Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Disney Canon Challenge

What better way to kick off the year than to discuss Disney films? Yeah!

 Oh, don't worry, I'm finishing up my list of The 100 Coolest Things of 2010 and hopefully will be posted starting next week. Every time I think I'm done, something else comes to mind... earlier, while doing laundry, I remembered The Courtyard Hounds album, and thought "well, now I have to figure out how that fits in there...". And of course, American Idol starts next week, with new hosts J-Lo and Steven Tyler, and so what was once a train wreck with just Paula Abdul, which turned into a lesbianista trainwreck with Ellen DeG has now turned into a trainwreck of heavy duty proportions, all the way around. Sweet emotions indeed.

 So, anyhow...

 Sidebar... "anyhow" is a strange word. "Anyway" sounds right, and "anyhoo" is one of those strange slang words that I have, in recent years, tried to avoid using, much like "peeps", "da bomb", "besties" which I only use in mocking statements. "Anyhow" is in fact a word, though, because I just looked it up.

...I'm listening to the 33 hour and 20 some odd minute biography of Walt Disney. Its a chore. Don't get me wrong, its an amazing book, but its also really, really detailed, full of names, dates and specifics that only a true, true fan (like me) would appreciate. I won't get into the book now, I'll wait until I finish it, so I can review it properly (right now, it looks like a winner and an early shoo-in for a Top 25 ranking in The 100 Coolest Things of 2011, due January 2012), but I will tell you why I'm mentioning it.

I'm almost 20 hours into the biography, and along the way, I've read/heard the stories of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Fantasia", "Dumbo", "Pinocchio" and so on, the troubles of each prior to release and the successes and failures of each after their releases, and just yesterday, I had an urgency to watch "Snow White". Its been probably two decades since I've seen it in its entirety, at least at one sitting, but I never remembered it being a favorite. Though it hasn't necessarily been 20 years since I've seen the other films I mentioned, it has been a while for each one, at least four or five years.

In addition, I've never seen some of the "packaged" films like "Fun and Fancy Free" and "Make Mine Music", and only bits and pieces of "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad". So, this afternoon, I came downstairs to find The Lovely Steph Leann laying comfy on the couch--she's been sick for three days, with a sore throat, allergies, stopped up ears and sinuses and a general pulsing of her head, bless her heart--and simply said, "I think we should take on a challenge this year, in 2011."

I said, "We should watch the entire canon of Disney animated films. Regular animation and live action combination. You and me, this year."

She looked at me, stared off into space thoughtfully and looked back at me and said, "Sure". She shrugged, and turned back to the show on HGTV she was watching.

Sidebar... so, I think every show on HGTV could be called "Here's a Renovation You Cannot Afford on a House That You Could Never Afford, But Check Out This New Deck... Loser".

Here's the challenge... As far as Disney animation goes, there are 50 animation and 9 animation/live action combination films that have been theatrically released, and one coming up this July. The task is to, from now until the end of December, watch all 59 films in question. Truthfully, as big of a Disney fan as I am, I am kind of ashamed as to how many I've not seen, or cannot remember, but its time to catch up. Also, the ones I've already seen, like the film that ranks 20th on The Dave100, "Beauty & the Beast", and #86, "Hercules", will have to be re-watched this year as well.

Do the math, and you see 50 + 9 + 1 = 60... but "Song of the South" is the one that will be remiss. Its not available for purchase, for rental or really easily accessible. And from reports, they aren't going to release it anytime soon, though its not a completely out of the question topic.

On November 15th, 2010, Disney creative director Dave Bossert stated in an interview, “I can say there’s been a lot of internal discussion about 'Song of the South'. And at some point we’re going to do something about it. I don’t know when, but we will. We know we want people to see 'Song of the South' because we realize it’s a big piece of company history, and we want to do it the right way."

So here is a list of films that we have to watch this year, broken up into a few categories (note: some films were released at the end of one year in limited markets, one to have a wide release in next... the wide release year is what is listed)

Its also worth nothing that the first six films listed under the first category I've given were called "package films". The Disney Animated Studios had a string of box office disappointments like "Pinocchio" and "Fantasia", and was heavily in debt. They signed a horrible contract with the US Government to make educational and propaganda films during WWII, and each one continued to add to their debt. The package films were quick-drawn animation, small cartoons and featurettes shoved together to make full length features to get released to theaters quickly.

 Films That I Have Never Seen (and look forward to watching):
  • Saludos Amigos (1943)... this and the sequel, "Three Caballeros" were made after Walt Disney spent time in Latin America. Because Brazil and Nazi Germany had close ties, Disney was sent as a goodwill ambassador because of the popularity of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
  • Three Caballeros (1945)
  • Make Mine Music (1946)... There are six segments in this movie, some of which were unfinished or unused pieces that was to be added on to "Fantasia", but was inevitably not used for that because of budget problems during the war. Features "Casey at the Bat" and "Peter & the Wolf"
  • Fun and Fancy Free (1947)... contains "Bongo" and "Mickey and the Beanstalk"
  • Melody Time (1948)... contains seven animated segments, including "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" and "Pecos Bill"
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)... contains "The Wind in the Willows" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
  • Lady and the Tramp (1955)
  • The Rescuers (1977)
  • The Black Cauldron (1985)
  • The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
  • The Rescuers Down Under (1989)
  • The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
  • Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Films I Have Never Seen (and don't really want to, but will for the purpose of this task)
  • Dinosaur (2000)... Did you know that the Animal Kingdom ride Dinosaur was originally called "Countdown to Extinction", and it was a direct result of this movie? The movie didn't fare well at the box office, but its the first animated film to be done entirely in CGI--so its a milestone. 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  • Treasure Planet (2002)
  • Brother Bear (2003)... I hate to say it, but there is nothing appealing about this movie to me.  I might change my mind after I see it, but out of all 59 movies, its the one I'm least looking forward to.

Films I Have Seen (and look forward to watching again, because its been a long, long time)
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938)
  • Pinocchio (1940)
  • Fantasia (1940)
  • Dumbo (1941)
  • Bambi (1942)
  • Cinderella (1950)
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  • One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
  • The Sword in the Stone (1963)
  • The Jungle Book (1967)
  • The Aristocats (1970)
  • Robin Hood (1973)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
  • Mulan (1998)
  • Tarzan (1999)
  • Fantasia 2000 (2000)

Films I Have Seen (but don't look forward to seeing again... but will)
  • The Fox and the Hound (1981)... I think I sorta liked it when I saw it 10 years ago, but I dunno if I want to see it again.
  • Oliver and Company (1988)... Saw this movie during the final days of The Happiest Place in the Mall.  Wow, is it dated.  And terrible. 
  • Pocahontas (1995)... Also a terrible movie.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)... Also a terrible movie.
  • Home on the Range (2004)... Also a terrible movie.
  • Chicken Little (2005)... A movie that isn't bad, but history has not looked fondly upon this film. 

Films I Have Seen Recently (and look forward to watching again)
  • Alice in Wonderland (1951)... this movie is really, really weird.
  • Peter Pan (1953)... I dozed halfway through it. 
  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • Aladdin (1992)
  • The Lion King (1994)
  • Hercules (1997)
  • Lilo & Stitch (2002)... Can you believe Stitch is less than 10 years old? 
  • Bolt (2008)... The hamster Rhino will go down as one of my all time favorite Disney characters.
  • The Princess & the Frog (2009)
  • Tangled (2010)
Upcoming this July? The new film "Winnie the Pooh".

Says Wikipedia:   Based upon the characters of the children's books Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne and Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus, Winnie the Pooh will feature five previously unadapted stories from the original books. It will be produced in the same style as previous Disney-produced Winnie the Pooh featurettes such as Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. Although this will be the second Winnie-the-Pooh feature made by Walt Disney Animation Studios, it will be the first one to not be a collection of previously-released shorts like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Disney exec (and Pixar pioneer) John Lasseter has said (paraphrasing) that Pooh, Tigger and the gang are characters that have been pigeonholed to toddlers characters, and we want to do a movie that gives Pooh back to all of us.

And I'm excited.

Also, looking at the live action/animated combination films, I mentioned not being able to see "Song of the South", but I've also never seen "The Reluctant Dragon" (1941), "So Dear To My Heart" (1949) and remarkably, "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" (1971). I have not only never seen "Victory Through the Air" (1943), I'd never even heard of it until about four hours ago, when the biography was discussing The Disney Animation Studio's struggles with the US Government, and how they released propaganda films one after the other, much to Walt's dismay. It was deemed too offensive to Germans and Japanese (this was WWII, remember), but was finally released on home video in 2004, so hopefully I can find it, at least on Netflix.

I've seen "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Mary Poppins", and can't wait to see them again, and I love love love "Enchanted", the 63rd ranked film on The Dave100, starring Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with), so I can watch it anytime. As far as "Pete's Dragon" goes? Man, I hated that movie when I saw it. But, I'm sure we'll see it again... though I might stab a candle in my own ear during "Candle On the Water".

Now, there are a number of Disney films that aren't included on this list, like "DuckTales the Movie: The Treasure of the Lost Lamp" (1990), "A Goofy Movie" (1995) and "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" (2005), but those aren't listed in the official "Disney Animated Film Canon", mostly because they are actually from "DisneyToon Studios", movies that are a spin-off from afternoon cartoons and so on.

So... this weekend, I plan to start with "Saludos Amigos", "Three Caballeros" and "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad"... Fifty nine Disney films in one year?  Absolutely.


  1. No one can say you don't have goals.

  2. Hey, to each his own. I am not a big fan of Disney. However, I do love the live action movies: Pete's Dragon, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and, of course, Enchanted.

    However, I have a real beef with the cartoons. Have you noticed that in most of the Disney animated movies that the mothers die or are killed? What's up with that? Bambi, Dumbo, Fox and the Hound (how do you think the fox ends up with the farmer guy?), Nemo. Even Cinderella, Snow White - which aren't Disney original stories, but still.

    What's with that? Women are either killed, locked away and separated from their children, or are the children that must find their prince to live happily ever after. Why aren't there stories where the dad's die? And the princes are looking for happily ever after (okay, we have Aladdin)?

    Okay, I'm off my soapbox, but it's just something that has bothered me for a long, long time.


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