Monday, February 20, 2012

D52 - Week 8 - Make Mine Music

Kevin's more-than-two-bits:
There's a disclaimer at the beginning of the DVD of Make Mine Music that we watched which mentions that it has been edited for content. It turns out that an entire 7-minute segment called The Martins and the Coys was cut. If one watches Make Mine Music without seeing that short, does it still count as having watched Make Mine Music? How does that work canonically? Having just watched it illegitimately on YouTube...I wasn't missing much. The Wikipedia entry says that it was cut due to comic gunplay, but I imagine the hillbilly stereotypin' and spousal abuse wasn't looked on too well either.
Blue Bayou one-word review: Boring.
All the Cats Join In: Was anyone else disappointed that this didn't feature felines? And when you think of jazz music, what comes to mind? White kids, right? Animation-wise, I've gotta admire it. I'm a sucker for cartoon characters being drawn by and interacting with cartoon pencils (and the erasers of those pencils). It's fun and has a great energy to it (though I guess anything would seem fun and energetic after Blue Bayou). But in terms of humor, it certainly shows how much comic sensibilities can change over many decades. Whereas the sight of a teenage boy dancing with his girl holding her upside-down as if she's a mop might have been funny at the time, now it's just plain baffling.
Without You one-word review: Depressing.
Casey at the Bat one-sentence review: Oh, why can't real life baseball be as fun to watch as cartoon baseball?
Two Silhouettes one-word review: Nice.
Peter and the Wolf: I can't help but wonder if putting this to moving images defeated the purpose of the piece itself. I thought the whole point was to use the sounds of each instrument to visualize the action in your mind? As I watch the cartoon after time I find myself paying more attention to the animation and absent-mindedly ignoring the instrument-character associations. I think I rather prefer experiencing Peter and the Wolf with just my mind's eye. Even if now I find it hard to not imagine them all in that Disney style.
After You've Gone one-word review: Neat!
Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet: Near the end of this short, when (SPOILER ALERT?) scissors are taken to Johnny Fedora to create ear holes, I find myself thinking, "AAH! Doesn't that hurt?!" Then it occurs to me. I'm sympathizing with a cartoon hat. It's weird how I care more about this fedora than any of the human or animal characters in the rest of the feature (yes, even Peter). Maybe it's because it's a non-human-or-animal. For a moment I think, "What if the hats I've worn throughout my life had feelings? Have I mistreated them so badly? I'm so sorry if I have!" Then, again, I realize how incredibly silly that is. Still, the story is charming and the song is great. It's easily, as far as I care anyway, the best reason to watch Make Mine Music. It should've been the very last short of the set, to leave you with that ooey-gooey happy feeling. Instead, there's The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met. It's funny how I remember this one. I'd seen it twice (the second time as recently as last year, I reckon), and I remembered full well that Willie (spoiler alert...) dies at the end, but I thought that he dies after getting to live out his dream career. What a bummer that it only happens through a fantasy sequence. It's not sad just that he dies, but that he dies without ever getting to sing at the met. And how disappointing that there's no follow-through on the set-up of the title itself. Imagine if you watched a movie called, I don't know, The Search For the Golden Orb, but they never actually find the golden orb. Also, another example of the comedic change of the times: Willie's separate vibrating uvulas were possibly funny then. But now... more unsettling. Wouldn't you agree?
Favorite characters: Note to self: Shop for one fedora and one blue bonnet.
Least-necessary character: Oh yes, thank you Mr. Seagull, for leading the harpoon-happy hunter to your "friend" Willie the Whale.
Overall: We're still going through the shorts-collection period, folks. If you can compare Saludos Amigos and The Three Amigos to eating at a couple of ethnic restaurants, Make Mine Music would be more of a potluck. Not everything is great, but the variety is the strong point itself, since you're bound to find something you like in it.

Amanda's bit

I'm a little curious, possibly enough to research it further, as to how the Disney Studio managed to grow during this shortstravaganza period. Is there profit to be had in making short films? Were each of the shorts run separately before features? Were each of the shorts run in rotation on television? In any case, I'm very impressed with the business aspect during this era.

I speculate that the studio is continuing its endeavors to experiment and embrace new technologies as well as find ways for the new to work beside the old, and I respect that a great deal. Beyond Fantasia however, which comes right to the forefront and admits that it is a concert, I feel that cohesion is still so very important to making a successful, memorable feature. On the other hand, this collection had a few very strong stand out chapters which easily grew greater than the whole. Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet has been burned into my brain since before I can remember. Casey at the Bat was a classic poem that I knew as a child and chuckle about still today. While I agree that I prefer Peter and the Wolf in my imagination than played out for me, I cannot deny that little Russian Petey is the one that I think of first.

Favorite Character: I'm sorry Constable Hat! I thought you were someone I knew!
Least necessary character: I must admit, I found the Two silhouettes so incredibly boring, I very nearly fell asleep. I'm not sure how my favorite animation studio took a piece of ballet (which I normally find very engaging) and made it a snoozefest.
Overall: The bits justify the whole, but if I could give you the edited for Amanda's taste version, you'd probably enjoy it even more.

Amanda's Extra: This era of Disney is a modge podge of little bits with barely any theme. It seems appropriate here then to add to my always growing stash of afghan squares. Nothing is more bits and pieces than your classic Granny Square. It's got the little scraps of yarn to remind you of the original project that you loved so dearly...possibly right next to that awful hand me down yarn that you made into an itchy hat when you couldn't say "No thank you Auntie; that sort of yarn doesn't suit my taste." Either way, it'll make a kitchy cute blanket someday.

Friday, February 17, 2012

D52 - Week 7 - The Three Caballeros

Kevin's bit
When the Disney crew took business trips to ... countries south of the United States, did they always intend that there would be not one but two feature films made from of? Was all of Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros together originally intended to be one longer feature, but later split into two? Or did they, after creating Saludos Amigos, decide that they enjoyed it so much they would do a very similar project for the next time? At least in this case, the live-action documentary-style bits are replaced with the much more entertaining Donald Duck. Even though they're movies-within-the-movie, at least we get to see Donald interacting with some of the bits.
The Cold-Blooded Penguin is made cute enough solely because Sterling Holloway serves as narrator. But after having seen a film like March of the Penguins, you can't help but realize the actual lives of real-life penguins are much more interesting. The Flying Gauchito would've fit in Saludos Amigos quite nicely (and would help balance the overall running times of each feature). Baia seems to be the type of segment mostly impressive for the novelty of combining live action with animation. Those who've seen the trick done often enough, however, have little else with which to be entertained. All of that excitement is then followed by the abruptly low-key tenderness of Las Posadas. Then Donald sexually harasses some ladies and some of the maddest of all Disney madnesses ensues. I don't even know where they were going with the insanity or why it was there, but...I rather like it, on its own. How did they even storyboard or draft out scenes like that?
-Where exactly do the Donald present-opening scenes take place? Donald's very empty bedroom of uncertain volume? Purgatory? An alternate dimension in which no other matter besides Donald and his friends and their possessions exist?
-Why are there no men on that beach? Do/did such female-only beaches exist anywhere in the world? If so, how inappropriate for T3C to have intruded on them from the skies!
-Nice cameo appearance from Fantasia's "The Soundtrack!"
Overall: Compared to last week's it does seem like more of the same, but at least wrapped in a nicer (and more substantial) package. Again, I enjoy it primarily out of Donald fandom.

Amanda's bit

Once again, I just can't get behind having a crop of short films being referred to as a movie. I appreciate each of the short segments on their own as really cute and entertaining bits of animation. I appreciate that the filmmakers at least tried to have a running theme to connect the segments (although I do have to mention that "our filmmakers taking a trip" and "receiving a box of presents intended to take you vicariously on a trip" seems a bit too similar for my taste), and I appreciate that it wasn't filled up with documentary style live action sequences. I absolutely appreciate that the many countries to the south of the United States had enough vitality to fill up a huge number of short films and movies.

Yet in the long run though, I would have appreciated it more if all these short films were allowed to shine separately. At the time, there was no Disney Channel and no VHS and so the studio was probably concerned about the longevity of each of these shorts as well as the monetary value they would each bring forth. This makes sense. Uncle Walt had by this time been discussing the idea of a theme park with family and close colleagues and in only one short decade Disneyland would open. On the other hand, perhaps the studio was simply bowing to demands. The many short films that preceded features at the theater were very popular. It's not so farfetched to think that at the time people were willing to pay full box office prices to see just the short films as long as there were enough to make the price and the travel worth the trouble. Seems like this might be an interesting thing to research in the future.

-Donald... can't fly?
-Even though this could easily have been just Panchito and Donald's film the way Saludos Amigos was Jose Carioca and Donald's film, it was a nice unifying image to see a figure representing all three sections of the New World. Donald as North America, Panchito as Central America and Jose as South America. Someone needs to get to work on something to unify the other continents. And then we can have world peace when someone then unifies those other movies. (No, I'm not so naive to believe that it will work, but it's a fanciful thought.)

Favorite Character: Definitely Panchito. I can't figure out why a lighthearted, energetic, party animal with a heart of gold like him never really caught on. Jose too is quite a lot of fun and yet both of them seem to have been banished to the Mexico pavilion at Epcot never to be seen anywhere else again. Shame.
Least necessary Character: Woman-faced Flower Hallucination. Donald really needs to lay off the partying. He never can just go out and have a good time. He always seems to go way way overboard.
Overall: Entertaining if you're particularly interested in Mexico, Central American and South America. Amusing if you like to watch a bunch of shorts in a row. Don't call it a movie. It's just so vain. Be proud to be a collection of cartoon shorts! There's no shame in it!

Amanda's Extra:
"We have the stars to guide us/ Guitars here beside us/ to play as we go."
And sure enough, a guitar is here beside me, but I needed a strap to play it comfortably. Why not give it a Central American flare by embracing and mixing the dark colors so that you might match "three happy chappies with snappy sarapes"?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

D 52 - Week 6 - Saludos Amigos

Kevin's bit
It's another shorts compilation! This one is segmented with live-action documentary-style pieces about the Central American culture. The animated shorts are fun enough, pretty much on par with Disney animated shorts of the time that weren't packaged as movies. Being partial to Donald Duck, I enjoyed the first cartoon about Lake Titicaca. Pedro is the most likeable animated plane you could hope to see, but the short as a whole is no "Little Suzie Blue Coupe." Hm, I wonder if Pedro might make a cameo appearance in the upcoming Disney (sans Pixar) Planes feature? El Gaucho Goofy is classic Goofy. Try not to even chuckle at the slow-motion scene! Aquarela do Brasil plays a bit like Saludos Amigos's answer to Fantasia, but it's not much on which to end. The whole movie kind of...just ends there. As for the live-action segments... if you're fascinated by Central America, then....well, you should probably watch a more up-to-date film, I imagine. Even if the featured countries haven't changed all that much since Saludos Amigos was first made, the quality of documentaries has improved enough since then that you'd be better off with one made from this century. And it's really more of a sampling than a comprehensive look.
Favorite character: The llama.
Least necessary character: Is José Cairoca only here to set up his appearance in the next movie?
Overall: It's at least worth seeing if you're a Donald Duck fan.

Amanda's bit

Well, what's there to say that I can say without wasting the exact same commentary for the upcoming Three Caballeros? Not a whole lot.

I like short cartoons! I really do! The thing is, when I go to see a movie, I expect to see a movie. Call me crazy, but I expect some sort of plot. And no, I don't think "these travelers visited here and then here and then here" a plot; that's more like an itinerary at best. It's not that it's not entertaining as a whole, but there's no resolution aside from a lame getting through customs joke that tells us our entire film crew made it home in one piece and with more souvenirs than the average person can afford.

Favorite Character: ... There were characters in this? Uhhh... hm. Pedro the plane was cute.
Least Necessary character: ... There were characters in this? Uhh...The customs man. I really could have done without that customs joke.
Overall: It's very entertaining if we call it a compilation of shorts, but let's not try to pull the llama wool over my eyes any more; calling it a feature is kind of insulting.

Amanda's extra: The Goofy short in which he is dressed as a Gaucho showed a fun looking slingshot that I thought could translate well into a non-dangerous around the house plaything. Basically it's a ladder toss toy without the target. Of course who is to say that I won't also make a target now? In the meantime, I'll be tossing these at Kevin and hoping for minimal retaliation.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

D52 - Week 5 - Bambi

Amanda's bit:

What's this? Kevin's making ME go first? Well, I have to admit that as a child I thought Bambi was rather boring. I wasn't much of a girly girl and I thought cute things were only for the wimpy mean girls. Now that I'm older I appreciate this movie much more.

We follow the maturing of a young deer from birth to adult witnessing his first steps, first words, first kiss, and first children. The story is fairly straightforward and yet carries the weight of a number of heavy themes.

First and foremost is death. Bambi in fact includes the very first Disney death and audiences were shocked. Current popular culture has us believe that seeing this movie as children is a recipe for trauma, but I can't remember every feeling that way. I recognized the loss and I was smart enough to know that Mother wasn't returning, but Bambi was an excellent role model. He mourned his loss and continued with life.

The second big theme that I felt was suffering. Because Bambi runs like a nature film in which the animals have personalities of their own instead of personalities thrust upon them by a narrator's script, the struggles of every day life in the wild are clearer and more relate-able than ever.

Not only are there a host of other heavy issues to be taken in, but there is a lot of beauty on the screen. It's clear that Fantasia had a lot of bearing on the use of music for Bambi. Whereas most Disney films use music to add to the story, Bambi has score and lyric to set the atmosphere and relate the passage of time. It's as if the score were an entirely different character in the movie, perhaps the voice of Mother Nature. Personally, I approve.

Favorite Character: The Mole "Nice, sunny day!"
Least necessary character: As much as I hate to say it, Flower. Flower is beyond cute, but really had nothing to do with plot.
Overall: Beautiful artistry. Beautiful music. Heavy adult themes. Cute kiddie animals. I recommend it highly and is certainly way up high on my list of favorites.

Amanda's Extra: I have had the pleasure of reading the book on which this movie was based and if you haven't, I intensely recommend that you do. It requires a lot of imagination to truly feel the tone that is laid down in the book and can't be read from the point of view of a human. One really has to get into the skin of the wildlife and try to understand an animal's instinctive actions.

I was most inspired by the conversation between two leaves reduced to a few moments of score in the movie, but original and moving dialog in the book. It's easy to relate to fellow members of the animal kingdom when it comes to the circle of life, and it's so easy to overlook the suffering of the flora which happens in tune with the animals. The book describes the conversation between the last two leaves as they hang on the branch. They ponder the fate of their fallen brethren as well as their own future. What will happen to them when their stems can no longer hold? As they lose their grip from the tree, the conversation ends abruptly and life in the forest continues as if it had never taken place.

Kevin's bit

It's a very, very cute movie. Achingly cute - maybe too cute? At least there's death (even if it is followed by more cuteness immediately afterward)! And fire!
As already said it has great art and animation and important themes. And as much as I enjoyed seeing it for the first time in a long time, I don't find myself wanting to see it again and again. I guess I feel about it the same way I do most well-made nature documentaries - interesting the first time but little rewatchability.
Favorite character: Friend Owl adds the right amount of sour that this sweet dish needs.
Least necessary character: Ronno kind of came out of nowhere and was vanquished rather easily. I guess it just bothers me that he wasn't set up at all earlier in the film.
Overall: Let the kids watch it. How else are they going to relate to all of those "Bambi's mom" jokes they'll inevitable come across later in life?

Kevin's extra: I just had to share this. It turns out there's a "Cine-Manga" version of Disney's Bambi. Basically, it's stills from the movie with word balloons and sound effects passed off as graphic novel frames. It's as silly and lazy as it sounds. So, how does the picto version handle the iconic emotional moment? Maybe for the sake of taste it simply lets the pictures speak for themselves to reflect the somber moon well anyway this is what it actually does: