An important Disney guy from as far back as Steamboat Willie and other shorts to feature lengths all the way to Lady and the Tramp. He also worked on the Disneyland TV series.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) -- Co-directed with Walt Disney, Dorothy Ann Blank, William Cottrell, Richard Creedon, Merrill de Maris, David Hand, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Dick Richard, Ben Sharpsteen, and Webb Smith. To realize that this came out less than ten years after Steamboat Willie (itself a breakthrough) is pretty amazing: a full-blown feature length musical animated movie in color. You can trace back pretty much every animated movie back to this one, and not many have surpassed it.
Pinocchio (1940) -- Co-directed with Walt Disney, Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, and Ben Sharpsteen. Even better than Snow White: better songs ("When You Wish Upon a Star" to name only one), better characters, better story, everything. The best story ever told about our free-will while striving for perfection relationship with God. A
Fantasia (1940) -- Co-directed with Walt Disney, James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford I. Beebe, Jim Handley, Albert Heath, T. Hee, Graham Heid, Hamilton Luske, Bianca Majolie, Sylvia Moberly-Holland, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen, and Norman Wright. Probably the best thing Walt Disney ever did, though you can't really compare this movie to the others, since it's not really a traditional movie at all. There's something really magic about this movie, and it's truly "something else." Every segment (including some of the goofier interstitials) are great (the one with the hippos is my least favorite, but I still like it), but the standouts are the Nutcracker Suite with its lazy imagery, the creation of the world and the dinosaurs, and the best of all, the "Night On Bald Mountain." The Mickey one was good too. A movie way ahead of its time, if it had been a success, you might have seen a more artistic Disney for the next several decades. Unique. (See Eric Goldberg for the sequel, Fantasia 2000.)
Dumbo (1941) -- Co-directed with Samuel Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, and Ben Sharpsteen. After Fantasia, this seems like a return to some of the cute and funny stuff that made Disney so popular to begin with in his short subjects. But it's certainly great, and it's got some interesting narrative choices: like the fact that Dumbo doesn't even fly (what some might remember as most of the movie) until the movie is almost over. Sweet, cute, and touching.
Saludos Amigos (1943) -- Co-directed with Norman Ferguson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, and Bill Roberts. And then came the war... As part of the "Good Neighbor Policy" with Latin America, Disney produced this travelogue which begins the "package films" Disney would put out for the next several years (a collection of shorts rather than a traditional feature-length). This is more of a documentary than a movie, sort of a making of itself, the shorts within, and potential shorts without, and it's actually only 45 minutes long. The shorts are cute if slight (after Bambi, cartoons about anthropomorphic airplanes don't cut it) and only hint at what they'll eventually produce with the following "real" movie and companion, The Three Caballeros. Treat it as a warm up to that one.
Song of the South (1946) -- Second only to Mary Poppins in Disney's live-action movies (though this one notably had its cartoon moments, long segments featuring Brer Rabbit and Co.). This movie is famous now for its race issue -- sugar-coating race relations between whites and blacks during the Reconstruction -- but when has Disney done anything but sugar coat? As it is, the movie shows positive relationships between black and white characters, demonstrating their equality, which was actually a bold thing to do in 1946 seems to me. All that aside, this has got a great story, great songs, and all that early magic of Disney movies. Well worth tracking down (downloading, anyone?) since they've banned it around these parts.
Melody Time (1948) -- Co-directed with Clyde Geronimi, 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.
Cinderella (1950) -- Co-directed with Clyde Geronimi 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 Clyde Geronimi 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) -- Co-directed with Clyde Geronimi 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 Clyde Geronimi 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.
Copyright (c) Apr 2003 - Apr 2007 by Rusty Likes Movies