Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Disney in November: Pocahontas

By Brett Haynes 22/11/17

So before we start talking about Pocahontas, if you’re wondering why I haven’t looked at Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Nightmare Before Christmas or Lion King as part of Disney in November, its because I’ve already reviewed them and you can check them out at the links below.

Little history about myself first. I was born in 1990, crash bang right in the middle of the Disney renaissance. The first film I ever saw in the theatre was Aladdin and I loved it. I was five at the time of Pocahontas and as a five year old, I really enjoyed this film. I listened to the soundtrack over and over again. Looking back on it 20 odd years later, You can see that this isn’t as good as the material Disney had released only a year earlier. Fun fact is that Lion King was made by Disney B team and this by there A team, so the B team has bragging rights there.  The story is simply greedy white guy comes and tries to take over the natives land. It’s an afternoon school special with a bigger budget.

This is the film that started what would lead to the end of Disney 2D department and ended the Disney Renaissance (even though it technically wouldn’t end until Tarzan). While it was well praised by critics, it wasn’t looked on to kindly by audiences. Yeah Pocahontas was the movie that people just looked at and said ‘next’.

Pocahontas for those living outside the US is loosely based on the British first settling in Virginia and the interaction between John Smith and the Indian princess Pocahontas. Now there is some truth in the story (at least I think there is) that Pocahontas saved John Smith life but a lot of the other details are wrong on a massive scale (hell I think they made most of this up). There is no point looking at the historical inaccuracies because we’d be here all day. Though the one I will point out is that in reality Pocahontas was actually 12 and John Smith was in his 30’s.

I guess you have to give Disney their credit. They took a chance on something that wasn’t really in their wheelhouse. Even the design of the characters and the world around them looks different to other Disney animated films. The music is once again nice Disney music. Everyone remembers Colours of the Wind, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song though Savages, was my favourite even if the lyrics aren’t always the best.

Our two main leads are dull as hell. I mean compared to other Princesses to come, Pocahontas is just boring. John Smith isn’t that much better but both can do impressive glares off into the distance. The side characters are also not that interesting and that includes the one voiced by Billy Connolly though every now and again they’ll do or say something fun. One of the main complaints at the time was that the animals don’t talk, which does bring up a good point. Why don’t they, isn’t she suppose to be connected to nature and everything? This would be the perfect film to have them talking, but no they have her grandmother willow tree talk instead (makes perfect sense). Also compared to the previous villains who are all memorable, Radcliffe is your very stereotypical greedy dick and really has nothing else special about him.

The colour in this movie is beautiful. Who ever was the artistic designer really knew what they were doing especially during the Colour of the Wind sequence. Other then that there really isn’t a hell of a lot to talk about. The film isn’t god awful, its just dull. It just feels predictable and after what Disney had delivered in the years leading up to this that was a shock. 

It looks good and has some nice songs but other then that there not much to say. Not terrible but nowhere near the likes of Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.

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Friday, 17 November 2017

Disney in November: The Little Mermaid

By Brett Haynes 17/11/17

So it’s a bit of a coincidence that I’m reviewing this on the 17th November, as this is the 28th Anniversary since the film was released. This film followed in the footsteps of Snow White and Cinderella and saved the Disney animation department from going into bankruptcy. With Disney animation not bringing as much money as it use to and with more emphasis being placed on live action, The Little Mermaid was pitched as a last ditch effort to save the studio. It was a massive hit being heralded as a Disney classic and leading the way for the Disney Renaissance to take place. It was a return to the classic fairy-tale story with memorable songs. You know the very things you think about when Disney is mentioned.

Though my question is, is it as good as people make it out to be. We’ll get to that in a second. Firstly what’s the story? Ariel is a mermaid who is fascinated by humans even though her father King Triton strictly forbids any interaction with the service world. One night she saves Prince Eric and instantly falls in love. In order to be with him, Ariel trades her voice to Ursula the sea witch in return for legs. Though there is a catch, she must get Eric to kiss her before the sunsets on the third day and with no voice she has to start from scratch to win him over. Though little does Ariel know she just a pawn in Ursula bigger plan of taking over the oceans.

I’m just going to start off by saying I don’t think this is one of Disney best. I wouldn’t even put it in my top 10. That’s not to say its not a good movie, it has a lot of good elements to it. So I’ll start off talking about those before getting into what I don’t like.

The music in this film is excellent. It won the Oscar for best original song for Under the Sea, which is quite a catchy song (it will be stuck in your head once you hear it). Though the two stand outs for me personally are Part of your World and Poor Unfortunate Souls. Disney didn’t really have a history of good villain songs but The Little Mermaid changed that. It’s a great song which starts off calm and slow and slowly builds getting louder and quicker.

Speaking of the villain, Ursula is a great villain, one of Disney best. She just loves being evil, it seems to bring her so much glee. The comic relief also works. You have the stressed out crab Sebastian, a forgettable seagull in Scuttle and a crazy chef in Louie who really wants to murder Sebastian.

The animation is top notch. This is a return to the classic Disney style with the bright colours and smooth lines. This has the same tone and feels that Snow White did with its beautiful backgrounds.

Ok now lets talk about what is wrong with this film and that’s the main character. Ariel is written like your typical 16 years old with a lot of her dialogue just whining. She doesn’t want her father to tell her what to do, she likes talking about boys and she wants to spend the rest of her life with the first one she meets. Though Ariel does go out of her way to get what she wants, she is differently a lot more adventurous then some of the other Disney Princesses. Though at this point in time the only three we had to compare her to were Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. So there was no competition but she still suffers from the same traits that those Princesses did. She wants her man and she needs to be saved by him at the end. The only difference is she seeks him out instead of the other way around.

Also Ariel never changes or learns anything. She causes all this trouble and still gets exactly what she wants at the end. She whines and complains but still gets rewarded for it. She does have some serious character flaws, which I think effected how future Disney Princesses would be written. I mean compare Ariel to say Anna or Moana. That’s how far we have come in 28 years. It’s safe to say that I don’t overly enjoy Ariel as a character.

While this isn’t one of my favourites nor do I think it’s as good as everyone else does, it still is a fine film. Sure it has all the usual ethical issues that all Disney films have like: 

The music is good, the animation is good and the villain is amazing. Even King Triton, the father character who usually gets thrown to the side and who some might even say has a bigger arc then Ariel is pretty well written here. The Little Mermaid was the film Disney needed in order to give us the true greats.

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Disney in November: Oliver and Company

By Brett Haynes 17/11/17

This is one of those strange movies, which quickly goes from my memory soon after I’ve seen it. The only thing that sticks with you is that catchy song. I think that sums up Oliver and Company pretty well. At the end of the day it’s a fairly forgettable film.

Based on the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, this version is set in modern day New York and with animals. Oliver in this version is a cute little Kitten and Dodger is a grown up dog (and voiced by Billy Joel). Oliver meets up with a number of tough dogs owned by this bum. He does business with this gangster, not because he wants to but because he’s gotten himself in a bad situation. Similar to the original Oliver Twist, Oliver gets adopted by a little girl and spends are majority of the film jumping between the two. She also has a dog voiced by Bette Midler and you better believe she gets a song. The plot quickly evolves into this complicated plot about kidnapping the little girl and now its up to Oliver and his friends to save her. This also leads to one of the best villain deaths in Disney. I remember practically nothing about this guy except for his death. Haven’t seen it, watch the clip below.

Apart from that, the only memorable thing is that song sung by Billy Joel and it is catchy as hell. You’ll have it stuck in your head if you ever listen to it. The other songs are passable but don’t compare to Why Should I Worry. I don’t know maybe it was because Billy Joel was the singer that they tried to write the best song for him.

The way they portray New York is strangely accurate. They make it look big but also cramp which is exactly how I always felt when I’ve been to the Big Apple. The animation adds a lot of character and attitude to the city, which is what New York is famous for.

Other then that everything else is pretty forgettable as I mentioned earlier. I can’t remember any of the characters apart from Dodger; the songs are hit and miss. This really is nothing all that special.

Lets face it, this was only to hold us over till Disney next big hit.

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Disney in November: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

By Brett Haynes 17/11/17

One of the most popular Disney films of the last 40 years is Who Framed Roger Rabbit and it’s a pretty good film. Not only did it help breath life back into the dying animation department at Disney it also allowed us the chance to see Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse in a scene together. Something that will most likely never happen again (damn copy write). The film also had some ground-breaking technology that made it look more realistic that toons and people were actually talking with one another.

Anyway what’s the story? Eddie Valiant (the late Bob Hoskins) is a private detective in Hollywood who takes a case from Maroon Cartoons studios owner R.K Maroon (Alan Tilvern). The case is to take photos of Roger Rabbits wife Jessica who Maroon believes is doing questionable things with Marvin Acme. After showing Roger the photos, he gets irritated and the next day Acme is found dead. All fingers point to Roger but the more Eddie digs the more it looks like Roger is being framed. It also doesn’t help that Eddie has a real dislike for toons since one killed his brother with a piano. Even with this, Eddie takes the case and with the help of Jessica Rabbit and others in Toon Town sets out to clear Rogers name.

As far as characters go there all fairly interesting. Bob Hoskins gives a fantastic performance as Eddie Valiant. He portrays a man who is stuck sticking with alcohol and keeping to himself. He does have prejudices towards toons but he is able to get past those. He is nothing ground-breaking but his still an interesting character none the less. Christopher Lloyd is a lot less subtle in his approach, I mean his character name is Judge Doom and he wears all black so I think its safe to assume he’s the bad guy.

The inclusion of brand new technology makes the toons and their interaction with the live action characters seem even more real. One of the final scenes is Eddie kissing Roger and it looks like he is actually kissing a cartoon rabbit. Zemeckis was also able to combine the animated world and the live action sets without ever losing a bet. The transition between the real world to Toon Town looks and feels seamless. 

I think what makes this a classic is what it was able to do. Not only did this film manage to get as many classic Disney characters in it as possible (you’ll spot new ones every time you watch) but they also managed to get the rights to the classic Warner Brothers and Paramount ones as well. That was unheard of and is still unheard of today. The amount of zigzagging they had to do to secure those rights is amazing to read. Seeing that many classic cartoon characters on screen together and used in the way they were used is what makes this film work. The creators were clever enough to set the film in the 40’s and only using timeless cartoons so when we see Mickey Mouse it looks like a 1940’s Mickey. The same with Bugs. They show a level of respect to these characters that makes them just as real as the live action elements.

Add all this with a good story; some scary moments, some funny moments, some romantic moments and just some all round memorable moments. Along with some great writing and a director who really did his homework and you have all the makings of a genuine classic. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a classic. With a great story, awesome characters and the introduction of new technology that would change animation forever, this is the ultimate love letter to classic cartoons.

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Disney in November: The Great Mouse Detective


By Brett Haynes 17/11/17

The Great Mouse Detective is one of those Disney films that sort of falls between the cracks. To be fair it did come out in that period of time after the failure of the Black Cauldron and before Disney rebirth with The Little Mermaid. Though if I’m perfectly honest, this return to its days of glory really did start with this one. This film is great and it works in all the ways you would expect a Sherlock Holmes inspired film to work.

The film begins with Doctor Dawson coming across a little girl named Olivia. She is looking for the famous Basil of Baker Street, the rodent equivalent of Sherlock Holmes (hell he even lives in Sherlock Holmes house). They set out not only to find Olivia father but also to stop the evil criminal mastermind known as Ratigan (the mouse world equivalent of Moriarty). He has kidnapped Olivia father in order to build a robot Queen who he plans to replace the real Queen with to name him her royal consol. I’m not sure that’s how it works but that’s not really why you watch it.

You watch it because of the hero and the villain and this one has a great hero and a great villain. Basil is egotistical but still a very likable character. He’s energised and a bit odd. His a jerk at times but still has a good heart. Basically he’s everything we love about Sherlock Holmes. While the villain is great also. Vincent Price voices Ratigan and you can tell he’s having a blast. He’s egotistical, he’s selfish, and he just has so much fun being bad. He also gets one of the more underrated villain songs. Also if you piss him off, he will feed you to his pet cat. Now that I think about it he is one of the more underrated villains period. 

The film works really well because this is exactly what they focus on, two great egos working off each other rather well.

This is one of the first films to ever use computers in their animation and it does help especially in the finale. The animation itself is a massive improvement over the Black Cauldron. The finale is an epic set on the clock handles of Big Ben where Ratigan true form finally gets unleashed. This scene is pretty brutal and while there’s no blood, it sure looks like many of those hits hurt.

The Great Mouse Detective is a very smart, very enjoy and just a hell of a lot of fun. While the plot doesn’t make that much sense, what really makes this film is the hero and the villain. If you haven’t seen this, I highly recommend checking it out.

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Disney in November: Pocahontas

DISNEY IN NOVEMBER POCAHONTAS By Brett Haynes 22/11/17 So before we start talking about Pocahontas, if you’re wondering why I hav...