walt disney

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #56: Moana

Question. Do you think that when Ron Clements and John Musker show up at the Disney studios they’re all…

‘Cos they’d kinda have to, wouldn’t they? I mean, they’ve earned that. If they wanted to stop at every cubicle and say “Oh by the way, we’re the reason you have a job. You’re welcome.” who among us would begrudge them that? With The Little Mermaid, Clements and Musker kick-started the Disney Renaissance, catapulting the animation studio back to cultural relevance and critical and commercial acclaim. And then, just for poops and giggles, they did it again in 2009, with the Princess and the Frog marking the end of the Lost Era and inaugurating the current golden age of the canon. Come to think of it, I have a feeling that Disney could have saved themselves a lot of worry and financial distress over the decades if they’d just hung a sign on the wall saying “WHEN THINGS ARE GOING BAD, JUST MAKE A PRINCESS MOVIE”. Seriously, never fails. Okay, apart from that one that almost drove the company to bankruptcy.

Totally worth it.

Where was I? Oh right, Clements and Musker. These two men wrote the book on the modern Disney Princesses movie. They are O fuckin’ G, or at least as gangsta as one can be while making movies about princesses and their talking animal friends. They are the Biggie and Tupac of this one very specific movie sub-genre.

In this analogy, Walt would be Ice-T.

Moana honestly feels less like a Disney Princess movie, and more like the Disney Princess movie, an attempt to make as definitive a version of this kind of movie as it’s possible to make. That may sound like a compliment…but…

This movie feels like it’s trying to take everything that worked about the previous nine modern Disney princesses (Merida doesn’t count FIGHT ME) and distill them into one character. Moana is all those princesses combined into one. But is she an awesome Megazord or a shambling Frankenstein’s monster?

Let’s take a look.

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Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)

Americans calling my nation’s national holiday “Saint Patty’s Day” is one of those things that, as an Irishmouse, I am supposed to be Very Annoyed About. Honestly, it doesn’t bug me. Way I see it, if Irish Americans hadn’t turned March 17 into a major celebration of Irish identity and history in the eighteen hundreds, today the feast of Saint Patrick would be about as big a deal as the third Sunday of Ordinary Time so I say let ‘em call it whatever they like. At this point, it’s as much theirs as ours. Ireland and America have always had a very close relationship, culturally. This has often been a very positive thing, but it does cause problems. Picture Ireland as a man with a very quiet voice and a huge megaphone with the words “MADE IN AMERICA” emblazoned on it. Ireland has a global cultural presence and clout far, far beyond what you’d expect for a small country with a relatively paltry population and that’s largely due to the outsize influence Irish emigrants have had in the shaping of the world’s only cultural hyperpower. But what that means is that what the world perceives as “Irishness” is often filtered first through an American prism. Small Irish voice, big American megaphone. The result is that how we’re perceived by the rest of the world is often completely out of our hands.  Take a look at this picture:

The photo was taken in 1946 in County Kerry in the West of Ireland. The gentleman on the left is one Séamus Delargy, the founder of the Irish Folklore Commission, an organisation tasked with collecting and cataloguing the vast body of oral folklore, songs and poetry that had been passed down by word of mouth by the Irish people since time immemorial. The Irish Folklore Commission, incidentally, later became the Irish Folklore Department in University College Dublin where I got the degree that has made me the wealthy, eminently employable mouse I am today.

Oh, and the guy on the right is Walt Disney.

So, around the end of the second world war, Disney had set his heart on making a film based on Irish legends (Disney’s great-grandfather was from Kilkenny). He was put in touch with Delargey and over the next decade the two men corresponded continously. Delargy viewed Disney’s film as a chance to bring some of the treasure trove of Irish folklore his commission had uncovered to a wider audience, and dispatched crates of books, plays and manuscripts to Burbank. To Delargy’s disappointment however, Disney eventually decided to base his Irish film on Herminie Templeton Kavanagh’s “Darby O’Gill” books. Here we have the relationship between Irish folklore and it’s American amanuenses personified. Delargy says “Here is a huge and varied body of folktales full of magic, heroes, epic quests, tricksters and romance.” and Disney replies “That’s nice. Leprechauns, please.”

This movie’s reputation is a little hard to assess. In America, it’s fairly obscure, but amongst those who know of it it’s quite highly regarded. Hell, no less an authority than Leonard Malthin, a man who eats Disney movies and shits special limited edition Blu-Rays , called it “not only one of Disney best films, but certainly one of the best fantasies ever put to film.”

Well. Clearly SOMEONE’s never seen Hawk the Slayer.

 In Ireland it is most certainly not obscure. And our relationship to this particular movie is…complicated. It was a huge hit when it was released here, with Disney himself attending the Dublin premiere which virtually brought the city to a standstill. But it arrived at a very crucial period in Irish history, when Taoiseach Seán Lemass was trying to cast off the nation’s image as a rural backwater and promote Ireland as a modern economy ready to do business with the world. The success of this movie and it’s bucolic image of rural towns and cheerfully superstitious peasants had many in government muttering between clenched teeth: “You. Are. Not. Helping.” Today it remains a staple of Irish television, particularly around Saint Patrick’s day, and is one of those movies that almost every Irish person has seen once, along with Michael Collins and Die Hard*. But there has always been an undercurrent of resentment to this movie, with many feeling that it’s…what’s the word I’m looking for?

“Racist?”

“Ah, no.”

But “Darby O’Gill” has definitely become a shorthand for fake, inauthentic Oirishness in film. But is that reputation justified? Let’s take a look, just to be sure. To be sure.

To be sure.

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Bill Cipher reviews WEIRDMAGEDDON!

Previously on Unshaved Mouse: Mouse tried to review the series finale of Gravity Falls and it went about as well as you’d expect, with Mouse being possessed by the infinite evil of Bill Cipher who now threatens to turn the real world into an eternal playground for his cosmic malice and doom all humanity. Because it’s always something with this blog, isn’t it? Just saying, you never see this kind of shit on Alternate Ending.  Meanwhile, at the secret headquarters of the Legion of Animators.

Image result for meanwhile at the legion of doom

"JOSEPH SMITH ON A GRAM CRACKER WHAT HAVE YOU DONE DISNEY?!"

“JOSEPH SMITH ON A GRAM CRACKER WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, DISNEY?!”

"IT'S NOT MY FAULT! I SWEAR BY THE DARK POWERS IT'S NOT MY FAULT THIS TIME!"

“IT’S NOT MY FAULT! I SWEAR BY THE DARK POWERS IT’S NOT MY FAULT THIS TIME!”

"Somehow, I always knew you'd destroy the world, man."

“Somehow, I always knew you’d destroy the world, man.”

"SHUT UP HIPPY! WHY DID WE EVEN LET HIM JOIN?! HE SMELLS LIKE BEAR TURDS!"

“SHUT UP HIPPY! WHY DID WE EVEN LET HIM JOIN?! HE SMELLS LIKE BEAR TURDS!”

"It's the smell of artistic integrity, man."

“It’s the smell of artistic integrity, man.”

"Gentlemen. Calm yourselves. The situation calls for unity."

“Gentlemen. Calm yourselves. The situation calls for unity.”

"Miyazaki-san is right. We should listen to him. He is the wisest of all of us."

“Miyazaki-san is right. We should listen to him. He is the wisest of all of us.”

"Let us consider: An Nth level fictional construct has gained sentience and escaped to the real world. Even now it's power grows, and any hope of defeating it becomes slimmer by the second."

“Let us consider: An Nth level fictional construct has gained sentience and escaped to the real world. Even now it’s power grows, and any hope of defeating it becomes slimmer by the second.”

"True."

“True.”

"So I'm thinking, bail?"

“So I’m thinking: Bail?”

“Listen to this man. He’s wise, he’s Japanese, he knows the score. Let’s leave this reality and never come back.”

“Listen to this man. He’s wise, he’s Japanese, he knows the score. Let’s leave this reality and never come back.”

“Groovy, man.”

“Groovy, man.”

“No! Listen to yourselves! If we abandon this world it’s only a matter of time before Bill conquers all of reality. We have to stay! We have to fight! We’re animators! Masters of the Arcane and Dark Arts! Immortal warlocks of inestimable power!”

“No! Listen to yourselves! If we abandon this world it’s only a matter of time before Bill conquers all of reality. We have to stay! We have to fight! We’re animators! Masters of the Arcane and Dark Arts! Immortal warlocks of inestimable power!”

“I’m not.”

“I’m not.”

“Shut up Park!”

“Shut up Park!”

“Sorry.”

“Sorry.”

“We have one chance to stop Bill. Listen up...”

“We have one chance to stop Bill. Listen up…”

***

HEY MONOFORMS! HOW ARE YOU DOING?! I’M SWELL! THE MOMENT OF MY ASCENSION IS NEARLY AT HAND AND NO ONE CAN STOP ME! NO ONE! WHAT, YOU THOUGHT THOSE LOSERS IN THE INTRO CAN SAVE YOU? I LET YOU READ THAT BECAUSE I LIKE TOYING WITH YOU! I KNOW ALL! I SEE ALL! I BE ALL, YO! NOW LET’S FINISH OUR LOOK AT WEIRDMAGEDDON AND SEE HOW I ESCAPED INTO YOUR REALITY AND ALSO HOW LONG YOU CAN GO READING THIS ALL-CAPS TEXT WITHOUT GETTING A HEADACHE! OH, SORRY, IS IT DIFFICULT TO READ? HOW ABOUT IF I SPEAK IN BRIGHT BLAZING YELLOW?! YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT! DON’T MAKE ME PULL OUT THE COMIC SANS! I’LL DO IT!!!

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Gravity Falls (2012-2016)

Hey everybody! Man, it is so good to be back you have nooooooo idea! I have been waiting for this for a really, really long time.You see, Gravity Falls is my favourite TV show help. Not favourite kid’s TV show. Not favourite cartoon. Favourite TV show help me. Period. Why is it so good? That’s actually an incredibly easy question. With some shows you have to explain the appeal but with Gravity Falls it’s pretty cut and dry.

  • It’s gorgeously animated.
  • Wonderfully acted.
  • Impressively scored.
  • Brilliantly written. help
  • Frickin’ hi-larious.

Gravity Falls is basically Golden-Age Treehouse of Horror: The Series, combined with some of the best ongoing mystery plotting I can ever recall seeing in a TV don’t listen to him show, regardless of demographic. The show is the creation of Alex Hirsch who was born in 1985…

Screw you, Alex Hirsch.

Just screw you.

The show is the creation of Alex Hirsch and centres on the don’t trust him adventures of the 12 year old Pine twins, Mabel (Kristen Schall) and Dipper (or “Pine Tree” to his friends) (Jason Ritter) who are sent by their parents to spend the summer with their Grand Uncle Stan who’s voiced by Alex Hirsch…

Screw you, Alex Hirsch.

Pine Tree discovers a mysterious journal it’s not me hidden in the forest and soon the twins are investigating the spooooooky goings on in Gravity Falls with the help of Grunkle Stan, loveable dim-witted handyman Soos (Alex Hir…SCREW YOU ALEX HIRSCH) and Wendy Corduroy (Linda Cardellini), a teenage girl who works at Grunkle Stan’s Mystery Shack and who Pine Tree has a massive crush on.  So it’s a pretty standard set up for a half hour cartoon; kids chasing monsters. Hanna Barbera sucked that tell Walt well dry long ago. But it’s all in the execution. Gravity Falls did what so few series have ever managed to do; it came, it told its hurry story, it wrapped it up in the most satisfying and awesome way possible and then it ended right when leave now it needed to, in stark contrast to its biggest influence.

JUST. LET. IT DIE.

JUST. LET. IT DIE.

And because I really want to do the show justice and stop reading because I’m still very busy with UNNAMED HORROR I am actually going to split this review into two parts. The first half is going to discuss the series as a whole and then review running out of time the first episode of Weirdmageddon, the three part finale, with the second review finishing off the final two episodes. Got that, meatsacks? Good, let’s get started. LAST CHANCE GET OUT OF HERE

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Music Land (1935)

Seven years is not that long a time. Seven years ago we got the first of the Star Trek reboot movies, Michael Jackson died and Jay Z and Alicia Keyes released Empire State of Mind. Not exactly ancient history. Go back and watch Steamboat Willie. Now watch Music Land released by Disney a mere seven years later.

shocked-will-smith

So what the hell, right? How did we get from that to that in a mere seven years?

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Gargoyles: Eye of the Beholder

Okay, let’s get the important business out of the way.
IT HOLDS UP. LIKE, DAMN.
Rewatching Gargoyles for this review I was expecting a sugar rush of nostalgia and maybe a melancholy recognition that it was good for its time but not the masterpiece I remembered from childhood. I did NOT expect to get hooked and embark on an epic binge watch that had me wondering whether I could squeeze in just one more episode at four in the morning.  For those of you who never saw it, and you zygotes who are too young to remember, let me explain what Gargoyles was.
Take the shadowy urban action and moody aesthetic of Batman the Animated Series, add the “team of superhero creatures fighting evil in secret in modern day New York” setup of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, stir in some exceptionally high calibre voice talent, stellar writing and the finest animation Disney had done for TV up to that point, ladle in generous portions of Shakespeare and world mythology and add salt to taste. Boom. You got salty Gargoyles.
By the mid-nineties, there was something of a renaissance in television animation underway as studios moved away from the cheap, thinly disguised toy commercials of the eighties and started to create shows of a higher calibre. I described this in the Ducktales review, and while this renaissance was kickstarted by Disney, by the mid-nineties their TV output had in many ways been surpassed by rivals Warner Brothers, who had brought the thunder with such classic shows as Tiny Toons, Animanaics and of course Batman the Animated Series. This last one is the most relevant because Gargoyles is very much an attempt to beat Warner Bros at their own game and create their own BTAS. This led to some bad blood between the two shows, with Batman creator Bruce Timm dismissing gargoyles as “namby pamby…with all that Celtic fantasy crap.”
"Hi. Mr Timm? Unshaved Mouse. Huge fan. Go fuck a stoat."

“Hi. Mr Timm? Unshaved Mouse. Huge fan. Go fuck a stoat.”

Which of the two series is better was a subject of fierce debate when I was growing up but having re-watched both I have come to the profoundly unsatisfying conclusion that they were both superior in different ways. Batman pushed the envelope of what was possible in kid’s animation artistically. In its Art Deco style, its mood, and its use of shadows and camera angles it’s hands down the more visually arresting show. But, while Gargoyles might look a little generic compared to Batman, I think the former beats the latter in terms of narrative ambition. Remember, Batman had a cast of characters that had been part of pop culture’s consciousness for almost sixty years at that point, but Gargoyles creates a new cast of characters, mythology and history out of whole cloth and uses them to tell a story with a depth and scope that hadn’t been seen in children’s animation in the West up to that point. The characterisation is also phenomenal. While at first glance the gargoyles are stock character types, peel them and you’ll find the layers have layers. And that’s not even getting into the villains. Most cartoons are extremely lucky if they can boast one of the all-time great cartoon villains. Gargoyles has at least four.
So what’s our premise? Well, in 10th century Scotland Castle Wyvern is guarded by a clan of gargoyles. Stone by day, big scary demonic lookin’ bastards by night. The gargoyles are led by Goliath (Keith Motherfucking David at his Keith Motherfucking Davidist). The gargoyles have lived in peace with Castle Wyvern’s human inhabitants for years, but they’re still distrusted by them because this is the dark ages and they look like the devil. The gargoyles get caught up in a load of court intrigue and betrayal and counter betrayal complicated enough for an entire series of Game of Thrones and the upshot is that Goliath comes back from patrol to discover that almost his entire clan was smashed to pieces by humans while they slept during the day. Only seven of the Castle Wyvern clan survived and they were placed under a spell by a vengeful wizard who thought they had killed someone who they actually hadn’t killed long story. The spell caused the gargoyles to turn to stone and stay that way, day and night, forever. The only way the spell could be broken would be if Castle Wyvern were “raised above the clouds” and if you’re getting a real “til Birnham Wood come to Dunsinane” vibe off this then that’s entirely intentional. This series could not be more indebted to MacBeth if they made MacBeth a character on the show which by the way they totally did.
"My friends call me Scottish Play."

“My friends call me Scottish Play.”

Anyway, flashforward a thousand years and David Xanatos (Jonathan Frakes), billionaire playboy philanthropist has Castle Wyvern disassembled, and rebuilt, brick by brick, at the top of his Manhattan skyscraper just to see what would happen. The spell is broken and Goliath and his surviving clan of gargoyles become the defenders of New York from all threats both human and supernatural.

I went back and forth over just how to approach this review. At first, I was going to do a general review of the whole series before remembering that there were 65 GODDAMN episodes.

Kitty

And that’s not even counting the third season that never happened and which we shall never speak of again.

I then thought about reviewing one of the story arcs like “The World Tour” or  “City of Stone”. But “City of Stone” focuses more on two side characters than the main Gargoyles and also there’s a lot of flashback stuff that would get really confusing and probably be boring to read. And as for “Word Tour”,  I had (again) forgotten that Goliath and Eliza were putzing around on that damn boat for nineteen episodes so once again…

Kitty

So finally, with the deadline approaching like an oncoming walrus on a bobsled I decide to just review one single episode which I think encapsulates the things that I most loved about this show.

lAZY MAN
That episode is Season 2’s “Eye of the Beholder.”
Let’s take a look.

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Steamboat Willie (1928)

When talking about Steamboat Willie it’s almost more important to talk about what it’s not than what it is, as so many myths have sprung up about these seven minutes of animation. So, for the record Steamboat Willie is not:

  • The first Mickey Mouse cartoon.
  • The first Walt Disney cartoon.
  • The first cartoon to feature sound.

Willie’s real claim to fame is a little less sexy. It’s the first cartoon to use fully integrated sound and visuals, where the sound and pictures were recorded on the same film. There were other cartoons that used sound and music before this, but that basically involved playing the movie and the music on two separate tracks and hoping that they’d keep in sync like Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon. It doesn’t sound like it should make a huge difference but it really does. Take a look at Inkwell’s My Old Kentucky Home from 1926.

Wow, second sentence. You are so out of date in so many different ways that its almost impressive.

Wow, second sentence. You are so out of date in so many different ways that its almost impressive.

Now take a look at Steamboat Willie.

Synchronisation completely changes how you experience the cartoon. When you’re watching My Old Kentucky Home your brain thinks “I’m watching the dog move his mouth while a recording plays.” When you watchSteamboat Willie your brain thinks “The mouse is whistling.” With this marriage of sound and image all the elements are finally in place. This film, rough, scratchy and monochrome though it may be, is nonetheless the first modern cartoon.
Steamboat Willie was a sensation when it was released, making household names of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. And of course it also made a star out of Ub Iwerks who actually animated the damn thing…
Homer Laughing
Sorry Ub. To quote another Disney character, “Life’s not fair, is it?”
But, aside from its monumental historical and technical influence is Steamboat Willie any…y’know…good? Well, it’s probably not the best work of any of the people involved. And it certainly doesn’t fill me with the wonder of Winsor McCay’s shorts of almost twenty years prior. But it’s not without its charms. If Disney’s new series of Mickey Mouse shorts have taught me anything it’s just how deceptively versatile and charming the original Mickey Mouse design is. And there are some scenes, like Minnie running alongside the boat, that are actually quite technically challenging and impressive. But we will never really be able to understand the impact this short had on its original audience. We’ve spent our entire lives so immersed in sound and images that we’ve lost that innocence.
Our minds literally cannot conceive of how jaw-dropping this little short about a mouse goofing off on a boat must have been.
***
Unshaved Mouse has been shortlisted for best Film and TV blog at the Blog Awards Ireland 2016. Please click on the link below to vote for Mouse!
Littlewoods-Blog-Awards-2016-Website-MPU_Vote-Now

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #55: Zootopia/Zootropolis

 

"Mr Disney? There's a Mr Chernabog here to see you?"

“Mr Disney? There’s someone here to see you?”

"What? But the world thinks I've been dead since the sixties, who even knows I still work here?"

“What? But the world thinks I’ve been dead since the sixties, who even knows I still work here?”

"He said his name was Mr Chernabog?"

“He said his name was Mr Chernabog?”

"CRAP. Tell him I can't see him."

“CRAP. Tell him I can’t see him.”

"I would sir, but I'm not really here. I'm just a hallucination caused by your black-magic addled mind."

“I would sir, but I’m not really here. I’m just a hallucination caused by your black-magic addled mind.”

"DISSSSSSSNEY I WOULD HAVE WORDSSSS WITH THEE."

“DISSSSSSSNEY I WOULD HAVE WORDSSSS WITH THEE.”

"Cherny! C-Train! As the world Cherns! How the fuck are you?"

“Cherny! C-Train! As the world Cherns! How the fuck are you?”

"YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME, SSSSSORCEROR. AND THE LORD OF BALD MOUNTAIN KNOWSSS NOT OF MERCY."

“YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME, SSSSSORCEROR. AND THE LORD OF BALD MOUNTAIN KNOWSSS NOT OF MERCY.”

"Whoah! Hey! Walter Elias Disney is a man of his word, so how bout you settle down and tell me what this is all about?"

“Whoah! Hey! Walter Elias Disney is a man of his word, so how ’bout you settle down and tell me what this is all about?”

"WE HAD A PACT, YOU AND I. I GAVE YOU IMMORTALITY AND IN RETURN YOU AGREED TO CREATE FOR ME AN ARMY OF THE MOST DEPRAVED, HELLISH CREATURES EVER TO WALK THE EARTH."

“WE HAD A PACT, YOU AND I. I GAVE YOU IMMORTALITY AND IN RETURN YOU AGREED TO CREATE FOR ME AN ARMY OF THE MOSSSSSST DEPRAVED, HELLISSSSSH CREATURESSSS EVER TO WALK THE EARTH.”

"What? Furries?"

“What? Furries?”

"I MUSSST HAVE MORE FURRRIESSS! MORE! THE CROP GROWSSS THIN! THE CROPS GROWSSSS THIN!"

“I MUSSST HAVE MORE FURRIESSS! MORE! THE CROP GROWSSS THIN! THE CROPS GROWSSSS THIN!”

"What are you talking about? We made Robin Hood!"

“What are you talking about? I made Robin Hood! That should have kept you balls deep in furries for years!”

"THAT WASSSS OVER FORTY YEARSSSSS AGO!"

“THAT WASSSS OVER FORTY YEARSSSSS AGO!”

"Fuck. My. Ass. Yikes, sorry. My bad. I'll get right on that."

“Fuck. My. Ass. Yikes, sorry. My bad. I’ll get right on that.”

"BE WARNED! IF I DO NOT RECEIVE AN ARMY OF FURRIESSSS BEYOND RECKONING I SHALL EAT..."

“BE WARNED! IF I DO NOT RECEIVE AN ARMY OF FURRIESSSS BEYOND RECKONING I SHALL EAT…”

"Eat my soul, yeah, got it. Laurie? Get on the phone to the boys in animation and tell them we need a movie so chock full of furry bait that half the country will be yiffing by Christmas."

“Eat my soul, yeah, got it. Laurie? Get on the phone to the boys in animation and tell them we need a movie so chock full of furry bait that half the country will be yiffing by Christmas.”

"I already told you, I'm not really here!"

“I already told you, I’m not really here!”

"Just do it woman!"

“Just do it woman!”

***

Some blogs might tell you that Zootopia/Zootropolis came about as part of an ongoing effort by Disney to address the more troubling and regressive aspects of their legacy and take on a pressing real world issue. But only I will tell you the truth, namely that it was part of a desperate ploy to pay off a faustian bargain made by immortal warlock Walt Disney by creating an army of furries for a demonic lord of evil. That is why, after all, the people come to Unshaved Mouse.

But first of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Not that one.

Sit down, Francine.

Namely, why the hell is this called “Zootropolis” on my side of the pond? Well, Disney haven’t actually given a reason for the name change. One possibility of course is that, as sophisticated Europeans, we would know that any utopia, even a zootopia, is impossible in an imperfect world and refuse to see the movie purely on the grounds of philosophical consistency. Also, there’s the fact that a zoo called “Zootopia” is opening in Denmark soon and maybe Disney’s lawyers didn’t want the hassle. Who can say?

Anyway, if you read this blog you’re probably aware that Disney have been on one hell of a hot streak for the last few years, producing movies that are both critically lauded and hugely successful. That in and of itself is nothing new, the Disney canon goes through peaks and troughs and this is just one peak of many. But one thing that is different this time around is that Disney is more and more comfortable making movies that actually have something relevant to say about the world. I once called Walt Disney the most apolitical American artist of the twentieth century. His movies were beautiful, funny and charming but they almost never had any kind of political message or agenda beyond the most broad “be nice, everybody” kind of sentiment. They were meant to appeal to the broadest audience possible in their own time which in practice meant that they were very conservative and very, very white.

Fast forward to today. In my review of Princess and the Frog I called the current era of the Disney canon “The Redemption Era”. Unlike the Lost Era that preceded it, where Disney was trying to definitively break with the past, new types of story, new styles, new animation techniques, the Redemption Era wears its classic influences with pride. It loves and respects the canon. But it is not blind to its flaws, either. The Redemption Era is a Beatles fan who has every album but never forgets that John Lennon beat his wife. It doesn’t simply ignore the more troubling aspects of the Disney canon but makes challenging them a core part of its identity, whether that’s doing a Restoration Era fairy tale with an all-minority main cast or a Renaissance Era musical where the princess doesn’t marry a prince at the end.  Zootopia takes this to a new level. Regular commenter Kahnamanko called it the most topical and socially relevant movie Disney has made since their World War 2 propaganda shorts and I think that’s probably true. But does that make it a good movie? Does the simple fact that it’s willing to tackle such a pressing and hot-button issue as racism make it a classic that will stand the test of time? Let me answer that question with a question, do you feel a burning desire to watch any of the following movies; Brokeback Mountain, Philadelphia, Crash or Lions for Lambs? Yeah, didn’t think so. Movies that directly address the great issues of the day are often very worthy endeavours but they rarely end up being particularly beloved movies. Does Zootopia defy the odds? Let’s take a look.

***
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If I said I was happy, I’d be lion.

“Disney?”

“Disney?”

“Um…yeah?”

“Um…yeah?”

“Are you tarnishing the legacy of one of your beloved classics again? I thought we were past this.”

“Are you tarnishing the legacy of one of your beloved classics again? I thought we were past this.”

“I’m not! I swear!”

“I’m not! I swear!”

“Then what, pray tell, is this the fuck?“

“Then what, pray tell, is this the fuck?”

THE LION GUARD - The epic storytelling of Disney's "The Lion King" continues with "The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar," a primetime television movie event starring Rob Lowe, Gabrielle Union and James Earl Jones, reprising his iconic role as Mufasa.  Premiering this November on Disney Channel, the movie follows Kion, the second-born cub of Simba and Nala, as he assumes the role of leader of the Lion Guard, a team of animals tasked with preserving the Pride Lands. "The Lion Guard" television series will premiere in early 2016 on Disney Channels and Disney Junior channels around the globe. (Disney Junior) FULI, KION, ONO , BESHTE, BUNGA

“Oh it’s an exciting new chapter in the Lion King mythos!”

“Oh it’s an exciting new chapter in the Lion King mythos!”

“You have ten seconds to explain yourself, sir.”

“You have ten seconds to explain yourself, sir.”

“Okay, see it stars Kion, Simba and Nala’s son, as he forms the Lion Guard, an elite group of animals whose sworn duty it is to protect the Pride Lands from danger.”

“Okay, see it stars Kion, Simba and Nala’s son, as he forms the Lion Guard, an elite group of animals whose sworn duty it is to protect the Pride Lands from danger.”

“Okay. That actually sounds like a pretty decent premise if handled well...”

“Okay. That actually sounds like a pretty decent premise if handled well…”

“See, Scar used to have superpowers…”

“See, Scar used to have superpowers…”

“WOW. Stop right there.”

“WOW. Ok. Stop right there. Pull this bus over…”

“See, Scar had the magical Roar of the Elders and led the Lion Guard…”

“See, Scar had the magical Roar of the Elders and led the Lion Guard…”

“Scar? “Shallow end of the gene pool” Scar?”

“Scar? “Shallow end of the gene pool” Scar?”

“And when he tried to get the Lion Guard to turn against Mufasa and they refused he used the roar to destroy them.”

“And when he tried to get the Lion Guard to turn against Mufasa and they refused he used the roar to destroy them.”

“No. No. That never happened. You lying media conglomerate.”

“No. No. That never happened. You lying media conglomerate.”

“But then because he used the roar for evil he lost it.”

“But then because he used the roar for evil he lost it.”

“So why didn’t he just use it against Mufasa in the first…no, you know what I’m not even going to engage with the idea. So tell me, does this travesty ignore Simba’s Pride or take place in the same continuity?”

“So why didn’t he just use it against Mufasa in the first…no, you know what I’m not even going to engage with the idea. So tell me, does this travesty ignore Simba’s Pride or take place in the same continuity?”

“Neither! It canonises some aspects while blatantly contradicting others!”

“Neither! It canonises some aspects while blatantly contradicting others!”

“Ah! So everybody’s angry!”

“Ah! So everybody’s angry!”

“Yeah!”

“Yeah!”

 “WHAT ARE YOU ON?”

“WHAT ARE YOU ON?”

“Everything…everything…so much…I…I can see God…”

“Everything…everything…so much…I…I can see God…”

“Disney you’ve got to stop this. You’ve got to stop this now. You’ve got to pull every episode and pretend this never happened. When people ask, tell them it was a hoax by Dreamworks. Tell them that the perpretrators will be caught and justice will be swift.”

“Disney you’ve got to stop this. You’ve got to stop this now. You’ve got to pull every episode and pretend this never happened. When people ask, tell them it was a hoax by Dreamworks. Tell them that the perpetrators will be caught and justice will be swift.”

“But I haven’t told you the best part!”

“But I haven’t told you the best part!”

“Down we go, down and down.”

“Down we go, down and down.”

Bungaclose

"Who's the tatted up chipmunk?"

“Who’s the tatted up chipmunk?”

 

(more…)

DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990)

(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.)

Eighties kids have a tendency to loudly proclaim that the cartoons they grew up with, your Masters of the Universe, your Transformers, your My Little Ponies were so much better than the cartoons made for kids today.

Why do they say that? Lead. Lead was in everything back then. Paint, exhaust fumes, you name it. And lead is well known to have a harmful effect on intelligence. Couple this with the radiation from the hole in the ozone layer frying their brains and the still lingering effects of Chernobyl and quite frankly it’s a wonder that your typical eighties kid can tied their own shoes, much less attempt an objective assessment of the state of made for TV animation then and now. God love them, they’ve suffered through so much. Now, I am an eighties kid by birth but I converted to the church of 21st century animation a looooong time ago so let me put this one to bed. No. Cartoons were not better in the eighties than they are now. Know how I know? Because cartoons have never been as good as they are now. Pretty much every cartoon made for television from the nineteen fifties to late eighties was garbage. Sure, there were talented people working on them, but they were people, not gods, and there simply was no way to contend with the forces of microscopic budgets, corporate mandated toy-schilling and stiflingly conservative broadcast standards and create something consistently excellent or even good. Yes, occasionally an episode of Transformers might get through that still holds up today but these were very, very rare exceptions (I’m talking exclusively about American TV animation I should hasten to add). Contrast that with today: American animation studios are consistently making shows for kids that are better than most of the stuff they make for adults. Pearl from Steven Universe is one of the most fascinating, layered, tragically flawed characters on television right now, period. Gravity Falls is unfolding an ongoing mystery plot with a skill and intelligence that The X-Files and Lost could only dream about. Adventure Time takes Twin Peaks to school with its pure surrealism. Eighties, I hate to break it to you, even our remakes of your shows are a tenfold improvement. You have Transformers? We have Transformers: Prime. You have Thundercats? We have Thundercats 2011. You have My Little Pony? We have Friendship is Magic.  

GIJoeHeader

You have an army?

We have a HULK.

We have a HULK.

So what happened? Whence came this huge leap forward in quality?

Where else?

Where else?

 

So some time in the late eighties Disney rolled up their sleeves and decided it was time to show these chumps who the big dog was. Disney began producing high quality TV animation intended for syndication. Critics scoffed, saying that this was an expensive folly that would bring the Disney company into bankruptcy.
"Ha. Motherfuckers never learn."

“Ha. Motherfuckers never learn.”

Instead, these shows completely revolutionised the American animation TV landscape. Soon after, Warner Bros also got in on the act with Tiny Toons, Animaniacs and Batman the Animated Series to name a few. In essence, all modern TV animation owes its existence to Disney’s gamble in the late eighties, and in particular to their most popular show; DuckTales.
The massive popularity of DuckTales is something that’s always confused me a little. I mean sure, I watched the show and I liked it fine, but what is it about this story about three duck kids and their miserly grunkle that made it to 100 episodes? Couple of things. Firstly, simply by dint of the fact that it wasn’t terrible it was already head and shoulders above pretty much any other cartoon on the air. But I think another key to its longevity was the fact that it’s quite similar to Doctor Who. One of the reasons that show is older than Jesus is because, aside from the fact that they can recast the main actor, the Doctor has a machine that lets him go anywhere in space or time. There is literally no end to the stories you can tell with that basic premise. And in a way, Scrooge McDuck also has a TARDIS. He’s so wealthy that there’s literally nowhere on Earth he can’t afford to go. Want to do a story on the bottom of the ocean? Scrooge buys a submarine. Want to take him to space? Scrooge buys a spaceship. Want to do a story with dinosaurs? Scrooge gets his personal mad scientist to build him a time machine. Want Scrooge to meet Satan? He has a heart attack and goes to hell because it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to see heaven. Again, you will never run out of stories.
Another thing to consider is that DuckTales was based on a hugely popular comic book, by the legendary Carl Barks. Although Donald Duck was of course created by Walt Disney, it was Barks who did more than anyone else to flesh out everyone’s favourite psychotic waterfowl, creating Duckburg and a whole host of supporting characters; Scrooge McDuck, Gyro Gearloose, Flintheart Glomgold, Magica deSpell (it truly was a duck blur). The Duck comics have never really been huge in the States where the comics scene is of course SUPERHEROES SUPERHEROES SUPERHEROES NOW UNTIL THE END OF TIME but they’re very popular in what I like to call “Asterix country”, Europe, Latin America and Asia. In fact, I even tried to get my hands on a copy of The Many Lives of Scrooge McDuck for this review from my local comic shop. This lead to the following exchange. I swear to almighty God I am not making this up.
Comic_Book_Guy_WEE

“Sorry, it’s sold out. We sold the last copy to Killian Murphy.”

“…Killian Murphy? The actor?”

“…Killian Murphy? The actor?”

“The Scarecrow himself, yes. He came in here and asked specifically for anything pertaining for Scrooge McDuck. Who were we to refuse him?”

“The Scarecrow himself, yes. He came in here and asked specifically for anything pertaining to Scrooge McDuck. And who were we to refuse him?”

I SWEAR TO GOD.
But yes, Donald Duck comics are a big effing deal in many parts of the world. Personally though, I always found the entire concept of DuckTales the TV show to be really depressing. Think about it. Hewey, Dewey and Louie get sent to live with their uncle, Donald. I don’t think we ever found out why in the show, but there is no good reason that happens. And then, after losing their parents, Donald passes them off on his uncle, a miserly one-percenter who clearly cares more about his money than his nephews while Donald is off in the navy. Those three little ducks must be carting around a metric ton of abandonment issues. The reason why Donald isn’t present in the series apart from a few cameos is that Roy Disney didn’t want any of Uncle Walt’s classic characters getting TV stink on ’em. Instead, the character of Launchpad was created to fill the role Donald usually did in the comics. Today’s movie, Treasure of the Lost Lamp, came out in 1990 and served as a season finale of shorts to the beloved series. Did DuckTales go out with a bang or a whimper? Let’s take a look.