Lost Era

Bolt_ver2

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #48: Bolt

(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.)
You know what’s weird? In Irish, there’s no word for “Yes” or “No”.
You know what else is weird? If you ask someone to imagine “a Disney movie” they automatically think of a Princess movie, something like the world of Giselle in Enchanted. But the Princess movies only make up a small fraction of the canon, 10 movies out of 52. Whereas the talking animal movies comprise a staggering twenty four movies depending on how you count them (Pinocchio, no, the two Winnie the Poohs, yes for our purposes here). So why is it that the Princess movies have such an outsized influence on how the rest of the canon is seen? Well, for whatever reason, it’s the Princess movies that seem to do really well. Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan, Tangled, Frozen, all really, really huge hits. And even Pocahontas and Princess and the Frog were not exactly slouches at the box-office. The talking animal movies, by comparison, tend to perform more modestly. Oh, you’ll get the occasional big hit (Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book, The Rescuers and oh yeah, The Lion King) but mostly it feels like their role is to just keep things ticking over until the next Princess movie comes along.  And that’s just not right, dammit. Disney have done some if their very best work in this sub-genre. Take today’s movie for example, Bolt, which was released in 2008 and…
Oh my God.
Oh my God, this thing was released in 2008. Obama had been elected by the time this thing came out. I was on Facebook. I was in my current job. I remember this thing coming out as a recent event in my life. It’s just…wow. When I started this blog I was making jokes about Hitler and the Second World War (that came out wrong). I mean, it’s really all coming to an end, isn’t it? Finish line’s in sight.
Ahem. Anyway.
It’s possible to think of Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons and Bolt as a trilogy of the “Pixarification” of Disney. Chicken Little is Disney, trying to be Pixar, Meet the Robinsons is Disney on its way to becoming Pixar and Bolt is basically Pixar. It was produced by John Lasseter and it looks, feels and runs like a Pixar movie. Seriously, they could have slapped a Pixar logo on this and no one would have known the difference. But what kind of Pixar movie is it? Are we talking Toy Story 3? Or are we talking Cars?
Let’s take a look.

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Meet_the_robinsons

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #47: Meet the Robinsons

 

(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 never get to say everything I want to say with these things, there’s never enough time. For example, in the Chicken Little review there was actually a lot of fascinating stuff going on between Disney and Pixar that I didn’t  even get to mention because I spent so much time talking about the fan-hate for that film and how I felt it was completely overblown. So, Chicken Little came out around the time when Pixar’s co-production deal with Disney was coming up for renewal and there was a lot riding on it, as whether it was a success or failure would strengthen or weaken Disney’s hand at the negotiating table. A flop would allow Pixar to say “See? You can’t make CGI movies without us, your movies blow chunks.” and a success would allow Disney to say “Nu-uh, our movies are totally boss and everyone says so.”
fight

A typical Disney boardroom negotiation.

Chicken Little was released in 2005 and was a resounding minor success. Critics hated it, but it did do quite well at the box-office. Pixar realised that while Disney’s CGI output might not be ready for primetime, they’d probably be better to have as a friend than as an enemy. And so Disney and Pixar patched things up and decided to stay together for the kids and the billions of box-office and merchandising revenue generated by those kids. Disney acquired Pixar wholesale in 2006, at which point it became very, very difficult to tell where Disney ends and Pixar begins, what’s a Pixar movie and what’s a Disney movie and who exactly is qualified to be  a Disney princess.
Sure. Why not? She wasn’t in a canon Disney film, but why not? Hell, let’s make BUGS BUNNY a Disney Princess, who cares anymore?

Sure. Why not? She wasn’t in a canon Disney film, but why not? Hell, let’s make BUGS BUNNY a Disney Princess, who cares anymore?

Sorry. It’s just been a dark time for people like me who don’t like their fishfingers touching the peas.  Today’s movie, Meet the Robinsons was created right about the time that “Disney” and “Pixar” were becoming “DisneyPixar” (“Dixar”, as the media conglomerate shippers call them) and it really, really, really shows. In every Disney era there is a movie that sums up that whole era perfectly. Pinocchio is the quintessential Tar and Sugar movie, Jungle Book perfectly defines Scratchy Movies and honestly, I kinda feel that Meet the Robinsons is the ultimate Lost Era movie. Not that it’s bad (it’s not). But it is thoroughly weird and constantly searching for a tone. There’s also a wild, “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” style to its comedy, and in fairness to it, a lot of it does indeed stick. It’s a movie that feels more like several little movies strung together rather than a single, cohesive whole. But first a little background.
Meet the Robinsons is loosely based on A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce, the infamous Anglo-Irish fascist who, during the second world war broadcast Nazi propaganda from Berlin into British homes as the notorious “Lord Haw Haw”…
"Im sorry..."

“I’m sorry…”

Ah. Different William Joyce. This William Joyce is an American illustrator, children’s author and animator and most definitely not a Nazi. He did write Epic, however, so. Y’know. He’s not Mother Teresa either. He also worked on some really good movies like Toy Story and A Bug’s Life.  Which side of the spectrum does Meet the Robinsons fall on? Let’s take a look.

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Disney Reviews with Unshaved Mouse #46: Chicken Little

(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.)

"WE WANT BLOOD!" "WE WANT BLOOD!"

“WE WANT BLOOD!”
“WE WANT BLOOD!”

"Guys, that crowd is getting pretty nasty. Has he started reviewing it yet?"

“Guys, that crowd is getting pretty nasty. Has he started reviewing it yet?”

"Nah man. He just watched it and now hes just sitting there not doing any damn thang."

“Nah man. He just watched it and now he’s just sitting there not doing any damn thang.”

"What?! Mouse, cmon! Snap out of it!"

“What?! Mouse, cmon! Snap out of it!”

"..."

“…”

"I told you it was too soon! I told we couldnt expect to review so soon after Foodfight! I TOLD YOU ALL! "

“I told you! I told you we couldn’t expect to review another movie so soon, after…that…other movie. I TOLD YOU ALL! “

"SHUT UP! Mouse, listen to me! You've kept them waiting too long, if you don't review this movie we're going to be killed by hardcore Disney fans!"

“SHUT UP! Mouse, listen to me! You’ve kept them waiting too long, if you don’t tear this movie apart they’re going to kill us all!”

"I...can't..."

“I…can’t…”

"I knew it! He's too traumatised! Why din't you listen to me?! Making him watch that piece of shit so soon after Foodfight..."

“I knew it! He’s too traumatised! Why din’t you listen to me?! Making him watch that piece of shit so soon after Foodfight…”

"NYAAAAAARRGGHHH!"

“NYAAAAAARRGGHHH!”

"Sorry, sorry, my bad."

“Sorry, sorry, my bad.”

"BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!"

“BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!”

"Listen dawg. Ain't no thang. Just go out there and tell them that the movie was a piece of shit."

“Listen dawg. Ain’t no thang. Just go out there and tell them that the movie was a piece of shit and then you never have to see it again.”

"That's not the problem. I...I liked it."

“That’s not the problem. I…I liked it.”

"Oh Jesus. That's it everybody, run for your lives. Latin America, you run out and create a distraction."

“Oh Jesus. That’s it everybody, run for your lives. Latin America, you go out and create a distraction.”

"Sure thing...heeeeey, wait a minute!"

“Sure thing…heeeeey, wait a minute!”

"What?"

“What?”

"That's a "diversion", not a "distraction" silly."

“That’s a “diversion”, not a “distraction” silly.”

"Aw, you're so smart. Now get going! We'll rendezvous in the afterlife."

“Aw, you’re so smart. Now get going! We’ll rendezvous in the afterlife. Let’s go Mouse. You packin’ Asia?”

"You know it."

“You know it. Let’s murder some bitches.”

"No. It's alright. I'll go and talk to them."

“No. It’s alright. I’ll go and talk to them.”

***

Okay. Well. No point beating around the bush. Time to take my punishment like a mouse. Here goes.

ATTENTION INTERNET! CHICKEN LITTLE IS NOT THAT BAD! I REPEAT! CHICKEN LITTLE IS NOT THAT BAD! PLEASE ADJUST YOUR OPINIONS ON THE BADNESS OF CHICKEN LITTLE ACCORDINGLY!

DINOSAUR REMAINS SHIT!

THAT IS ALL!

"..."

“…”

"Um...hello?"

“Um…hello?”

"I think they're paralysed with rage, boss."

“I think they’re paralysed with rage, boss.”

"Ah. How long before they recover and tear me limb from limb like wet tissue paper?"

“Ah. How long before they recover and tear me limb from limb like wet tissue paper?”

"Eight, nine minutes?"

“Eight, nine minutes?”

Okay. Better make this quick.

(more…)

Oh Christ.

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #45: Home on the Range

 

(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 now call this meeting of the United Foes of the Unshaved Mouse to order. Roll call!"

“I now call this meeting of the United Foes of the Unshaved Mouse to order. Roll call! Comrade Crow!”

"Here."

“Here.”

"Charlie McCarthy."

“Charlie McCarthy.”

"Here."

“Here.”

"The Unscrupulous Mouse."

“The Unscrupulous Mouse.”

"Here."

“Here.”

"Taran_Wanderer_2"

“Taran_Wanderer_2”

"Here."

“Here.”

"Fans of Beauty and the Beast"

“Fans of Beauty and the Beast

"HERE!"

“HERE!”

"Fans of Dinosaur."

“Fans of Dinosaur.”

"....here."

“….here.”

"Chairman Emeritus His Vileness the Horned King."

“Chairman Emeritus His Vileness the Horned King.”

I abide eternally.

I abide eternally.

"And the Avian Avatar of Avarice....THE PENGUIN!"

“And the Avian Avatar of Avarice….THE PENGUIN!”

"Waugh! Waugh! Waugh! Excellent gentlemen! Excellent!"

“Waugh! Waugh! Waugh! Excellent gentlemen! Excellent!”

Gentlemen. Ladies. Assorted vermin. You know why I have summoned you all here.

Gentlemen. Ladies. Assorted vermin. You know why I have summoned you all here.

"I gotta question, Horny. Why are we holding meetings when the Mouse is still breathing? Why don’t we just take him out now?"

“I gotta question, Horny. Why are we holding meetings when the Mouse is still breathing? Why don’t we just take him out now?”

"Silence you over varnished fool! Don’t you understand that an enemy like Batman can’t be defeated by mere brute strength? We have to…I think I might be in the wrong meeting."

“Silence you over-varnished fool! Don’t you understand that an enemy like Batman can’t be defeated by mere brute strength? We have to…I think I might be in the wrong meeting.”

"Yeah. I think you're across the hall."

“Yeah. I think you’re across the hall.”

"Forgive me gentlemen."

“Forgive me gentlemen.”

McCarthy. I would advise you to hold your tongue. Or I shall hold it for you.

McCarthy. I would advise you to hold your tongue. Or I shall hold it for you.

"C'mon! Lets kill the Mouse!"

“C’mon! Lets kill the Mouse!”

Fool. We're not going to kill the Unshaved Mouse.

Fool. We’re not going to kill the Unshaved Mouse.

"We're not?"

“We’re not?”

"Sorry, I think I might be in the wrong meeting too..."

“Sorry, I think I might be in the wrong meeting too…”

Fool. We're not going to kill the Unshaved Mouse.

No. We are not going to kill him. After all, there are things so much worse than death. I have devised a fate so heinous for the Unshaved Mouse that it can scarcely be believed. But it requires finesse, and patience.

"What is the plan, tovarich?"

“What is the plan, tovarich?”

First I will implant a hypnotic suggestion in the Mouse’s subconscious. Disney’s manipulations of him have left him uniquely suceptible to this. I intend to strike when he is at his weakest. His most vulnerable. His most…despairing.

First I will implant a hypnotic suggestion in the Mouse’s subconscious. Disney’s manipulations of him have left him uniquely susceptible to this. I intend to strike when he is at his weakest. His most vulnerable. His most…despairing.

***

AAAAAAARRRRHHHH…
YAAAAAAAAAARGGH…
BLEEEEEEECHHHHHHHH…
Alright, you know what? Before I can even approach this one I have got to rant about the poster. The goddamn poster! That’s how much suck we have to get through here.
poster
“Bust a Moo?”
BUST A MOO?!!!!
WHAT THE FLAGELLATING FINICKY FLIPPING FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN!!???
FIND ME WHO CAME UP WITH THAT! I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING! FIND ME WHO WROTE THAT TAGLINE SO THAT I CAN PSYCHICALLY KILL THEM WITH PURE HATRED! DO IT NOW!
"Mouse. Calm down. Your friends are worried about you."

“Mouse. Calm down. Your friends are worried about you.”

"We're worried. Yes."

“We’re worried. Yes.”

Sorry. You’re right. I’m sorry but…oh God that poster. That poster pretty much encapsulates the whole problem with this movie. Just this weird, desperate attempt to be hip and funny that fails so badly you’re not even sure if that’s what they were going for. It’s one thing to come last in a race. It’s another to come last because you were pushing a bobsled on the track. One just means you were bad. The other is being so inept it’s hard for an outside observer to be sure that you were even trying to win. Like all the real turkeys in the Disney canon, details on Home on the Range’s origins are hard to come by. Wikipedia, TV Tropes and IMDb are pretty light on facts and presumably only God and Michael Eisner know where the bodies are buried. I do know that Home on the Range started pre-production all the way back in 1995, that it was once going to be called Sweating Bullets and that the premise was at one point that a young calf named Bullets taking on a gang of ghost cattle rustlers called The Willies. Yeah, so this thing was always going to suck, basically. There is no universe where this movie turned out well.

 How bad is it?

Come. Let us gaze upon the carnage…

(more…)

Oh. My apologies.

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #44: Brother Bear

 

(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.)

Disney is proud of Atlantis. It didn’t make a lot of money, it wasn’t a huge critical success, but nonetheless they are damned proud of that movie. How do I know? Look at the DVD release. There are literally hours of behind the scenes material, concept art, excised scenes and a full visual commentary by the directors. All this is essentially the studio saying “Looking how much hard work and effort and craft went into making this film.”
The Brother Bear DVD has a commentary by two Canadian moose. Make of that what you will.
Why did no one warn me? Seriously? Why did none of you have the goddamned decency to let me know what was in store? Oh sure, you said it was bad. But there is a difference between saying “You know, trains can be dangerous if they hit you” and screaming “GET OFF THE TRACKS YOU IDIOT!!”. Hell, why didn’t Disney warn me? How could they just release this on an unsuspecting public? Okay fine, I don’t expect them to flat out say “Our movie is cinema’s answer to the Khmer Rouge” but they could at least have hinted in their marketing that some serious shit was coming our way.
Oh. My apologies.

Oh. My apologies.

Bad? Oh hell yes.
Worse than Dinosaur?
I…I…ohhhhh that is hard to answer. Do you take the flaming mace to the nutsack or the being forcibly fed live moray eels? Dinosaur is horribly deriviative, ugly and  deathly dull. Brother Bear, at least, is only one of those (the last one). It’s not a particularly bad looking film, certainly not jaw-dropping but not an assualt on the eyes either. And I certainly would never call this movie deriviative. Dinosaur’s plot is so rote you pretty much know how it’s going to play out within five minutes. Brother Bear though? Credit where it’s due, I guess, I would not have predicated the story choices this movie makes. It certainly tries to break the mold and try something different. But…”different” is not always “good”.
Well, that's different.

Well, that’s “different”.

I honestly have never watched any Disney movie so slack jawed with utter disbelief at what I was watching. Never have I stared at the screen, silently mouthing the words “No. NO! No. No…No.”
I wanted to give you some background on this movie, what they were thinking, who thought it, what punishment was eventually meted out to them but there is nothing really. Nothing on the internet, nothing on the DVD barring the moose commentary. And no, I didn’t listen to it. I don’t owe you that. I don’t owe anyone that.
Sigh. Let’s just do this.
Treasure_Planet_poster

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #43: Treasure Planet

(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.)

***

Occasionally, before beginning a review, I will don a simple disguise and mingle with the common folk of the Disney fandom. “Tell me good sirrah,” I might enquire of some good-hearted peasant in a small, provincial internet forum “What do the people think of Lilo and Stitch?”.
“Why sir, it is rightly lauded as a most wondrous film and much beloved.”
“And the Unshaved Mouse? I have heard that he is a reviewer of passable skill?”
“Passable skill? By thunder sir, he is a very God amongst the reviewing class, and most sorely do I wish he were here, that I might shake his hand.”
“Mayhap he is closer than you think, good pleb” I would say with a benevolent smile. I would then toss him a Bitcoin to see the light of thanks in his eyes, and be on my way.
My point is, I try to take the pulse of where we as a fandom are on a particular film and what I found with Treasure Planet made me a little worried. A cursory glance at the internet shows that this thing has a healthier fanbase than many other movies in the canon. Lots of fanart and fanfiction, plenty of people willing to fly the “Lost Classic” banner, some of the most soul scarring motherfucking Jim/Silver porn you have ever seen in your life that I can now never unsee for as long as I live…
But on the flip side…
Facebook
Yeah, so there is a lot of hate for this thing out there. Robert Louis Stevenson purists, animation nerds who blame it for the death of traditional Disney animation, people who just flat out hate it as a movie, Somalis who were suckered into a life of piracy by the unrealistic portrayal in the movie…
These men were promised robots.

These young men were promised robots.

This movie has made more enemies than Boba Fett. And this puts me in a tough position because when it comes to Treasure Planet I fall into the controversial camp of: ”Meh. ‘Sfine.”
Treasure Planet was actually originally pitched by Ron Clements and Jon Musker all the way back in 1985 but it was passed over in favour of Little Mermaid which…yeah, probably the right call. I was surprised to learn that this was a Clements and Musker film because it feels a lot more like something by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, particularly AtlantisClements and Musker were actually happy for the delay because by the time they got a chance to make it the technology had caught up with their vision for the film. And I’ve got to say this up front; this film is gorgeous. In fact, almost all the Lost Era movies are. The quality of the movies may have gone down after the renaissance, sure, but if anything the animation just kept getting better and better. Let’s take a look.
LiloandStitchmovieposter

Disney Reviews #42: Lilo and Stitch

(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.)

Sometime before production had started on Mulan, Michael Eisner took a load of the Disney animators out to his mother’s apple orchard so that they could get inspiration from the gorgeous autumnal colours and also because there were a load of apples that needed picking , chop, chop. As the pasty, pencil armed creatures hoisted bushels and sweated against the magnificent backdrop of a September sunset, Michael Eisner’s thoughts turned to Dumbo, another endeavour that would not have been possible without cheap, non-union labour. Why was it that Disney couldn’t make movies like Dumbo anymore?, Eisner mused later that night, enjoying a frothy mug of Mama Eisner’s finest apple cider as the sweet melody of the animators singing their spirituals in the nearby camp wafted through the night air. Dumbo, you’ll recall,  was pretty much the only Disney animation of the forties to turn a profit, not because it did that much better at the box-office than the other films but because it had been so cheap to make. The next day, the surviving animators were rounded up and taken back to Burbank and the basic idea for Lilo and Stitch had been planted; to create a successful animated film that did not cost the GNP of a small European nation to make.  Lilo and Stich had a budget of $80 Million, which only sounds like a lot because we are poor and clad in filthy rags. For a feature length animated film it’s peanuts. But fortunately, some cartoons work for peanuts.
Eddie Valiant, however, does not.

Eddie Valiant, however, does not.

Actually, the relatively small budget was the gift that kept on giving for this movie. The fact that directors Chris Sanders and Dean deBlois weren’t gambling with a huge chunk of Disney’s money meant that they could work without the execs breathing down their necks like a pack of asthmatic vampire bats. In fact, management was remarkably hands off on this one, which is why it looks, sounds and feels like nothing else in the canon. This movie is shaped visually by Chris Sanders own unique artistic style, and if you came to this movie cold you probably wouldn’t even know it was a Disney movie. But is that a good thing?
Let’s take a look.

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Atlantis_The_Lost_Empire_poster

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #41: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

(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.)
***
So you may have noticed that I’ve been doing a little housekeeping around here.
Anything to avoid doing a little housekeeping around here.

Anything to avoid doing a little housekeeping around here.

Since we’re now pushing fifty reviews I’ve finally organised the reviews by era and decade so you can more easily browse them. Longtime readers of the blog will know that I’ve got my own idiosyncratic way of organising the canon Disney movies; The Tar and Sugar Movies of the late thirties and early forties, the Never Heard of ‘Ems of the war years, the fifties Restoration, the sixties and seventies Scratchy Era, the Mourning Era of the eighties and the Renaissance of the nineties. I then had to come up with a name for this weird post-millenial chunk of movies between Fantasia 2000 and The Princess and the Frog and this had me stumped for a good while. I hear “The Dark Age” trotted out a lot as a description for this era but that just doesn’t sit well with me for two reasons; firstly I try to use a name that suits the overall style and tone of the movies and the movies of this period are not particularly “dark”. Then of course, “The Dark Age” implies that all these films are somehow inferior and you can tell me that The Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo and Stitch are bad movies or you can keep your limbs intact but you cannot do both. Finally, I settled on “The Lost Era” because this era, like the Mourning Era, was an experimental time where Disney was trying to answer the question “What kind of movies do we make?” The most sustained periods of success in Disney’s history have always been times when the company found a formula that worked. When they knew what they were about. In the fifties, it was fairytales and adaptations of classic children’s literature. In the sixties, it was jazzy Sherman Brothers musicals, in the nineties it was all about Broadway. The origins of Atlantis: The Lost Empire began in a Mexican restaurant when directors Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise and producer Don Hahn sat down to a big bowl of nachos and tried to figure out the future of Disney. These three men were the creative heads behind my personal favorite Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and this meeting was born largely out of a desire to keep the band together, so to speak. Trousdale, Wise and Hahn realised that they had put together an absolutely phenomenal team for Hunchback and were anxious not to see this incredibly talented group of people separated and put on other projects. The solution was obvious: Make another movie. But what kind of movie? It was clear by now that the Broadway Disney musical had been done. And done again. And then, why not, done a couple more times. And while those movies had been hugely (HUGELY) successful, it was clear that enough was enough. When you’ve got a formula that’s familiar enough for this kind of parody to work…
…it’s time to try something new. This was the paradox Disney faced in the early 21st century. They knew what worked, but they couldn’t do it anymore. For a while, Tarzan had seemed to offer a way forward, a pseudo-musical with all the songs sung by a big name musical talent instead of the characters. But then that had come a rather massive cropper with the Kingdom of the Sun/Emperor’s New Groove  debacle. Yeah, yeah, I know. You love the movie, I love the movie. That’s because it didn’t cost us $100 Million. More importantly perhaps, Trousdale, Wise and Hahn did not want to make another animated musical. As the nacho cheese flowed like wine, the three men began talking about the movies they had loved growing up, and specifically, the Disney movies they had loved growing up. Now, hold onto your hats people because I am about to blow your freaking minds. Did you know that Disney also made live action, non-animated, human-acted with actual human beings movies?
I warned you.

I warned you.

My paw to God, it’s true. In fact, my good buddy Animation Commendation even has a blog devoted to Disney’s live action efforts which I’ve been meaning to link to for ever. You should check it out. The germ for the idea that would become Atlantis began with a desire to do an animated version of the old Disney live action adventure movies. You know, Davy Crockett, Treasure Island and by far it’s most obvious influence, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. 

Atlantis represented a huge, daring creative gamble for Disney, an attempt to break out of the admittedly lucrative formula that had begun to stifle the studio creatively. This was going to be something new. There would be no funny animal sidekicks. The movie’s unofficial motto during production was “less singing, more explosions”. Comic book creator Mike Mignola was brought in to give the movie a new distinctive visual look.  This thing would have a PG rating by God!

I'm frightened.

I’m frightened.

One thing that really comes across watching this movie and the bonus material that comes with it is just how much everybody cared about this film. Seriously, you can tell, they worked their asses off on this. Did it pay off?

Well…read the review! You think I’m just going to tell you up front?

Nerve of some people...

Nerve of some people…

Let’s take a look at the movie.

(more…)

Grooveposter

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #40: The Emperor’s New Groove

(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.)

***

So let me tell you a little story about the worst movie Disney never made. It was called Kingdom of the Sun, an epic retelling of the story of the Prince and the Pauper set in the Incan Empire. Roger Allers, director of the Lion King was at the helm, Owen Wilson was cast as the Pauper, David Spade was the Prince, Eartha Kitt was playing the villainous sorceress Yzma who was to be animated by the legendary Andreas Deja. Oh, and the score was to be provided by legendary rocker Sting. Sounds pretty awesome, right? So what happened? Well, the movie making business is a huge, complex and labyrinthine affair and the reasons why certain movies fail and others succeed is never clear cut but if I had to guess I’d have to say it was because it sucked balls. Test audiences hated the movie, which was a problem because half the damn thing was already completed. So Mark Dindal, director of Cats Don’t Dance, was brought in to make the movie a bit more light hearted and audience friendly. Dindal and Allers pretty soon found themselves at odds to the point where each director was essentially making a different movie. The Disney execs had been willing to give Allers a lot of leeway because…y’know…fucking Lion King…but it was becoming increasingly apparent that Kingdom of the Sun wasn’t going to make it’s 2000 release date. And this was a problem because Disney had signed merchandising deals with McDonald’s and Coke who probably had Michael Eisner’s daughter as collateral or something. Allers asked for a six month extension to get his shit together. DeniedAnd so Allers left and it fell to Dindal to pull off one of the most amazing salvage jobs in modern movie history. Out of the ashes of Kingdom of the Sun, came Emperor’s New Groove, which I have now rewatched and feel confident in saying is the single greatest comedy in the entire Disney canon. Funnier than Robin Hood and Jungle Book. It’s hilarious. In fact, it’s so funny that I’m pretty much totally screwed. There is nothing harder to review than a good comedy, especially if you are a quote unquote “comedic” reviewer. I mean, look, I think I can be pretty funny on a good day, but there is no way in hell that I can write a review that will make you laugh more than just watching this thing. But, as long we’re all agreed that this is an exercise in futility, I’m game if you are. Okay, so Dindal basically decided that there was no chance in hell they could do the kind of epic, Lion King-esque movie that Allers had planned in the time left, so they might as well just have fun. Gone was the Prince and the Pauper storyline. Yzma was now a wacky mad scientist. The Emperor, Kuzco, was now an entitled jerk. The tapes for Owen Wilson’s performance were taken and cast out into the wilderness to be feasted on by jackals with a taste for deadpan Texan delivery and John Goodman was brought in to replace him. Everything was now stripped down, small cast, simple plot, no big animated set pieces. Oh, and all but two of the songs Sting wrote were tossed out. Sting would later say: “At first, I was angry and perturbed. Then I wanted some vengeance.” Well, having had to listen to My Funny Friend and Me, I too want some vengeance, Sting.

And here it is.

And here it is.

Let’s take a look at the film.

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Dinosaurmovieposter

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #39: Dinosaur

(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.)

“All that remained of his herd were his mother, grandmother and his grandfather. He knew them by sight, by sound and by their love.”

The Land Before Time, 1988

“That, children, is what’s known as a jerkasaurous.”

Dinosaur, 2000

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the classic Disney movies are a lot like hardcore porn, and I’m not just saying that because putting the words “dinosaur” and “porn” in a blog post is my best chance of scamming a few page views before this “dino-erotica” news fad runs its course.

I’d say “don’t judge me”, but honestly I’d think less of you if you didn’t.

What I mean is, it’s hard to exactly define what makes a Disney classic, but you know it when you see it. Like porn. Even dinosaur porn. Read my blog, perverts. Take for example, Sleeping Beauty and The Avengers. They’re both technically Disney movies in that they were released by Walt Disney studios, but one is considered part of the canon classics and the other isn’t. Why is that? It’s not because Sleeping Beauty is wholly animated, because there are plenty of movies in the canon that are partially or even mostly live action (Saludos Amigos for example.) It’s really more just a question of looking at a movie and saying “Yes…this fits.” Today’s movie did not clear that barrier when it was first released. Disney did not consider Dinosaur  part of the canon classics, which means that by rights I should have skipped over it and should be pissing my pants right now watching the side-splitting awesomeness of The Emperor’s New Groove. But no, Dinosaur has since been retroactively shoe-horned into the canon and it’s all thanks to one person.

You are fucking DEAD blondie.

You are fucking DEAD blondie.

Sigh. Look, Rapunzel? I’m glad you now get to call yourself the fiftieth canon Disney movie. Good on you. You earned it, what with being the beloved fairytale princess character who rescued the flagging fortunes of the Disney studio.

In Disney's defence, it's only the fourth time that's happened.

In Disney’s defence, it’s only the fourth time that’s happened.

I just have one question, Rapunzel. Did you have to ruin my life to do it?

See, I hate this movie. Like a lot. Like, “congratulations Black Cauldron, you no longer live at the bottom” hate it.

Dinosaur was in the works for a long time, originally pitched to Disney as a stop-motion film by none other than Paul Verhoeven. Because, when I think of creators and studios who were made for each other…I do not think of Paul Verhoeven and Disney. At all. Like, not even a little. Verhoeven’s original pitch was for a silent, almost nature documentary film which would be extremely violent and end with the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. And yeah, Paul? Did you just get high and walk into the wrong studio? Disney instead decided to sit on the idea until computer effects technology had advanced enough to create realistic animated dinosaurs and that is your problem right there. People who like this movie always mention the visuals. The whole advertising campaign was just showing the first few wordless minutes of the movie to showcase the animation. The damn tagline is “Like nothing you’ve ever seen”. This was a movie made to showcase special effects technology, not because anyone involved had a story to tell. Which is why everything outside the animation is rote, tacked-on, hacky and mediocre. And even the animation isn’t that great. I mean, I suppose it’s impressive considering it was Disney’s first fully computer animated feature.

Actually Mouse, since it uses live action backgrounds it's only partially computer animated...

Actually Mouse, since it uses live action backgrounds it’s only partially computer animated…

NIT, SHUT UP I AM IN NO MOOD FOR PEDANTRY!

Deep breath.

Okay, I always try to be positive so let me tell you the two things I like about this movie:

1) I like that they avoid the usual T-Rex/Triceratops/Stegosaurus/Diplodocus clichés and actually use some more obscure dinosaur species.

2) There is the kernel of an interesting debate here about a society’s obligation to look after its most vulnerable members versus the greater good of the strongest and fittest. Kind of…the Obamacare debate with dinosaurs.

Aaaaand…

That’s it. Nothing left but to unhinge my jaw like a python and let the bile gush forward.

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