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Entries in Disney (79)

Tuesday
Aug192014

Beauty vs Beast: Fish Witch

JA from MNPP here with this week's mite-late edition of this week's "Beauty Vs Beast" - sorry for the unexpected day-long delay, what can we say, a sea-witch stole our voice from us. Coincidentally The Film Experience is celebrating the year 1989 in the lead up to this month's Supporting Actress Showdown and whaddya know 1989 was the year that another gorgeous princess, not myself, had the exact same thing happen to her! I handled it with a much finer degree of decorum, natch, but she got Prince Eric so she wins. (Mmmm Prince Eric.) Yes I speak of Disney's The Little Mermaid, which is bringing us this week's animated face-off.

 

Life's full of tough choices... innit??? I feel like this one could go either way really, so making you cases in the comments could prove important. Sway the little fishies this way or that, people.

PREVIOUSLY If you felt a little falling sensation - kinda simultaneously plummeting forward and back - as you picked between Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in last week's Vertigo round you ultimately made like Hitch and came out blonde - well blonde eventually (inevitably) anyway - in the end. Judy, poor poor Judy, won your sympathies along with 71% of the vote. Said Leslie19:

"Judy is the perfect Hitchcockian heroine: A blonde puzzle, with a past. A great wardrobe and the perfect palette for techicolor, in this case his use of green. Is there anything more to say?"

Thursday
Jul312014

Tim's Toons: A field guide to animated raccoons

Tim here. Tomorrow, the much-hyped latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Franchise Expansion Plan opens, Guardians of the Galaxy. While reviews have promised a broad, inventive space comedy/adventure, the marketing to date has focused on two specific things:

1) Chris Pratt plays Han Solo.
2) Bradley Cooper voices Han Solo as a raccoon.

And since I take it as axiomatic that two Han Solos is better than no Han Solos (as graphically demonstrated by the Star Wars prequels) I’m actually perfectly okay with that. Anyway, it’s pretty clear at this point that Disney wants the Raccoon – Rocket Raccoon, to give him his proper name – to be the film’s big breakout character, so the time was perfect to launch into a brief history of the talking raccoon throughout animation history.

RJ, Over the Hedge (2006)
To date, the most visible of all anthropomorphic raccoons has been this character in DreamWorks Animation’s noble but somewhat ineffective attempt to break out of their “pop culture jokes ‘n’ celebrity voices” ghetto with a movie looking back to the madcap slapstick of the Looney Tunes shorts...

Disney, Canadian, and Japanese raccoons below the jump!

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul102014

1973 in animation: Disney's Robin Hood

Tim here. We’re celebrating 1973 at the Film Experience all throughout July, and in terms of animation, that can mean one of only two things: the Czech-French allegorical science fiction film Fantastic Planet, a peculiar head trip of a movie made with highly-detailed paper animation, or Disney’s all-animal Robin Hood, a film regarded as one of Disney’s most perfect classics by a small group of people while being largely forgotten by most younger people, making it one of those films that’s simultaneously both over- and under-rated. All my love and respect to politically laden avant-garde Eastern European animation, but our current path seems clear enough: Robin Hood it is.

I will first confess that the film has never been one of my favorites in Disney’s canon; it exemplifies a very particular aesthetic that dominated the studio’s work for just a short while, seven features released between 1961 and 1977. These were the Xerox Years, when the old process of inking individual cels by hand over the animators’ rough pencil drawings had been replaced by simply photocopying the pencils directly onto the clear celluloid. This cut down significantly on the cost and time of putting together a feature film, and it also had the effect of giving the finished animation a much scratchier, hand-hewn look. For many fans of animation, and many animators, the direct one-to-one mapping this results in between what the artist drew and what we see makes it more valuable than the glossier, more polished, and arguably more lifeless work in Disney’s more expensive productions. For myself, all I can see is the cost-cutting.

But let's shelve the technical chatter and move on to the film itself...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul032014

Tim's Toons: Celebrating Independence Day with Disney

Tim here. It’s Independence Day weekend here in the States, which means that most of you undoubtedly have something better to do than read about old cartoons. But if I promise to keep things short, hopefully you’ll indulge me in chatting up an odd little animated short perfectly timed to the holiday.

I have in mind Ben and Me, one of the oddest one-offs in the history of Walt Disney Productions. Released in November, 1953, it was the studio’s first two-reel animated short, and one of the initial releases under Disney’s own Buena Vista Distribution label, part of a package deal with the nature documentary The Living Desert. But more to the point, for our present purposes, it’s about how a mouse helps Benjamin Franklin write the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. We can wait a minute if you want to process all the ways in which that’s a perversion of history.

Okay, sure, there’s more to it than that.

Based on a 1939 children’s book by Robert Lawson, Ben and Me follows the life of Amos, a mouse voiced by Disney mainstay Sterling Holloway, who set off from his impoverished home in wall of a Philadelphia church in 1745 to make his fortune, ending up in the home of the absent-minded inventor and writer Ben Franklin (Charles Ruggles). Over the course of one night, the two are able to invent bifocals, indoor heating stoves, and the American news media.

Ben’s penchant for playing tricks on the mouse, sending him up on kites during thunderstorms and such, puts a wedge between them. Eventually, in 1776, they finally mend fences just about the time that Ben’s young colleague Thomas Jefferson (Hans Conreid) is having an impossible time finding the right opening for his otherwise-complete Declaration. More through accident than anything else, Amos ends up providing the legendary “When in the Course of human events…” The perversity having not let up, I will let you take another minute to process (it’s the 31-year-old mouse that bothers me the most).

Daft fantasy nonsense, for sure, but Ben and Me is actually pretty charming. Holloway and Ruggles are delightful in their roles, playing a kind of gentle riff on the traditional odd couple dynamic (Conreid, who voiced Captain Hook in the same year’s Peter Pan, is unfortunately distracting for that reason, but he’s not in it very much). It wasn’t an A-list project, and it lacks anything resembling the visual lushness of Disney’s contemporaneous features, like Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella – the latter of which obviously inspired Ben’s design; he looks exactly like the talking mice helpers from that film, though thankfully without their annoying pidgin English – but the simple style based on 18th Century painting brings the setting to life in a very specific, effective way. It’s not a colorful film, as such, but it has a clarity and warmth that fit the “historical bedtime story” mood.

Given Disney’s corporate proclivity for all-American nostalgia, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that the story ends up being so disinterested in any kind of soaring patriotism or overwrought long-view about Great Moments in History. It’s actually quite an ordinary platonic romantic comedy between a mouse and a man. Most of its energies are dedicated to building solid but hardly revolutionary cartoon sight gags out of 18th Century material (a lengthy printing press scene is by far the most ambitious part of the movie), but that ends up being enough.

At 21 minutes, it’s short enough that having genial humor built on a playfully impossible history lesson hasn’t run out of steam, while long enough to build character relationships with a depth that isn’t possible in a 7-minute animated short that only has enough time to plow through its gags. It’s not one of the timeless masterpieces of Disney animation, or anything equally silly, but it’s one of their best ‘50s shorts and a fun 4th of July pastiche that’s not really like anything else.

Thursday
Jun192014

Disney Declaws Into The Woods

"You will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the prince does not sleep with the [Baker's Wife]." He added, "You know, if I were a Disney executive I probably would say the same thing."

Anne Marie here. Playbill quoted Sondheim yesterday confirming our worst suspicion: Disney has changed (destroyed?) key parts of Into the Woods. The musical-loving corners of the internet responded with equal parts outrage and resignation. We knew it. After all, Disney is a company that has turned Happily Ever After into a business plan. Believing that Disney would leave untouched a fairytale musical where where wolves are sex predators requires the kind of wishful thinking that one would find in, well, a Disney movie.

Possibly more than any other studio, Disney has based its entire media empire on family friendly fantasy. From its golden period in the 50s on through its 90s creative renaissance, the studio’s bread and butter was not just beautiful animation and Oscar-winning songs but, crucially, princesses finding their True Love.  Yes, for every Beauty and the Beast there was a The Lion King, but a quick trip through the Disney Store will tell you which story moves more merchandise. Since the early 2000s, Disney has attempted to keep pace with changing tastes by inserting a bit of revisionism. The playful mocking of Enchanted led to The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, which challenged conventions of princessery even while the end goal, a tiara and a kiss, remained unchanged. Mickey Mouse may be on the masthead, but the house that Walt built is in the shape of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Fantasy rules supreme.

Disney's flirtation with the dark side after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jun082014

Podcast: Summer Fun Times Movie Watching

Nick & Joe & Nathaniel are surveying highlights from the summer season thus far. Nick and Joe love Only Lovers Left Alive and Nathaniel has just returned from How To Train Your Dragon 2

00:00 Intro and Lucy
02:20 Alternative Blockbusters & Action Figures
04:00 Favorite Things We Saw This Summer 
08:45 Maleficent and Villainous Backstories 
12:00 Many Tangents: Kill Bill, The Lion King, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Jude Law
19:10 Summer Releases To Come, Melissa McCarthy & Channing Tatum
25:00 Jersey Boys vs. Think Like a Man 2
and...
30:00-48:00 As an appetizer for next week's 2004 10th Anniversary Podcast. We look back at the Oscar winners: Morgan Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Jamie Foxx, Hilary Swank and Million Dollar Baby

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes (though sometimes it takes a day to show up there). Continue the conversation in the comments.

Related Reads:
Keith Uhlich on Godzilla and Wesley Morris on Maleficent

Summer Fun Times

Tuesday
Jun032014

Ant-Man Shrinks, and Other Lukewarm Stories

I don't always get around to stories when they hit. Join me in the catch-up comments...

Fan made poster (if I knew who made it I would credit them, but so many blogs are bad about giving creditAnt-Man Shrinks
By now you've heard and digested or, more likely given this crowd (you didn't even comment on that juicy misogynistic She-Hulk debacle!), ignored the drama surrounding Disney/Marvel's Ant-Man movie. The long and short of it: Edgar Wright, of Shaun of the Dead / Scott Pilgrim fame who is unarguably adept and inventive about action-comedy (a unique skill given how unfunny action 'comedies' usually are), abruptly left over creative differences. Now from the roster of potential replacements (none of them even ⅕ as interesting as Wright), one has already fallen away. Leaving us sad for Paul Rudd (probably locked into the role for a decade) and Joss Whedon's Avengers: The Age of Ultron (doesn't Joss need Ant-Man to have his story work since Ant-Man created Ultron?) 

The probable answer as to why is that Disney/Marvel, now that they've won all the moneys in the world and are surely empowered by the knowledge that audiences are lemming-like about these things and will turn out in droves for even dud superhero movies  (Thor: The Dark World, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Iron Man 2), can afford to dump directors with artistic vision and focus on generic bosses who will just keep the assembly line running with less "ideas" / back-talking. Capitalism eventually ruins everything. Marvel sadly didn't learn the inspiring lesson they could have from hiring Joss Whedon. He made The Avengers the success it was, basically rescuing The Black Widow entirely, understanding how tiresome Iron Man had become and how to limit the dose, finding a way to make Thor and Hulk work in a team format even when they've never worked on their own. You need an artist to accomplish these kinds of juggling miracles and feats of resuscitation, not hired hands. 

The silver lining? This Ant-Man debacle did inspire the parody Michael Haneke twitter account to chime in...

 

 

 

Who Stopped Roger Rabbit 2?
It's a story that never quite dies. It is... undead. The Dissolve performs the oft performed reanimation of that story corpse wondering why the sequel never happened and if it might happen now since the original people all still want it to. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) is the Movie of the Week over there which is why they're asking.

In a Hollywood culture that prizes franchises and recognizable characters above all else it is a still a SHOCK in all caps that this sequel never came to be. In many ways this movie is the movie that proved to Hollywood that people would go nuts for a mix of new envelope pushing visual effects mixed with old school nostalgia. Which you could argue led to Toy Story which you could argue led to everything. I am ultra fond of that movie (I'd have easily nominated it for Best Picture that year) but I also have a not-so secret amount of affection for the fact that it never produced a sequel.

Why would I not want a sequel to something I love that much? Well, sequels are in so many ways our collective junk food and in an era where movies produce not only sequels but reboots and straight-to-dvd spinoffs and other forms of money-grubbing self-cannibalizing, Roger Rabbit feels comparatively monumental in its mystic standalone purity.

Finally...

Big Hero 6 Teaser
I meant to share this last week and completely forgot. I don't have much to say about it other than that it is adorable despite doing nothing other than ripping off The Incredibles (2004) for its "too fat for this suit" slapstick teaser but people have very short memories about these things so everyone can LOL anew