The Great Mouse Detective – Jon

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The Great Mouse Detective is very obviously a Disney take on Sherlock Holmes. It starts off with a toymaker (Mr. Flaversham) being kidnapped in front of his daughter (Olivia) who then enlists the help of Basil of Baker Street in finding him along with Dr. Dawson. Basil is, of course, based on Basil Rathbone who is best known for playing Sherlock Holmes.

Basil is initially reluctant to help Olivia find her father until he realizes he was abducted by his arch rival Professor Ratigan. Not entirely sure what Ratigan is a professor of, mind you. Maybe he too has a PhD in horribleness. Regardless of his academic accomplishments, he intends to force Mr. Flaversham to use 1897 toy-making technology to create a anamatronic queen. It predictably isn’t going well, having all the life-like qualities of a Chuck e Cheese anamatronic. So Ratigan sends his peg-legged bat assistant to go get some new parts as well as other supplies at a toy-store.

But Basil, Olivia, and Dawson are on his trail. They enter the toy store and although Basil tells Olivia not to say a word, she makes plenty of noise and goes hyper ADD, getting herself kidnapped. Although, to be fair, she didn’t say a single line in that scene, so at least she’s got that going for her.

Basil and Dawson find the list of parts peg-bat was supposed to collect and use it to discover where Ratigan must be. They head to a seedy pub to investigate where there’s a rather suggestive burlesque show and Dawson gets drunk. This song and dance number almost upped the rating for the movie but Disney argued it was mice instead of people, so it’s totally cool. But, as I discovered when trying to look up character names, Rule 34 obviously disagrees. (The name is Ms. Kitty Mouse in case you cared.)

However, Ratigan was one step ahead and knew Basil would show up and sets a trap for him. He and Dawson are captured. Mr. Flaversham finishes the robot. Ratigan heads off to overthrow the queen and leaves Basil and Dawson in a Rube Goldberg death trap. Basil and Dawson escape and manage to escape and rush off to save crown and kingdom.

Meanwhile, the audience apparently completely fooled by the robot queen who announces Ratigan as her new consort. He bursts onto the stage looking super fabulous.

Fabigan

As a note, the trim (white with black spots) is ermine fur wherein ermine are a species of weasels which, in winter grow white fur with black tail tips. Not sure if the character design artists knew this or were just copying designs they saw historically, but this implies ultra-tiny weasels somewhere in this film’s universe. I find that funny for some reason.

Basil shows up behind the scenes, saves the real queen and outs Ratigan (no double entendre) as a fraud and the final chase/fight is on. Ratigan escapes on his blimp thing and the heroes manage to find some balloons to give chase. They end up crashing into the Big Ben clock tower where we get one of the first uses of CG in animating all the gears. There’s a serious “No Capes!” moment but Ratigan breaks free and a continued scuffle leads to him falling to his doom. At this point that hasn’t happened to too many villains (the only other one being the Wicked Queen in Snow White), but will be a trend soon.

nocapes

Overall, this movie definitely is getting away from the series of unrelated misadventures Disney has done for so long, with a consistent plot line and a minimization of extraneous gag scenes.

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Black Cauldron – Jon

Black Cauldron is a film that I have absolutely no memory of and may well never have seen it as a child. So about the only thing I knew about this movie going in is that it’s largely ignored mostly because it’s dark.

Immediately that reputation is confirmed as in the opening narration, it’s made clear that the eponymous cauldron is one that some ancient evil king was thrown into because he was so evil and unstoppable that the only way to get rid of him was to encase him in molten iron. Fast forward to the time the movie takes place and a new bad guy, the Horned King, wants the cauldron to raise an army of the dead.

Meanwhile, a kid named Taran is busy helping raise a pig that can magically show visions. Taran’s master tells him to take the pig (Hen Wen) to a cabin in the forest to hide her from the Horned King who has inexplicably found out about the piggie power. I’m curious as to how since apparently no one other than the master knows about this. I suspect magic is involved. But apparently not the magic that would have just told the Horned King where the cauldron is.

Taran starts taking Hen Wen to the forest cottage, but he’s so busy dreaming he’s a great warrior that he allows Hei Wei to be captured by a dragon who takes him to the Horned King’s castle. Taran runs into a silly dog looking creature, Gurgi, that sounds astoundingly like Gollum/Smeagol from the Lord of the Rings movies. Not just the voice the word choices as well. It was similar enough that I had to stop and see if they had the same voice actor. They don’t.

Next Taran sneaks into the Horned King’s castle to rescue Hei Wei and gets himself tossed in the dungeon. Princess Eilonwy rescues him and as they’re sneaking out of the castle, he finds a magic sword. They end up fleeing and not rescuing Hei Wei, but pick up an old bard, Fflewddur. No, I didn’t spell that wrong. Oddly enough, the bard never sings. In fact, there’s not a single song in the whole film. But we’ll come back to that.

For whatever reason, the trio goes in search of Hei Wei elsewhere, even though there’s no reason for them not to think she’s still being held by the Horned king. They fall into fairy land where the fairy king tells them where to find the Cauldron and sends one of his minions to take them to it. Oh, and reunites them with Hei Wei.

Turns out the Cauldron is in a marsh and being guarded by three witches who trade it for Taran’s magical sword. But joke’s on him because there’s no way to destroy the magic. Just nullify it’s powers. With a living sacrifice that enters it of its own free will.

Surprise! Bad guys show up and steal it. Thanks for finding it kid! The Horned King creates his army of the dead and everything’s about to be awful again when Gurgi shows back up and sets them free. Taran decides to throw himself into the cauldron but Gurgi beats him to it because he stole an apple from Taran and feels bad or something.

So the undead army starts being re-dead and it’s time for the Horned King and Taran to have the epic fight sequence. Except not. Because Taran isn’t much of the archetypal hero given that he still can’t fight and doesn’t have the magic sword that did the wee bit of fighting this film has seen for him. Instead, he just gives Taran a shove towards the Cauldron but he hangs on to something while the Cauldron’s magic goes out of control or something, and the Horned King falls in it instead. And that makes the castle fall apart because reasons.

The heroes escape and the witches show back up to take the Cauldron back since they think it’s useless now. But Fflewddur insists on a trade. They offer him the sword back, which is odd since they were so keen on it in the first place and the Cauldron is apparently useless. But Taran says he wants Gurgi back instead. Apparently this is something they can do because reasons.

The end.

So yeah. That was a mess of a film. It was a standard hero’s tale, but lacking many of the crucial elements as the hero never really heroed. The bard never barded. And the princess, well, we’re not really sure if she is a princess given the Horned King calls her a scullery maid at one point.

The film’s known for being a pretty big disaster. During a test screening, children literally fled the theater because scenes were too scary. In particular, the Cauldron releases a mist when it touched the Horned King’s living mercenaries there were graphic scenes of them dissolving into skeletons. This was cut.

To activate the Cauldron in the first place the Horned King obviously used a living sacrifice as there’s suddenly blood dripping onto the cauldron’s foot with no explanation except another cut.

The escape from the castle is another scene where there’s rumored cuts in which Taran is said to have killed some of his pursuers.

Not surprisingly, the film was a huge flop and nearly bankrupted Disney.

However, one of the highlights is the film’s score which was done by Elmer Bernstein who had just finished working on Ghostbusters. Not surprisingly, there’s some similarities between the two. In particular the use of a theremin for a spooky noise.

Fox and the Hound – Jon

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The beginning of this film starts off oddly quiet. Sufficiently quiet that I was fussing with my TV wondering why the sound wasn’t working. The pre-credits play and I’m not hearing anything. If I turned it up a ways, then I can hear some animal noises is that really…. OH CRAP! Sudden music! Turn it down!

Fox is running from hunter carrying its child. Gets shot and and it’s Bambi all over again.

So we have this poor orphaned fox that a nice owl and some birds decide to help get adopted. Pretty nice of them considering foxes eat birds. But they bring an old widow over and she adopts him. This sounds like a horrible idea to me given it’s a wild animal and has those pesky instinct things. Not that foxes can’t be domesticated. In fact they have been.

A Russian scientist, Dmitry Belyayev, conducted an experiment to try to recreate something akin to the domestication of the dog from wolves but with foxes. Every generation, only those that were the most tame were allowed to reproduce. As you’d expect from Darwinian evolution, tameness became a trait within the population. As it turned out, the initial experiment got Belyayev into quite a bit of trouble as holding to Darwinian evolution was a heresy in the USSR.

An agronomist named Trofim Lysenko had promised to triple crop yields with a technique known as vernalization which he claimed to have invented. In reality, the technique was decades old and nowhere near as effective as he claimed but it was sufficient to win him a great deal of respect from the government. His “accomplishments” then got picked up by the Soviet propaganda machines which created a feedback loop giving him even more prestige. However, Lysenko didn’t truly know what he was doing but still found himself leading the entire crop production for the nation. Scientists disagreeing with him were often fired, imprisoned, or even executed.

Fortunately for Belyayev, he got off light and only lost his position as head of the Department of Fur Animal Breeding at the Central Research Laboratory of Fur Breeding. However, in the 1950’s he resumed research under the pretense of studying physiology and in 1959 began the experiment in earnest. Although Belyayev passed away, the experiment is still ongoing and sells the domesticated foxes as pets, albeit for several thousand US dollars.

But the point is that pet foxes are something that take generations of very directed breeding to achieve. Taking one home is not the best idea.

Which is why we can’t be too upset with the widow’s crotchety neighbor who finds the fox (now named Tod) a nuisance. However, he’s just picked up a new puppy named Copper who he’s going to train to be a proper hunting dog with the help of his well seasoned dog Chief.

For some reason though, the neighbor keeps Chief on a chain but leaves Copper entirely free. He runs off and meets Tod. They play and become friends. But apparently too much freedom is too much and the neighbor puts Copper on a chain too. When Tod shows up to see why his buddy is missing, it causes a big to do culminating with Tod jumping into the widows truck while the neighbor shoots at him and it repeatedly thereby failing gun safety 101.

In a nice display of a woman being able to handle herself, the widow takes his gun and blows out the neighbor’s radiator with it but he still swears vengeance!

And so he promptly leaves with Chief to teach Copper how to hunt.

Next thing you know, they’re all growed up and home. Tod stops back to say hi, but Copper’s having none of it and tells him to get gone and there’s another big tussle culminating with Chief getting hit by a train which upsets Copper since he now finds Tod responsible for his mentor being injured and now he swears revenge too.

Knowing that Tod is in danger, the widow releases him in a nature preserve where hunting is not allowed, but crotchety old neighbor man don’t care about that. So he takes him and the dogs to go finish things. Meanwhile, Tod has met a pretty lady fox. They’re getting all swoony when trouble shows up. Another kerfuffle.

Surprise! It’s a bear!

Bear attacks the neighbor who steps in his own trap. Copper’s apparently only good for finding things. Not fighting them. But Tod saves them all. Hooray!

In the end, the old widow ends up patching the neighbor’s leg, laughing lovingly at him. Apparently the guy still gets the girl in this one even though he quite directly threatened her life.

Oh, and there was a whole sub-plot about the birds trying to eat a worm that ends up turning into a butterfly. I guess that’s supposed to be one of those metaphors about how people change. Even though the only character that really did change (other than the butterfly) was Copper who kind of ended up a jerk.

Great story Disney!

The Rescuers – Jon

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Released the same year as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Rescuers was actually the more popular of the films. It broke box office records for an animated film and even did well against one of of the largest movies of all times, Star Wars.

But for me, this movie doesn’t stand out. It’s certainly a welcome departure from many of the previous films which have been several shorter stories, or a sequence of largely unrelated events. The Rescuers has a strong narrative that continues throughout the film which I prefer. But something has always felt off about this movie.

The film starts with a young girl, Penny, tossing a message in a bottle into the water. The bottle drifts through a montage and ends up under a dock where it’s found by mice and the “International Rescue Aid Society” of adorable mice steps into help. The mission is given to Miss Bianca who inexplicably chooses Bernard as her assistant.

The duo heads to the orphanage mentioned in Penny’s message and get a tip from a cat that she may have run in with an unscrupulous pawn shop owner, Madam Medusa. They follow that up and their suspicions are quickly confirmed. They follow her to the Devil’s Bayou and discover that Penny is being held captive in order to have her fit into a cramped cave to look for the world’s largest diamond, the Devil’s Eye.

The mice help her find it. A scuffle ensues and with some comic help from a variety of critters, Penny escapes with the diamond, it ends up in the Smithsonian, and she’s adopted.

Perhaps what’s bothered me about the film is that the principal characters truthfully do very little. They’re mostly a vehicle for the narrative, but until they stumble across the diamond and then in the final scuffle, they hardly interact with any other characters to effect any of the narrative with Penny and the villains. There are brief interactions for comedic purposes, but those are of the sort that could be easily cut out of the film without making an effect on the plot.

Rather, Penny could have just as easily been the driver of the plot herself. In truth, she already does a good deal of not being the damsel in distress trope, actively seeking help, and running away repeatedly. With a bit more success, she wouldn’t even have needed rescuing.

Additionally, while Penny certainly isn’t living a secure life, we’re never given the impression that her danger is all that great. There’s hints that the villains are willing to let her drown in the cave, but this rings fairly hollow as then they have lost too since they would then apparently have no one to squeeze down there.

Which raises another question: It’s mentioned that the cave is a pirate cave, hence the reason for the treasure. But if full grown, adult pirates could get in, it suggests a child isn’t really necessary. So the whole basis seems a bit shaky. In addition, it’s never explained how the villains knew exactly where this treasure cave was. I mean, it’s awfully convenient that the Devil’s Eye diamond is in Devil’s Bayou. But that’s about as deep as it gets.

The film is also somewhat unusual in that most of the songs in the film are not sung by the characters, nor used as narrative elements. Rather they are thematic in nature, setting moods. In my opinion, this disrupted the flow of the film and hurt the pacing.

The art is a subject of debate in this film as well. It is often criticized for it’s “sketchy” appearance, although this is common in many Disney films of the era. I don’t have much of an opinion on that issue. What stood out to me much more is the overall color palette is darker washed out tones. This creates a dreary feeling for almost all of the film and reminds me a great deal of 101 Dalmatians. However, that film had notably brighter scenes which helped to create a better contrast between them. In particular, the park where Pongo and Perdita first meet is well lit, as is their home. In The Rescuers we don’t get that same contrast, by and large. The times that stood out most for being well lit was the opening scene at the United Nations and as Madam Medusa removed her makeup. This did not create the same emotional correlation as 101 Dalmatians.

Ultimately, I quite like Madam Medusa as a villain. Her character is certainly drawn from Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmatians but in turn was drawn from for later Disney villain Ursula in The Little Mermaid. Most notably, Medusa’s crocodiles are similar to Ursula’s eels.

The diamond itself is also an interesting element. It’s stated that it’s the “world’s largest” and Medusa also mentions it is “perfect.” In her pawn shop there was a poster on the wall noting that she purchased diamonds, so she’s probably familiar with how they’re valued and is absolutely correct that splitting such a stone would be asinine.

But the question in my mind is how much it’s worth. Currently the world’s largest cut diamond is the Cullinan I which is part of the crown jewels of England. This one is 2.3″ long, so likely somewhat smaller than the one in The Rescuers, which was somewhat larger than Penny’s fist. The stone is 530 carats but was originally cut from a larger stone weighing 3,106 carats. However, natural diamonds are often full of imperfections which are cut around as best as possible to maximize the quality of the final products. However, being that these are royal jewels, it’s hard to estimate their value, since nothing of their size or history has ever come up for sale.

More recently, in September of 2017, the largest rough diamond currently in existence, weighing 1,109 carats, was sold for $53 million. This diamond seems more like the size of what was shown in The Rescuers. However, the movie stone is likely worth more since it is cut. But overall, I’d expect the value of the Devil’s Eye to be in the range of $100 million today.

This begs the question of who actually owns the stone? As best I can tell, laws within the US generally stipulate that the discoverer owns it unless the previous owner or their descendants can be discovered. Pirates aren’t exactly known for mining their own diamonds or cutting them which suggests that this diamond was previously owned by a known individual who may well have living descendants to whom it would belong.

However, if that’s not the case, then Penny would likely be the legal owner. But could Medusa then sue for ownership claiming she sponsored the expedition to find the stone? Perhaps Penny’s troubles with Madam Medusa aren’t quite over…

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Jon

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Life happened. I had a job that require me to travel for work 3 out of 4 weeks of the month. Sarah finished grad school and has been doing teacher things. Funny how teachers are way more busy than you’d expect. We still see each other sometimes, but mostly to play Pokemon Go.

But I lost that job and while I’m finding a new one, I’m going to watch me some Disney.

And apparently next on my list is the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Unlike many of the movies we’ve watched in the past, this one is definitely one I remember from childhood. Likely because it’s one of the ones I had on VHS and when I was sick, it was a favorite of things to watch. It probably didn’t hurt my memory building that there was also a New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh TV show when I was a kid too.

While the film is animated, it always starts with a minor head fake for me such that it begins with a short live action set of shots in what is presumably a child’s playroom establishing that Pooh and the other characters (with the obvious exception of Christopher Robin) are all stuffed animals. This is stated in the narration too, but eventually we see the book from which everything is based. It opens and this is where we start to see the animation within the context of the pages.

I absolutely love this framing device. It’s one that runs throughout the film such as where Pooh is “sailing clean out of the book! Quick turn the page!” The tune is annoyingly catchy and does a wonderful job of introducing all the principal characters. It’s probably my favorite opening of any Disney film but there’s always one part that bothers me. It’s when Pooh hops along the letters labeling his home. He jumps straight on the point of the “A” and damn if that doesn’t always look sharp enough to make me wince. I always feel like he’s going to need some stitches to keep his fluff and stuff from bleeding all over the page.

 

pooha

Pooh goes on to do his stoutness exercise. As a perpetually skinny kid, this always seemed funny to me: Exercising to be tubby. I mean, I get that the idea is to expend energy to make one hungry, but I was always hungry anyway but never gained weight. Then my metabolism slowed down and I don’t have that problem anymore. Dammit.

But I guess the exercising may really need to be more like exorcising since Pooh spins his head around like the kid in the Exorcist. That never weireded me out as a kid but it sure does now. And I’m not the only one. I just googled “Pooh exorcist” and this was the first thing that came up.poohexorcist

So Pooh gets hungry and needs some honey. But he doesn’t do well at finding it himself and goes to seek help from Christopher Robin in the form of a balloon so he can turn himself into an inconspicuous “little black rain cloud.” As he approaches Christopher Robin’s pile of stuff, it’s never struck me that Pooh knew exactly what his plan was. He always looked confused in my eyes. But for a “bear of very little brains” he sure comes up with a plan quickly.

Regardless, the little black rain cloud scene is one that’s certainly stuck with me since being a kid. Any time I see dark rain clouds on the horizon, I always think to myself, “Tut, tut. It looks like rain.”

Meanwhile, I also find the balloon curious in and of itself. Mostly because there’s not many sorts of gasses with which a balloon can be filled to float. Hydrogen and helium are the only real choices. And I’m forced to wonder which sort this particular balloon was. There’s no way that either one could provide enough upwards force to lift Pooh, but helium was still fairly rare in the early 1900’s (the book was written in 1926). As such, it’s entirely possible that this balloon was filled with explosive hydrogen (think Hindenburg disaster). Only a few years earlier, New York passed a city ordinance banning hydrogen balloons as someone lit some decorative hydrogen balloons at a city function which badly burned a city official.

The next scene has Pooh overeating at Rabbit’s house and then getting stuck on the way out. I’ve never understood why Rabbit seems to have a dozen jars of honey. Seems a bit excessive. And why, upon getting stuck, did they not immediately reverse course and have Pooh use the back door which is much more Pooh sized? I suspect Rabbit dug the hole to his burrow so why not dig around Pooh and get him out? Nope. Can’t do that. Instead they cruelly let him starve for days. Weeks? Months? Who knows?

However, this scene does introduce us to Gopher who I’ve always had a fondness for. I’m a sucker for puns and every piece of misunderstanding of his comes in this form. Similarly, his token line of “I’m not in the book, you know?” refers both to a phone directory as well as the original source material. Did phone books even exist in 1926? I feel like at that point you’d just dial the switchboard to be connected.

The third chapter is the blustery day. This one isn’t one that I remembered much of, except the phrase “Happy Windsday” which I still say frequently if we have a windy Wednesday.

Owl gets his tree blown over and his home destroyed but seems surprisingly nonchalant about it.

That night Tigger is introduced who warns Pooh about the heffalumps and woozles, which gives him nightmares. Which gave me nightmares. Seriously. Their scene is super acid trippy. Reminds me of the pink elephant scene in Dumbo.

Next up we get the Hundred Acre wood flood. Where everyone’s home is destroyed. Oh noes. Meanwhile, all these toy animals are getting wet which seems like a good way to get a lot of mold growing in them. Probably not best to have them around kids anymore. Which makes me think of the Velveteen Rabbit in which the toy in that book was to be burned to prevent it from reinfecting its owner. Cheerful, right? (Spoilers: The fairies save it by turning it into a real rabbit.)

Tigger bounces too many people and they decide to abandon him in the forest overnight to scare the bounce out of him. But then Rabbit and Pooh get lost instead and there’s terrifying things like screaming caterpillars. As a side note, I’ve generally hated camping. I wonder why.

Having not learned his lesson, Tigger bounces himself into a tree which does very nearly scare the bounce out of him. But he then decides otherwise. So… lesson learned?

The Christopher Robin is sent away to boarding school and the toys are left out in the forest.

The End.

 

 

Why is it snowing on this blog?

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.