unshaved mouse

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The Thief and the Cobbler (1993)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

Oh boy.

Where do I start I don’t even?

Movies, as a general rule, do not happen overnight. Making a film is a long, laborious, expensive process and can take years. Even so, some movies just take this to ridiculous extremes. The longest production time on record for a live action film is the twenty years it took Leni Riefenstahl to finish Tiefland. That record is surpassed by only one other film, our subject for today, Richard Williams’ legendary, famous, infamous, infamfamous unfinished crapasterpiece The Thief and the Cobbler. Thirty one years. In the same length of time it took this movie to see theatres, I went from a sperm to a person writing these words. Thirty one years. And, keep in mind, at least Riefenstahl had the excuse of the SECOND WORLD WAR happening in mid-production.

"I honestly could not give two fucks yada yada etc and so forth."”

“I honestly could not give two fucks yada yada etc and so forth.”

So what’s Williams’ excuse?

Alright, so time for backstory.

While he doesn’t have anything like the name recognition of animators like Don Bluth or Ralph Bakshi, Richard Williams is serious business in the world of animation. He emigrated from his native Canada to Britain in the fifties and helped himself to a Bafta for his animated short The Little Island. He was twenty five. That launched a long and often highly acclaimed career in animation with Williams’ picking up an Emmy and a couple of Oscars.

The Bafta was lonely.

The Bafta was lonely.

In 1964, Williams began work on Nasruddin! the movie that would eventually become The Thief and the Cobbler. Williams was not humble in his goals. This film was going to be his masterpiece, and raise the bar for animation as an artform. Instead it turned into a logistical nightmare that dragged on for decades, with story and characters being dropped and re-written and backers pulling out. Williams had a vision for the film; animation for adults with very little dialogue. But the various investors he found over the decades also had a vision; they wanted to make money. Williams refused to commercialize the work and for long periods of the production had to fund it himself with the proceeds from various animation gigs. A breakthrough finally came when Williams showed some footage to his friend and mentor, Disney animator Milt Kahl. Kahl, realising that his apprentice had indeed become strong in the ways of the force, showed the footage to Stephen Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis and before long they were sidling up to Williams and asking questions like “Sooooooo…how do you feel about rabbits?”

Williams’ agreed to do the animation chores for Roger Rabbit in exchange for help distributing Thief. After Roger made enough money to buy one of the nicer continents and got so much critical adoration that everyone just started feeling a little embarrassed, Warner Bros agreed to bankroll the project and Williams got to work. He recruited some of the hottest young talent from the animation schools of Europe to replace the original animators, most of whom were now gone. And I don’t mean gone as in “moved on to other projects” I mean “they were taken by the icy hand of death which comes for us all in the end.” Which is what happens when your movie takes longer to complete than, I dunno, a pyramid. But at last Williams was ready to finally finish the film. He had the money. He had the talent. What could possibly go wrong?

"He went craaaaaaazy..."

“He went craaaaaaazy…”

Yeah, so as well as being a phenomenal animator Williams was kind of an insane crazy person. He was a fanatical perfectionist and any animator who wasn’t able to meet his insanely high standards was kicked to the curb. According to one source, literally hundreds of animators were pink-slipped. Making matters worse, Williams…

I’m sorry, this is hard for me to even say.

Williams…Williams didn’t believe in using storyboards. Because he felt they were “too limiting”.

Alice Facepalm

Alright, so imagine you have two architects, okay? One sits down, draws a blueprint for a building, decides it’s crap and then throws it away. The other just starts building. And by the time he’s built twenty stories he realises that the building is crap and has to be torn down. Both architects failed to create a building. But one of them has a rolled up ball of paper, and the other has several million quids worth of wasted time and building material. Williams is the second guy.

Because he didn’t use storyboards and basically allowed his animators to improvise scenes on the fly, the only way to figure out that a particular scene wasn’t working was when it was already at least partially animated. Fail to plan, plan to fail etc.

So by 1991 the movie’s still not finished and is massively overbudget (please, no shrieks of astonishment) and Disney are prepping Aladdin for release, a movie that some might say is rather suspiciously like Thief and the Cobbler. Some might say that. I wouldn’t. I say, yeah, you take thirty one years to make a movie someone somewhere will make a movie like it. Law of averages, baby. Warner Brothers finally threw up their hands and said “Screw this, we got superheroes to ruin” and pulled out. And then The Completion Bond Company stepped in which is never a good day.

"We are the ones people call when things go wrong."

“We are the ones people call when things go wrong.”

Animation producer Fred Calvert was appointed by the bond company to hack the movie into something marketable. Calvert renamed the movie The Princess and the Cobbler and tried to make it as close to Aladdin as possible. Miramax bought the rights on behalf of Disney and then did their own hatchet job on it, casting celebrity voices and releasing it under the title Arabian Knight before finally letting it limp to video under its original title of The Thief and the Cobbler. Part of the problem with reviewing this movie is that there are so many different versions of it, the first Calvert cut, the Miramax edit and the (at time of writing) four Recobbled cuts, which are filmmaker Garret Gilchrist’s attempts to restore the film to William’s original vision or as close as possible. For clarity, I’ll be reviewing the Miramax version because that’s the one I have on DVD and it features Matthew Broderick who I haven’t made fun of recently. Come my friends, let us gaze upon the beauty and the carnage.


"Get this guy outta my face Mouse."

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

I hate to open a review with such a cranky, old man line as “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore”.
So I won’t.
Good to be back everyone! Missed you all and your sweet, ego-affirming pageviews.
Now then.
My hairy BOLLOCKS but they don’t make them like this any more, do they?
Fittingly,given its dual nature, Who Framed Roger Rabbit occupies a special place in both the history of mainstream Hollywood blockbusters and American animation. It’s a central text in what was something of a golden age of the big summer tentpole picture (Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future). But it’s as an animated movies that Roger Rabbit has its real significance. Chances are, if not for this movie a whole load of the films I’ve reviewed here would never have happened. Firstly, let’s take a look at the state of American animation in the late eighties. Theatrical shorts have gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage and the wireless-polisher. Disney feature animation is in a creative rut, and only Ralph Bakshi and a few others, working furtively from a secret rebel base, keep the full length animated film alive as an artform. The vast bulk of animation is now on television, rushed, cheaply produced, schilling for the toy industry and stifled by increasingly conservative broadcast standards for whom anything harder than the Smurfs is pushing the envelope. Large packs of feral dogs roam the landscape, and cannabalism is rife.
Bad times, is what I'm sayin'.

Bad times, is what I’m sayin’.

Disney snapped up the rights to Gary K. Wolf’s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? in 1981 as soon as it hit the bookshelves. Apart from sharing a few character names and some very broad plot points, the book and film aren’t even on speaking terms. The book is set in the present (well, the eighties) and Roger and his fellow toons are newspaper cartoons (with Hagar the Horrible, Dick Tracy and other characters making cameos). I haven’t actually read the book but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the movie vastly improves on the source material. For one, having cartoon characters working in the old Hollywood studio system just feels much more organic and setting it in the forties makes it feel more like a film noir. I’m not the only one who thought so either, Wolf’s later novels in the series went out of their way to tie themselves more closely to the movie, even retconning the whole first novel as a dream of Jessica’s.
And if that scene did not involve her stepping out of the shower a lá Bobby Ewing then there is no God.

And if that scene did not involve her stepping out of the shower a lá Bobby Ewing then there is no God.

Robert Zemeckis was attached to direct as early as 1981 but was given the boot by Disney when two of his films tanked at the box office. The project then kicked around the studio for a few years until Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzanbur…Katzenbar…(dammit just once I am going to spell his name right) KATZENBERG stepped in and applied the paddles. Eisner and Herr Skull were united in their belief that Roger Rabbit was going to be the movie to relaunch Disney as the pre-eminent force in American animation. Initially, the idea was that the film’s animated sequences would be done by Disney’s own in-house animation team. Then Eisner took Katzenberg down to the basement where the debased remains of that once great cadre of animators was kept.
“What…what are they?” Katzenberg asked in a strangled whisper.
Eisner simply stared ahead and said: “They were once men.”
Clearly, some fresh talent was going to have to be brought in to pull off what was going to prove to be one of the most technically challenging feats in the history of animation. Canadian-British animator Richard Williams was brought in along with a crack-team of international animators (many who would later be brought in to work on the Disney movies of the renaissance). Williams didn’t want to go to Los Angeles, like any sane person, and insisted on working in London resulting in the entire production being moved to England to accommodate him, hence why most of the live action cast are British.
Zemeckis was also brought back on to direct since in the intervening years he’d gone from “failed director” to “man who can just stand in a room and cause money to rain down at will”.  The international shoot and pioneering special effects combined into the most expensive production for an animated movie that there had ever been, with costs so high that Katzenberg had to talk Eisner out of pulling the plug. When the movie finally rolled into theatres $40 Million dollars over budget there was a whole lot riding on it.


So now what happens?

So. We’re finally here. The end of the canon Disney reviews. And a lot of people have been asking what will happen when we get here, so let me just answer the most common questions right off the bat.
Is this the end of Unshaved Mouse?
NO. I still love doing it, hopefully you still enjoy reading it so I see no reason to stop now.
“But”? “But”, what “but”?
Alright, so there’s something you all should know. Earlier this year I got pretty much the best news of my entire writing career and was commissioned by the Abbey Theatre to write a play for them.
Big deal
I’ve been working on the first draft for the last few months and it’s due to be handed in early 2015. Now, ideally, I want to keep updating Unshaved Mouse as regularly as I have before but I may occasionally have to take a break here and there to keep on top of this. Sorry. It’s a choice between doing something I love and doing something I love and actually getting paid for it, so…yeah.
What happened to you Mouse? You used to be cool.
I was never cool, shut your lying mouth.
Alright, so what’s next for Unshaved Mouse?
A lot, including some stuff I’m extremely excited about so listen up.
  1. A break. I’ve been doing the blog  almost nonstop for the last two years so I think this is a natural point to take a rest. I’m taking off October and November and there should be a new review up 03 December. Depending on how the play is going and Christmas, I’ll try to get a second review in some time in December and then by the new year I hope to be back at full speed.
  2. Finishing off the Joanna reviews. So many people donated to Joanna, that, amazingly, I still have enough reviews scheduled to last us into the middle of 2015. There’s a great mix of movies still to come, stop motion, animé, nostalgic fair and even a few episodes of cartoon shows. Once I’ve paid off all debts however, that’s when the next chapter of Unshaved Mouse really begins.
Just tell us what series of movies you’re doing next already!
Alright, here we go…
Yes, from around July 2015 onward I will be reviewing all the movies based on Marvel comics characters (hey, they’re owned by Disney, it’s a logical step). I’ll be reviewing the good, the bad, the awesome and the aborted pilots of seventies TV shows and may God have mercy on my soul. This will be the new “regular” series, like the canon Disney movies were before.
Okay, well, tootles!
What? Wait, where you going?!
I’m an animation fan Mouse, why would I stick around for a bunch of live action movies?
Well, for the quality of my writing and analysis…
Have a good life.
Stop! I will still be reviewing animated movies!
Does that mean you’re still going to be doing reader’s requests?
Glad you asked, mysterious person who only speaks in boldface. The answer to that is…kind of.
Don’t play coy with me, rodent.
Alright look, there’s no reason to drag taxonomic orders into this. The success of the funding drive for Joanna really got me thinking about how I could use that to…
Oh my God, you’re going to start making money off this, aren’t you?!
NO. I use a lot of copywritten material in this blog which is Fair Use as long as this is just a hobby I’m doing for my own entertainment and yours. Once I start using it to line my own pockets, it becomes a lot more ethically dubious. What am I’m talking about is using the blog to raise money for charity, so we can all do some good and hopefully have a lot of fun too.
Go on.
I am hereby announcing the Unshaved Mouse Charity Movie Deathmatch! I hope to raise money for a very worthwhile cause, Love Without Boundaries.
How does it work?
Step One Caption
If there’s a movie you’ve always wanted me to review, sound off in the comments below. As many as you like. As long as it’s either animated or based on a comic book it’s a contender. I’ll also accept live action Disney movies like Maleficent or Saving Mr Banks.
I will select around twelve of those movies and over the course of a month, you the readers will vote on the movies you want me to review, with the top three getting the treatment. How do you vote?
Step 3 Caption
Democracy is overrated. Plutocracy is what all the cool kids are into these days! To vote, simply make a donation to Love Without Boundaries, email the receipt to unshavedmouse@gmail.com and tell me what movie gets your vote. You can donate as many times as you like (please do), and vote as many times as you like (please do).
Step 4 caption
We sit back and watch the carnage unfold as factions are formed, blood is spilt, the tension, the drama, who’s ahead, who’s behind and best of all it’s all for a great cause.
Step 5 caption
The winners get reviewed and you all get to complain that Secret of NIMH was robbed or whatever.
So who’s getting my money?
Love without Boundaries is an organisation that works to help children in Chinese orphanages, raising money for medical procedures, providing better food and education and helping to connect children with prospective foster families. It’s strictly volunteer (none of their workers collect a salary) and is rated four out of a possible four stars by Charity Navigator.
Seems like a great cause Mouse, but I’m broke.
You can still help out. For starters, let me know what movies you want to be in contention. If a movie gets plenty of nominations then I’ll know there’s a lot of interest for it. Second, please share this on the Face Book and the Twitters.
When do we begin?
Movie Deathmatch is going to run for all of February 2015. At the end of each week the I’ll announce the state of play and eliminate the two lowest scoring movies with the three winners being announced at the end.
Screw the wait, I want to help people NOW!
Here’s the link to Love Without Boundaries and be sure to hold onto your email receipt when February rolls around. And thank you.
You gonna review Big Hero Six?
Sigh. Yes. Once it comes out on DVD.
Mouse out.
NEXT UPDATE: 03 December 2014
NEXT TIME: Hmmm…how can I be sure you’ll all come back after such a long hiatus?
Do I have your attention?

Do I have your attention?


Disney Review with the Unshaved Mouse #53: Frozen

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

"Come again?"

“Come again?”

""Well…I was wondering if you wanted to come over and destroy me? You know? Like old times?"

“Well…I was wondering if you wanted to come over and destroy me? You know? Like old times?”

"You…want me to destroy you?"

“You…want me to destroy you?”

"Yeah, you know. You trap me in some alternate universe and then I escape and…you know?"

“Yeah, you know. You trap me in some alternate universe and then I escape and…you know?”

"Mouse. What’s this all about?"

“Mouse. What’s this all about?”

"Oh. Well, see I’m supposed to be reviewing Frozen…"

“Oh. Well, see I’m supposed to be reviewing Frozen…”







“I know!”

“I know!”

"It seems like just yesterday that…"

“It seems like just yesterday that…”

"I know, right?"

“I know, right?”

"Well congratulations!"

“Well congratulations!”

"Thank you."

“Thank you.”

"No, seriously. I mean, you know. You stuck with it through to the end."

“No, seriously. I mean, you know. You stuck with it through to the end.”

“Well, you know, it was all for the fans…"

“Well, you know, it was all for the fans…”

"That’s just…go you."

“That’s just…go you.”

"See, the thing is, I think people are expecting some kind of big epic climax with all the plotlines of the last two years just being tied up neatly and I just thought that since you’re my arch-nemesis…"

“See, the thing is, I think people are expecting some kind of big epic climax with all the plotlines of the last two years just being tied up neatly and I just thought that since you’re my arch-nemesis…”

"I’m your arch-nemesis? Really?"

“I’m your arch-nemesis? Really?”

"Well yeah, I mean…amn’t I your arch-nemesis?"

“Well yeah, I mean…amn’t I your arch-nemesis?”

"Oh…of course you are. (Yikes)."

“Oh…of course you are. (Yikes).”

"So…you want to come over?"

“So…you want to come over?”

"You know Mouse, I’d love to but I don’t really have a lot of time what with this new job…hang on, call on the other line."

“You know Mouse, I’d love to but I don’t really have a lot of time what with this new job…hang on, call on the other line.”



"Thank you for calling EA customer support, your call is important to us. Please hold. Sorry, where were we?"

“Thank you for calling EA customer support, your call is important to us. Please hold. Sorry, where were we?”

"The Frozen review."

“The Frozen review.”

"Right. Right. Listen, Mouse you’re overthinking this. Is this going to be the last review you do?"

“Right. Right. Listen, Mouse you’re overthinking this. Is this going to be the last review you do?”

"Well, no."

“Well, no.”

"Right. Then it’s not an ending. You don’t need a big climax. And besides, if you just try to cram in as many cameos and running jokes as you can it’s just going to turn into a massive circle jerk. Your readers just want to see you review a movie they love. Trust your instincts, do the best job you can and that’ll be enough."

“Right. Then it’s not an ending. You don’t need a big climax. And besides, if you just try to cram in as many cameos and running jokes as you can it’s just going to turn into a massive circle jerk. Your readers just want to see you review a movie they love. Trust your instincts, do the best job you can and that’ll be enough.”

"Wow. You're right. Thanks HK."

“Wow. You’re right. Thanks HK.”

"Think nothing of it. Soon I shall destroy you."

“Think nothing of it. Soon I shall destroy you.”

What crushing burden of expectation?

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #52: Wreck-It Ralph

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)


Before we get into Wreck-It Ralph there’s something I want to say.
See this? This is Loki.
He’s a lying, traitorous, sociopath who brought untold death and destruction on Earth and plotted on several occasions to murder his own foster brother and father.
The ladies of the internet love Loki. And you know what? I get that. He’s charming, he gets all the best lines, he’s got a tragic backstory and he loves his muddah. And he’s played by Tom Hiddleston, who’s a right bit of yum. Ladies of the internet? I get it.
See this? This is Turbo.
Y’all are fuckin’ nuts.
I’ve mentioned before how Disney movies often take their sweet-ass time from conception to release (for example, the movie that eventually became Frozen was first conceived in 1937) and Wreck It Ralph is no exception. Disney first toyed with the idea of making a movie set in the world of video games (then titled High Score) all the way back in the 1980s, back when you could be forgiven for thinking that these new-fangled “video games” were just a passing fad that would soon be swept aside by the next big thing.

In hindsight, Disney dodged a bullet by not green-lighting POGS: The Movie.

“What?” I hear you cry (Mouse hears all) “Disney almost made a movie about video games thirty years ago.” Of course they did. This was eighties Disney. Desperate, starving, try-anything-to-seem-relevant Disney.
Make-a-pact-with-the-forces-of-pure-evil-for-a-chance-of-making-some-bank Disney Oh-God-what-were-they-thinking? Disney.

Make-a-pact-with-the-forces-of-pure-evil-for-a-chance-of-making-some-bank Disney
Oh-God-what-were-they-thinking? Disney. 

And frankly, I don’t think we missed out on anything. I’ve mentioned already how I feel that some movies in the canon were made in the wrong era. For example, I will eternally lament the fact that the Peter Pan we ended up with was the pastel-coloured, safe, stultifyingly conservative Restoration era movie we got and not the gorgeous, dark, wild, Tar and Sugar movie that might have been. Wreck-It Ralph is not one of those movies. Wreck-It Ralph is like a wizard. It was neither late, nor early. It arrived precisely when it needed to. Firstly there’s the animation. I’ve made my peace with the notion of CGI canon movies. They’re here to stay, they can be done very well and I just have to live with it. But while I would have loved to see a traditionally animated Frozen or Tangled I can’t say the same about Wreck-It Ralph. This movie needed to be in CGI because, duh, these are computer generated characters. A cel-animated Wreck-It Ralph would just feel wrong. But aside from that, the world of computer games is just such a deeper subject for exploration now than it was in the eighties. There is a culture and lore and mythos to be mined that just wasn’t there thirty years ago. The whole medium is a thousand times broader and more diverse, and in fact some of the very best stuff in this movie is seeing character from vastly different generations and genres of game reacting to each other.
But was the movie worth waiting thirty years for?
Yes. Yes it was. Let there be absolutely no mystery of suspense on that point.
But just for hoots and chuckles, let’s take a look at the film.




See this guy here? This is my brother John. And he’s basically just been crowned King of the Impressions in Ireland.

(Fair warning, a lot of the celebrities he impersonates are Irish so you’re just going to have to take my word for it that he nails them to the frickin’ wall)

Since uploading this video he’s become something of an internet sensation. I’m very proud of him naturally, but as his older brother I feel it is my duty to make sure that he doesn’t get too up himself.

Also, I owe him for the time he broke my collarbone. And the time he split my head open with a rock. And the story that he told in his best man’s speech about the encounter between me and that Moldavian hooker that was nothing but a tissue of half-truths from beginning to end.

So, John, I’m calling you out.

An Impression Off. You versus me. Man versus Mouse. 25 characters chosen at random.

The winner gets bragging rights and the loser’s share of the inheritance.

You in? Or are you going to show them that your best impression is of a certain farmyard animal?


“He’s insulting both of us!”

Oh, and just FYI, the impression that you say is of Young Biff is actually Griff, his grandson from Back to the Future 2.

Tsk, tsk, tsk.


"Youre getting sloppy, Mouse."

Labyrinth (1986)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
Some days are harder than others in this job unpaid perpetual indentured servitude.
This review came about because one of my very, very closest friends donated embarrassingly generously to Joanna and simply asked that I review a beloved childhood movie of hers, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.
And now I’m going to crap all over it because I’m classy like that.
Oh, and she’s just announced that she’s engaged (Congratulations Fleur!).
Sorry to everyone who loves this film and I know there are many of you. Sorry to fans of David Bowie and Jim Henson (of which I consider myself one on both counts). Apologies to all you ladies out there (and a not inconsiderable number of you gentlemen) for whom the sight of David Bowie in those pants was your Leia in a Gold Bikini.
This is one nostalgia wave you must surf alone while I sulk on the beach complaining about the sand up my crack.
Don’t like it. Never have.
Labyrinth came about during the filming of Dark Crystal when director Jim Henson and concept artist Brian Froud started throwing ideas around for a movie that would be similar to Dark Crystal but maybe a tad less traumatising for the man cubs. Froud is an absolutely phenomenal fantasy artist, but unfortunately his work is often little more than pro-fairy propaganda, and I cannot recommend any artist who’d try to burnish the image of those baby-snatching, milk souring, potato mooching, cow-hassling little mother…
Sorry, sorry. I swore when I began this review I wasn’t going to let this turn into an anti-fairy screed.
Anyway, Labyrinth began and remained to the end more of a showcase for Froud’s designs and the Henson company’s animatronic wizardry than a real attempt to tell a story. The movie is really just another entry into the surprisingly large genre of “young girl enters a strange land, makes some weird friends and sees some craaaaaaazy shit man”, joining such other exemplars of the form as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and that time your older sister went backpacking in Amsterdam.
David Bowie was cast as the Goblin King Jareth, over other possible choices like Sting and Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson as the Goblin King is one of those things that could have gone very, very right or very, very wrong but on the whole I think they made the right choice with Bowie. He’s still not my perfect casting for the role though.

I should be a casting director. I should live in Hollywood and have a big house and a fancy car.

George Lucas produced, Bowie provided songs, Monty Python vet Terry Jones wrote the script and the puppeteering features work by veterans like Jim Henson and Frank Oz. A lot of talented people and George Lucas worked on this. No question.
So what’s my beef?
Let’s take a look.
So the movie opens with a barn owl flying over the credits in what is actually the first ever attempt at rendering a photo-realistic animal in CGI in a motion picture. It always bowls me over to think that, far from being new or cutting edge, computer animation has been used in film for well over three decades now. As 1980s computer animation goes it’s…not at all bad actually. I mean, it’s clearly CGI but the animation is fluid and realistic and it actually holds up pretty darn well.
In a park, Sarah (Jennifer Connolly) is running around in a white dress and talking guff about goblins.
I…honestly have no idea what she’s doing here. She’s fifteen years old and playing by herself in a park. In costume.
Is she role-playing? Rehearsing a play? Feigning madness to catch the conscience of the king?
I have a theory that Sarah is actually in a constant state of delusion and that the movie and all the stuff with the Labyrinth that happens is just what she does every single day. Connolly of course went on to have a long and fruitful acting career but here she’s…a very nice young lady who’s doing her best. Alright, I know that acting almost entirely with a cast of puppets is a real challenge for any actor, but honestly I think she’s actually better in scenes where she has to interact with the various denizens of the Labyrinth. When she has to carry a scene on her own though, things get iffy. There’s some really weird line readings. Like when she hears the town clock ringing and yells “Seven O’Clock! It can’t be!” and it’s less like that she’s surprised that it’s that late and more like the very concept of seven o’clock is unthinkable because she was always taught that the clock only goes up to six.
Anyway she runs home and her parents are angry with her because they’re going out tonight and they need her to babysit her baby brother Toby. Toby, incidentally, is played by Toby Froud, Brian Froud’s son. He was originally called “Joey” in the script but they had to change the character’s name because Toby would only react to his own name on set.
Brando used to pull shit that like that all the time.

Brando used to pull shit like that all the time.

Sarah is super pissy that this baby sitting gig has called her away from LARPing solitaire and her stepmother essentially says that at her age she should be out getting laid.
"Its the EIGHTIES for Gods sake! Do some coke! Live a little!"

“It’s the EIGHTIES for Gods sake! Do some coke! Live a little!”

Her parents chew her out for causing them to be late and she goes to her room and throws herself on the bed in a huff because nobody gets her.
Youre nuttier than squirrel poop, whats to get?

You’re nuttier than squirrel poop, what’s to get?

I admit that I use to feel sorry for Sarah when I saw this movie as a kid. Now of course, I have a baby of my own and know that unreliable babysitters deserve only tortures not seen since the darkest days of the reign of Caligula.
Toby wakes up crying in the middle of the night and instead of, y’know, comforting him, or changing him, or feeding him Sarah goes in and just yells at him for five minutes and I really, really don’t like this scene at all. One, because it establishes Sarah as such a horrible person that I really can’t root for her after this and two, because Toby Froud doesn’t have a fucking clue why Jennifer Connolly is yelling at him and is clearly just freaking out.

Sarah tells the kid a story about a beautiful young girl whose horrible baby brother was carried away by the Goblin King. Somewhere, in some dark nether-realm, an army of filthy goblins springs awake.

Kinda like what happens whenever someone mentions misogny on the internet.

Kinda like what happens whenever someone mentions misogyny on the internet.

The Goblins listen intently  as Sarah says “I wish! I wish! I can bear it no longer! Goblin King! Goblin King! Wherever you may be take this child of mine far away from me!”

The goblins complain that “it didn’t even begin with “I wish”” and I gotta say, I think the Goblins are being overly generous to Sarah here. I mean sure, it’s not a complete sentence but I think any reasonable judge would rule in their favour if they just snatched the kid there and then.

Anyway, Sarah finally does make the wish and leaves the room and as soon as she closes the door the baby stops crying, and I’ll admit it’s an extremely creepy moment.

Sarah goes back into the darkened room to find Toby gone and finds herself face to face with the Goblin King (David Bowie, at his very Bowiest). I’ll admit, I love Bowie’s performance here, even though I’m not sure you could exactly call it great acting. It’s kind of like the performance a lot of actors give in Muppet movies, not exactly mugging for the camera but very clearly in on the joke. There’ s no denying that the guy has incredible charisma though, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s sporting a package that would be the pride of a male pornstar or indeed an internet critic.

The Fremen call it “Shai-Hulud”. The Old Man of the Desert.

The Fremen call it “Shai-Hulud”. The Old Man of the Desert.

Sarah begs him to let her brother go, saying that she was actually just joking and Jareth reveals that as well as being king of the land of the Goblins he is also Emperor of the Confederated Realm of No Backsies. Jareth tells her that if she wants Toby back she’ll have to make her way through the labyrinth to his castle in thirteen hours.

Jareth then disappears and Sarah sets off on her journey, saying “C’mon feet!”
She’s talking to her own feet.
"Wow. Shes craaaaaazy."

“Wow. Shes craaaaaazy.”

"You said it buddy!"

“You said it buddy!”

At the entrance to the labyrinth she meets Hoggle, a dwarf, who’s spraying fairies with flit and oh yes, again! Again!
Now step on em! Crush their little heads!

Now step on ‘em! Crush their little heads!

Sarah, feeling sorry for the gold-hoarding little shits actually picks one of the fairies up which then bites her and Hoggle asks what she expected from a fairy.  Yes. Yes! Exactly! It’s them or us, listen to the dwarf!
I’ve got to make mention of Hoggle here because, as well as being remarkably clear-eyed about the fairy menace, he’s an absolutely amazing effect. Apart from the design, which is a perfect rendition of Brian Froud’s style, Hoggle was achieved by having little person actor Shari Weisner portray his body movements while essentially wearing a robot face controlled and voiced by Brian Henson (it was originally going to be Terry Jones doing the voice but that ended being too much hassle). It looks gorgeous.


Hoggle shows her the way into the Labyrinth and then leaves her to it. At first Sarah doesn’t know what to do because the Labyrinth actually seems to be more of a corridor that just goes on and on without any turns (and I gotta admit, as a way of keeping people out of your castle, that’s a pretty good labyrinth). Fortunately, she’s helped out by a friendly worm who shows her a hidden entrance and she’s on her way.
Meanwhile, in the Goblin King’s castle, Toby won’t stop crying because he’s a baby surrounded by a bunch of creepy ass Goblin puppets and I don’t like this. This kid’s not acting. He’s a one year old baby who’s obviously really scared and they filmed that and put it in a movie for our entertainment and I do not like that.
Anyway, to shut the kid up Jareth sings Dance Magic. and tells the goblins that they remind him of the babe.
"What babe?"

“What babe?”

"The babe with the power."

“The babe with the power.”

"What power?"

“What power?”

"What power you ask? How about the power of flight? That doing anything for ya? That's LEVITATION homes.."

“What power you ask? How about the power of flight? That doing anything for ya? That’s LEVITATION homes.”

"What are you talking about?"

“What are you talking about?”

"I...think hes talking about Power Girl."

“I…I…think he’s talking about Power Girl.”

The babe with the power.

The babe with the power.

Bowie is awesome in this song. His goblin backing vocalists are not however, and they really drag the song down. Other than that this song is only really memorable for the scene with Bowie throwing the baby high into the air.

Yeah. I could definitely see Michael Jackson playing this part.

Yeah. I could definitely see Michael Jackson playing this part.

Meanwhile, Sarah comes to two doors that are guarded by Scottish accented moustachioed camels (one of my favourite Saturday morning cartoons from the eighties incidentally) and has to solve a version of the Liar’s Riddle. This scene I actually really like, Connolly seems more engaged in her performance and it actually shows Sarah using intelligence to solve a problem rather than trusting to blind luck. If the movie had done more of this (I say “more” because it does do some) and actually showed how Sarah’s character learns and becomes a better person through her struggles in the Labyrinth I think it could have been a much better movie. The potential is definitely there, and shines through a lot of the time, but the script really needed more work to make the story more about Sarah’s journey rather than a random series of shit that happens to her. Anyway, she chooses correctly (I think?) and falls through an endless tunnel of grabbing hands.

Poor girl. Like travelling on an Italian subway.

Poor girl. Like travelling on an Italian subway.



Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #51: Winnie the Pooh

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
Dearly beloved.
We are gathered here today in the sight of the internet to mourn the loss of our dear friend, traditional Disney animation. TDA had of course been in very poor health this last decade or so, but we had thought he was finally turning the corner. The fact that he had been so close to a full recovery makes the circumstances of his death even more wrenching, especially knowing that his murderer still walks free.
You're a killer, Harry.

You’re a killer, Harry.

 What were you thinking Disney? Sending Winnie the Pooh out, alone and unarmed, against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? In summer?!

"He knew the risks."

“He knew the risks.”

Well, there’s nothing left now. Traditional Disney Animation is dead. Lower him in.

Oh! Hold off the earth till I have held him in my arms once more!

Oh! Hold off the earth till I have held him in my arms once more!

"Mouse. C'mon buddy. You gotta be strong for Latin America."

“Mouse. C’mon buddy. You gotta be strong for Latin America.”

"There is nothing inside me. I am hollow now."

“There is nothing inside me. I am hollow now.”

You’re right. You’re right, I’m sorry.

Gotta get a grip.

A grip…

On Daniel Radcliffe’s lily white pencil neck…NO! BAD MOUSE!

 As absolutely crazy as it seems it retrospect, putting Winnie-the-Pooh up against Harry Potter probably wasn’t that outlandish an idea on paper. The two properties are aimed at quite different age demographics, and Disney was probably banking on their movie hoovering up all the younger cinema-goers who’s parents wouldn’t be willing to take them to a movie that is essentially Schindler’s List with wizards.

Oh Disney. Your naive belief that parents have any real control over what their children watch is what makes you so loveable.

Oh Disney. Your naive belief that parents have any real control over what their children watch is what makes you so loveable.

And while Pooh was undoubtedly the underdog in this fight, let’s not forget that the Bear of Very Little Brain is also the Bear of Massive Merchandising Revenue. Pooh may in fact be the single most valuable character in the whole Disney stable. So why was this movie absolutely crushed at the box office?

Okay fine, because it went up against fucking Harry Potter, but indulge me, please.

Bad reviews? Oh hell, no. Critics ate this up.

The fact that it was released in summer instead of in winter like most Disney movies? Nah, see I never bought the “People won’t go to see movies that are on at different times than movies like that movie are usually on” concept.

I have a theory.

If you want a bloodbath polite and well reasoned debate, ask a bunch of Disney fans how many sequels there are in the Disney canon. Rescuers Down Under  certainly. And Winnie the Pooh. But after that? Is Fantasia 2000 really a sequel considering it has no plot? Is Three Caballeros a sequel to Saludos Amigos? And if it is, does Melody Time  make it a trilogy since José Carioca and Donald Duck appear in it too? Hell, you could argue that Fun and Fancy Free  is a sequel to Pinnochio  because they both feature Jiminy Cricket and are both pant-shittingly terrifying.

But…if you were to ask just a normal person on the street how many sequels are in the Disney canon they’d look at you funny and ask “What’s a Disney cannon?”

Disney cannon

Pictured: A Disney cannon.

Y’see, to ordinary movie-goers the concept of a Disney “canon”, the idea that some movies are more Disney than others is meaningless. Disney made it, it’s a Disney movie. QED. Why should they care which part of the company created it? I mean, let’s be honest here, the whole notion of the canon is just a marketing gimmick that allows Disney to put a seal of quality on some of their movies while allowing them to pretend that their less exceptional output somehow doesn’t matter and OH JESUS CHRIST I’VE WASTED TWO YEARS OF MY LIFE.

Now, Joe Sixpack may not really get what the canon is, but he has slowly, and through painstaking trial and error, learnt one very important lesson:

Avoid Disney sequels like the fucking plague.

Rediscovering the original Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was one of my most pleasant surprises doing this blog. It really is a lovely little film. But it wasn’t the last Winnie the Pooh movie to be released by Disney.

 Not by a long…

















Alright, screw this, I gotta review to write, you get the idea.

Alright, screw this, I gotta review to write, you get the idea.

And it’s not like these were all straight to video either, quite a few of those movies actually had theatrical releases. So is it any wonder that the public weren’t queuing down the street for this one? They didn’t know that all those sequels were done by DisneyToons and that the grownups were actually in charge of this one. All they knew was that Disney had released a long string of pretty shitty Winnie the Pooh cartoons (no pun intended, I honestly swear to God). It’s Disney’s fault. They didn’t protect their characters.

You release a movie called "Frankenpooh" you deserve every damn thing that happens to you.

You release a movie called “Frankenpooh” you deserve every damn thing that happens to you.

So here we are. This is how it ends. But how does it end? With inspiring last words, or a damp fart as the muscles relax with the onset of death?

Let’s take a look.



Exquisite Annihilation: A Meditation on the use of space and silence in Beckett’s universe

Felicitations, seekers of enlightenment.

Today, we begin the next stage of our thirty part examination of the use of the pause in the work of the towering figure in twentieth century literature, Samuel Beckett.

“…” or “….”?

The perennial question is it not? Beckett used both of course, but which pause is “true Beckett”, if such a question is not ridiculous?

“…” or “….”

In his earlier work, most famously Godot, the master seemed to favour a simple “…”, but by the time of Play he seemed to have totally rejected “…”, now favouring the more elegant (but perhaps more frivolous?) “….”

We of course do not need to dredge up painful memories of Beckett’s sole, misbegotten use of “……” in Ohio Impromptu, the use of which Beckett himself blamed on stress and an imminent deadline and later excoriated as the most gross indulgence and extravagance.

"Excuse me? Unshaved Mouse?"

“Excuse me? Unshaved Mouse?”

“I am he."

“I am he.”

"Congratulations. Youve been shortlisted for Best Art  Culture Blog."

“Congratulations. You’ve been shortlisted for Best Art & Culture Blog.”

"Oh, how gratifying. Many thanks."

“Oh, how gratifying. Many thanks.”





"Who is that?"

“Who is that?”

"No idea, I think he got lost looking for No More Workhorse."

“No idea, I think he got lost looking for No More Workhorse.”

"Are you SURE this is an Art  Culture Blog?"

“Are you SURE this is an Art & Culture Blog?”

"Absolutely! Tell em SMOWE!"

“Absolutely! Tell ‘em SMOWE!”

"Oh. Yes. By his very presence are our souls enriched."

“Oh. Yes. By his very presence are our souls enriched.”

"Is he being sarcastic?"

“Is he being sarcastic?”

"Him? Never."

“Him? Never.”

"Hmmm. Well. Congratulations."

“Hmmm. Well. Congratulations.”

Is he gone?


Unshaved Mouse has been shortlisted (somehow) for Best Art and Culture Blog at the Blog Awards Ireland 2014. Huge thanks to everyone who voted, and please don’t forget I still need your votes for Best Blog Post (link here or hereabouts).

And now, let’s all look at my shiny new salmon shortlist badge.

blog awards ireland

Yes. Salmon.

Thanks again guys,




The Unshaved Mouse’s Top 5 Guilty Pleasures

Unshaved Mouse has been nominated for Best Blog Post at the Blog Awards Ireland 2014. Please take a minute to click on this link below and vote for me. You can vote once every week. Thanks a million, Mouse.


Irish comedian Dara O’Brian has a great bit where he rants about the term “guilty pleasure”. Liking a certain band or movie, he argues, should not make you feel guilty and the term “guilty pleasure” should be reserved for things that should actually make you feel guilty, like smelling women on public transport. He’s probably right, and part of me thinks that if you’ve found something in this often scary and uncaring world that makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, more power to you. I, however, was raised Catholic, which means that pretty much all pleasures are guilty pleasures. These ones though? These are the things that I love that just make me feel dirty.
5) Family Guy
Why I love it.
Alright, I know that this is a terrible show. It commits basically every writing sin there is, there’s no structure, zero consistent characterisation and it leans way, way, waaaaay too hard on shock value to try and get its laughs. And, just so we can put this to bed, racist humour is not edgy.
It's not "cutting edge" if it predates the frickin' talkies.

It’s not “cutting edge” if it predates the frickin’ talkies.

And yet, and yet…in any given episode of this show there will be at least one joke, one gag, one little bit of surrealist humour that will make me laugh out loud. Law of averages I guess. This show’s modus operandi is flinging gags at the wall at a rate of knots and hoping that they stick. And, as much as the scripting is bad in a kind of big-picture, overall sense, there are often little scenes and vignettes that contain some frankly beautiful writing. There’s a scene (incidentally from one of my least favourite episodes) where Stewie takes the entire cast of Next Generation to the drive though and it just captures perfectly the frustrations of trying to order for a large group of people and that is something I think that Family Guy can do very, very well. Just capturing the truth of little day to day moments. Also, whatever you may think of his comedy, Set McFarlane is an absolutely phenomenal voice actor.
Guilt Level: Parking in the disabled zone.
So why do I feel guilty? 
4) “Ill Mind 5” by Hopsin
Why I love it
I first came across this song on That Guy With the Glasses when RapCritic named it his best song of the year. After one listen it was already my favourite rap song of all time. Over the course of three verses addressed to, in turn, a white high school dropout, a white teenage girl and a black wannabe gangsta Hopsin takes his entire benighted generation and goes through it for a shortcut, lambasting his contemporaries as shallow, driftless, lazy, celebrity-obsessed jackasses. With impeccable flow and timing, pitch black wordplay and white-hot rage Hopsin makes a lecture essentially telling kids to stay in school, study and eat their greens sound like the most hardcore, revolutionary thing you’ve ever heard.
Guilt Level: Shouting “bollocks” in a crowded church. 
Yeah, as Rap Critic himself pointed out, it’s that second verse that really raises the alarm bells. It’s not even that I particularly disagree with Hop’s central premise viz; that if you’re a young woman who’s primary method of meeting guys is to go down to a skeezy nightclub and essentially give the patrons a strip show gratis then it’s maybe slightly disingenuous to then complain that the men you’re attracting aren’t exactly the gender’s A-team. But let’s be honest, am I going to sit here and pretend that lines like “You want Romeo, you’re not worthy/You’re cock-thirsty, nasty and probably got herpes” aren’t horribly misogynistic? No. Because I speak English as a first language and know what all those words mean. Does that mean it’s a bad song? Um…no. Great art does not have to be nice, and great artists often aren’t nice people (for example: pretty much every great artist who has ever lived).
3) Hannibal
Why I love it
Bryan Fuller’s retelling of the pre-incarceration years of Hannibal Lecter may be one of the most beautifully shot and scored series ever made for American TV. The cast (Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishbourne, Gillian Anderson) is A list, the performances are magnetic and the whole thing just drips with atmosphere.
Guilt level: Realising you’ve shot the wrong Captain Kirk.
There’s an episode in season 2 where Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishbourne) recalls how Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) objected to the name of the FBI’s “Evil Minds Research Museum”. Graham’s objection being that the name glamourizes and mythologises serial killers, making merely mentally ill criminals seem like mystical creatures. No word of a lie, when I heard that line I laughed milk out my nose at the show’s chutzpah, because glamourizing serial killers is Hannibal’s whole raison d’etre. Whether it’s the title character or any one of this universe’s seemingly inexhaustible stable of gimmick based recreational homicide enthusiasts, the series constantly presents serial murderers as terrifyingly brilliant, tortured, beautiful, otherworldly monsters. But, hey, it’s TV. I can look past that. I can also look past the show’s depiction of the seriously suspect practice of criminal profiling as essentially magic, allowing the writers to skip to the next phase of the investigation whenever they feel like it. No, it was around the end of season one when the murders became less “lurid crime scenes” and more “fucking art installation pieces”that I finally realised that this ostensibly VERY SERIOUS show was running on pixie dust and dream logic.
"Our killer just arrived, spent two weeks assembling this and the POOF! He was gone..."

“Our killer just arrived, spent two weeks assembling this and then POOF! He was gone…”

2) Warhammer 40k
Why I love it
Weirdly, I consider myself a fan of Warhammer 40k despite never actually having played the tabletop game. I’m just a fan of the setting (and I’m also an addict of the tie-in PC game Dawn of War). In the 41st Millennium, the Imperium of Man, a vast despotic empire spanning thousands of worlds, battles enemies on all sides while crumbling under the weight of its own corruption and the malicious influence of the dark gods of Chaos. The Warhammer 40k universe may actually be the grimmest in all of fiction. Take the Tau. They’re an expansionist alien empire base on Imperial Japan, forcibly conquering other alien races and annexing them in service of “The Greater Good”. In any other science fiction setting these would be the bad guys. In 40k, they’re the closest thing to heroes. Then there’s the Eldar, an ancient species so spectacularly racist that they would happily let an entire alien civilization die to save one member of their own, the Orks, who wage massive intergalactic rampages for fun, the Imperium, a ruthlessly xenophovic theocracy that want to murder anyone who’s not human, the Necrons, who want to murder everyone, period, and the Tyranids who want to murder everyone and then eat them. Oh, and then there’s the forces of Chaos. Who are the bad guys. 
Guilt level: Recounting your time in the Khmer Rouge to an international tribunal
Because it makes me a massive hypocrite. I’m the guy who’s got a quote on TVTropes “Silly Rabbit, Cynicism is for Kids” page about how the most important and worthwhile thing in fiction is to write something uplifting that doesn’t give in to cynicism and nihilism. And yet, here I am, a fan of probably one of the most nihilistic fictional universes there is. But I can’t help it, it’s just so sumptuously gothic, so meticulously detailed in its awfulness that I can’t help but love it. There’s something about the Imperium especially, basically Gormenghast crossed with the Galactic Empire, that I find incredibly compelling. Lemme tell you, if they ever make a movie based on this, they need to get Terry Gilliam to direct it.

1) Reading bad reviews.

Why I love it
Probably my favourite piece of internet movie criticism, and probably the one that inspired me to begin reviewing movies myself, is Doug Walker’s evisceration of The Legend of the Titanic. I remember thinking that what Doug was doing was almost artistic reclamation, taking a movie that had almost no redeeming features and using it as material to create something hilarious and quite brilliant. I like the idea that any movie, no matter how bad, can be put to good use and made into something entertaining. And let’s be honest, there is just something so satisfying about seeing some piece of hackwork torn apart with a single, withering put down. I don’t really write that many negative reviews myself (of the 65 movies I’ve reviewed only 13 have scored over 50% or lower) but whenever I see a one star review or an F-Grade on the AV Club I am all over that like white on rice.
Guilt level: Hearing that damn heart beat under the floorboards.
‘Cos it’s schadenfreude, pure and simple. Because, at least it part, it’s an act of mockery. And because as a writer I know that getting bad reviews is part and parcel of being a writer, actor, director, successful hotel chain, whatever, and I have no right to be smug. Am I going to stop reading bad reviews? Absolutely not. But as it happens, I’m going to be reviewing several plays in the upcoming Dublin Tiger Fringe and Dublin Theatre Festivals for Meg.ie. And some of those shows I may have to pan. But in the back of my mind I will always be thinking that that could be me. And really, in the interest of fairness, if I’m going to read other people’s bad reviews, they should be able to read mine.
Neil Sharpson aka The Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blogger and comic book writer living in Dublin. The blog updates with a new animated movie review every second Thursday. He’s also serialising his novel The Hangman’s Daughter with a new chapter every Saturday. Like Unshaved Mouse? Let the good people at the Blog Awards Ireland know what’s what by voting for me HERE.