Monday, June 22, 2009

The DAC: The Bronze Age part one

But first, here's how I spent my Summer Solstice:

6.19.09 - Bee's eye view of Columbines

I've also thrown my hat in the ring (to borrow a phrase from another volunteer) for Gorehound's Indie Sci-Fi/Horror Film. Hey, why not? I've got a soft spot for monsters and I'm a New England native. I felt obliged.

#34: "The Great Mouse Detective"

I think I saw this one at a very early age. Even back then, I felt as if these characters were familiar - but in a good way. They're fresh and amicable from the start.
It's as if the new generation of Disney people got the sense slapped back into them. This is a delightful movie with a fun atmosphere, wonderfully scary villains, and a brilliant hero. Honestly, the fact that I didn't remember to start taking notes until 45 minutes in tells you how compelling it is.
This is another highly underrated movie that tends to get lost in the shuffle, but it's well worth revisiting. Who knew (outside of "Thriller" of course) that Vincent Price had such an excellent singing voice? (The fact that I just pointed out that the people cast as the speaking voices were willing to sing will become important later; this isn't a policy they'd stay with.)

#35: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"
You tend to forget how freakin' AMAZING this movie is.
Twenty years ago (man, twenty years), right from the prologue, "Roger Rabbit" was a hard kick in the face. Nobody had ever seen anything like this before. Nobody had really ever attempted anything like this before. And twenty years ago, who'd ever think that the special effects pioneered here - not to mention the even more important "there isn't anything we can't do" attitude - would be taken for granted today. No live-action/animation film since has been half as good as this one.
It's a damn shame we'll never see the oft-teased sequel. It's worth it to note that this film lent it's design aesthetic to what was until very recently the Disney/MGM Studios. It's very weird to realize that park peaked in it's first five years or so.

#36: "Oliver & Company"
I would have sworn this was released well before "Roger Rabbit". Hell, I have a hard time remembering that it came out around the same time as "The Land Before Time" (and I know I'm not supposed to compare studios at this point, but score one for Don Bluth there.) The songs are pretty good and some of the characters are fun; Glen Keane headed the character design units and his confidence in his considerable skill is starting to show. It's also interesting to point out that once again, all the actors sing (and the singers act). Honestly, the most entertaining thing on the DVD isn't the movie itself but the making-of features. They are very, very 80's and a total trip.

#37: "The Little Mermaid"
And now we're into the REALLY popular movies. I only point this out because it directly affects this project: Netflix did not have some of these available. I had to -horrors- watch my old, first-edition videos of some of them! Worse yet, the ones that Netflix did have had waits! I had to wait for them! Which means -oh the humanity- I had to WATCH THESE OUT OF ORDER!!!
The preceding paragraph was only written to bitterly make fun of myself, as I was freaking out about this. I'm absolutely sure nobody would have noticed if I hadn't said anything. *sigh*
It's hard to believe it but "The Little Mermaid" is nearly twenty years old. How many of us have the dialogue memorized? Anybody remember reenacting key scenes up at the lake (or, more accurately, IN the lake)? Remember when there were aisles and aisles of "Mermaid" toys in the toy stores for YEARS after the fact? (Personally, that was my first memory of realizing that Disney tends to milk their latest cash cow until it dies, then they start grilling the steaks, then they start making burgers, THEN they start selling the bones and the leather, ad infinitum.) This may all have to do with the fact that this is the very first fully animated film that Disney released on video shortly after it's premier in theaters, something we take for granted today. Disney obviously saw the advantage in keeping the characters in the public consciousness, as they haven't kept a new release in the "vault" before it gets a video since.
All pop-culture criticism aside, for many of us, "The Little Mermaid" is still the greatest Disney movie because we saw it at JUST the right time. The DVD is excellent; Ariel looks and sounds better than ever before. The sight gags lost to video pan-and-scanning are back, as are the throw-away one-liners muttered by the minor characters, which were illegible in the old video dub. So yes, it turns out that "Mermaid" is funny as heck. Directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale honed their humor in an all-but-forgotten show at Epcot's late, lamented Wonders of Life pavilion entitled "Cranium Command". The screamingly funny misadventures of a newly appointed conscience, it's well worth a look for "Mermaid" fanatics.
I think this is Disney's last hand-painted movie; everything since has been colored by computer, lending a distinctive look and better integration of special effects. I'm also pretty sure that this is the first feature to have had segments finished at the late, lamented Studio part of the Disney /MGM Hollywood Studio.

#38: "The Rescuers Down Under"
I'm actually happy to see that this one had a wait; I thought I was the only person in the world who liked it. It does mean that I had to skip it and review it later. I'm hoping this doesn't happen again (I've been extremely lucky in that respect so far), as it was a little disorienting to watch this in the middle of the movies from the 2000s.
During the insane popularity of "Little Mermaid", I was always a cheerleader for "The Rescuers Down Under". Having seen it on DVD, where it looks and sounds amazing, I still think it's one of the downright best looking Bronze Age movies. It definitely needs more love (and a better DVD release too - this is the most bare-bones Disney DVD I have ever seen) because all the new animation techniques used to make "Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin", and "The Lion King" started here.
No film has ever given me a greater sensation of flying. If the Marahute scenes do not give you a rush, I've no idea what to say to you.

#39: "Beauty and the Beast"
Belle is my homegirl. Dark-haired girls who read books for the waffles!
I love this movie. I saw it at just the right age (if you can't tell, the Bronze Age movies are the Disney movies best remembered from my youth), and it's the one Disney movie I saw the most times in the theater. I was struck by how emotional it is; it's very dark but it's the cool kind of dark. All of the especially sad moments come out of the careful character development. It isn't at all like the original "The Rescuers", where they basically stuffed a bunch of high-tearjerk-quotient elements into the script. Here, I felt as though all of the times I got misty-eyed were well-deserved.
This is easily Disney's best integration of music, songs, animation, effects, character, story, and art. And in case "Little Mermaid" didn't convince you, in case "Down Under" didn't do it for you, here it's absolutely clear that Glen Keane is the man.

Next up, more of the movies people my age still call their favorites. For more posts in this series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You include "Who framed Roger Rabbit" among the Disney movies? That surprised me, as it was only partly made by Disney.

Belle is my favorite as well. :)