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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Disney Store is No More - 3 Summers in the Sweater

this probably isn't my store, but it's incredibly similar


My first two jobs were working for cartoon mice.

The first job, when I was 16, was at Chuck E. Cheese.  You can read up on that life-altering event at an old post at the first blogsite.  

I don't think I ever got around to writing about the three summers I worked for Mickey at The Disney Store in Houston, Texas.  Well, it seems The Disney Store is no more.  But in the summers on 1993- 1995, and Christmas of 1993, I worked part-time at the satellite representation of the happiest place on Earth.  

It's been a very, very long time since this gig, and as I age, memories tend to grow fonder.  Mostly, these days, I think about how that goofy job where I wore a cardigan and long pants in Houston summer of 98 degree days with 95% humidity, and I wonder how I'm not dead.  But I also think of it as the place that taught me the most about how to put on a game face with co-workers and customers alike, and you get better/ best results out of both.  It's not just stuff I use to this day on the job, it's stuff people pay huge money for in real life Disney Customer Service academies.  No foolin'.  

Saturday, August 7, 2021

PODCAST: "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" and "Loki" (2021) - Marvel Television PodCast w/ Jamie and Ryan



Format:  Disney+
Decade:  2020's
Director(s):  Kari Skogland  and Kate Herron



Jamie and Ryan catch up on two Marvel shows that made their way to Disney+, looking forward from the Infinity Saga, and maybe... sideways from the Infinity Saga? It's a far-ranging discussion of Marvel's efforts to bring their characters to living rooms everywhere, one week at a time. Maybe too much discussion for one podcast, but you get what you pay for.




Music:
Louisiana HeroHenry Jackman, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier OST
TVA Natalie Holt, Loki OST


Marvel at Signal Watch:


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Disney Watch: Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)




Watched:  07/18/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  
Don Hall
Carlos López Estrada
Paul Briggs
John Ripa

I had very much wanted to see Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) in the theater.  Disney and Pixar are creating big-screen-worthy films left and right, and I already have two Pixar films under my belt since December that I will see if they're re-released post-COVID.

For some time, Disney has been making Princess movies from all over the planet, from Frozen, to Moana, to Tangled and now Raya and the Last Dragon.  I admit to some confusion in this film because the film skips around a wide swatch of Southeast Asia and the various islands and archipelagos, but it's all Disney Fantasy Land, so I think marrying yourself to any particular culture here is as useless as figuring out which Scandinavian country where Frozen takes place.  But, nonetheless, you may find yourself saying "is this Vietnam, or Thailand, or...?"

Anyway, I was surprised in a very good way that RatLD turned out to be an action/adventure picture - really the first in the modern Disney era.  Expect no song and dance sequences - this is a straight adventure where the Maguffin is "friendship".  Because Disney.  But, yeah, Disney has definitely done non-musical movies in recent years with the Wreck-It-Ralph movies, Zootopia and Big Hero 6, but if you see "princess" and think "what is her 'I Want' song?", you will be disappointed.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

PODCAST: "Luca" (2021) - it's Pixar Talk with Ryan Michero, JAL and Ryan S



Ryan Michero is back to go shed some light on the latest Pixar film! We go deep on our transformative journey, talking about Ryan M's work on the film, as well as what makes this one a bit different, and, therefore, special. And, what's Pixar like during pandemic times? Sadly, I forgot to ask any questions about the cat. I loved that cat.




Music:

Portorosso - Dan Romer, Luca OST
Un Baccio a MezzanoteQuartetto Cetra


Pixar Talk:

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Pixar Watch: Luca (2021)




Watched:  06/26/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Enrico Casarosa

Sometimes when I see a Pixar movie, I'm pretty sure I'll need to watch it one or two more times before I can do anything but say "wow, that was amazing".  Luca (2021) is one more Pixar movie to elicit this response from me, and, once again, it gets a "wow" on every level.  Story, design, music... you name it, this movie hits all the buttons.  

Not every Pixar film has done this for me, but certainly Soul and Luca were sorely needed movies for my brain here over the past year.  While Soul spoke to me, now, as an adult, and my concerns about "what the hell, exactly, am I doing with my life?", Luca was both a reminder of the value of pushing boundaries that we did as kids as we looked beyond our own yards for what else was out there, and as an adult - maybe that same need continues to exist?  Even when people just want to protect us?

By now you've likely seen the trailers - and while I was dazzled by the look and feel I saw, I wasn't sure what the story would be, or if there would be enough story.  One of my criticisms of other animation or kids' film efforts is that they become too fixated on gags and easy laughs and character and story just feels recycled and that, in turn, makes the jokes a little hacky.

Luca avoids the trap, and tells the story of two boys from under the sea who come to land, and a small port town in coastal Italy where they dream of obtaining a Vespa and riding off into the sunset to explore the world.  A world neither knows a dang thing about - one because he's a sheltered homebody, and the other a stray, abandoned and playing it safe on his island, thinking he's got it sorted out.  

Soon, a new friend starts opening doors for them, gets them involved in a triathlon, and a hunt for sea monsters ensues.  I ain't spoiling anymore.

I'm hoping to grab Ryan M again and do a podcast on Luca soon, so I can ask about making the movie in the pandemic, and then gush about the design of the film, from character (which is very non-Disney) to the town to the underwater sequences to the dream sequences... but first I need to get in touch with the guy.  So, maybe?  Soonish?  In the meantime, go watch Luca.  




Thursday, June 10, 2021

Disney Watch: 101 Dalmatians (1961)



Watched:  06/09/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  oh, man.  Who knows?
Decade:  1960's
Directors:  


You ever wonder what people from Dalmatia think about dogs being known better than people from their land?  Like, you live somewhere for thousands of years, and no one can find you on a map, but someone mentions a spotted dog and everyone gets really excited.

Anyway, I also get very excited thinking about spotted dogs, and growing up, this one was a favorite.  It had (a) talking dogs, (b) adventure, and (c) a very funny cat.   I found Cruella DeVil one of the better Disney villains, and since I'm not paying $30 to watch the new Cruella movie, I figured I'd rewatch this one and then maybe the Glenn Close movies.  

The movie is from the period at Disney in which Walt was still alive, but he wasn't really paying much attention to the animated films.  He had his amusement parks, some live action films going, and was letting animation just do its thing.  The Nine Old Men were running things, as near as I can tell.

If I'm being honest, as much as I love the film, you can feel that the story department was given a backseat to the animation department.  The movie is gorgeous, a huge technical achievement, and has phenomenal character animation.  But it's also got some bits that just go on too long and unneeded sequences that you can tell they just really enjoyed making.  The end result is a fairly brief film that has beats that can really drag.  

But, yeah, I still very much like it, but sometimes you do wonder "what is happening here?"  It's not as bad as The Aristocats, which I find unwatchably dull, but...  I do have notes.  

But if I ever get a cat again, I'm naming it Sgt. Tibbs.  

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Doc Watch: The Pixar Story (2007)




Watched:  03/01/2021
Format:  Netflix?
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Leslie Iwerks

Biggest complaint:  not enough Michero

A weird movie only in that it's already 14 years old, and it's interviewing Steve Jobs, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Roy Disney and I am sure others who are already passed since.  And, of course, this is well before Lasseter was shown the door.

But it does a phenomenal job of explaining how Pixar even happened.  Which was a wild mix of "right place/ right time" in the sense of chaos theory, and then key people who made some very right choices at the right time - from Lasseter to George Lucas to Steve Jobs to Bob Iger.  Heck, Tom Hanks' involvement and his delight at his involvement is evident.

Looking behind the scenes of what almost went wrong here or there is curious, but I wish they'd spent more time on Pixar story-management processes as part of the secret sauce.  They go into it very briefly and almost obliquely, but it's there.

Anyway, just to see who all was involved is a trip.  And, of course, to know what was coming after just heightens the joy of the thing.  And, of course, I am certain the place is no longer quite as "start-up-y" as the doc captured.  Sooner or later, efficiency needs and people needing to get home to kids is going to kick in.

But now I want to rewatch Monsters, Inc.  

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Frozen-In Watch: Frozen II (2019)



Watched:  02/14/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  I'm not sure
Decade:  2010's
Director(s):  Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

The weather in Austin is historically cold and we're having a winter storm like we normally only ever see on television in other states.  It just doesn't do this in Texas.  Or, at least, it didn't tell global warming.  These polar vortexes are a real sonuvabitch.

Anyway - we're all super stressed hoping the power stays on and our pipes don't burst and we don't freeze to death in our own homes.  But, ha ha, we probably won't.  So we watched a movie with an ironic title.

(update:  02/16/21 1:35 PM - it did, indeed, freeze.  We lost power.  It's been rough.  Power is back for the moment.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Disney Watch: Treasure Island (1950)

 

Watched: 02/20/2021
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  unknown, but first in a while
Decade:  1950's
Director:   Byron Haskin

To give you guys an idea of the difference between kids movies of the early 1950's (that I watched about 30 years later) and what comes out these days - Walt Disney's Treasure Island (1950) features a guy ordering a "double rum" in the first scene, an old pirate drinks himself to death in the first ten minutes, and then there's cold-blooded murder, mutiny, and people shooting each other and a kid who shoots a guy in the face after getting stabbed with a dagger.

I mean, we saw this movie at school.  

I also checked the novel out of my elementary school library, and it makes the movie look like a walk in the park.  

Now THAT'S adventure!

It's a fascinating movie as Jim Hawkins, our 12-year-old avatar, is a kid caught up in a *very* adult adventure, complete with both the violence and risk of a pirate story, but - watching it as an adult - I'm reminded how flawed the protagonist-type characters are as well.  But, more than that, it walks a gray path for Jim as he is genuinely befriended, to the best of his ability, by Long John Silver - who clearly has a soft-spot for the kid, but will also cut his throat to save his own skin.  

This was one of the first movies I ever saw that included this sort of betrayal, and it was all the weirder to parse watching as a kid, because Jim and John do have a weird buddy-ship even though they're locked in mortal combat, and LJS's minions are *always* ready to gut the kid.  But I do like that Hawkins sees both sides of the coflict, and has complicated interactions with the adults around him.  It's a heck of a way to illustrate a young man discovering the world beyond his door.  



Monday, February 1, 2021

PODCAST: "Soul" (2020) - a Pixar Watch featuring Pixar Lighting Lead Ryan Michero! (and NathanC and me)

 


Watched:  01/30/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2020
Directors:  Pete DocterKemp Powers (co-director)


Ryan and Nathan are joined by Pixar Lighting Lead, Ryan Michero, to talk about "Soul", now available on Disney+. We take a deep dive into the technical wizardry and challenges of "how does one light a conceptual construct?" to discussing the process and storytelling that makes Pixar the best there is. Join us for a conversation with one of the folks who makes the magic happen!
 

Music:
Born to Play - John Batiste, Soul OST
The Great Before/ U Seminar - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Soul OST

NPR Fresh Air episode


Disney History Playlist

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Pixar Watch: Soul (2020)




Watched:  12/26/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Pete DocterKemp Powers

I believe we're going to try to do a podcast on this one, so everyone sit tight.  

But, yes, very good.  Recommended.


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Disney+ Watch: Godmothered (2020)




Watched:  12/6/2020
Format: Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Sharon Maguire

Definitely a "fun for the whole family" all-ages offering from Disney+, Godmothered (2020) has a semi-complicated set-up that melts into a fairly standard magical comedy, but which I think more or less works, even if it's not exactly ground-breaking.

Apparently Fairy Godmothers come from The Motherland, a mystical realm where fairies train for seemingly centuries before being sent out on assignment.  But the trick is - no one has asked for help from a Fairy Godmother in centuries, and there's only really been one new fairy to sign up for the gig in the past few decades. And so - they're maybe going to shut it all down (the Motherland is run by Jane Curtain, who appears to be having fun).

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Disney Attempt-at-Spooky Watch: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)


 

Watched:  10/04/2020
Format: Disney+
Viewing:  I'm calling it a first for the whole movie
Decade:  1940's
Director:  James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kenney

So, we were hunting around for something spooky to watch on Disney+, and I saw they had The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949).  I'd never seen the movie in its entirety.  If I ever saw the Wind in the Willows bit that makes up the first half, I don't recall it at all.   

However, the Ichabod Crane part based on Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow is for good reasons, a Halloween staple.  And, I've seen it a dozen times or so before.  

Taken as a whole, this movie is very weird and unnecessary.  It's clearly two stories that have nothing to do with each other slapped together with a wildly awkward framing device of a library of real books and voice over by, first, Basil Rathbone and then Bing Crosby, which tells me something about how much the left hand and right were talking to each other as this came together.  

As a kid, my first real exposure to Mr. Toad was via the Disney World attraction, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which was - I ain't gonna lie - super f'ing fun. My memory was that the ride was chaotic and goofy as hell.  And I understood it was based on a fancy toad who got his hands on a car.  

Well, the movie version is... kind of annoying.  I don't really have another word for it.  Unlike most Disney, there's no character development, and Toad just seems like a problem for everyone around him.  Like, that one friend who is now on drugs and you're all supposed to make sure he doesn't harm themself or anyone else.  The animation is pretty good, and it gave us the weasels that pop up in Roger Rabbit, but...  yeah.  This is the rare Disney animation that I just have no affection for - but weirdly like the ride.

And Ichabod itself is also strangely... boring.  And there's no one to actually like.  But, when you do get to the actual Sleepy Hollow scene, it's amazing work.  But 5 minutes or so is not enough to carry a whole movie.

What I guess is that Walt, post-WWII, was just not all that into the animation studio stuff anymore, and you can feel his hand off the wheel in the storytelling department - something that would plague them til Little Mermaid.  It's not horrible stuff, but it feels like someone let the animators just animate whatever they felt like rather than working toward a cohesive story, for two whole stories.  

But, again, that Headless Horseman.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

PODCAST: "Fantasia" (1940) and "Fantasia 2000" (1999) - a Disney History PodCast w/ NathanC and Ryan

 


Watched:  Fantasia 09/08 and Fantasia 2000 09/10/20
Format:  Disney +
Viewing:  Unknown/ Fourth
Decade:  1940's and 1990's
Director:  multiple on each


More places to listen 

When does animation become become more than popular entertainment? What are the boundaries of art that separate Beethoven and cartoon alligators? What is high-brow entertainment and funny business for the whole family? Walt Disney had a vision to elevate the form of animation and create an entirely new experience. Today, we know the result as "Fantasia", which returned in 1999 with a sequel of sorts in "Fantasia 2000". NathanC and Ryan return to talk all about a pair of Disney classics! 

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - J.S. Bach
Ave Maria - Franz Schubert

Nathan's Fantasia buddies:


Ryan's Fantasia (and assorted Disney) pals:




Disney History Playlist:



Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Doc Watch: Howard (2018)



Watched:  08/10/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Don Hahn

Let me start by saying: in a lot of ways Disney+ is much better than I ever expected.  I've enjoyed the Disney "from the vaults" content, catching new material, behind the scenes at parks, movies, etc... with One Day at Disney and two series - one on the making of The Mandalorian and an exceptional doc series on the making of Frozen 2

And, of course, then the release of Hamilton.  I haven't watched Black is King yet, but that's a pretty big line in the sand for the Disney brand to put out on their flagship, no-doubt-this-is-Disney streaming service when Disney has usually just avoided anything that invites cultural critique.*

But Disney+ putting a doc about Howard Ashman, a gay man who died of complications from AIDs at the height of the epidemic, and being honest and open about his sexuality and struggle with the disease, is... kind of mind-blowing.  There's something about the platform of their own streaming service and that you've already paid your money to have it that seems to have freed up the Disney Corp to tell some stories well worth telling I don't know we'd see if they didn't have this avenue.

The doc, itself, is the life story of Howard Ashman who - paired with Alan Menken - wrote the musical numbers for Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.  He also wrote and originally produced Little Shop of Horrors - which was his big breakout hit off-Broadway. 

It's really a pretty great story, well told, and has the heart-breaking knowledge of what happened to Ashman in the back of your head.  And, sadly, the fact he was the musical partner of Menken and that he died of AIDS was all I'd known about him until watching the doc. 

I don't want to get into details too much, but as loving as it is, it isn't shy about who Howard Ashman was and doesn't make him into a saint - while illustrating pretty clearly what sort of mind he had that helped push the Disney cartoon back into prestige territory (and why Disney was flailing at the time he showed up).

For fans of animation, musical theater, or Disney-history - well worth the viewing. 




*Disney tends to get lambasted no matter what they do, and I've stood there and listened to lines of people parrot back the criticisms of Aladdin, Lion King and Little Mermaid during 3 summers at The Disney Store.  I would invariably listen and then say "well, I make $4.50 an hour working here and while I'll tell my manager...  really, your best bet is writing the studio in California."



Monday, April 6, 2020

Disney Watch: Timmy Failure - Mistakes Were Made (2020)




Watched:  04/04/2020
Viewing:  First
Format:  Disney+
Decade:  2020's
Director: Tom McCarthy


My guess is that you're sleeping on Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (2020).  This would be a mistake.  This will be one of the finest movies you could watch this year.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Lockdown Watch: Frozen 2 (2019)


Watched:  03/16/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  third
Decade:  2010's

One of my favorites from last year, I went ahead and picked this up on BluRay.

And, you know what, I think I continue to like this movie more every time I watch it.

Frozen 2 is a funny thing to like as a near 45 year old dude.  I'm used to picking up an action figure or whatnot when I like an Avengers movie.  Heck, I have an Ant-Man and The Wasp t-shirt.  But, you know, as much as I don't care what cashiers think when I'm buying my usual dumb stuff, there's not much Frozen 2 stuff I thought would make sense for *me*.  So, I bought the BluRay.  And the extras are really excellent.  So, heads-up if you have a chance to watch them.  It's fascinating to see how story is developed at Disney these days.

But do feel free to point me at Frozen II plastic stuff I can own that is not, like, an Elsa wig or 12" doll.

Anyway, refer to my last write-up on this.

And, frankly, I find this scene amazing.





Friday, January 3, 2020

Dog Watch: Togo (2019)


Watched:  01/03/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

Disney Watch: Frozen II (2019)



Watched:  12/30/2019
Format:  Alamo Slaughter Lane
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2010's

Not to be overly dramatic, but after seeing Frozen II (2019) the first time, I knew I'd need to watch it again before I'd do my usual posting.

The reviews were kind of lukewarm, so going in, I had my expectations set for "it'll be okay", and so... when the movie ended and I was having all the reactions I deeply *want* to have after seeing a movie, I'll admit that I kinda-sorta didn't trust my own reaction and figured it would fade after a day of thinking about (or forgetting about) the movie.