GETTING RESCUED NOT ONCE, BUT TWICE
Posted on Aug 17 2012 by Greg
A substantial number of Disney animated feature debut on Blu-ray this Tuesday. One release, perhaps more than any other, stands as a crossroads between "old school" and "next generation" Disney animation: The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under
When The Rescuers
premiered in 1977, it was very well received but the public and the press, though things behind the scenes were getting tumultuous.
Based on Margery Sharp's book, The Rescuers
follow two mice who rescue humans on behalf of their Rescue Aid Society (a group that co-exists behind the walls of the United Nations building). Eva Gabor
voices the lovely Bianca and Bob Newhart
There's wonderful casting all the way around, harkening back to an era when Disney did enlist celebrities for the lead characters (who promoted the film on The Merv Griffin Show
) and allow character actors and voice actors to round out the casts. Disney was still the name above the title and the studio had neither the budget nor the inclination to cast the multi-million-dollar variety of superstar often heard today in theatrical animation.
Times were simpler then, perhaps, and so is the film, which follows a very linear storyline as the mice board an albatross (voiced by longtime radio star Jim Jordan
of Fibber McGee and Molly
) and head for the bayou to rescue a little girl from Madame Medusa (the flamboyant Geraldine Page
in her second Disney film) and her flunky Snoops (a caricature of Disney historian John Culhane
voiced by Disney comedy veteran Joe Flynn
in his only animated Disney role).
Not a musical, the film does have atmospheric songs performed offscreen by Shelby Flint
, who hit the pop charts with "Angel on My Shoulder" and had become a very busy vocalist for TV shows, commercials and animation (Snoopy Come Home
, Rankin/Bass' Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July
, NBC's The Borrowers
). An Oscar nomination for Best Song went to "Someone's Waiting for You." (Robie Lester fans take note: she is the singing voice of Bianca.)
But at the Disney studio, animators were becoming divided about artistic direction and Don Bluth
was not pleased with what he saw as shortcuts on The Rescuers
. Within a few years of this film, he would lead an artist walk out that impacted the next feature, The Fox and the Hound
, the last feature to combine the talents of new and veteran animators.
You can also see this blend in The Rescuers
-- masterful work by artists who worked with Walt and those that they mentored. Of course, the animation of Medusa is astounding, its roughness and energy captured in the sketchy, "scritchy" look of the xerox cel process. This a look didn't always suit the films in which it was used, but it works well here.
The Disney studio had never produced a sequel to any of its animated features before The Rescuers Down Under
, but much had changed by 1990, including a new management team and transformations in corporate philosophies. But unlike some of the direct-to-video features that would emerge, this film boasts superior production values that actually exceed that of its predecessor.
Some of that sheen is due to rapid advances in computer technology, making specific settings, effects and animated objects more accessible. The CAPS system was perhaps the biggest develop to debut in The Rescuers Down Under
. This eliminated the need for inked and painted animation cels -- the artwork went directly into the system for outline and color. Because of this, there is no breakdown in image quality (which could happen with layer upon layer of cels). Eva Gabor
and Bob Newhart
are back as Bernard and Bianca, this time flown by a different albatross. Jim Jordan
had passed away, so John Candy's
voice added not only contemporary celebrity, but also a broader comedy potential and therefore appears in much more of the film as comic relief.
The biggest difference is that the villain is, this time around, not played at all for laughs, but completely evil and disturbingly unbalanced, brilliantly voiced by George C. Scott
There are no songs at all in this sequel, though "Rescue Aid Society" is part of the underscore. Bruce Brougton's
score is excellent -- and the recurring theme heard in his music is also used for the dancing fountain at the Epcot
"PLANET" CERTAINLY IS A TRAY-ZURE, ESPECIALLY IN BLU-RAY
Posted on Jul 16 2012 by Greg
Hopefully someday, when they make a sequel to the excellent documentary to Waking Sleeping Beauty
maybe?), we'll see how Treasure Planet figured into the behind-the-scenes nachinations of the post-Katzenberg Disney animation division. One can't help but wonder whether Treasure Planet fell victim to some of these politics, or, as perhsps it was with John Carter, the public just didn't want a scifi/space version of Treasure Island.
The film itself is jaw-droppingly impressive. Few films from any studio have blended cel animation with CG as perfectly, created such vivid, vulnerable characters and such breathtaking, detailed panoramas. Seeing it on the new Blu-ray
is almost like seeing it for the first time, unless perhaps you saw it in IMAX. Every line and every miniscule object or person in the distance can be seen in razor sharp clarity.
Maybe the visual scope and tech detail overwhelms the characters and the narrative, as some suggested was the case with Sleeping Beauty. However, there's some superb acting here, including the now-A lister Joseph-Gordon Levitt as Jim Hawkins, Brian Murray as Silver, Martin Short as BEN, Emma Thompson as Captain Amelia and the always dependable David Hyde-Pierce as Doppler (a character that suggests those Duckburg "dog people" from vintage Disney comics).
The generous bonus features, pretty much the same ones from the earlier DVD release, are very copious. Instead of an audio commentary, there is a vast "Visual Commentary" that starts and stops the film with supplemental information, stretching the experience out well over two hours. A feast for animation fans.
My son loved this movie when he was seven and he loves it today. It was an attempt to grab the non-Princess audience for Disney features, and while it would never attract the "Hot Tub Time Machine" older males, it's great stuff for younger kids.
Be sure to show your kids Walt Disney's original Treasure Island to compare and contrast the storyline. The relationship between Silver and Hawkins is more from Walt and less from Stevenson. And hey, reading the classic book is nice, too!
COULD THREE COWS SAVE THE FARM...AND CEL ANIMATION?
Posted on Jul 13 2012 by Greg
When Home on the Range
was first released, for some reason the fate of 2-D or "traditional" animation was resting on it, as Disney was still in a tempestuous internal swirl and did not yet own, nor at the time have hope to stay attached to, the formidable Pixar -- who to this day, have had an unbroken string of films with strong, and usually gigantically successful openings.
It seems odd now to pin such hopes on such an unpretentious film, one that revels in its non-CG-ness and harkens back to the sunny Disney vistas of Pecos Bill
, Paul Bunyan
and the lesser-known Saga of Windwagon Smith
The performance of Home on the Range
at the box office is less a refection of its quality than simply that there wasn't much of an audience for cartoon westerns starring cows in 2004. When you strip away its history and look at the film on its own (and many will today when they watch the new Blu-ray/DVD
), you have a highly entertaining romp with fun characters, a loose story, some magnificent artwork and top animation.
Most of all, there some really fine songs, especially "Little Patch of Heaven" and the haunting "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again" (the latter been inspired in part, according to composer Alan Menken
, by the despair following 911).
While the leading cast received much attention, one of the nicest things about Home on the Range
is that it also employed such talented actors as SCTV's Joe Flaherty
as Jeb, the goat, and, in particular, Carole Cook
as Pearl. Cook was a close friend and protegé of Lucille Ball
and played Bessie in the beloved film, The Incredible Mr. Limpet
Watching and listening to the generous bonus features, it is evident that a great deal of skill and creativity goes into a film like this, so it cannot be dismissed as mere fluff, though it certainly does not leave you with the same glow as Beauty and the Beast
. Nor it is intended to do so.
The most comical thing in retrospect turns out to be that a lighthearted animated movie about cows could be held up as the deciding factor in the future of cel animation. Of course, it didn't happen that way, and there have been other traditional features since, including last year's well-received and exquisite Winnie the Pooh
WALT DISNEY CLASSIC "SUMMER MAGIC" HITS THE MUSICAL STAGE
Blog, News and Events, Movies, Parks
Posted on Jun 20 2012 by Greg
If you're a fan of the beloved 1963 Hayley Mills / Burl ives movie -- and happen to be in the Morristown, Tennessee area this weekend (it's an hour's drive north of Knoxville) -- you might get to experience the world's first musical stage adaptation of Walt Disney's Summer Magic: Flittering from Film to Footlights.
The original 1963 Summer Magic was a warm family comedy/drama highlighted by songs by Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The show's creators, Jerry Maloy and Jim Hollifield, adapted it into a full musical by expanding the original score of seven tunes (including the worldwide favorite, "Ugly Bug Ball") to 24 songs, including selections from the Sherman classics, The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band.
But here's the thing: after this weekend it may disappear forever! Disney Theatrical Group has granted permission to produce Summer Magic as a nonprofit, limited staging in cooperation with the Newport Theatre Guild and the Morristown Theatre Guild. So these may be the only performances.
Special events are also part of the excitement. This Friday, June 22 at 7 p.m. the Summer Magic performance will be preceded by a special panel hosted by Stacia Martin. Friday's special guests will be Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman and film star Eddie Hodges, sharing behind-the-scenes memories. Richard's lovely wife, Elizabeth, Disney Legend Mary Costa (voice of Princess Aurora), Disney author/artist Russell Schroeder and Disney author/vice president Howard E. Green are also scheduled to attend on Friday evening.
Saturday, June 23 at 7 p.m., Richard Sherman will kick off the evening with a lively Q&A session, followed by the live show.
Starring in all three weekend performances, (including a Sunday 2:30 p.m. matinee) will be Kathy Garver (Cissy of TV's Family Affair) on stage in the role of Mother Carey!
Walt Disney's Summer Magic: Flittering from Film to Footlights will appear at the Morristown campus of Walters State Community College. For ticket information, call 423-586-9260 or visit morristowntheatreguild.com.
JOHN CARTER...WAS IT REALLY A MISFIRE? YOU BE THE JUDGE
Posted on Jun 19 2012 by Greg
By now most everyone knows that Disney's John Carter
, after a long history of on-again, off again adaptation to the big screen that spans almost as many years as the stories themselves, was pummeled at the box office. However, as some correctly predicted, it was a big hit overseas -- and premiered at #1 on Blu-ray and DVD last week
One must wonder how many formed their opinions about the film based on the widely reported lack of ticket sales. There has been lots of finger pointing for the losses, but perhaps the fault wasn't the film so much as with the timing. Did theater audiences want
another scifi-fantasy epic franchise? Who knows?John Carter
is not a perfect film, but it is very far from a catastrophe. Visually, the stunning imagery, especially on Blu-ray, cannot be denied. The years of work and the big budget shows on screen. Meticulous details abound that make the film very rewatchable. I was struck by the clear glass in the air ships -- it was uneven, as if the glass was hand-made. The look combined high tech with the 19th century (which did remind my wife of Treasure Planet
, another very good Disney feature that fizzled in theaters).
The film's shortcomings are so well-documented, you don't need me to recount them. On the positive side, there is some humor, especially the "Virginia" running gag. One of the best characters in the film is James Purefoy
as Kantos Kan (yes, it's hard to keep track of the names and I had to look it up), who amusingly forces his own capture in a climactic battle scene.
The toughest roles are the leads, and Taylor Kitsch
fares no better than the more well-known Jake Gyllenhaal
in Prince of Persia
. Neither actor can be held totally responsible when they're shouldering such a massive movie. The princess role, which proved problematic to the filmmakers, who had trouble reconciling her 100-year old persona with contemporary expectations, is handled with deft skill by Lynn Collins
The film has some great shape-shifting villains offering lots of potential for future adaptations. There is also a fascinating parallel narrative centering on Edgar Rice Burroughs
as a character in the 19th century, learning the secrets of Carter as he unknowingly dodges the bad guys (I would have liked to have seen more of this story thread).
The point is, John Carter
is a rousing spectacle that is a must-see for action, scifi, fantasy and adventure movies in the Spielberg/Lucas style. Whether we'll ever see more of this world, in perhaps an animated TV version, is certainly unlikely from where the property stands today.
But the same could have been said for Tron
. Just by reading the many amazon reviews, ta lot of passionate fans are already championing the movie. Maybe more time will tell...
<< Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Next >>
BACK TO BLOG HOME