Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The DAC: The Bronze Age part two

Well, first off, it's been a while since I shared some art. It's because I was working so hard on my portrait of my "Pokemon Platinum" team. I finally finished it. Click for huge:

6.22.09 - My "Pokemon Platinum" Team (finally)

Have I mentioned how much I love my Wacom tablet? Anyway, Disney movies!

#40: "Aladdin"
I have to comment on the "Aladdin" teaser trailer that appears on my copy of "Beauty and the Beast". It doesn't say a WORD about Robin Williams. Instead, the clip promotes the animators (there's Glen Keane again) and the directors as the stars of the movie. Can you imagine? I hate to pick on Dreamworks again -they really are awful about this- but consider how "Flushed Away" lists the voice actors in the opening credits as if they ever appear on screen - or had anything to do with the film other than providing voices. And then look at the end credits for "Aladdin", which puts all the animators on equal-footing with the actors.
The roots of the "guess the celebrity voice-over" trend start here with "Aladdin". This is also the first Disney movie with of-the-moment cultural references as the jokes. With these unfortunate facts in mind, I was expecting I'd have a hard time watching the movie again.
Well, forget all that. "Aladdin" is the most downright fun movie of the Bronze Age; it doesn't feel dated at all, the characters are wonderful, it's bright and full of sight gags and parental bonuses. The action scenes are amazing as well; props to PIXAR! I had forgotten how much fun it is.
It's hard to say which movie in this set is the best. At this point, they're all the best!

#41: "The Nightmare Before Christmas" - Reviewed as a Loose End in 2009.

#42: "The Lion King"
If the Box Office Numbers count for anything, then this is the most popular of all Disney animated features. Being the most popular, of course, "Lion King" has gotten a lot of backlash through the years. Some of it isn't exactly unfounded; this is indeed when they started going a little crazy with the celebrity voices. It's especially distracting when they start singing - there's no way anybody could have thought that other guy sounded anything like Matthew Broderick. Some of it is a little nuts (my favorite is the "it's a big, long pro-neocon tract" theory). And then, of course, there's the "Sex in the clouds" thing. (How come we weren't more worried about the guy who spent so much time going through Disney movies looking for stuff like that?) With all this baggage, how does "The Lion King" hold up?
Very, very well. Sure, it's an epic, mythic masterpiece with fart jokes, but the prologue is easily the greatest piece of animation Disney has done since the tracking shot over the village in "Pinocchio". "I Just Can't Wait to be King" is a wonderful Mary Blair tribute, and all of the songs are terrific.
Unfortunately for Disney, this movie set a standard that they've never been able to top...

#43: "Pocahontas"
You see, this is right about where Disney started believing the hype. Ouch.
This has the dubious distinction of being the most disappointing and boring of the Bronze Age movies (less generous fans consider "Pocahontas" the start of the Dork Age). It was also the first movie I watched after my surgery. The painkiller they've got me on is a mild narcotic, so at least the stuff about the "Colors of the Wind" and the talking tree make some sense now.
Actually, no. They really don't. This is the kind of movie that turns a historical figure into a smelly hippie chick with amazing hair (woo dark-haired girls), and has such clearly drug-induced imagery as talking trees and Mel Gibson singing. The songs are actually pretty good and the production design takes many a cue from good old Mary Blair. But really, it's amazingly, embarrassingly boring.
It didn't help that "Toy Story" would arrive this same year…

#44: "James and the Giant Peach" - Reviewed as a Loose End in 2011.

#45: "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"
Now this is more like it. I'm one of the six or seven people who like this movie. But then, there you go: six or seven people.
I thought this was brilliant, especially coming right on the heels of "Pocahontas", which was engineered not to offend anyone. It may seem an odd book for Disney to adapt but, really, have you ever sat down and read any of their other source materials? ("Sword in the Stone", I'm looking at you again.) It is essentially a rock opera, one that acknowledges that everything is better with Latin chanting. The songs are amazing. Once again, it's emotional (the use of emotional color gets a workout here), but once again the emotion is well-earned.
There is one big flaw, however: whomever came up with the gargoyle comic relief characters really needs to sit and think about what they've done. I find them a little easier to take if you assume Quasimodo is hallucinating everything they do. Of course, that makes the movie even darker than it already is. Thankfully, the next movie's a light one.

#46: "Hercules"
Lighter than a feather, really. Disney fans debate when the Bronze Age turned into Disney's Dork Age. For me, personally, it was with this exact movie. Tellingly, "Hercules" was the last of these films I saw in a theater. It left the worst taste in my mouth, and I wouldn't see another Disney movie in a theater in earnest until "Lilo and Stitch" ("Dinosaur" couldn't count even if it wanted to - my fiends and I went to that movie purposely to make fun of it.)
"Hercules" isn't that bad, really. The songs are very good and it's nice to see the Pastoral Symphony scenes in "Fantasia" get knocked down a few pegs. I also like how they took the theory that the "Superman" mythos is based mostly on the tales of Hercules and run all over town with it.
On the other hand, the weird, heavily stylized characters (by Gerald Scarfe of all people) take a long time to warm up to. More importantly, this is the kind of movie where they have a joke about overenthusiastic self-promotion with Hercules' officially licensed sandals and fast food... And then I walked through the mall on your way out of the theater and saw those EXACT sandals and fast food toys for sale in reality. Talk about trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Next post, the disappointing films of the late-'90s and 2000's. For more posts in this series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite era in the history of Disney. :)