you could say that he did have a group of merry children helping him out along the way. Perhaps when they grow up they can be some merry men for him. With or without tights. Except Toby the Turtle. Because we all know turtles grow up to be ninjas when they hit their teens.

Another discrepancy in this one is that Prince John was apparently helped out, or perhaps led on by Sir Hiss who, as with Kaa, the snake in Jungle Book had the magic power to hypnotize people. I’m pretty sure as a kid I totally bought into the idea that snakes could do that. I’m not sure when I figured out they didn’t. Perhaps it was when I learned that snakes bite. It hurts.

Although I didn’t recall it too much before rewatching this movie, the song “Phony Prince of England” does get stuck in my head a lot now. Yes, the lyrics to that has a lot of “somethings” in it too.

The Aristocats – Sarah

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The Aristocats is in a handful of Disney films that I’m pretty neutral about.  To me, there’s nothing spectacular about this film. It’s cute, but it’s not one I’ll pick up anytime.

What one needs to know about The Aristocats, is very little.

It was the first Disney animated film to be made after Walt’s death. He approved the story in 1966, the year of his death. It would take four years to complete.

Unlike most (but not all) of the animated features preceding The Aristocats, this film was inspired by a real story of a family of cats inheriting a lot of money. (Speaking of random true cat stories – why is there a cat for a mayor in Alaska?)

The Sherman Brothers composed the music. (Known for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, etc etc) except for Everybody Wants to be a Cat.  Watch this: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1015971/   Trust me.

The villain is not exactly intelligent (and not really much of a villain). The plot line is weak. As Jon stated, it is kind of like a weird combination of 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp with cats.

However, the story-writers had some interesting references:

Toulouse (the orange kitten)  is named for the French painter, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa.

Berlioz (the gray kitten) is named for Henri Berlioz, a French composer

Lafayette and Napoleon (the dogs) are named for French generals.  Speaking of Lafayette and Napoleon….if the film takes place in France, why do they have AMERICAN southern accents? Why do they want the motorcycle? I don’t even know. They happen to be my favorite characters.

I’m sure I’m missing something else in there.

We see the return of both Phil Harris (Thomas O’Malley/Baloo) and Sterling Holloway (Roquefort/Winnie the Pooh, the Stork, etc.) Along with the return of Thurl Ravenscroft (Tony the Tiger, the singer in The Grinch, and famous Disney Parks voice)

Odd little fact about a piece of animation: in the scene where the kittens are almost hit by a train, the animators didn’t draw the shakiness. They physically were shaking the screen. Budget cuts! WOO!

Other odd things:

I do like to point out that Uncle Waldo, one of the geese, is drunk. Why was he drunk? Someone was trying to cook him in a wine sauce. Guess they didn’t know you should probably kill and pluck the goose first. Anyway….previously we’ve seen the two kings (and their manservant) in Sleeping Beauty drunk, along with Dumbo, Timothy, and some clowns  in Dumbo, Gideon (the cat) and several boys in Pinnochio, and Bacchus and Jaccus in Fantasia drunk. In the next film, we’ll see Sir Hiss drunk.  In all, it’s a relatively small amount of characters who appear drunk. However, it is odd that they appear at all. There are some people that argue Walt was a drunk. There are others who argue against it. (On the other hand, there are much worse arguments about the man.)

Speaking of arguments about Walt (which I don’t believe true, but this blog is not the place for that discussion):  can we talk about just how racist “Everybody Wants to be a Cat” is? No? Okay.

Back to the geese….if they are trying to help the cats get home, why do the cats have to walk like geese? seems awfully nonproductive to me.

But the cats all magically live happily ever after (and don’t take 98 years to die).

I don’t understand a lot of things about this film. There’s certainly more questionable moments and motives than not. However, it’s still enjoyable.

GIFs to come.

 

 

 

Aristocats – Jon

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The era of Disney we’re in right now is in many ways the ones I remember as a child. I remember watching Jungle Book and 101 Dalmatians frequently as well as several of the later movies, but somehow, there’s a few films in there that, although I know they’re popular and I know I saw them, it wasn’t often. Aristocats is one of those movies; I have a vague recollection of it, but nothing coherent.

This movie is definitely a weird one. It’s like a blend of 101 Dalmatians and Lady & The Tramp. With cats. Which is cool. I like cats.

The plot of the movie is pretty straightforward. A crazy cat lady with no living relatives decides to leave her fortune to her cats instead of her hard working butler. He finds out, and decides to dispose of the cats so he can apparently inherit the riches. I’m not sure why crazy cay lady wouldn’t just find some new cats to dote upon thereby resurrecting the problem, especially since she wasn’t made to appear ill and obviously had several good years of life left.

Either way, he spirits the cat family away and dumps them near a creek. The family then has the journey home which is where the 101 Dalmatians parallel comes in. As they’re leaving, they meet Thomas O’Malley (the alley cat) who, as a ruffian tries to woo the high bred woman (paralleling Lady & The Tramp).

O’Malley is voiced by Phil Harris who I still can’t listen to without thinking of Baloo from Jungle Book.

Eventually the group makes it home after meeting some geese, their drunk uncle, and some jazz playing cats. Bad Mr. Butler nabs them and hides them in a sack in the oven and then tries to shove them in a crate that he ships to Timbuktu. But O’Malley rescues them and instead, the Butler falls in the crate and goes off for an extended vacation.

Timbuktu is one of those odd places that I know more references to it than I actually know about it. I know only one fact about Timbuktu and that’s that it’s a real place, not just some fictional place that’s just denoted to mean really far away (like the mythical land of B.F.E.). Rather, I know the name Timbuktu from this movie and Garfield since Timbuktu is where Garfield was always attempting to ship Nermal to.

Another geographical fact I remember from Garfield (this one’s not a “fact” in the sense of being true though… I think) is that Wyoming means “No state here” in some language or another. Why this sticks in my brain? I have no idea.

Other odd things popping up in my mind: The horse’s name in this movie is apparently Frou-Frou. Which happens to be the name of a band one of my favorite singers, Imogen Heap, belonged to awhile back. Is there a connection? Probably not directly.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about this movie. Sorry for the delays in posting!

Hiatus Update – Sarah

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Wowzers – it’s been a month since updating, and yes, it’s my fault.

I had to finish my last couple weeks of graduate school, then a much needed week in Disneyland. Promptly after my vacation, I had to pack to move. Once mostly moved, I didn’t have internet access. Lastly, my brother is moving across the country, so I’ve been volunteered to help fix up his house.

Needless to say, it’s kind of been like this:

Once Jon is back in town, we should hopefully be back up and running. In the meantime, I’m working on getting my backlogged posts up. Keep checking back!

Thank you so much for being understanding!

The Jungle Book – Sarah

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Oh…The Jungle Book.

This film is on my list of least favorite Disney animated films.  There are some great points, and some not so great. Alas, the trouble with watching the entire Disney animated canon is that you have to watch all of them – whether you like it or not.

As you would probably guess, The Jungle Book, like most of the Disney stories, was based on a book. In fact, it was a collection of stories, of the same name, written by Rudyard Kipling in 1894 and 1895. He also wrote Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, but I digress. Kipling was born in India, where the story is based. I can’t tell you how many people have told me it’s in Africa. Sorry, it’s not. Anyway, like all of the other stories adapted to Disney films, there are many many changes. But as this is a Disney blog, not a literary blog, I will just inform you that you may download the book for free, in its entirety from amazon. Walt, himself, told his animators not to bother reading the novel. He described what he wanted to see for himself.

The story was chosen at the suggestion of Bill Peet (see previous two films). Unfortunately for Bill, Walt hated his screenplay, causing Bill to quit. Bill Peet had worked with the company for twenty five years.

Despite my dislike of the film, there is much to be said about its place in Disney history, from its significance, to the artwork, to the characters, and to the music.

In the film, you will hear three particularly famous voices.

Playing the part of Kaa (my favorite character), the python, is none other than our old friend Sterling Holloway (the stork in Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, etc.)

Playing the part of Baloo, the bear, is Phil Harris. “Who?” you ask? He was a bandleader and a radio man. He will also be the voice of Thomas O’Malley in the Aristocats and Little John in Robin Hood (more on Little John in a couple weeks.) He would also give the voice to Baloo in Tale Spin before he was replaced.

And last, but not least, we have the return of Verna Felton, playing the female elephant. You’ll remember her as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, among other roles.

You will hear some of the music of The Sherman Brothers, but arguably not their most famous work. The song, The Bare Necessities (ha, it’s a bear singing it. get it?) was actually written by someone else, Terry Gilkyson..

The Jungle Book is also another example of reused Disney animation.
The wolf cubs in the beginning is reused animation of the puppies from 101 Dalmatians.

When Mowgli calls for the wolves (another beginning shot), that animation is reused from The Sword in the Stone.

The sequence of Baloo running with Mowgli after “I Want to Be Like You” is reused from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

More notable, which is rarely known, the designs of the elephants (along with some animation) was reused from a short entitled, “Goliath the Elephant.”  You may also recognize one or two elephants from Dumbo.

Other sequences from The Jungle Book will be used in later films, which we will discuss then. Why reuse animation? To save money. It’s as simple as that.

On the same note, the noise of Louie’s laugh is actually that of B’rer Rabbit’s from Song of the South.

My favorite fact about The Jungle Book, according to Ollie Johnson (one of the nine old men), Baloo’s entrance was acted out by Walt Disney. Ollie used his movements to create the scene.

Another fun fact was that Louis Prima (King Louie) and Phil Harris (Baloo) couldn’t sing “I Want To Be Like You” together due to scheduling conflicts. They recorded their parts separately. Phil’s part wasn’t completely scripted. He improvised quite a bit.

Last, but not least, the vultures are, indeed, supposed to resemble The Beatles, who were supposed to provide their voices. However, a scheduling conflict prevented the Liverpool band to oblige.

However, despite the fun facts, there is one fact that is the most important.

The Jungle Book would be the last animated film that Walt Disney would personally oversee. It would be released October 18th, 1967, after Walt’s death on December 15th of the previous year.  More on this in the next post.


Jungle Book – Jon

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“In the jungle, the mighty jungle….” things happen.

So. Jungle Book. Lemme tell you about a story about Sarah’s and my relationship with this movie.

About three years ago, Sarah and I were hanging out and for some reason we were talking about Disney movies. Weird. I know. And somehow, it turned to Jungle Book. And we both realized that, although we both grew up on quite a bit of Disney, this movie included, neither of us could remember what the hell it was about.

So we ran over to my parents house, grabbed the VHS they keep around for when family with little kids come over, and watched it.

Fast forward to this past weekend when we watched this movie for the blog, and we still couldn’t have told you what it was about. And I’m sure in a year, I won’t be able to tell you again. Why? Because, just like Sword in the Stone, this movie has a beginning, an end, and everything in between really doesn’t have anything to do with either.

The beginning is about a young human boy who is abandoned in the forest. He grows up with the animals and, at a tender young age, meets Jane. Wait. That’s not right. I’m thinking Tarzan.

The child, Mowgli, grows up with the animals and, at a tender young age, is voted out of the jungle because Shere Khan, a human hating tiger, is in that neck of the woods and is likely to eat the young lad. So to keep him safe, they decide he needs to go live in a human village. Either that, or the moral is that the expediency of tossing out an outsider to protect your own is just. Anyway, so the panther that originally found him, Bagheera, takes him off.

First, the two encounter a sneaky snake, Kaa, voiced by Sterling Holloway (Pooh) who tries to eat him. Because bony little human boys are delicious. What I took away from this is that the jungle was dangerous regardless of Shere Khan. But Khan is like, super badass, so I guess the comparison is moot.

Regardless, they sneak by him, and Bagheera and Mowgli get in a fight because Mowgli thinks he’s invincible and will take out a tiger. I guess he’s hitting puberty?

So Mowgli takes off only to meet a bear. But it’s a friendly bear. In fact, it’s a pretty awesome bear. It’s Baloo. I have a particular fondness for this bear, although not because of this movie, but because of the spinoff using the Jungle Book characters that appeared in 1990: Tale Spin. I can’t much remember what that was about either, but I know I did watch a lot of it as a child.

Baloo teaches him to be a bear with a really memorable song, but then some damn dirty apes kidnap Mowgli and there’s another good song. They want him to teach them to make fire. But he doesn’t know and Baloo comes to steal him back anyway. Baloo is convinced that Mowgli needs to go back to the man village, so there’s some direction back towards the plot, but then Mowgli runs off again only to get a Kaa redux. Thanks to Shere Khan interrupting Mowgli escapes only to run off into the forbidden lands (I suspect hyenas lurk there) and meet some buzzards.

This is another bit that, although the plot doesn’t stick with me, always did. The buzzards sit around taking about what they want to do. Of course the other buzzards are all, “I dunno. Wot you wanna do?” So whenever someone pulls that with me, I always respond “Ah, now don’t start that again.”

Most people don’t know what I’m talking about.

Mowgli wanders by and is feeling rather sad so they sing him a barbershop quartet song which is interrupted by Shere Khan who, surprise! wants to eat Mowgli. Baloo and Bagheera show up and there’s a rather unexciting battle with lots of hair pulling. Until lightning strikes some brush. Simba and Scar fight while everything’s on fire…. uh… Wrong movie again.

They all fight until Mowgli ties a burning branch to the tiger’s tail which apparently scares him off.

After the duel, they drop by a town and he sees a girl. Apparently he gets twitterpated because he completely forgets everything about the jungle and runs off after the girl (another Bechdel Test failure).

Oddly enough, there’s some precedent for this. The most famous is Victor of Aveyron. A child grew up in a forest in France and entered the town. He was adopted but never had a very good time of it. Language, for the most part, proved beyond his grasp and he never fit in.

But the movie doesn’t show any of that. Instead, it cuts off with him skirt chasing. And that’s why it’s a kids movie.

Sword in the Stone – Jon

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Oh hai. We’re back with some Sword in the Stone.

Classic story. King Arthur is probably one of the best known kings there’s been. Which is interesting. Because there’s debate to whether or not he actually existed. Contemporary references to him are sparse, vague, and many historians aren’t convinced. Whatever. He’s in good company.

The main story that people know has something to do with killer rabbits and holy hand grenades. There’s lots of components to the legend but the most enduring part is the eponymous portion for this movie: The pulling of the sword from the stone. Which has almost nothing to do with this movie.

Really, this movie can be summed up as follows: Arthur is a squire for a jerk. Merlin knows he’s going to make it big and thus goes all Obi-Wan to train the boy. Things happen. He pulls the sword from the stone and lives happily ever after.

There’s not even a damsel in distress. As with so many other Disney movies, this one bombs the Bechdel Test. Instead, we get a highly educated owl, Archimedes. I really like this little guy. Partly because he shares a voice actor with Rabbit from the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which we’ll get to in another decade or so.

I do have to say I like Merlin in this too. He’s rather eccentric, but he’s very big on the brain over brawn. So he turns him into a fish, squirrel, and bird which puts him in situations he has to think his way out of since it’s such an unfamiliar situation. He teaches him things like gravity, which won’t be discovered for a few hundred years. But Merlin’s up on it, because he’s a time traveler.

After going through all this training, Arthur ends up still being a squire to Jerk who takes them to a tournament in London which will determine who the king is. Because apparently everyone forgot that the rightful king is supposed to be the one that pulls the sword from the stone. Which Arthur does.

And suddenly the plot (and everyone else) forgets about anything that’s gone on and it’s all about the sword being pulled. Which wasn’t pulled out thanks to anything Merlin taught Arthur, but rather, due to a complete brain fart. Way to subvert the majority of the movie.

There’s a lot of good points to this movie, but the rather random feeling to the whole movie was kinda a buzzkill.

Meanwhile, Sarah’s still in Disney Land so she’ll be catching up on posts when she gets back. As a note, while writing this post she sent me a text saying “Oh my gosh, I’m going to need some convincing to catch up on blog posts”. So if you like reading this blog, please, leave a comment or share this site so we know that the traffic we see isn’t just google bots.

Hiatus Updatus – Jon

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Looks like there won’t be a post this week either. Sarah and I took a trip to Marceline, MO (Walt’s childhood home). She’ll have some pictures of that and I’m sure she’ll write up a post on it, but for now, she’s finishing up a 280 page paper for her master’s degree, so wish her luck.

In the meantime, walking around a midwest town on a sunny day with it being 90º out yesterday took its toll. We’d planned on doing a bit of catching up last night, but I ended up with no energy, a migraine, and 11 hours of sleep last night to recover. What a wonderful cinco de Mayo.

With any luck, we’ll be able to get in at least one or two movies next weekend between her graduation and leaving on a well deserved vacation.

In the meantime, io9 had a fun post on the math in Alice in Wonderland so check that out while we get everything in order on our end.

Brief Interlude

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I’ve been busy this week traveling for work and Sarah is busy with her final semester of grad school + moving. As a result, we’re not able to get together this week. With any luck we’ll be able to find some time during the week, but it’s not looking likely either. So we may be holding off until next weekend and doing a double feature.

101 Dalmatians – Jon

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Although the tagline Sarah and I came up with was “reliving childhood”, 101 Dalmatians is the first of the movies I’ve felt was a real part of my childhood. Although I’d seen most of the films up till now, they weren’t ones that my family had on VHS. This one we did.

Going into this movie, I expected that knowing what was happening next would make me more likely to fall asleep in the same manner that I can’t actually sit down and watch Star Wars anymore because I’ve seen it so many times I’m nearly asleep before the opening scroll is finished.

But as we watched this film, I found myself far more engaged with it than most of the rest of what we’ve watched thus far. This may have also had something to do with the fact that even among the Disney movies I grew up on, 101 Dalmations was a favorite. I even had a poster on the wall in my bedroom for quite some time.

As I used to go to sleep, in the darkness of the room, I used to stare at the patterns of spots on the puppies. Much like the face of a quintissential ghost made out of a sheet, I often saw faces in those spots. Some looked happy. Some looked angry. Many looked confused.

On nights I couldn’t sleep, I often wondered how many “faces” there were on the poster. Since the faces were composed of three spots arranged in a triangle, with two being the eyes and one being the mouth, should I count it if you “rotated” the triangle to change which were which? I no longer have the poster, but the question still intrigues me as a mathematical puzzle. Perhaps I’ll have to really sit down and consider it one day.

Regardless, the idea of seeing images from random placements and orientations of spots is a phenomenon we’ve discussed before. It’s pariedolia. Our minds are tuned to extract useful information from the general noise of the world, and this phenemenon is simply that process reaching too far and attributing meaning to nonsense.

Of course, it’s not always meaningless. Knowing that we have this propensity to see faces and ascribe meaning and emotion to them allowed animators in this movie to make Cruella DeVil the “evil thing” she was. For example, her car took on the appearance of an angry glaring face thanks to its headlights.

Cruella is also always shown in thick furs that make her silohette much larger than her true appearance. Again, our subconscious has something to say about this: Large things are more apt to be perceived as dangerous. Interestingly enough, the opposite is true. A recent study showed that when subjects were shown various images of hands holding various objects, we tend to anticipate that the bearer of someone holding a gun was larger than they actually were and larger than they, on average, rated the bearers of other objects. And by no small amount; the amount was somewhere between 10 and 20%.

I think this is why I have always liked Cruella as a villain. She doesn’t just get under your skin. She’s in your mind! She also has an annoying tendency of being omnipresent. Puppies are being born? She just happens to be in the neighborhood.

In the intro to the DVD, they featured an anti-smoking segment with Cruella’s green haze of smoke and Pongo wrinkling his nose with the tagline “Don’t be Cruel” (har har). Of course, it’s a bit of an oversight that Roger’s smoking is never depicted as particularly loathsome. I suppose the message is that smoking pipes that don’t leave green clouds is ok?

Anyway, plot.

Pongo and Roger live together and Pongo’s upset because he doesn’t get to do much so he decides to hook Roger up. The criteria? The woman should be pretty. That is all. Good to know dogs are shallow too (“fifteen puddles stolen? Balderdash!”).

He manages to find him a suitable mate and they fall madly in pond together. Oh, and she has a dalmation named Perdita for a dog too. Which is good. Those little dogs that fit in a purse are just dumb. Like dauchhunds. Wretched little things they are.

Pongo and Perdita end up having quite the litter together. Fifteen puppies. And Cruella wants ‘em. But Roger, who has an understandable dislike for her, refuses to sell.

So Cruella storms off (on the stormy night) and hires a pair of thieves (the bumbling sort that try to break into the home of kids that are Home Alone) to steal the puppies. They do, and take them to the DeVil mansion in suffolk along with 84 other puppies which were “bought and paid for” legally. Cruella plans to turn them into coats, but Pongo and Perdita use wrangle up the Lady & the Tramp crew and some other dogs to find ‘em.

When Pongo and Perdita learn where their puppies are, they set off to rescue them. After a montage they arrive just as the puppies make their escape. The two decide to adopt all the puppies and begin the trek back to London. Cruella and her sneakthieves chase them.

A few towns away, they plan to catch a moving van back to London, but Cruella cruises the street between their hideout and the van. So Pongo gets the bright idea of covering themselves in soot to look like Labradors. As if 101 Labradors wouldn’t be in any way suspicious. Especially if 17 of them had collars that were covered with soot…

But the baddies don’t appear to notice (I’m pretty sure it’s because Cruella had motor mania) at least until they get dripped on by melting snow and ice from the roofs, washing off the soot.

This prompts a furious car chase in which Cruella and the baddies end up crashed in a ditch, but otherwise unharmed.

The dogs all make it home and everything is peachy keen. Roger and Anita decide to keep all the puppies and move out to the country to start a dalmation plantation. Where they’ll presumably make lots more. And do what with them? Uh, I’m not sure, but I bet I know a buyer.

In fact, I bet Cruella would want to be a majority shareholder given she legally owned the vast majority of their puppy capitol. But I guess that slipped her mind. Perhaps she had a concussion from the crash and didn’t remember anything.

We might also wonder at the effect when Roger’s song about Cruella went viral. It could quite well be taken as slanderous, but then again, this was set in a far less litigious time period. Either that or she did take it to court and the judge decided it was accurate.

One can only hope.

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