DisneyWar: An Eisner exposé

disneywarHere’s a quick look at a book I just found out about and have yet to read called DisneyWar. The Wikipedia page describes it as “an exposé of Michael Eisner‘s 20-year tenure as Chairman and CEO at The Walt Disney Company“, and goes on to list some of the fascinating (and incriminating) stories that have occured during his time in power.

 

Can;t wait to read this book. It sounds awesome. 😀

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If the executives won…

Uhhh… yeah… so glad this 80’s cheesy love ballad trash never wound its way into The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Doesn’t even bare thinking about… *shivers*

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[Enter Disney film]: The Series

Nothing says “we’re gong to milk this critically acclaimed and financially successful film for every penny she’s worth” than an animated TV series. Ohh yes, my friends.  We’ve talked a bit about sequels. We’ve spoken about hit singles. We’ve even touched on video game tie-ins. But now we’re diving headfirst into the Disney’s small-screen spinoffs. And ohh boy is there a lot to talk about! But for now I’ll just give a brief overview of what we’re dealing with.

Okay so after a bit of research, I hope I have compiled a list of all the TV shows based on Disney theatrical releases that managed to be officially broadcast:

  • The Little Mermaid
  • Aladdin
  • The Lion King’s Timon & Pumbaa
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series
  • Hercules
  • The Legend of Tarzan
  • The Emperor’s New School
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series

I say this of course because some pilots or episodes from an unused series were turned into (awful) direct-to-video movies, most notably Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World, Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, and Atlantis: Milo’s Return.

Now, as I didn’t watch many of these as a kid (shock horror!!), I had to do..umm.. “research” by watching some episodes from each to get a better idea of the series. And you know what? For what they are, they’re not bad. They have significantly smaller budgets, and de-epicafy the legacy of each franchise to a major degree. But on the whole the writing, directing, and yes, even some of the songs (the odd show here and there was actually a musical), didn’t cause too much damage to the brand. And it was nice to check into my favourite characters for more adventures. They’d earnt it.

There is one thing in particular I would like to mention though. This was a cross-over episode of Hercules: The Animated Series, which featured the characters from the Aladdin tv series, which by this time had ended. Ho..ly crap!! This ep, entitled Hercules and the Arabian Night, was unbelievably cool. The diologue between Jafar and Hades was fantastic, and the interactions between Hercules and Aladdin (who due to an actually well considered plot device think each other are the bad guy), are really funny and character-driven too. Maybe they upped their game for this event.. who knows.

So yeah, on the whole, the TV series are a whole lot of meh – fluffy unforgettable fare. After all, they *are* just for kids, and they’re probably playing in the background while the kid is doing the equivalent of playing on an ipad in the 90’s. But I digress. there is some charm and wit to these old shows, and while they will always remain the cheap cash grab they were always destined to be, they don’t have zero value either.

As a follow up to the films, they suck. But as TV series int heir own right, they’re actually rather enjoyable. Please leave your favourite memories of these nostalgic shows and tell us what you thought of thise whole trend toward the small screen.

 

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Can You Feel The Draft Tonight?

As we all know, when creating any work, bits come and bits go. It can be a painful process, and as you fumble along, you can never really say for sure if any or your decisions are right or wrong. Nevertheless, these are sacrifices that must be made for the sake of art.

“A designer know he has achieve perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de Saint-Exuper

So it seems this is another one of those babies that was culled. I actually started YouTube hopping because I remembered in a previous YouTube hop, my suspicions – of the montage in the film being a heavily hacked-to-pieces (“edited”) version of the original scene – were confirmed when I discovered the full extended clip. Great stuff. And fascinating to see how the little snippets fit into a larger work.

But that is not the clip I rediscovered today. No, my friends. This is a moving storyboard to the tune of the original version of Can You Feel The Love Tonight. It’s very different, some of the lyrics are a tad more cheesy, some of the other lyrics hint strongly at a one night stand, the shots are beautiful, and so is the singing.

And even if you don’t like it, it could be worse… (I heard Elton John had an aneurism after hearing the comic sidekick’s “rendition”).

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We Know Better

We Know Better is a deleted song from the 2013 Disney animated film Frozen. An incredible film in my humble opinion which creates incredible characters, has a weaving intricate plot, has wonderful songs (and carries musical motifs brilliantly), and also takes great strides to combat certain Disney-isms that have been pervaded for the past 70 or so years since 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

In particular, a certain notion of “true love”.

Something that I think is tackled so perfectly.

But this song takes the notion of combating disneyficaiton a step further. Essentially the song – brought to you by the Lopez couple who wrote Avenue Q, and also Book of Mormon with Matt and Trey of South Park – is sung by the two young princesses as they explain all the things that people expect princesses to do, and then how they are just naughty fun kids like everyone else.

Should princesses be prim and proper, and not speak their mind, and only wear pink dresses etc.?

No. Of course not.

And in a world where Disney has created a world wear it is desirable to be a princess, and yet it is filled with such negative character traits, I think it is fantastic that steps were at least taken to subvert the notion of the damsel in distress I-have-everything-I-want-but-no-responsiblity view.

Please have a listen. It adds nothing to the plot which is most likely why it was cut. (Though to be fair it would have also made the opening way too song-heavy). But is a beautiful song that I think should be heard by all young people out there..especially women..to remind them that princesses can be powerful and strong-minded and more than just a plot device for the main hero.

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Disney and homosexuality: A step in the right direction?

http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/disney-channel-introduces-networks-first-gay-couple-1201074574/

Wow Disney. Amazing gesture.

For so many people, homosexuality is something that is tolerated but never fully accepted. something that is fine so long as you don’t have to see it or acknowledge it exists but rather view it as a mysterious alternative to normality that is practised behind closed doors.

So for a company marketed as so kid-friendly and non-controversial as Disney, it is really quite touching to portray lesbians in such a grown-up way.

No jokes are at their expense. In fact the jokes are about how stupid the father is for not realising they’re gay. Actually quite intelligent humour considering the directions they could have gone in with a gay token character.

Next step, a gay prince movie. *fingers crossed* Oh man that romantic duet is gonna be so hot.. *swoons*

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The Lion King: Release me from these re-releases…

If there is one thing Disney is good at, it’s butchering the re-releases of its movies. And ohh yes, I’m looking at you Star Wars!

Oh that CGI is so in place, and clearly does not come across as an awkward afterthought, or a marketing gimmick to allow the 23rd or whatever it is re-release to offer something new to the consumer at all.

…sarcasm? What is sarcasm? *looks around room innocently*

(I’m kidding of course! Cos as we all know, Star Wars was made totally independently of Disney, and was only retroactively associated with the company after its acquisition many years later.(Noone would ever make that mistake, you say? *cough Pixar cough*) )

In any case, bottom line is that somewhere down the track, Disney started to do this too. I assume because of the Disney vault – an example of artificial scarcity where they sold their most popular movies in short bursts of time then locked them away for many years only to release them again in Platinum versions or Blu-ray versions or Merry Christmas get-a-free-candy-cane-when-you-buy-t… oh I don’t even know. I’d glad that this stupid idea is obsolete now due to torrenting/streaming, but back in the day it had a lot of power.

Oh wait. Actually I lie.

You’ll be pleased to know the latest excuse for a re-release is the new 3D crase which has now claimed the 4 jewels of the Disney Renaissance (incidentally the 4 first excluding The Rescuers Down Under, and also – I believe – the 4 top scorers on Rotten Tomatoes), and has now gone on to sodomise the Pixar canon. *shivers*

And of all these films, one in particular is very different to how I remember it. It has been significantly altered since it was released. Some would say degraded. I would be one of those people.

And so I want to take you back. Wayyy back. To 1994. the year I was born. (man i feel old). It was a great year at the movies. [Insert numerous things that happened in that year]. And right in the middle of it all was pop cultural phenomenon. A cartoon. Called The Lion King. It touched the hearts and minds of all who saw it, and…
…oh good lord this is getting way too cheesy for me.

Anyway the point is that behind the scenes, a constant battle had occured between light fluffy kids fare, and a dark intense adult’s movie. A balance was struck. Some would say perfect, others would say less than, but in any case, it was one that ensured the film’s place within the hall of fame of cinema.

Now over time, bits were added here and there. In particular, one scene was added to the movie. A song sequence in fact. What songs do they have to choose from? Surely everything that needed to be included was, right? The film was perfect in every way, right?

Well did it ever occur to you that the film was song-heavy towards the beginning? In fact, the last song of the film (besides the psuedo-reprise of Circle of Life at the very end) is Hakuna Matata which is performed at the beginning of Act II. But there is actually supposed to be another song which sits between those two number. It sits so perfectly within the narrative that its removal actually leads to song holes in the plot. It is a perfect song that was deleted sue to executive interference no doubt. And I know exactly why.

The reprise to Be Prepared, and the surrounding scene, takes place after Simba has been gone for a while. Scar has assumed control over the Pride Lands, but it is very early days. After having a chat to Zazu (allowed to roam free at this stage) about what to do, he comes to the conclusion that what he needs is a mate – an heir – a dynasty. And so who does he choose? Nala of course. A common thing in the lion world, but to humans? Not so nice. And to kids? Even not-nicer. The lyrics, though incredible, do come across a tad rape-ish, and altogether creepy (penis references re: “my cylinder’s firing with fervor” etc.). After she turns him down, he banishes her from his kingdom, and brings in the hyenas to take over.

Now, after knowing this, doesn’t the latter half of the film just make so much more sense? the more I think about the brilliance of this scene, I also realise its importance and centrality to the film. This is the reason Nala is roaming around when she bumps into Simba. This is how the hyenas take over the Pride Lands. And it also fully reveals Scar for the psychotic, malevolent ruler he is rather than coming across like a bit of a brother-jealous loony.

But alas. It was cut. And in the rereleases it was cut too.

But a song scene was added to the film. Oh yes. I was not lying. Not lying at all. What was it you ask?

Well since you asked so politely, I guess I’ll ahve to tell you. *cries* The scene where Mufasa is teaching Simba how to hunt, using Zazu as bait, is now filled with a pun-heavy ditty about “chimps…going ape” and “giraffes remain[ing] above it all” called The Morning Report. Hardiharhar. Classy…

Granted, it’s lyrically clever. But a step in the wrong direction for me. The Lion King was always a hodgepodge of musical tastes, having to play tug-of-war between the mystical African beats and sounds by Lebo M, both the lyrically-twisted Broadway-style Be Prepared and the Adult Contemporary Can You Feel The Love Tonight penned by Elton John and Tim Rice, and the cheesy de-epicafying little songs known to us mortals as Hakana Matata and I Just Can’t Wait to Be King. (Kind of like The Little Mermaid’s Broadway/reggae blend).

It breaks my heart to see Disney swing for the latter. And it is a very bad sign that they went for the unimportant fluff over the powerful scene.

If it’s any consolation, in the Broadway musical adaption (as I’ve already explained), due to greater creative control, the scene was able to be re-adapted and inserted as The Madness of King Scar, which in my opinion is lesser but still entirely servicable.

So a happy ending, I suppose.

And now I’ll leave you with the biggest wtf moment of 2012 for me:

Way to uphold the legacy of your most prized films. Wow. Just Wow.

It actually reminds me of the Lilo and Stitch commercials. Funny in their own right, and amazing that Disney can take the piss, but even so. Wow…

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One hell of a “Twisted” musical

Starkid strikes again!

This musical – which does to Jafar as Wicked did to the Wicked Witch of the West – is a fantastic satire of Aladdin, the common tropes of Disney films in general, and the behind-the-scenes shenanigans from the collapse of Disney’s second Golden Age to its acquisition of Pixar.

Not to mention, a touching, hilarious, clever, thought-provoking spectacle in its own right.

I especially love what they did to Aladdin in this version. Great interpretation. Oh and also keep on the lookout for parodies of Disney and Pixar showtunes. I even caught a copyright-evading version of a deleted Aladdin number “Proud Of Your Boy”!

What are your thoughts?

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Disney Pop Songs; or How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (After Already Trying And Succeeding)

The release of Demi Lovato’s new single – a cover of Frozen’s Let It Go – inspired me to talk about this most wondrous of franchise offshoots. One that I, perhaps against my better judgement – absolutely love, despite their cheapening of the original film by turning contextual songs into sappy Adult Contemporary ballads. But that’s enough about me. Let’s get on with the show:

So essentially, one major factor in the Disneyfication of… well… Disney in the past 25 or so years has been in the advent of the pop single to the major anthem of each film. This trend started in 1991 with Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson’s smash hit version of Beauty & the Beast… and with studio executives literally swimming around in their piles of money, it is no big surprise that this became a fixture for the films to follow: a big name star taking a song from the soon-to-be-released film and turning it into a pop hit.

So I noticed that these songs – as well as becoming themes or anthems of their respective movies – seem to have some common elements which are rarely deviated from. First and foremost, the lyrics must be generic enough for them to be sung by anyone at any time, be it off key in their shower, or off key in a karaoke bar, or even off key at a primary school talent show! (so many choices…). This is, I think, the major reason why a relatively big chunk of Reflection from Mulan was cut out for the final version – so Xtina’s cover could relate to anyone. No idea why Disney couldn’t save its decontextualising for the pop single alone…

So in that case, another factor is making the song an ballad with little to no cultural touches added at all. You will notice in the Oscars clip from the last post about how Arabic their version of A Whole New World compared to how… not the single and even the movie version were. I actually really like the Broadway version (Aladdin the musical hits the stage next year guys! So excited!! 😀) because it is a perfect blend of those two. I personally find AWNW extremely bland/dull/boring/insert adjective so I was so grateful that they spiced it up).

But you know what? They don’t ever sound *that* bad. Not really. I love the Vanessa WIlliams version of Colours of the Wind. And Regina/Peabo’s R&B cover of A Whole New World. They are good singers and their songs make good singles. It could be worse. (who remembers this? Besides me?). Actually I must say I do like both singers but that is a little bit DisneyMania-level puke-enducing (who remembers this too?). Nevertheless this is a part of the Disneyfication process that always irks me. And now we have a heavily autotuned Demi Lovato to add to the collection.

You can usually tell which song it is by checking out the soundtrack to the film and looking for the last songs (in some cases the first) featured. That’s usually where they’re hiding. Plus they are practically always one of the end credit songs. In the case of singer-composed soundtracks like that of The Lion King or Tarzan, the pop versions may be many. But there is usually a favourite. I was surprised to find that Can You Feel the Long Tonight actually has the edge over Circle of Life when it comes to the most successful pop song from that soundtrack. A couple of other interesting facts: sometimes the song can be a deleted one, (such as Someday from The Hunchback of Notre Dame) or one never intended for the film, (such as Ne Yo’s Never Knew I Needed from The Princess & the Frog). In the case of Hunchback, a different was released in the UK than the US, sosorry if you are more familiar with the Eternal version but I went for All-4-One. (…oh screw it, here’s the other one just for you!) Also some great pop versions like If I Never Knew You by Jon Secada & Shanice just never really got off the ground. Or to the same degree anyways.

In my research I came across an interesting part of this whole thing that I didnt even think about before: the pop versions of Disney theme songs in other languages. Now this is something I’m not even going to touch on in this post, but please enjoy this clip featured multilingual versions of all those songs. It’s worth noting the different stylistic choices in regard to backings, the fact that most are from Asian countries, the different keys used, and the songs chosen (I Can Go The Distance was the runaway single of Hercules but I Won’t Say I’m In Love seems to be the favourite internationally).

I love the Polish rock n roll version of Part Of Your World. In fact, the fact that POYW was chosen for TLM is a fascinating glance into what the pop version would have sounded like if Disney had sold out in the way it has, back then. Who do you think should have sung the pop version?

(if it was released today, perhaps? *horrified face*)

This trend was recipricated with…hmmm lemme think… well the example that springs immediately to mind is the Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey version of If you Believe from Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt. I’m sure you can find your own examples of that. It’s tended to die as musicals have gone away.. but with Mumbai Musical and such I think musicals in other animation studios are on the rise, which is good. If Pixar can reinvigorate the animated short industry, who knows?

Well anyways, sit back, relax, and have a listen to all the pop versions of Disney theme songs over the past 25 years, and take a peak at these beautiful but unnecessary additions to their respective Disney franchises. I start to give comments in all the songs in post-Renaissance films because they are more interesting to me. The non-classics. Some underrated. Some deserving of being forgotten. Enjoy. 🙂

(not really successful or well-remembered but it’s one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard and one of the few remnants of the film-that-never-was Kingdom of the Sun that was left in the final film)

God… this is where they start to turn to shit. This was just before the era of Chicken Little and High School Musical…

*cough* butchering of an Elvis classic *cough*

I refuse to put No Way Out in despite it officially being the film’s theme song (according to the Wikipedia page on its soundtrack), because it played over the most amazing scene in the film shitting me to no end. Not to mention it also did worse in the charts. It’s a good song though.

Anyone remember this gem? When the ending came on with Walt Disney’s quote – “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths” – I must admit I got a bit teary eyed. This was the moment I knew Disney… *my* Disney… had come back. I love you John Lasserter. ❤

*Yeah*, this counts!

Bleurghhh.. neither of them are that good of a singer. (have you *heard* John’s whiney voice in Grease recently?)

I like this song. A bit autotuned but ehh.

Ummm… so apparently this happened?

So here we are. The latest in the collection. Thoughts? 😀

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Disney performances at the Oscars

How is it that Disney’s performances at the Oscars always seemed to get it so right? While Disneyland seemed to move into the complete opposite direction of light fluffy out-of-context disneyfication, these performances were inspiring, amazing, creative, expertly choreographed and realised, and a musical treat. (Well besides the showcase for The Little Mermaid, which is frankly shit and The Lion King which is kinda meh.) One of the YouTube comments for the Belle/Be Our Guest clip said that was the moment Hollywood realised these animated films were so much more than that, and were great works of art that could rival live action films – and work as stage musicals in their own right. The creatives probably had a lot more freedom with these performances. If Disney was this, and nothing more, there would be nothing for me to write about in this blog. For you can’t critique perfection.

Alas…

Sit back, relax, and press play to uncover some fantastic works of art unfold before your very eyes. These are the performances of the Best Original Song nominations of Disney songs at the Oscars. (From TLM to TLK, after which they stopped doing them).

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