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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Disneyear: Tarzan (1999)

Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs story of a man raised by apes, Tarzan was Disney's last bona fide before the end of the Disney Renaissance. Making almost $450 million worldwide and receiving good marks in terms of animation, storytelling, the Phil Collins soundtrack, and even some comments about how it surpasses even most of the live-action attempts on the story, Disney's version was a pretty big hit when it came out. After all, Tarzan is a story that lends itself to be animated since there's so many creative variations on what you can do with it and it is a well known story. Now that I think about it, I wonder how many people were introduced to the story through this movie like how Robin Hood was how many people my age were introduced to the stories? So when I sat down to watch it again, a lot of the content exceeded my expectations. However, there where some stuff in there that was mediocre. Let's swing on over to see what people go ape over in Disney's Tarzan (by the way, sorry for all the stupid puns recently!)

In the 19th century, two English parents escape from a burning ship and wind up in the rainforests of Africa and make a treehouse only to lose their lives to a leopard, leaving their baby son alive. By coincidence, a gorilla named Kala (Glenn Close) loses her baby to the same leopard. The two meet and Kala adopts the infant as her own after escaping the leopard. Her groups leader and mate Kerchak (Lance Henriksen) is resentful of the infant but allows him to stay out of respect for Kala who names the infant Tarzan. We jump forward... ten years maybe?... to the baby's childhood. We see him trying to fit in with the other gorillas with some help from his friends: a cheeky ape named Terk (Rosie O'Donnell) and a paranoid elephant named Tantor (Wayne Knight). Tarzan finds it tough to fit in but tries to improve himself. Years later as an adult, Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn) meets the leopard who killed his parents and Kala and Kerchak's original baby and fights a battle to the death with her. After that and gaining some respect from Kerchak, Tarzan finds a strange thing: animals that look like him! One a hunter/guide named Clayton (Brian Blessed), a bumbling professor (Nigel Hawthorne) and his daughter Jane (Minnie Driver). After saving her life, Tarzan and Jane seem to hit it off well. Jane teaches Tarzan about the human world while he teaches her about the natural world. Tarzan finds out she, her father, and Clayton are there to find gorillas. After deciding to go home with Jane, Tarzan finds out that Clayton is the bad guy, wanting to hunt the gorillas for money. Tarzan and his friends of course save his family, but Kerchak loses his life. Before dying, Kerchak tells Tarzan to lead the family and that he always considered him a son. Jane decides then to stay with Tarzan in the jungle.

The first thing that stands out in my mind about Tarzan is the animation on the main character. Before this film, most people associated Tarzan with swinging on vines to move around. He does here too, but watch what he does on tree branches. He surfs on them! That's really creative and showcases Glen Keane's talent as a great animator. Speaking of the main character, Tarzan himself is a good character. He does all the animalistic stuff like snarl and roar and walk on his knuckles, but at moments he can be sentimental. We see his turmoil of choosing between the human world and the ape world and it is compelling.

The clip's further down, but you'll flip when you see it!
Jane is the damsel-in-distress done right. Sure, she has to be saved a lot, but she's an interesting person. She's clumsy, eccentric, polite, and of course has a good heart. It makes sense for her to be saved because she's just out of her environment. She does provide the link between Tarzan's world and civilization, so I think she's a fun character too.


The side characters are alright. Rosie O'Donnell plays one of the apes... I'd call that idealistic casting, but everyone else probably thought that too. While she's annoying, she's not to the point where it kills the movie. Wayne Knight as Tantor was a fun choice. It's kind of a shame that he didn't have to many scenes because he did make me chuckle from time to time. Though to be fair, the film focuses on where it should be: on Tarzan and his turmoil. Part of that is Tarzan's "father" Kerchak, who may be one of the most fleshed out side characters in Disney history. He's reluctant to call the ape-man a son because when Kala brought him back, he feared other humans were there and this was a threat to the family. On top of that, he lost his real son to a leopard. Can you blame him? It's Tarzan's loyalty to him that wins him over. That and the animation by Bruce W. Smith is just awesome! Overall, he's a good character too.

Hello, Newman...
Not a screen cap, but an actual drawing of Kerchak by Bruce Smith. :)
The villain is unfortunately not that great. Clayton's motivation is as boring as the Disney motivations get: he's just greedy and doing it for the money. It's the Pocahontas villain all over again. Yeah, he just sort of slows things down for me. Come to think of it, why wasn't the leopard the villain? This thing has killed a family and a baby gorilla! She would have been cool, like a Shere-Khan type of villain! But I digress...

It would have been cool to see this in The Jungle Book!
The songs are by Phil Collins. A of people like them, I kind of don't. Don't get me wrong. They're not godawful songs, it's just that they don't do much for me. So the characters are singing abou... no wait, Phil's the one singing in the background! Right out of nowhere! I guess he sings about what's going on like this can be played on AM radio, but it's just too vague for me. My main problem with them is like what I said about The Lion King's songs: the film really doesn't need them. Just let the characters do their thing instead of having Phil Collins singing "Here's what's going on! Here's how they... No wait, I feel something similar!". Here's a short video of how I bet some of the animals must have felt when they hear Collins out of nowhere.


The turmoil Tarzan goes through is addressed, and the film does take some time to look at it. I kind of wish more time was spent on it. There's some great scenes on what I'm talking about, like when Tarzan covers himself with mud to look like an ape to fit in and when Tarzan and Jane meet and put their hands against each other, but each of those scenes are only a few seconds long and I think the film could have taken more time out to explore this. It's kind of fighting with the greedy plot device called the villain and Phil Collins for space. But to be fair, this is a Disney film. I can't expect every character to be as complex as Frollo and I get the feeling that Disney is trying to better themselves. And in many respects, they really are.

I suppose I'm falling into the critic's trap of letting what I want get in the way of what it really is. For what it is, Tarzan is a good film. I love the main characters, I love the animation, and I like that there is room for character development. I just wish more time was spent on that. On the whole, Tarzan is still a good movie. Next time you see on DVD, give it a watch. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Disneyear: Mulan (1998)

In a time when Disney started losing it's appeal, Mulan appeared and turned out a modest success. It made more money worldwide than Hunchback and Hercules combined and the general consensus seemed to like it okay. Today, that seems to be the general response: people seem to like it okay. They like the girl-power aspect, they like Eddie Murphy as Mushu (wasn't that fitting casting?), they like that one badass song I can never escape from on the Internet, the culture, all that good stuff. Despite it's modest following does it still hold up? Let's join this man's army to see.

In ancient China, around the Han Dynasty, the Huns invade China by climbing across the great wall and so the emperor (Pat Morita) calls for every male in every house to serve in the army to hold back the enemy. So when the news reaches the Fa family, only the father can serve. This upsets our heroine Mulan (Ming-Na) and tries to talk him out of it because she doesn't want him to be killed in combat. So she disguises herself as a boy and sets off for the army with her father's armor and sword. This gets the attention of her ancestors called by her grandmother's (June Foray) prayers. The first ancestor (George Takei) orders a demoted guardian dragon named Mushu (Eddie Murphy) to awaken a dragon spirit but accidentally destroys his statue. So he decides if she can help make Mulan a war hero, then he'll become a guardian again and gets help from a "lucky" cricket. So Mulan tries to blend in with the army with Mushu's help. She fails miserably at first but overtime working with her new friends (Harvey Fierstein, Gedde Watanabe, and Jerry Tondo) and Captian Shang (BD Wong) and using her head over brawn, she becomes arguably the best damned soldier in this man's army, never letting on her secret. That is until she defeats the Huns by causing an avalanche with a cannon and unintentionally reveals to Shang that she isn't a dude at all. She's left for dead in the mountains but finds out that the Huns are still alive and head over to the palace to take over. After trying to tell Shang and the others that the Huns are coming, they realize she was right and help her beat the bad guys. She does, is declared a hero all across China, and Mushu is now an official guardian again!

Let's start with the character of Mulan. She's our typical strong female lead that fights her own battles, defies gender issues and all that good stuff. What sets her apart, for me at least, is that she's not just doing it for herself. After a meeting with a matchmaker goes horribly awry, Mulan is left ashamed and distraught. She wishes so badly to please and bring honor to her family, yet her spunky, outspoken attitude makes this a struggle for her in a culture where women are expected to be quiet and subservient. So after her father gets drafted, she takes his place to save his life. So the whole journey was finding an identity for herself that everyone can accept despite the time period she lives in, which is pretty deep as far as heroines go. Not the strongest out there, but she's in my top 5. Plus, she kicks ass!


Eddie Murphy had some really funny lines, but that choice of casting can be a little distracting for some folks, depending on your tastes. In Shrek, it makes sense because that's just the world they lived in. In a Chinese legend? I dunno... Perhaps. But he still has good moments. But it's when Mulan joins the army is where it really gets funny. I just love it when Mulan tries to fit in with all these guys, like the hothead, the pacifist, and the kind-of show off. The timing, expressions, reactions, they're just perfect. I also like this sense of camaraderie that they share as the film progresses. That's where the heart of the film is. There's also some subtlety with some of the gender issues. Like have you ever noticed that when Ling tries to shake Mulan's hand, she holds it out like she's expecting him to kiss it? That's really clever and they never went too far with it. Oh and there's James Hong as the royal adviser. This guy's surprisingly funny and has some good moments.

Now for the bad stuff. The villain in this film is easily forgettable. I mean he's a fearsome warrior with an intimidating design and motives, but I don't remember any line of dialogue from him. That's likely because the film doesn't take the time to develop him as a character, Again, actions are one thing. Personality is another. 

But what's with the eyes?
The portrayal of the culture also seems a little underplayed. Aside from some neat designs and fantastic backgrounds, I wish that inspirations from Chinese art as well as more aspects from Chinese culture aside from the settings was explored a little bit more in this film. Though not perfect, at least it had a lot more effort put in to it than Hercules.




Overall, I still enjoy Mulan. While not one of the strongest Disney film, and I honestly wish it could have been stronger, but as it is, it is very entertaining with some good scenes and characters. I don't expect a lot of culture, but it at least has to be entertaining. Thankfully, Mulan is. I'd say it's well worth your time if you want to watch it again after this review.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Disneyear: Hercules (1997)

The late 90's were not kind to Disney. After Pocahontas, the films started to decline and people lost interest in Disney animated films. While I think Hunchback was great, it wasn't a big hit when it first came out. So the staff went back to the drawing board to try and come up with a film that could bounce them back to super-stardom. Hercules... well, it was a box-office hit when it first came out and people liked it just fine. I know I really liked it as a kid. Now... let's just say it doesn't age well, at least for my tastes. This is just a very confusing, oddly put-together film. It's almost as if the writers were playing a game of Mad Libs when they put together this film. In fact, how do you think that meeting went?

"Ok, guys! Let's get started. Our next story is going to be: Hercules!"
"Cool!"
"Our guest designer will be: Gerald Scarfe"
"Alrighty then"
"The look and tone will be in the style of: Las Vegas"
"...Ok"
"The musical style will be: gospel"
"...wait, what?"
"The main ballad will be sung by: Michael Bolton"
"That no-talent ass clown?"
"He'll get us an Oscar!"
"...good point. Let's give him a call."

Well, let's get to the story. In Mount Olympus, Zeus (Rip Torn) is celebrating the birth of his new son by inviting all the gods, including his brother, Hades (James Woods). Due to receiving news from the fates about Zeus' son Hercules (Tate Donovan) mucking up his plans of taking over Olympus in the future, Hades wants to make the little sunspot mortal then killed by his cronies Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer) but fowl up when they find out the baby still has his god-like strength and whips the two. Then an old couple who have no kids find him and raise him his own. Growing up, young Hercules doesn't really fit in until he finds out he's the son of the god Zeus. Zeus tells him to find someone named Philoctetes (Danny Devito) who can train his son to be a hero and gives him a Pegasus to find him. They do and over the years, Hercules trains to be brawny (though no one is as brawny as Gaston!) Before they hit the first town, Herc hears a damsel in distress and rescues a woman named Meg (Susan Egan) and falls for her. After that, Herc battles various monsters and demons set loose by Hades and over the course of... weeks, maybe?... and becomes a celebrity. But fame ain't enough. After a date with Hercules, Meg meets up with Hades revealing she's been working for him all the time. Hades then offers Meg's freedom for Hercules' strength, to which our hero agrees. He defeats Hades of course, all is forgiven, and Hercules is declared a true hero.

Okay, so what problems do I have with this film? The biggest fault is the story. It's really a bunch of recycled elements from Rocky and Superman with some other tired cliches. I know I shouldn't harp on it too much since these stories are the inspiration for many superheroes. But the choices they made to tell this story and how to present it is what makes it... odd. There's a lot of very bizarre modern-day references all throughout the film. My guess is that the filmmakers wanted to try and do what they did for Aladdin. But those made sense because you could make the argument that the Genie was magical and could go forward in time to see all this stuff and bring it back to the time the story took place. You can't make the same argument here. No rhyme or reason. Just Air-Nike shoes, drinks in souvenir cups, and movie references out of thin air and those are the jokes with some bad puns. I just didn't think it worked too well.

I wonder if Nike sponsored this...
Huh... I thought it was the hyenas that offed him...
The characters... are recycled too. We've all seen Hercules in other films. He's not very bright but has a good heart. He's as gullible as Elmer Fudd but gosh durnit, he's so wide eyed that we have to feel sorry for him. Meg isn't that interesting either. She has a few good one-liners, but that's all. They tried to give her a past, but that doesn't help make her a better character. Phil is sort of the same thing. He's Mickey from the Rocky films, the trainer. Nothing's new except that the story is from Greek mythology. The only character I was entertained by throughout the film was James Woods as Hades. It's just another weird choice that works in the film's favor. Hades doesn't really talk like your typical villain. He's more like a car dealer. He's entertaining and funny, but not really enough to save the film.


The artwork and animation are the only things I still like about this film. Specifically, Nik Ranieri and Eric Goldberg's animation on Hades and Phil respectively have the best character animation here. The voice acting is also decent. I do actually like Scarfe's work because of how unique and weird it is like what he did in Pink Floyd's The Wall. But his style isn't used to it's advantage here. In a story about Greek mythology, his designs could work but not the way they're telling it. It feels more like Caesar's Palace in Vegas is telling you the story instead of Scarfe and traditional Disney. The songs... except for I Won't Say I'm in Love, I don't care for them. But honestly, that's the only one I kind of like. It's the least schmaltzy and annoying and this one's the only one I'm humming from time to time.



 I guess that Disney tried to copy it's success from Aladdin, but boy does it backfire. What made Aladdin work though was that it had better characters, a believable romance, and actual suspense in the climax. Sadly, that's not what I got when I saw Hercules again. It's clumsy and flawed with a recycled plot and cliche characters. I know this film has it's fans, but when I look at Greek statues and artwork and I hear that Walt Disney animation is going to bring these stories to the big screen, this isn't what I think of. It's definitely one of the weaker Disney films. I suppose if you still like this movie or find it entertaining, good for you. Nothing's wrong with that. I would probably give this one a skip. It's way too flawed for me.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Disneyear: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Disney once again found itself in a rut after the disappointment of Pocahontas. While some films they released afterwards were hits, none ever got the acclaim and prestige of the previous famous four film. This was also the point were Disney was becoming a little less popular with the crowd, so Disney needed something to being back its audience. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was the film that came out next and... probably wasn't the best choice of story to bring back your old audience. I mean this is a famously dark and twisted story about the corruption of the church and the overuse of power that it had back in 15th century Europe... as told by the artists at Walt Disney studios as a musical... think about that! So as you'd guess, the final film changed around a few things to be a little more suitable for the family. I don't really think this was a very big hit when it first came out though it is growing a fan base. Does it have its flaws? Despite that, I really do love this movie. So I guess it's off to the Festival of Fools to see what makes it work and what... holds it back some.

In 15th century Paris, we get our introduction from a puppeteer who tells the story of how a wicked government priest named Claude Frollo (Tony Jay) kills the mother of a deformed baby and comes close to killing the child too until the Archdeacon (David Ogden Stiers) orders him to raise the child as his own. He reluctantly does, but to add insult to injury names the child Quasimodo (which according to the puppeteer means "half-formed") and hides him from the world in Notre Dame cathedral's bell tower. Years pass as he grows to be a young man (Tom Hulce) and wishes to go to the Festival of Fools, the equivalent of an April Fools party mixed with Mardi Gras. Frollo forbids it of course but goes only for duty. After gaining some support from his gargoyle friends (Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, and Mary Wickes), Quasimodo sneaks into the festival and is considered a big hit with the crowd due to his appearance. Then for some reason, the crowd turns on him rather sporadically and is tied up, to which a gypsy woman named Esmeralda (Demi Moore)  frees him and then is persecuted by Frollo for freeing the hunchback and witchcraft, which is really just parlor tricks. She claims sanctuary in the church but Frollo has guards around the place so if she does get out, she has two options: be Frollo's lover or die. (Pretty twisted) She does get help from Phoebus, the captain of the guards (Kevin Kline) and Quasimodo, the three try to defend the gypsy culture and it's people, Notre Dame cathedral, and Esmeralda herself from Frollo's cruelty. After one of the most intense climaxes in Disney history, Quasimodo makes a new life for himself and is declared as a hero in the town.

Oh wow, Disney! I mean wow! I don't even know how they got away with half of this content. Give them credit, this was a very ballsy move on their part. Like I said earlier, the original book by Victor Hugo is about the corruption of church. Here, the film doesn't directly attack the church (I don't think they'd get away with that!) but it does touch up on some issues with faith, righteousness, good, evil, heaven, hell, damnation, even lust! There were moments when I was watching this like when Frollo smells of a woman's hair and I thought "this is a Disney movie?!?" Sex especially is a big Disney no-no and to see some of this imagery was pretty shocking, but it never goes too far. Remember, this is a family film! Kids can see the good with loving relationships and the bad of mindless, vengeful lust. 


Wouldn't you see this image in something like Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia?
There's also the scale of this movie. Watch it again, it's just gigantic! Some of these angles, colors, shadows, backgrounds, and camera movements really make everything seem big. A lot like in Bambi and The Lion King, just the sheer size of this film makes everything seem more grand and more important. The songs also help with it. We have your heartfelt and fun song, but then we have songs like The Bells of Notre Dame, God Help the Outcasts, and Hellfire. These are just big songs and the choir makes everything seem more important.



Now let's discuss the characters because they are likable (for the most part, but I'll get to some of them in a minute) That's Amadeus as Quasimodo and there really is a kindness to his voice. Even if he's not the best singer ever, there's a lot of warmth and heart in his performance. His range is just good. Esmeralda is a nice, caring character who only wants justice for her people and Phoebus does see the evil and problems with what Frollo does and wants to help Quasi and Esmeralda. There's also some heartbreak too. Quasimodo doesn't get the girl (I don't think that's a spoiler) but is able to accept it, find acceptance with the people of Paris and makes a new life for himself. 

Our three heroes.
Then you have one of the best Disney villains ever: Frollo. He does all the bastardy things Disney villains do but justifies himself in doing so because he thinks he's a soldier for God. The film makes him very complex too. He hates gypsies and want to destroy them all but has this insane lust for Esmeralda, the gypsy woman he arrested for witchcraft but also wants her dead. I just think he's a badass villain.



Now let's to get what doesn't necessarily work for the film's favor. Not necessarily fall flat but some elements feel like they're there because of being held back by the fact it is a Disney movie. One thing is that the explanation of the gypsy culture is pretty complicated, especially for a kid. They're said to be thieves but they're allowed to run a festival. Frollo wants to rid the world of them yet still goes to said festival. Esmeralda says they're not all thieves, yet there's a secret lair made up of stolen items. I suppose you could argue that this shows the complications of the gypsy culture, but it would only confuse people more.


One minor nitpick is the romance between Phoebus and Esmeralda... it's not that interesting. They just crack one-liners at each other. But to be fair, the film does set time for them to talk and get to know each other better, though scenes like that are kind of scarce in this film. They're there, but not that often

Plus, I still feel for poor Quasi...
Then there's the gargoyles... ok, Disney. I don't mind comedy relief in a film like this but do you have to make them so damn obnoxious? One: how dare you not give Jason Alexander one funny line to say! Shame on you! Two: the film is about not judging people by appearances, yet that's constantly what they do to each other! Third: I'd honestly tolerate them if they were imaginary. At first, it looks like they are! There's a musical number with them and in the next scene it looks like it was all in Quasimodo's head. What a great yet tragic way to get your comedy relief in! But during the final battle... they help him save the day. They fight off the guards and throw stuff at them... there's no way he could have dreamed that. I don't know how, maybe it's Disney magic, but do they have to be so annoying?


I know Hunchback has it's flaws and from a character and storytelling perspective, this isn't the strongest Disney film out there and for Disney to even pull this off, they had to make it simpler or go all out with the story. But I personally really love it. Give them credit, this is a hard story to adapt and I'm amazed that it pulls it off as well as it does. It's definitely one of the darkest! I don't care if it's clunky, I don;t care if it's flawed, the stuff that works well works unbelievably well. I love the scale, I love the imagery, I love the content, it's just one of my fvorites. Despite it's problems I do see why Disney made it. If you're a fan of the original book, you may not like it. But if you know what you're getting into (Think about it: it's Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame!), then you might like it fine. I never really did watch this one much as a kid, but I can really appreciate it as an adult. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Disneyear: Pocahontas (1995)

Seems like Disney was on top of the world in the 90's. We have The Little Mermaid that returned the company to form. Beauty and the Beast: nominated for Best Picture. Aladdin: everybody saw. The Lion King: grossed over $900 million at the box office. So what could possibly happen to Disney at the top of their game? Well... remember when I said in my Lion King review in that the management had pretty much no faith in The Lion King but put all of their attention in another film being made around the same time? Well, The Lion King went on to be adored by film-goers and critics alike as well as being the highest-grossing traditionally-animated film of all time while the other was a pretty big disappointment with both critics and at the box office. That unlucky film was today's focus, Pocahontas. Well, let me rephrase that: it was a modest success at the box-office, but it wasn't the big hit Disney was hoping for and the general public didn't really go nuts for it like they did with the previous films. It now has this bad reputation for starting the downward spiral of Disney animated films. So what the hell happened? I guess we'll find out just around the riverbend today.

In 1607 London, Captain John Smith (Mel Gibson) sets off with his crew to the New World. They anticipate making it rich over there thanks to the claims and stories of Governor Radcliffe (David Ogden Stiers) of the natives hiding gold. Meanwhile in the land that will be eventually called America, a Native American princess named Pocahontas (Irene Bedard) dreads the future marriage of her to Kocoum, her village's most respected warrior, because he's so serious and this conflicts with her free spirit. After speaking to her grandmother willow (I kid you not, a talking tree) with her animal friends Meeko and Flit, she meets John Smith and the two seem to share a bond. One problem: both sides hate each other and want the other gone. After several fights and Smith being held prisoner after the accidental death of Kocoum, Pocahontas manages to stop the conflict with her love of Smith, Radcliffe is arrested after trying to shoot the chief but Smith takes the bullet for him, Smith returns to London for healing, and we end with Pocahontas saying goodbye to her love.

I'm not even going to attempt to talk about the historical presentation because there's no point. Disney actually made most of it up. But I wouldn't mind so much if it was done well and well... what we have here is the classic "who's the real savage?" story about a greedy white man who takes over the land. And for those of you thinking this was one of the first films to try it, it's not. We've seen this before in Dances With Wolves, which does the same story much better as well as countless TV specials. They are right, don;t get me wrong, but couldn't we have a new way of telling this story? Why tell this story if we know already how it's going to end?


Let's get to the characters. We have Pocahontas, a free-spirited young woman as dull as a rock. Sorry guys, but she's not that interesting. I know she does things that other Disney princesses don't do, but her actions are one thing. Her personality is something different. She's not bad, but not engaging enough. The only one almost as boring is John Smith. I swear he has to play Jesus in everything he does... And the bad guy, not that interesting either. Here's a clip not from the movie, but it sums up Radcliffe in just one statement and it's as weak as Disney villain motivations get.

The only couple more boring than a day with the WASP family.

One of the biggest complaints at the time was that the animals didn't talk. Sounds very strange when you read that, doesn't it? When I was watching this, I kind of got into the physical comedy of the animal characters. Then this thought occurred: this is a film about communicating with nature. Why don't the animals talk?!? If there's any film where it actually makes sense for the animals to speak, it's this one! Well, that's fine. Maybe they can communicate with nature in another way, like talking to the trees... hold on: the trees can talk but the animals can't? Wha... sense does that make?!?


But like every Disney movie, there's always some things to appreciate. For example, you have to give Disney credit for trying something different. Pocahontas isn't a fairy tale, so this was new territory for them. The animation and colors are great! Whoever did the art design for this film did a wonderful job with this film. Oh, and the great Glen Keanne animated our heroine and does a pretty decent job with her. Not his best work, but passable. The designs are kind of cool. They're not like the usual human designs with smooth lines, but rather a more angular look to them. But I guess some folks miss that smoother look.  The song, Colors of the Wind is preachy, but still a decent song and I love some of the visuals we get with this scene. Some of the silent humor is cute, but after that, there's not a whole lot to talk about.



So is Pocahontas an awful film? I suppose not. There's not anything damning about it aside from rewriting history, but history's done that countless times. Besides, it's a Disney film. You expect them to take these darker stories and turn them around so that we get a happy ending. So the only real problem with Pocahontas is that it's dull and predictable. The more adult designs of the film are fine if we get an adult story out of it. But we don't. And it did start that downward spiral for Disney. They had a hit every now and then, but nothing ever had ground breaking moments like with the Lion King or Beauty and the Beast. So would Disney get back with their next film? Join me next time.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Disneyear: The Lion King (1994)

We've come at last to probably Disney's biggest hit, The Lion King. It garnered over $900 million at the box office, making it the highest grossing traditional-animated film of all time. On top of that, it received a lot of positive reviews from the critics and the audience loved it due to it having a great story (Hamlet with lions), fantastic animation, great action, and good character performances all around. If you know the movie's back story, it's your classic "the little engine that could" scenario. Basically, Disney suprisingly had no faith in this film and thought it's big success would be in the next film in line of Disneyear. The irony was that this film was such a gigantic hit and the next one failed to garner as much acclaim from critics and the audience alike. And back when I was a kid, this was one of everybody's favorite Disney films. Almost 20 years later, it still holds up for a lot of people. Me? It still holds up, yes, but there have been a few glaring flaws I've noticed watching it again that keep it from being in my top 5. It's a strong film, but not necessarily the strongest in my opinion. If you wish to know why, let's head over to Pride Rock to see what's with all the hubbub in The Lion King.

The film begins in sub-Saharan Africa, where we see the arrival of a new lion cub named Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broedrick). Not just any old lion cub, but the next in line to be king of the savanna. This gains the envy of  the cub's uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) because he was supposed to be the next king, so he plots to rid himself of Simba and his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones), who teaches Simba everything about how to be a good king. None of the plans work until one day a wildebeest stampede is caused by Scar's hyena friends (Whoopi Goldberg, Chhech Marin, and Jim Cummings). Simba is rescued by his father, but loses his life doing so because of Scar. Scar tricks Simba into thinking he killed Mufasa and tells him to leave the Pride Lands and never return. Feeling guilty, Simba does and winds up nearly dead in a dessert. He's rescued by a meerkat and warthog named Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella) who teach him to run away from his problems and turn a new leaf. Simba spends the next few years growing up with them and vows to never return to his past life. That is until a childhood friend of Simba's named Nala (Moria Kelly) meets with him and tells him that the Pride Lands have turned for the worst since Scar took over. She also tells Simba that since he's the rightful king, he's the only one who can make things right again. Doubting himself because he still thinks he killed his father, Simba doesn't until he meets with a wise old mandrill named Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) who reminds him that his father is still with him in spirit. Simba sees a vision of Mufasa in the sky telling him to go back and face his past. Simba decides to go back and fight his uncle to the death. Scar of course is defeated and with Simba now in throne, everything returns to normal.

I'm sure you're wondering what sort of issues I have with this story that's very adult, considering it's borrowed from one of the Bard's best dramas? Well, one is the message. Now, I actually do like this message. It's a very mature one to give in a Disney film and I especially like it when Simba talks with Rafiki about it. It's basically, "The past can hurt, but you can either run from it or learn from it". Now, that's very clever and I can get behind it. What I'm not behind is how the movie treats him when he does go and face his past. When he goes back to face his fears, the fears begin to win and everything he was taught before is turned against him. No one is behind him, no one supports him, no one helps him until it turns out he didn't commit the murder he thought he committed! Wait... how is this confronting his past? It's a past that never happened and even when he did thought he did it, the film doesn't support him! Almost to say he really did accidentely kill his father and that he deserves to die until he says, "Wait! I didn't do it!" I'm sorry, but that's a really serious flaw! Well, it was a good try, Disney...


Another issue is the villain. Now Scar shows in the beginning that he's a very intelligent and capable threat to our heroes, which by law makes him an interesting villain. However, it's when he gets his power that he stops being interesting. In fact, he starts acting like a prima donna, which just sucks out the dignity that you feel for a villain. Now to be fair, here's a clip of his song with a few examples of what I'm talking about. I still think he's an alright villain but a little overrated in my opinion.


Now I'm through with my problems. So you must be asking yourself, what do I still like about The Lion King? Well for starters, this is a big movie. I mean a really big movie. Just the size and scale of this movie is worth the admission price. The action scenes seem bigger and grander whenever you see it in a theater. I still remember seeing it when it first came out. I was about two or three when this movie came out, making this the first movie I ever saw in a theater and for that I still feel attached to it despite my recent issues with the film. If you ever get to see it in a theater, do it! Or find it on Blu-ray.


The characters are also good too. You have James Earl Jones as the wise king, Jeremy Irons is over the top and fun during the first half of the film, Rowan Atkinson gets a few good puns, the hyenas are funny, of course Simba is a sympathetic hero, and while I may not love Timon and Pumbaa as much as I used to, they still have some funny lines in this film. The voice acting is actually great, probably some of the best in a Disney flick I've seen. I hear them as the characters instead of a celebrity behind a microphone just doing a voice.

It's a great cast with good characters.
On top of that, this is definitely one of the more adult Disney films. Like I mentioned earlier, the story is basically a family-friendly version of  Hamlet but with talking lions. And the film doesn't really sugarcoat it that much like you'd expect Disney to do. For instance, they don't pull a Bambi's mom off-stage when Mufasa dies. No, you see the body! This was a really big thing back then and left a really big impact on all of us when that happened! It also was very unexpected for Disney back then to kill a character on-screen during a big action sequence! And even though the message sort of backfires, I still like the one it was trying to get across. For Disney to even attempt to pull off a story like this is very admirable effort that for the most part still works.


The artwork of course is a great as any Disney film. The animation (especially from Andreas Dejas) is wonderful as always, some of these angles are spectacular, and the backgrounds make you really feel like you're in the African wilderness. There's also some traces of traditional African culture in the film, which is pretty cool. Most of it is in the music by Hans Zimmer and a few of the names if I'm right are Swahili names. Nice touch!

This is still the most epic still of the movie. Just look at that!
I can tolerate these songs. They range from average to pretty epic. My personal favorites are probably Circle of Life and Be Prepared. However, my beef with them is that I think if the film wanted to be a little more mature and groundbreaking, it could have done with out the songs. But there's only song I truly hate is one that was added on when it was re-released into IMAX theaters in 2002: The Morning Report. Holy crap, I hate this song! I know it was added on to the memory of the talented Howard Ashman, but every artist makes a dud at some point. This song is so pointless and unneeded, it's no wonder that it was removed from the original final film. I had to scramble around trying to find a DVD copy of this film without that insidious song! It's so aggravating! Thank goodness for the recent Diamond edition that removes it completely! If you need a DVD of this film, get the Diamond edition for the love of humanity!


Overall, I still really enjoy The Lion King. While not necessarily perfect, it's a grand film with an adult story and a pretty big message. I just have my own personal irks with it and I do wish that other Disney films got the attention that this one gets every day. And if it ever gets re-released in a theater, I'll still go check it out. It's a film you need to see in a theater at least once before you die. Not my favorite Disney film, but it's still one of the best for sure.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Disneyear: Aladdin (1992)

Ah, Aladdin. When I was growing up, this was one of my favorite Disney movies. It had action scenes, magic, monsters, comedy, all that good stuff. Watching it as a little boy, this movie was awesome! In fact, I have a feeling that this was probably the first Disney film for boys, while girls had Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast to love. Watching it as an adult, I think I'd be lying if I said that novelty didn't wear off. Unlike Beauty and the Beast which gets better as I get older, I think I start to see more of the problems with Aladdin, but they're only minor nitpicks to be honest. If you want to know what it is before judging me, join me on a magic carpet ride in finding out.

The story is set in the city of Agrabah, where we meet first meet a peddler who shows up a humble looking lamp (the one on the poster). With it, he tells the story of Aladdin (Scott Weinger), a poor kid trying to live by stealing what he can find with his monkey Abu. One morning, he meets a princess in disguise named Jasmine (Linda Larkin) who runs away from the palace because she's being forced into marriage and wants to make a life of her own. The two chat for a while and seem to hit it off pretty well. That is until Aladdin is captured and sent to prison by the sultan's Grand Vizir, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), who wishes to use Aladdin as a means of entrance to the Cave of Wonders filled with riches. But he only wants the same lamp we saw earlier in the film. Al gets trapped in the cave with Abu and a magic carpet with the lamp. Curious, he rubs it to find a blue genie (do I even need to say who voices him?) who helps him escape. Aladdin gets three wishes and uses the first to pose as a prince to win Jasmine back. It doesn't work at first, but the two rekindle after a night together. Jafar finds out about the lamp and using his parrot Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) to steal it. Jafar gains supreme power as a sorcerer and a sultan, but after a final battle with Aladdin, he gets tricked into being a genie and is trapped in his new lamp. Aladdin and Jasmine marry, the genie gains freedom thanks to Al's last wish, and they live happily ever after.

So far, the story's good. So what is it about Aladdin that does or doesn't work. Well, the big thing is that unlike the other fairy tale Disney movies, Aladdin feels very modern. It doesn't feel like once upon a time, but rather in the time period where Shrek lives, which sort of loses that timeless quality. In fact, Agrbah looks a little bit more like something you'd see in Las Vegas palace than in Arabia. There's a lot of modern-day talk, modern-day refrences from the genie, and Aladdin and Jasmine seem more like Generation X-er's than people from what time period the film tries to convey.

Aladdin: brought to you by the Sands Casino!
But does that make Aladdin a bad movie? The answer is actually no. If anything, this gives the film a very unique identity and for the most part, it paid off. As far as the modern day stuff with the genie, you could make the argument that since he's a magic being, he could have just traveled to our time period and picked up on all that stuff. So in a way, it does make sense. And I'd be lying if I said the genie wasn't the funniest damn thing in the movie. Almost all of his lines were improvised by Robin Williams with fantastic, fast-paced animation by Eric Goldberg to back it up. Just a lot of talent went into this one character. That's dedication for you.

Another reason to like it is that Aladdin and Jasmine do have a chemistry. I know they only knew each other for a day, but you do buy that they share a connection with each other. They actually do talk about thier problems and work together to resolve them. And you do have to admire Aladdin's dedication to her. The whole film is him trying to win her affection despite his rough background. That's love for you. 



The other characters are a lot of fun too. Abu and Carpet have some good physical comedy, the Sultan is enjoyably stupid, and then there's Jafar. He's a very level-headed and intelligent villain that can turn dangerous with sorcery in a matter of seconds. He also has a parrot named Iago with the voice of Gilbert Gottfried... somehow, this is perfect casting. Even if he can be obnoxious at points, Gilbert gets some good lines in this film.

"Well, at least I don't sing..."
The songs are great. Again, we have Alan Menkin creating those catchy beats we all love. The action's pretty good, especially the final battle! Oh my, this scene exemplifies why a lot of boys loved this movie when I was growing up: it's fast paced, action-packed with magic and monsters. It's just a great way to end your film!

So while I don't like it as much, I still like this film. There's great action, good comedy, good animation, and a believable romance. While some of the modern references can get in the way of the fairy tale story, it still has that classic Disney heart. As long as you know what you're getting into, you'll enjoy it just fine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Disneyear: Beauty and the Beast (1991)

As one of the biggest hits of the Disney Renaissance, Beauty and the Beast has quite the reputation. People back then fell in love with this movie when it first came out. Not only did it strike a chord with people all over the world but it was the very first animated film to be nominated an Academy Award for Best Picture! That was almost unheard of at the time and for Disney to accomplish this really set them on a roar. So is it really that good? Well to find out, you're free to be my guest in reading this review.

The movie begins by telling the Beast's back story through stained glass windows. Basically, he was cruel to a sorceress and as punishment for having so much hate in his heart, turns him into a beast. She also hexes a rose that slowly withers away. If the Beast (Robby Benson) can love someone and be loved in return before the last petal falls, then he'll go back to being a human. Enter our heroine, Belle (Paige O'Hara). She's beautiful but never flaunts it. She's rather read books than focus on guys and so everyone in town thinks she's odd but she doesn't really mind. Enter Gaston (Richard White), the town hero. He's in love with Belle because he thinks that if he's the most handsome guy in town, then he should marry the most beautiful woman in town (great logic, isn't it?). She turns him down and he vows to marry her yet. Meanwhile, Belle's father is out of town and finds the enchanted castle where the Beast lives. The Beast claims he's trespassing and claims him prisoner. Belle finds him later and exchanges her life for his and lets her father go. The Beast sees this as the perfect opportunity to fall in love an break the spell. But one problem: he's not very social. You could even call him beastly (forgive the pun!) But through circumstances that happen and the help of his servants Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), and Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury), the two actually do start to see good in one another and hit it off pretty well. One night though, the Beast lets Belle go because her father's in danger. She returns home to find that her father is declared insane because it's part of a setup for Gaston to propose to Belle again. She rejects again (thank you!) He gets vengeance by turning the town on the Beast. Beast gets seriously injured during a final battle and Belle at last declares her love for him. Just so happens the last petal falls at that moment but breaks the spell. Everyone returns to human form, Belle and Beast (by the way, did we ever learn his real name?) marry, and all live happily ever after.

After watching it again, I can see why this movie is regarded as a classic. Just about everything in this film is perfection. From beginning to end, it's just Disney at it's storytelling and artistic zenith. The characters: perfect. The romance: perfect. The villain: perfect. The songs: perfect. The animation and artwork: perfect. It goes back to the Disney roots. It knows it's a fairy tale and engulfs itself with it. There are a few twist, like with the couple. They actually have to take their time to actually know each other instead of just meeting and BOOM! It's meant to be. Speaking of which, the film is very clever in never exactly saying how long the two are together. It could be days, weeks, months, even years! It just allows you to come to your own conclusions.


The main characters are just great! Let's start with Belle, who is in my opinion the best female lead in a Disney film ever! She's beautiful but never shows it off. She loves to read, she's smart. People think she's odd, but she couldn't care less. She's kind, but has her limits. She's also looking for something great, grand and bigger than herself, which is very deep for a kid's movie. She's just perfect. She's really more of a role model than someone you'll actually meet in real life, but she's a great one so I really enjoy her. Then there's Beast. This design is awesome! It's pretty much what you think now when you read the story. But that human design... well the animators always said it never mattered what he looked like as a human because we grew to love him as the Beast, so I guess I'll let it slide.



The villain is also the perfect type for this film. Gaston does get some funny lines in this movie at first but because of constant rejections from Belle, he's turned to more desperate measures. He's not evil, per say, just used to getting what he wants all the time. Also, is it just me or does Gaston somehow embody being the manliest man and the prissiest all at once?


The subject of many YouTube poops.
The songs, we all know them. It's Alan Menkin at his best! Who can forget Be Our Guest? Or even the beautiful waltz moment in... Beauty and the Beast? I love them all, but there is one that I never hear talked about that much: When We're Human Again. Never heard of it? Apparently, this was originally cut from the movie when it was first released. But in 2002, Disney rereleased the film in IMAX with this song intact to honor the memory of co-composer Howard Ashman. This tune, unlike a certain other song that was added to a Disney movie in his memory but I'll get to that one when I do, is actually very good. It gives our side characters much more depth in that they actually have plans and ambitions after the spell is broken. It is a catchy song too. I've had it in my head for days after I heard it. If you haven't seen it, I'll include it here with Be Our Guest because I'm sure you want to enjoy that song again!


Do I even need to say what else is good about this film? We all know this story. We all know these characters. We all know these songs. It's just as flawless as a film can get and it only gets better as I get older. It's up there with Fantasia as my favorite Disney movie. If you have the time, I highly recommend watching this film again. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Disneyear: The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

You all know the films of the Disney Renaissance in order right? First we have Little Mermaid, then Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. So far that's correct, right? Actually, you'd be wrong. There was a film released between the time of Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast that a lot of folks seem to forget about: The Rescuers Down Under. I mentioned earlier that I can't recall much of the first film from my childhood but I remember so much more from this film. Why is that? I guess it's about time we headed over to the land down under via albatross and find out.

The story is about a little boy named Cody who lives in Australia (yet has no accent) frees a rare golden eagle from a poacher's trap. He finds out that it was set up by a poacher named McLeach (played by George C. Scott) who kidnaps Cody because he wants to know where the eagle is. Word goes all the way to New York where the Rescuers themselves Bernard and Miss Bianca (played once again by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor) take the case. They have to fly there of course only to find that Orville isn't there and instead meet with a new albatross there named Wilbur (get it? Orville? Wilbur? It's cute.)  who agrees to take them there. After landing, poor Wilbur breaks his back and is sent to a psychotic hospital for treatment. The two also meet up with a kangaroo rat named Jake that agrees to help rescue the kid. After several intense scenes with them trying to get to McLeach that include Jake and Bianca being accidentally captured themselves with the eagle, Bernard overcomes his timid side and actually winds up the hero, saving Cody, the eagle, Jake, and of course Miss Bianca. He even pops the question and she happily accepts! Talk about a happy ending!

Now I'll admit that out of all the Disney films to do a sequel for, it's a little strange to me that they chose to do one for The Rescuers. But Disney really put so much effort into this film! This has to be one of the best action/adventure films the studio ever produced! The animation is beautiful, the main characters are likable, the villain's great (hey, it's George C. Scott!), the action scenes are intense, it's fun, it's funny, it's just a wonderful experience. I think one of the best scenes is when Cody frees the eagle. You'd think they'd go the simple route, they fly to her nest. But instead, we get intense falls off mountains, flying in the sky, skating through water... you know what? Just watch it!


Like I said earlier, all the characters are likable. I liked Bernard and Bianca in the first film and here Bernard wants to take his relationship with her to the next level by proposing to her. One problem: some crap keeps happening to keep him from doing so. On top of that, he gets new competition with Jake. You really feel for him!

See the heartbreak in poor Bernard's face? :'(
There's also some great voice-over work here. I mentioned that George C. Scott plays the villain, McLeach, who's a fun but nasty villain who wants the eagle for money since it's a rare species. He's kind of fun especially with his lizard Joanna, who's another funny character. What I didn't mention was that the voice of Wilbur was John Candy in another heart-felt role that he just gets passionate in. He's just so much fun and gets a lot of funny scenes. I really miss him.



So why is it that this film keeps getting glossed over? Well, I think I have some ideas. One is that on it's opening weekend, it didn't do so hot at the box office so Disney immediately pulled all advertising from it. It's almost like they didn't want us to know it exists... Second is that there's not a whole lot of things that Disney's famous for marketing for in this film. It's not a musical, it's not a fairy tale, there's no strong ethics, and it doesn't have those overly-cute animals in here that the marketing folks like to make toys out of.

They're cute but I guess not Flounder or Stitch cute...
But that's just it! It's not supposed to be any of these things! It's just your basic, fun family adventure film that is vastly underrated in my eyes. I mean we never look at films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and call them bad  just because they're not up to par with films like Casablanca. It's it's own little genre. So again, why doesn't this film get some glory? Trust me when I say that this is a rare case where the sequel completely improves the original. It's your basic adventure film with cute little mice like the first film but done a million times better! If you haven't seen it by now, check it out and see where I'm getting at here. Or better yet, buy it! This film could use the DVD revenue.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Character Portraits

All of these portraits were created with Photoshop. I also now have a Deviantart page you can visit! It's right here.





Disneyear: The Little Mermaid (1989)

After The Black Cauldron's infamous failure, something happened at Disney. There seemed to have been a change in attitude over there because not only did they make better films over the years but they made them fast. They went from releasing a new movie from every few years to one a year! The films would also go back to the classic Disney musical format with fairy tales and include smoother animation. So which film kick started this renaissance? The one that started it all... again, was today's film, The Little Mermaid. We've all seen it. We all know it. We all know these songs and characters. We constantly rank it among Disney's best films. And I'm going to talk about it today!

The story is about a teenage mermaid named Ariel (played by Jodi Benson) that longs for a life above the water's surface. Her father, King Triton (Kenneth Mars) forbids it due to an extreme prejudice towards humans. So she secretly collects things from the surface world and gets her "knowledge" about their world through a seagull named Scuttle (Buddy Hacket) with her fish friend Flounder. She finds a ship one night and falls in love with a human man. A prince, even! She saves his life and knows for sure she wants to live with him. So she turns to a sea witch, Ursula (Pat Carroll) to make a Faustian deal with her: she gets legs in exchange for her voice. With the help of Flounder, Scuttle, and a Jamaican crab named Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright), she finds her prince but has to work at her relationship with him from scratch: all this without talking. Everything seems to go well until Ursula wrecks things by hypnotizing Eric into marrying her because she wants to take over the sea by using Ariel as bait to bring King Triton to size. She's foiled by Ariel after she regains her voice and fins with Eric. Triton realizes Eric's efforts to save him and Ariel and so gives back her legs. She and Eric marry and live happily ever after.

Where do I even begin? I probably should first mention the animation. It's wonderful. It's a comeback for smoother animation, colored lines, it really looks like something from Disney's golden age. Some of these backgrounds are great too. And some of these angles and effects are just awesome. Just look at the first five minutes of this film and tell me you aren't at all captivated by the animation quality!


The characters: all of them are great. You have Ariel, a curious rebel and romantic, the over protective crab Sebastian, the loyal fraidy cat Flounder, Buddy Hacket as a rather confused seagull, that crazy-ass chef voiced by Odu, Eric, they're all great, memorable characters. Even the father, a character usually tossed to the side, is really well developed. 
Inspector Kemp makes a good daddy.
The songs are great too! It's the classic Alan Menkin tunes that we all know and love. They're catchy, memorable, hits the tone of the movie just right, they're just great. My favorite is probably either Part of Your World or Poor Unfortunate Souls. Both these songs are friggin' awesome!



The villain is one of the best. Ursula reminds me of Ratigan in that she just loves what she does and just has a blast doing it. The difference being with Ursula, it's more of a revenge plot on King Triton for banishing her. She suckers in folks into thinking she's a saint and helps people in need. She does, but turns them into withering husks if they can't pay. Her design is pretty cool too: this sort of half mermaid half octopus thing is really cool. Back that up with the talented Pat Carroll doing her voice and you have one of the most enjoyable baddies out there.



Feedback for this movie is fascinating to me: not from men but women! I find out every day that women either really love or really hate this film and it all centers around the main character, Ariel. Before, I never did see anything wrong with her. I mean yeah, she can be whiny at times, but she's still a nice character overall. She's adventurous, she's curious, she's a hopeless romantic, she's determined, she's... nice, a bit of a rebel, she's always been a good lead in my eyes. She's also the first lead that wants something deeper than herself which is very heavy stuff for a family flick. The scenes that best show my point are when she can't talk. Make any sexist joke you want, but her character really shines through the most when she has to pantomime everything.
This scene makes me roll on the floor with laughter every time!
Speaking of that, I'll admit that she and Eric have one of the more believable Disney chemistries. I mean yeah, they fall in love at first sight, but then they meet again and actually have to work at their relationship. And since one can't talk, it's more of a challenge. However, I saw Lindsey Ellis' (Nostalgia Chick) review of the film and she brought up an interesting point at the end about Ariel never really learning her lesson in the end. She gets what she wants anyway and goes off to live her fairy tale life... yyyeeeahhh, that's a really good point.... but you could make the slim argument that she at least learned that she did something wrong and apologizes for it, but it's very brief and only lasts a few seconds.

I guess arguably this is probably one of the more morally damning Disney flicks, but all the good stuff in this film is just way too damn good to pass up. The characters: great. The animation: spectacular. The songs: catchy. The side characters: memorable. The villain: awesome. It's a great movie all around. I always have a spot for this film in my top ten. And it's only the first monster hit that brought Disney back on a roar for years to come!