Month: May 2013

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #30: Beauty and the Beast

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images 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.)


“A long time ago, in the faraway land of Ireland, there lived a little boy. This little boy loved the films of Walt Disney, more perhaps than anything else in the world. One dark and stormy night, an old beggar came to the door, seeking shelter from the never-ending Irish rain and the gentle whimsy of the locals. In payment for shelter, he offered the little boy a most precious gift; a VHS of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. And the little boy said “Screw off. I hate that movie.”

The beggar stared at the little boy for a good two minutes. Finally, he said:

“I’m sorry, I must have misheard you. I thought you said you hated Beauty and the Beast.”

“I do.”

“That’s crazy talk.”

“It sucks.”

“It does not suck. It’s the greatest achievement in the history of animation. It’s hot stuff, you little shit.”

“It’s boring. It’s a boring, overhyped, whiter than white bread slice of pandering Oscar bait.”

Suddenly, the beggar transformed into a powerful magician with the most pimpin’ moustache the little boy had ever seen. 

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He cast a spell on the little boy, transforming him into an unshaved mouse. The mouse begged for mercy, and the Magician told him that there was one way that he could become a human again. He must review every one of the Disney animated canon one after the other, so that he might learn to love Beauty and the Beast. If he could not find it in his heart to love that movie, and be loved by it in return, he would remain a mouse forever. As the years passed, he fell into despair.

For who could ever learn to love…a boring, overhyped, whiter than white bread slice of pandering Oscar bait?”

Sigh, let's just get this over with.

Sigh. Let’s just get this over with.

Ohhhh…I’m gonna catch hell for this one.





I don’t really like Beauty and the Beast.

"Zeke! Run to the next town over, we need more men!" "How many men?" "ALL OF 'EM!"

“Zeke! Run to the next town over, we need more men!”
“How many men?”


Please, just step away from the comments! Let me explain!

It’s me. Okay? It’s me. It’s not the movie, it’s me. I know it’s not a bad movie. Hell, I know it’s a superb movie. And if you’re worried that I’m going to trash this movie that you love, and show you a whole bunch of flaws in it that you never noticed and ruin it for you forever, no. That’s not going to happen. I play fair on this blog, and this movie will be walking out with a very high score. Probably.

My dislike of this movie is, I freely admit, largely irrational. It’s kind of hard to put into words but…

Okay, the animation is top flight, the music and songs are some of Howard Ashman’s and Alan Menken’s best work, it has one of the best leads in the Disney canon…

But it’s just. So. WHITE.

It’s so white. It’s whiter than white. It’s “Gandalf after he comes back from the dead” white. It’s whiter than a Mitt Romney rally.



So there’s that. Plus, I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s nothing more likely to push me into disliking something than being constantly told by everyone that I’m wrong, and I just don’t get it and that I should change my opinion because it’s clearly stupid and…oooooookay. I’m starting to realise why my wife hates Ariel now.

Yeah. Not so fun, is it?

Yeah. Not so fun, is it?

Sorry. It’s just a movie I’ve never been able to fall in love with. But hey, maybe this review will finally give me the chance to see this film in a new light and break the curse once and for all. We can hope.

Production began on Beauty and the Beast back in 1989 and it was originally intended to be a very different film from the one we have now. But around six months into production, director Richard Purdum and producer Don Hahn were ordered to scrap everything and start again from square one, retooling the film as a Broadway-style musical with songs by Ashman and Menken.

Now why ever would they have done that? I declare the mystery unsolveable!

Now why ever would they have done that? I declare the mystery unsolveable!

Ashman was eventually promoted from lyricist to goddamn executive producer, and probably had a bigger influence on the film than any other single person. Ashman worked tirelessly on this film, and with good reason. Ashman, like many thousands of other gay American men, was a victim of the AIDS epidemic of the eighties. He would live to finish all of the songs for this movie, and to learn of the movie’s rapturous reception at the New York film festival in an unfinished form. But he would not live to see the final film.

In my review of The Little Mermaid I called it “A Broadway musical in ink and paint” and I really, really should have held off on using that description because it fits Beauty and the Beast so much better. Ashman actually held auditions on Broadway itself and the resulting cast is pretty much wall to wall Broadway veterans. Also, the song-to-dialogue ratio in this movie is even more heavily skewed towards the songs which take up around twenty five minutes of the running time.

Richard Purdum, the original director, left once Ashman and Menken were brought on board as it was clear that Disney were going to make a very different movie from what he had originally intended.

Princesses and songs! Those cavemen do NOT fuck around!

Princesses and songs! NOW! Those cavemen are NOT fucking around!

Replacing him were two young newcomers  named Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, whose previous experience prior to helming this multi-million dollar animated feature was…an animated short for the Disney Land attraction Cranium Command. I’m not joking. Well, actually, their lack of experience was part of the reason they were hired. Eisner and Katzenberg simply wanted someone to ride herd on the animators who in turn could be easily ridden by Eisner and Katzenberg.

Huh huh huh huh.

Huh huh huh huh.

After Purdum’s departure, they were looking for directors who would be under no illusions as to who was in charge. In fact, at the beginning Wise and Trousdale were referred to as “Acting Directors”, which Trousdale would later describe as “acting like a director in the hope that direction would happen.” But as it turned out, Kirk and Trousdale rose to the challenge and proved themselves to be very competent, prompting Katzenberg to promote them to “directors”.

The generation of young animators that had come on board around the time of The Fox and the Hound  had now fully matured into probably the most accomplished animation team in the world. This would be the last film that they would all work together on, as from then on the  studio would work on two movies simultaneously with the animation team being split in two. Many of the people who worked on this film consider it to be the crowning achievement of the renaissance, the true pinnacle. Are they right?

Well, let’s see if this thing can win me over.


Check these ladies out!

So, while writing the Rescuers Down Under review, I found myself in need of a picture of a mouse in a gimp suit. I thought there was no way that such a thing could exist, but then the internet smacked me in the face for doubting it and duly provided the image above from a website called The House of Mouse.

My first instinct was of course just to swipe the image, leaving nothing but a broken window, a single black rose and a calling card to let the bumbling fools in the local constabulary know that the Phantom Mouse had struck again, but instead Anna and Naomi who run House of Mouse very kindly agreed to let me use their gimp mouse. But did you know he could be YOUR Gimp Mouse? House of Mouse specialise in handmade felt mice based on movie characters (that saucy fellow up there is their take on the gimp from Pulp Fiction). They do Doctor Who mice, Star Trek mice, Harry Potter mice, you name it and they are all quite adorably awesome.

Look, let’s be honest. You’re here because you have an unhealthy obsession with mice. I’ve seen the stats. Everytime I do a review featuring mice my page views go through the roof. So why not indulge your obsession? You can see the full collection at House of Mouse.

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #29: The Rescuers Down Under

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images 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.)


“We knew that Bernard and Bianca would come back in this movie. Because it’s a film about them.”

Thomas Schumacher, producer of The Rescuers Down Under, 1990  

“Wow. Thanks for that stunning revelation into the creative process.”

Unshaved Mouse, Watching the Making Of, 2013


Question. Have you ever shown up to the office Christmas party in your gimp suit only to be told that, no, we decided fancy dress was just too much hassle and yes I did send you an email, I did, I’m sorry but I distinctly remember, well check your inbox, wait, do you have a period in your email address? You do? Oh, well, okay, that explains it. Hah. I can totally see your package through the latex by the way?

Gimp Mouse

Hey, I’ve seen the search terms that bring people to my blog, don’t you DARE judge me.

That’s kind of Rescuers Down Under. It was just a little late to the party and now everyone can see its balls and is pretending to ignore it. If this movie had come out a few years earlier, preferably when the Crocodile Dundee craze was still in full force, it could have killed. This movie could have been HUGE. But instead it arrived in the wake of The Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid, in case I need remind you, was just a little bit of a game changer.

So the movie going public now had certain expectations about Disney.

Hey guys, I gotta new movie I think you're going to really love!

Hey guys, I gotta new movie I think you’re going to really love!

Is it a wonderland of fairytale  enchantment with fantastic songs and a princess who discovers that the strength was in her heart the whole time?

Is it a wonderland of fairytale enchantment with fantastic songs and a princess who discovers that the strength was in her heart the whole time?'s a sequel to a Mourning Era movie with lots of action and adventure and no songs.

Noooo…it’s a sequel to a  thirteen year old Mourning Era movie with lots of action and adventure and no songs.





 Yeah, this movie is not what people were looking for. And if you’re looking for a culprit as to why the Disney movies of the Renaissance Era are utterly totally bound with steel hoops and unbreakable adamantium chains to slightly reliant on formula, this is your reason. On its release, The Rescuers Down Under was a flop, although it may have been a self-inflicted one. Jeffrey Katzenberg famously pulled all the advertising after it had a less successful than expected opening weekend. Might it have become a hit if they’d waited and let word of mouth spread? I dunno. Maybe? It got decent enough reviews, and I think it’s probably safe to say that it’s more well-regarded now than its prequel, which was one of the most successful animated movies of all time. But Disney have always seemed to smell red-headed stepchild on this one. It’s certainly not like they disavow its existence like The Black Cauldron or Song of the South. But you get the feeling that if you mentioned this movie to someone in Disney they’d be like “Oh yeah. That one.” and ask you coldly not to raise the matter again. But make no mistake, this is an influential movie. Firstly, there’s the fact that its failure pretty much ended the talking animal-centric Disney movie until Dinosaur a decade later, and paved the way for the total dominance of the Disney princess movies. People often forget this, but the princess movies are very much a minority in the canon. In the sixty odd years prior to Little Mermaid, there were a grand total of three princess movies, compared to fifteen that focused on talking animals. But in the twenty-five years since Little Mermaid there have been seven princess movies. The success of Little Mermaid caused that, sure, but so did the failure of Rescuers Down Under.

Secondly, this was the first narrative sequel in the Disney canon, and the last until Winnie the Pooh in 2011. Because of this, the business of making sequels was then farmed out to other animation studios. These studios, despite not having the resources and experience of the original creators, nevertheless managed to create new and wonderful expansions of the existing works, creating sequels that could stand up and sometimes even surpaaaaahaaahahahahahahaha!

Who did an absolutely phenomonal hahahahaha...sorry, couldn't say that with a straight face these were pretty much all feculent garbage.

Sorry, couldn’t say that with a straight face. These were pretty much all feculent garbage.

So we can thank Rescuers Down Under for that too.

Jesus, this thing has a darker legacy than the book of Leviticus.

And it’s really not fair for this movie to be lumped in with the rest of the sequels. For starters, it’s not a naked and unwanted cash grab with no narrative justification. This is genuinely a story that had a few chapters left to be told. Unlike the rest of the canon, Rescuers was pretty much made for a sequel. The reason Cinderella 2 is such a non-starter is that at the end of Cinderella, all the loose ends are tied up. To continue the story, you have to unpick a perfectly good happy ending only to restore it at the end in a way that’s never going to be as satisfying as it was the first time. But the Rescuers, although it did have a happy ending for Penny, ended with the promise that the adventures of Bernard and Bianca were just beginning. The team had just been assembled. We had gotten all the tedious getting-to-know-you business out-of-the-way and now it’s full steam ahead. This, I think, is another reason why so many of you in the comments pine for that Basil the Great Mouse Detective sequel that never was. It was a concept that still had plenty of places to go, unlike Cinderella, who, once she gets the glass slipper, that really should be the last we hear of her.

No. Seriously. FUCK. OFF.

No. Seriously.
Fuck off.

But Rescuers Down Under does have one other, very important legacy. Like most YouTube comments, Rescuers Down Under was done all in CAPS, a new process that allowed ink and paint drawings to be digitized so that scenes could be arranged by computer. CAPS would continue to be used pretty much until the end of the traditional animation era and was as big a revolution in animation as the use of xerography was in the sixties.

Oh, and it's also why the movie is FUCKING GORGEOUS.

Oh, and it’s also why the movie is FUCKING GORGEOUS.

Of course, the Disney animators knew next to nothing about computers, so they enlisted the help of a small computer hardware company. This company, when not selling computers to government and medical agencies, moonlit as an animation studio doing little animated CGI commercials for Listerine.

They were called Pixar.

Talk about humble beginnings. This Listerine ad only won five Oscars.

Talk about humble beginnings.
This Listerine ad only won five Oscars.


Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #28: The Little Mermaid

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images 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.)


Wow. We’re finally here. Have you been looking forward to this? I know I have. After all, we’re finally going to review the movie that unquestionably, I repeat unquestionably, ushered in the Disney renaissance…

I’m sorry, a mob of angry Disney contrarians has amassed below in the comments. One moment please.

Alright, let's hear it.

Alright, let’s hear it.


Who framed Roger Rabbit? was the real start of the renaissance!”

"No! Basil the Great Mouse Detective!"

“No! Basil the Great Mouse Detective!”

"Oliver & Company revived the Disney musical!"

Oliver & Company revived the Disney musical!”


“The Renaissance didn’t start until Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture!”





Okay, okay. I hear all your points so let me just give my response now that I've lured you all into one place.

Okay, okay. I hear all your points so let me just give my response now that I’ve lured you all into one place.


No. I’m sorry, I’ve taken some controversial positions in my time but on this one the conventional wisdom is right. The Little Mermaid marks the beginning of the massive leap in quality in Disney animation that is known as the Disney Renaissance of the late eighties/early nineties. How did this come about? Well it was a perfect storm of a million different things and people coming together but I’ve got a lot to say on this movie so I’ll try and boil it down to the main causes.

1) Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Now, I don’t consider Who Framed Roger Rabbit? the start of the Renaissance because it wasn’t wholly a Disney movie. It was a Disney/Amblin co-production featuring not just Disney characters but Warner characters and those of many other studies and also it isn’t considered part of the canon. But it did lead directly to the Disney Renaissance in a very important way. Remember last review I mentioned how the makers of that movie brought in their own animators because they didn’t think the regular Disney animators were up to the task? Well after Roger was wrapped many of those animators were brought in to work on Mermaid which meant a huge transfusion of energy and talent. This is why Mermaid looks so much better than the films that came immediately before it.

2) Kaaaaaaaaaaaatzenberg!

Jeffrey Katzenberg is a controversial figure in animation and with good reason. He is in many ways the quintessential Hollywood executive, brash, abrasive and confrontational. His artistic instincts could also leave a lot to be desired (he wanted to cut Part of Your World, a choice that would have absolutely gutted the movie and which saner heads were thankfully able to talk him out of). But credit where credit is due, Katzenberg knows how to create entertainment if not always art. His track record before and after Disney is one of a man who knows how to make real crowd pleasers. Also, Katzenberg brought an energy and a drive to a studio culture that had perhaps been a little indolent. If you worked for Katzenberg you fucking  WORKED for Katzenberg. I think of Katzenberg as a Blue Lantern.

And you guys need to stop letting me use MS Paint because my God but I suck at it.

What do I mean? Okay, well in Green Lantern comics you have these alien beings that wear power rings that are fueled by different emotions. The Green Lanterns have green rings fuelled by willpower that allows them to create incredible energy constructs. The Blue Lanterns have blue rings fuelled by hope that do jack shit on their own but when they’re near the Green Lanterns gives them an incredible energy boost because hope fuels willpower. Wow, this is probably the longest and nerdiest explanation I’ve ever given to anything. What I’m trying to say is, Katzenberg is not much of an artist on his own. But if you have him working with talented people he provides the energy and drive to push them to dazzling creative heights. Also, he’s extremely vulnerable to yellow fear energy (citation needed)

Jeff! Behind you!

Jeff! Behind you!

3) Howard Ashman and Alan Menken

Lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken created the sound of the Disney renaissance, which was important because with one notable exception, all the Disney films of the Renaissance era were musicals. There had been Disney musicals before, of course, but Ashman and Menken created something very new; Broadway Disney. The movies of this period are Broadway musicals in ink and paint. Everything about them, the big emotions, belting musical numbers, the dance numbers, the spectacle…it’s pure Broadway. Ashman and Menken, probably more than any other individual person, defined the feel of Disney movies of this period. And it all started with The Little Mermaid, whose success basically ensured that it was the template for every Disney movie that came after, triumph after triumph after triumph… until the whole formula was basically squeezed to a desiccated husk and everything came crashing down like a house of wet cards. But we’ll get to that eventually. For now, let’s take a look at The Little Mermaid.