Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Disney Animated Canon: Anthology Pictures part two

#11: "Make Mine Music!" This is the first Anthology movie where any pretenses of a coherent theme are completely tossed aside. It's literally just a bunch of shorts collected together into a feature-length package.
Fortunately, they are pretty good shorts. Once again, I remember "Peter and the Wolf", "Casey At The Bat", "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing At the Met" and a few other segments shown as individual shorts on the Disney Channel. The remaining shorts are every bit as good as the segments in "Fantasia", with experimental animation and dreamy imagery.

#12: "Fun And Fancy Free"
Jiminy Cricket introduces a pair of featurettes narrated by guest stars Dinah Shore and Edger Bergman. This framing device is only interesting because Jiminy is still one of the best characters ever, even when demoted to the role of M.C. Also, Bergman narrates both as himself and in-character as Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. The two featurettes in question are so inconsistent in quality that I might as well consider them separate movies:
"Bongo" - The good news is that this segment showcases quite a lot of shameless self-parody. It's all too rare to see Disney taking their own pretentiousness down a few pegs. Other than that, there's nothing to recommend this bland, bland, bland "LOL, The Cute Little Animal's Way Out Of His Element" story (is anyone else sick to death of these?) Bonus points for the Warped Aesop: I commend my younger self for finding the "Bears Like To Say It With A Slap" number all wrong, even back then.
"Mickey And The Beanstalk" - But then… oh, but then! This segment is amazing! It's every bit as epic as any of the features, and it's everything a Mickey Mouse movie should be. Willy the Giant is another contender for best character ever.

#13: "So Dear To My Heart"

#14: "Melody Time"
Very similar in format to "Make Mine Music", and almost interchangeable with the older movie except that the title isn't so darn bizarre.
This time they aren't even kidding about this being a bunch of shorts stuck together in a feature-length format. It's more interesting to point out the little strange things at this point. I've overlooked Disney's emotional use of color, which is given a real workout here. I haven't emphasized enough how awesome Mary Blair's production design is. I call shenanigans on something in the "Johnny Appleseed" short; aside from plastic pink flamingos, being John Chapman's birthplace is one of the few things Leominster has going for it so don't take it away from them (the short implies he was born in Pittsburgh). I finally have to say it, since this is the third film in which they appear together, and dance together, and drink together, and so forth together: Donald + Jose Carioca = HoYay. And lastly, I know they have a well-justified anti-smoking agenda. But I love how, for Disney, Pecos Bill's cigarette is a no-no, but showing him shooting every darn thing that moves is a-okay.
Really, at this point, the most interesting thing about the Anthology Features is getting to see Ub Iwerk's name in the credits. Lord knows, there's got to be an interesting story there.

#15: "The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad"
Very similar to "Fun And Fancy Free" in that we have two shorter features narrated by special guest stars and connected by a flimsy story and yet another really strange title (bonus points for the bizarre "Ichabod! Ichabod!" theme song as well).
The fact that Basil Rathbone narrates "The Wind in the Willows" alone makes the segment fun. Other than that, it's just a strange, very pragmatic, and rather dull adaptation of the least interesting parts of the book. The characters and their physical designs are surprisingly unappealing too; I found it hard to root for anyone. I felt this way with "Bongo", and I feel it for this too: if this were a feature-length film, I'd have to consider it a flop. (Though you had to love "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" back in the day.)
There's a definite feeling of "Aw, let's just get this overwith" to Bing Crosby's narration of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", which does not help the early parts of the film. Once again, it's a pragmatic and dull adaptation with weird, unlikable characters and a boring story…
Until they get to Ichabod Crane's harrowing ride home from the Halloween party. Then it rules! It's the gutsiest, scariest sequence in this entire group of movies, and it's a sign that the greatness would return soon…

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Next Post, the greatness returns with a sad girl who cleans with her animal friends. For more posts in this series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.

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