After devoting over a year and a half to reviewing every Disney animated film, I was ready to put Disney behind me, for awhile. I recently became one-half of the Walt Sent Me podcast (available to listen to now) and our first featured film was The Reluctant Dragon. The Reluctant Dragon isn’t considered one of the 53 movies Disney considers part of their animated legacy. Odd, considering it contains an equal amount of live action to animation, on par with the later package films. The movie is gimmicky in its depiction of a happy Disney environment during a time when it was anything but, but it depicts a moment in time at the Walt Disney Studios we’ll never witness again, and that makes all the difference.
May 2012: I was looking for ways to diversify the blog’s content, as well as cross off a few personal challenges of my own. I immediately went to Disney for my first weekly feature; one of my favorite things in the entire world. While perusing the list of Disney animated films – at least the ones Disney acknowledges as canon – I realized how many I’d never seen. The mix of classic and contemporary worked for the blog at the time; I was still reviewing modern movies then. Since then, the Journeys in the Disney Vault series has been my longest-running challenge, both personally and professionally. With the final Disney animated film out at the moment, I feel it’s a fitting time to put this series to bed. But before all that, let’s look at the trajectory of Disney animation, and highlight some highs and lows.
Sorry for the delay with our last Journeys in the Disney Vault review, but Disney (and myself) saved the best for last. After my lukewarm reception to the last few Disney films, and my give and take review of Tangled, Disney finally breaks they mold they’ve been chipping away at since 2000. Frozen reconfigures the princess narrative and gives girls a level of inspiration never witnessed in a Disney movie before. Coupled with the long-delayed first directing/screenwriting credit for a female (yes, it took all the way up to 2013 for Disney to give a woman a directing opportunity; the last time a woman was credited with a Disney script was Beauty and the Beast!), Frozen is a pitch-perfect movie Disney fans are going to hail for decades to come, alongside the greatest works of the Disney Renaissance. With the close of this series I’m happy we’re ending on an epic high note.
It’s here! The second to last review in the Disney Vault is here, and it’s a bit of a downer because Wreck-It Ralph isn’t necessarily astounding. After the massive Tangled and the subdued, but charming, Winnie the Pooh, Wreck-It Ralph is a bombastic ode to video games and finding life’s purpose. The issue is the bipolar division of the movie into a meta-take on games, the conception of “retro,” and dare I say existentialism turns into a cutesy movies about racing and candy with an annoying side character blown up to leading star status.
The home stretch of the Disney Vault has arrived, and by the end of this month I’ll be putting this series into its own Disney Vault. We’re not there yet – three more movies to go – and this week’s feature presentation is a return to the company’s foundations. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was a hit for Disney in 1977 and created a cast of enduring characters who remain highly popular in the parks. I reviewed the film back in March and enjoyed it as a package of various Pooh shorts; a more enjoyable experience than Disney’s original “package” films. Thirty-four years later Disney returned to the Hundred Acre Wood, and the experience is still enjoyable but bittersweet.
Look to Tangled as evidence of how Disney treats their animated films today. The 2010 CGI-animated feature is beautifully rendered, with a return to Broadway-esque songs and witty scripts, although self-awareness rules the roost along with questionable doe-eyed females. Tangled may have put the nail in the coffin for hand-drawn animation, and cast Disney’s eye towards pleasing all genders, but you can’t ignore the infectious spirit floating off it like a glowing paper lantern.
Disney marked their return to princess territory with this 2009 film, after taking a ten-year break from all things girly (Mulan is considered their last “princess” movie in spite of the fact Mulan isn’t descended from royalty or becomes royal by story’s end). The Princess and the Frog was a controversial leap, with Disney finally crafting an African-American princess. After numerous story delays, the movie was a moderate success and it’s “meh” overall. The plotting is the problem as Disney tries to be as delicate as possible with political correctness to the film’s detriment. Continue Reading