Tag Archives: Disney

📽️ Disney Time – In Summary

In less than a year I went reform buying the Disney box set to having watched all the entries in the Animated Canon. Guess that goes to show how, with proper structure, I am able to finish off one of the longer challenges in good time. Probably helps that we had a regular Disney night and that I knew and liked a lot of these films already.

Going into this, I had seen the vast majority of the films on the list – which means I had the motivation to carry on through the bad period as I knew there were films like Beauty and the Beast and Zootopia ready to welcome me on the other side. One thing I had not expected is just how many of these films that I know I had seen before and either had no recollection of or had clearly switched them off previously and counted that as a win.

Let’s not mince words though, for every good film here on the canon there is another either dull or downright bad film to be found. This the same of any major studio and few out there had the high hit-to-miss ratio that the likes of Studio Ghibli or a single director director may have. However, going through even the really bad films, it’s been so interesting to see the Disney company develop, experiment, ditch things that didn’t work and become the filmmakers that they are today. I think if I had included some of the non-canon releases (like Mary Poppins or some Pixar) I might have gained a fuller picture, but just knowing how close the animation wing of the company has been to closing on multiple occasions has been a real eye-opener.

Now, time for superlatives. I thought it would be a good idea, now that I am done, to do some rankings of the best and worst films on the list. So let’s go.

Best surprise (of a film that I hadn’t seen before):Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Bottom 101) Fun and Fancy Free
2) Melody Time
3) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
4) The Black Cauldron
5) Home on the Range
6) Chicken Little
7) Dinosaur
8) Treasure Planet
9) Brother Bear
10) The Sword in the Stone
Top 101) Beauty and the Beast
2) The Lion King
3) The Little Mermaid
4) Zootopia
5) Sleeping Beauty
6) One Hundred and One Dalmatians
7) Dumbo
8) The Great Mouse Detective
9) Moana
10) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

📽️ Disney Time – Frozen II

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 58/58Title: Frozen II
Year: 2019

When I started the Disney challenge last year with Snow White I hoped that I would be able to make my way through the DVDs at a reasonable enough pace that meant I could finish my challenge off in the cinema. Turns out I had a few weeks to spare, so here I am now with Frozen II – currently the final Film in the Disney Animated Canon.

It was always going to be a bit strange to finish off this challenge on a sequel rather than an original movie, but I figured that since this is an ongoing challenge I’ll be back to the original Disney movies soon enough. Going into the cinema for Frozen II I must admit that my expectations were pretty low. This is one of the worst reviewed Disney films for a while and a sequel that we never really needed. Other than to generate more money for the Disney corporation that is.

Still though, I don’t know if it was the lowered expectations or the chilly weather outside, but I had a whole lot of fun with Frozen II. This is nowhere near Disney’s best not is it up to the standard set by the original, but if you wanted more time with tour favourite Frozen characters then this really is the film for you. Similarly, if you want time to stare in awe at some of Disney’s most beautiful CGI work, then you also need to see this.

One thing that I want to applaud this film for, however, is for being the first major children’s animated movies to properly deal with the idea of colonialism and the beginnings of some form of reparations. When I think of how tone deaf Pocahontas in places, then you get Frozen II where there is no victim blaming – instead the white man taking advantage and being 100% in the wrong. It’s an interesting topic to take a glancing shot at in a Disney movie, but I’m here for it.

Also worth noting is that, whilst the songs aren’t as good on the whole as the original film, there is one solid earworm in this film. ‘Into The Unknown’ will probably never reach the heights of memedom that ‘Let It Go’ did, but it sure sticks I your head. Especially the haunting call as provided by Norwegian musician (and my album of the year 2019 creator) Aurora. That call has been in my head for the last week and it’s showing no signs of leaving.

Tomorrow, I’m going to publish a post about some of my general feelings and rankings now that I’ve come to the end of this particular challenge. For now though, it’s worth saying just how much fun this mini-challenge has been. I probably won’t be doing another studio-based challenge for my bucket list, but maybe some more film ones will come up. Probably worth getting closer to the end of my other two film challenges before starting in those though…

Status: Completed

📽️ Disney Time – Ralph Breaks The Internet

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 57/58Title: Ralph Breaks The Internet
Year: 2018

At time of writing, this re-watch of Ralph Breaks The Internet (which I previously wrote about last year in a post looking at the Best Animated Feature nominees at the 2019 Academy Awards) marks the end of an almost year long quest to watch all the entries in the Disney Animated Canon. This is, of course, a soft crossing off as Frozen 2 is out in a fortnight and will have probably been an Oscar nominee itself by the time this post rolls around. Still though, high fives all around – it’s nice to be able to temporarily complete one of these larger lists.

Ralph Breaks The Internet, as you know, is the sequel to the highly successful Wreck-It Ralph which tried to do for video games what Toy Story did for the toy box. It didn’t quite reach the heights of Toy Story, but they still came out with a good film with memorable characters. Here, in the sequel, they try to expand the focus and try to make personifications of the wider internet with a multitude of well known brands (such as eBay) being integrated and some even getting their own characters. It’s an ambitious idea and, whilst a bit undercut by the large amounts of corporate synergy, there are a lot of successes here.

However, there are also a lot of failures as well. In tackling something as vast as the Internet it is clear that the writers’ room was chock-a-block with ideas of different areas of the Internet to lampoon. With the growing trend for Disney films to have lengths closer and closer to two hours, this undoubtedly gave them license to include as many of their favourite ideas as possible. This means that rather than having a few tight storylines, you have a bunch of loose threads and vignettes united by two best friends who have a massive falling out as one cannot deal with the idea of the other wanting to peruse new and separate goals.

There’s a real heart in this film though and, by depicting how a friendship can change as one starts to slightly outgrow the other, they’ve done something that I have never seen in a family film before. At least, not in the way that you see different types of personal conflict depicted by the two characters. The final message comes across as a bit ham-fisted with the characters being persued and almost crushed to death by a literal manifestation of insecurity, but I guess the remit called for an overblown action sequence at some point in the film and choices were made.

It’s not the best film that Disney have produced, but it’s still a sign of how high the bar has been re-raised in the last decade that this feels like a disappointment. By now I’ve seen Disney at their best and their worst and this falls somewhere in the upper middle. Going forward, I do wonder where the canon is going to lead. I gues I might have more of an idea soon when I watch the final film on my list: Frozen 2.

📽️ Disney Time – Moana

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 56/58Title: Moana
Year: 2016

Watching Moana on the seat back of a long haul flight really does not do it justice. The same can be said of most films that try to do anything overly aesthetic or awe-inspiring, but watching this in high definition did a lot to close the opinion gap between this and ZootopiaI think I still prefer Zootopia, but it isn’t as cut and dry as it used to be.

Where Zootopia was Disney flexing the Pixar muscles, Moana is a much more traditional Disney story featuring a female heir (technically not a princess in this instance), songs and a lovable animal sidekick. It ticks all these stereotype boxes of a Disney princess movie, but this develops and improves on the work done by Frozen to smash them.

For one thing, there is no love interest other than Moana’s love for her people and her own dreams. The film is about her own journey towards maturation and unlike all the princess films that have come before, there is no man at the end of this journey for her to end up with. You also have a complete subversion of the animal sidekick, who is usually smarter than the typical animal (think Meeko the Racoon from Pocahontas) and instead you have a chicken who might very well be dumber than the average chicken.

Speaking of Pocahontas, given that many of the cast are native Hawaiians or are of Polynesian descent, this is how you do a film with cultural sensitivity and not end up with a song like ‘Savages’. I guess that Disney have since learned from the mistakes of Pocahontas and instead put the proper time and effort in to make something that celebrates and has fun with Polynesian mythology and history rather than a film that ages poorly. The fact that the story takes inspiration and tries to explain a period of history where Polynesian peoples stopped sailing for 1000 years (for which we have no explanation) is especially excellent.

Other than ‘How Far I’ll Go’ the songs aren’t especially memorable, but that’s fine as they’re mostly there for mood and story than meme purposes. I mean, this is a film that contains a song inspired by the music of Flight of the Conchords and actually has Jermaine Clement singing it, how can you not enjoy that? Especially as he’s playing a sociopathic, gold-obsessed crab.

I know that by the time that this post goes up I will have seen Frozen 2 in the cinemas 5-6 months earlier, but I think I can make a bold claim – 2016 is the peak of the current post-renaissance Disney and I really hope that their 2020 film, which is the first film they have released in 4 years that is an original intellectual property, can continue the work done by Moana and Zootopia.

So that’s the final disc of the collection polished off. Next up will be Ralph Breaks The Internet which we had to purchase separately in order to fill in the gap left in the box set. It’s going to be interesting for me as this is the first (and probably only) time that I will be writing about the same film twice in this blog. The first time being my Best Animated Feature post about the 2019 Academy awards. I wonder how it will do during a re-watch.

📽️ Disney Time – Zootopia

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 55/58Title: Zootopia
Year: 2016

Given that they skipped releasing anything in the previous year, 2016 was one of the rare times that has two entries in the Disney Animated Canon. Both are excellent films within the canon but, personally, Zootopia (or Zootropolis as it was called in the UK) is the better of the two. In fact, Zootopia is one of my favourite films in the entire list – so this was something that really helped my post-South Korea adjustment all the easier.

I first saw Zootopia in the cinema, back when I was on the tail-end of my wrist injury recovery. It’s the first Disney animated release that I’ve been excited to see in the cinema since I was a small child and, thankfully, this actually delivered (unlike Hercules). Might have also helped that, given its take on discrimination, it managed to really capture the political feelings of early 2016 despite production starting before a lot of the political shit hit the fan.

The big thing that Zootopia succeeded in, that most Disney films didn’t actually attempt to do, is to construct a living breathing world. The city of Zootopia itself, as well as the surrounding areas, are not only beautiful to look at but are full of character and are rich enough to warrant further exploration. Also, thanks to the Pixar influence, each distinct area is very distinct and full of Easter eggs that reward multiple watches.

All this is done with minimal, and ultimately enjoyable, exposition that also brings in the central predator-prey conflict that lays in the film’s core relationship between rabbit-cop Judy Hopps and fox con man Nick Wilde. It’s a clever way to depict something very adult like racial discrimination in a way that can be taken in by young children. Moments of intolerance, like Nick touching the sheep deputy mayor’s hair and Judy’s ‘speciesist’ press conference, are clever ways to make a fable-friendly version of things that would otherwise be too adult for a family film.

Within this wider message of tolerance and, ultimately, acceptance – Zootopia is able to construct a well-made detective story. Unlike the reveal in Frozen that seemingly comes out of nowhere, the final confrontation is well-earned. The clues and the motivations are all there and, upon repeat viewings, it’s brilliant to see how everything is foreshadowed from very early on. This (like the Breaking Bad references that happen near the end) is what turns this into a proper family film rather than a children’s film with a few adult-friendly joked attached.

Unlike the final two films in the canon (as it stands right now) Zootopia feels like a franchise that really would work well with some sequels. In this way, we can explore areas of this world that we never got to see and it would be interesting to see how they would handle similar topics now that we are coming to the end of Trump’s first year as president. Also, given the amount of bootleg Zootopia merchandise I saw being sold in South Korean markets, there is clearly a lot of money still to be made from these characters.

Whilst I do prefer Zootopia of the two 2016 entries in the canon, that’s no slight on Moana. In fact, it’s actually really cool to have one year demonstrating the more Pixar-influenced films and the those more influenced by classic Disney. It’ll nice to actually see Moana on a proper TV and not on a plane, maybe that means I’ll enjoy watching it even more.

📽️ Disney Time – Big Hero 6

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 54/58Title: Big Hero 6
Year: 2014

Okay, so the posts about my trip to South Korea begin tomorrow but first let’s cross off the next entry on the Disney watching challenge. I love that I was able to do this on the London-Seoul flight via the in-flight entertainment and make constructive use of a plane right where I found it near impossible to drift off to sleep (more on that in tomorrow’s post I guess).

After the phenomenon of Frozen, any animated film that Disney released was always going to pale in comparison in terms of both commercial success and cultural relevance. Looking back, no Disney animated film has yet come close to matching Frozen, but the film immediately afterward was always going to have an extraordinarily raw deal.

Enter Big Hero 6, a film that a former colleague of mine didn’t see because they hadn’t seen the first five – I wish I was kidding. I guess that was a by product of this being one of many Marvel adaptations being released and some people didn’t want to jump into a franchise. Guess the advertising team missed a trick by not making sure it was understood that this was a standalone film.

Big Hero 6 is a pretty unique film in the Disney canon in a number of ways. For one thing, it’s the only one in the superhero genre with the premise of the latter half of the film being the setting up of a hero team using the top robotics students at a nearby university. In this way, it is also one of the few films where intelligence (and I mean scientific and genius level of intelligence) is lauded and doesn’t always come with the backhand of being some sort of eccentric (yes Meet the Robinsons I am looking at you).

You also have the first time where a Disney film has had the main character have to spend the whole movie dealing with the death of a loved one – with The Lion King using it as a tipping point for the second half. In most other films, the death happens and there is a passage of time so most of the healing happens off-screen. In this film, however, we see Hiro having to deal with and eventually overcomes the pain of losing his brother in a fire. His motivations become all centred around this death and they ultimate climax shows how healing has truly begun.

Considering the amount of death in Disney films of loved ones, It’s actually shocking that it took over 70 years before they made a film that a child, who has been through a similar loss, could watch and then have a kinship with. This alone makes Big Hero 6 a special film in the canon that shouldn’t be overlooked. That and it’s an excellent film in its own right with the cutest inflatable deuteragonist of all time.

Okay so it’s going to be a while before I get to the next Disney film in the list, but was really neat to do this film now as it ensures that I’ll be able to watch Frozen 2 in the cinema and still maintain chronological order. Next up is Zootopia, or Zootropolis depending on your region, which is my favourite Disney movie of this era. I can’t wait to get to that once I am back in the UK.

📽️ Disney Time – Frozen

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 53/58Title: Frozen
Year: 2013

This is the fourth time that I have seen Frozen, but the first time for about 3-4 years. Since then, the massive cultural storm has died down and I feel like I am finally able to watch it without any of the surrounding noise. Surprisingly enough, this watch may be the most I have enjoyed the film and I am wondering if the lack of cultural pressure could be why.

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first – the ‘Let It Go’ sequence is one of the best three minutes that were on the big screen in 2013. Idina Menzel’s vocal performance is out of this world, the staging on the snowy mountain top and (in context) it is such an emotional high. The whole thing really was just a lightning in a bottle case where everything just worked and, as the song was such an empowerment anthem, quickly spread through the zeitgeist. It doesn’t move me in the same was as Tangled’s ‘I Saw The Light’, but it’s damned impressive.

Outside these three minutes, the time that you spend in the Frozen world really flies by. Like with Tangled, it really feels like they have finally rediscovered the groove that means they’re able to move the story on at a great pace whilst also doing a lot of good character development for the majority of main characters.

Now, there is one notable exception of this and that is Hans, the prince who ends up being one of the villains and whose personality seems to turn on a time. There is literally no way you can see this coming, but given how this film subverted expectations by having the ‘act of true love’ being about sisters and lovers I think it’s a bold choice. In older Disney films, like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, a marriage happens just after where both the female protagonist and the audience have an incredibly limited understanding of the potential groom. So, really, it makes a really interesting cautionary tale about moving too quickly before getting to know someone.

What I think I love most about this film is that, for a musical, Frozen is really written like a musical. With a main cast who originally shot to fame on Broadway (except for Kristen Bell whose singing talents I would have never guessed at during my watch of Veronica Mars) the performances are all incredible and they’ve made a soundtrack with proper reprises and interlude songs that make references to prior songs – just as you would have in a Broadway musical. In terms of voice-acting, you have to give props to Josh Gad in his role of Olaf the Snowman – in lesser hands this could have been one of the irritating Disney sidekicks, but his timing and his sincerity really elevates him to one of the greater non-human supporting characters.

So, did this film need a sequel? By the time this post goes up I will have seen Frozen 2 in the cinema and have a post going up at some point in May. Based on how I feel right now having recently seen Frozen I have a lot of reservations about doing this. The teaser trailers are looking beautiful, which means I’m hopeful, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

My post will be the next Disney film – the underappreciated Big Hero 6. It’s going to be the first time since starting this particular challenge that I will not be watching the film in the comfort of my own home. Instead, the gods of coincidence have smiled on me and have decreed that the next film will be featured in the in-flight entertainment on my flight to Seoul. Exciting times!

📽️ Disney Time – Wreck-It Ralph

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 52/58Title: Wreck-It Ralph
Year: 2012

Over the course of watching the Disney Animated Canon there is a question that kept on coming into my head: what makes a Disney movie? Given that this is a studio rather than a single director or group of directors, this isn’t an easy question to answer because the answer keeps changing throughout their history. With John Lasseter at the helm of the studio and Rich Moore handling the script, Wreck-It Ralph may be the first time that a main Disney animated release felt out of place with its immediate surroundings – and that worked in its favour.

Let’s not mince words, Wreck-It Ralph feels like what you get when you cross the geekiness of Futurama with the motion picture making of Pixar. This is a compliment given how I watched some of my Futurama DVDs so much that they broke. The extreme attention to detail, the number of background references and the winking reverence to the world of video games set this apart from pretty much anything Disney ever made and was the reason that I got drawn fully back into their world after a few years dipping my toe in here and there.

They also managed to do the impossible, make a great video game movie. Sure, this isn’t a real video game, but I think that it should count given that the background characters are pretty much all from different games from Street Fighter to Sonic the Hedgehog it counts. I mean, the main character is essentially a plaid-wearing Donkey Kong after all. It’s also worth noting how, in order to make this work as a video game movie, they really play with the level and style of graphics, which means that the more recent games are more realistic looking than those meant to be from the 1980s.

I also think I would be remiss if I didn’t single out the performances of Alan Tudyk and Sarah Silverman. Tudyk’s candy king is like Alice in Wonderland‘s Mad Hatter played with a malevolent streak and Silverman… the break in her voice as she screams when Ralph smashes her car has brought tears to my eyes every time that I’ve seen that scene. You also have Jane Lynch and Jack McBrayer playing pretty much the same character that we’ve seen from them many times before, but that’s not a bad thing and explains why they’re able to just deliver when needed.

Next on the list is the big one. The film that launched a thousand memes and became such a huge cultural tour de force that it became a bit much to deal with. That’s right, it’ll be time to ‘Let It Go’ as I re-watch Frozen a few months ahead of the sequel’s release in the cinema.

📽️ Disney Time – Winnie the Pooh

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 51/58Title: Winnie the Pooh
Year: 2011

Before the 2010s, the only Disney animated sequels released in the cinema were The Rescuers Down Under and Fantasia 2000. Beginning with the 2011 release of Winnie the Pooh, Disney would end up releasing a further three sequels – two of which to films I have yet to cover for this blog. It marks a bit of a change in tactic for their releases, but something tells me I’ll be more cynical on this point after seeing Frozen 2.

With the first Winnie the Pooh film they adapted some stories from A.A. Milne’s original book and gave it a bit of a meta-twist by having the characters be aware of the narrator and being able to use the letters in the book as platforms to walk on or (in the case of Tigger in the final story) a slide after he became stuck in a tree. In this 2011 release, they instead used his works as inspiration for three stories told within 63 minutes (which also makes this the shortest of all the Disney animated theatrical features).

Instead of just making a sequel to the 1977 filmWinnie the Pooh finds a way to recapture the feeling of the older feel whilst updating some of the humour and the interactions to make it more modern. In terms of characters and the interactions, nothing much has changed in the 34 years with two interesting exceptions:

  • Rabbit has become a bit less fussy and is now able to more freely take part in the silliness
  • Eeyore is far more integrated with the central group, with them making more effort to keep him included when showing his more depressive symptoms.

These changes never feel like a true deviation from the character, but a slight tweak to make them more relatable and, in the case of Eeyore, continue to promote the positive message of still including your friends even if they have depressive episodes.

As I mentioned in previous posts, Winnie the Pooh has the sad distinction of being the final entry in the Disney Animated Canon to have been animated using traditional hand-drawn methods. I, for one, am so glad they was never an option for this as a digital Pooh and Piglet would have taken away from the magic of this film and would have made it feel (more so) like a cash in of one of Disney’s most popular franchises.

In the end though, Winnie the Pooh is a darling film and of those that you can turn to when you need a pick-me-up but only have an hour. It’s like that warm hug with a twee soundtrack and friends from childhood that you never really knew you needed but are happy to have. Kinda makes it a complete contrast to the lights and blinking sounds of the next film on the list: Wreck-It Ralph.

📽️ Disney Time – Tangled

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 50/58Title: Tangled
Year: 2010

You know that moment when you are part way through a film you’ve seen before and you have a startling realisation that you are loving it a lot more than you remember? Well, that happened pretty early on to me in Tangled and it just never let up.

This is the first time since the mid-to-late Disney Renaissance where they produced an animated feature that felt like it had little-to-no filler. Also one where all the songs served a purpose other than to kill time – something that really began to bug me in The Princess and the Frog and I try and pick up on when I get around to Frozen.

I think one of the key factors in Tangled‘s success is that there is really only three main characters you need to keep track of: Rapunzel, Flynn and Mother Gothel. This means that not only do they get the time to properly explore the characters and give them some interesting nuances, but it also means that it doesn’t feel like you are having to stay up to date with an ever-increasing roster of eccentrics.

There is plenty that could be said about these characters, but to keep it brief here are the things I find most striking. Firstly, Flynn is gorgeous. Like, if I saw this as someone just entering puberty I can imagine him being one of the defining crushing of my adolescence. I’ll end it there before it sounds like I have a fetish.

Then there is Mother Gothel, who I loved as the villain because she’s just so complex. She plays like any parent that you could read about on the Raised By Narcissists subreddit. Her use of love and psychology as a weapon with no help from money, magic or status is astounding and the fact that she genuinely doesn’t see herself as the bad guy make her a different kind of scary. Her reliance on Rapunzel as a source of youth formed this toxic co-dependant relationship where, whilst malevolent in nature, is weirdly understandable. In the end, if Mother Gothel is unable to secure Rapunzel (or at least stop her hair from being irreparable damaged), then she will die – and she knows it. People have done worse for less.

On a different note, the improvement in the quality of animation between Tangled and Bolt is startling. This is the point in the Disney CGI feature animation where it feels like they have finally hit on the style and the technology that is going to keep working for them for the next decade. We’ll see them go more cartoony again in future films (like for Wreck-It-Ralph), but you cannot deny just how beautiful the worlds Disney’s computer animation can generate and that has blossomed here in Tangled.

Then there is the whole ‘I See The Light’ sequence. The song itself is a lovely duet about two people realizing, at the same time, that they have fallen for one another. That alone is sweet, but this pales in comparison to the stunning visuals of the moonlight lantern festival that accompany it. It really ties together a lot of the films emotional threads (including the king and queens lingering sense of loss) and makes for one of Disneys greatest sequences. Not going to lie, I was in tears.

Truly, when I end up finishing this Disney list off and I do a final ranking (because, of course, I’m going to end up making one) I would not be surprised if this broke the top ten. Only Zootopia still to come might be better, but I still have a month or so until I see which I prefer. Before then, I will be watching the shortest entry in the canon: the 2011 version of Winnie the Pooh.