Monday, June 29, 2009

The DAC: The Dork Age (well, mostly) part two

#54: "Treasure Planet"
As far as I know, this is the last film so far that features animation by Glen Keane. Tellingly, Long John Silver is the most interesting character in the film; his growing relationship with Jim Hawkins is especially poignant. So it has that going for it. Which is nice.
The first hour or so of the movie, full of Wayne D. Barlowe-style creatures and giddy steampunk schizo-tech, is awesome and worthy of the best of the Bronze Age. The effects are amazing and the sheer imagination onscreen is inspiring. It's too damn bad that once the initial "Wee! Space Pirates!" glee wears off, this here movie gets really annoying really fast.
For one thing, this is a Disney movie that saddles it's young hero with three annoying comic-relief sidekicks. Of these, B.E.N. is easily the single most annoying Disney sidekick in the menagerie (finally, the Canon gets it's JarJar.) The cute, pink squishy thing comes a close second.
And, once again, if there's any doubt that we're stuck in a Dork Age, it will vanish when we are introduced to the character who communicates entirely with fart noises.
A character in a Disney film.
Who communicates entirely through farting.

#55: "Brother Bear"
Raise a pint to the Florida Studio. This is their last movie and, certainly, their finest hour.
This movie is gorgeous. So gorgeous. The story is incredibly moving, the characters are adorable (yay Terryl Whitlatch!) and the music is terrific (yay Bulgarian Women's Choir!) I'm glad to see that this has a growing cult following online. It's another movie that's high on my good underrated Disney movies list.
Honestly, if the story of Disney Feature Animation had a happier ending (as of right now), this film would have been the beginning of a second Bronze Age (or whatever metal comes next in this metaphor [E: Iron Age, according to Ovid]). Too bad it's their last traditionally animated film.

#56: "Home On The Range"
Repeat: "Brother Bear" is their last traditionally animated film.
Welcome to the deepest, darkest doldrums of the Dork Age. Remember way, way back when I said that if some of the shorts from the Anthology Films were feature-length I'd have to consider them flops? This is what one of those flops would have looked like. I fell asleep during this movie.
It's about cows for cryin' out loud! They're not even cute; none of the characters are visually appealing at all and it is really REALLY hard to mess up the cute factor in farm animals. These creatures are all weird sharp angles and pointy bits. You're afraid you'll cut yourself.
And did I mention the country music? I'm not a big fan. As in, I abhor it the way old people fail to understand the appeal of hip-hop.
I have to admit, if this was made way back in the early fifties and (let's just talk hypothetical here) Tex Avery was the director, I'd probably be praising it as a lost classic... And then I remember that a hypothetical Tex Avery feature would actually probably be really funny, so forget it.
You know, I really ought to be nice and watch this again, so that it has a fair fight. But isn't it enough to say "I fell asleep during 'Home on the Range'?" Especially considering that I have watched some *bad* movies here, and none of them bored me to sleep. Oi.
Rumor has it that the Disney executives, anxious to shut down the traditional studio and move entirely towards CGI, purposefully switched the release dates of this and "Brother Bear", then moved this release date to an overcrowded market, and basically made a sh**y movie on purpose to prove their point. So, did making their next film in CGI magically get their quality and audience back?

#57: "Chicken Little"
"Chicken Little" opens with a Disney studios logo that is very, very like the one used for PIXAR movies. Nice try, guys.
Because this is very clearly quite a few notches down the quality-o-meter from any PIXAR movie. Again, just because you CAN render with excruciating accuracy every single feather/hair/scale/whatever on your characters doesn't mean you SHOULD (just to get an idea of what I mean, head over to Google video and compare an earlier Geico Gekko commercial to one of the most recent ones. Poor little feller got slapped with the Uncanny Valley Stick.) Also, we're still in the Dork Age. Check out the whole "frozen pee" exchange.
But on the other hand, while this isn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination, I liked it a whole lot more than I expected to. It runs all over town with Furry Confusion based humor (we need more of this), and it's kind of cute. The music is pretty good, if the fact that it's all old songs doesn’t bother you too much. Not sure what's up with the hyper-dramatic Five for Fighting song about twenty minutes in though. Good thing one of my favorite songs ever is right after it.

#58: "Meet the Robinsons"
Rumor has it that, as of right now, this is our best indication of what direction Disney Animation will be going in now that John Lasseter is head of the company. (Long story.) You can really tell right from the studio logos in the opening!
It isn't perfect. The lead characters aren't *quite* likable enough and there's some lag in the story. However, it looks like they're going in the right direction.
Many of the supporting characters are very fun, especially Bowler Hat Guy. He is the most downright fun villain they've had in a long time. The story gets very sweet at times. William Joyce for the waffles!
And was that a W.E.D.-Way Peoplemover/Tomorrowland Transit Authority cameo?

#59: "Enchanted"
It speaks volumes the fact that I still had the songs from this movie in my head since the Oscars. The songs really are terrific, and the "That's How You Know" number is a sheer triumph.
Oddly, the rest of the movie didn't get me as jazzed up. I guess I was hoping for Disney to lighten up and make a seriously funny self-inflicted affectionate parody. "Enchanted" does have some funny moments but for the most part, it holds back too much. I guess it's the same problem "Hercules" had; you can't really parody the Princess line out of one side of your mouth while going crazy with marketing the Princesses out the other side. It is sweet, and it is a fun movie, and it is like a big prize at the end of this project (I got every single reference), but it's not really a laugh riot.

#60: "Bolt"

See, here I am at the end of an animated feature and once again, I'm wondering if it would have been more appealing to me if the producers had the guts to do the entire film in the same style as the closing credits.
Because once again, Disney is in it's "let's render every scale of skin on our characters' faces because we can!" mode. And here, it looked really distracting to me. I think it's because it's the first time human characters were subjected to it. They end up looking freakish and we're stuck with them until the animals finally take over. And it's too bad that this ruined the movie for me, because the story was actually kinda neat.
But I came into this movie knowing full well the extreme, shall we say, birth trauma it suffered. I can tell you this. I don't know a single "Lilo and Stitch" fan, myself included, who isn't the least bit curious to see what "American Dog" would have been like.
(Incidentally, it seems there's a special edition DVD release of "The Black Cauldron" coming soon. Sure as heck never saw that coming.)

So... Perhaps I shall pick this thread up later? "The Princess and the Frog"? "TRON 2? "Rapunzel"?


I'm done? I'm really done! For more posts in this ongoing series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.

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