Showing posts with label Disney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disney. Show all posts

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Disney Watch: Zootopia (2015)



I guess my biggest question about this movie is why it's called "Zootopia (2015)" to begin with when the name of the city in question is "Zootropolis".   Further confusing the point, I think that in England the movie was released as "Zootropolis", but I'll let someone from across the pond confirm or deny that notion.

We're a number of years on from Disney's Home on the Range, the worst Disney film I can remember ever seeing, and the one that threw the future of Disney animation into question.  No, there's no glorious return to 2D hand-drawn animation, and I suspect we've seen the last of that artform on the big screen from any major studio.  That's okay.  Walt would have wanted innovation and character.  And gags.  And, Zootopia delivers on all fronts.

What's different now is that, I think, you can feel the impact of John Lasseter's influence spread from Pixar to Disney, and not just in animation technique.  He's as much Disney as Pixar these days, and I can only think it's helped put Disney on a better track, and the sensibility of story coming first now lives at Disney as well as their cousins in San Francisco.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Disney Watch: The Jungle Book (2016)



As kids, most of us caught Disney's post-Walt release of The Jungle Book, based upon the works of famed British writer Rudyard Kipling.  When it comes to Kipling, I have no real opinions.  After all, I've never Kippled.

But thanks to a love for Disney animation and Jamie's deep fondness for the movie, I've seen the 1967 cartoon a number of times.  It's not my favorite Disney animation, and my appreciation for the movie swings between adoration and annoyance, depending upon the sequence.  Balloo = Yes.  Kaa = irritation.

It does have one of the strongest sing-along soundtracks of any of the movies, and is up there with the best when it comes to "Bear Necessities" and "I Want To be Like You", even if the latter is in a portion of the movie I found just kind of confusing as a kid.

But it's also got an underrated villain in Shere Khan.

I've also seen the 1990's Jason Scott Lee version of the movie (but don't remember it in the slightest), and a good portion of a 1942 release, which is much better than you'd guess.

I wanted to be skeptical of this version, but Jon Favreau's name was attached as director.  As goofy and normal as Favreau comes off in his roles and in interviews, he's a smart guy and already turned into as solid a director as you were going to find way back when he put out Elf, and then two Iron Man movies in a row that I quite liked (yes, I like Iron Man 2.  Shut up.).

But, man, that's some tough source material, and these days, when it comes to family entertainment, the forces at work seem to be a mix of risk-averse accountants, shrieking parents groups terrified their kids might find out how things work outside their carefully helicoptered environs and a fear of being seen as anything less than a perfect exemplar of safety first.  The idea of a story taking place in a world ruled by tooth and claw seems like it would catapult this kind of story into the same PG-13 arena as the Marvel superheroes.

The first trailer made me more skeptical than excited, but a very recent trailer that came out maybe a week or two before the film's release turned me around a bit, and, of course, I was cheered by a very positive Rotten Tomatoes score (floating around the mid-90's last I checked).

I'll be honest, I loved this movie.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dog Watch: Air Bud (1997)



I really have no explanation for why I watched about 90% of Air Bud (1997) on Saturday night.  I was supposed to be at a baseball game for our local minor league team, The Round Rock Express, but I was taking my 86 year old uncle, and once its tarted drizzling, we just went and grabbed dinner instead.

Well, that meant I was home by 8:15, because 86 year olds like to eat dinner kinda early.

So, I walked in the door and Air Bud was on TV, and I started watching it ironically, but, you know, I kinda liked it.  It's not that hard to believe it got watered down into the movies we eventually got and spun off into the Buddies series.  But, yeah, it was okay.  And it was generally better in execution than most low-budgety stuff made for kids.

I really thought I'd seen it before, but I think I caught maybe the last five minutes.  I really hadn't seen it.

It's a movie about a sad kid living with his mom and baby sister in a new town who meets a dog that can shoot baskets.  Like, there was a real dog that could do that, and they filmed him and we had a movie about a kid overcoming some minor obstacles, the meaning of teamwork, friendship, bad coaching, sports dads being jerks, responsible pet ownership, the evil of clowns and how cool it really is when you train a Golden Retriever to shoot baskets.

It wasn't going to win any Oscars, but it wasn't totally stupid.

Weirdly, I still haven't watched my BluRay of Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet.  Toonight, maybe?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Disney Watch: Dumbo (1941)



"Get ready to cry your eyes out" I said to Jamie as I was putting the BluRay in the player.  The movies was Dumbo (1941), and, man, if you don't get a little choked up when Dumbo's mom picks him up in her trunk during the "Baby Mine" sequence, you may want to run a magnet over your skull and check to see if it attaches to your skull, in which case you are, in fact, a robot, you unfeeling monster.

As a kid, I had a fondness for Dumbo, but I couldn't tell you where or how I saw the movie.  The sharpest memory of the character from my childhood is (a) riding the Dumbo ride at The Magic Kingdom in Florida with The Admiral and (b) taking home a Dumbo stuffed toy from The Magic Kingdom.  So, I'm thinking, I had a pretty firm attachment to ol' Dumbo from back in the day.

Then, during my tenure at The Disney Store, we could borrow copies of the Disney movies from a lending closet (they wanted us to actually be familiar with the Disney cartoons.  Good on them!), and at 19 or so I was reminded of how much I liked the movie as I cried my way through a cartoon.

Poor lil' Dumbo.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: Walt Disney - The Triumph of the American Imagination (2006) by Neal Gabler



A while back NathanielC suggested this book to me, and after 33+ hours of audiobook, I am, at long last, done.*

I've written about Uncle Walt before, and I've read up on the man and his work in bits and pieces over the years, including The Art of Walt Disney, which is on a shelf about ten feet from me as I type this.  Full disclosure as well - my second job as a teenager was as a fresh-faced "Cast Member" at The Disney Store when it was still a prestige sort of store in the halcyon days of the early 90's (and I could have done far worse.  I learned a lot between the Princess Dresses and Dalmatian snowglobes.).

The name "Walt Disney" is a name that conjures up a wild array of ideas for anyone.  It's a universal brand anywhere in the world, which is really pretty amazing.  As children we love Disney, as teen-agers we get cynical and start feeling clever when we find out that maybe Walt Disney's cartoons aren't the same as the dark and often bloody fairytales which inspired them.  We retain fond memories of cartoons and live action movies, the theme parks and TV shows and everything else Disney can mean.  We wink and nod, no dupes for the product of Walt Disney, right up until we pick up that BluRay or take our kids to another movie or buy that t-shirt, watch anything on ABC, or see a movie produced from a Disney subsidiary making straight up regular movies.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Disney Watch: Pete's Dragon (1977)



Last week I noticed Disney had put out a trailer for a new version of Pete's Dragon starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford.  "Hey, that's a movie that could stand a re-make," I said to myself.  And then I realized - I'm pretty sure I haven't seen the actual Pete's Dragon (1977) since its theatrical release or sometime pretty close to it.  Honestly, I only really had a memory of a Disney record and picture book we had around when I was very small, and it's entirely possible that's all I remember, and that I never saw the movie at all.

Here's a link to that new trailer.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Disney Watch: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)



On Nathaniel Capp's recommendation, I'm currently reading Walt Disney: Triumph of the Imagination, a Disney biography from a couple of years ago (and, spoiler: it's fantastic).  Naturally, part of reading the book is the reminder it is that I haven't seen a bunch of Disney films and cartoons in years and years.

The last time I remember seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) was during a theatrical run in summer of 1993 when I was working at The Disney Store and we were semi-required to go see the animated films so we could talk to customers about them.  Don't worry, they paid us to do so.  Terrific perk, and I would have been going, anyway.  And while it's likely I've seen it since then, it had to have been on VHS, to date the last screening I took in.

You guys can be cynical and weird about Disney's feature films, but I only feel that way about certain eras of their movies, and even then - not entirely.

But it all started, first, with a mouse.  And then with Snow White.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sci-Fi Watch: Tomorrowland (2015)



Before typing up anything, I had to re-read NathanC's take and Gerry's comments on Tomorrowland (2015).  Both are parents, both have an affinity for the Disney Parks that I get, but I am not in the same league.  I'd highly recommend you guys read their posts as Nathan and Gerry cover both the Disney aspect and other aspects of the context of the film in a way I'm just not going to.

Frankly, this movie is a mess - something that explained itself immediately when I saw the name Damon Lindelof appear in the credits as soon as the movie ended.  But it was the beginning of the movie, the clunky framing device of George Clooney's Frank Walker talking at the screen and being unable to decide where to start the story, where I felt my hackles first rise.  The conceit feels like an in-joke, like the creators couldn't figure out how to start their movie, and made their indecision part of the film.

From there on, I'd argue we have two or three completely different scripts competing for screentime, something I felt to be true of Lindelof's Prometheus script as well.  Is this a straightforward sci-fi thriller where we have a Chosen-One who has to outrun the baddies until the mystery of their special-ness is explained and they fulfill the prophecy?  Is it a talky sci-fi film exploring deeper ideals?  Are the characters wacky 2D stand-ins or three-dimensional people with motivations?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pixar Watch: Toy Story (1995)



Well.

I sure as heck am not bothering with a plot synopsis on this one.  If you're old enough to read, you've seen this one.

Disney had a special on Thursday evening talking about the production and legacy of Toy Story (1995), and it was well worth catching.  I'd forgotten Joss Whedon was on scripting duties for the movie, and its actually a bit of fun to remember the state of technology and animation from the era.  If you get a chance to catch the special on TV or on a DVD extra sometime, I suggest giving it a whirl.

This year marks 20 years since Toy Story hit the big screen and changed animation and entertainment forever.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Happy Birthday, Uncle Walt


Today marks the 114th Birthday of Walter Elias Disney.  Maybe you've heard of him?

Since the 90's it's been both fair game and fun for the internet to point out Disney's many flaws from a modern context.  Yup.  The man was a product of his times, both in the best and worst ways, and his influence on the world magnified those traits considerably.  Also, if you think Walt was somehow unique in those questionable opinions, it's both a testament to the progress of American culture that we've reached a point where the documentable sexism, classism and racism seems weird, and - if that surprises you - maybe a sign you're not much of a non-fiction reader.

I recently watched the American Experience doc on Walt Disney, so you can probably pick up my opinions from that.

In the meantime, as we consider the absolutely gigantic multimedia empire Disney has become (TV networks, cable carriers, movies, innumerable TV shows, print and web, Amusement parks, cruise ships, private islands, that Frozen Freefall game Jamie plays non-stop)...  it all started with a Mouse, and one I have a lot of affection for.





Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Doc Watch: PBS's American Experience - Walt Disney, Part 1

True story.  The first birthday wish I remember making, and I'm not sure that I thought the mechanics of how this would work out or the sheer body horror of it all, but I distinctly remember wishing I'd become Mickey Mouse.  This went on for a few years until I read an article, probably in Dynamite! or something, about the fact there had been an honest-to-god guy named Walt Disney and it wasn't just a brand name like "Buster Brown" or "Cracker Jack".

Then, for a few years, I wished to become Walt Disney.  Then I wanted mutant powers or some such and all that went away.



I had a pretty good idea of what Walt Disney had done for entertainment.  Despite the fact the guy was dead (I was semi-obsessed with the fact that both Walt and Elvis were dead, but very present in our lives) I watched his cartoons, his TV network, his live-action adventure films, went to his amusement parks, watched his nature documentaries and I had a stuffed Mickey Mouse that was a pal.  My interest in animation and the entertainment industry continued, and at some point in high school I bought a Walt Disney biography and read one or two animation histories.  And not all of it was rosy.

In a lot of ways, reading up on Walt Disney was how I learned to reconcile the good with the bad when it comes to the folks we revere.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Disney Watch: Brave (2012)

I didn't intentionally miss Brave (2012) when it came out in theaters, and I certainly haven't been avoiding it.  But Disney/ Pixar doesn't just dump their animated films out there in the usual release windows, instead controlling them pretty carefully and maximizing profits, etc... none of which I hold against them.  They know what they're doing.  This I learned in 3 summers working a cash register at The Disney Store.



I was aware of how far Disney and Pixar have taken animation, and while I wish they'd delve into stylized pictures a bit more (Big Hero 6 is probably the closest to what I'm talking about in recent memory),* it is pretty amazing what they can do with blending the natural and real with the imaginary.  You have to be kind of crazy not to appreciate everything about the character animation in Brave, blending Disney cartoonism with the absolutely believable wild strays of Merida's red curls.

Further, a couple of years ago I was at Disneyland with The Dug, my brother-in-law, and we spotted Merida crossing the park, and he said "let me send you a video tonight" and, as it turned out, the actress had perfected Merida's determined walk, something that was very non-Disney Princess-ish in its galumphing purposefulness.  It's that kind of attention to character, rotoscoped or otherwise, that tells who the character is, that even the other big gun American animation studios could stand to pay more attention to.

Pixar has absolutely lit a fire under Disney Animation proper, and the self-awareness and deconstruction of traditional Princess ideals in Brave (Pixar) and Frozen (Disney proper) should hopefully resonate a bit more than Aurora passing out for a good chunk of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella sitting around thinking positive thoughts and, if not for deus ex machina and a rich guy, she'd be stuck in a life of domestic servitude.  Brave is a really solid first stab at dismissing the Disney Princess demure non-player-in-her-own-story problem Disney has had since Snow White stumbled her way into a house full of short miners, and may be a bit on the nose in making sure we know this is not a cute princess movie.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Disney Watch: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

Dang.  Just got done watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), and that is one dark, morally ambiguous kids' movie.  And as much as I remembered loving that movie before, and as much as I really loved it as a kid - dang, does that movie hold up.


When I was about 6, my mom read me either the full book of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or a kid's adaptation.  Neither of us remembers which, because I have asked.  But she did remember I was sort of bonkers for the book.

As a kid, I saw the movie several times, and I know I watched it at least once at school, because the whole cafeteria full of kids watching the movies kind of went bananas.

What's not to like?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pirate Watch: Treasure Island (1950)

After watching Johnny Tremain, I've been curious as to how the other Disney live-action films of my youth hold up.  I won't likely be reviewing Son of Flubber for example, but some of the more "adventure" type titles I haven't seen in a while are on Amazon streaming, so...  here we go.



I don't know how many times I watched this one as a kid, but it was more than once.  And, I read the book when I was 10, which is really the perfect time to read Treasure Island.  At 10, I wasn't terribly interested in romance in my books, and there's absolutely none to be had in the novel, but I was interested in pirates and cutthroats and treasure chests and maps (my second grade teacher, two years prior, had known this so much she brought me a souvenir treasure map from The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, and I studied it like it was going to find me a genuine treasure).

Friday, July 3, 2015

Patriotic Watch: Johnny Tremain (1957)

When I was a wee lad, I remember being a fan of this 1957 Disney production.  Back in the day, Disney did a lot of live-action movies of varying quality (seriously, Disney, where the @#$% is my BluRay edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?), and often featured stories set in the past.

Originally intended as part of the Disneyland TV series, Johnny Tremain ended up better than anyone was figuring, so Walt decided to repackage it for theatrical distribution.



The movie probably left a greater impression on me than I realized, because in rewatching the movie three decades later, I kept saying "oh, yeah, right!" and remembering scenes as they unfolded.  But I doubt I'd thought about the movie for at least the last fifteen years.  I do recall that we watched a lot of Wonderful World of Disney growing up (and early Disney Channel) and read our share of historical fiction, so we got a lot of the G-rated high adventure stuff in our diet that, wonder upon wonders, fit pretty neatly in with the Disney World "Liberty Square" look and feel for history.*  If it was intended to make a tri-corner hat wearing nerd out of me, mission accomplished, Walt.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Disney Watch: Big Hero 6

Well, wasn't this a very nice superhero story?



We missed this for whatever reason when it hit theaters.  Kind of wish I hadn't because it looks like they were really thinking in terms of 3D projection that my very 2D television did not replicate.

Well, c'est la vie.

Big Hero 6 is maybe the flipped opposite of what DC has been doing with their heroes, and while I am aware the movie did okay ($222 million domestic is impressive, and a total of $652 million internationally is great) I don't think it slipped into the zeitgeist in quite the way it might have.  But I also don't hang around little kids all that much.  So, parents, correct me.

But this is superheroing for the all-ages set in a very good way.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cartoon Watch: Three Caballeros (1944)

Lysergic acid diethylamide was first discovered in 1943 and introduced to the public in 1947,but not popularized until the mid-1960's.   So we're going to assume that whatever inspired the 1944 Disney feature length film, Three Caballeros, was more likely a byproduct of a lovely tour of Latin America and either the psilocybin mushroom or the peyote cactus.



For three summers in the mid-1990's, I worked at the Disney Store.  The soundtrack to the store was always a laser disc, or - more specifically - one side of a laser disc that played over and over in about a 45 minute loop.  For at least one of those summers, part of that loop was the titular song to Three Caballeros, performed by Jose Carioca, Panchito and Donald Duck.  I loved that frikkin' song.*  But I'd never seen the movie, and it hasn't ever really been readily available.

This weekend TCM played a bunch of stuff from the Disney vault, and luckily NathanC turned me on to the fact Three Caballeros was playing, so I finally DVR'd it and watched.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Annette Funicello Merges with The Infinite



It seems that original Mouseketeer, beach movie fixture and boomer icon, Annette Funicello, has passed.

 I knew Annette from her 80's-era TV appearances and also as the girl that, apparently, men of my Dad's generation all grew up having a crush on.  Annette Funicello was going through a sort of nostalgia-tour renaissance when I was a kid, in peanut butter commercials, guest appearances, etc.. at a time when we also happened to have the Disney Channel, which would rerun the old Mickey Mouse Club episodes (but not in order, because that would be nuts).  And I was just the kind of kid who was cool enough to think a good afternoon included Mr. Ed and Mickey Mouse Club re-runs.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wreck-It-Ralph, Birthday, Quiet Man, Pam Grier is well liked

I should probably have something smarter to say, as I haven't really posted much on the usual topics the past several days.

On Saturday evening I wasn't feeling up to snuff, so we watched the Disney film Wreck-It-Ralph, which turned out to be a pretty good flick.  While the themes and story are going to hold up, I am concerned that the trappings of the nostalgia and with the concept of a modern game (or kids paying to play games at an arcade at all) it'll fall into Oliver and Co. territory for Disney, a sort of dated product of its time.  Still, at this time, it was a really fun movie that, even if the kids don't quite get all the gags, they can stick with what's offered up on a story and emotional level.  The "over their heads" bits seemed mostly winky stuff towards 80's video games, much as the Toy Story movies might reference a toy from a Gen X'er's youth.  Heck, one of the credit songs is performed by Pac-Man Fever maestros Buckner and Garcia.

Today was my brother's 40th, and we spent most of the day out at my folks' place with a wide variety of characters.  I saw people I hadn't seen in years, including the children I had never met of several of Jason's pals.  Some of those kids are kind of not so little anymore.  Time flies, man.