‘Aladdin’ gets new and more mature feel with Disney stage show, 2013 article by The Canadian Press.

Aladdin is a good film. Great even. But I know it could have been a masterpiece. And that’s why it breaks my heart to watch it. Aladdin devolved into a platform for Robin William’s comedy routines, and a showcase for the new 3D animation of the time (with its gratuitous carpet scenes).

To cut a long story short, during production Howard Ashman (who’d worked on B&B and TML) tragically died of AIDS-related complications. The film changed dramatically.

Here’s an example of Disney-fication in action:

“In early screenings, we played with [Aladdin] being a little bit younger, and he had a mother in the story. […] In design he became more athletic-looking, more filled out, more of a young leading man, more of a teen-hunk version than before.”

I am obsessed with a beautiful song called “Proud of your boy” that really goes into Aladdin’s psyche and explains why he is the way he is. This was cut when the film went for a more slapstick, Warner Bros.-esque tone. Luckily much of Ashman’s epic tone was retained.

But compare the beginning of the film to the end to see how Aladdin was bastardised. The opening is dark and intense and mysterious, with the merchant singing the chilling number Arabian Nights. The ending has the Genie goofily flying up into the air, spouting anachronisms with a light musical cue playing in the background.

Wikipedia explains that in the new musical version:

“Instead of the shapeshifter Robin Williams voiced in the film, the new show harkens back to late composer Howard Ashman’s original idea of the wish-granting comic relief as a big-band jazz-style showman in the vein of Cab Calloway or Fats Waller.”

Free from the corporate chains, the creators of the musical were able to pursue the darker vision they had originally intended for the film. In Aladdin, many deleted songs are brought back. Not to mention many discarded plot points were reinstated. And characters are now the driving force of Aladdin, not theatrical gimmicks. This is amazing news.

Hunchback did this too with its phenomenal German stage musical incarnation Der Glöckner von Notre Dame. This version had no god-awful slapstick, had an ending that was closer to the book, and made the Gargoyles less annoying and a figment of Quasimodo’s imagination. It’s truly a sight to behold. (Though we won’t… because I hear its coming to Broadway in a sanitised version).

[Addendum: I nearly fell off my chair when I saw this. This is the very first English version of Der Glöckner von Notre Dame, performed by The King’s Academy in 2013. Apparently The Hunchback that is heading to Broadway will be closer to this version than i thought! :D]

The song Wie Aus Stein tears me apart..

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A little bit about Eisner

Michael Eisner is widely considered to be one of the major causes of the massive dip in quality that plagued many Renaissance and post-Renaissance films. His reign only came to an end when he was booted out in 2005 and Pixar’s John Lasseter took his place.

Having a look at the 4 films Disney released hence (each one more influenced by Lasseter’s team than the last – obviously the earlier films were due for release so Lasseter couldn’t save them) you can see how shoddy Eisner was.

The Rotten Tomatoes “average ratings” scores – always the better indicator in my opinion – are as follows: Chicken Little – 5.5 (2005), Meet the Robinsons – 6.3 (2007),  Bolt – 7.2 (2008), The Princess and the Frog – 7.3 (2009).

Wikipedia even explains about Bolt:

“In 2006, after becoming Chief Creative Officer at Disney, John Lasseter along with other directors from Pixar and Disney viewed a couple of early cuts of the film and gave Chris Sanders notes on how to improve the story. According to Lasseter, Chris Sanders was replaced because Sanders resisted the changes that Lasseter and the other directors had suggested. Lasseter was quoted as saying “Chris Sanders is extremely talented, but he couldn’t take it to the place it had to be.”

At least they were given enough time to drastically change the film. For the better.

Now, the general principle with executive cock-ups is that they force their opinion onto the creative team, whether it being what is “best” for the audience (or a target demographic), what is most “marketable”, what has worked before, or what will sell the most merchandise. These are almost always stupid ways to go about making a movie. You’ll find that when the films plummet, the executives suddenly scatter and the director is left to take the blame by the media. One of the things that really shits me is that Eisner and his buddies used Hunchback’s failure (I say “failure”, even though it is the 7th highest grossing traditionally animated film of all time – with only other Renaissance films and The Simpsons Movie topping it) as an excuse to hijack The Kingdom of the Sun and bastardise it into the enjoyable but nevertheless de-epicafied story of The Emperor’s New Groove. So they blamed their own decisions on the creative team. I feel sick just thinking about it.

Now a film that is notorious for being screwed over in this fashion is the labour of love entitled The Thief and the Cobbler. This project was started by the absolutely incredible Richard Williams in 1964… and was finally released in 1993. To give you any idea of who this guy is, he was the animation director for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a position which – by the way – he only assumed “in order to get financing for The Thief and the Cobbler and get it finally finished“.

Long story short, the project after being stalled constantly due to financial issues, it was picked up by Warner Bros. Pictures and the film was also given a completion bond (a form of insurance offered by a completion guarantor company to guarantee that the producer will complete and deliver the film.)

When the movie went over budget and ran out of time, the The Completion Bond Company actually took over production of the film, seizing it from Williams. They gave the director’s chair to Saturday Morning Cartoon animator  Fred Calvert, who tried his best.

“We took it and re-structured it as best we could and brought in a couple of writers and went back into all of Richard Williams’ work, some that he wasn’t using and found it marvelous…we tried to use as much of his footage as possible.” “We hated to see of all this beautiful animation hit the cutting room floor, but that was the only way we could make a story out of it”

But when Miramax (then a Disney subsidiary) bought the U.S. rights, they bastardised it some more, adding on top of Calvert’s bland Disney-esque songs with voice-overs to previously silent characters (by Matthew Broderick and co.), and by adding in stupid anachronistic references, among other things. The shit truly hit the fan.

Williams’ work.

Not Williams’ work.

And now, 20 years later, WIlliams’ magnum opus has still not been released. I mourn over it. No matter how much I complain about Eisner, he could never f*** it up as badly as this. A reedit called The Recobbled Cut (hehe) has been put together by a fan using original animation and sound from many different sources, but nothing can truly bring back this iconic lost film.

The Thief and the Cobbler is truly the most disneyficated film of all time.

But why bring all this up?

Well, I was looking through materials on this movie, and then stumbled across a clip of Williams receiving the 2008 Roy E. Disney Award. Tony White says all that needs to be said about Mr. Eisner in an anecdote that takes place a couple of years before. Roy Disney received his own Roy E. Disney Award

…and the reason for that was he had just triumphed the most amazing triumph – he removed Michael Eisner from Disney. *applause* *cheer* And hopefully, the heart beats again.

It does, White. It does…. 🙂

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Frozen: Trailer time!

So, if you are one of the many who follow (stalk?) my relatively new blog, then first and formost I would like to apologise for inisutating that you are stalkers. *gulp* I’m sure you’re all very nice people. And I am very greatful that you have taken up time in your very busy lives to share some Disney thoughts with me.

Second of all, I would like to explain that this post serves as a follow-up to the one I did regarding the teaser trailer and what clues it may have about the finished product.

Well, I’ve now seen the official trailer, and am happy to report that it is looking good. Still no mention of songs… but I guess a Disney film with musical numbers would just tamper with the Disney brand so much people would turn away in droves.

[insert forced laugh at my sacastic statement]

Actually, random point, ever noticed its near impossible to work out if someone’s being sarcastic or not over the internet without the use of those little emoticons? Forgetting to add the “:P” in at the end of a funny comment can potentially end friendships. Scary.

So what were we talking about? Oh yes. The Frozen trailer. It’s good. It’s really good.

I won’t get intot he specifics, but needless to say, it had hysterical bits (my favourites being the “cold, cold, cold, cold, cold” bit by Anna as she runs into a hut), really amazing animatoin, great 3D characters with humerous diologue and solid characterisations, a really interesting villain (evidenced in the anti-hero power ballad Let It Go)

Oh, and yes, it may share some similarities to Disney’s Tangled – many are commenting on the animation style, and character design for Rapunzel and Anna – but I think we’re definitely in for a treat regardless. As long as the film has characters I care about and a story that does them justice, who cares what they look like while they’re journeying through it.
I am really pumped for this film now. 😀

Peace out.

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Dinosaur: IT TALKS!!!

Dinosaur. The Disney animated film that always seems to be forgotten about. It is a part of the official Disney animated canon, and is slap bang in the middle of the 90’s Renaissance films (ending with Fantasia 2000 – the sequel to probably the best Disney film ever produced) and the few 2D films made in the 2000’s before Chicken Little in 2005 (starting with The Emperor’s New Groove – a movie I mourn over because its original form The Kingdom of the Sun was never realised). This was Disney’s first wholly 3D film, released 5 years earlier in 2000. (Fun Fact: ever since the ballroom sequence in Beauty & the Beast, these films have not technically been traditionally animated, but rather been a bland called tradigital animation, so the whole 2D vs. 3D argument was irrelevant anyways). And I’m going to go right ahead and say it: it’s not very good. But I know why. And it pains me to say that they way it was envisioned implies it could have easily been a masterpiece. But alas. By the way, I imagine this film was widely forgotten about by Disney because it didn’t fit with their argument that 3D was popular over 2D simply because the medium was inherently better and not due to… oh, you know… those kinda important things like characters and plot. So let’s journey into this peculiar anomaly and see what we can learn from it.

As with Brother Bear that I covered a short while ago, this film has extraordinary animation. The whole way through. In fact it astounds me how realistic everything is designed, and how amazing the character animations are. At least when they aren’t talking. It has a very Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmeron feel to it – letting the animals’ faces and interactions tell the story.  You can tell a bucketload of research went into getting every little detail right. So it’s nice to know that regardless of the behind the scenes politics, the animators were still doing a mighty fine job. Which makes it all the more sad when you think about the shocking animation used in Chicken Little, that I always used to put down to it being the studio’s first 3D feature. Crap animation to tell a crap story.

Now it’s here that I’m going to start the inevitable comparison between this film and the Don Bluth classic The Land Before Time form the 80’s. Both started off as non-talking projects. Both switched during their production. Wikipedia explains: Michael Eisner insisted that the film have dialogue in order to make it more “commercially viable”. A similar change was also made early in the production of The Land Before Time, which was originally intended to feature only the voice of a narrator.  In fact, you’ll notice the opening scenes of TLBT have no talking, and have more realistic animation than they do later on. That film had its own set of studio interference issues, for example the creative team fought unbelievably hard to get the scene where Littlefoot’s mum dies in the movie, arguing that it was essential to the plot. That film is widely regarded as one of the best animated films of all time. So what went so horribly wrong here?

In short, Dinosaur, with its much more realistic animation, looks retarded with talking dinosaurs. Sorry, but there’s no other way of explaining it. It looks utterly disgusting and very jarring. For anyone familiar with the uncanny valley, think of this as the animal version. Real dinosaurs acting like cartoon dinosaurs. I get tingly just thinking about it. I felt really torn over this movie. I couldn’t work out if it would have been better off as a non-talking documentary-esque feature, or if they should have abandoned the realism and gone for more cartoony stylised characters – 2D animated, perhaps? Once again, Wikipedia comes to the rescue, explaining says: “Eric Leighton, one of the directors, spoke about his team “want[ing] to learn as much about dinosaurs as possible”, he also admitted that they would “cheat like hell” because they were not creating a documentary. A Disney press kit revealed that the film “intentionally veers from scientific fact in certain aspects”.”  Either way it just does not work like this. I get the feeling that because the decision to switch was made a fair way into production and a decision forced upon the creative team, all the dialogue merely describes what the animation already tells us, and therefore it comes off as cheap and obsolete. Plus the writers bang out the corny modern day speak that I just hate to my core. (Some characters play a game of eye spy during the trek – the exact same horrific thing Disney would do a couple of years later in Brother Bear). Oh and there’s a dinosaur dog. Yep you heard (read?) me. One of the dinosaurs doesn’t talk and is played off like a dog for some reason. *sigh*

Oh man, the non-verbal bits of this movie are so good. So mature. SO WHY DO THEY HAVE TO BLOODY TALK? Gahhhh… so jarring… In fact, Roger Ebert said that this “undermines the illusion” that the team spend so long building up. Just like The Lion King, this film’s trailer consisted of the opening scene, where an abandoned dinosaur egg is passed from animal to animal. This scene was just extraordinary, and showed off the landscape in an incredible way with wide sweeping shots and wonderful camera angles. And then everything changes. For the worse. As soon as I heard that first word, I was like “hell to the no!” And the voices just do not seem to fit. You have an African American stereotype playing this one character, and then that women from The Good Wife playing a love interest and it’s just… it seems unbelievably weird. As I said, the dialogue feels like it was hastily written after the executives decided the audience was too stupid to appreciate a film with no dialogue *cough The Artist cough*. Would I have watched the movie without any dialogue though? I really can’t say for sure… Regardless, as soon as Aladar’s brother referred to himself as “the love monkey”, I realised it was going to be a long ass hour and a half. It was anachronistic and lame and I hated it.

The shots are beautiful and the music is extraordinary. Many of the backgrounds were actually filmed on location… which makes sense because I thought they looked extraorindary for CGI. Plus, interestingly, the film handles death remarkably well. There is a Mufasa-like death in the opening scene. I like how they show the weakest dropping off in the Dinosaur herd. I love how that one evil guy was resigned to his fate. Dark considering the direction Eisner was trying to push Disney in at the time. Not to mention the meteor scene – done in total silence – took my breath away. In fact, on this point, I thought the film simply didn’t need villains. We had the biggest antagonists of all, nature! The one villain that doesn’t need any rhyme or reason to do immense damage. But no. We got 1-dimensional characters. All round, in fact. The fact that it is also distinguish between the different characters doesn’t help matters. They’re all designed too similarly. Nothing like this. I also find it hard to agree with the protagonist. The strongest survive. Otherwise EVERYBODY dies. Isn’t that a part of nature? It would be insane to argue against this.

I also hate that the Tarzan-esque storyline (growing up as a dinosaur in a lemur family) was abandons as soon as they meet the other dinosaurs. Where’s all the fascinating transition as this isolated guy comes to grips with the fact that there are others like him? No, he is suddenly all cool with it and he goes on to be dinosaur-jesus and heal the sick and walk on water. Okay, not the last one, but still! The whole point of his character arc was for him to react to this. His characters, and all the others for that matter, have no motivation. Why is anybody doing anything? We don’t hear anything about the waterhole’s significance. They reach it too early and the rest feels like padding. Scenes go by too quickly. The love side plot is rushed and unneeded. I felt like yelling “I’m so confused”.

Most importantly of all, the pacing of this film just feels really off. For example, during the meteor scene, when I was watching it I was just thinking to myself “why did the meteor hit so early”? This climax of the film is presented way too early, leaving no dramatic tension for the rest of the movie… not to mention that the beautiful landscapes and terrains we had been promised in the trailer had been swapped for claustrophobic barren wasteland shots. Reading about the behind the scenes of this movie, I now know my answer. In the original story, written in the late 80’s, the movie was supposed to end with the meteor – so all the characters we had grown to love would perish at the end. What an extraordinary, powerful idea. But alas. You can tell so much of the original story was mutilated by Disney’s studio executives, and this major one left the film’s pacing in tatters.  *sigh*

The film was analysed as a part of a feature entitled Your Guide To Disney’s 50 Animated Features done by EmpireOnline. Their criticism, I couldn’t have said better myself. So I’ll leave you all with their Wikipedia’s summary of their words:

On the opening sequence it said “much of the scenery is skilfully-composited live-action, including shots of the tepui mountains that would captivate Up’s Carl Fredricksen”. However, it spoke negatively about the unrealistic talking dinosaurs after the opening, describing it as a “nose-dive”. It said they “sound[ed] more like mallrats than terrible lizards” and that although no-one knows what dinosaurs sound like, they definitely don’t sound like that. It also disliked how the meteor hit Earth in Act 1, making the majority of the film set “in gray gravel-pits rather than the lush landscapes we were sold”. It said “the animals [are] cute enough, but the script, characters and dino-action are all plodding kiddie fare”, but added these faults are made up through “James Newton Howard’s majestic score”. It cited similarities to the 1988 dinosaur-themed Don Bluth film “The Land Before Time”, and the more successful prehistoric Blue Sky Studios film Ice Age (which it described as “sassier”), and added that the “images of desperately migrating dinosaurs hark back to the far greater Fantasia”. The film was also deemed “inferior” to the work of Pixar. 

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Frozen teaser trailer – clever marketing or falling into bad habits?

Every since Pixar was bought by Disney in 2006, with Pixar’s John Lasserter heading both companies, Disney has been on a creative upswing (while Pixar has arguably started to come across a few stumbling blocks).

Part of this reinvigoration included things like bringing the Disney sequel tirade to a halt (making DisneyToons’ sole output Tinkerbell movies, a decision that was repealed recently for the god awful Cars spinoff Planes), making traditional animation a core part of the creative output again (something the was heartbreakingly repealed earlier this year)…

…And also the return of Disney to the princess movies.

Now in general these can be split into 3 eras. You have Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty from the first wave (which were retroactively included into the 1990s-created franchise). Then you have Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine from the second wave (it’s worth noting that sometimes Pocahontas and Mulan are included in the canon as well, though their traditional garb often seems at odds with the Disney Princess image). And finally you have Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Anna, and Elsa from the latest wave.

Who are these last two, you ask? Well they are actually the two (not one, but TWO, folks!) princesses to be featured in the upcoming Disney film Frozen, based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale The Snow Queen.
In an effort to make them less kiddy or aimed at a female demographic (connotations that I think Disney put upon themselves), Disney made certain marketing decisions with its most recent Princess canon.

Just take a peek at one of the official trailers for Tangled. When seeing this for the first time, I thought buddy comedy, wacky hijinks,  stupid slapstick, no music. Even the controversial title change seemed to nail into the coffin for me that this was turning into a bland  disposable anachronistic Dreamworks-esque movie (I mean in reference to films like Shark Tale and Bee Movie, not their impressive work like How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek 2, and The Prince of Egypt).

But no, it was none of those things. It was an incredibly beautiful movie with great characterization and an interesting plot. Why couldn’t they just advertise it for what it was and hope audiences came anyway? Hmm.. it may be a case of audiences not knowing what’s good for them so Disney has to trick them into theatres then hitting them with the bait-and-switch right then and there. At least I got a much better movie than I was expecting.

Anyways, the reason I bring this up is due to this teaser trailer for the upcoming film Frozen. Watch it, and tell me if you think this is a clip from an epic Disney film ala Beauty and the Beast and Tangled. No? Me neither. That is what initially greatly worried me. Would Disney be falling for their old tricks ala Home on The Range/Chicken Little style humour and animation?

I sincerely hope this is just like Tangled, where hardly any, if any, of the trailer footage will be used in the final film. Disney can do so much more than this cute little Looney Tunes-esque short. Fingers crossed.

Idina Menzel, who played an Elsa-like character – Elphaba –  in the stage musical Wicked ten years ago, sung one of her numbers from Frozen at a recent Disney expo. This song is just wonderful, and it really gives me confidence that this movie has the epicness and awesomeness that we all know Disney can produce. I wait hesitantly to see which way the pendulum swings as November 27 approaches…

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Merida the Disney Princess

Merida the Disney Princess

A representation of the Pixar character Merida before and after she was overly-sexualised for her placement within the Disney princess franchise.

Merida is not a sexy, beautiful object, as she is portrayed here. Despite the film’s flaws, Brave portrays quite clearly the opposite – a headstrong independent plain looking woman. Disney screwed over everything she stood for in order to build a franchise marketing to a teen demographic.

Probably says more about the difference between Disney and Pixar ethics than anything else. Disney had been doing this for ages with their own characters – Belle is pretty much the same, but now she is portrayed as the biggest ho, with her provocative facial expressions, and slutty clothing. Pixar is now abiding by the trend as well. Who’s next – Elastagirl? *shudders*

I for one am outraged. (As were many others, leading to this design being pulled). What do you think?

Image taken from http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/disney-princess-makeover-sparks-outrage–merida-petition-goes-viral-175251230.html

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Brother Bear: better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

The year is 2003. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the highest grossing film at the box office. Meanwhile, Disney is alive and well. Pixar has just released their smash hit Finding Nemo, distributed by the company. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, a film series based on a Disneyland attraction (how ridiculous!) has commenced. And in the midst of it all is an oft-forgotten cinematic gem by the Walt Disney Animation Studio known simply as Brother Bear.

Disney decided to stop making traditionally animated films in the early 2000’s, and if it were not for Princess and the Frog, Brother Bear would have been the company’s second last. As Home on the Range is very much par for the course with Disney’s CGI films, Brother Bear is essentially the last of the great tradition and marked Disney’s massive shift around that time, squeezing in right before it completed the journey from epic timeless stories to more forgettable fare full of anachronistic references, slapstick humour, and shallow emotional connection. The forces at work behind this shift will be covered in its own post, but for now all you need to know is that Disney was going in a very different direction, and that as far as they were concerned, the Disney we knew and loved throughout the 90’s, was dead.  Traditional animation was what was making Disney unsuccessful so it was canned. Which, I might add, is totally ironic because one of the few things that is constantly amazing throughout the film is actually the quality of the animation.

Obviously these things had been a part of Disney from Beauty & the Beast and even before, but they were used sparingly, and with B&B and Aladdin, the anachronisms were allowed due to the characters being magical. An enchanted candlestick is allowed to perform an elaborate fantasy sequence involving cultural references to modern day France. But a human character should NOT be allowed to spurt modern day speak. And in regard to the cultural reference epidemic plaguing us all in animated films, if you have to define your identity by association to other better works, then there’s not much point watching it to begin with (I even have major issues with Genie – but the film has enough merits in general for me to mostly forget about this). The Simpsons understood this, and got the balance right. But as the years dripped on, Disney (and the Simpsons for that matter) began to rely more and more on this supposed formula – the most important aspect of which (for Disney at least) being the “hilarious” comic relief sidekicks. I use the term “hilarious” lightly. Without fail (except in B&B when they are used just right), I loathe the comic relief sidekicks in every single Disney Renaissance and beyond movie. Mushu from Mulan. Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. And yes, even Timon and Pumbaa. As an adult, I can appreciate now how The Lion King has an epic beginning, and epic end, and then a middle that seems to be a completely different film. A silly romp. Not a timeless classic. But ultimately the heart, humour, and intelligent script pull the movie through so it ends up handling the tonal shift quite well. I’ve got to wonder though if I would have enjoyed the film as a kid without them though. The question is, so what happens when you have a film like this that doesn’t handle its silly sections with the grace and finesse it should? You get Brother Bear.

Now Brother Bear is very much to me on par with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in that rather than being mediocre films the entire way though (the reason why I loathe a lot of the mass-produced Dreamworks & co. films), these two films are absolutely magnificent and extraordinary most of the time. And then the rest of it is utterly woeful. The tonal shift is too much to bear, and it takes you out of the film completely. In some cases (such as the A Guy Like You sequence from Hunchback) work quite well in their own right, but when put into such an epic tale, it just soils the impact the rest of the movie made. I hate these two films because they show so much promise to be some of the greatest films I’ve ever watched, and then they never cease to taunt me with ridiculously childish elements.

The Opinionated Glee Review once described an episode of Glee where Sue’s (the main antagonist) sister dies – something which is handled in a dark, solemn way and becomes a huge motivator behind the actions made by every character. He then went onto describe an episode where Sue casually pushes a teacher down the stairs for the purpose of a flash-back sight gag to explain why the teacher is absent. This completely soils the show. Both styles work, but within the same show it is hypocritical and awkward. that is exactly how I feel when watching Brother Bear. Even moreso than Hunchback (which I would divide up as around 65% good to 35% bad), Brother Bear (which is about 80% to 20%) is a film that I am completely enraptured by… only to be completely taken out of the film by some stupid quip or some modern turn of phrase that insults the culture being portrayed onscreen and the story being told.

Now as well as having ties to the Lion King, I also noticed reviewers pointing to a few other Disney films that they acknowledge have similarities to Brother Bear. The film has a very Circle of Life opening, and a very “duuuummmm (cut to black)” ending. The music in The Lion King that was not sung by any onscreen character but rather an omniscient spirit served the film extremely well, and the way that feeling is recreated here is astoundingly good. All the music in this film was written by Phil Collins, which gives us ties to another film, Tarzan, which does the same thing. In this film however, he doesn’t perform every song himself, and all the not-him songs, as already explained, are great. I’ll get to Collins himself a bit later. The third noteworthy film is Pocahontas, which is similarly backdropped in Precolonial America, though in my opinion actually does a much worse job at really immersing itself within the culture and mythology of the Native American people. In fact The Nostalgia Critic, in his review of the film for Disneycember, said “this is what Pocahontas should have been”. The film also seems to share the same sensibility as Ice Age – released 2 years before so it’s plausible that the team sought inspiration from it. Unfortunately, they handled their side characters much worse than Blue Sky did.

So on the whole everything is really likeable and well done. The Rafiki-esque/Boob Lady-esque spiritual woman is great, and the swirling Northern lights as an omonous presense in the sky is a wonderful touch. Even so, I do see a few minor problems even within the glorious opening. Namely, that there just seems to be too much anachronistic talking and not enough showing. In a scene with Kenai and his two brothers, they just blabber on and on and on. In really think doing a bonding scene in a 1/3 of the time would have served the film well, giving us a taste of nonverbal communication, or even leaving space to show more of the culture – scenes which are usually shortened dramatically in this movie Notably, the funeral scene is portrayed by a mini montage, whereas I think it deserved a lot more, with a lot more of the culture infused into the ceremony. Everyone – humans and animals – just sounded like the wacky college students portrayed in 90’s movies. Not real people. It’s sad because sure, some of the dialogue may be funny, but so much of it just takes away from the grandness of the story. One of the things in Disney Renaissance movies that I absolutely could not understand and hate with fervor are any of the Looney Tunes-style sight gags. You know the ones. Unrealistic animation. Goofy sound effects. Crudely drawn animation. I hate hate hate them. They do not belong in a Disney movie. Which is why I am pleased to say that as opposed to Hunchback where they roam free, they are nowhere to be found here so that’s a major plus in my book.

It is a masterstroke of storytelling that the entire plot rests around a misunderstanding. There is actually no villain in this story. And if there was one it would probably be our protagonist as he is the only one that does a cruel action (harassing the bear) not due to revenge. He then does another – actually killing Koda’s mum – leading to great dramatic tension as we see a relationship blossom, knowing deep down that there is a dark secret that is moments away from exposing itself and completely changing the way he sees both humans and bears. That’s what makes his transformation so compelling. And it’s also what makes this story in a way better than every single other one Disney has produced. That the “villain”, Kenai’s brother Denahi, is completely 3 dimensional, having an understandable motivation to attack Kenai. It is something not as esoteric as “wanting to take over the universe” or “wanting to remove a threat to power” – in fact he is actually wanting to avenge his brother’s supposed death. He is the only one not in a black-white dynamic with the hero. He is not evil… and in fact at some moments I wondered about if the world was better off if Kenai was dead. That’s the mark of truly great story.

I think the major problem here happens once Kenai is turned into a bear. The whole beginning, despite the few nagging gripes, is done so well and rests strongly in masterpiece territory. And then the second act seems to enter us into a different universe, telling a much less epic and much more silly story. It’s a shame. I have huge issues with the side characters on display here. For starters, the moose are on par with the annoyance of Crash and Eddie of the Ice Age series. Not to mention that they are also highly offensive racial stereotypes of Canadians. Which reduce them to 1-note characters. They bark and yelp about their problems using modern day speak, and are a sharp contract to the wondrous story on display, and it just drags the film down considerably. It’s like shoving an SNL sketch into a film like Snow White. It may (or may not) be funny but in this context it’s just jarring. Their – and Koda’s – dialogue is unbearable (don’t even…) and the modern speak, while par for the course for any modern day feature film, is a sign of a much less ambitious story than the rest of film lets on. Which is a massive shame.

You’ll find that most modern animated films get Rotten Tomatoes ratings in the 70%s or 60%s, and a large part is due to the forgettable and unsubstantial dialogue…. which sadly takes up a considerable amount of this film. It means during the middle of the film – where Kenai’s transition is taking place and he’s readjusting to the animal world, there’s too much joking around and not enough genuine emotion. The problem here is that while a standard film would have 66%-level content throughout (so the audience wouldn’t really notice the difference), Brother Bear is about a quarter 66%, and then three quarters 95%. So much of the movie I’m completely engrossed… but then at other times I’m cringing by how stupid it is. That’s what’s so infuriating. At this point in time, there was a rule where every single Disney film had to have comic relief characters shoe-horned into them no matter how much the film needed them. In this case the film would have been MUCH better without any. The film simply doesn’t need it. In fact, TheDigitalFix notes: “[the moose’s] humour seems to be based completely around the fact that they are Canadian and therefore say “eh?” in every second sentence. While slightly funny for a while, by the end of the movie it has worn thin, and the fact that their actual role in the plot is negligible at best lends credibility to the rumour that they were added to the story at the last minute“. The brother’s adventure trying to track down the bear is a lot more compelling because he’s on his own against the elements. There’s noone to talk to, or to spout exposition with, or to play a random and irrelevant game of eye spy with. Every scene with him I felt, and there was nothing to draw me out of it. I wish that Kenai’s journey had been handled with the same compassion and emotion that Denahi’s did. And on that, I wish they had shown us more from Denahi’s perspective – perhaps giving us some scenes involving his family back home. I read they were supposed to have a dad who was later cut from the film. That might’ve been really cool seeing how they were getting on – like in Ice Age where they periodically returned to the humans. I remember seeing in a behind the scenes that the sidekick was supposed to be a grown up bear. So they could’ve maybe made it really work with a sidekick. But no, he turned into a god-awful annoying character (a bear cub named Koda) that even other characters within the film rolled their eyes at.

The smallness of this story is also shown by the animation. Now, don’t get me wrong. I already said that the animation was great here. And I mean it. But they were doing the best with what they were given. However, despite this story taking place in such a vast landscape, many of the shots in the middle section feel so claustrophobic and are very generic. As if the cinematographer had no active imagination. This is a minor problem, mind you. But in the 10-15% or so that does this, I’m really taken out of the film. It’s like all the silly bits have to have silly animation while the grand bits have grand animation. The sweeping shots are wonderful, but as I said before, then end result is a really uneven tone. It’s also worth mentioning that the narrative itself is a tad clunky. The climax does seem to pop out of nowhere, meaning you’ve barely registered it at the big conclusion before its over. And the story doesn’t flow nearly as neatly as it could.

Now as I’ve already mentioned, this film’s distinctness from most of the Renaissance films that came before it is the same thing it has in common with Tarzan, released 4 years prior. Phil Collins provides the music, which is sung by either him or other artists. Now I gotta say, all the songs in this movie are really good. But when it comes to their purpose within the story, I have my severe doubts. Much of the music in this film plays out as essentially a generic movie soundtrack, where the lyrics are only vaguely relevant to what’s going on, rather that plot-advancing tools as most sung-by-character songs tend to be. In this context, when an interesting story is halted in its tracks for a generic montage, the songs stop a chance for actual character development. It’s the classic “show, don’t tell” predicament. Why show us Kenai is sad and let our emotional connection spring naturally from there, when you can have Phil Collins spell it out for us and tell us how to feel. This is (thoguh obviously to a much larger extent) the major problem with Glee – every episode is so jam-packed full of songs that there is little opportunity for actual plot/character growth, as every important conversation is swapped for a pop song. So the show literally falls back on 3 minutes worth of cliches… multiple times per episode. I want to see these characters interact… not listen to Phil Collins’s “voiceless wailings” about how they’re interacting, in the process drowning them out completely. TheDigitalFix says that “at least here, his percussion-based music seems more appropriate to the tribal nature of the film than it did in Tarzan, where it felt wholly uncharacteristic and contradictory to the imagery on-screen.”

The kicker for me was when he sang over Kenai’s confession to Koda on the cliff edge about what happened to Koda’s mother. I remember watching this for the first time and being really confused and annoyed by that scene. I wanted to know what he said, and I didn’t like not knowing. If they had cut away from the conversation in a really dramatic silent way, that would have been really effective. but when you play a pop song over the most pivotal moment, and we know that there used to be a scene there that has now been muted later in production, is just a kick to the guts. I watched an earlier version of the scene for the first time a few years ago, and it was literally a weight off my shoulders to have this question swirling around in my mind for 8 years – what did he say? – finally answered. And I’m not ashamed to admit I cried. In comparison, the scene that made it into the movie didn’t pull a tear. It didn’t pull anything. Why couldn’t they just let the scene play out? Every time Collins opens his trap I want him to shut it so I can hear what the characters are saying…

TheDigitalFix probably sums it up best:

With five credited screenwriters and a score of people on the story development team, Brother Bear‘s inception was reportedly a painful and convoluted affair. In actual fact, the end result is reasonably coherent, although the middle half of the film suffers from an ambling pace with an indifferent, “so what?” nature. It also takes a bit too long to get started, with Kenai receiving a good 25 minutes of screen-time before being turned into a bear. The opposite is true of the conclusion, which seems to come out of left field and is completely rushed. It actually took a while for it to dawn on me that I was watching the “big” climax.

Brother Bear has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 38% which is just so totally unfair considering the inferior(?) flicks Brother Bear 2 and Home on the Range have approval ratings of 50% and 54% respectively. In short, my hypothesis is that this is because the film’s timelessness became destroyed due to culture being swapped for modernness.  Not to mention that 2D animation was by this time a relic of the past, with Disney most probably seeking bad reviews in order to justify their decision to close down that industry. And so that ultimately is what stick with the reviewers, even though the majority of the film was extraordinary. I highly recommend giving this a watch. I dearly love this film, and the griped I have about it are put-up-withable in the knowledge that it was just an inescapable condition of Eisner era Disney. I just can’t help wishing it was the masterpiece it could so easily have been. The same sense of suffering I feel when watching Hunchback. Brother Bear was one of the three films produced entirely on the Disney animation unit in Orlando, Florida – the other two being Mulan and Lilo and Stitch. TheDigitalFix notes “Most people in the know reckon that the reason these two films were so good is the fact that the Florida studio is as far away from executive interference as possible”. It seems they managed to sink their dirty claws into this film however…

P.S. Is it just me or is Brother Bear very Ice Age, and is Brother Bear 2 very Shrek?

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An quick look at DisneyToons sequels

DisneyToons is notorious for its sequels to critically successful films released by Walt Disney Animation Studios. It was an initiative set up by the money-grubbing whores known in the entertainment industry as “studio executives”. Kids are stupid, right? And they don’t care what they watch as long as it has nice moving pictures. So why not shove some money to a thied rate production company to pump these mother suckers out at a rapid pace. Don’t even bother with that waste of time known as artistic integrity. Cha-ching!

But in fact it’s not all as bad as it seems. Upon further inspection, you’ll find out that these films had vastly different production histories. Some were given fairly bit budgets while others were given hardly any at all. Some were pushed out the door asap while others were given a tad more time. Some animation looks shocking, while in other films its on par or close to the original film. The point in history when they were released also has an impact in regard to the amount of effort put into them. Some films were originally feature-length pilots for TV series, and others were actually episodes from a cancelled TV show messily chopped together in an attempt to tell a coherent story. Some (by far not the best ones) were even theatrically released.

I spend ages collecting all the data to create this table. So I’ll present it all here objectively to allow you to draw your own conclusions … although it is worth noting that these sequels are generally considered to be a massive insult to the integrity of the original films. A fun fact is that they tend to follow familiar tropes, such as “same story told with main character’s children” or “pointless midquel where nothing really happens”, so watch out for those.

So now that we’ve gone over the basics, I want to go through all the critical ratings for the DisneyToon sequels. Note that many DisneyToon films are originals and so will not be featured here. I’ve been told that in general the better the original, the more painful the shoddy sequels are. Let’s see if that’s reflected in the scores below.

Though I haven’t seen many of them, my absolute favorite is the subversive and character-driven story Cinderella III: A Twist in Time. So I advise you all to check it out. I was also surprised by how low Brother Bear was – even lower than its sequel. I must rewatch them asap to have an objective perspective.

# Sequel/Prequel/Midquel Release date Theatrical vs. Direct-to-DVD RT IMDb Original RT of original IMDb of original
1 The Return of Jafar May 20, 1994 Direct-to-DVD 27% 5.7 Aladdin (1992) 92% 7.9
2 Aladdin and the King of Thieves August 13, 1996 Direct-to-DVD 27% 6.2 Aladdin (1992) 92% 7.9
3 Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas November 11, 1997 Direct-to-DVD 0% 5.9 Beauty & the Beast (1991) 92% 8.0
4 Belle’s Magical World February 17, 1998 Direct-to-DVD 17% 5.7 Beauty & the Beast (1991) 92% 8.0
5 Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World August 25, 1998 Direct-to-DVD 29% 4.8 Pocahontas (1995) 56% 6.4
6 The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride October 27, 1998 Direct-to-DVD 33% 6.2 The Lion King (1994) 90% 8.4
7 Hercules: Zero to Hero August 17, 1999 Direct-to-DVD N/A 6.0 Hercules (1997) 84% 7.0
8 The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea September 19, 2000 Direct-to-DVD 38% 5.3 The Little Mermaid (1989) 90% 7.5
9 Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure February 27, 2001 Direct-to-DVD 45% 5.6 Lady and the Tramp (1955) 89% 7.4
10 Return to Never Land February 15, 2002 Theatrical 45% 5.6 Peter Pan (1953) 75% 7.3
11 Cinderella II: Dreams Come True February 26, 2002 Direct-to-DVD 0% 4.7 Cinderella (1950) 97% 7.3
12 The Hunchback of Notre Dame II March 19, 2002 Direct-to-DVD 30% 4.7 The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) 73% 6.7
13 Tarzan & Jane July 23, 2002 Direct-to-DVD 17% 5.1 Tarzan (1999) 88% 7.0
14 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure January 21, 2003 Direct-to-DVD 67% 5.5 One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) 97% 7.2
15 The Jungle Book 2 February 15, 2002 Theatrical 18% 5.2 The Jungle Book (1967) 86% 7.6
16 Atlantis: Milo’s Return May 20, 2003 Direct-to-DVD N/A 4.8 Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) 49% 6.5
17 Stitch! The Movie August 26, 2003 Direct-to-DVD N/A 4.8 Lilo & Stitch (2002) 86% 7.0
18 The Lion King 1½ February 10, 2004 Direct-to-DVD 6.5% 76 The Lion King (1994) 90% 8.4
19 Mulan II November 3, 2004 Direct-to-DVD 0% 5.6 Mulan (1998) 86% 7.3
20 Tarzan II June 14, 2005 Direct-to-DVD 20% 5.5 Tarzan (1999) 88% 7.0
21 Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch August 30, 2005 Direct-to-DVD 40% 6.1 Lilo & Stitch (2002) 86% 7.0
22 Kronk’s New Groove December 13, 2005 Direct-to-DVD 0% 5.8 The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) 85% 7.2
23 Bambi II February 7, 2006 Direct-to-DVD 50% 5.9 Bambi (1942) 91% 7.4
24 Brother Bear 2 August 29, 2006 Direct-to-DVD 50% 6.1 Brother Bear (2003) 38% 6.6
25 The Fox and the Hound 2 December 12, 2006 Direct-to-DVD 0% 5.5 The Fox and the Hound (1981) 69% 7.1
27 Cinderella III: A Twist in Time February 6, 2007 Direct-to-DVD 71% 5.9 Cinderella (1950) 97% 7.3
28 The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning August 26, 2008 Direct-to-DVD 40% 6.4 The Little Mermaid (1989) 90% 7.5
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Pixar & Video games

So with Disney Infinity being released this week over in Europe and North America (we’ll have to wait a bit longer I’m afraid..), I figured I might as well talk about Pixar’s relationship with video games and how it has all been affected by Disney.

The history of Disney and Pixar in the past 25 or so years is quite tumultuous and all over the shop. I’ll no doubt explore the causes and pressures behind the various creative and financial decisions made, but the most important thing to note is the massive shift that caused Disney to go from producing work like The Little Mermaid (1989) and Brother Bear (2003) all the way to the shit-fest known to us humans as Home on the Range (2004). Now the decline had been going on for quite some time (and you’ll see the films had more and more questionable elements as the 90’s wore on and the 00’s began), because the studio executives had become more successful in their ability to censor and manipulate the works being produced for their own means. But the creative team always managed to fight back, and make the films the best they could be regardless.

Films like Lilo & Stitch (2002) and Treasure Planet (2002) – and to a lesser extent even Reneissance works like Hunchback (1996), Mulan (1998), and Tarzan (1999) show potential masterpieces on par with B&B, distorted and ripped apart by a team of executives who didn’t know what they were doing. A quick peek at the list of unreleased Disney films shows that around this time an abnormally unusual amount of projects were cancelled. I believe this is when Disney took a massive creative shift. For the worse. Now by this time the company had started using a strategy for the Disney Channel (founded in 1983) involving “to discover, nurture and aggressively cross-promote teen music stars whose style and image were carefully targeted to the pre-teen and teenage demographic”. And has already been creating those god awful sequels for quite a number of years. So this was merely another nail in the creative coffin. Disney executives had decided that 2D was out and 3D was in (using this as a scapegoat for their inability to admit that their own decisions had made the films faulty). And that’s where they were heading.

Now the reason I bring all this up is because this is where Pixar comes into the story. Wikipedia explains:

Pixar and Disney originally had a seven film distribution agreement that gave Disney full ownership of Pixar’s feature films and characters, as well as sequel rights. With the success of Toy Story 2 in 1999, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs began to disagree on how Pixar should be run and the terms of a continued relationship.

Essentially, Eisner didn’t count Toy Story 2 as an “original” film, and that led to a lot of conflict between the two studios. The film was originally going to be a direct-to-video, as “Prior releases, such as 1994’s Aladdin sequel, The Return of Jafar, had returned an estimated hundred million dollars in profits”, but Pixar insisted it was a theatrical release, and that’s what it became. Circle 7 Animation was set up by Disney as a bargaining chip. and the studio started to work on the sequels: Toy Story 3, Monsters, Inc. 2, and Finding Nemo 2. If you’re familiar with the work of DisneyToon Studios, then you’ll know how much of a cash grab those films intended to be.

Pixar was responsible for creation and production, while Disney handled marketing and distribution. Profits and production costs were split 50-50, but Disney exclusively owned all story and sequel rights and also collected a distribution fee. The lack of story and sequel rights was perhaps the most onerous aspect to Pixar and set the stage for a contentious relationshipThe two companies attempted to reach a new agreement in early 2004. The new deal would be only for distribution, as Pixar intended to control production and own the resulting film properties themselves. The company also wanted to finance their films on their own and collect 100 percent of the profits, paying Disney only the 10 to 15 percent distribution fee. More importantly, as part of any distribution agreement with Disney, Pixar demanded control over films already in production under their old agreement, including The Incredibles and Cars. Disney considered these conditions unacceptable, but Pixar would not concede.

Now this noble act on the part of Pixar is something that has always stuck with me. Despite the option to sell out, they stick true to their guns and maintained the view that they hold to this day that they will only produce works when they have found the right story. It’s a testament to Brad Bird that The Incredibles has never been turned into a franchise and has remained the standout lone work that it is. Even when (politely) bullied by Disney, Andrew Stanton only agreed to produce a Finding Nemo sequel on his own terms:

There was polite inquiry from Disney (about a Finding Nemo sequel). I was always ‘No sequels, no sequels.’ But I had to get on board from a VP standpoint. (Sequels) are part of the necessity of our staying afloat, but we don’t want to have to go there for those reasons. We want to go there creatively, so we said (to Disney), ‘Can you give us the timeline about when we release them? Because we’d like to release something we actually want to make, and we might not come up with it the year you want it.’

Greedy Disney. Back then, Pixar was having none of it, so they agreed to be bought by Disney two years later in 2006, so then the company could at least be in charge of their own sequel production. It’s worth noting that John Lasseter, head of Pixar, became head of Disney as well. It certainly helped Disney out a bunch, by reintroducing traditional animation and stopping the unholy Disney sequel tirade, but it also was the start of a new, lesser, Pixar. (It should also be noted that Disneytoons started exclusively making Tinkerbell movies and only recently has started making sequels again. This time a spin-off to Cars known as Planes. Enjoy this lame-ass piece of crap that will no doubt further taint Pixar’s perfect record. Oh would you look at that. An approval rating of 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. *sigh*).

Though “additional conditions were laid out as part of the deal to ensure that Pixar remained a separate entity”, you’ll note that 2006 is when it all starts to change. When they begin to pick up bad habits from their mother company, Disney. What film was released in 2006, tarnishing the company’s perfect record? Cars. Cars 2 was the first film of theirs to get a rotten tomato. I almost get the feeling that they were so afraid of tarnishing a great film with an unjust sequel that they figured they might as well go to town with an already mediocre one. But with the new trend towards all those sequels in recent years, one can’t help but wonder is Pixar has lost its edge. I’ll get into my meloncholy regard Monster’s University (which I don’t think lives up to its sequel), and Brave (which had an extremity rocky production involving its director being fired half way through leading to its unevenness) one of these days. But this wise quote seems to make it all better:

For artistic reasons… it’s really important that we do an original film a year…Every once in a while, we get a film where we want or people want to see something continuing in that world – which is the rationale behind the sequel. They want those characters, which means we were successful with them. But if you keep doing that, then you aren’t doing original films.

Now the video games based on individual films is very interesting and varied, and on the whole all have received mix to positive reviews – the criticism usually going to things like shallow of character development/plot (included to shoehorn in motivation for the game’s events to be set in motion), and repetitive gameplay elements. This is and has always been true for both Pixar and Disney. Even so, Pixar has delved into this area a lot less. But for the longest time, franchising were always seen as secondary to the films. Wikipedia explains:

Under intense time pressure, they had put out two successful CD-ROM titles the previous year: The Toy Story Animated StoryBook and The Toy Story Activity Center. Between the two products, the group had created as much original animation as there was in Toy Story itself. Steve Jobs made the decision to shut down the computer games operation and the staff became the initial core of the Toy Story 2 production team.

A wise decision. But I actually wanted to talk a bit about the compilation games – those games that pull characters and settings from a number of different works and attempt to jam them all together. That’s why it was necessary to go into a bit about the history between the Disney-Pixar relationship. Sometimes it works like a charm. But other times it can seem like Pixar is being used as an extension of the disneyficated cash grab strategy used on the company’s own works for years. So let’s have a look at those sorts of games and see what that can tell us.

Some examples include Disney Friends in 2007, Kinect Disneyland Adventures in 2011, and now Disney Infinity in 2013.

As I have never played Disney Infinity, or in fact any of those 3 games, I don’t actually have that much to say. But given everything I’ve explained leading up to this moment, I have my serious doubt about the direction Pixar is taking.

The Good Game review mentioned a couple of noteworthy thing. They explained that to catch-em-all, and therefore unlock all the content, you’d be paying upwards of $ 300-400. Wow Disney. The Lego video game series didn’t do that at all. Gameplay may be awesome… but they explain the new storylines are “pretty barebones”, with the characters becoming  “simplified cartoony versions of themselves”. I feel like crying…. :/ It just seems like a hodgepodge of random characters owned by the extensive Walt Disney Company, stuffed together as merely agents for one to play minigames. I knew Disney could do something like this, but not Pixar. Never Pixar.

In 2006, Gamasutra theorised that “Since the Disney-owned publisher/developer Buena Vista Games is now part of the same company as Pixarit’s possible that, in the far future, Buena Vista might want to take further direct control over Pixar-licensed game titles itself. In fact, Buena Vista already developed and published the Chicken Little Disney CG movie-based game itself”.

How right they were.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

So I’ve gone over my basic premise behind this blog, and my justification for doing so. But before I get stuck in, I wanted to talk a little bit more about what I intend to write about and how I plan to go about writing it. My first post was quite long so I’ll try to reiterate much of it in a concise manner.

As I have already said, this blog will be focused on everything related to Disney animation in the past 25 years or so – since the Disney Renaissance. This is not all Disney is, but it’s what I intend to focus a lot of my time and energy on. I believe there is a lot to this story that we never caught wind of. I, having discovered scraps here and there implying major behind the scenes issues in regard to the creative team vs. studio executive divide, wish to investigate further. I love Disney so much, and respect it immensely. And that is why when I see an almost-masterpiece, irreperably tarnished due to a gross negligence in regard to understanding what the audience want and what makes a good film, I feel sick watching it. Both for myself – seeing all the lost potential, and for the creative team – who  no doubt wept for the lost content.

I get the feeling that the way Disney has chosen to market itself ever since the beginning of the Disney Renaissance is a watered down version of Disney itself. I see a facade. If someone says “that is so Disney”, what are they *really* saying about it? And is Disney actually responsible for this connotation? Despite its films being genuinely great and full of so much amazing content, it brands them in ways that really only bring attention to a tiny (and ultimately supercial) portion of them. As an example (which I’ll no doubt go into much more detail with in a later post), view the trailer for the original 1991 release of Beauty and the Beast in 1991, side by side with the trailer for the 3D remaster in 2012. See how all the wonders of the film – spoken about in the first trailer, are swapped for essentially a trailer highlighting the ballroom scene and the Celine Dion/Peabo Bryson pop song. It’s a disservice to both the film and us.  Back in 1991, they spoke about everything great that B&B had to offer. It’s an insult to reduce an entire film to two aspects that dont event represent the film properly. You might say that the film trailer was based around nostalgia and timelessness. But I would counter that my saying that if the films were genuinely bad, I could understand them succumbing to a campaign based on nostalgia in a desperate attempt to create interest. But why do they solely rely on both nostalgia and the 3D gimmick when advertising the film? Why not tell us to relive the extraordinary story and chacracters on the big screen? Why advertise a genuinely good film in this manner? This is the sort of disneyfication I’m talking about.

And another example is the complete decontextualisation of films in, for example, the Disney princess franchise – which takes the characters out of their original settings and stories and make them essentially postergirls for dreaming, being a princess, and looking pretty. Which is not what any of those films were about at all. Okay, perhaps the earlier ones, but why return to that when Beauty & the Beast and Enchanted actively satirised those tropes, while the rest of the post-Renaissance films did their fair share of feminism too? Belle was probably the least concerned with her looks out of any of them, and as a part of the Princess franchise, she looks all promiscuous. Not to mention there was a massive blowup when Merida from Pixar’s Brave – a character that goes against everythin Disney Princess stands for – was redesigned in a whore-ish way for her Disney princess coronation.

I assume a lot of this is because Disney wanted to maintain the connection between animaiton & kids throughout the 90s – something that ironically the company itself had tried to fight against for so long.  And I believe this conviction meant they were willing to actually sacrifice the quality of their films in order to achieve this goal. Disney is a beast. Disney has deliberately been constructed and designed that way. That’s why we can have contradictory views about it. That’s why in a sweeping epic we can also have Looney Tunes-style slapstick animation – sometimes within the same scene. Disney is “only for young girls”, and yet it is also responsible for the Oscar nominated film Lincoln. how does one make sense of all this? Not to worry, mind you. I will also be exploring many other aspects of the Disney empire, including some contextual information, general trivia on films and characters, and info on how Disney has shaped the animation industry at large.

So, to quote from a non-Disney film: “To infinity and beyond!” 🙂

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