I’ve returned with a new decade in the Disney Vault. The nineties saw Disney churning out film upon film, so it’ll take almost all summer for me to get through this decade. The Rescuers Down Under was the first Disney sequel (and one of the few, for several years, to see a theatrical release). Unfortunately, Disney’s sequel to the 1977 The Rescuers is a misfire that doesn’t benefit, nor does it do anything for, the characters established in the first Rescuers film. The movie capitalizes on the nineties love for Australia and environmentalism, and slaps “the Rescuers” on the box; a work of art for the Disney CAPS system (and the flying sequences are lovely), but don’t go into this expecting to see further adventures from Bernard and Bianca.
We’re officially at the end of the 1980s! The Little Mermaid ushered in a string of hits, both commercially and critically, that would spark off the Disney Renaissance. From here on in, the studio was taken seriously, eventually working their way into the Academy Awards. The Little Mermaid is probably my favorite Disney movie. It’s the first one I saw, and the one I’m still able to quote incessantly, which is not to say that’s the story is perfect. The original story is downright depressing, and I won’t be inventing the wheel with my opinions against it, but seriously…the story is misogynist and a taste creepy. Regardless of all that, though, I adore this film. The perfect vocal cast, the introduction of catchy, Broadway-esque songs, and a love story supplemented by beautiful Disney animation. The Little Mermaid is a classic in my house, and always will be.
This week’s installment of Journeys in the Disney Vault is special because we are officially halfway through the entire Disney animated canon (there’s 53 movies – the last of which comes out this year – and I did round-up)! I’m proud of myself that I’ve gotten this far, and can’t wait to get into the movies that I identify and know the most about. With that, next week kicks off the official start of the Disney Renaissance but, before we get to that masterpiece, we gotta wade past the swampy moat…and that moat is Oliver & Company. I didn’t care for Disney’s take on Oliver Twist when it came out, and I still don’t care for it now. The root of the problem is that the movie is EXTREMELY dated; like shoulderpads and mousse dated. That, and the fact that the movie wants to make this the Billy Joel show creates an unbalanced tone for both kids and adults. I still don’t care for Robin Hood, but this is one of worst Disney films right next to it.
With 1986′s The Great Mouse Detective we’re inching ever closer to the Disney Renaissance that would go on into the beginning of the 1990s. It’s not commonly known, but this film is attributed as the originator of the Renaissance, although the most commonly cited movie is 1989′s The Little Mermaid. It’s a shame we never saw further adventures of Basil of Baker Street, despite an erroneous title citing “The Adventures Of…” but The Great Mouse Detective was the first Disney movie that made me love the studio from its witty British sensibility, engaging mystery, and a bravura performance from Vincent Price as Professor Ratigan.
As a child, The Black Cauldron was the “red-headed stepchild” of the Disney canon. And not just the stepchild, we’re talking the stepchild you kept under the stairs! The movie was a commercial failure, and almost cemented the demise of Disney animation entirely. The problems with the film are myriad ranging from too many cooks in the kitchen, the jamming together of two epic novels into a 90 minute feature, and the overall fear of presenting a movie that was too dark/too intellectual for its target audience; I’m also tempted to say that Ralph Bakshi‘s 1977 animated adaptation of The Hobbit tread over much of the same material earlier. As a first-time viewer I knew this wasn’t for me. The 1980s were filled with fantasy sword and sandal epics which I’m not a fan of (see my review of The Sword in the Stone). As a whole, The Black Cauldron is ambitious and probably Disney’s sharpest divergence into darker waters, but the story is paper-thin with characters that are introduced, a flat-out MacGuffin and an ending that doesn’t belong with the movie. The movie is at the mercy of the those behind it, and I’ll detail the full-story below, but it’s a missed opportunity that feels unfinished.