Score Highlights: Spider-Man

In which The Cool Kat shares some of his favorite pieces of score from various soundtracks.

Today’s pick is “Main Titles”, Danny Elfman’s somewhat primal, determined leitmotif for the titular web-slinging mutant of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (one of Spidey’s better excursions to the big screen compared to the Marc Webb films that followed). Beginning on a simple, whining violin note and carrying on through percussion, brass and vocals, Spider-Man’s theme is broken up into several larger-than life, descending pieces – each of which had various variations spun off throughout the films – before closing on an entirely different, triumphant melody for Spider-Man’s human alter-ego, Peter Parker, representing the heart and humanity of Tobey Maguire’s character (the way that final statement of Peter’s theme is timed with the parting shot of Peter walking away from his Uncle Ben’s grave in “Spider-Man 2” is simply perfect). Whenever people discuss the pros of the Sam Raimi films, I feel like Danny Elfman and Christopher Young never quite get enough credit. Their high-energy scores in tandem with the high-flying cinematography went a long way in helping those movies establish their identities in a sea of superhero films.

Bonus: Peter’s first ever bad guy chase in “Revenge”:

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The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (1977) Review

Winnie The Pooh

In my “Robin Hood” review, I proposed the idea that Disney compensated for their lower budgets and rougher animation quality during their dark age period of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s by making the humor as sharp and the characters as likable and memorable as they could in their films. Something that supports that theory is the fact that Disney’s Winnie the Pooh franchise was born during that era. I think most people should be familiar with said franchise about an eccentric stuffed bear – Disney saturated the public with it during the late 20th century and early 21st century – and it remains a strong boyhood memory of mine. Winnie the Pooh made his debut to film in 1977, in a package film comprised of several shorts from the previous decade. Something that makes Pooh’s first film notable is that it’s one of those Disney movies where there’s not much in the way of conflict. The closest thing to an antagonist this movie has is the citizens of the Hundred Acre Woods themselves being inconsiderate to each other, and it’s largely comprised of Pooh and his friends having zany misadventures in their community. It’s pretty much seventy-five minutes of pure, precocious fluff. Disney has done films that are low on stakes before and they sometimes wind up being very, very boring, but something that makes “The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh” clever (and a good head and shoulders above other package films the studio had produced in the past) is the fact that it gleefully breaks the fourth wall. It’s cast knows they’re characters in a child’s storybook – whenever they feel like it they take shortcuts by jumping from page to page, Gopher glibly admits ‘he’s not in the book’, letters and paragraphs on the pages are sometimes ravaged by the elements, and in one segment Tiger has a nice, terrified chat with the narrator to get himself out of trouble. It’s not often that you see Disney have fun playing with the medium of their films, there aren’t many movies that could get away with such a thing (though “The Emperor’s New Groove” comes to mind), but it definitely contributes to this film being as lovable as it is.

The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh Blustery Day

While revisiting this film, I came to realize there are a lot of characters in this franchise; we’re introduced to eight people in the first segment, and we’re still not introduced to Piglet and Tigger until the second act. Despite being adults, Christopher Robin’s make-believe animal playmates all possess a child’s innocence, a child’s quirky nature and a child’s grasp of the English language as well. The head bear, Sterling Holloway, voiced a lot of characters in the Disney canon, but he will always be Winnie the Pooh to me (and the fact that I always think of Winnie the Pooh when I hear Holloway’s voice meant “The Jungle Book” was quite an interesting experience). Pooh is a very likeable protagonist. You don’t have to love Pooh Bear but there’s very little to dislike about him as well. He’s an obtuse, happy-go lucky, roly poly stuffed bear who enjoys eating honey and spending time with his best friend, Christopher Robin. I also love the occasional glimpses of ego we see from the character (“Now, is the next chapter all about me?” “No, it’s mostly about Tigger” “Oh”). There’s a lovely moment of friendship involving Pooh and Piglet at the end of the second act. Pooh, who had been declared a hero by his friends despite not really doing anything to earn it, notices Piglet is now homeless after letting Owl have his house, so he lets Piglet stay with him for as long as he’d like and asks Christopher Robin to celebrate Piglet as a hero for his selflessness deed. It never ceases to warm my heart. Despite being the creator of this universe, the Pooh god if you will, Christopher Robin isn’t a character in this film so much as he is a handy helper. A relatively grounded minor character who crops up every now and then to help out his whimsical friends. Christopher Robin’s character gains substance in the film’s last scene, when the movie mines a surprising amount of pathos out of Christopher Robin’s childhood beginning to come to an end and his friendship with his stuffed bear, Pooh, being called into question.

Winnie The Pooh Rescue

Short, shy, and a bit of a doormat at times, little Piglet is definitely not a leader but a follower (which is probably why the subsequent TV series kept putting Piglet in positions where he had to step up and be a leader). Piglet has a large heart for a very small animal though and a lot of trust in his good buddy Pooh, who Piglet often accompanies for the second half of the film (I also sometimes wonder about Piglet’s age. He’s clearly supposed to be an adult like the others, but he’s also a piglet. No wonder he’s always so down about his size). By contrast, Rabbit is something of a prideful perfectionist; the long-eared gardener is also the long-suffering member of the group. Despite wanting to be left in peace for the most part, misfortune constantly befalls Rabbit, to the point where you actually start to worry about Rabbit’s stress level (for example, after having Pooh’s big behind stuck in his door for weeks, Rabbit makes this face when he can finally get rid of him). Eventually, Rabbit starts to develop quite the vindictive streak, especially towards Tigger, in the last act. Speaking of whom, Paul Winchell’s Tigger is one of the more iconic characters from the Winnie the Pooh franchise, and for good reason. Tigger is the prankster of the group. Very hyper, very loving, somewhat macho, and definitely the most blokish of Christopher Robin’s stuffed animals. He’d probably be seen as something of a jerk if he wasn’t so well-meaning. Really he’s a big kid and the unofficial big brother of the gang. He’s introduced halfway through the movie before having the entire last segment devoted to fleshing out his character (including a certain fear of heights he’s much too proud to admit to having). Eeyore is the snarky pessimistic one, bordering on apathetic, who feels somewhat underused by the movie until his moment in the sun comes in “The Blustery Day”.

Winnie The Pooh Hundred Acre Wood

Mother and son marsupials, Kanga and Roo are nice. So nice in fact that they’re kind of bland and boring, hence why they never got much screentime in this franchise until the early 2000’s. Gopher meanwhile is quite the scene-stealer. The talkative, dynamite-loving worker with a speech impediment was Disney’s own addition to the franchise and originally intended as a replacement for Piglet in “Winnie The Pooh and the Honey Tree” before popular demand led to Piglet’s debut in “The Blustery Day” (and thank goodness for that). We’d be seeing much more of Gopher and his temper in “The New Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh” series. Owl is the most British of a British ensemble cast, filled with bluster and grandfatherly tales, and a delight every time he gets a scene. There’s even one scene where he talks all the way through Pooh and Piglet dropping off a waterfall. Despite the citizens of the hundred acre woods generally being some of the friendlier critters you’ll encounter in the Disney canon, they can also be hilariously, marvelously dickish at times, more so than I remembered. Pooh greedily devours all of Rabbit’s honey and gets himself stuck in his door for weeks; Eeyore actually tries to give away Piglet’s house to Owl while Piglet is still living in it; Tigger constantly bounces his friends and shows zero remorse for destroying their property; Rabbit comes up with a surprisingly cruel plan to ditch Tigger in the woods for days so he’ll lose his bouncing spirit; Pooh and Piglet, despite agreeing to help Rabbit with this plan, ditch him in the woods as soon as Pooh gets hungry. They’re generally nice guys but they’re neither saints nor boring (except Kanga).

Winnie The Pooh Tigger And Roo

Like all the films from this period, the budget “The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh” was produced on is clear, with thick, roughly drawn pencil lines and recycled animation in places (that shot of Christopher Robin climbing over a fence starts to overstay it’s welcome). The animation is a noticeable improvement over previous films though. By the 1970’s Disney had grown into it’s xerox era, with the animation style and direction for “Robin Hood” and “The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh” feeling significantly less awkward than “101 Dalmatians” and “The Jungle Book” had been. As mentioned before, there are a lot of clever tricks done with the storybook Winnie the Pooh and his friends reside in, and a minimalist approach is taken to many of the film’s backgrounds that works for the movie’s aesthetic. “The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh” benefits from a rich, playful, infectious score by Buddy Baker that incorporates many of the songs’ melodies and represents the movie’s easygoing nature (a score that sadly remains entirely unreleased to this day). Unlike some of their previous films, all of the songs written here by the Sherman brothers manage to be memorable years after the fact, including but not limited to, “Winnie The Pooh”, “Little Black Rain Cloud”, “Mind Over Matter”, “The Rain, Rain, Rain Came Down, Down, Down” and my personal favorite “Hip Hip Pooh Ray”. The only song I’m on the fence about is “Heffalumps and Woozles”. As a boy I was never sure whether it was supposed to be frightening or funny since it was neither, it was just a strange detour from the story. Years later I realized it was an homage to one of Disney’s original acid trip sequences, the pink elephants scene from “Dumbo” (and funnily enough, that scene is also my least favorite from “Dumbo”, because it was the point where I realized “Dumbo” really had no idea what sort of movie it wanted to be tonally so it tried to be some of everything. But that’s a whole different review).

So all in all, “The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh” is a fun piece of whimsical fluff and a strong start to a franchise that would someday come to rival Mickey Mouse’s popularity. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend checking it out someday, and after you’ve done that maybe look up some episodes of Pooh’s 80’s series.

Rating: 8/10.

Side-Notes:

The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh Pooh and Piglet

* “I am short, fat and proud of that!” Own that body, Pooh!

* “There now, isn’t this a clever disguise?” It really isn’t.

* Fun fact: ever since I was five and a bee stung me in my ear, I’ve avoided them like the plague. It’s quite the phobia, so I do not envy Pooh when he actually swallows a whole bunch of bees.

* “Well goodbye, if you won’t have any more” “Is there any more?” “No. There isn’t” “I thought not”.

* “What’s the cost? The charging money?!” “Nope, no charge account! I work strictly cash!”

* “Say, ain’t you that stuck-up bear?”

* “DON’T FEED THE BEAR!”

* “My house! Someone has- Pooh, did you do that?” “I don’t think so”.

* “The most wonderful thing about Tiggers is I’m the only one! I’m the only one!” “Then what’s that over there?” Pooh letting some of the wind out of that ego.

* Tigger insists on having some of Pooh’s honey and then when he actually tastes it he’s like “Bruh, that’s nasty!” Tigger being rude to Pooh in “The House At Pooh Corner” got a glorious homage in Matt Smith’s first episode of “Doctor Who”.

* “Is it raining in there? It’s raining out here too”.

* “H-help, P-p-piglet! (M-me!)”

* “Pooh too was caught and so he thought ‘I must rescue my supper!‘” Never let it be said Pooh isn’t a bear with his priorities in order.

* “You’re our hero Pooh!” “I am?” Pooh really didn’t do anything, but he’s not going to argue with free cake.

* “Your name’s on it and everything. W-O-L. That spells Owl” “Bless my soul, so it does!” It really doesn’t, but Owl’s not going to argue with a free house.

* “I recognize you! You’re the one that’s stuffed with fluff!” “Yes. You’re sitting on it” “Yeah and it’s comfy too!”

* There are quite a few times when you’re glad the characters in this movie are made out of stuffing and not flesh and bone. Pooh takes a lot of punishment in chapter I, and Tigger bounces on Piglet in chapter III when he’s three times Piglet’s size.

* When you know you’ve fucked up.

* Tigger drags Rabbit through the mud all the way home. Getting payback is what Tiggers do best.

* “Don’t worry Mrs. Kanga, I’ll take care of the little nipper!” Pooh and his friends got significantly less British as this franchise went on didn’t they? That’s a shame.

* The comedic highlight of this movie is Roo swinging around on Tigger’s tail, giving zero fucks about how frightened Tigger is (“I was just getting seasick from seeing too much”).

* “Jagulars always shout ‘heeellllooo!’ and when you look up they drop on you” “I’m looking down, Pooh!”

* “I guess I like the old bouncy Tigger best too” Hooray for peer pressure.

* “It makes you feel ggrrrreeeaaattttt!” Tigger, that’s copyrighted! Tony will sue!

* I’d just like to say the “Winnie the Pooh” film from 2011 was quite disappointing, considering it was Pooh’s big return to the cinema and his first Disney canon film in over thirty years. Not only was it an hour long and somewhat dull, it was also a wholesale rethread of a movie Disney had already done fifteen years earlier and correctly guessed most people had forgotten. It was pretty uninspired. I tend to lump it in with other movies from that time that played things far too safe and formulaic, like “Bolt” and “Tangled”.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Winnie The Pooh franchise

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Pinocchio (1940) Review

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“Pinocchio” is a one-of-kind gem in the Disney Canon. Disney has always adapted a lot of grim fairy tales, novels and folklore – distilling some of the more gruesome elements into cheerier, contemporary films that still retain the themes and ideas of the source material – and it does so rather well. “Pinocchio” is quite rightly remembered as one of the few Disney films that are genuinely, unrelentingly frightening. Because, here’s the thing about Disney. The studio is extraordinarily good at invoking mood whiplash when it does so deliberately. “Robin Hood” was a lively, lighthearted romp that got very dark in it’s last act. Likewise, “Pinocchio” starts off as a cozy, whimsical, wholesome story about love, family, and dreams coming true, and then it gradually turns into a ghost train ride, starting from the moment Pinocchio, the wooden boy, innocently lights his own hand on fire. “Pinocchio” benefits a lot from giving it’s darker moments time to simmer and contrasting them with the innocence of it’s lead; letting dread build and sinisterness spill off the screen, taunting the audience, before it finally strikes forward savagely. The strongest and most iconic example is the Pleasure Island sequence. Pinocchio and dozens of other little boys are ‘generously’ allowed to indulge in every vice they can imagine. They smoke, drink, fight, wreck everything they get their hands on, and generally behave like animals, and Pinocchio, despite knowing better, joins in with encouragement from his pal Lampwick. That night, when the park’s gone far too empty, Jiminy Cricket tries to talk some sense into the boys but winds up being pushed around and humiliated by Lampwick – the audience reminded that the ugly side of human nature isn’t just exclusive to adults. Jiminy does manage to uncover the truth of Pleasure Island though. The park’s proprietor turns it’s inhabitants into animals, stealing their voice so they can never speak another word and selling them into slavery and hard labor for the rest of their lives.  He’s in the market for slaves. Pinocchio and the audience watch Lampwick undergo a werewolf-like transformation, losing his mind and his humanity screeching – metaphorically dying – before Pinocchio and Jiminy are forced to flee the island and abandon everyone there to die, lest they be turned next. And this is the final fate of the Pleasure Island boys. No one ever comes back for them. It’s one of the most brutal things Disney has ever done, one of the most honest (if you stray too far from home and ignore all your instincts, you could land yourself in some trouble you’ll never get out of) and one of the most memorable.

Pinocchio And Lampwick

I’ve been heaping a lot of praise onto this movie, but none of this is to say “Pinocchio” is a perfect film. Like a lot of the big Walt Disney classics, it does have some glaring flaws that are often ignored. The first two acts segue into each other nicely, but the movie starts to go off the rails and stops making sense in the last act when Pinocchio and Jiminy mount a rescue mission to save Pinocchio’s dad from Monstro the whale. The new direction the film takes raises quite a few questions, like why did Gepetto decide to look for Pinocchio out at sea of all places? Where did he get a boat from? Did he always have a boat? Gepetto states he hasn’t caught any fish in days and is on the verge of starving, but the film makes it clear Pinocchio and Jiminy were only away from home for two days tops (they escape from Stromboli, hop on a midnight barge to Pleasure Island, spend a day there and rush home) and Gepetto almost certainly set out looking for them on the second day, so when did he find time to starve? Why can Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket breathe underwater? (Pinocchio, I can understand, he doesn’t have lungs). Presumably it’s because of cartoon physics, but if that’s the case then why does Pinocchio later die by drowning? (At first I thought it was because he’d been fatally throttled by Monstro, but upon rewatch it was death by drowning). The whale chase sequence is one of the most thrilling and well-animated climaxes in the Disney canon, but the circumstances surrounding it are more than a bit contrived. The fact that Carlo Collodi’s “Pinocchio” was an episodic novel and Disney had trouble tying the story together for film probably explains the cracks in the film starting to show in the last twenty minutes. It’s a mark against the movie, but far from a deal breaker.

Jiminy Cricket

One of the most notable departures from the source material is Pinocchio’s characterization. While Collodi’s Pinocchio was a cold, cruel, sociopathic creature, the title character of Disney’s second film is a lovable, enthusiastic, naive child trying to maneuver his way through a new, unfamiliar world and often stumbling along the way. Due to “Pinocchio” having a surprisingly great understanding of children and containing a lot of childhood fears (some adult fears as well), the living marionette’s character arc throughout the film winds up encapsulating a lot of the experience of being a young kid. Looking up to your parents, being tempted to blow off school, ignoring the advice of grown-ups, getting in way over your head, lying to avoid disappointing others, being afraid of losing your family, gaining friends who are a bad influence on you and learning to value the really good ones you’ve got. Despite his frustrating failures, time and again, to stick to his convictions, the audience is always reminded that Pinocchio is a good kid and he ultimately proves himself worthy of being real boy by using everything he’s learned and doing everything in his power to save his father’s life. Pinocchio is guided along the way by vagabond-turned-conscience, Jiminy Cricket; his wry, sassy, and supportive sidekick who more than earned the expanded role he was given in this film. Despite being the voice of reason and morality in “Pinocchio”, Jiminy is far from perfect and has his own flaws and shortcomings as a person to navigate through. He abandons Pinocchio twice, once out of temper, and is also kind of vain at the start: desiring a badge from the Blue Fairy and deciding not to seek help from Gepetto, which could have saved them both a lot of trouble, in favor of not being a ‘snitch’. Still, Jiminy is as true a friend as you can get, following Pinocchio through all sorts of nightmarish scenarios, all the way to the bottom of the sea. Amusingly, Jiminy also has quite an eye for the ladies, particularly human women, despite, y’know, being a cricket.

Pinocchio Star

Being the first of several single fathers in the Disney canon, the kindly, absent-minded woodcarver and toymaker Gepetto brings a strong, paternal warmth to the film, grounding an otherwise fantastical movie with the comfort and familiarity of home, waiting to be found again by our hero. Despite the sentimental old guy not appearing much outside the first act, he ends up being one of the more memorable, loving father figures from the House of Mouse. Gepetto is accompanied by his faithful pet, the stroppy, long-suffering kitten Figaro, who is quite the scene-stealer with his short-tempered antics; it’s easy to see why the mischievous kitten was later made a recurring character in the Mickey Mouse shorts, as Minnie Mouse’s cat. The enigmatic, benevolent Blue Fairy, who animates Pinocchio, only appears in person twice in the film, but her magical, motherly influence reaches throughout. Curiously enough, she looks like Snow White all grown up (and apparently they shared the same animator). Instead of a single, overarching villain, “Pinocchio” has a string of increasingly dangerous antagonists, many of whom prey upon on Pinocchio’s lack of worldly experience in a manner most disturbing. You have two illiterate, small-time conmen, Honest John and Gideon; a greedy, larger-than-life, child-abusing showman, Stromboli; a crass local bully and ruffian, but genuine friend to Pinocchio, Lampwick; a satanic slave driver in the Coachman; and a colossal, fearsome sperm whale with serious rage issues, Monstro. About half of these guys never have their storylines wrapped-up neatly or receive any sort of justice for their evil. Monstro beams himself to death on some rocks and Honest John receives some preemptive, well-deserved abuse from Gideon with a mallet, but guys like Stromboli and the Coachman simply carry on with their lives after their brief encounters with Pinocchio, free to cause more damage. In some ways, the lack of closure makes these figures more real though, and ties into some of the more cynical acknowledgements the movie makes. These characters do have lives beyond being villains in a wooden boy’s story, and in real life, not every villain gets their due. Not every one can.

Pinocchio Storm

If there’s one thing you can say about the animation in “Pinocchio” it’s that it has plenty of character. “Pinocchio” was produced during the golden age of animation, a time when much of a character’s personality was portrayed non-verbally through the animation, with longing stares, thoughtful, precise movements and sharp double-takes (in fact, not long after this Disney would try their hand at an experimental film where the animation does most of the work telling the story, “Bambi”). There are times when the film catches you off-guard with the sheer craftsmanship and ingenuity of the storyboarding, like the detailed pan-ins of Pinocchio’s luscious village, Jiminy Cricket’s energetic POV shots, and Monstro’s entire, massive girth crashing and barreling across the screen in a murderous rage. When it comes to the character designs of the humans, Disney has improved from their first attempt in “Snow White And The Seven Dwarves”, but there are still a few cases that wander into Uncanny Valley territory, like human Pinocchio at the end (who ironically looks stranger than puppet Pinocchio). When it comes to the soundtrack, “Pinocchio” is one of those Disney works where the songs and the score blend well together, to the point where the songs feel more like an extension of the score than an interlude. I’m especially fond of how the score in the first act keeps returning to the melody of Gepetto’s lullaby, “Little Wooden Head” (along with how that term of endearment is later juxtaposed with Stromboli’s cruelty towards the puppet), and how several of the songs involve characters scatting or improvising, like “Hi Diddly Di (An Actor’s Life For Me)”. The most famous song of the bunch is of course Disney’s anthem, “When You Wish Upon A Star”, which I never knew was performed by Jiminy Cricket himself before discovering this movie. Lastly, I want to commend the foley work done in this movie, which I don’t usually draw attention to, for arranging such a diverse and authentic cacophony of sounds for Gepetto’s workshop at the start.

So all in all, “Pinocchio” is a surprisingly early smash hit from Walt Disney Animation Studios. As I said, the quality starts to drop in the last twenty minutes with an ending that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s easily one of the strongest films produced by the studio during their golden and silver age and a tour-de-force of quality animation.

Rating: 9/10.

Side-Notes:

Monstro

* There is a surprisingly large amount of butt jokes in this family film from 1940 (Stromboli could teach Ursula a few things about “body language”), and this honestly made me smile. Some things never change.

* ‘My pets, you don’t like the name I picked for Pinocchio? Well, screw both of you, I’m keeping it’.

* “Oh, Figaro. I left the window open” Why are you so lazy, Gepetto? Close it yourself, bro.

* “QUIET!!!”

* As I live and breathe, a real fairy. Mmm-hmm!”.

* “I’m dreaming in my sleep! Wake me up! Wake me up!” Alright.

* If Cleo gets lung cancer, she knows who to blame.

* I sometimes wish we could have seen more of the culture of Pinocchio’s little Italian village. What bit we do see looks pretty neat.

* “Go ahead! Make a fool of yourself! Maybe then you’ll listen to your conscience!” Jiminy Cricket feeling salty.

* Stromboli actually freaking screeches and reeeees when Pinocchio face-plants. Oh my god.

* “I guess he doesn’t need me. What does an actor want with a conscience anyway?” Dat burn.

* “Buck up, son. It could be worse. Be cheerful, like me!“.

* It’s funny how Pinocchio’s nose growing is considered a signature part of this story, when it really only happens once and is never mentioned again.

* “Goodbye Mr. Stromboli!” Pinocchio, no!

* Why do I feel like Pinocchio is always going to have a distaste for actors from now on?

* A rather disturbing background detail (that it took me a while to catch) is Gideon being prepared to clobber Pinocchio with his mallet if Honest John doesn’t win him over his lies. On that note, I’m really glad the two cart him off and practically kidnap him (not like that), because if Pinocchio had willingly gone with them after they had already set him up with Stromboli before, he’d have gone from being a naive puppet to a really thick one.

* Lampwick gives zero fucks about Honest John, Pinocchio.

* Children get labeled jackasses several times in this movie. Add that to the growing list of things Disney could get away in the past that they never could now.

* I felt compelled to share these because I think they’re cute. Lampwick was only a part of this film for fifteen minutes, but like Figaro, the miscreant left quite an impression and I found myself almost missing him for the remaining twenty.

* So Pinocchio and Jiminy are going to at least try to do something about Pleasure Island after the film, right? Because now that they know the secret of what goes on there – child trafficking – it would be pretty messed up if they just kept that to themselves forever.

* “Father! Wait, he ain’t my father. Mr. Gepetto!”

* So can we talk about these parallels? Because I kind of want to talk about these parallels.

* Gepetto hugs that fish and then tosses it to the side. What a master of mixed signals.

* When Pinocchio tries to outswim Monstro and leaps out of the sea, he gets so much air. That puppet was trying his best to get away. Likewise, Pinocchio wastes absolutely no time thinking up an escape plan and putting it into action (he learned about fire in Act I and his pal Lampwick taught him how to wreck some shit in Act II), since he has no intention of staying inside a whale’s stomach for longer than five minutes. Good lad.

* “Father, why are you crying?” “Because you’re dead, Pinocchio” “No, I’m not” “Yes you are, now lie down”.

Further Reading:

* Nostalgia Critic; The Animation Commendation; The Animation Commendation (2)AnimatedKid; Taestful ReviewsSilver Petticoat; Author Quest; Jess’s Somewhat Grown-Up Type BlogAll The Disney Movies; Disney In Your Day; Tor; Jaysen Headley Writes; The Disney Odyssey; Disneyfied Or Disney Tried?; Roger Erbert; A113 Animation; This Is Random, ButA Year With Walt; A Year Of A Million Dreams; Blackbird’s Nest; Fernby FilmsCokieBlum; Milmon Movies; Drew Martin Writes; Movie Feast; Doctor Film; Mr. Movie; Bibliophonic; Predictability Of Stupidity; Diamond In Rough Coal; NixPix; Eddie On Film; KniggitHak’s Reviews; B Plus Movie Blog; Ten Stars Or Less; Film Music Central (1); Film Music Central (2); Film Music Central (3); Standing On My NeckReviews Of Films; The Mouse For Less; Geeks Of Doom; Mighty Mike’s Raging Reviews; A Nerd Goes To The Movies; 1001: A Film Odyssey; Filmnomenon.

Fanfiction:

Honest John

Posted in Disney, Reviews | 6 Comments

Frozen (2013) Review

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I’ve been wanting to talk about “Frozen” for a while now. “Frozen”, to me, is easily one of Disney’s strongest films from the 21st century. I mentioned a few reviews back that a lot of the films from the post-Renaissance era and the early Disney revival felt lacking. Very few of them were actually terrible, but many felt content to be average. Films like “Bolt”, “Winnie the Pooh” and “Tangled” hardly did anything especially charming, unique, innovative or memorable; they played it too safe. “Wreck It Ralph” and “Frozen” were the first Disney films in about a decade to regain Disney’s sense of ambition, to really go that extra mile and be something special, and “Zootopia” was the point where I officially agreed with the general consensus that Disney had gotten it’s groove back. However, since 2013, “Frozen” has suffered from some hype backlash. “Frozen” was not only a critical and commercial success, but it managed to break “The Lion King’s” success records and bring home numerous awards, including a few Oscars. A growing sentiment around the internet (especially YouTube) since 2014 is that “Frozen” is overrated trash and undeserving of it’s popularity and acclaim, and honestly, I find the intense hype backlash and occasional pettiness towards “Frozen” to be pretty hypocritical. The film is often dismissed, thrown under the bus and undersold as a movie by people who apparently can’t handle an insanely popular Disney movie unless it’s an insanely popular Disney movie they like, or one they have 90’s nostalgia for like “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King“. “Frozen” has a high reputation, but it’s a reputation the movie earned, as much as the Disney renaissance films earned theirs. So I’m here today to offer my opinions on the film, it’s flaws and merits.

Elsa

“Frozen”respectfully deals with some pretty hefty subjects like fractured family ties, crippling anxiety, and the consequences of isolation. Basically, the royal family of Arendelle teaches us all how not to deal with childhood trauma. After their daughters have a near-fatal magical accident, the king and queen instruct their eldest daughter to control her abilities with the Bambi method of closing herself off and suppressing her emotions as a proper royal should, which does nothing for her over the years except stunt her development (Elsa finds herself locked in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Her obsessive fear of her powers only makes them harder to control, and her frequent attempts to push her sister away still only winds up hurting her sister); all while keeping the girls sealed away from the outside world and Anna locked out of the loop. By the time Anna comes of age, there’s really no reason to continue keeping the secret from her, but by this point Elsa has succumbed to her fears, become depressed and given up on herself, even after she and Anna are the only members of the royal family who are still alive. By the time Anna and Elsa are women, neither of them are anywhere near prepared to take on the outside world – Elsa is a nervous wreck who can barely handle being around other people without losing control, while Anna is so starved of love, affection and company from her family that she rushes into a relationship to try and fill the void – so everything goes to hell in a handbasket on their real first day interacting with the kingdom. Basically, they both hit rock bottom, and Anna and Elsa’s respective character arcs in the film are all about healing and finding their way back from this poor state.

Let It Go

Disney’s version of the Snow Queen is a benevolent Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Elsa is one of the more powerful characters in the Disney multiverse. She can freeze entire rooms without trying, create jagged spikes out of nothing, kill someone from the inside out by freezing their hearts, plunge entire regions into endless winters, create sentient life. She’s seriously OP. Elsa’s powers are tied to her emotions and as stated above, she has a tenuous grip on them, so she finds herself scrambling for control many times throughout the film. She’s haunted by the night she almost killed her younger sister, and she doesn’t trust herself. She’s also spent a lifetime putting other people’s needs before her own. Her signature song, “Let It Go”, can so easily be taken out of context as an empowering power ballad about being yourself that it’s easy to forget that in the film itself it actually serves a similar purpose to “Hakuna Matata” (but done better): a lost protagonist at their lowest point, fooling themselves into thinking running away from their past and secluding themselves in the wilderness forever is a good, permanent solution to their problems (even if Anna hadn’t come looking for her, sooner or later Elsa was going to get hungry). But with that much having been said, “Let It Go” is still a pivotal point in Elsa’s character arc; it’s the first time since she was a girl that she embraces her powers, starts to see the value of them and simply lets herself be. She even starts to nurture her creative side. It’s a good first step, but it’s not enough. Elsa loses her newfound confidence not long after this, when she realizes she’s out of her depth, and it’s Anna’s love and devotion that pushes her the rest of the way to being free to express herself wholeheartedly. I do love the implication in both “Let It Go” and the siege on her fortress (where she tries to straight-up murder the Duke’s men with her powers) that Elsa has a lot of repressed anger about how cruel her life has been, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Jennifer Lee and company flesh out her personality further in “Frozen 2”, now that she no longer has to fear killing anyone she talks to and has to actually socialize (something they’ve already begun to do in “Frozen Fever”).

For The First Time In Forever

Elsa’s sister, Anna, may not be the Snow Queen, but she is, in many ways, the beating heart of “Frozen”. While Elsa is a great character, I think it’s really Anna who gets the lion’s share of character development in “Frozen”. A fun-loving, spirited, impulsive young woman with wanderlust, Princess Anna doesn’t always make the best decisions (in fact, some of them are really foolish), but she has as good a heart as any and has been burned many times over the last thirteen years by her family’s magical secret (truthfully, Elsa isn’t the only who’s spent years now concealing). After she accidentally outs her sister to the kingdom, Anna embarks on a perilous quest through the mountains, facing all kinds of beasts with some boys she found along the way – her boys – to bring her sister home. Anna’s fierce loyalty, her sense of responsibility, and her undeniable emotional strength are her three most admirable traits. Despite Elsa appearing to be an incredibly selfish person for at least the last few years, from the moment Anna discovers her true nature she wastes no time pursuing her old childhood friend through the unknown and never gives up on her throughout the film, despite there being some times I know she wanted to. Anna learns her own lessons during the trip, like the importance of not rushing into things, for her first love might not be her true love, and how to be patient, thoughtful and supportive for Elsa. After years of her family giving things up for the girls, what Anna wants, more than anything, is to have a happy life and be the one who takes care of Elsa for once. By the climax, it actually hurts watching her die, petrifying from the inside out, so like Elsa I’d consider Anna a success as a protagonist (though I do wonder why her first reaction to finding a talking snowman is to kick it’s head off).

anna-and-elsa

If “Brother Bear” was a testament to what brothers will do for each other, “Frozen” is the same for sisters.

While “Frozen” is fairly humorous in the first act, the comedy factor doubles once Anna has someone else to play off of, namely Kristoff. Snarky Kristoff. The surly, knowledgeable mountain man with a reindeer for a buddy serves as the rugged straight man in a gang of oddballs, which makes it all the more endearing once Kristoff begins to soften and we learn he has quite a few quirks of his own (besides speaking for his reindeer friend), having been raised by trolls with little to no sense of personal space. On the surface, Anna and Kristoff’s growing spark seems like an opposites-attract type of deal, but like Ariel and Eric the two actually have a lot of in common. They’re both loyal, courageous, open-minded individuals who feel a good deal of responsibility for the people around them, the people in their care, and they wind up bonding a lot during their adventure. Things start to spark between them right around the time things start to go south with Hans, and Anna realizes what sort of qualities she would really like in a boyfriend (she’d previously been more in love with the idea of being in love than she had with Hans). I’d say both Anna and Kristoff wound up with quite the catch by the movie’s end. Olaf, who I think has actually surpassed Elsa as the film’s mascot, could easily have been an annoying, overdone sidekick character, but instead makes for a nice addition to the cast. A quirky, optimistic snowman who provides the film with some silly comic relief and gives the sisters (who he has some history with as a living relic of their childhood) a very appreciated helping hand. Olaf’s goal in the film is pretty weird though and kind of a stretch. This snowman somehow knows all these intimate details about summer but doesn’t know he’ll fucking die if he ever experiences it (mind you, considering that ‘happy snowman’ gag he could just be deep in denial). His friendship with Sven, the excitable, carrot-loving reindeer steed, is so precious though.

Kristoff 2

My thoughts on the Duke of Weselton is that it’s a good thing he’s not the actual baddie of this movie, or he would be a really lame villain. As a secondary antagonist and a red herring, he’s pretty good though. A scheming little weasel with muscle to back him up, looking for any and every opportunity to cause unrest in Arrendelle. It’s also a nice touch that Prince Hans is basically a far more crafty and successful echo of the Duke, showing that while the world can be every bit as wonderful and exciting as Anna always dreamed, it can also be dangerous. Upon rewatch, that seemingly innocuous shot of Hans catching Anna by the wrist becomes a lot more unsettling once you know he’s playing her and making his move while she’s at her most emotionally vulnerable (ala Flotsam and Jetsom). In fact, the animation for Hans’ expressions becomes subtly, progressively creepier – and perhaps falser – throughout the film, the closer we get to the reveal. I really like the twist of Hans being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, hungry for power, but what I don’t like is Hans turning into an evil villain cliche as soon as he drops the act, monologuing his plot to Anna and leaving the room before she’s even dead yet. Scar playing a long con for power and making rookie mistakes right when he was at his endgame was every bit as stupid, but at least that felt like his envy and vindictive streak catching up to him. Here, it’s pretty clear that the only reason Hans does this is because the plot would stop dead if he didn’t get cocky and/or sloppy. It’s just a bit too contrived, but all in all, Hans is still a great villain for the type of movie “Frozen” is. Kristoff’s secret troll family is nice. It’s weird that they affect the story so much when they’re really only in two scenes, and you can certainly argue that most of the plot could have been avoided if they weren’t so terrible at communicating what they mean, but they’re nice.

Anna and Kristoff

Something I enjoy about “Frozen” is that it has a nice, long leisurely runtime, reminiscent of the slower pace Disney movies had during Walt’s time. Disney films started to become a lot more fast-paced and ambitious during the 1980’s, 90’s and 2000’s, and there were definitely some films from that period that I felt could have used an extra ten to fifteen minutes to breathe, so it’s nice to see some of the more recent films in the canon like “Frozen” and “Zootopa” slow it down and drop what I suspect was a fear that children would lose interest if a film exceeded eighty-five minutes. “Frozen’s” slow burn pays off masterfully in the third act, when the threat level ramps up from all sides: Elsa’s increasingly unstable powers, treacherous men, Anna’s curse. The 3-D animation is rendered impressively as well. Like “Monsters University” from the same year, there are times when the graphics and direction in “Frozen” are simply divine: the Broadway-eqsue joy coursing through every shot in “The First Time In Forever”, the runaway romanticism of “Love It Is Open Door”, ice trailing behind Elsa as she runs across the fjord and her sleek, shimmering flurries blowing through the night in “Let It Go”, the attack on her vibrant castle. In regards to the soundtrack, I feel like one of the best choices made during production was hiring Kristin Bell and Indina Menzel as Anna and Elsa, because whenever they get to sing they provide “Frozen” with some of the best vocal talent Disney has had since the Renaissance. Their songs are quite rightly seen as the highlights of the film, and their duet in “The First Time In Forever (Reprise)” is aurally sublime. Elsewhere, “Frozen Heart” gets the movie off to a surprisingly foreboding start, with a warning to “beware the frozen heart” that might have more than one meaning and refer to more than one character; “Vuelie” joins a growing list of harmonious native chants in the Disney canon; and songs like “In Summer” and “Fixer Upper” manage to be completely ridiculous but somehow simultaneously pretty sweet. Christophe Beck’s score is superb, with tender, languishing strings, pulse-pounding percussion and at times, haunting vocals.

The most commonly asked question about “Frozen” is whether it deserves to be regarded as one of Disney’s top classics, and honestly I’d say that it does. The plot is fresh, the animation is stellar, the characters are adorable and there are plenty of feels to be had here. It’s one of the highlights of 21st century Disney and one of their best Disney princess films.

Rating: 10/10.

Side-Notes:

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* If Anna and Elsa had been a bit more knowledgeable about Disney movie formulas, they would never have let their parents walk out that door.

* “I know it ends tomorrow, so it has to be today! Cause for the first time in forever, for the first time in forever, nothing in my waaayyyyy!”

* “I love crazy“.

* “Elsa, please, I can’t live like this anymore!” “Then leave” Not gonna lie, if my sister stopped talking to me for over a decade, even after our parents died, and she said that to me I’d verbally rip her butt to shreds in front of dozens of strangers, queen or not. Anna and Elsa’s public meltdown could have been much worse than it was.

* “My power flurries through the air into the ground! My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around! And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast! I’m never going back, THE PAST IS IN THE PAST!!!”.

* “Let It Go” ends on something of a sinister note (“The cold never bothered me anyway”), so when I first saw this film I immediately wondered ‘is she gonna descend into evil now? Is that where this film is going?’. Obviously, that wasn’t the case but it does feel like a bit of remnant from when “Let It Go” was intended as a villain song for Elsa.

* On their way up the North Mountain, Anna and Kristoff are accosted by wolves (“IT”S TRUE LOVE!”; “Christopher!” “It’s Kristoff-OW!”). I feel like this scene is a “Beauty and the Beast” parody.

* “But I just paid it off”.

* “But you won’t get your new sled if she’s dead”.

* “Oh, I am going to talk to my sister”.

* “Knock. Just knock. Why isn’t she knocking? Do you think she knows how to knock?”.

* “We can fix this thing together, we can end this winter weather, and everything will be-” “I CAN’T!!!

* “Wait, who’s this?” When Elsa last saw Anna she was all about Hans, to the point of wanting to marry him, and now she’s with a completely different dude. You can see a brief second of Elsa wondering if Anna dropped Hans already before she remembers getting Anna out is her top priority.

* “Does it look bad?” “…No” “You hesitated”.

* “He’s crazy. I’ll distract him while you run. Hey, Sven’s family, it’s nice to meet you! Anna, because I love you, I insist you run. I understand you’re love experts. Why aren’t you running?!” Girl almost ran too.

* “We’re not saying you can change him, because people don’t really change!” Then why did you spend the last three minutes implying she could change him, troll lady?

* Those trolls want to get Kristoff married off so badly that they not only suggest he off Hans but they actually try to trick Anna into marrying him. Dudes, calm down. Also, why is blondness unmanly?

* I know Elsa regretted making herself some ice heels when she had to haul ass up all those stairs.

* Hans sees one of the Duke’s goons trying to kill Elsa and thinks ‘NO! I’m the villain of this movie, Elsa is MY kill!’.

* “Oh Anna, if only there was someone who loved you” The irony being that the climax is comprised of literally everyone worrying about Anna.

* “Love is… putting someone else’s needs before yours, like how Kristoff brought you back here to Hans and left you forever”.

* Anna stops Kristoff from jumping Hans so she can deck him herself. I wholeheartedly approve.

* After some trepidation, Queen Elsa’s subjects come to accept her, abilities and all. That is a really fortunate outcome, considering the worst case scenario was that “Kill The Beast” song from “Beauty and the Beast”.

* Sven got swag. So much swag.

* I actually do recommend checking out “Frozen Fever” and the “Lego Frozen: Northern Lights” special at some point. Not because they’re anything great – they’re pure fluff that gives Anna and Elsa’s sister bond more time to shine – but because its nice to see Disney having fun poking fun at this franchise. At one point, drunk Elsa even shows up.

* “Up here in the cold thin air, I finally can breathe! I know I left a life behind, but I’m too relieved to grieve!” Nice lyric change.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

frozen-gang

Posted in Disney, Reviews | 5 Comments

Robin Hood (1973) Review

Roin Hood

“Robin Hood” is one hell of a good romp (or a lark, as Robin himself would say). It’s one of my favorites from Disney’s ‘dark age’, and one of the funniest films I’ve found so far in the Disney Canon. For the bulk of the film, “Robin Hood” sports a folksy, friendly, laidback and almost ludicrous tone, from our heroes swindling Prince John in drag to Klucky turning into a football star in the middle of a mad brawl, which makes for a very effective tonal shift when the comedy falls away and the movie takes a dark and grim turn in the last act. “Robin Hood’s” story can mostly be broken up into five sections; two interludes between three episodic, increasingly mad adventures Robin Hood and Little John have that come to a head in one of Disney’s longer climaxes – a fifteen minute setpiece where the duo have to pull off a jailbreak and a heist at the same time. Like many of the films from the xerox era (“The Jungle Book”, “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh“), “Robin Hood” lives and dies on the charm, humor and overall likability of it’s colorful cast, rather than the depth and intricacy of the animation like the golden and silver eras of Disney animation. In fact, the movie’s greatest pro is probably the strong sense of community it gets across. The supporting characters have as much of a presence in the film as Robin Hood and Little John do, perhaps even more. They’re all bonded in suffering, they all loathe their tyrant king, they support Robin Hood’s bravehearted rebellion, and by the end, there’s a sense that it’s not just Robin and Johnny fighting corruption anymore, so there’s a number of heartwarming moments in the film. The amount of time we spend with the lively, spirited bunch also leads to a real lump-in-throat, sobering sequence where we see just what Prince John’s cruelty has reduced them to, up to and including little kids in chains rotting away in prison.

Robin Hood

If we’re gonna discuss our jovial leading man, we gotta talk about dem fox eyes, because you never really know what to expect when it comes to Robin’s expressions in this movie, and some of them are priceless (like the face he makes when he sees money, or his lovestruck face, or his ‘they’re going to hang Friar Tuck?!’ face). Disney’s take on Robin Hood is a flawed but honorable character; a charming, cheeky, swashbuckling, lovesick daredevil who pushes his luck til it finally runs out (seriously, you had to go back for that last bag, didn’t you Robin?). He also has some nice chemistry with his girl, Maid Marian, due to them already having a preexisting relationship rather than the film having to build one from the ground up. Robin serves as an inspiration to the people of Nottingham, because he’s one of the few people who’s always willing and able to stand up and do what’s right, even at the cost of his own life (though ironically, doing what’s right often involves a lot of pillaging and lawbreaking). Little John has a familiar voice actor, Phil Harris in his third consecutive role in a Disney film. Personality-wise, Robin Hood’s rowdy but sensible right-hand man is quite a way away from Harris’ first gig as hipster layabout Baloo, but the jazz star is as personable as always here, providing our hero with a nice foil (and a good guy dynamic I like even more than I do Baloo & Bagheera’s relationship). As Robin Hood’s best friend and partner in crime, Little John always has his back and is the more grounded of the two (relatively). Their dynamic is the classic one of two guys, one of whom claims to be exasperated by the crazy antics his wilder friend gets them into but truthfully he loves it. The scene at the end, where Little John thinks Robin drowned in the moat for a minute and starts to cry, is another of the film’s more affecting moments.

Robin Hood Little John And Maid Marian

Maid Marion is Robin Hood’s mutual crush; a kindly, big-dreaming fox vixen and childhood friend of Robin who knows where her loyalties really lie in regards to her uncle’s reign. The strange thing about Maid Marion (and you don’t really notice it until the end) is that she disappears from the movie in the third act, just as she’s being fully integrated into the plot and getting in touch with her adventurous side. Apparently, in one early draft of the story, Marion went to go find King Richard and alert him of his brother’s treachery, hence the Richard Ex Machina in the movie’s final minutes. I like to think that was what she was still doing offscreen in the final cut. Maid Marion’s lady-in-waiting is Lady Kluck, a feisty, sisterly Scottish hen who I honestly love, because she’s kind of nuts and always willing to help her friends in a fight. I think I also kind of ship her and Little John now, which I did not expect to happen, but the chemistry is definitely there. Friar Tuck, naturally, is one of the more helpful characters in the village and one of Robin Hood’s biggest supporters. The passionate, hot-tempered, outspoken holy man does what he can to keep the village afloat, and in a surprising turn for a Robin Hood adaption (as far as I know it doesn’t happen that often) he damsels it up in the last act when Prince John and the Sheriff decide to kill him (which, thankfully, does not come to pass). Other minor characters include a witty, musically-inclined narrator and Skippy Bunny and his friends, nosy village scamps who have a few encounters with our vulpine lovers and look up to them. The weakest of the supporting cast, the kids don’t actually add much to this movie except for the cuteness factor and could be easily excised.

Robin Hood 6

On the shady side of things, Pat Buttram lends the slick, detestable, wily Sheriff of Nottingham his best feature, dat southern accent (it adds a surprising amount to the brutish blackguard’s character. It’s also kind of hot). The burly, corrupt thug parades around Nottingham as the face of Prince John’s oppression, carrying out his dirty work and greedily taxing money from the poor (he evens steals from the blind, just in case you had any doubt that he’s a dick). He’s easily the toughest and most charismatic of the film’s three villains (though not the funniest, that would be P.J.) and during the film’s second half, we discover the Sheriff has a pretty high opinion of himself that can and often is used against him. Every time I watch this film, I love Prince John more and more as an antagonist. The interesting thing about the Prince as the main villain is that in hindsight he’s a more pathetic predecessor to the baddie from “The Lion King“, Scar. An envious, cowardly, power-hungry lion who wants to dispose of his dear brother so he can seize the throne. Peter Ustinov chews so much scenery as P.J. (you can tell he had a lot of fun voicing this abusive, unstable manchild) that he’s a thoroughly enjoyable villain, and as the movie progresses and his humiliation increases, we see him slip further and further into insanity, to the point where he becomes a genuinely frightening foe. Meanwhile. poor Sir Hiss is Prince John’s sycophantic head lackey, the only sane man of the bunch that no one ever listens to (and perhaps the outcome of this movie would have been very different for our heroes if anyone had); instead he often, hilariously, winds up being the film’s punching bag and mistreated by the prince (like a certain running gag involving the queen). I’m not sure if Kaa would approve of his spinelessness.

Stronghold

Times were tough for Disney when this film was produced, so the animation isn’t nearly as polished as previous efforts from the silver era. The outlines on the characters are noticeably sharp, and like all films from this period animation is reused in places; particularly “The Phony King of England”, which borrows from “Snow White And The Seven Dwarves”, “The Jungle Book” and “The Aristocats”, but also with other things like the way characters move sometimes. Other than that, the animation is really good for it’s day. The character movements are quite fluid – delightfully frenzied at times – and the backgrounds are perfectly atmospheric. Prince John’s stronghold is both regal and imposing, Nottingham is desolate and downtrodden, and Sherwood Forest is a safe haven straight out of a fairy tale. In fact, the rustic look of this film almost suits it, much like “Oliver and Company’s” rough, grungy aesthetic. Nowadays, I think this movie is the reason why I’m rarely ever bothered by anachronisms in Disney movies. I’m pretty sure “Robin Hood” takes place in a universe where animals not only rule the earth, but medieval Nottingham is located in the deep south; partly because of all the southern accents and partly because of that twangy country music soundtrack. Blending two distinct cultures the way “Robin Hood” does feels like it really shouldn’t work, but in actuality it turned out to be a pretty shrewd decision, especially in regards to the soundtrack. “Whistle Stop” puts the movie’s walk cycles and run cycles to good use, giving the audience a taste of what’s to come; “Love” is spellbinding and wistful; “The Phony King of England” livens up the film while Frank Miller’s crooning in “Not In Nottingham” takes it to it’s a lowest point,;and “Ooo-De-Lally” is something of an earworm, coined from Robin’s catchphrase. George Bruns’ underrated score also gives the film a playful liveliness befitting a movie that doesn’t take itself entirely seriously (my favorite cue is the fanfare leitmotif for Prince John’s army).

“Robin Hood” isn’t as much of a show-stopper as some of the bigger classics in the canon, but this cult classic from the 70’s is an excellent pick when you’re in the mood for something fun, and also most likely the best movie Disney produced during their twenty year dark age period.

Rating: 8/10.

Side-Notes:

Robin Hood 3

* I think we were all shocked the day we realized “Whistle Stop” spawned “The Hamster Dance”.

* “Rob? That’s a naughty word. We never rob, we just borrow a bit from those who can afford it”.

* “Don’t overdo it, Hiss. There… this crown gives me a feeling of power. POWER! Forgive me a cruel chuckle. Power“.

* “Your name will go down, down in history” “YES! I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT!”

* When you realize drag is kind of fun.

* “I’ve been robbed” “Of course you’ve been robbed!”.

* You fools, you just trampled the prince! Do you want to have your heads lopped off?

* The evil and ruthless (but still kind of hot) sheriff is also a big bad wolf. Disney, stereotyping animals? Never!

* “Now, now save your sermon, preacher. It ain’t Sunday after all”.

* “How do I look?” “Not much like Mr. Robin Hood” Ouch, that’s why you didn’t get to use the bow first nameless bunny.

* “He snitched on us”.

* I love the way that scene progresses between Marian and the kids. One minute, they’re all scared stiff of the Lady Marian and worried about being caught trespassing, the next they’re flapping their gums about how they’re friends with an outlaw, asking her very personal questions about her love life (“Did he ever kiss you?”) and whether or not she and Robin are ever gonna have kids. Things escalated so quickly.

* “Marry her? You don’t just walk up to a girl, hand her a bouquet and say ‘hey remember me, we were kids together, do you wanna get get married?’ It just isn’t done that way” It is in a Disney princess movie.

* “My trap is baited and set, and then revenge. REVENGE!”

* “Oh no, forgive me but I lose more jewels that way”.

* It took decades, but Disney has finally given “Robin Hood” a proper soundtrack release with “The Legacy Collection”. Hallelujah! Now, how about “The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh”?

* When you reach peak smugness.

* “Oh, by the way, I hear you’ve been having some trouble catching old Robin Hood” (oooohhhh) “He’s scared of me, that’s what it is! You see he didn’t how show up here today! I can spot him through his phony disguises”.

* “Not so hard, you mean thing!” Hate sex.

* “Help, Robin, help!”.

* “KILL HIM!!! STOP THE GIRL!!!”.

* “Yep, I’m in here too”. That sucks, man.

* “Things can’t get any worse.” Why Friar, why?

* “GET OUT OF MY CHURCH!” Kick his ass, Friar!

* “Wait a minute, is the safety still on old Betsy?” “You bet it is, Sheriff” “That’s what I’m afraid of. You go first”.

* “Quiet Friar, we’re busting you out of here” “Thank God, my prayers have been answered” The Friar might be a man of God, but he’s not ready to die just yet.

* “Praise the Lord, and pass the tax rebate!”

* How did they leave the bunny girl behind?!

* Why is the bunny mom okay with her kid running off with Robin Hood and Maid Marian on their honeymoon?

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Robin Hood 4

Posted in Disney, Reviews | 4 Comments

Lady and the Tramp (1955) Review

Lady and the Tramp Poster 2

“Lady and the Tramp” is another one of those movies that’s a fond childhood memory for me. I’d seen films like “Robin Hood” and “The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh” before it and enjoyed them (not to mention, “Balto” and “The Land Before Time”), but “Lady and the Tramp” was the one that sparked my interest in animation in 2006, when the fiftieth anniversary DVD was released. There were a number of featurettes on it detailing the production of the film and watching them was what made it click to me that animation is art imitating life, that a lot of work is put into it, and that’s when I really started to pay attention for the first time.

“Lady and the Tramp” was the first of Disney’s features to be released in CinemaScope, and I have to say, widescreen is a damn good look for Disney. The grander sense of scope and scale allows the film to show off it’s lush, iridescent backgrounds and easily establish it’s universe (the shaded nighttime scenes are especially breathtaking). Interestingly enough, although “Lady and the Tramp” is remembered as a love story and Disney promotes it as one, the romantic part doesn’t enter the equation until halfway through. Like the nature film “Bambi”, “Lady and the Tramp” tells a life story through the eyes of animals, but unlike “Bambi”, the leads are not thinly sketched but are characterized strongly, allowing the film to stave off “Bambi’s” greatest flaw: tedium. They’re hybrids of sorts, between naturalistic canines and anthropomorphic ones, and they embody all the traits people associate with man’s best friend – courage, loyalty, curiosity and contriteness – while still being their own definable characters. Brave, devoted, adorable Lady (particularly puppy Lady). Playful, mischievous, trouble-making Tramp. Proud, supportive and a bit classist Jock and Trusty. The character animation is key to making this approach work and it’s as solid as the background work. The movements are quite sprightly throughout the film and there are times, like Tramp’s fight with the alley dogs, where you can you actually feel tension. That’s awesome. Which isn’t to say that the animation is all flawless. There is that odd reveal of Jim Dear and Darling’s baby, which resembles a baby doll more than it does a newborn, and the action seems strangely sped-up during Tramp’s showdown with the rat in the climax. But for the most part, it’s all very impressive.

Morning

Favorite scene in the movie.

Like a lot of Disney films, “Lady and the Tramp” is very much of a film of it’s day with 1950’s values, which couples well with the film’s surprisingly extensive exploration of the various social classes through dogs (from the sheltered house pets to the dogs down on their luck in the pound) and the difficulties each class faces. “Lady and the Tramp” revolves around an inquisitive young springer spaniel with large ears named Lady, a house pet who’s just starting to get an idea of what the outside world is like beyond her front yard. Lady has mentoring uncle figures in two older neighborhood dogs, Jock and Trusty (a Scotsman and a Southerner, a match made in heaven) and has frequent encounters with a roguish troublemaker from across the tracks, Tramp, who she may or may not have a crush on. Unlike Lady, Tramp savors his life as a stray and questions if canines really need humans to give them a happy home and a happy life (the voice Larry Roberts gives Tramp is that of a cynical 1950s salesman, so Lady definitely has a unique taste in men, being attracted to a slick canine salesdog with a heart of gold). Our leading lady spends half of the film experiencing what many dogs do, a sense of her home being upheaved and her own place in the family being threatened by a newcomer in the clan, the Darlings’ baby. She honestly envies the stranger for a while before eventually coming to accept him in all his innocence, which segues quite nicely into her new dilemma in the second half of the film. Along with the canine angle, the relationship between the two leads is a large part of what makes this film unique in the Disney Canon. It’s one of the first Disney romances where the guy and the girl hooking up isn’t the resolution of the story; the happily ever after. There’s still some conflict after it happens, the usual external conflict but also some internal conflict between them. It’s also one of the first Disney films to suggest that having a fling or a relationship with a guy you just met has it’s risks.

Fog

In contrast to the hellish day she’d been having before (courtesy of Aunt Sarah), and arguably the rocky months before then, Lady has one of the best nights of her life seeing the town, bonding with her street dog friend, Tramp, and pretty soon she’s smitten with a kind, carefree and courageous bad boy. And he is with her, despite their ideological differences. They both get swept up in it all, and come the serene morning after, the film even implies they slept together. She can’t run away with him like he’d like her to, but perhaps they can keep in touch? However, it’s here that the magic dies. Tramp’s hell-raising attitude gets her nabbed by the dog catcher and while she’s behind bars, her fellow inmates sing her a very informative song about how her new man is a player, having already been with a line of dames, leaving her feeling horrified and betrayed. The film’s subtext was risque before this moment, but it’s full-on adult from here out. Feeling like she’s just his latest conquest, Lady regrets ever loving him or giving him her virginity (perhaps they rushed into this?), so she tells him to go fuck himself when he visits her later, and this is honestly something I really like about the film. Over the last few days, Lady has come to really like Tramp, and up until now she hasn’t wanted to choose between him and her strained ties to her family (including the baby that she’s only just recently warmed to), but she’s perfectly willing to do so when she thinks he’s no good for her, showing both backbone and self-respect. Tramp, of course, isn’t a bad dog, just a bit selfish. It’s only when he nearly gets himself killed helping Lady protect the youngest member of her family that she’s convinced his feelings for her are real and he gets another shot. And it’s when he learns to commit – giving up his increasingly fatal life as a rogue for a chance to make things work with his pidge – that their relationship flourishes. “Lady and the Tramp” is a simple, old-fashioned love story, but the message here is timeless: that love is selfless, and sometimes it means being the best you can be. It’s a notion Disney would return to in a far more extreme way in “Beauty and the Beast“.

Lady Neighborhood

Along with the main arc for our heroes, there’s also a side-plot devoted to Lady’s best friends, involving old Trusty’s waning(?) sense of smell and Jock and Trusty overcoming their prejudices towards the Tramp, a lower-class ruffian, that comes to a head in the climax, when they help Ms. Lady rescue her bad boy boyfriend from being put down. Jim Dear and Darling are Lady’s loving but occasionally neglectful owners. Their faces are rarely ever shown, keeping with the movie’s theme of a dog’s point-of-view of the world, so their characters rely on strong vocal performances from their actors more than many of the animal characters in the film. Poor Lady has the misfortune of having to deal with their curmudgeonly relative Aunt Sarah – who’s been tasked with watching the Darlings’ baby – for much of the movie. Aunt Sarah really doesn’t like dogs or her. In fact, the woman dislikes dogs so much that she either doesn’t know or chooses to ignore that family pets don’t just start barking and howling madly in the middle of the night for no reason, it’s usually a warning sign. Ignoring that warning almost costs the Darlings their baby, a lesson she soon learns from. So like “The Little Mermaid“, there’s a satisfying sense of all the side-characters in this movie getting their own development (of varying substance) that extends beyond the roles they play in the protagonists’ journey. Lady and the Tramp encounter a number of colorful, minor characters during their adventures (many of whom are dogs like the sassy Peg or the troubled mutts in the pound, though there’s also a work-obsessed beaver and a pair of antagonistic Siamese cats), but the two most notable examples are Tony and Joe, a pair of Italian chefs who really only get one major scene but make the absolute most of it with their theatricality and spirited, exaggerated personalities. The film doesn’t have a consistent antagonist – threats to the protagonists range from the local dogcatcher to mischievous cats to a bloodthirsty wild rat – but somehow this never hurts the film. In some ways, it contributes to the movie’s smaller-scale, slice-of-life feel.

Jock And Trusty

The songs don’t tend to stick around for very long in “Lady and the Tramp” but they’re all lovely; thanks in no small part to Peggy Lee, whose contributions range from a comforting, motherly lullaby (“La La Lu”) to a saucy, vivacious flapper number (“He’s A Tramp”). “Peace On Earth” is quiet, serene Christmas hymn with a surprising amount of staying power. “The Siamese Cat Song” is the first ‘rational guy chases asshole’ type of Disney song, as I like to call them. They’re not all that common but they’re always so fun and crazy (“Why Should I Worry?” and “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” would later succeed and surpass it). The most memorable piece and the highlight of the film is the main theme, “Bella Notte”, a soulful serenade that helps to sell the bliss of young love. It’s not surprising really that the love song is the best of the bunch. Ever since Bambi and Faline frolicked through the fields in “I Bring You Song”, Disney has excelled at their love songs (“Love”, “Kiss The Girl”, “A Whole New World”, “Beauty and the Beast”, etc) and this one is one of my favorites. Oliver Wallace’s soft, underplayed score also gives the film a cozy, comfortable, playful feeling throughout (particularly Lady’s brisk theme), with the occasional bit of fear and dread creeping in towards the end.

In short, “Lady and the Tramp” is a beautiful movie. I love the animation, I love the music, and I love Lady and the Tramp as a couple. They care for each other, a lot, but their relationship isn’t perfect like Bambi and Faline’s or Cinderella and Prince Charming’s. They both have to work at it and really earn their happily ever after. “Pinocchio” may have usurped “Lady and the Tramp” as my favorite film from Walt’s era, but I still have a great deal of love and respect for this movie and I know I always will.

Rating: 9/10.

Side-Notes:

Beautiful Night

* “So take the love of your loved one, you’ll need it about this time, to keep from falling like a star, as you make that dizzy climb! For this is the night, and the heavens are right, on this lovely Belle Notte!”

* Lady ignores her master’s protests and keeps the house up with her barking and howling and then her face lights up when she hears him coming downstairs, expecting something good to happen. Lady, you sweet summer child.

* I love that when Lady gets a new collar, her first impulse is to run next door and show off that bling.

* Thanks to Trusty, I’m quite fond of calling our heroine ‘Ms. Lady’.

* “Hiya handsome, come to join the party?” Not for another two acts, hon.

* “Now lass, get on with the details” Give us the deets, girl.

Lady’s mortified reaction to her master calling her ‘that dog’ is pitch perfect.

* “It didn’t hurt, really, but Darling has never struck me before” That does not sound right out of context. It doesn’t sound right in context either.

* “What’s a baby?” “Just a cute little bundle… of trouble” Yeah… guess who fathers Scamp?

* Tramp rudely shoves Jock out of the way, and Jock runs right back over there to kick him out. Good dog.

* I’m sorry Lady, but you really can’t sing.

* I’ve always found it funny how Jim Dear and Darling spend eight months or so eagerly awaiting the birth of their child, and then a couple of weeks after the baby arrives, they entrust it with Aunt Sarah so they can go on vacation already. It wore them out quickly, didn’t it?

* It’s up to you how racist or offensive Si and Am are in the final film, it varies with each person, but the concept art is especially bad.

* “Maybe we could reaching in and make it drown!” Y’all do know you’re talking about a fish right?

* Like the Bambi vs Ronno fight, let’s not think about what would have happened to Lady if Tramp hadn’t appeared to save her.

* “Uh-huh, it’s a free sample.” You get in on that con, Lady.

* “But Tony, dogs don’t talk” “HE’S A-TALKING TO ME!”

* “Exactly, life on a leash. Look again, Pidge. There’s a great big hunk of world down there with no fence around it, where two dogs can find adventure and excitement and beyond those distant hills who knows what wonderful experiences? And it’s all ours for the taking, Pidge. It’s all ours” I swear, this scene does such a great job of getting you as swept up in Tramp’s proposal as Lady is, and I think a lot of it is owed to George Wallace’s score being on point the whole time.

* Lady and the Tramp getting nabbed by the dog catcher is most certainly worrying, but when you think about it it might have been karma, seeing as how their trip to the zoo the day before nearly put a beaver in the hospital and most certainly got some guy arrested for assaulting an officer.

* “There, there Ms. Lady, some of the finest people I’ve ever tracked down were jailbirds”.

* If looks could kill…

* It sure is lucky for the plot that the evil rat waited until Lady was home and Lady and the Tramp’s relationship was on the rocks to make his move, and not during their love montage the night before.

* Trusty’s battle howl is unintentionally hilarious.

* Can I just say I really like Larry Roberts’ delivery of ‘hiya, Pidge’? It’s simultaneously happy, relived and a bit proud. You can tell Tramp is touched Lady came to save him, and after everything that’s happened, both dogs know they’re going to be alright now. And then they notice Trusty has been run over. Thank the gods Trusty didn’t die, by the way. He’s easily one of the best characters in this movie.

* Something else this film has in common with “Bambi”: there’s a nice bit of mood whiplash when the movie jumps from Trusty’s near-death experience to a cheery Christmas Eve.

* Scamp is an annoying little brat, and he not only got his own comic strip (that ran for thirty years, no less) but his own movie. Wow.

* I like to think Tramp encouraged Lady to be a bit mischievous with Si and Am in the future.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Lullaby

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Brother Bear (2003) Review

Brother Bear Poster 2

I grew up during the 2000’s, so my first ever exposure to Disney films were the movies of the Post-Renaissance era; a time when Disney tried to move away from their once popular Renaissance formula that had officially grown tired and stale in “Tarzan” with a string of surreal, experimental films. These days I admire the ambition and creativity of movies like “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”, “The Emperor’s New Groove”, “Treasure Planet” and “Lilo and Stitch”, more so than later films from the second half of the same decade, but the movies in question were a mixed bag, drifting all over the place in terms of quality. My favorite of the bunch was always “Brother Bear”; in fact, it was the only one to have a real lasting impact on me and it still holds up strongly today. Michael Eisner’s frequent attempts to make a “boy’s movie” at the time finally paid off, though not without a few drawbacks. “Brother Bear’s” structure can catch you off guard the first time through. The first act is essentially twenty-four minutes of well-done, immersive set-up with the story really beginning on Kenai’s first day as a bear, swapping the human world and the human cast for an animal’s perspective for the rest of the film. It also has one of the world’s most obvious plot twists involving Koda’s mom. The only reason it isn’t more of a problem in the film is because the movie’s focus is firmly on building up Kenai and Koda’s friendship and not waiting for the other shoe to drop on that revelation for the next two acts. Really though, I think a large decider in how much you like this film – even more than your average Disney movie – is how much you like the main characters, Kenai and Koda, since it’s their relationship that ultimately forms the emotional core of the film. And I can safely say that I like them. I like them a lot.

Transformation

The youngest of three Native brothers, Joaquin Phoenix’s Kenai is a brash, fun-loving, hotheaded hunter who’s looking for his place in the world, and is not that fond of the local predators (our fellow omnivores) bears. Kenai’s fear grows into outright prejudice after his eldest brother is killed in a lethal bear attack, so he slays the beast for revenge only to be turned into an animal by the local spirits, so he can walk in a mile in a bear’s shoes and learn a lesson in empathy. For the first half of the film, Kenai is an immature, self-centered teen still hurting from the loss of his brother, but through a spiritual journey he starts to broaden his perspective, bit by bit, make peace with his brother’s passing, and in time regain who he used to be through friendship and grow into someone better. His character arc progresses naturally for the kind of guy he is, and I found myself very invested in it, especially since this movie can get damnably intense. Interestingly enough, despite there being no real ‘villain’ in “Brother Bear” (like “Lilo and Stitch”), one can easily argue Kenai is the real antagonist of this movie, since he sets off everyone’s problems, including his own. When Kenai grows enough as a person to make this discovery himself, he despairingly finds he’s dug himself into quite a hole and hurt everyone closest to him (indirectly causing Sitka’s death, making Koda an orphan, planting the seeds for Denahi’s madness) with nary a thing he can do now to fix any of it. It something that helps Kenai stand out as a protagonist, very few Disney characters hit this low of a point. And in a nice subversion of the usual liar revealed plot, Kenai chooses to come clean to Koda about everything, despite what it’ll do, because his young friend deserves to know the truth about his mother. In the end, Kenai redeems himself in a manner that begins to mend his bond with Koda and pushes him the rest of the way to being a man – owning up to one’s mistakes and doing whatever you can to fix them is an important part of being an adult after all. It’s an ending that’s the very antithesis of “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” and like Katejohns619 stated, a fairly optimistic ending to one of Disney’s darker stories.

Kenai and Koda 2

Jeremy Suarez has impeccable comic timing as Koda. Right from the off, when he’s beating our lead with a stick, he’s hilarious (“It’s no use. The only way to get down is to chew your own foot off.”). Koda is a worldly, precocious, talkative young bear cub who doesn’t much like being alone. I think the thing I like the most about him isn’t just the chipper presence he has in the film (which feels needed after how dark the first act became), but how plainspoken he is. He’s type to tell it how it is, and that’s exactly the sort of friend Kenai needs (if not the one he wants at first). It soon becomes clear Koda loves having the older bear around: someone to tell stories to and play on tricks on and share adventures with. In time, as his prejudice towards bears ebbs away and despite how macho he is, Kenai warms to the cub (since their personalities really aren’t that different) and starts treating him much the way I imagine his own brothers treated him when he was young. In fact, the budding friendship between Kenai and Koda is the reason why “Brother Bear” resonated with me for over a decade when other Post-Renaissance films didn’t. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and at the time I had never seen anything like it before in a Disney movie. Sibling love, conventional or otherwise, is something Disney’s begun to explore in depth since the new millennium, in films like “Lilo and Stitch”, “Brother Bear”, “Wreck It Ralph”, “Big Hero 6” and “Frozen“, and I have to say, I love this trend. Because I adore the bond that forms between our two leads, smallish bear and his adoptive big bro, the last act is one of the saddest and most touching things I’ve seen from Disney. In a rather painful parallel to Kenai conquering his fear of bears and learning the world isn’t as simple as he thought, poor Koda discovers his traveling buddy is really one of the big bad hunters he fears and has cost him dearly. He’s forced to see him as either a heartless killer or a friend who fucked up, and when the time comes he spares him the fate of being gutted by his brother (one many wouldn’t begrudge him of) because he doesn’t want to lose anyone else important to him (also because he’s a badass). Koda too gains the gift of nuance, which ultimately helps the cub to move forward.

Kenai and Koda 4

Something the film does well is flesh out the respective communities of the human and animal worlds. The village Kenai hails from has it’s own customs and traditions that are fascinating from what we see of them. The tribe looks to the spirits of their ancestors for guidance – with the shaman woman Tanana acting as a bridge between the living and the dead – and when each member comes of age, they place their handprint alongside that of their ancestors. The Natives hunt animals for food, but respect them as fellow creatures nonetheless (in fact, Kenai’s lack of respect for the wildlife is part of the reason why he’s transformed). The animals in the “Brother Bear” universe tend to be as extroverted and opinionated as Koda, and the bears the cub is familiar with at the Salmon run, like Tug, have a robust sort of charisma to them. McKenzie moose, Rutt and Tuke, are really too good for this world at times. They strike a nice balance between being affable and outgoing and being self-involved, living in their own little world for most of the movie and being largely uninterested in the main plot, and while this attitude can be annoying for some, I love it, especially whenever they’re bored or taking the piss out of Kenai. The laidback Canadian moose also tie into the movie’s main theme of brotherhood and wind up saving Kenai’s ass at the end without even really trying. The older I get, the more I feel bad for Sitka. Kenai and Denahi look like they’re teens but they act more like twelve year olds that he has to keep in line, and then he dies in the first fifteen minutes of the movie. I think it’s a nice touch that Sitka manages to influence the entire plot, even after death. Despite caring for them deeply, after blood has been spilt Sitka decides to show his bros some tough love and let the pair fight it out for most of the movie so they can both grow from the experience (while keeping tabs on them of course). It gives this already wise, benevolent character a stern edge and the film another interesting element to pay off at the end. Acting as a sort of darker mirror to Kenai and a physical consequence of his actions, middle brother Denahi is also lost for most of the film. Denahi struggles to live up to his totem and believes he’s lost both of his brothers to the wilderness, that he’s failed them, causing him to go even more insane with grief, guilt and rage than Kenai had for much, much longer. As a consequence to the movie devoting most of it’s second and third acts to Kenai and Koda, “Brother Bear” threatens to lose Denahi’s plot thread from the first act several times before bringing it home for the climax. I actually think Denahi is the least interesting character of the bunch, but to the dude’s credit, he adapts to magical transformations and his brother leaving him to go live with bears a lot better than you would expect him to.

Denahi

Wilderness of danger and beauty.

The animation in this film is quite luscious. While the background work in the first act was already impressive, from Kenai’s transformation onwards, “Brother Bear” has a rich, warm, earthy color palette that’s suitably picturesque and quite soothing for a wilderness film. All the shimmering, encompassing artwork of the Aurora Borealis is especially beautiful, including a shot at the end of Sitka and Koda’s mother returning to the Northern lights. It’s also around the salmon run scenes that I start to realize how much I like the film’s sense of humor. Phil Collins, Tina Turner, and the Blind Boys Of Alabama provide the rustic songs for the movie, and they’re very effective for the most part; sometimes even powerful. Collins singing with Kenai and Koda’s inner voices works well for “On My Way” and “Welcome” and expands on their characters, but not as much for “No Way Out”, which, for a moment, makes Kenai’s confession feel like a Phil Collins music video. I think the most distinctive and memorable song is the passionate, ethereal Native chant by the Bulgarian Women’s Choir that accompanies Kenai’s transformation (both of his transformations) and represents hope for change and enlightenment. In addition to the songs, Phil Collins and Mark Mancina compose a riveting, percussion-laden score for the film with stirring, woodwind renditions of the songs cropping up from time to time, marking the characters’ progress. The strongest number of the lot, “Look Through My Eyes”, is the end credits song, which manages to cap off the film’s message with just the right amount of warmth and sappiness I described liking earlier.

“Brother Bear” is one of Disney’s more divisive movies – par for the course for the era of which it came from – and I proudly fall in the camp of people who enjoy this movie as a sibling tale and recommend it to others who have never seen it. After all these years, I’m also glad that the concept of bears and brotherhood has unexpectedly lived on in “We Bare Bears“.

We Bare Bears

As you can see, I had fun with this entry.

Rating: 9/10.

Side Notes:

Rutt and Tuke

* Bambi, Bambi’s mom and Lilo all make cameos early on.

* “Your totem is… love!” “…Wut?”

* Can’t you just feel the love?

* “I don’t blame the bear, Kenai!” Oh damn, son!

* Man vs Nature, Round Two.

* This movie has so many laughs at Kenai’s expense. Karma’s a bitch, hon.

* “That bear… over there… he’s crazy…” “I am not CRAZY!” “Wha- whoever said you were?”

* “You swear?” “Yeah“.

* “Are you sure your mom didn’t ditch you, Kod-duh?” Oh wow, Kenai and Koda must just look back on that memory and cringe.

* “Tell everybody I’m on my way, new friends and new places to see! With blue skies ahead yes I’m on my way, and there’s no one else that I’d rather be!”

* Rutt and Tuke track down Kenai and Koda for protection from the hunter, unaware that 1. they suck at fighting just as much they do and 2. they’re the ones Denahi is actually after. More irony.

* I never knew I wanted to see bears riding mammoths until this movie.

* “What was your brother’s name?” “Sitka” “Well, thanks Sitka, if it weren’t for you, I never would have met Kenai” Daw. I really do enjoy this first talk about Sitka. It’s a nice reminder that Kenai’s brother died only a few days ago and he hasn’t really dealt with it yet. You’ll notice this is the point in the film where he starts to become less surly.

* “Tree” “No, you have to-” “Oh, it counts” “No, it-” ‘It counts!” “Fine” “…Tree” “Let’s just play something else”.

* “Enough with the stories, I don’t care about the time you and Binky found like, ‘the world’s biggest pine cone ever!'” “Okay, first, his name’s Bucky, not ‘Binky’. Second, it wasn’t a pine cone, it was a pine nut, and it was huge, even bigger than your fat head!”

* Denahi screeching ‘NO!’ is unintentionally hilarious.

* Kenai’s screams of terror. Bless.

* “This has to be the most beautiful, the most peaceful place I’ve ever been to, it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before. When I think of how far I’ve come I can’t believe it, yet I see it. In them I see family, I see the way we used to be!” When you accept the world you live in is a strange one, but you decide to just let yourself enjoy yourself.

* “This year, I lost my dear husband Edgar-” “Quit telling everyone I’m dead!” “Sometimes I can still hear his voice!” The birth of a meme.

* “If only Edgar was alive” “I told you, woman, I’m right here!”

* Kenai actually hits his lowest point twice in this movie, for different reasons. Once when he commits bear murder, and again when he has to tell Koda why his mom is dead.

* “Sorry, you’ve been replaced by my dear brother… oh gee, I forgot your name. What’s your name, little bear?”

* Bear hugs are even sweeter with actual bears.

* Bear-fu and moose yoga.

* Poor stupid rams.

* “All the things that you can change, there’s a meaning in everything, and you will find all you need, there’s so much understand!”

* Y’know, there might actually be an in-universe explanation for why “Brother Bear” is a goofier film whenever Denahi’s not around. He’s telling this story, including the parts he couldn’t possibly know because he wasn’t there and his brothers never told him anything (one of them was dead and the other one was busy at the time). He would have had to have filled in some blanks, including what he imagined the animal kingdom to be like. For all we know, the old man has been bullshitting us the whole time.

* Nicely played, Pixar.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Northern Lights

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