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A Disney Marathon
Started by deltaandthebannermen, July 02, 2015, 11:41:45 PM
Give a little whistle
A Disney Marathon
July 02, 2015, 11:41:45 PM
I'm a newbie round here, so hope this is okay. My family and I have been watching the Disney films in release order. We started, obviously with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and we've recently finished The Three Caballeros.
I thought I'd post my thoughts on each film.
Give a little whistle
Re: A Disney Marathon
July 02, 2015, 11:44:26 PM
A Disney Tale:
A young princess narrowly avoids death on the command of her evil stepmother. She shacks up with a group of mining dwarves but the stepmother finds her and puts her to sleep with a poisoned apple. The dwarves put her inside a glass coffin until a prince comes and kisses her, releasing her from the spell to live happily ever after.
: Snow White is the first Disney princess, but having viewed this around the same time as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (my daughter is going through a Disney Princess phase) I would argue that those princesses are what we think of when we talk about Disney Princesses. Cinderella and Aurora are twee and feminine, but Snow takes it to the extreme. She is far too twee for my tastes, talking to the animals, cleaning and cooking for the dwarves and fawning over the first man she sets eyes on. I'm also not sure how old she is supposed to be. Apparently she is supposed to be 14 which is an increase from the original fairy tale where she is around 7, an age deemed too young for the story's plot. Quite why 14 is a more acceptable age for a young girl to go off with the first man she meets (and hardly exchanges two words with) I'll never know. Even 16 would be pushing it. Snow White's problem, as the presenter of Mousterpiece Cinema (a Disney film podcast) points out, is that she is completely passive throughout. She never seems to consider the Queen's threat seriously beyond her initial freak out in the forest and, at the beginning of the story, doesn't seem even slightly bothered that she has been demoted to a servant in her own castle! Watching these films with my 2 year old daughter has really made me think about the role models being presented by the Disney princesses. Snow White is an appalling role model for young girls. She is a servant in her own castle; she goes off with the first man who shows an interest in her and she spends her spare time cooking and cleaning for a group of lazy, self-centred men.
The Prince is pretty much a minor character. He appears briefly at the beginning and end of the film. He seems rather opportunistic, climbing over the castle wall and almost accosting Snow White. He then disappears and then at the end of the film is apparently searching for Snow White and finds her glass coffin Weirdo that he is he decides to kiss the (supposedly) year long dead Snow White and then, when she miraculously revives, takes her away to his castle in the clouds (or at least that is how the final scene is painted). The Prince has the good looks needed to be a Disney Prince (along with Charming, Philip, Eric etc) but has no character and even less purpose other than take Snow White away to whatever life he has planned for her.
The Evil Queen of Snow White is iconic. As Disney villains go she is one of the top tier but this seems mostly to do with her presence in the first full length film. In the film she actually has very little to do and only ever seems concerned with her status as 'the fairest of them all'. Once Upon a Time, the TV series based on the Disney versions of fairytales (and other legends and folklore) has the Evil Queen at the centre of their series and she is a superb character. The animated version has some good scenes, but ultimately fails to make much of an impact - she doesn't even get a song! There are a couple of odd story decisions. We never get to see how she became Queen in the first place (she is Snow's stepmother after all) or where the King has gone, or how she is able to put Snow White into the position of a servant. Also, we never see her reaction to the discovery that the Hunstman lied to her about killing Snow. Her character is redeemed partly with the chilling sequences where she transforms into the old hag and her killing of Snow White. Quite why she would choose a spell with a get out clause rather than permanent death is beyond me. Seeing how easily she gets close to Snow, it would have been simple for her to do away with her completely.
The Huntsman also fits, partly into this category, working for the Queen as he does. He only features in two scene though, one where he takes the Queen's order to kill Snow and then when he attempts and fails to go through with the plan. As such, he has very little impact on the overall story.
: The Seven Dwarfs are 7 of the most iconic Disney sidekicks/comedy characters. They're 7 personalities - Happy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Bashful, Sleepy and Doc are ingrained in Western culture. No other production is allowed to use those seven names (ABC's Once Upon a Time being Disney-linked is, of course, allowed) which means pantomimes often have seven not quite Disney names. They are, by their nature, one-dimensional with Sneezy, Bashful and Sleepy being little more than three repeated gags. Happy is practically non-existent and the only inching towards 2 dimensions comes with Dopey, Doc and most notably, Grumpy. Although horrendously misogynistic (to the point where he actually mutters 'Women!') Grumpy is the only character in the whole film who seems to go on some sort of emotional journey - begrudging Snow's presence, resisting her motherly instruction but finally grieving over her death and shedding a tear for the girl. Dopey provides plenty of comic relief and is genuinely amusing.
The grand tradition of cute Disney animals is here from the very beginning of the Disney canon. Numerous woodland creatures meet Snow White in the woods, lead her to the dwarf's cottage and help her tidy up. There are actually loads of them and they contribute significantly to the plot in that they rush to warn the Dwarfs that the Queen is with Snow White and carry them back to the cottage to save her. There is also a cute tortoise who is always a few minutes behind the other animals and spends a lot of the time spinning around in his shell.
The Magic Mirror is a quite chilling creation. It's sickly green face emerging from the massive mirror with blank eyes and a deep, ominous voice, does lend a grandness to the scenes with the Queen. It is one of the stronger elements of the film. The Queen's transformation and poisoned apple spells are also creepily animated.
Snow White is a German fairytale, although the setting for the film is fairly generic and undefined, beyond being European in some way. The castle is impressive, particularly the Queen's secret lair. The scene where she emerges from under the castle via a river in the fog is very atmospheric. The forest is, at first, presented as horrific in a particularly scary sequence, and then becomes soft and cuddly with the arrival of the animals. The Dwarfs cottage is a beautifully drawn setting with intricate carvings and lovely details throughout. Grumpy's pipe organ is wonderful. The Dwarf mine and rocky cliff side where the Queen dies are suitably atmospheric for their brief appearances.
I'm not a fan of the songs in Snow White. Heigh Ho is catchy enough and the Silly Song is fun, but not particularly classic in the way that later 'comedy' songs are. Unfortunately, the lion's share of the songs are sung by Snow White who has a horribly high-pitched voice. This is certainly evocative of the era when many musicals seemed to have female singers with this strange high-pitched whine but I can never get along with it. It doesn't help that her songs aren't great. Someday my Prince will come is okay but I'm not sure it would ever be considered the classic it is, if it weren't for its presence in the first film.
Snow White is a film which rightly deserves its legendary status but take away the fact it is the 'first full length animated film' and you aren't left with the greatest story in the Disney canon. The characters are all one-dimensional and the songs not catchy enough. The flaws in Snow White's character will never sit well with me and the Queen isn't the full-on villain that comes along later in the canon. Hey, but there's always Dopey to make us smile. And that tortoise. I do like the tortoise.
Give a little whistle
Re: A Disney Marathon
July 08, 2015, 09:52:00 PM
A Disney Tale
: A poor woodcutter, Geppetto, wishes on a star that his wooden puppet boy could be alive. A blue fairy grants his wish and the puppet, Pinocchio, is given life. On a series of adventures, he learns about right and wrong on his journey to becoming a real, human boy.
There is no real 'heroine' in this story and in fact, the only female characters are the Blue Fairy and Cleo the fish.
Pinocchio is the 'hero' of the story, in as much as he is the main character. His heroic actions, though, don't really occur until the final act of the film where is saves Geppetto from the belly of Monstro the Whale. He is an interesting character. Gullible to a fault, naive and innocent, he only narrowly escapes various terrible fates through the efforts of Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy. Were it not for them he would either be Stromboli's captive or transformed into a donkey and working in a salt mine. He is, though, much more endearing than Snow White as a main character. He is like the naughty child you can't help but have a soft spot for, particularly as the audience knows its the evil adult characters who are responsible for him being lead astray and not through any deliberate intentions on his own part. It is interesting to read that, originally, the animators tried to make Pinocchio far more like a puppet than a boy and that Disney wasn't happy about the depiction. Only when a different artist made him more child-like was he happy and I have to agree that it seems pivotal to the audience empathising with Pinocchio to have him look as he does.
Disney Villain: Pinocchio is positively packed with villains. Initially we have Honest John and Gideon, two con artists who lead Pinocchio to Stromboli, the next villain. Honest John and Gideon are unusual. They are the only non-human characters (not counting the non-speaking roles of Figaro the Cat and Cleo the Goldfish) in the whole film, being an anthropomorphised fox and cat. Quite why this is, is never explained and they do seem out of place in a film otherwise populated by humans (or humanoid, in the case of the Blue Fairy). Also, they are not truly evil. They are conmen, out for a quick buck where they can get it. From their clothes, they seem to lead a vagrant lifestyle although seem based in Pinocchio's village; Honest John comments that Stromboli is back in town.
Stromboli is a villain closer, in looks, to the archetypal 'evil' antagonist familiar from Disney films. Large, imposing with a black beard and vicious eyes, he fulfills the role well. But even then, he features only briefly in the first part of the film and after Pinocchio escapes from him with the help of the Blue Fairy, he is never seen again. Also, I'm not entirely sure how villainous he truly is. He runs a puppet show and is presented with a live puppet. Obviously he wants to keep Pinocchio for his show - a guaranteed money-spinner, but we aren't given any other reasons for finding him villanous other than keeping Pinocchio captive against his will. It isn't suggested that he has done this before (when would that have happened anyway) and he seems to be a fairly ordinary travelling show man, albeit with a slightly scary exterior.
The next villain of the piece, the Coachman, is the only truly villainous piece. He has a scheme involving the luring and kidnapping of young boys to be taken to Pleasure Island where, after indulging in various unhealthy excesses, are turned into donkeys and shipped off to work as slaves. He is truly evil. One scene sees his face transform momentarily into a demonic visage. Honest John and Gideon are again responsible for dropping Pinocchio into his clutches but then they disappear from the film, presumably with their paultry cut. The Coachman, meanwhile, transports the boys to Pleasure Island and uses black, shadowy figures to shut them in and then trap and transport the transformed boys. He is a nightmarish creation: one part Childcatcher (from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang); one part Mr Pickwick. But again, he disappears from the story once Pinocchio escapes.
The final villain is Monstro, the Whale. Although his initial swallowing of Geppet,to seems coincidental, when Pinocchio helps his father escape by lighting a fire inside Monstro's belly, the whale goes on the rampage, determined to catch and kill Geppetto and Pinocchio. Monstro is large and vicious and provides a suitably dramatic climax to the film.
Jiminy Cricket is the principal sidekick and was, apparently, a relatively late addition to the story. He acts as Pinocchio's conscience, although his efforts are fairly fruitless to begin with. Like Honest John and Gideon, he begins the story as a vagrant slipping into Geppetto's home for a warm fire and a place to rest his head. There are some fun scenes with him interacting with some of Geppetto's wooden toys. He is a fun character and reminds me a little of Mushu from Mulan. In a modern Disney film, you can imagine he would probably be far more wise-cracking than he is here, although he does have his fair share of pithy comments.
Figaro and Cleo are the cute animals of Pinocchio. As more defined characters than the generic woodland animals of Snow White, they have more impact on the audience and my particular favourite of the two is the saucy Cleo - a goldfish with a line of huge lips and coy expressions, hiding her face behind her fantail. Figaro is a cheeky kitten, grumpy when made to wait for food, of forced to get out of bed to open windows for Geppetto. He is, to some degree, Geppetto's first child, displaced a little by the arrival of Pinocchio.
The Blue Fairy is Disney's first 'magical' protagonist. Later films would see characters such as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella and Flora, Fauna and Merryweather in Sleeping Beauty. They are maternal, almost frumpy characters, as comedic as they are magical. The Blue Fairy is graceful, beautiful and demure. She drifts in, grants wishes and drifts away. At one point, she takes the form of a dove. The maternal nature is still present though, particularly in the way she causes Pinocchio's nose to grow when he tells a lie. The nose-growing is something which popular culture immediately associates with Pinocchio and even translated into Shrek's version of the character, often as the punchline to gags. In the Disney version, though, it features far less prominently than I had thought, really only being significant in the scene where the Blue Fairy releases Pinocchio from Stromboli's cage.
The location of the story is suitably vague. The clothes and buildings are clearly European and put me in mind of Germany or Austria. The wikipedia entry suggests it is a village in Tuscany and this would ring true to the original story's Italian origins, but I can't see it myself. The most striking location of the story though is Pleasure Island. A nightmarish world of drinks and drugs, it is presented in a horrific way - it's like when clowns are made to look creepy. For a children's animated film it is dark and sinister and sets the scene for some of the film's most terrifying scenes: Lampwick's transformation into a donkey and the 'left unsaid' fate of the talking donkeys. Chilling.
The songs in Pinocchio are far more catchy and interesting than those in Snow White. The theme song of 'When You Wish Upon a Star' is legendary but I had forgotten that Jiminy is actually singing it during the opening of the film, remembering it more of a 'backing track' as it were. My favourite song is probably 'I've Got No Strings' which is a fun song with the different verses involving the puppets from Stromboli's theatre (I misremembered these as being more 'alive' than they are but it is never revealed who is providing the female voices for them); but An Actor's Life for Me comes a close second as we get our first 'villain's song'. There is also the catchy 'Give a Little Whistle' providing the first sidekick song.
If we take Snow White and Pinocchio together, we have the makings of a Disney archetype. Whilst Snow White has the prince and princess love story; a powerful antagonist and the fairy tale basis; Pinocchio has the hero who learns something, the villain and sidekick songs, the balance between comedy and horror and the magical protector. These are elements which will recur throughout the Disney canon, right up until the most recent entries. Pinocchio is a far more entertaining film than Snow White, has a more appealing central character and were it not for the rather fractured approach to storytelling (the story is really just a series of set pieces involving Pinocchio), would be a great story.
Give a little whistle
Re: A Disney Marathon
July 26, 2015, 11:01:29 PM
A Disney Tale:
As you will probably know, Fantasia is not a film with a plot. It was designed to be a concert feature: a series of music pieces with accompanying animation. The segments include: an abstract piece to Toccata and Fugue; a Greek myth-inspired animation set to the Pastoral Symphony; fairies assisting nature to the soundtrack of the Nutcracker Suite; hippos, crocodiles, ostriches and elephants dancing to the Dance of the Hours; a terrifying visit to Bare Mountain; the evolution of dinosaurs set to the Rite of Spring and, of course, the classic Mickey Mouse animation - The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
: Although there is no 'Disney Princess' as such, in this feature, there are numerous female characters, mostly of a magical nature; fairies and centaurs for example. It's interesting to note how the fairies in the Nutcracker Suite segment are using their magic to assist nature in a similar way to how the Tinker Bell films show fairies having similar roles many, many years later. The centaurs also raise an interesting point because, in the original release there was a black centaur seemingly in the position of servant to the other, predominantly white centaurs (although they are a mixture of colours). It is probably more to do with the stereotypical facial features given to the centaur that identify her as 'black African' but the connotations are clear and in all subsequent releases this scene has been excised from the film. There are also, of course, the hippo, ostrich and elephant ballerinas.
The most recognisable character in Fantasia is, of course, Mickey Mouse himself. The 'hero' of The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment, we see him foolishly taking the magical hat of the Sorcerer (apparently called Yensid in subsequent writings about the film). Chaos ensues when he attempts to use the magic to save him from doing chores leading to the iconic scenes of hundreds of magical brooms carrying buckets of water. Mickey is also the only animated character to speak during the film, although this is not until a brief scene where he comes into where the orchestra are seated, rather than in The Sorcerer's Apprentice section itself. The other male characters include centaurs, the God Bacchus and the crocodile ballet dancer.
With no plot, a villain isn't really a necessity, but Fantasia has a dark figure who has become synonymous with evil and features on many a 'Disney Villain' poster or ornament, and apparently features highly in the Kingdom Keepers series of novels, according to my wife. This character is the demon atop Bare (or Bald) Mountain - Chernabog (like Yensid, named after the fact). He is one of the most terrifying and demonic figures Disney has ever included in one of their films and the sequence involving him also sees horrific spirits and creatures dancing, almost satanically, at his whim. It is a very dark and not particularly child-friendly sequence.
: Sidekick wise, I would include the cherubs in the Pastoral Symphony section who act as matchmakers to the male and female centaurs, but other than this there is no real comedy/conscience sidekick in the vein of Jiminy Cricket or Timothy Mouse.
Fantasia is full of animals. There are flying horses and unicorns in the Pastoral Symphony section, along with Bacchus' steed: a rather tiny donkey. In the Rite of Spring section we see the evolution of dinosaurs from basic amoebas to their extinction. There are stegosauruses, triceratops, diplodocuses, brontosauruses and, of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex. As they have been anthropomorphised, I won't include the animal ballerinas here.
: Fantasia abounds with magic from Mickey's ill-advised spellcasting, to the fairies, to the Greek myths, all the way to the dark magic of Chernabog.
With each segment having a different setting we have an indistinct countryside of flowers, leaves and water; a mythologised Greece; the land of the dinosaurs (whichever continent was accepted theory in 1940, I presume); a large courtyard for the Dance of the Hours and Bare/Bald Mountain.
Being all about classical music, Fantasia doesn't feature any original songs. The only singing comes in the very final section based around Ave Maria which begins with church bells banishing Chernabog to his mountain as morning dawns.
As mentioned above, the film ends with a combination of Night on Bare Mountain and Ave Maria with a dramatic contrast between dark and light. It is a rather odd end to a rather odd film. It has been said by many that it is more or less impossible to sit through Fantasia in one go - it is 2 and half hours long - and it is fairly true. The original feature included an intermission after the dinosaur segment (which is nearly half an hour long itself) and this is needed. I have seen the film in a cinema and on the big screen it is very impressive and easier to view (there may well have been an intermission, but I can't actually remember). But on DVD (or VHS as we haven't updated our copy of this yet) it is a film best watched in segments. Walt Disney's original plan to re-release the film every few years with new segments never came to fruition but the follow up Fantasia 2000 did appear (and to my money is more entertaining, although I haven't seen it for many years). An interesting experiment and something only Disney could pull off, but maybe one for the afficionadoes rather than the casual viewer. That said, my wife - a huge Disney fan - hates it....
Give a little whistle
Re: A Disney Marathon
September 07, 2015, 11:55:58 PM
A Disney Tale:
A baby elephant is delivered to a circus elephant. The baby, nicknamed Dumbo, has huge ears and is mocked by the other circus elephants and visitors to the circus. When his mother tries to defend him, she is separated from Dumbo and imprisoned. Dumbo ends up working with the clowns but, after a drunken night with his new friend Timothy Mouse, Dumbo discovers he can fly with the aid of his massive ears. At the circus, he becomes a sensation and is reunited with his mother.
Dumbo lacks significant human characters so the role of Disney Heroine for this film really falls to Dumbo's mother, Mrs Jumbo. Her actions protecting Dumbo from the mean children at the circus are the catalyst for many of the film's later events. The sorrow she feels when imprisoned in solitary confinement and separated from her only child is palpable as is her joy when reunited and travelling in the Jumbo family's private carriage at the back of Casey Jnr. Interestingly, for a principal character, Mrs Jumbo only utters one line - her son's name.
Jumbo Jnr aka Dumbo is the hero of the film and unusually, never says a word of dialogue. He is a cute elephant with an expressive face. Also unusually for a Disney Hero, Dumbo gets drunk. I'm pretty sure that any modern Disney film wouldn't present a character getting drunk to the extent that Dumbo does.
As well as an unusual central character, Dumbo also doesn't really feature what we would consider a traditional Disney villain. After Snow White's iconic Queen and Pinocchio's cavalcade of baddies, it's odd that Dumbo doesn't really feature one. The closest we get is the Ringmaster. He is the one who imprisons Mrs Jumbo after her rampage, although this is an understandable consequence to her actions. He is also a little ruthless in exploiting Dumbo's physical abnormality for the benefit of the circus - but then that is his job. All in all, he's not in the classic pantheon of villains.
Although we may lack a classic hero or villain in this film what it does have is a classic Disney sidekick, very much in the mould of Jiminy Cricket. Timothy Mouse is Dumbo's friend and protector. He is the forerunner of Mulan's Mushu; Hiro's Baymax; Ariel's Sebastian and Simba's Timon and Pumbaa. Timothy shares Dumbo's drunken night and helps him to have the confidence to fly by pretending he has a magic feather and then proceeds to help him believe in himself.
Dumbo is packed full of animals: elephants, a mouse, lions, giraffes, hippos - all manner of circus animals. With all these animals and Dumbo and Timothy being the main characters, this is the first animal-centric Disney film which provides a template for the many that follow such as The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians and Bambi and further on The Lion King and Dinosaur where even the human characters are dispensed with.
There are also the storks who bring the baby animals to the circus with the stork who brings Jumbo Jnr being one of the first characters to speak in the film and with a sizeable chunk of dialogue. I'm not entirely sure why Mrs Jumbo deserves the singing telegram version of baby delivery that she receives when all the other storks simply drop off their babies and leave, but it makes a fun little scene and Mr Stork is voiced by Disney stalwart Sterling Holloway; who also voiced Winnie the Pooh, the Cheshire Cat, Kaa and Roquefort from The Aristocats. Mr Stork went on to reappear in Lambert the Sheepish Lion in which Holloway also voiced him.
And there are also the crows who witness Dumbo's realisation he can fly. Much has been made of how the crows play on racial stereotypes. Whilst this is difficult to deny without understanding black racial stereotypes in 1950s America, the crows' scenes are fun and they get a classic Disney song.
There is very little in the way of 'magic' in Dumbo with no magical characters such as the Blue Fairy pushing proceedings along. There are two aspects which tenously fit into this section: the Pink Elephant sequence has a surreal, nightmarish quality which suggests a terrible, evil, dark magic. Casey Jnr, the circus train, is portrayed in a slightly anthropomorphic way. His engine clearly has a face and when he is chugging along there is definitely personality in the animation. I don't think the animators are suggesting the train is alive but it does have character beyond just being a train.
This is the first Disney film set on home turf, in this case Florida. The setting of a circus provid es a vibrant colourful background and allows for the scenes of Casey Jnr travelling through impressive landscapes of tall mountains and deep canyons. There is also an effective scene of the big top being raised in a rainstorm.
Dumbo has some classic songs; songs which are still remembered nowadays. The two most famous are Pink Elephants on Parade and When I See an Elephant Fly. The first, accompanying the nightmarish vision Dumbo has after drinking spiked water, has a chilling edge and is even included on an album of 'villain' songs released by Disney called Simply Sinister Songs. It is definitely the most sinister song Disney have included in a film so far and paves the way for later proper villain songs such as Poor Unfortunate Souls and Be Prepared (which has echoes of the marching elephants seen in this sequence).
When I See an Elephant Fly is a glorious song sung by the crows, mocking the suggestion that Dumbo has managed to fly into the tree he has ended up in. It includes some fun puns and word play.
Casey Jnr and Look out for Mr Stork both accompany scenes of action and are not sung by the characters. They are memorable tunes but maybe haven't chimed as well with popular culture as the first two.
We also have Baby Mine, a sad lullaby not actually sung by Mrs Jumbo but on the soundtrack after she and Dumbo have been separated.; and the Roustabout song sung whilst the big top is erected durin a rainstorm.
There was also a deleted song for Timothy Mouse called Are You a Man or a Mouse which has definite echoes of Give a Little Whistle from Pinocchio.
After the previous films, Dumbo is a bit of an oddity. It is barely 60 minutes long making it one of the shortest official 'films' Disney has released. With a non-speaking central character, a sequence where said character gets drunk and has a nightmare, no real clear villain and a 'home-turf' setting it stands out in these early years and feels almost more like an extended short film in the vein of those to be seen later in releases such as The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music and Melody Time. It is a lovely film though, bright, vibrant and charming with some great songs and memorable sequences. Along with the previous films, Snow White and Pinocchio, it is clear that the Disney 'template' is coming slowly together over the first few releases.
I'm moving to Disneyland Paris! Woo!
Location: Val d'Europe, Paris
Re: A Disney Marathon
September 15, 2015, 08:54:21 AM
Wow, what a lot of work to have worked all this out and typed it up! I've not much to add other than I read and enjoyed your analysis so far. I can see this making an interesting blog somewhere - you might get more exposure & people to read it if you also re-post it there
Give a little whistle
Re: A Disney Marathon
April 14, 2016, 11:46:09 PM
A Disney Tale: A deer, Bambi, is born in the forest, the heir to the Prince of the Forest. He meets a rabbit, Thumper, and a skunk called Flower and they live through the seasons of the forest learning about life and love until Bambi becomes the Prince himself, protector of the forest.
Disney Hero: Bambi is a young deer full of innocence and naivety. As a 'hero' he is terribly ineffectual. The events of the film simply happen to him. He is passive for almost the entire story. Even in the climactic forest fire he is rescued by his father. One aspect Bambi does share with many, many Disney heroes, though, is losing or not having his mother. This recurs in so many Disney films to the heroes or heroines. Already we have had Snow White and Dumbo (although only temporarily), and Pinocchio was from a single parent family. After Bambi there is: Cinderella; Peter Pan, Wart in The Sword in the Stone; Mowgli; Penny in The Rescuers; Taran in The Black Cauldron; Olivia in The Great Mouse Detective; Oliver in Oliver and Company; Ariel; Belle; Aladdin; Pocahontas; Tarzan; Lilo; Nemo; Chicken Little; Remy in Ratatouille; Anna and Elsa; Hiro in Big Hero Six (although he does have an Aunt in the 'mother' role); and Brave's entire story is based around Merida potentially losing her mother to a curse. An absent mother or the loss of a mother is central to so many Disney films right back to their very first animated feature. Many cite the death of Bambi's mother as a traumatic memory; although this isn't something I feel I agree with and will discuss a little later.
Disney Heroine: For the first part of the film, the heroine is Bambi's mother. It is she who is teaching him the ways of the forest in the absence of his rather imperious father. Her death should be a turning point in the film, but I have never really felt it has the impact it needs to. She dies (off-screen), Bambi doesn't understand where she's gone, his father turns up and then it's spring. After her death, the role of heroine is taken by Faline, a female deer he meets earlier in the story. Faline becomes Bambi's mate and there is a tense sequence towards the end of the film where Bambi battles a pack of hunting dogs to protect Faline. She ultimately gives birth to Bambi's heir. Faline is more confident than Bambi, illustrated in their first encounter, but otherwise there is little to particularly say about her.
Disney Villain: Bambi lacks a central villain but there is a clearer antagonist than we had in Dumbo. Man is Bambi's villain. Man hunts the deer. Man shoots Bambi's mother. Man is the cause of the forest fire. Man owns the hunting dogs that attack Bambi and Faline. What's interesting is that Man is off-screen for the entire film. We only ever see the impact of man, never Man himself. We see his camp, his campfire, his dogs. We hear his gunshot. It is a different, more subtle way of treating the dangers faced by the main characters of this film and it isn't one which is repeated in the Disney canon (as far as I can remember). Apparently, there was an initial plan to show Man but any scenes involving his actual physical presence were cut at the early stages. Various fan theories have appeared since linking Man to other Disney villains such as Gaston (which doesn't work due to Bambi being set in the USA and Beauty and the Beast in France) and, more credibly, Amos Slade from The Fox and the Hound. It is also the case that an early draft of Who Framed Roger Rabbit revealed that Judge Doom, that film's central villain, was responsible for shooting Bambi's mother. Despite his intangibility, though, Man is still ranked as one of Disney's most hated villains as well as coming 20th in a ranking of the top 100 Heroes and Villains list from the AFI (American Film Institute).
Disney Sidekicks: Thumper is perhaps one of Disney's most famous sidekicks. The loveable rabbit with a habit of bashing his foot on the ground is a highly recognisable Disney image. Alongside Thumper is Flower, a skunk. One issue I've always had with Bambi is identifying the male and female characters. With a name like Flower it is difficult to convince my brain that he is a boy. Even with Bambi I've sometimes struggled to make my brain accept him as a boy - the naivety, the coyness and the slightly feminine nature of his name clash with the idea of him being the 'hero' of the story. Flower, too, doesn't have any obviously male characteristics, unlike Thumper who has the brashness, confidence and mischievousness of a Disney male sidekick.
Disney Creatures: As a nature-centric film, Bambi is packed full of creatures from the animal kingdom. It is the woodland creatures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves write large. The birds, the bunnies, the squirrels and chipmunks. A wider range of animals are on offer although this is to be expected in a story fully focussed on the forest and its inhabitants. Many are relatively 'faceless' but I was intrigued by the small group of partridges (or a similar bird) who become the focus of a scene where Man is hunting. One of the birds panics and flies away against the urging of her friends, only to be shot and fall to the ground dead. It is quite a graphic scene and contrasts with the cuteness present in a lot of the rest of the film, particularly where the other forest animals are concerned.
Disney Magic: Magic is absent from this film. The only hint of it is in the depiction of the the Prince of the Forest who has an almost 'godlike' presence throughout the film, appearing and disappearing with an aloof nature.
Disney Land: Bambi's main setting is, as discussed, a forest. We also see a meadow, a lake or river and rocky areas. The forest is seen through the different seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter with each depicted vividly, particularly the april showers of springtime. I also think the forest fire is impressive and possibly the most effective part of the film.
Disney Songs: Bambi isn't blessed with a plethora of great songs although it does have one Disney classic in the famous Little April Shower. The music, though, is all sung 'off-screen' as it were, rather than by the characters themselves. We also have Love is a Song, Let's Sing a Gay Little Spring Song and Looking for Romance. None of these particularly stick in the mind.
Disney Finale: I don't like Bambi. Sorry, but it just bores me rigid. I actually had to watch this a second time for this review because I couldn't remember enough about it to write it the first time. Previously, though, I couldn't identify what it was I found so tedious. A second, more focussed viewing, has helped me to do that. Bambi is one of Disney's live nature films in animation form. There is no plot. It is simply following a deer through its life in the forest. Nothing happens of any real interest. The deer makes some friends. Time moves on. His mother dies. Time moves on. There is a fire. Time moves on. He fights another deer and then some dogs. Time moves on. He become the Prince of the Forest. It is all so linear and uninteresting. Bambi, as a character, spends far too much of the film in the same mould as the terribly ineffectual and passive Snow White. Things happen to him for most of the film and as such he never really feels like a proper protagonist. The death of Bambi's mother is always cited as a traumatic film scene but it simply has no emotional impact on me. Maybe that is because I can't get invested in Bambi so feel no sorrow for him when this happens. The music (an element of Disney films I adore usually) of Bambi is fine, but doesn't have the lasting power of the songs from Pinocchio, Dumbo or even the better songs from Snow White.
Bambi has been cited as one of Walt Disney's crowning achievements as a filmmaker but I'll have to disagree with that. I think it is possibly the least interesting, or even enjoyable, film in the Disney canon.
Give a little whistle
Re: A Disney Marathon
April 14, 2016, 11:46:40 PM
A Disney Tale: Join the Disney animators on a tour of South America accompanied by Donald Duck and Goofy.
Disney Hero: As this film is a 'package feature' made up of four segments, we have three 'heroes' featuring at different points. Firstly is Donald Duck who appears in both the first and final segements. This is Donald as we know and love him - adventurous, resourceful and, of course, short-tempered. As a role model, Donald is maybe not the epitomy of a Disney hero, but who can fail to love him.
Next up in the film is Pedro, a small aeroplane who is tasked to deliver mail across treacherous mountains. He is cute and determined.
Finally, there is Goofy. this short is in the tradition of other Goofy shorts where he is 'learning' a new trade, occupation or skill - in this case becoming a 'gaucho' - a South American cowboy. Goofy is his usual 'goofy' self, exhibiting his usual clumsiness.
Disney Villain: There is no true villain in this film and the closest we get is the mountain - Aconcagua - that Pedro must fly over on his mission to deliver the mail. The reason I am classing the mountain as a villain is that it is effectively the only antagonist in the film and is, in some scenes, clearly anthropomorphised with a sinister looking face staring out of the mountain side.
Disney Sidekicks: Saludos Amigos, for all its obscurity as a film, does introduce a fairly well-known character in the form of Jose (Joe) Carioca. Jose is a Brazilian parrot who leads Donald on a trip to the city, taking him to a restaurant and teaching him the samba. Jose returns in two subsequent package features. He is a very 'mature' character and is one of the few 'protagonist' Disney characters to be depicted smoking.
Disney Creatures: The wildlife of South America features heavily in this feature from the llamas of Peru, the horses and cows under the charge of El Gaucho Goofy, to the exotic bird life of Brazil.
Disney Magic: Magic is absent from this feature, although there is a certain magical quality to the way the final segment, Aquarela de Brasil, is animated with various flowers and plants metamorphosing into various exotic birds. The way we see paintbrushes and pencils illustrating and animating Brazil also adds a mystical quality to the work.
Disney Land: Saludos Amigos was designed to promote Latin America to the USA and to show it in a positive way; with the intention of also encouraging South America to support the USA in World War 2. Consequently we get to see a lot of South America, both animated and live action. The countries covered include Brazil, Chile and Argentina and attention is paid to their geography and topograpy.
Disney Songs: A Latin American sound obviously takes precedent in this film. I cannot honestly say any of the songs particularly appeal to me. Aquarela de Brasil was, apparently, something of a major hit in the USA after featuring in this film but even the title song, Saludos Amigos, fails to stick with me.
Disney Finale: Saludos Amigos was a film I knew very little about when embarking on this marathon. Neither my wife nor I (who had had separate Disney film collections before marrying) owned a copy and I had to purchase one for this. We watched it with my two young children who enjoyed it for the most part - although it is rather telling that, unlike many other Disney films, they haven't asked to watch it again. The three short 'cartoons' are entertaining in their own way and it's interesting to note how the Pedro short is full of aspects familiar from the more recent (and much-maligned) Planes films - indeed, I wonder how much influence this one short may have had on the Disney animators.
As a whole feature it isn't hugely successful for me, although I think that has something to do with the Latin American focus which, for a Brit, probably has less significance than for an American citizen. The music also annoys me a little. I rather like Joe Carioca as a character, and I'm pleased he gets to return in the next film. I like the Donald segment and the Pedro short, although I'm less keen on Goofy as a character so that part falls a little flat for me.
Give a little whistle
Re: A Disney Marathon
April 14, 2016, 11:47:10 PM
The Three Caballeros
A Disney Tale: Join Donald Duck as he opens presents from his friends in South and Central America; reacquaints himself with Jose Carioca and meets Panchito Pistoles. As part of his experience, we also meet Pablo, the cold-blooded penguin; a Uruguayan boy and his winged-donkey, Burrito; Aurora Miranda and the Aracuan Bird.
Disney Hero: As with the previous 'package' film, The Three Caballeros features Donald Duck. For this film, though, he is even more the main protagonist as the film's framing sequence sees him opening presents which introduce him, and the viewer, to the various delights of South and Central America.
But Donald shares his 'hero' status in this film with two other birds, forming the 'three caballeros' of the title: Jose Carioca (who previously appeared in Saludos Amigos) and Panchito Pistoles. Jose, a parrot from Brazil, shares the wonders of his country with Donald. Soon after, Panchito, a rooster from Mexico, presents Donald with a pinata and completes the trinity of birds.
Disney Heroine: Whilst not strictly containing a Disney heroine, this film does have a significant female presence in the live-action form of Aurora Miranda, the sister of Carmen Miranda. She is central to the Baia segment of the film and Donald falls in love with her throughout the lively song and dance number.
Disney Villain: Even in the various short cartoons included in this package, there are not real 'villains'. The closest we get are the other competitors in the race that Burrito and the little boy enter.
Disney Sidekicks: Again, there are no true 'sidekicks' in this film. To some extent, the little boy and his donkey, Burrito could classify, as could Pablo. But as they don't interact with the 'heroes' of the film, they don't really qualify.
Disney Creatures: There is a sizeable focus in this film on birds. Aside from the three Caballeros there is Pablo the Penguin and the irritating Aracuan Bird. Even Burrito the Donkey has the ability to fly.
Disney Magic: Much like it's close relative, Saludos Amigos, this film has a surreal quality, epitomised in the final sequence which has an almost 'pink elephants' vibe to it. The magical element of a Disney film is present in this sequence, as well as the flying donkey, Burrito.
Disney Land: Obviously for this film we are situated firmly in Latin America. Specifically we visit Brazil (specifically Baia, the capital city of Bahia, one of the 26 Brazilian states), Mexico (specifically, Patzcuaro, Veracruz, and Acapulco), Uruguay and Argentina.
Disney Songs: The songs of The Three Caballeros hold much the same appeal for me as those from Saludos Amigos i.e. not a lot. That said, the title song, when it is sung by Donald, Jose and Panchito is fun and is accompanied by an entertaining sequence.
Disney Finale: Of the two Latin American package films, The Three Caballeros is definitely my preference. I think its the increased 'Disneyness' of it with the three title characters than pulls it away from feeling like a travelogue. The individual shorts are fun but what is also interesting is that this film sees one of the first instances of animation being mixed with live action where the animated characters are in the same scene as live actors. This of course will continue to feature in more famous Disney examples such as Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
I'm not sure that either The Three Caballeros or Saludos Amigos will be films I revisit very often but it is interesting to see that even these films have left a legacy within the Disney canon.
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