Published on November 26th, 2009 | by Darren Byrne33
Competition Closed: Where is the love for the Disney classics?
*** Competition Closed ***
*** Congratulations to Yvonne, Jamie and Michael. Thank you to everyone else for taking part and for letting us know your favourite Disney movies. I enjoyed the conversation. ***
I would imagine most kids these days know Disney for their big 3D animation extravaganza or maybe for their Camp Rock/High School Musical/Jonas Brothers/Hannah Montana live action films, but is there any love for the old 2D era left?
When we were writing this week’s Top Five Musicals, we decided to leave cartoon musicals off the list (the poll decided), but it got me thinking about all the Disney classics from my childhood. I decided I would write a quick post about the early Disney films I loved and talk a bit about their newer offerings. I thought it would be a short post where I would mention Snow White, Robin Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King and put up a couple of YouTube videos of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Hakuna Matata.
But then I started looking back over the cartoons and films that Disney produced. I didn’t realise the vast amount there was and I certainly hadn’t realised the profound influence these films have had on me. So, here’s my Disney and Me post:
(feel free to jump to the end for the Competition part of the post) 🙂
Disney and Me
From a very early age, we were immersed in the world of Disney cartoons. With the occasional exception (An American Tale and The Land Before Time spring to mind), Disney cartoons were all I knew. The colours, the music, the characters, the magic of it all – we’re not talking about two or three films here. The list is huge.
I don’t remember the first Disney film I saw, but I do remember watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) a lot. How this movie is 72 years old is unbelievable. Snow White, the Queen and of course the seven dwarves – it has completely stood the test of time and is still a beautiful, funny film today. Songs such as Heigh-Ho and Whistle While You Work are still heard today and the film’s influence is as profound as ever. As recent as yesterday, Twitter was awash with #rejected7dwarfs. There’s some very funny suggestions there, but some genuinely rejected Dwarf names include Biggy, Blabby, Dirty, Gabby, Gaspy, Gloomy, Hoppy, Hotsy, Jaunty, Jumpy and Nifty.
I know I read Pinocchio when I was a child, but I’m not sure if that was before or after seeing Disney’s second animated feature film, Pinocchio (1940). Again, the lying wooden boy is as much part of our culture today as it was 69 years ago, while the song When You Wish Upon A Star has been covered time and again.
Dumbo (1941) is such a luvly film. It’s sad and fun and heartwarming and it has a weird trippy scene – what’s not to love. The very catchy When I See an Elephant Fly helped Dumbo win an Oscar for best Music. Dumbo was also the first of Disney’s classic animated films to be released on video in 1981. That’s probably why it has a special place in the hearts of kids born around that time (me included).
“Curiouser and curiouser.”
Alice in Wonderland (1951) remains one of my favourite cartoons of all time. Drawn from the wonderful source material of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking Glass, it brought to life the amazing characters of The Mad Hatter, The White Rabbit, The Walrus and the Carpenter, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the Queen of Hearts and my favourite, The Cheshire Cat. It doesn’t have the same epic tracks of other Disney cartoons, but it does have the beautiful All in a Golden Afternoon and the delightfully quirky Un-birthday Song. It’s a crazy and wonderful film and is the closest any film has ever come to steeping inside the imagination of a child.
One of the most important films Disney ever made was another book adaptation. There’s no doubt that JM Barrie’s novel would have continued to be read by generations of children, but it was Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) that created the institution. In fact, this version of the Pan tale uses little of Barrie’s original dialogue. I’ve always loved Pan and when the live action Peter Pan came out in 2003 (released by Universal, not Disney), I was so happy to be reintroduced to Barrie’s world again.
There’s a number of Disney movies that I watched time and time again when I was younger that maybe didn’t affect me as much as those above, but still have a special place in my heart (I know it sounds twee, but it’s true). Lady and the Tramp (1955), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970) and The Rescuers (1977) fall under this banner.
“I sentence you to sudden, instant, and even immediate death!”
Robin Hood (1973) however is with me all the time. I whistle the Whistling Tune from it on a near daily basis and I’ve definitely caught myself singing Oo-de-lally on more than one occasion. I even quote the film regularly. We watched it only three weeks ago on a lazy Sunday afternoon and it’s as good as ever. Flawless.
Curiously, there’s a few classics that passed me by, that didn’t have the same effect on me as it did many others. Walt Disney’s labour of love Fantasia (1940) being one, Bambi (1942), Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959) too. They just never gripped me.
Live Action Classics
But Disney have done more than just cartoons. Some of the finest live action children’s films came from The Mouse House. Some are out and out classics, such as Song of the South (1946), which features the song Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah, Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), The Parent Trap (1961) and The Absent Minded Professor (1961).
Then there’s those films that are not what you’d describe as ‘great’, but they are a part of my chldhood and I’m very fond of them. These include The Love Bug (1968 – Herbie’s first adventure) , Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), Freaky Friday (1976), The Shaggy D.A. (1976) and Polyanna (1960).
“Beware all wenches.”
Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968) ghost should probably belong on that list too. It’s no great film, but I watched it so often as a child – it was so much fun. Even now, whenever I think of Peter Ustinov, I don’t think of his Oscar wins, I don’t even think of his stint as Hercule Poirot, all I can picture is Captain Blackbeard on his quest for redemption.
Greyfriars Bobby (1961) is the beautiful tale of a dog who’s master passes away, but he still remains faithfully by the graveside. The townspeople adopt Bobby as their own and rally together to save him. This is one film that pulls at my heartstrings every single time I see it.
I don’t really need to say much about Mary Poppins (1964). It’s an all time classic. The wonderful, simple story of a disjointed family brought together by the quirky nanny features some of Disney’s best songs – from Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to Chim-Chim-Cheree, from I Love to Laugh to Feed the Birds.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), like Mary Poppins, combines live action with cartoon. This fantastical tale of an orphaned sister and two brothers who are forced to stay with an apprentice witch during war times, begins rooted in reality before escalating to more and more ridiculous and wonderful situations, including a visit to the Island of Naboomboo. It’s one of Angela Lansbury’s finest roles. Portobello Road and Substitutiary Locomotion are my favourite songs from this film.
Things Changed in the Eighties
I don’t know if it was looming recession or a genuine solid business strategy, but in the 80’s Disney started to diversify a bit. They produced a number of ‘different’ films, mostly in conjunction with other production companies, such as Paramount for Popeye (1980), Amblin for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) and Buena Vista for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). This continued into the 90’s and beyond and it seemed that Disney was shifting focus far away from animation, concentrating on bigger budget, live action films.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. In the 80’s Disney brought us The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992 – with Jim Henson Productions), Tron (1982), Return to Oz (1985) and Flight of the Navigator (1986). Both Tron and Flight of the Navigator will see revivals in 2010.
But the animated film did not go completely neglected. In 1988 Oliver & Company was made. I don’t really remember it and I only mention it because it was beaten by The Land Before Time in the box office, a shifting point in the history of animated feature films – Disney was no longer King.
The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991) stand out as two great Disney animated films from this era, but neither The Rescuers Down Under (1990) nor Aladdin (1992) set my world alight and I quickly forgot about them. In truth, The Lion King in 1994 was probably Disney’s last great 2D animated film. It also happens to be my favourite animated movie of all time. The epic story, accompanied by the various characters and wonderful music from Elton John and Tim Rice, made it a timeless classic on the day of its release, worthy to stand tall beside Snow White, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio.
However, Pocahontas (1995) was empty of any real emotion, instead willing to play up stereotypes in the hope that it seems groundbreaking. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) was a cartoon that should never have seen the big screen. After these, I think I was starting to get too old for Disney.
Too Old For Disney?
Or maybe Disney just became too juvenile for me? All intelligence, all sense of originality and innovation seemed to disappear from The Mouse House. Uncle Walt would not have been happy with Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998), Tarzan (1999), Dinosaur (2000), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and Home on the Range (2004). The Tigger Movie (2000) was more about merchandising than filmmaking, while I found Lilo & Stitch (2002) irritating and sickly sweet. I know Disney is for kids, but should it be solely for kids? There was nothing in this that I could see appealing to adults, even one as childish as me.
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) was a brief brilliant sidestep for Disney. With a more mature comedy about it, New Groove was very funny and had llamas in it, which I just love.
The New Disney
The Three Musketeers (1993) saw a dramatic departure from form for Disney live action films. It was a big budget, well scripted, tightly directed blockbuster. In the same year, they also produced the wonderfully quirky Cool Runnings (1993). George of the Jungle came along in 1997, but all of these were just paving the way for the smash hit Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and its sequels.
Granted, there’s still the barrage of mulch in the form of The Princess Diaries (2001), Freaky Friday (2003), The Lizzie Maguire Movie (2003), Eddie Murphy’s awful The Haunted Mansion (2003), Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004), Around the World in 80 Days (2004), The Pacifier (2005), Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), and of course the aforementioned Camp Rock, Jonas Brothers and High School Musical.
PIXAR and Disney
If you can’t beat ’em, buy them seems to be Disney’s way of dealing with Pixar. From 1995’s Toy Story, Pixar set the standard in animated feature films. The gave us A Bug’s Life (1998) , Toy Story 2 (1999), The Incredibles (2004), Monsters Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), and Cars (2006), before being bought out by Disney in 2006. Fair enough, all Pixar films have been distributed by Disney, but they were always Pixar movies – extremely original, breaking the mold on more than one occasion and always appealing to both children and adults alike. Ratatouille came along in 2007, before the wonderful Wall·E (2008), one of the most groundbreaking films of our time. I only saw this year’s Up this weekend and once again, Pixar excelled, creating a movie bleeding with emotion, while also extremely funny and clever.
You thought I’d forgotten about you lot, wrapped up as I was in my own personal history of Disney films. Well, seeing as you’ve managed to read this far down, I’m rewarding you with a chance to win a copy of Disney’s new double CD collection, The Magic of Disney, featuring 47 of Disney’s biggest hits. There’s more information on Amazon or iTunes and here’s the full tracklisting:
- Circle Of Life – The Lion King
- Beauty And The Beast – Beauty And The Beast
- A Whole New World – Aladdin
- You’ve Got A Friend In Me – Toy Story
- I Won’t Say I’m In Love – Hercules
- Colors Of The Wind – Pocahontas
- Someday – The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
- Once Upon A Dream – Sleeping Beauty
- He’s A Tramp – Lady And The Tramp
- The Bare Necessities – The Jungle Book
- Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah – Song Of The South
- Hakuna Matata – The Lion King
- Happy Working Song – Enchanted
- Heigh Ho – Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
- The Wonderful Things About Tiggers – The Tigger Movie
- When I See An Elephant Fly – Dumbo
- A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes – Cinderella
- Chim Chim Cher-Ee – Mary Poppins
- The Aristocats – The Aristocats
- I’ll Try – Return To Neverland
- Go The Distance – Hercules
- Reflection – Mulan
- Part Of Your World – The Little Mermaid
- He’s A Pirate – Pirates Of The Caribbean
- Life Is A Highway – Cars
- Under The Sea – The Little Mermaid
- That’s How You Know – Enchanted
- Cruella De Vil – 101 Dalmatians
- Candle On The Water – Pete’s Dragon
- Little April Shower – Bambi
- You Can Fly – Peter Pan
- Just Around The Riverbend – Pocahontas
- Be Our Guest – Beauty And The Beast
- If I Didn’t Have You – Monsters Inc.
- Bibbidi Bobbidi-Boo – Cinderella
- Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – Mary Poppins
- The Unbirthday Song – Alice In Wonderland
- Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat – The Aristocats
- Zero To Hero – Hercules
- One Jump Ahead – Aladdin
- I Wan’na Be Like You – The Jungle Book
- Can You Feel The Love Tonight – The Lion King
- Kiss The Girl – The Little Mermaid
- Someday My Prince Will Come – Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
- Best Of Friends – The Fox And The Hound
- When She Loved Me – Toy Story 2
- When You Wish Upon A Star – Pinocchio
To win, just leave a comment below telling me what your favourite Disney movie is and why. Winners will be selected next Thursday 3rd December.