Saturday, January 28, 2012

D52 - Week 4 - Dumbo

Kevin's bit
Dumbo is one of those cartoons that I have a fondness for simply because I remember enjoying it as a youngin'. I don't remember exactly what I liked about it at the time. I suspect I was partial  because I was at that age where I rejected anything that might seem "girly," and Pinocchio and Dumbo were a couple of Disney movies that could be "boy" movies.
But does it really hold up to watch it as a grown-up?
One thing I like about it: it's short. After Fantasia, which passes the two-hour mark and especially thinking of certain newer blockbusters that near or even break three hours (I'm looking at you, Avatar), it's satisfying to watch an about-an-hour motion picture. Granted it's another full-length film that feels and plays like a short, but at least enough happens to justify it being longer than ten minutes. It is a bit jarring how rushed the wrap-up at the very end is, though.
Dumbo himself is an interesting titular character, in that not only does he not have any speaking lines at all, but he...doesn't really do anything himself to progress his own adventure. He pretty much does what everyone else leads him to do, without really making any decisions of his own. You care about him simply because he's a cute baby animal: would you have any reason to like him if he wasn't? Timothy is a more interesting character. I'm beginning to think it should've been about him.
As freaky and insane as the Pink Elephants on Parade sequence is, you've gotta admit: it sure ain't boring!
On the other hand, Dumbo's mother being confined in that dark trailer is one of the saddest Disney moments ever, trumping even a lot of death scenes.
 Favorite character: Timothy, especially when he first wakes up after his hangover,
Least necessary character: Freaky elephant body made up of elephant heads.
Overall: Though I happen to like it, I would find it hard to recommend it highly in general.

-Was Timothy an actual part of the circus show or does he just wear the little ringmaster costume on his own accord?
-Timothy gets indignant at the crows for making fun of Dumbo, but weren't they really making fun of Timothy for suggesting the notion of Dumbo being able to fly?

Amanda's bit

When I buy or borrow a DVD or other digital copy of a movie, I'm often as or more enthralled by the extra material.  I'm very interested in what the creators thought of their own work and what contemporary peers, colleagues, and historians have to say about it.

With Dumbo, I was downright shocked at how many people thought that this was the very best movie made during that era or at all.  Really?  I generally don't like to be negative, and I'm certainly not saying Dumbo was a bad movie, but the best?  The story was precious and original.  The music was catchy and clever.  The animation was as technically pristine as one would come to expect from the Disney studio.  Yet, after all of that, I can't bring myself to see the "masterpiece" claim that everyone in the commentaries and featurettes kept praising.

Favorite character: The lead Crow.  While folks currently claim that it's a racist portrayal, it's still a positive portrayal.  The crows as a group were like a jazz band egging each other on and the head Crow (did any of them even have names?) while having a bit of fun, did offer the best solution to the plot.
Least favorite character: Yeah, Elephant head thing was gross but for the sake of choosing someone else, I thought the ring leader was ridiculous.  Did he never allow any of his acts to rehearse?
Overall:  It's entertaining as well as a little bit horrifying at moments.   I'd rather watch this movie than 90's sitcom reruns.  You can make of that what you will.
-One bottle of booze in a barrel full of water would be awfully diluted.  I can see Timothy getting drunk, but surely Jumbo Jr. had a big enough liver to hold his bubbly.
-I'm surprised at how many people know Timothy Q. Mouse's name considering the only time it was mentioned in the film was on a signed contract upside-down in cursive for a few moments on the cover of a magazine.

Amanda's creation:  We all need our own magic feather to help us believe in ourselves.  Mine is in the form of a funny yarn feather pen.  If you want to make your own, all you need is a bunch of lengths of yarn, a pen, and some spray adhesive.  Use spray adhesive on the pen working in small sections. Fold the lengths of yarn in half and catch the sticky pen in the loop.  Alternate the direction of the loop so that both ends of the feather are fairly even.  Trim the yarn ends into a feather shape and write with something fabulous.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

D52 - Week 3 - Fantasia

Kevin's bit

Is Fantasia a movie, or is it a collection of musical shorts? But is there any reason why a collection of shorts can't be called a movie? Either way I'm not sure how to review Fantasia as a whole. I quite like the Dance of the Hours segment and The Sorcerer's Apprentice. They're all nice to watch and the music's excellent (though I suspect this is one of the movies were having some sort of high-end sound set-up would've made a difference), but...without one cohesive story I just don't have much else to say about it as a whole. I would recommend it to fans of animation and/or music, but I'm not sure whether it holds up as a family film. At least, since there isn't an important dialogue, you don't feel as bad for talking over it.
Favorite character: Demure hippo
Least necessary character: Why does the narrator explain what's going to happen in a segment before each one? Couldn't the job of introducing the composer and title of each musical piece have been done by a title card?

Amanda's bit

I really enjoy music and I very much enjoy Disney animation and together they are wonderful. On the other hand, part of what makes Disney's music so special is how much it adds to the story and with Fantasia, there is no story. The segments where the story is clear as Kevin mentioned above are the most entertaining bits and the sections without a story are very pretty but much less memorable.

Interestingly, as a fan of live classical musical performance something I noticed is that I didn't feel rude talking during the performance. At a live performance, I feel more engaged and because the performers are in the room with you, it's easier to lose yourself in the music. In your own home there is so much more distraction and possibly a less rich sound. I think this would have been an interesting production to see in a theater.

Favorite character: The soundtrack
Least favorite character: I have to agree with Kevin that a title card could easily have replaced announcer guy.
Overall: It's worth watching if you don't have to keep a young one in the seat and if you have a card game going at the same time.

Amanda's Extra: This movie was exclusively about music so it seemed only right to make a case for a digital player! This one features "the soundtrack" demonstrating his violin sound.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

D52 - Week 2 - Pinocchio

Kevin's bit

Whereas Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a very simple plot stretched and padded to the length of a movie, Pinocchio is a movie made up of four small episode-length plots. But I do think it's more engaging and funnier. For one, I like the bit where Jiminy Cricket warms his...self. Who says a butt joke has to be crude? I wonder if it was considered so back then? It turns out there are a couple of other butt jokes throughout too. Somewhat fitting for a movie whose third episode is about asses.
The first "episode" is charming and funny. Figaro's great to watch. I do tend to prefer a silent comic relief cartoon animal over a talking one. The second and third episodes...are good enough. The fourth has a short but powerful scene with enough tension to make up for the, well, lack of tension in Snow White. I've seen plenty of stuck-inside-of-a-whale scenes, but this might be my favorite.
I suppose what I didn't like were any of these attempts to teach children lessons. I don't like when people give children an imaginary reason for why they shouldn't do something - in this case, "Don't tell lies or your nose will grow" or "Don't misbehave or you'll turn into a donkey." Why scare children with untrue threats that they possibly don't really believe anyway? Just teach kids not to, say, destroy other people's property because they wouldn't like it if someone did the same to them! That's really my only beef with this movie.

-When Honest John first walks past Pinocchio, he does a double-take and is amazed at seeing a walking, talking wooden boy. It makes me wonder how the people of the village react when they first see Honest John and Gideon. Do they go, "AAGH! A giant fox and cat wearing clothes! And one of them is talking!!" I like to think that the two used to be human, but like the Pleasure Island boys they too were transformed into animals connected to their behavioral setbacks.
-Is Geppetto aware of Jiminy Cricket? I don't remember them every interacting with each other, but if Jiminy took it upon himself to introduce himself to The Blue Fairy and Pinocchio, you would think he would do the same with Geppetto. Like, "Hey, I'll help take care of your boy for you?" Maybe he did, and that's why Geppetto didn't bother to walk with Pinocchio to school?

In lieu of the favorite character/least favorite character...
Slightly old versus much, much older: I won't go on about every version of Pinocchio that's ever been set to moving images, but I just have to mention the other Disney version. I remember seeing the made-for-TV musical starring Drew Carey, Geppetto, a while back. As the title suggests, it's mostly told from Geppetto's point of view's, um, not nearly as enjoyable or finely crafted as Pinocchio. Though it features songs written by Stephen Schwartz (who would go on to write for a little ol' musical called Wicked), you just can't compete with "When You Wish Upon a Star," can you?

Overall: Though it gets a bit slow at times, I might end up listing this as one of my favorites, or at least one that I should rewatch more often. Watch it with your kid(s), and maybe afterward explain that smokers should fear emphysema much more than the prospect of growing donkey ears.

Amanda's bit

Pinocchio is most certainly a masterwork. From a story point of view, I would have loved to seen a television series especially since there were so many more stories that could have been adapted from the original source. From an animation standpoint, more stops have been invented and subsequently pulled out! The transparent and glowing blue fairy, the multiplane camera, the numerous effects shots are all as beautiful now as they were then. From a musical standpoint, the score has so many perfectly timed music cues and the songs cover so many styles and still include humor and story points.

I have to disagree with Kevin about the morality of the stories. I think it's pretty clear that the things that happen to Pinocchio would never happen to real little children, but that doesn't negate the lesson. The lesson is not to fear an actual huge nose, but to understand that a lie grows and becomes obvious and there's no point to starting it in the first place. Children may not turn into actual donkeys but they can "act like jackasses." This makes the movie an excellent jumping point for parents to talk with children about what is naughty and what is good without being too pushy. I for one approve and in any case, the movie is entertaining and that's the thing I care about most when it comes to cinema.

Tidbits: If you get the chance, be sure to find the release with the most DVD or Bluray extras. The folks at Disney really have a lot to say about this one and it's all incredibly interesting!

Favorite character: By a wide margin, Jiminy Cricket. He's absolutely charming from beginning to end. It's no wonder he makes such an excellent host for so many Disney theme park attractions!

Least favorite character: I have to go with Monstro with this one for the sheer fact that he's genuinely frightening. He's quite well animated and it's clear how dangerous he is and it's a testament to the storymen and animators, but he's just too scary for me!

Overall: I laughed a lot more than I expected to since it's been a while since I've seen this movie. If you're still a child at heart I think this movie gets better as we get older.

Amanda's Extra: Do you love my little whale? He's way less scary than Monstro was! I shall call him "Ministro."

Friday, January 6, 2012

D52 - Week 1 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Kevin's bit

Review: I predict that, throughout this blog project, I'll have more to say about the more obscure movies that everyone's forgotten about than I will about the cherished classics - just because there's not much to say about the latter that film historians haven't already said. But, since the whole point of this is to offer my opinions...
After watching it (I've seen most of it in pieces at a time but I don't think I had before sat through it from beginning to end), I don't really think of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a movie - it's really more of a movie-length short, if that makes sense. I feel bad for knocking it, since, animation-wise, it was very superbly crafted. But story-wise, it does show that this was the first animated feature. A lot of it is padded with scenes that, while fun to watch, don't have a storytelling purpose. On the DVD is a deleted soup-eating scene, and it's explained that Walt cut it out because he felt it would slow the movie down. Really? And the washing-up scene didn't? To be fair, though, it seemed most movies in general at the time were still working out pacing and such. And being padded with songs and sight gags doesn't make it a bad movie at all. It's just a noticeable change of style if you get used to seeing Disney movies in which every single scene has a story reason.


  1. The evil Queen has that Dr. Evil-esque complex in which she chooses to get rid of Snow White in a convoluted manner rather than just, say, stabbing her directly in person.
  2. When Snow White marries Prince Charming, that means she has to change her name to Snow Charming. Well, maybe "Princess Charming" will have to do.
  3. Consistent with animated shorts of the time, almost all of the humor is visual. The only verbal jokes I spotted were Doc's spooneristic fumbles.
Favorite character: That turtle!
Most unnecessary character: Happy may be happy, but he has the least interesting characteristic. Also, I don't remember him doing anything noteworthy or even having any funny moments.
Overall: Don't watch any animated movie without watching this one too.

Amanda's bit

I have to agree with Kevin that it doesn't seem similar to movies nowadays wherein the plots are thick as Texas Toast. It doesn't make the cartoon less enjoyable but it's very funny to me to notice that the greatest amount of plot movement was during the non-scenes which were just storybook reading.

Did you know that each image of Snow White was rouged on the front side of the cell so that her makeup appeared more realistic? I can't even put makeup on myself. I cant imagine doing it on tiny drawings hundreds of thousands of times.
Favorite character: I agree with Kevin! That turtle was so darn cute and had some of the best sight gags!
Unnecessary character: Is it wrong to say Prince Charming? He had 3 minutes of screen time and 3 lines of dialogue. And even more... (keep reading).
Tidbit 2: In the original Snow White story the the witch tried numerous ways to kill Snow White including suffocation via corset strings, topical poison, and finally the apple. In the original story, the apple piece was dislodged by the Prince's servants jostling the coffin, and in another version, the dwarfs dislodged the piece the same way. Thus, Prince Charming could have been eliminated from the story altogether. The dwarfs could have saved her and the lesson could instead have been that it's not naive first love that saves a person but a strong commitment from friends or family that makes a life most wholesome. That could have been very uplifting as well.

Overall: I was entertained and if you get the chance to watch it (or watch it again), you should! It's fluffy, but cute and I go for that.

Amanda's Craft
I thought I'd add a nice little craft project to add some visual interest to the project. Behold! Representing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I give you The Apple. Whether it's poisoned or not will remain a mystery.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cleaning House

Many Americans are familiar with the idea of Spring Cleaning. Spring is a time for new growth and new ideas and fresh activity. However, New Year's is a time for resolution and it is my opinion that Spring Cleaning ought to have a New Year's sister cleaning as well.

While it's true that in the northern hemisphere, it's an inconvenient time to have a garage sale, it still is a convenient time to set up for a garage sale. Search out the tchotchkes and have them ready when the last flake finally melts.

For me, it's less about getting rid of junk (we live in a very small apartment after all so efficiency is the name of the game) but about finishing what we started and reorganizing what we have.

Among my 2012 goals is the resolution to finish or frog all my UnFinished Objects and Works In Progress. To start this, I really do need to figure out what they are, where they are, and where I stopped. Here's one:

I just started this project a few days ago. I'm quite positive I can finish this shawlette this month as it's going faster than I could have hoped for. I'm really thrilled to be working with this yarn from BlackSheep Dyeworks. It's amazingly soft, but it has so much stitch definition (clearly not evidenced by my whack photography skills) and I have yet to split the yarn even once. The pattern is Pleiades and is quite well written so far.

Now let's move on to, oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. This was supposed to be finished back in 2010. Can you really blame me though? Look at all those ends! It's a nightmare! What was I thinking? I hate weaving in ends and seaming. This one will be a chore, but even though the little girl is a little bit bigger, I still think it's large enough and will eventually be nice enough that she'll still get some joy from it.
And this? I don't even know WHAT it was originally supposed to be! It's pointy at one end, and it's clearly some sort of stuffed item. A mouse's head? A rotten turnip? An armadillo? I don't think it was originally supposed to be an acorn, but I think the shape and color fits, so that's what I intend to finish it into.
What other sad lonely little projects will I find while tidying up?

Monday, January 2, 2012

D52 -52 Animated Disney films in 52 weeks ( An Introductory Post)

This year, Disney will release its 52nd full-length theatrical animated feature*.

Going by the "official" list of full-length theatrical animated features produced by (not just released by) Disney* - my fiancee and I will watch each movie, in chronological order, one week at a time. Why? For fun and novelty, of course!
Will we be watching other movies during the year? Yes.
Will we watch one in a different week as well as in its "intended" week? Well, there is some interest in that Beauty & the Beast 3D re-release...
Will we be watching each one on the same day of each week? Not necessarily, since changing schedules would make that tricky.

Amanda and I will do our level best to blog each week. Most of these movies we've already seen together. Some I have not. But I'm pretty sure Amanda's seen all of them (correct me if I'm wrong). Many we're looking forward to seeing again (spring and summer look pretty good). Others, ehh...not so much (Gurgi...).
But the fun will be in experiencing 75 years' worth of Disney animation in only one year, watching the style change and grow and evolve, and taking the good with the bad.

If you also want to spread the word about it to any of your Disney fan-friends, that would most certainly be okay with us. And if anyone can/wants to join along and try this year-long experiment-type thing and blog their thoughts as well? The more the merrier!

And now for the best part of this post, the schedule:

(The Week of...) --- (Movie) --- (Original Premiere Year)

JAN 01 --- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs --- 1937
JAN 08 --- Pinocchio --- 1940
JAN 15 --- Fantasia --- 1940
JAN 22 --- Dumbo --- 1941
JAN 29 --- Bambi --- 1942
FEB 05 --- Saludos Amigos --- 1942
FEB 12 --- The Three Caballeros --- 1944
FEB 19 --- Make Mine Music --- 1946
FEB 26 --- Fun and Fancy Free --- 1947 

MAR04 --- Melody Time --- 1948
MAR 11 --- The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad --- 1949
MAR 18 --- Cinderella --- 1950
MAR 25 --- Alice in Wonderland --- 1951
APR 01 --- Peter Pan --- 1953
APR 08 --- Lady and the Tramp --- 1955
APR 15 --- Sleeping Beauty --- 1959
APR 22 --- One Hundred and One Dalmatians --- 1961
APR 29 --- The Sword in the Stone --- 1963
MAY 06 --- The Jungle Book --- 1967
MAY 13 --- The Aristocats --- 1970
MAY 20 --- Robin Hood --- 1973
MAY 27 --- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh --- 1977

JUN 03 --- The Rescuers --- 1977
JUN 10 --- The Fox and the Hound --- 1981
JUN 17 --- The Black Cauldron --- 1985
JUN 24 --- The Great Mouse Detective --- 1986
JUL 01 --- Oliver & Company --- 1988
JUL 08 --- The Little Mermaid --- 1989
JUL 15 --- The Rescuers Down Under --- 1990
JUL 22 --- Beauty & the Beast --- 1991
JUL 29 --- Aladdin --- 1992
AUG 05 --- The Lion King --- 1994
AUG 12 --- Pocahontas --- 1996
AUG 19 --- The Hunchback of Notre Dame --- 1996
AUG 26 --- Hercules --- 1997
SEP 02 --- Mulan --- 1998
SEP 09 --- Tarzan --- 1999
SEP 16 --- Fantasia 2000 --- 1999
SEP 23 --- Dinosaur --- 2000
SEP 30 --- The Emperor's New Groove --- 2000
OCT 07 --- Atlantis: The Lost Empire --- 2001
OCT 14 --- Lilo & Stitch --- 2002
OCT 21 --- Treasure Planet --- 2002
OCT 28 --- Brother Bear --- 2003
NOV 04 --- Home on the Range --- 2004
NOV 11 --- Chicken Little --- 2005
NOV 18 --- Meet the Robinsons --- 2007
NOV 25 --- Bolt --- 2008
DEC 02 --- The Princess & the Frog --- 2009
DEC 09 --- Tangled --- 2010
DEC 16 --- Winnie the Pooh --- 2011
DEC 23 --- Wreck-It Ralph --- (November 2nd) 2012
DEC 30-31 (leftover days)

which as it turns out doesn't include "DisneyToon" releases like the DuckTales movie or A Goofy Movie. I don't know. They weren't included in the Tangled bonus feature showcasing the first 50, so I guess they just don't count.