Tonight’s film is a television movie, but it’s an iconic Christmas film which holds a place in most people’s hearts. It’s the Rankin-Bass 1970 movie Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. Let me preface this by saying Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is my favorite of the Rankin-Bass movies (my second is the little loved Rudolph’s Shiny New Year). I saw Rudolph again last year and it’s not my favorite, but I know a ton of people who love it, just not me. Anyway, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town boasts the best villain, Burgermeister Meisterburger, tells a tight story about the origins of Santa, and dabbles in the 1970s trippiness we all know and love.
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.