It's sort of interesting to think that there was a point in time when this was the last traditionally animated Disney Animation Studios film until 2009, when 'The Princess and the Frog' revived it, and revived it quite well. But more on that when we get there. I think I'm going to take an opportunity here, however, to recap where we are in the grand scheme of the Disney animation eras. We have gone through the "Golden Age", "Wartime Era", "Silver Age", "Bronze Age" and "Renaissance", thus covering five of the known seven.
With 'Home on the Range', we find ourselves ending this Disney month-long marathon in the midst of the "Post-Renaissance" era, which indeed, includes some of Disney's weakest animated titles. I've discovered that it sort of does a 'Star Trek' think up until this point. 'Fantastia 2000', good, 'Dinosaur', meh, 'New Groove', good, 'Atlantis', meh, and it goes on like that, at least up until this point, which ends us on not only a "meh" title, but one I might actually say is just bad altogether. With most Disney animated movies that I'm not big on, I still give the film the benefit of the doubt, knowing that there might be something about it I'm not getting. But truth told this is one of the lowest-ranked Disney movies of all time. And I have to say, I can see why, but more on that in a bit.
Plot-wise, we go back to 1889, where, on the Dixon Ranch, a wanted cattle rustler named Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid) has successfully stolen all of Mr. Dixon's cattle, save for one, Maggie (Roseanne Barr). As a result, Dixon has to sell Maggie to a kindly old woman named Pearl Gesner (Carole Cook) who owns a patch of farmland known as "Patch of Heaven". Now that Maggie's safe and all, Sheriff Sam Brown (Richard Riehle) arrives to inform Pearl that she has three days to pay the bank her debt of $750, or the farm goes up for auction. Overhearing, Maggie suggests that she and the other two cows, the strictly proper Mrs. Calloway (Judi Dench) and Grace (Jennifer Tilly) head into town to try to win the money to save the farm.
Once there, the cows discover that there may be a better way to obtain the exact amount they need. They notice a bounty hunter named Rico (Charles Dennis) drop a criminal off, collect his bounty and bring his horse for a rest while he takes a new horse named Buck (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who actually idolizes him. Here is where they find out that the bounty on Slim is exactly $750, so the cows figure it would be a good idea to try to get the bounty, themselves, in order to save Patch of Heaven. It sort of ends up becoming a 'Rat Race' type movie between the cows, Rico and honestly, eventually Buck as well. The whole thing might be just fine for any kids to enjoy, but this is not something that crosses into the realm of imagination and creativity that I can appreciate.
The only thing that really holds this movie together for me in any regard is its talented voice cast (although personally, I could always do without Roseanne's voice). We have characters here I haven't mentioned yet like Slim's lackey, Wesley (Steve Buscemi), Jebb the Goat (Joe Flaherty), Audrey the Chicken (Estelle Harris) and quite a few more. Even Patrick Warburton is back here, last seen as Kronk in 'Emperor's New Groove', and arguably one of the best parts about that movie. But alas, a great voice cast is no match for weak writing and a snooze of a plot. But I'm going to be fair enough to mention that the whole Western thing has never really spoken to me, so there will be bias against this one for me, regardless (although I have seen a few that I've enjoyed)
Really though, the overall story is just bland to me, and the film lacks the imagination that has been put into the other films that preceded it, even in this era. I don't know how else to say it but there's just something so extremely basic about this one. It doesn't really seem to gauge any emotions of any sort, and by the end it almost felt like it was representative of Disney almost giving up on their once epic storytelling. A stretch, sure, but by 2004, Pixar had really taken things over in the animation department. So there's always the thought that they just weren't trying because Pixar was doing well enough for them. Soon, such things would eventually get mended... but perhaps not before the next title on the list.
Here, Disney takes another shot at the Native American side of story-telling brought to us by a couple of white dudes from Burlington, Vermont and Toronto, Ontario. Having said that, I can't help but feel that this is, at the very least, more respectful than 'Pocahontas' was. Cards on the table, I have no idea if this is offensive or not when it comes to things like tradition and lack of homework. I do want to be on the right side of things, so feel free to educate me in the comments below. Otherwise, on with the show.
Local tribes in Alaska hold the traditional belief that all creatures, great and small, are created through the Great Spirits, who appear as an aurora (Northern Lights effect) Here, we meet a trio of brothers; the eldest, Sitka (D.B. Sweeney); the middle brother, Denahi (Jason Raize), and youngest and hero of this tale, Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix). The time has come for Kenai to receive his totem. In this tribe, they come in the form of a necklace, with a wooden-carved pendant resembling an animal. Each totem represents what they need to achieve to become men - Kenai's is the Bear of Love. He's a little upset about this, and the others poke fun at him for it (only fooling around, not so much bullying), but soon, none of that matters.
When a brown bear steals a basket of salmon, the three brothers pursue her, only to have Sitka meet a dramatic fate. Then, at Sitka's funeral, the other two swear vengeance on the bear. During the hunt, Kenai has a face-to-face encounter with the same bear from earlier. When Kenai just barely manages the kill, however, Sitka's spirit comes along and transforms Kenai into a bear. After this, Kenai is instructed by the tribe shaman, Tanana (Joan Copeland) to find his brother, Sitka in order to be changed back to a human. However, on his journey, he must atone for his actions.
Potential atonement comes in the form of a bear cub name Koda (Jeremy Suarez) who frees him from a trap. The two make a deal that Koda will lead Kenai to where he needs to go as long as Kenai takes Koda to the annual salmon run. As their journey continues, the pair form a brotherly friendship. Soon enough, Kenai begins to learn what it means to be a bear, and a part of that includes humankind being the Boogeyman. It's very much a shoe-on-the-other-foot movie that doesn't entirely teach that killing is wrong, but it allows you to see the other perspective. It's good for people to learn empathy - especially impressionable children. I really think the message of this movie is well laid out. The execution is something I'm a bit iffy on.
Let me make it perfectly clear that I LIKED this movie. I'm only out to try to forewarn of anything that may offend other viewers. As far as this one goes, I'd probably say its the lack of female characters and the almost completely non-native cast of voices (although a huge kudos to bringing Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis in as two extremely Canadian moose reminiscent of their original MacKenzie Brothers skits). For me, my only real criticism is that it does get a little bit preachy with its message, even if it is a good one to teach. It's certainly not gonna be for everyone, but I quite honestly enjoyed myself with this - bearing in mind that I look at things pretty deeply most of the time.
'Treasure Planet' was always a bit of an anomaly to me. Despite a release that (at least among my peers) sort of just came and went, somehow the title 'Treasure Planet' stuck with me as a curiosity. There is the part of me that enjoys the old 'Treasure Island' tale (especially when told by Muppets), so a neat, sci-fi rendering of the story seemed like a cool idea. I did review this a few years ago as well, and not a whole lot has changed.
To simplify the plot completely, it is, exactly, 'Treasure Island' in space. If you are unfamiliar with 'Treasure Island', it's an adventure tale from all the way back to 1881, involving pirates, namely Long John Silver (Brian Murray), a boy named Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and the search for the evil Captain Flint's buried treasure. I know that's extremely simplified, but hey, it's a 140+-year-old story with about a million renditions that you've likely read at some point in school. It's legendary. That said, I have to admit that it seemed to take them long enough to come up with a sci-fi version of the story, because why the hell not? It's in the public domain, go nuts!
When I first reviewed this, I brought up the combination of the overall setting and how distracting it was. The idea is that the mechanics and backdrop are basically advanced technology, but the costume design is that of the pirate age along with the ship they're sailing on. And though I admit it's still a bit weird that Disney didn't go one way or the other on it (entirely traditional or entirely futuristic), it certainly takes nothing away from the film. It's interesting, given Disney's history of retelling tales that it wasn't just traditional. But I do give kudos for being creative. We can't always be purists (at least I can't).
For the most part, I still enjoyed this one, although it's not like it would make the top of my list as far as Disney animation goes. It's good, but being a story we've seen so many times before, it IS unfortunately somewhat forgettable. It keeps the original story alive and well, and we do get to like these characters as we go on this adventure. The key relationship here is the one between Long John and Jim, as they have a sort of mutual respect for one another that plays through the film, even when things go awry (I mean, spoiler alert, but Long John ends up being a double-crossing pirate).
It would feel wrong not to offer up a few more of the talented voices who worked on this. It's easy enough to explain that it's the plot of 'Treasure Island' in space, but several characters lend themselves to the great relationships we see forming throughout the film. Just a few of the more familiar voices include Emma Thompson as Captain Amelia, David Hyde Pierce as Doctor Doppler, Martin Short as B.E.N. and Laurie Metcalf as Sarah Hawkins. And yes, in case you are wondering, a couple of these characters are robots.
Perhaps my true appreciation for the film, however, lies in the fact that it looks so beautiful, using CG to its full advantage, providing us with a sort of grand scale of things. To see this on the big screen probably would have been much more of a treat than on my standard computer screen, streaming a Disney+ feature. In the end, it's a interesting rendition of an age-old classic tale, and it's perfectly fine. The thing of it is, it doesn't stand out in any parituclar way (aside from perhaps the animation of the time), and has since been completely shrouded by the new age of Disney animation, which dates any amount of CG from 2002.
This one falls under the ongoing category of "feel-good" movies in my life. It's one that I haven't seen for a few years prior to this viewing, but it's safe to say that I forgot how much I loved it. This one comes to us from a couple of rather decent names in the realm of animation; Dean DeBlois, heavily responsible for the 'How to Train Your Dragon' series, and Chris Sanders who worked on the stories for 'The Lion King' and 'Aladdin' (both worked on 'Mulan' as well).
'Lilo & Stitch' is a good place for any fans of such titles to see where the roots started, so to speak. As we well know by now, this was the beginning of things, but there would be three sequels to follow, marketing, an animated series, more marketing, and also, marketing. That said, I am a fan of Stitch, and would proudly own something like a Stitch plushie. Of course, Disney's no stranger to that side of things, and it should be known that I've come to accept their mass marketing techniques as long as the stories keep on being good! This is a great example of such a thing where it just works on all sides.
Taking place in Kauaʻi, Hawaii (I have been. If you haven't, you've gotta check it out. It's absolutely beautiful!), we meet a couple of sisters who have been left on their own after their parents were killed in a car crash cliche. Nani Pelekai (Tia Carrere) is a near-20-year-old waitress who struggles to take care of her little sister, Lilo (Daveigh Chase), who lives in her own little world of eccentricity and Elvis music. Lilo's classmates end up ostracizing her, which leads to Nani allowing her to get a dog for herself. While searching the animal shelter, Lilo falls for a rather interesting-looking dog who happens to be Stitch (Chris Sanders).
What the audience knows from the beginning, however, is that Stich is really better known as Experiment 626; a sentient alien "criminal" who's ultimately quite intelligent, but also embraces chaos... like if the Joker was adorable. The creature was created by Dr. Jumba Jookiba (David Ogden Stiers) who eventually comes to Earth looking for him, with the help of his assistant, Earth "expert", Agent Wendell Pleakley (Kevin McDonald). Between Stitch dodging his own capture and causing a mess everywhere he goes, and a social worker named Cobra Bubbles (Ving Rhames), Nani finds herself in the midst of it all. As for Lilo, she's kind of the naive, fun child along for the ride - but that doesn't mean she doesn't learn a thing or two in the process.
Personally speaking, I'd probably put this one up there with 'Emperor's New Groove' as far as its quality. It's pretty laugh-out-loud funny, relying more on being silly and fun than the drama these Disney animated features usually tend to be. I wouldn't say it's my favourite animated Disney film, but it's definitely somewhere well within my "Top 10" (a list I should probably actually make one of these days). It has some fun ideas going for it along with a solid sense of humour, original creature designs, a solid story, and lovable characters. It's a fine example of fun for the whole family, and a new title to seek out for feeling down in the dumps.
I may not have loved this movie, but it's another good example of something I'm gonna end up going against the grain on. It actually surprised me to learn that this movie earned a Rotten Tomato average of 51.5%. To be fair, that's the masses meeting pretty much in the middle, but I definitely thought it would have been ranked a bit higher. Anyway, digressing.
This film marks a pretty good point in time where the visuals of newfound CG animation really show. Stylistically, I feel like whether you like it or not, we can pretty much agree that it's beautifully filmed for 2001. The thing is, this is a CG test title following another CG test title, and a problem is generally presented when the style trumps the substance. And I'll admit that most of what I liked about this was how it all looked along with several characters - a few of whom I really liked. The story is admittedly pretty familiar, but I appreciated the execution.
It all starts when a tsunami hits the city of Atlantis, sinking it, and leaving an abandoned child; Princess Kida behind. She's okay though because the Queen merges with a crystal that creates a protective dome over Atlantis before it sinks. There, the remaining Atlantians live in their lost city for 8,000 years. We then go to 1914 where we meet Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox); a linguist working for the Smithsonian Institution, and a bit of an expert on the Lost City of Atlantis. He is interviewed and recruited by millionaire Preston B. Whitmore (John Mahoney) to decipher the Shephard's Journal, which is said to contain directions to the Lost City.
Milo joins the expedition, along with a handful of colourful and mostly likable characters. Commander Rourke (James Garner) leads the expedition which also consists of the badass Helga Sinclaire (Claudia Christian), demolitions expert, Vinny (Don Novello), geologist, Molière (Corey Burton), medical officer, Dr. Sweet (Phil Morris), mechanic, Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors), radio operator, Mrs. Packard (Florence Stanley) and chef, Cookie (Jim Varney). Following a traumatic struggle, the group do eventually get to Atlantis and meet Kida (Cree Summer), her father (Leonard Nimoy) and a handful of others. However, as Milo thinks they're there to discover and explore, the team may or may not have different plans.
Admittedly, the whole thing does come off as the typical 'Avatar' plot (with a twist or two), but much like 'Avatar', I can still appreciate this in its execution. I kind of wish I took the time to check this out upon its initial release. I think I could have had fun with this one on the big screen, considering how smooth and clean the CG action scenes are. But while I may have enjoyed it for what it was, I can see where a lot of the criticisms come from. Even I had a bit of a problem with how overly animated Milo's character seemed. I love Michael J Fox, but something about Milo just kinda bugged me. Other than that though, my criticisms of this are limited enough that it still gets a pass. If you ask me, it's kind of underrated.
After the laggy, somewhat disappointing 'Dinosaur', Disney managed to come back strong with a film that reminds us of how fun Disney can still be. Unfortunately for yours truly, I was still in a bit of a phase of not caring too much about animation, so this was one of the bunch of Disney flicks I missed out on in theaters.
It wasn't until a few friends started throwing quotes around from it in high school that I got curious. These quotes were always giving me a good chuckle, so I finally decided to rent it when it was fresh on video, and check it out (back when you could still do that). Lo and behold, I actually loved it, and I was kind of surprised at how much I did. It was refreshing to see Disney put its magic in the background and bring its comedy forward.
We meet a selfish, spoiled, power-abusing brat named Kuzco (David Spade), who happens to be the Incan Emperor. He spends his days talking down to people and being an overall egotistical jerk. He calls on the village leader, Pacha (John Goodman), to tell him that he plans to build a summer mansion in his village called "Kuzcotopia". He also fires his advisor, Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her bumbling assistant, Kronk (Patrick Warburton). Yzma plans to revenge kill him with some poison, but, Kronk manages to mess up the mixture, turning Kuzco into a llama instead.
Eventually, Kuzco ends up in Pacha's care, mistaken for one of his llamas. Demanding to be led back to his palace, Pacha agrees to escort him, under the condition that he doesn't follow through with his summer home plans. Meanwhile, Yzma finds out that the assassination on Kuzco didn't go as planned, so she and Kronk set out to find him and finish the job. The big takeaway from this seems to be the aspect of teamwork, whether you're looking at Kuzco's dealings with Pacha or Yzma's dealings with Kronk.
While Kuzco and Pacha have to learn to work together to some pretty comedic results, for me, the best laughs come from Yzma and Kronk. Yzma just seems to try too hard, but Kronk's idiotic ways always result in her suffering somehow - be it cartoonish physical assault ("WRONG LEVEERR!") or just pure inconvenience ("It's called a 'cruel irony', like my dependence on you"). It's so very refreshing to see the villain be comedic again for the first time in a long time. It's almost like they gave Cruella DeVille a long-lost sister... or at least a distant relative, considering time frames.
I was very happy to see that this time around, the comedy didn't really wear thin like I thought it might. It has been quite a few years since I last saw it, so this viewing brought a bit of nostalgia to the table as well. It remains one of my Disney animation studio favourites, but in a different sort of way. This is one of few examples I can think of that just brings pure fun to the table, and there's nothing all too serious going on here. It's a comedy far before it's a drama of any kind, and that's, to say it yet again, refreshing!
This may take the cake for the boldest statement I've said on this blog, but here it goes... Of the entirety of the Disney animated movies out there that I have seen, this is, hands down, the single most unimpressive and forgettable product they've ever cranked out. At the time of its release, I saw it in theaters and remember being thoroughly impressed with how solid the animation was. But that's really all it had going for it. Otherwise, things were pretty basic, and it took from a bunch of other stuff.
As time went on between then and now, I've never really given 'Dinosaur' a second thought. As a matter of fact, I damn near almost forgot it even existed at one point. So many modern classics have popped up in the Disney library since, so it has been very easy to get sidetracked. It does honestly make me wonder how many are reading this who are pretty much in the same boat. This is one of those movies that came and went and no one paid much attention to it. However, it was respectfully Disney's big "animation show-off" feature of its time. For 2000, this looked pretty amazing.
The film hits the ground running, quite literally, as a Carnotaurus burst onto the scene, looking for a meal. The Carno wrecks an Iguanodon nest, sending a lone egg on a journey to an area inhabited by prehistoric lemurs. A family of lemurs adopts the small dino, and once hatched, they name him Aladar (D.B. Sweeney). The family, consisting of father, Yar (Ossie Davis), daughter, Plio (Alfre Woodard), and granddaughter, Suri (Hayden Panettiere), take Aladar in as one of their own, and Al grows alongside Suri over the years.
During a lemur mating ritual (yes, you read that right), in which Plio's brother, Zini (Max Casella) fails, a meteor suddenly strikes the Earth, which wipes out the island of this lemur "orgy", forcing Aladar and the rest of the lemur family to flee to the mainland. The family eventually runs into a herd of displaced dinosaurs heading for the communal Nesting Ground. This herd is led by another Iguanodon named Kron (Samuel E. Wright); your average egotistical not-good but not-bad jerk character, who sends the family to the back of the line.
There, they befriend an old Styracosaurus named Eema (Della Reese) along with her dog-like Ankylosaurus, Url, and her Brachiosaurus friend Baylene (Joan Plowright). Eventually, there is also tension between Aladar and Kron when Kron's sister, Neera (Julianna Margulies), comes into the picture. All the while, travel continues and results in a movie about Dinosaurs trying to get to some kind of (almost) paradise while having to duck and dodge predators and undergoing real-life, relatable situations. Does that sound familiar to anyone? A Don Bluth movie that gave Disney some stiff competition when it ran alongside 'Oliver & Company'?
Anyway, it will come as no surprise watching this today that, overall, it's pretty underwhelming. For its time, the CG animation was a little bit ground-breaking. When you look at this and consider 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within' (the film I personally consider to be the leap from full-length "cartoonish" CG to full-length "realistic" CG) being released a year later, it's easy to see what the big-screen draw may have been when this first came out. But I daresay it has faded into obscurity as nothing really more than a stepping stone for animation. Other Disney titles surround its future and past as much more memorable classics we've grown to love. I'm sure this one has its audience, but I can't say I'm one of them. I'll stick to 'The Land Before Time'.
Here we have the final title of the Renaissance era, and I'm happy to say that this particular era does end on a strong note. This is one of the few films on my Disney Catch-Up list that I haven't seen before now as well. One thing I appreciate with titles like these as opposed to something like 'Mulan' or 'Pocahontas' is that it's a Disney take on a work of fiction, and not something based on a true story.
I went into this expecting something a sort of cross, in atmosphere between 'The Jungle Book' and 'The Lion King' and... well, I have to admit that I pretty well got what I expected. I'm not sure this would land on an all-time favourites list, but I definitely enjoyed it for what it was, and I can't say that critically, I had any real problems with it. I thought it was charming and that there was even a bit more maturity to it than some other titles in the era. It's definitely a good way for Disney to cap off the century, as we are now in good old 1999.
The film opens a little over a century ago, where we see tragedy befall two separate families, both at the hands of a leopard known as Sabor. The first family is a British couple and their baby son, who get shipwrecked and forced to go all Swiss Family Robinson. Off-screen, the parents are killed, leaving the baby all alone. If that's not enough, not too far away, a mother gorilla named Kala (Glenn Close) ends up losing her baby as well. Eventually, Kala happens on the treehouse built by the human couple and finds the infant, only to bring it back to the troop and raise it as her own. Yeah, the opening is a lot. But it does get much better.
As Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn/Alex D. Linz) grows up, he befriends various other animals; namely Terk (Rosie O'Donnell), a young female gorilla with a bit of attitude, and Tantor (Wayne Knight), an elephant that walks on the worried side. He's otherwise picked on for being different, even by the troop's leader, Kerchak (Lance Henriksen). There's a bit of a spoiler if I get into how, but eventually, Tarzan does earn the respect of his troop just before a trio of humans come waltzing in - Professor Archimedes Q. Porter (Nigel Hawthorne), his daughter, Jane (Minnie Driver), and their escort and pro hunter, Clayton (Brian Blessed).
The humans are there to study gorillas in their natural habitat, but soon enough, Jane stumbles across Tarzan, and the rest is relatively predictable. as Clayton eventually takes interest in Tarzan for the wrong reasons, whereas Porter is interested in him on a scientific level. As for Jane, she finds him fascinating, and it probably also helps that the dude is as buff as all hell. I make it sound like it's some sort of par for the course story, and in some ways it is. But one can appreciate some of the execution of this all the same. For example, I appreciated that it didn't make Tarzan out to be some dummy so much as he's just a stranger to the world. I also appreciated some of the musical selections throughout the film, making it both fun and heartwarming - even if 'You'll be in My Heart' has been played out.
I can't help but feel, upon leaving this, that it's something I would have loved if it was somewhere closer to 'Aladdin' in its timing. By 1999 I was kind of ignorant to the whole Disney animation thing, and it was "kids stuff" - as opposed to now, where I'm damn near 40 and appreciating the stories animation can tell, and the characters it can develop. Like I said earlier, this was a pretty solid title to cap the century off with, considering it's a story that goes back as far as 1912! Something about that just feels right. I'm glad I finally checked it out, and might not mind a re-watch or two in the future.
Although I pretty well consider the Disney Renaissance era "my era" (especially between 'Little Mermaid' and 'Lion King'), the latter part of it wasn't something I paid much attention to. I had simply outgrown it and moved on with other things. It wouldn't be until much later that I'd finally watch 'Mulan' for this very site just a couple of years ago. So this is a bit of a rewrite, as I think my opinion has changed on it quite a bit.
Plot-wise, we are introduced to a young lady named Fa Mulan (Ming-Na Wen). As a woman of the time, she gets stuck with old traditions and is brought up to be "proper". However, she's not quite into it, and she longs for something more. In a somewhat refreshing change of pace from other Disney movies, however, a man isn't really part of her "something more". She wants to find her life's purpose and fulfill it, and that's really all there is to it. In that case, this is a stand-out for Disney, making their female protagonist much more about herself than "finding true love".
Back to the story, after the Huns, led by our story's villain, Shan Yu (Miguel Ferrer) breach the Great Wall of China, the Chinese Emperor (Pat Morita) calls on one man from each family to join the Chinese army. When the Fa family is called upon, Mulan's father, Zhou (Soon-Tek Oh) volunteers. However, he's a little on the elderly side, and Mulan protests to him going into battle, being as frail as he is. She then takes matters into her own hands, and sets out on her own, dressed as a boy, so as not to bring "shame" on her family. In other words, yeah, women going to war was unheard of here.
Along her journey, Mulan befriends a helpful dragon named Mushu (Eddie Murphy) and a band of soldiers, who provide a lot of comedy relief throughout the film. In my opinion, they are the best part of it. As far as Mulan's character, I give credit to Disney giving us a stronger female character, and she's all in all likable. I criticized her character a bit for sinking into the background a little too much on my last review. But now I wonder if that lends itself more to the whole concept of her being the underdog here. After watching the live-action version and then coming back to this, I have to say that it's now confirmed that I like her overall journey here a bit more.
Going back to what I said in the 'Mulan 2020' review, I suggest that this feels like a story about someone trying to prove themselves in a society that won't have it. In this case, Mulan is a woman out to prove herself in a man's world, but the story could potentially appeal to anyone of any sort of "minority" status. It's about proving one's self. The live-action version leans a little more towards the equal rights aspect of things and feels a little more heavy-leaning on Mulan's role as a woman. In fairness, both are decently told, and you get what you need to out of them both. However, there's not much of an "underdog" feel to the live-action film in comparison to this, so I tend to lean towards this a bit more.
I do appreciate that, especially for the time, they gave us a genuine heroine instead of just another princess. Here we have a girl who breaks the rules of her society and goes to war so that her father can continue living. The love here is for her father and her family name, not some sort of Prince Charming character, and it's honestly pretty refreshing. When you really think about it, this was pretty powerful stuff for the time, and I'm pretty happy to say that over the years it has grown on me (especially after the live-action wasn't quite as good).
The animation is nice, the sets are nice, the "suit-up" montage is pretty damn sweet, and the songs take a sort of a different step from the typical mix. I know there's some controversy in certain songs like "I'll Make a Man Out of You", and some historical inaccuracies, much like with 'Pocahontas'. But for whatever reason, I find these things more forgivable here - possibly because the point to the story overshadows these things. That said, there could always be a thing or two that I'm missing. So I'll take the animated over the live-action here, but at the end of the day, while still good, neither are movies I rush back to for a re-watch.
Here's another one that I confess I've actually seen a few times. The thing is, it has been quite a while since I've watched it, and I had to wonder if my opinion changed. Until now, this has always been "just okay" to me. I was never as harsh on it as other critics, but I didn't think it was all that special either. The fact remains, Schwarzenegger has a lot of better titles under his belt. However, it IS those better titles that end up making this movie so good, and frankly, underappreciated.
For those unfamiliar, a teenage boy named Danny (Austin O'Brien), who lives with his widowed mother, Irene (Mercedes Ruehl), seeks comfort in the cinema. He is friendly with the theater's owner, Nick (Robert Prosky), who shows some of the best action movies, including that of the 'Jack Slater' series, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger. At one point, Nick gives Danny a golden ticket, allegedly owned by the legendary Harry Houdini, which will allow him to see 'Jack Slater IV' early. Why he needs a magical golden ticket for this is anyone's guess, but I always took it as Nick just having a bit of fun with him. But then, we learn that the ticket really is magic.
While watching the film, the ticket teleports him into the film's fictional world, right in Slater's back seat, during a car chase. Slater takes Danny to LAPD HQ, and there, Danny tries very hard to convince Slater that the whole thing is a movie, but Slater just brushes him off, and accuses him of having an overactive imagination. However, perhaps with his knowledge of Slater's past, Danny can help him on his assignment to try to take down Mafia Boss, Tony Vivaldi (Anthony Quinn), along with his seemingly much smarter henchman, Mr. Benedict (Charles Dance). And with that, Lt. Dekker (Frank McRae) partners them up.
Now, with this golden ticket between the movie world and the real world, there are a couple of dimensional crossover scenes here, as we do a "reality to fiction to reality" thing. In my humble opinion, the best chunk of this movie is while they are in the movie. When they come back to the real world, it does tend to get a little silly with things like Arnold talking to himself as Jack Slater, and more celebrity cameos than you can shake a stick at. Even Ian McKellen shows up here! Although it is interesting to see how each character reacts to each world.
When Slater comes into the real world, for example, he learns he's not necessarily invincible like the action hero he believes himself to be. Going vice-versa, Danny in the movie world is more fun, pointing out a whole bunch of action tropes along the way. It's pretty fourth-wall breaking stuff for 1993, and although one could call this a "guilty pleasure" of sorts, I don't see it as all that "guilty". It's not a masterpiece or anything, but what I do like about it goes beyond it just being a fun action movie that points out tropes (which is something I'm already a sucker for, as it is).
On a deeper level, I see this as a sort of metaphor for "movie magic". The golden ticket transports Danny into a movie, experiencing it first hand. Sometimes, there are those titles that we're so attached to (as Danny is with the 'Slater' flicks) we can't help but get lost in them in a very similar way. And that's kind of why I tend to like the "in-movie" stuff better. Imagine being a die hard fan of something like 'Star Wars' and being thrown in there ABLE to do something like warn of the destruction of Alderaan! Anyway, I'm just geeking out now. The bottom line is, I see this movie as a sort of love letter to cinematic escape than just a silly action movie with a silly premise. For me, it's one of Schwarzenegger's last good ones.
Here's one from the Renaissance era that I've actually never seen until this viewing. It's a fine example of a movie I would tell people I've never seen, only to have their jaws hit the floor in shock and awe. This one in particular has several reasons as to why it's a shock that I ever missed it. For one, it's Disney Renaissance animation, which may or may not be my overall favourite era. But more to the point, I enjoy Greek mythology, and it was less in the realm of something like 'Beauty and the Beast' and more in the realm of 'Aladdin'.
The thing is, this was out in '97, and by then, I was sadly well into "high school thinking", and kind of over Disney animation, considering it to be "for kids". By then, I was a little more into action movies and various raunchy comedies both on TV and the big screen (not the least of which ended up being 'South Park', which aired the same year). But why I never went back to it after I grew up and realized there's more to animation than just being kid's movies is anyone's guess. It ended up on a long list of movies to see, but for whatever reason, it was never near the top. I think some of that had to do with knowing that things would just end up inaccurate as far as the mythology of Hercules went.
However, I did go into this with an open mind. After all, this has been recommended to me for years now, and plenty of internet memes featuring various characters have had me curious. So, I went into this much like one would have gone into a 'Harry Potter' movie - separate the movie from the story, and treat it as its own thing. It's probably a good thing I did, but in the end, it seemed sort of 50/50 with how accurate it was. And I also give it leeway, as it needs to be a little more family friendly. I mean, it's Disney animation, and it's not like the story is inaccurate in a real sense, like it was with 'Pocahontas'.
We open in Ancient Greece where we meet proud, new parents, Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar), along with their newborn son, Hercules. While Hercules' birth is celebrated among the Gods, Hades (James Woods) has plans to overthrow Zeus and take over Mount Olympus. Hades addresses the three fates; Lachesis (Carole Shelley), Clotho (Amanda Plummer) and Atropos (Paddi Edwards), and they tell him that he'll ultimately be successful, as in eighteen years, the planets will align, and he will be able to free the Titans who will want revenge on Zeus for trapping them in Tartarus. The catch is, if Hercules interferes, he won't be successful.
A plan to kill Hercules is nearly carried out when Hades' minions, Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer, respectively) are sent to feed baby Herc a potion that will strip him of his immortality. However, the potion isn't fully drank, so Herc becomes mortal, but maintains his God-like powers of strength. He gets rid of Pain and Panic in their attempt to kill him, and he is taken in and raised by human farmers, Amphitryon (Hal Holbrook) and his wife Alcmene (Barbara Barrie). Growing up, he becomes an outcast due to his super strength (which makes no sense to me, but there it is), and can't help but wonder where it is he came from. Soon, he turns to a statue of Zeus for answers, and all is revealed.
Zeus informs Hercules that in order to regain his place among the Gods, he must become a "true hero". He is then sent to train with a Satyr named Philoctetes (Danny DeVito), who sooner goes by the name "Phil", and has trained the best known heroes like Odysseus, Perseus, and Theseus. Along for his journey, Herc is also given Pegasus; his long lost childhood pet. Eventually, the pair run into Megara (Susan Egan); a woman unfortunately indebted to Hades, and whom Hades uses for his advantage against Herc, who happens to be smitten with her. If Hades plays his cards right, he may just be successful in overtaking Olympus. The question is, what does it really take for Hercules to become a "true hero" and stop hades in his tracks?
In the end, I have to admit that those who recommended this to me were mostly right when it came to my enjoyment of it. There were a few things here and there I called out, but it was never enough to ruin things for me. Regardless of mythical inaccuracies, it's still a lot of fun, and I really liked Hades as a villain, although I'm not sure he quite has Jafar dethroned for yours truly. This was one where the songs didn't fully stand out to me, either. There was nothing bad about them, but they didn't stick with me for whatever reason. So, in the end, I enjoyed it, but it didn't quite have the wow factor I thought it might have.
I would generally begin a lot of Disney animation reviews with fair warning that anything bordering on controversial wouldn't be paid attention to. I'm into these movies mostly for good story, solid characters, and hey, maybe even a good song or two (especially with 'Aladdin' and 'Lion King'). But this is... different. The thing about Pocahontas as that it's the first of these to be based on a true story... very loosely.
I won't go into all the dirty details of everything, but let's just say this movie does real world history quite a bit of injustice. It's bothersome, because the movie's message is rather positive, and its heart is in the right place. The execution, however, teaches kids something far different than what the history books give us. I'm not gonna sit here and go paragraph after paragraph on it, but just Google the real story and you'll see what I'm talking about. This isn't like getting a fairy tale right or wrong, as Disney has done up to this point.
In the Disney version, however, we open in 1607 with a group of English settlers, sailing from London to the New World aboard the ship, the Susan Constant. The crew is lead by Governor Ratcliffe (David Ogden Stiers); a greedy settler on the lookout for lots of gold and heightened status. Here, we also meet Captain John Smith (Mel Gibson) who rescues a young crewmate named Thomas (Christian Bale) from drowning during a rough storm. Soon enough, they reach the mainland, Ratcliffe claims Jamestown, and the crew get digging. Meanwhile, Smith goes off to explore, only to stumble upon the lovely local Native, Pocahontas (Irene Bedard).
Pocahontas and Smith end up sharing, bonding, etc. and fall for each other. This is much to the dismay of her father, Chief Powhatan (Russell Means) and future husband of her arranged marriage, Kocoum (James Apaumut Fall) and, before you know it, tension between the settlers and natives rise very quickly and... yeah, it's 'Avatar', it's 'Dances with Wolves', it's 'Fern Gully', it's basically just Disney's execution of that particular story. It's a tale about two very different groups of people, their misunderstandings about each other, and nature vs mankind's evil ways always plays a huge part.
By this time I was 12, going on 13, and 'Toy Story' was a hell of a lot more interesting that summer than this for yours truly. At this point, I had kind of hung up my Disney hat and moved onto my Pixar hat (which, let's face it, is just a different kind of Disney hat)- following them very closely to this day, ever since. Disney animation, however, took a long break from my interest level, starting here. 'The Lion King' was kind of the cherry on top of these movies for me though, and I have to admit, I still don't feel like I missed a whole lot of greatness... but we'll see.
The interesting thing to note right now is that, starting with this, I have never seen the rest of the Disney Renaissance movies ('Pocahontas' to 'Tarzan') except 'Hunchback' and 'Mulan'; each of which I think I've only seen through once. So I'm going into all of the last parts of this relatively fresh. But getting back on track, I gotta say, I really just did not like this movie. It's another one, much like 'Peter Pan', where the whole time watching it, I felt awkward and cringey. It's something I really don't think they could get away with today; at least as far as an execution that tosses the word "savages" around so much there's a whole song about it.
I will give the movie a bit of leeway on its overall message that it's trying to convey (again, the same as 'Avatar', 'Fern Gully' etc.), and I have to admit that the song 'Colours of the Wind' is a solid take on the things mankind takes for granted - especially in nature. I personally thing the whole "true story" idea is just a mistake for Disney to begin with, as there's just too much controversy behind it - even if 'Mulan' is still a great movie. In 'Mulan', however, she's a strong woman trying to do what's right. Pocahontas here still felt like a relatively weak character, even if her spirit was strong. In the end, it's simply not strong enough to follow 'The Lion King' or 'Aladdin'. I mean, to each their own, but I might recommend checking out the true story first.
I think if I had a favourite animated Disney movie, it would be this one, plain and simple. While a lot of it has to do with the fact that it's from my past, and therefore provides nostalgia, there's so much more to it. It's one of the first movies I can remember successfully hitting every note with me as far as emotions go. I laughed, I cried, I felt hope, I felt dread. It's really just a wonderful story that some say is more of a present-day 'Hamlet'.
I went to the theater to check this out when I was 11, going on 12, and have held it close to my heart ever since. Sometimes you come across a movie that gets into your being so deeply that you honestly can't wait to see it again. This could have been the first time that really happened for me. There was a certain success Disney had with this one in delivering the magic - and it doesn't stop at the amazing animalistic animation, either. The songs are great, the characters are likable (and voiced by quite the all-star cast), and the overall story is really quite moving.
The film opens with the world's most culturally significant sunrise as we see all of the animals of the Pride Lands of Africa gather to celebrate Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas/Matthew Broderick), the newborn lion cub of King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Queen Sirabi (Madge Sinclair). Presenting him to the kingdom in that famous scene is shaman and advisor, a mandrill named Rafiki (Robert Guillaume), who isn't in this a ton, but does end up playing an important part in Simba's development. Simba eventually grows a little, and Mufasa explains the Circle of Life to him (this is where I also learned about it) as well as his responsibilities when he becomes king.
Meanwhile, Mufasa's brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons) ends up being a bit of a "Loki" about things, and wants the throne for himself. He hopes to achieve this with the help of his hyena sidekicks, Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai (Cheech Marin) and Ed (Jim Cummings). Of course, most know the tragedy that this leads to by now, but spoiler alert anyway; it all eventually leads to Mufasa's murder, Simba's exile, and Scar taking over the throne as next in line. Why do the hyenas help this lion? Well, he pretty much just promises them sustenance, and that's reason enough.
The question is, however, will Simba come back to resume his responsibilities as rightful king? Or will he just chill with his new homies, Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella)? And although that's the film in a nutshell, a couple more characters worth mentioning are Simba's best friend, Nala (Niketa Calame-Harris/Moira Kelly), who plays a big influence on Simba, and Mufasa's majordomo, comic relief character, Zazu the hornbill (Rowan Atkinson). Altogether, this cast makes a pretty great balance between serious and comical with their characters, and it's nice to see a variety of comedy relief rather than just one character.
There's not a whole lot more to say about this one, but I think it will keep that "favourite" title for quite some time, all things considered. It's funny, but even after watching the incredibly animated remake, I thought that was actually dull in comparison to how much this one pops. Songs like 'Hakuna Matata' and 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King' are catchy and fun, but Scar also has 'Be Prepared' for something dark, and we can't leave out Elton John - most famous for his songs 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' and 'The Circle of Life'. The film provides a wonderful balance of everything, and still totally holds up to this day. It's one I never mind checking out again.
When we last left off with my Disney Catch-Up, we were just delving into the wonderful era that I grew up with, the Disney Renaissance. We continue with one of my personal favourites, 'Aladdin'. Now, before I delve into things, let me just mention that I'm not about to get into any racial whatnot, as when I viewed this as a kid, it was all about the lovable characters and story.
Back when I first saw this at the age of 10, I was happy to see what looked like it was going to be a real adventure story, rather than a lovey-dovey story. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but after 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Little Mermaid', I was ready for another 'Rescuers Down Under'. Now, for as much as I love 'Down Under', it was 'Aladdin' that definitely became my go-to Disney adventure story. And the funny thing? They snuck in a whole new lovey-dovey story anyway!
The film opens with a merchant who tells us our story, taking place in the city of Agrabah; City of mystery, enchantment, and the finest merchandise this side of the river Jordan! Royal Vizier, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), along with his sidekick parrot, Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) seeks a magical lamp that dwells in the secret Cave of Wonders. However, the only one who can enter the cave is the "diamond in the rough", Aladdin (Scott Weinger); a homeless thief (only really stealing to eat) with mad parkour skills.
In the meantime, Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin) is upset about having an arranged marriage to a prince, rather than the idea of marrying for love. Her father, the Sultan (Douglas Seale) has to reluctantly pressure her as well, as she "must" do it by her next birthday. This makes her escape the palace to get out into the world (at least for a while) where she bumps into an instantly smitten Aladdin, and his sidekick monkey Abu (Frank Welker). Long story short, there's a misunderstanding, and Aladdin is thrown in jail where he unknowingly meets Jafar.
Jafar makes a deal with Aladdin - he'll secure his freedom if Aladdin goes lamp spelunking for him. Aladdin agrees, but during the mission gets betrayed by Jafar, who thinks he manages to get the lamp. Abu manages to grab it last minute, but now, Aladdin and Abu are stuck in the cave with a magic carpet, and of course, the Genie (Robin Williams) who emerges from the lamp, and promises Aladdin three wishes, but with three simple rules - no killing, no bringing anyone back from the dead, and no making people fall in love. Aladdin's one true wish is to be with Jasmine, however, so he's gonna have to figure something out.
So, while much of the story is all about Aladdin trying to get with Jasmine, that's not what I'd say highlights the movie in any way. For me, you have three big deals going on here. One, the Genie is one of the best Disney sidekicks ever, and has one of the catchiest songs ever. Two, Jafar is one of these villains who's out for pure power, and it leads to some pretty badass animation during the film's climax; also, probably my all-time fave Disney villain. And three, I fully appreciate that this is a pretty wild adventure and a love story all at once, proving Disney can make a movie for everyone (well, almost everyone). To this day, one of my personal favourites of the Disney library.
If there was ever a movie in Disney animation that was underrated, overlooked and even sadly forgotten about, it has to be 'The Rescuers Down Under'. While not entirely perfect, it's certainly a vast improvement from its rather dry predecessor, complete with a real sense of adventure that only a land like Australia can provide. The tone of the film is set immediately with its opening, as a great single shot soars over the Outback with a thrilling soundtrack kicking in. It's one of few openings from my childhood I remember very fondly on the big screen.
We meet the young Cody (Adam Ryen), and the film hits the ground running as this kid not only rescues an eagle known as Marahute, but befriends him and gets to ride her around the breathtaking landscape. This eagle is even grateful enough to show Cody her nest, and give him one of her feathers, seemingly as a token of friendship. However, Cody soon falls into a trap and is ultimately kidnapped by the sinister poacher, Percival C. McLeach (George C. Scott), who discovers his feather, suggesting that Cody knows there Marahute is hiding. McLeach also tosses Cody's backpack to the crocs, convincing the Australian Rangers that Cody's fate went to the crocodiles.
A mouse who witnesses all of this rushes to send a message to the Rescue Aid Society, located across the globe in New York City. It is there that we are reunited with our original heroes, Bernard and Miss Bianca (Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, respectively) who ultimately accept the mission to rescue Cody, and in turn, Marahute from McLeach, even if it means constant interruption of Bernard's proposal to Bianca. A big part of this comes in the form of Jake (Tristan Rogers), a hopping mouse who is there to help, but does become infatuated with Bianca, giving Bernard some pretty stiff competition - I mean, Australian accents, am I right?
It's funny when you think about the order the Renaissance films come out in. When we start from the beginning, I can think of a few people who have thought the order to be 'The Little Mermaid', 'Beauty and the Beast', 'Aladdin', etc. Almost every time I challenge people to list the order of these movies starting with 'The Little Mermaid', that's the general response. A few people will catch 'Down Under', but not many, and even then, they mistake the release order of things. Though if you remind people of it, people tend to remember it. It was unfortunately released parallel to 'Home Alone' that year, and we all know where that title stands nowadays in the category of "Christmas Classics".
So this was a Disney movie that sort of got swept under the rug that year because of 'Home Alone' being the overwhelmingly successful family hit that also had a Christmas theme to it, and the release date of both was November 16, 1990. Really, when you think about it now, 'Down Under' didn't really stand a chance. But now that so much time has passed, I'd actually urge people who haven't seen this (or haven't seen it in a while) to revisit it. It may even be better to do both 'Rescuers' movies for things like character familiarity, but also to provide the contrast between the two. To watch these back to back, it's kind of like 'Down Under' is a refreshing shower after sitting in a swamp all day.
I'm happy to say that even after so many years, I still feel like this one holds up. In many aspects, it may even hold up better than most of the Renaissance movies - we just have a tendency to lean towards what we know, and care about. Being that the first 'Rescuers' is just okay at best, it's no surprise that a lot of people may just brush this off as more of the same. But in many ways, it often feels like this 'Rescuers' is everything that the original 'Rescuers' should have been. The overall concept is similar enough, it's just done much better this time around. For those of you who have Disney Plus, it can be found there. In any case, I still recommend giving this a revisit (or first-time visit) in the near future.
Released in 1986, this is one title I don't recall whether I saw in theaters or not. My earliest memory of this was a clip from a Disney special called "DTV Monster Hits" (a special which I actually recommend on my list of "20 Family Friendly Halloween Classics"), and I think said clip led to us renting it once when I was very young. It's a weird case of remembering having seen it, but as far as where, when and how, I simply can't remember. This may as well have been a first time for me, so it was cool to see it with fresh eyes, all the while dreading what Disney would get away with in the mid-80s.
Luckily, the movie is generally clean, save for a mousey burlesque show where singer Miss Kitty Mouse gives us a taste of what's to come with 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' (Melissa Manchester) and, I daresay, 'Space Jam'. I mean, honestly, the scene is pretty suggestive for a kid's movie. Just Google "Miss Kitty Mouse" and you will see what I'm talking about. Although pretty awkward, that's about the only thing that stuck out. I'd say that on the whole, this is actually a pretty sweet adventure for kids that might actually give them some appreciation for Sherlock Holmes stories. One thing I certainly do remember, be it from that 'DTV' clip or the film itself, was that I really liked the protagonist, Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham).
The film takes place in 1897, London, England, where a little mouse named Olivia Flaversham (Susanne Pollatschek) and her father, Hiram (Alan Young) are celebrating her birthday. However, it is interrupted by a peg-legged bat named Fidget (Candy Candido) when he breaks in, kidnapping Hiram, and leaving little Olivia on her own. She then seeks out the help of Basil - the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes of rodents, but gets herself lost. Meanwhile, a surgeon mouse who served with the Mouse Queen's 66th Regiment in Afghanistan, named Dr. David Q. Dawson (Val Bettin), comes along and finds her, soon guiding her to where she needs to go.
Basil is relatively indifferent to the kidnapping, but when Olivia mentions the peg-legged bat, his attention is finally grabbed. It turns out that the bat, Fidget, is the assistant of the notorious Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price); a criminal who Basil has been chasing for years. They soon unveil that the kidnapping has to do with Ratigan's attempts at taking over England, but the solution is actually kind of funny, so I won't spoil it here - I'll just recommend checking it out instead. Despite that weird and awkward mousy striptease, the plot is nice and simple, it's funny, it doesn't talk down to kids (just look at Dawson's character's backstory), it's even somewhat charming, and Vincent Price steels the show as Ratigan - I mean, what better voice has ever existed for a villain?
Altogether, I'd probably claim this as one of my personal faves from the Disney Animation collection. One thing to appreciate about it is that it doesn't take the Princess route (which is coming in full-force soon), and just wants to bring the classics to the screen for kids. In fact, it's actually based on a book series known as 'Basil of Baker Street', by Eve Titus which I'd highly recommend if they are anything like the movie (although whether they have mouse strippers, I have no clue). It's also low on musical numbers, save for two songs - one, the suggestive song Kitty sings on stage (which probably wouldn't fly these days) and the other, a villain song about Ratigan - and villain songs are always great fun. This was actually the most fun I've had with a Disney animated title in a while though. On a personal level, I loved it.
This is one of the few Disney animated films I've actually never seen until now. At first, I was kind of surprised about how under the radar this was to me, considering it was the first of these to be released after I was born (missed 'Fox and the Hound' by about a year). Disney animated features take a big jump here, from 1981 to 1985, and this late-to-the-game, very non-Disney-like feature is often considered one of the worst of the bunch. But is it really that bad? After all, this has developed a cult following over the years. I further have to admit there was a little something about this, and I can't honestly say I found it all that horrible.
We meet a young boy named Taran (Grant Bardsley), an assistant pig-keeper at the home of Dallben the Enchanter (Freddie Jones) who dreams of becoming a bigshot warrior. One day, Dallben learns about the evil Horned King (John Hurt) seeking out the "Black Cauldron", which will grant him the ability to raise an invincible army of the dead. Since Dallben's pig, Hen Wen, has oracular powers, Dallben fears the king may come after Hen Wen to use him, locate the Black Cauldron, and set his plan into motion. Dallben then has Taran take Hen Wen to find a place to hide and stay safe. Taran epically fails, however, and Hen Wen is nabbed by Gwythaints - dragon-like creatures working for the Horned King. Now it's up to Taran to keep his promise to protect Hen Wen, and go after him.
Along his way, Taran meets a few interesting characters, but perhaps most interesting was a dog-like creature (not a dog though) named Gurgi (John Byner). He's just a lonely critter who wants a friend, and sounds exactly like Gollum from 'Lord of the Rings'. He evn talks like him, saying things like "poor miserable Gurgi deserves fierce smackings and whackings on his poor, tender head". I even paused the movie to check to see if it was Andy Serkis before he got famous. He further meets (mainly) Princess Eilonwy (Susan Sheridan); the princess who the Disney princesses didn't seem to let into their club, and a bard named Fflewddur Fflam (Nigel Hawthorne) who is meant to be a source of comedy relief, but doesn't really deliver many laughs. Taran also comes across a sword that allows him to fight a little better - almost like a cheat code as opposed to him having to learn through trial and error on his journey.
So remember way back in the opening paragraph when I said "I can't honestly say I found it all that horrible"? Well, to set the record straight, I still think this is pretty bad. I found it a little boring at times, thought a lot of the journey was sort of handed to our hero (ie the sword, and the fact that Princess Eilonwy basically walks them both out of a prison at one point) and some of the dialogue is a bit tedious. But the film does have its merits as well, like the first time Disney animation tried out that early CG, making a lot of the backgrounds look pretty awesome. Along with that, this is very Bluth-like animation, though he had little to do with this, aside from a few uncredited scenes (he also worked uncredited on 'Fox and the Hound'). It is, honestly, pretty cool to see just how dark this gets, especially for a Disney film.
Now, this film does have a pretty big cult following, as I mentioned before, and I can actually understand why. If you were to ask if I recommended it, I would say it depends on the type of thing you're looking for. If you wanna see a Disney animated movie as you know them, I'd say avoid it. But if you wanna see a bit of Disney dark, and appreciate the risks that a film like this can take, then I'd say it's worth checking out. What's far more interesting than the film itself is the film's overall history, but I could be here all day dissecting it, so here's a simple link (some of this, I covered, but there's more). For yours truly, it's not making a favourites list any time soon, and I definitely felt like the bad outweighed the good here. This is similar to so many other things I've seen that have just done it a little better, and I didn't exactly fall into the cult following with it. Although if you did, I can actually understand why, and wouldn't question your choice.
It has been long enough for me since I last watched this that I had pretty well forgotten it altogether. It was definitely a treat to feel like I saw a movie like this for the first time again. I can't help but appreciate how good an example this is of how to make a story both deep and simple. Like a lot of Disney movies, one may find a concept or two a bit dated. But in my case, I found the problem overshadowed by something else that sort of saves it (which I'll get to later). Regardless, this is a particularly good story, and it leans a bit more towards the dramatic side than the comedic, which is often a breath of fresh air.
It all starts in 'Bambi'-ish fashion, as we experience a pretty breathtakingly animated sequence that is robbed from us when the victim of a hunter is shot. In this case, we have a mother fox, who carries her cub to safety before things go down. He is taken under the wings (pun totally intended) of Big Mama the owl (Pearl Bailey), Dinky the finch (Richard Bakalyan), and Boomer the woodpecker (Paul Winchell). The trio drop the baby fox on the doorstep of the kindly Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan), who takes him in and names him Tod - short for "toddler". (Keith Coogan/Mickey Rooney). The pair develop a very friendly and loving relationship, and he helps her with her loneliness.
Meanwhile, Tweed's Neighbour, Amos Slade (Jack Albertson) has adopted a new hound puppy named Copper (Corey Feldman/Kurt Russell), and his regular hunting dog, Chief (Pat Buttram) is assigned to take care of him. Eventually, as Tod's out playing and Copper is out tracking something (which ends up being Tod), the pair meet, play, become best friends, and pledge to be so forever. Soon, though, Slade takes Copper and Chief away to learn the ways of the hunt. This is after Slade finds Tod hanging out with Copper on his property, and accusing him of raiding his chicken coop. It all turns into a question of whether or not Tod and Copper will be able to be friends in the future - and that friendship really does get its fair shake of testing, often through misunderstanding.
Now, to revert back to what I mentioned earlier about the "problem" and the "overshadow", it basically boils down to how Slade sees Tweed - basically as a dumb, useless female. I'm not sure he says those exact words, but the message is clear. The overshadow, however, is Tweed, herself. She's actually a rther strong female character, not afraid to stand up for herself, and able to make extremely hard decisions with Tod in the interest of Tod's safety. I think, speaking as a pet owner, she's extremely easy to relate to as well as empathise with. The guy being a jerk about things is just that - a very unlikable jerk. I might not label him as a villain, but he's definitely the everyday stubborn asshole we all know in one way or another.
Setting that whole deal aside, this viewing was, again, like seeing it for the first time. Though critics tend to kind of meet this one in the middle, as there's nothing particularly ground-breaking about it, it's that simplicity that I think makes this so good. This is a story that tells valuable lessons the young watchers are learning about friendships, and the tests that they may inevitably endure one day. I know I've been to Hell and back with a few close friends, and it's something one should probably have a heads up about at an early age. To some degree, it's saying "one day, your friendships will be tested", but another way to look at it is that if things do fall apart, you can still hold on to those fond memories of that friendship.
I think this is another one to be strongly considered for a Top 10 of these Disney animated films. It quickly rose up the ranks for me on this viewing, and although there's no real nostalgic attachment to it for me, it does make me think of a lot of the solid friendships of my youth. Some are still around, some have moved on, and some, I've even lost. But this film really did manage to spark a lot of those happy memories I had with these people. It definitely got deep with me, and gauged just about every emotion. It does it all with ease, but impact at the same time. For yours truly, this is one of Disney animation's better titles... and yes, I do realize how bold that statement is, but honestly, I loved this movie.
Here's another one I hadn't seen since childhood, and a find example of a Disney title that I remembered much more fondly than may have been deserved. It's not like it's a bad movie or anything, it's just... not very exciting for something called 'The Rescuers'. The characters here are kind of bland, and the saving grace that would be the villain makes me think of Cruella DeVil's drinking buddy. She's a villain you hate, but can make you laugh all the same with just how over the top she is. They might as well be sisters.
The film opens as A mystery girl aboard a riverboat casts a message in a bottle out to sea, asking for help. The bottle is received by the Rescue Aid Society, located within the UN; a group of rodents who specialize in, well, rescuing people. The note is addressed to Morningside Orphanage, New York, and suggests that our mystery girl's name is Penny (Michelle Stacy), and she's in terrible danger. Hungarian representative, Bianca (Eva Gabor), volunteers for the mission. But being that this was 1977, she needs a male representative to go with, because of the dangerous possibilities the mission might hold. Of all representatives to choose from, she goes with the janitor, Bernard (Bob Newhart). The pair embark on their journey, and eventually learn of Penny's whereabouts.
Bianca and Bernard follow a woman named Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page), who seems to be Penny's kidnapper, to a desolate swamp area called Devil's Bayou. There, Penny is meanwhile being held by Medusa's partner in crime, Mr. Snoops (Joe Flynn) and a couple of gators named Brutus and Nero. The reason for the kidnapping seems to have something to do with a diamond called the Devil's Eye, and the villains here need Penny's size to head down into a tight, dark and dangerous well to go looking for the diamond. Will the Rescuers be able to save Penny from these brutes before something terrible happens to Penny?
Maybe it's just me, but I tend to find this chapter of 'The Rescuers' very humdrum. As mentioned before, the characters are pretty bland, and on top of that, the soundtrack is something so "lullaby" in tone, it's enough to make you nod off. Again, this isn't something I would call "bad", it's just, perhaps a bit more aimed at the youth of the time than kids today. I would imagine kids today might find this extraordinarily boring. However, things would change in the future with this film's forgotten sequel, 'The Rescuers Down Under', which basically fixes everything this movie may have been lacking. I might recommend a little background reading, then just diving into the sequel, because I don't feel like this is a Disney movie you have to see.
This is another one I can't help but meet in the middle. I don't get much out of it now, but for its time, it was probably considered pretty damn good. The highlights are probably Bianca and Bernard, themselves, who are out to prove that a little mouse can make a big difference. I've always appreciated that message in a movie, and this one does it pretty well. The side characters are fine, Penny's... a touch irritating, but also fine (I mean, you can't help but feel bad for her) and on the whole, this movie is just... fine. I think a lot of that also has to do with 'Down Under' being so good, and completely overshadowing this - but that's a review coming in September, so stay tuned! Bottom line, this is passable, but it's really nothing special.
Back when I was a kid, we used to have the segments of this movie recorded from the TV, but until now, I've never seen this as a movie (although, of course, I knew it existed). These three segments would show up separately from time to time as part of Sunday's 'Wonderful World of Disney'. The movie used the three famous shorts to piece itself together, with a bit of new material to bridge the gap. This brings us back around to yet another anthology movie; the last one reviewed being 1949's 'Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad'. But this might be the most charming of them all.
All segments are based on the classic children's stories by author A.A. Milne, and portray a young Christopher Robin (Bruce Reitherman/Jon Walmsley/Timothy Turner) and his stuffed animal friends, brought to life by his imagination; Eeyore the Donkey (Ralph Wright), Kanga (Barbara Luddy) and her son Roo (Clint Howard/Dori Whitaker), Rabbit (Junius Matthews), Piglet (John Fiedler), Owl (Hal Smith) and of course, a teddy bear named Winnie the Pooh (Sterling Holloway). Each of the three segments involves Christopher Robin and friends helping other friends with their problems, and that's basically all there is to it. These are nice, mild children's stories that might have a little lesson or two, but nothing so extreme as what a company like Pixar might bring to the table.
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966): Perhaps most famous among the 'Pooh' stories, this one involves Pooh's insatiable appetite for honey. He really just wants to get up a honey tree and get at the honey the bees are working hard on making. After a failed attempt, he invites himself to Rabbit's house for lunch, where he eats all of Rabbit's honey, and becomes a bit too fat to fit back out the door, getting himself stuck. Of course, this would go on to become one of the first images that comes to mind when you think of 'Winnie the Pooh'. Eventually Christopher Robin and the gang have to try to get him out of there, but he's got to go a few days to slim down first. My childhood takeaway from this was always about eating too much, only to find yourself in some sort of trouble. It also has that karmic factor as he eats all of Rabbit's honey but then gets himself stuck because of it.
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968): This one was always my personal favourite when I was a kid, largely because it's almost a Halloween segment. It's unofficial, but you get the sense that it's Fall, there's bad weather, and just some creepy stuff happening throughout. There's two things going on here; one involves Pooh and Piglet and how they deal with some of the troubles of what the blustery day brings with it. This includes the introduction of Tigger (Paul Winchell). Meanwhile, Eeyore searches for a new house for Owl, since his blew over in the wind. We also get introduced to the concept of "heffalumps and woozles" (elephants and weasels, as pronounced by Tigger); animals who really covet honey, which adds to Pooh's unease. They even have their own song as part of a dream sequence, right up there with 'Elephants on Parade'.
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974): This one focuses primarily on Tigger, and sort of involves two stories in one. First up, we have Tigger bounce through Rabbit's garden, destroying it. This leads Rabbit to rally Pooh and Piglet to try to take to bounce out of Tigger. In the first attempt, they bring Tigger out to the woods and try to lose him. They end up lost, themselves, and Rabbit learns a thing or two about Tigger's worth. The season shifts from Fall to Winter, and Tigger eventually learns a lesson about playing too much when he bounces too high, and gets stuck up a tree. This one also brings the film's narrator (Sebastian Cabot) into play with a neat fourth-wall break. I like how this one has a sort of coin-flip lesson to teach kids. My basic takeaway is to know and understand your value, but don't get cocky about it.
As a kid, seeing this all in divided segments on TV, I never actually saw it as the 1977 anthology film that this is. Having said that, I couldn't help but appreciate the additional short segments between each story, which eventually lead to a very touching end. Spoiler alert, but it involves Christopher Robin having to go off to school and perhaps grow away from his toys. It's sort of a "goodbye", but it's really more like a "see you again". Remembering the way the 2018 film 'Christopher Robin' opens (very similarly), this was even more touching to me now than it could have been back then. It's neat to know that the story will eventually continue.
All in all, this is a very charming ride down memory lane, as I remembered watching all of these. I can distinctly remember moments when I watched some of them (not necessarily for the first time). I can remember watching 'Honey Tree' shortly after getting my tonsils out; I remember getting ready to go out for Halloween one year after watching 'Blustery Day' (another reason I see it as Halloween-ish); and for some reason I distinctly watching 'Tigger Too' one afternoon while home sick from school. So this all had some place in my childhood - a cheerful place I could go, however I may have felt. The sheer purity of it all is enough that I know parents who have passed it down to the next generation as something fun, safe and innocent for everyone in the house to watch. It hasn't lost its charm over the years, and this viewing really hit me in the nostalgias. It's pure comfort food!