Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Don Bluth Month: "Music and passion are always in fashion at the COOOOPAAAAAAH!!!" - Thoughts on "Thumbelina!"

I hate cliched movie lines as much as the next person (and the next person is Brian DePalma), but say hello to my lil' friend:

Mr. Blueberry Martini here is going to help me get through this thing called "Thumbelina".

Have you ever seen that one episode of "Star Trek" where Worf has to do the Klingon version of running the gauntlet? Every few steps, there are two other Klingons on either side of him, and they just wail on him with staffs or jab him with tasers or do other unpleasant things to him. The dialogue in the scene goes a little like this:

WORF: "Something incredibly badass! AAAAAUUUGH!!! Something else incredibly badass - AAAAARRRRGH!!! Something else incredib--AAAAAAHHHHH!!!"

I bring this up because I see a lot of Klingons bearing pointy weapons coming up in the ol' Netflix queue.

I'll be the first to point out that, yes, I didn't get to (read: have to) watch "Rock-A-Doodle" and, in fact, that might help me survive this intact. But even so, this project has very suddenly stopped being fun and started being an endurance test. My prize at the end: bragging rights. Wee.

So, "Thumbelina".

(Long, long, awkward pause...)

Now, to be fair, I am not a five-year-old girl. But I just watched this movie about a half-hour ago and I remember almost nothing. *Almost* nothing. I almost can't even comment on it, but I'll try.

I remember that the songs were horrible and were all written by Barry Manilow (who I keep confusing with Neil Diamond, hence me singing "Sweet Caroline" along with half the musical numbers). In particular, there's a song you will get to hear over and over about how nothing is impossible if you follow your heart, and it's sung by an aggressively annoying swallow. (He doesn't do anything more helpful than fly around and tell Thumbelina to, if you will, never say never. God help us all if he ever meets the pigeon from "An American Tail".) I remember there were three irritating cutesy-poo little bug characters that look like they walked out of a completely different feature altogether, and I kept forgetting that they were in the movie. Then again, the writers tended to forget about them too, since they really only have two scenes. I remember Gilbert Gottfried. Boy do I wish I could forget that part. And -oh good- I remember a few things I can discuss at some length.

First, the Toads. I... wow. So, like, nobody during the production of this movie (and animated films take a very long time to make) took a look at the Toads and thought, "gee guys, these characters, with their pencil mustaches, giant boobs, and heavy accents, might not be okay"? Mind you, this movie was released in 1994, not 1934, so they can't use the trusty "it was just a product of it's time" excuse.

Second thing: Thumbelina is, like, the worst character. There are times when this movie looks like the Barbie princess movie cash-in of itself and Thumbie here is the main reason. She has got no personality at all; none. Her character arc is basically: "I am sad that I'm tiny. I am happy that I met the Fairy prince. I am sad again because the creepy toad and mole want to marry me and the Gilbert Gottfried beetle was mean to me. Now I am happy again because I married my hottie prince." My favorite scenes with Thumbelina are the ones where she's still dancing and smiling *after* each of the musical numbers are over. It's like she doesn't even know what she's doing.

Third and most important:I had a running checklist in my head of every scene that appeared to be lifted whole-cloth from Disney. They're pretty unsubtle about it too. Obviously you've got Jody Benson as Thumbelina and, God bless her, she gives it her all and sings her heart out on those "Sweet Caroline" clones. The story itself is based on a Hans Christian Anderson story -- same author as "The Little Mermaid". There's a big movie musical style song and dance number a la "Beauty and the Beast". In case that isn't enough, the opening is set in Paris for... some reason. There are some Fairies-changing-the-seasons animation that look identical to the similar scenes in "Fantasia". Kinda sad that they look the same, with 54 years worth of technological achievements between them.

This is the worst-looking Don Bluth movie so far. It barely even looks like any of the other Don Bluth movies. The only truly Bluthy highlight is a blink-and-you-miss-it scene with a fox. Everything looks so cheap and half-assed. I don't know what the story behind this movie is, but it almost looks like they just wanted to get it overwith.

Meanwhile, Disney released a little movie over that same summer with talking animals singing Elton John songs. "The Lion King" would go on to be the most popular animated film to date of all time. Ouch.

This is about where, as a kid, I stopped seriously paying attention to what Don Bluth was up to. Next up, a movie I've never seen before: "The Pebble and the Penguin". I am just giddy with excitement here, dear readers.


Sketch of the Day!

Oh hey, a layout sketch!

6.29.10 Painting layout sketch


Zach said...

Can't really comment on the movie, since I never saw it...sounds like I should be happy about that. But, two things:

Sweeeet Caroline...BAH BAH BAH...good times never felt so gooood!


Also, I like that layout sketch. If you're trying to reinterpret Land Before Time, I should point out that Spike is supposed to be a stegosaur, not an ankylosaur. This is a common misconception.

Trish said...

^^ RE: Spike

I know, according to the official (but sequel-only) literature, Spike-Tail = Stegosaur. I'm breaking out my Artistic License here for two reasons:

1) There are no Stegosaurs onscreen in the original "Land Before Time". What Spike is, therefore, is open to some interpretation. I knew I couldn't go really realistic here, but I at least wanted to stay in the Cretaceous-ish. (With that in mind, don't ask me what genre Littlefoot is; I will *cry*.)

2) I already had a hard time staging a composition with a sauropod in it. Stegosauruses are a pain in the a** to draw and I just don't want to deal. XD

Oh man, wait until you see the final...

Zach said...

Think of Littlefoot as a North American titanosaur that's only known from a femur or something and it's sitting in a museum basement somewhere.

Ankylosaurs are cooler than those uppity stegosaurs anyway. :-P

Trish said...

^^ And for the sake of argument (and taking one for the team just to alleviate the confusion that's been going on for about a hundred damn years), we shall name that hypothetical Littlefemur Brontosaurus. XD