Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"With you, every day is Guy Fawkes day!" - Thoughts on "Mary Poppins Returns"

By all means, I shouldn't like "Mary Poppins Returns." 

I was really dreading this one.  The whole idea of a decades after the fact "Mary Poppins" sequel left a sour feeling in my gut.  This was intensified by the fact that we got "Saving Mr. Banks" a few years ago, and in hindsight, doesn't it feel like the Disney studio was testing the waters for interest in more Mary Poppins?  A lot more Mary Poppins.  Not as much more Mary Poppins as more Star Wars but still, more Mary Poppins. 

(Side note that "Saving Mr. Banks" is also, just as a reminder, an almost completely fictionalized and, so help me God, masturbatory depiction of historical events.  Where it turns out the Disney Studios version of P.L. Travers' stories is just the best and wasn't Walt Disney right all along and Travers was wrong and it's very good and right that Disney ignored all her criticisms and did his own thing despite her reservations, and by golly Travers even ended up loving the movie -she loved, loved, LOVED it!  This is true because the Disney studios say so in their movie about the making of "Mary Poppins" and that's now the version of events everyone is going to assume is true and there's nothing you can do about it!  I am not for even half of a second going to pretend that "Saving Mr. Banks" isn't gross.)

So anyway here we are with "Mary Poppins Returns".  And it's... good!  Look it was never going to be able to hold a candle (or gas lamp) to the original, but it is, all things considered, pretty good.  I'll never understand why Rob Marshall is The Musical Guy at Disney (I mean I know why, it's cause of that one weird year "Chicago" swept the Oscars, but I'll never understand why), and I cannot fathom why you'd hire Lin-Manuel Miranda and not have him write a single song (and the songs are fine, mind, they got me laughing and crying and humming along and everything), but it's all good.

For sure the reason all of this works is Emily Blunt.  The key is that her version of Mary Poppins is not different from Julie Andrews'; it's different from how everyone remembers Julie Andrews.  Even in the original film, Mary Poppins was a bit of a trickster, gently sarcastic, mischievous, magical, and terribly mysterious.  Chaotic Good, if you will.  "I never explain anything," she says.  Blunt's Poppins has a bit more of an edge though, and I can't help but wonder if it's because the adult Banks children don't seem to remember any of their wondrous whimsical adventures.  (Which is a plot point that sticks in my craw.  I don't think a tea party on the ceiling or a day out in an animated painting is something you just forget about.)

So how about the traditionally animated sequence then?  It's absolutely wonderful!  It's got a whole theater full of excellent character designs, a couple terrific songs, and it's over way, way too soon.  It left me yearning for more.  Man, some day some American studio's going to be brave enough to do a traditionally animated feature, I can only hope.

For more posts in this ongoing series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.



4.29.19 - Bird Studies

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

"My God... it's full of *ads*!" - Thoughts on "Ralph Breaks the Internet"

I finally watched "Ralph Breaks the Internet", and thanks to my obligation from the early, early days of this blog to review every Disney Animated Canon feature film, I must now review it.  Thing is, I've got a lot of conflicting thoughts here, so I guess I'm going to just transcribe my internal dialogue, kind of like I did with "The Muppets" all those years ago.  Strap in...

First Thoughts: "It's good!  'Ralph Breaks the Internet' is very good!  It's as funny and heartwarming as the first film and it does everything a good sequel should do.  It brings back the characters we love, sets them off on an exciting new adventure with fun new characters, and has them grow and change and learn from their new experiences.  This is a damn good movie."

Second Thoughts: "I know right?  We know fellow Disney nerds who were wailing about the end of the world (or at least the end of this recent streak of good Disney Animated Canon films) when this movie first came out, so it's really nice to finally see it.  Goodness, this is that not-quite-as-rare-as-everybody-thinks sequel that's as good as the first movie.  Heck, we might even like it a little bit better than the first movie!

"... ... ...But..."

FT: "I'll let you get to that 'But' in a minute.  We need to talk about sequels, and Disney sequels specifically.  Even though we live in a world of franchises, there seems to be a particular feeling of dread associated with 'Ralph 2' and 'Mary Poppins Returns' and 'Frozen 2'."

ST: "We're all still traumatized by the DTV Disney sequel era."

FT: "Right, right."

ST: "A lot of that dread seems to be building off all the damn Live-Action-For-An-Extremely-Strange-Definition-Of-Live-Action Remakes.  Which, by the way, we will not be considering part of the Disney Animated Canon.  Direct theatrical sequels to films we've already reviewed here are fine, but remakes?  Ugh, no.  Anyway, this can be a nice segway into my 'But...'"

FT: "Yes, go ahead."

ST: "But on the other hand, this very funny and heartwarming movie is also very definitely what Disney has been referring to as a Brand Deposit.  So are all the sequels and remakes and whatnot.  Hell, 'Ralph 2' is particularly blatant about it: There is a whole sequence set inside the official Disney website and so help me if the opening to that sequence, taking in a vista of everything Disney owned the rights to circa last Thanksgiving, doesn't feel like 'Look upon how much pop culture we control, ye mighty, and despair!'"

FT: "I mean, that's true.  But didn't the first 'Ralph' have a lot of (ahem) Brands involved as well?  All those officially licensed video game characters hanging out?  And anyway, without that visit to the Disney website, we wouldn't have the amazing Princess hangout scene, which we loved!"

ST: "It is a great scene, but consider this dismaying observation: Disney's not only all about Brand Deposits but about Brand Integrity; the fear is that if they don't take all their property super seriously, nobody will.  That means no more 'Star Wars' characters shaking their butts to pop songs and a 'What if all the Disney Princesses had a slumber party' scene that feels like a really heckin' neutered version of a killer idea.  And it cost us a scene where Vanillope would've been all, 'Ah, shut up, Emo kid' to Kylo Ren and tell me we wouldn't do anything within reason to see that."

FT: "Oh damn.  But we still really like this movie, even with all this... this stuff that's making us slightly uneasy."

ST: "Yes, yes we do.  Still, uneasy is a good word for it.  Heck, we have 'Mary Poppins: 2 Practical, 2 Perfect' up next and, honestly, the fact that it seems to have had NO pop culture impact at all, good or bad, is worrying.  I don't think we're going to like it as much as 'Ralph 2'."

FT: "Probably not, but if it sucks, we'll have fun ranting about it."

ST: "Same format as this?"

FT: "God, no."

For more posts in this ongoing series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.


Art of the Day!

I saw a trailer for another movie about video game characters getting into various shenanigans and made this regretful thing:

4.30.19 - "Even My Mama Thinks That My Mind Is Gone..."

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hello, Nostalgia Bomb. Let's Watch "A Dream Called Walt Disney World"

The early days of Walt Disney Home Video were... something.  But among the seemingly random films and specials in the first few runs of home video releases was this very nice short film about Walt Disney World circa 1980.  It's basically a visual guide to the park presumably for tourists.  But in it's brief half-hour it provides a lovely document of what Disney World had to offer back then.  The Bob-around Boats, Top of the World dinner show, and River Country may be gone now, but goodness, there are still a few early attractions I've never experienced!


Art of the Day!

More Mary Blair-ish things!

1.29.18 - Some Mary Blair-ish Warmups

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Grim, Grinning Osmonds Come Out to Socialize! - Let's Watch "Disneyland Showtime"!

"Trish," you ask, "I know you like sharing the weird vintage Disney Park specials you like to watch before heading down to Disney World to get yourself hyped.  But why in the world are you sharing one from 1970 set in Disneyland?"

Oh, boy.  Just watch:

So the main point of this here weird vintage Disney Park special from 1970 is to advertise the debut of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland.  And eventually we do get there but not before one of the very oddest Disney specials I've ever seen.  The thing is, I know I saw this as a little kid and it almost certainly was my first encounter with nearly all the songs included in it.  And I'm almost positive this was the first time I ever encountered The Osmonds.  Whew boy...  

Unless you're a huge Osmonds fan, this gang of smiling white 70's boys with unsettling teeth are by far the least interesting aspect of the special.  They sing smiling white versions of contemporary songs, they are among the first people to ride the Haunted Mansion (I promise we're getting there), and they emphasize the crucial importance of having a designated spot to meet when your party gets separated.  Then again, this is a version of Disneyland where the costumed characters basically kidnap people.

I think this must have been made smack in the middle of what would eventually be unofficially known by Disney nerds as the Walt Disney Presents Weird Sh*t Happening to and/or Around Kurt Russel Series (not to be confused with the John Carpenter Presents Weird Sh*t Happening to and/or Around Kurt Russel Trilogy, generally considered better), because Kurt is our host here.  And he narrates the very best part of the special where we get a look at the effects and characters that populate the Haunted Mansion.  He also gives a STORY for the beloved ride that's much nicer than any business with rings stuck in the sidewalk.  We get to ride the ride along with the Osmonds and get a reminder of how mind-blowing those effects must have been for the first visitors.


Art of the Day!

Cute, Mary Blair-esque birds

1.29.18 - Some Mary Blair-ish Warmups


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Salute to All of America, but Mostly Mickey's Birthdayland? Let's Watch the 1988 WDW Independance Day Special!

It's February and you know what that means: I'm going to Walt Disney World this month!  And as is of course tradition, I am hyping myself up by watching weird vintage Disney Park television specials. 

And because I also felt it was kind of weird keeping a Christmas post up top for so long, here's a... Fourth of July special?  Well, why not?

A special with this much stuff is right for any season.  Highlights include wrong-sounding Mickey announcing the whole entire new Magic Kingdom land built for his birthday, the very odd "Spirit of America" parade, a look at the then-new Norway pavilion, the Electric Light Parade complete with circus floats, a special preview of the Disney/MGM Studios, and the triumphant return of our lanky tap-dancing friend Tommy Tune in a patriotic musical finale that seems to go on forever.  I hope that everyone in the coming year brings as much enthusiasm to their creative endeavors as Uncle Jessie does playing percussion here.


Art of the Week!

I drew Pluto from memory and this happened:

1.13.19 - I Drew Pluto From Memory