Disney guy who started early on with the shorts and went on to direct many features.
The Three Caballeros (1945) -- Co-directed with Walt Disney, Norman Ferguson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, and Harold Young. Coming through with the goods of what was promised in Saludos Amigos, this one is much better. After a mediocre short or two, the "story" takes off with Donald Duck going on a sort of tail-chasing drug trip through Latin America. It's a musical and visual movie, not a narrative one, so fortunately the visuals and music are good.
Make Mine Music (1946) -- Co-directed with Robert Cormack, Joe Grant, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, and Joshua Meador. Fantasia with pop music, and little of the magic. It's hard for me to judge this as being "over-commercial" these days, since -- you know -- people like Dinah Shore and Benny Goodman seem like classical music to my late twentieth/early twenty-first century self. Most of the music holds up as good enough, anyway: some better than others. Since this is a package film, I'll go through each of the segments. (I ask myself why I don't -- and why others don't -- consider Fantasia a package film, and the answer is because it's not. It's a cohesive thing, even if it's divided into separate pieces.) First of all, I haven't seen the original opener "A Rustic Ballad," because the geniuses at modern Disney decided it wasn't suitable for kids, so they didn't release it on the DVD (something about gunplay, stereotypes, and "phallic imagery"). So, if I haven't said it somewhere else already, "Fuck you, Disney company, for revising your own history. You should be fucking ashamed of yourselves." "A Tone Poem"/"Blue Bayou" is fine, but forgettable. "A Jazz Interlude"/"All the Cats Join In" is a standout, and the jitterbug sequence no doubt influenced David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (it's almost a direct copy). "A Musical Recitation"/"Casey at the Bat" is good as far as Disney shorts go. "Ballet Ballad"/"Two Silhouettes" is interesting enough as being a different style of animation (rotoscoping dancers as shadows). "A Fairy Tale With Music"/"Peter and the Wolf" is definitely one of the standouts, with Prokofiev's wonderful music and great characters (though, like almost all the releases of "Peter and the Wolf," it would stand up better if the music told the story--not that I don't adore Sterling "Winnie the Pooh" Holloway's voice). "After You've Gone" is another decent Fantasia-type abstract revisiting. "A Love Story"/"Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" is a typical cutesy Disney short (which I only have mild patience for) with a song that's pretty annoying. And finally, the rightful closer, "Opera Pathetique"/"The Whale Who Wanted To Sing at the Met," which is pretty hilarious in its bigness and absurdity, and which features a brilliant delivery of all the voices by Nelson Eddy. To conclude, each of these is fine as a short, but together they only add up to a pretty decent collection. Actually, though, I wish that Disney (or somebody) would do something like this today. For one thing, it would perfectly fit our short attention spans.
Melody Time (1948) -- Co-directed with Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, and Hamilton Luske. An improved version of Make Mine Music, Melody Time is another music-based shorts collection, but this time a real story narrative is more important to the pieces (which, though narrative is not necessarily better than abstraction in these Fantasia-type segments, helps to make the movie work better). "Once Upon a Wintertime" is a typical cutesy-poo love story, but decent. "Bumble Boogie" is a perfect example of how the failure of Fantasia made Disney want to "pop up" the idea, still decent. "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" is a pretty good little short with some decent music. "Little Toot" isn't bad either. "Trees" is a nice oddball addition. "Blame It On the Samba" (looking like a leftover from The Three Caballeros) perhaps missteps by showing live action, since Disney's live action always looks dated, while the animation looks timeless, but the segment is nice enough, and Donald Duck is always welcome. "Blue Shadows on the Trail" features everyone's favorite cowboy and some 50s kids (again, in live action, though mixed with some animation) which essentially serves as a setup for "Pecos Bill and Sue," which is a pretty hilarious and inspired telling of the Pecos Bill story--like Make Mine Music, saving the best segment for last. After it's all said and done, Melody Time proves to be a nice time indeed.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) -- Co-directed with James Algar and Jack Kinney. Similar to Fun and Fancy Free by having two stories, only both the stories are excellent in this one. The movies are fun retellings of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and The Wind in the Willows.
Cinderella (1950) -- Co-directed with Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske. After eight years of package movies, Disney is finally able to make a feature-length about just one story. It's no wonder that they went way back to the Snow White idea and picked another fairy tale about a future princess, complete with book opening credits and other similarities. The story of Cinderella is kind of thin, and so much of the movie is filled out with "bits of business" with the little mice, setting up the talking animal as sidekick motif for years to come. Although not advancing Disney features much, it does get them back on track, and it's still entertaining to watch and has that great classic feel that we love.
Alice in Wonderland (1951) -- Co-directed with Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske. No one will probably be able to do Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass justice, but I've always said that movies are movies and books are books and it's unfair to compare them--especially when people go so far as to say that the movie "ruined" the book (the book still exists, people). That said, I think that this is still the best movie adaptation of Carroll's work ever done--and I believe it's because it's using the story as a basis and then doing its own thing, not trying to directly translate it (impossible?) as many others have attempted.
Peter Pan (1953) -- Directed with Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske. Kind of a dud. Disney took one of the richest pieces of children's literature (on par with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) and completely cartoonified it. This can be somewhat said of many Disney features to this point, but none so much as this one. Everyone just becomes a buffoon, especially Hook, who isn't enough of a threat to be a real villain. (Compare him to the wicked stepmothers or any other previous villains.) Tinkerbell is about the only character that gets the proper respect. The movie is completely noisy and is just one gag or bit of business after another. However, some things make it okay, and that's the always-good animation, some of the songs ("You Can Fly!" and "Second Star to the Right"--lots of the rest just get in the way), and the little bit of magic that seeps through.
Lady and the Tramp (1955) -- Co-directed with Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske. A new sort of Disney cartoon, the neatest thing about this is the maturity of the subject matter: babies and romance and social classes and all kinds of adult human stuff, only for dogs. It might have some little kids asking questions. Very stylish, with great songs.
Sleeping Beauty (1959) -- Co-directed with Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Riethermann. Basically a remake of Snow White with not one but three fairy godmothers from Cinderella. The story is kind of goofy sometimes, but the production design is so gorgeous (maybe the most gorgeous of any non-Fantasia Disney movie, and the darkest since "Night on Bald Mountain") that the shortcomings don't matter much. Pretty nice stuff overall.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) -- Co-directed with Hamilton Luske and Wolfgang Reithermann. Okay, everyone loves this movie except me. I think the new animation techniques used looks like messy crap, and I think the story is crappy too. After fifteen minutes, I'm ready to shut it off. It seems to me to be the first of these one-after-another Disney cartoons.
Copyright (c) Apr 2003 - Apr 2007 by Rusty Likes Movies