Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A 100 Days of Disney event!

You can join me, right now, over at twitter doing a live blog of my Beauty and the Beast viewing party! (Woody and Belle are here, so it counts as a party!)

Follow along at twitter @100daysofdisney or by watching the twitter bar to the right of this message!

Monday, November 14, 2011

This n That

My 50 movie deadline is December 21st, and it's coming up fast. At the rate I'm going it is going to be a photo finish but I'm confident that I will get them done in time. Unfortunately, there may be some more posts like today's, where I cram in a group of movies in one post just to get caught up. I'll try not to do it, but it might happen.

I found out today that thrift stores are good places to look for Disney movies. I love Hawaiian shirts, but it's hard to find them in the 3xl required to support my ample frame, so I cruise thrift stores looking for shirts on the cheap with varying amounts of success. I was at the local Goodwill and I found Fun and Fancy Free, Make Mine Music and Melody Time on VHS. I got them all for less than $5.

Lastly, I drove up to Universal Orlando this weekend for the Harry Potter event, which was great, and I was able to listen to a couple of CD's from Gabriel Iglesias that I got from a friend. I already loved his specials and his new show on Comedy Central, but the CD's, We Luv Fluffy, was a riot. The wife and I were nearly wetting ourselves the whole trip because of these CD's. So I was thinking that I would love to see him in person so I sent a tweet (from the official 100daysofdisney twitter account) asking him to do some Florida shows and now he is following me on twitter... My first famous person, now I feel obligated to be funny, or at least coherent in these posts. Anyway check out Gabriels website Fluffyguy.com.

I just checked out Fluffyguy.com and saw that Gabriel will be in Tampa on 4/27/12 and he is doing a Grad Nite show... I would totally look like some sort of stalker if I went, Grad Nites are not the place for 37 year of fat guys! Looks like I'll have to start some sort of letter writing campaign to get him to do a real show in Florida. Maybe we can get him to do a show in Orlando and make this somewhat Disney related.

Day Various - 101 Dalmations, The Aristocats, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, Robin Hood

Movie: Various
Released: Various
Formats Released: Various
Formats Watched: Various
Watched With: Just about the whole family at some point
Snacks: Microwave popcorn, Fanta Zero, Sugar-Free Kool-Aid and left over Halloween candy (So much candy...)

I greatly underanticpated this task. It's not the movie watching that is the problem, it's the writing up of the movies that are getting to me. I'll spend 65-120 minutes watching a movie and then 45-60 minutes writing about it. I was watching movies and trying to get caught up on the writing after the fact. It wasn't working out. So that brings us to this, a catch-up entry.

The strange thing about these movies is that they all kind of go together is one way or another. They share a lot of the same actors and animators, in many cases the animation style is similar (or in the case of the Robin Hood and the Jungle Book, basically the same) and they all came from around the same time period.

Most of these movies were made during a flux period in studios history. It was after the death of Walt and at a time when the studio was again having financial hardship. Many of the decisions that influenced the look and feel of these films was based on money. I'm not saying they were bad decisions but that's where they came from.

My Thoughts on the Films:

I don't think there is an easy way to talk about my thoughts on this assortment of films. They all were a lot of fun, but very similar. The most original one of the group had to be Robin Hood. It stands out from the group just from the material. The Aristocats and Lady and the Tramp are very similar, just different animals, and you could almost lump in 101 Dalmatians to that group. The Jungle Book is one of my favorites in general, I had the soundtrack on tape and I used to listen to it over and over again. I can sing almost every song from that movie by heart at this point. I loved the animation style from 101 Dalmatians, it was very out there.

Things I never noticed before:

Again, to numerous to really mention, but I completely forgot about the ending to The Aristocats with the dogs, "It's over when I say it's over.... It's over"

Final Thoughts:

This is a classic group of films from a whole library of classic films. They are the epitome of Disney films and they have entered the collective pop-culture consciousness of the country for a reason. One of the reasons that a lot of the characters, actors and themes were similar in the films was that they worked. It's probably why I, and so many other people, like them so much.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 42 - The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

Movie: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Released: October 5, 1949
Formats Released: 1 VHS, 1 Laserdisc, 1 DVD
Format Watched: DVD
Watched Wife: Wife, Woody and Belle
Snacks: Microwave Popcorn & Coke Zero

The problem with this film is that there is not much to the movie, and nit much out there written about the movie. This film was produced in the late 1940's as a package film ( a feature length film made up of smaller, independent segment). World War II took a large toll on Walt Disney Animation (or Walt Disney Productions as it was known back then). At the start of the war the war department basically took over the studio to produce propaganda pieces. They decided the direction the studio would take and they monopolized a lot of the animators. As such, production on features came to a virtual stand still. It wasn't until the end of the war that they could focus on feature films again. The problem was the studio was in financial trouble and couldn't afford to dedicate the time needed to produce a full length film so they produced these package films made up of smaller, easier to produce parts. This film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, was the last of the package films until Fantasia 2000.

My Thoughts on the Film:

Taken for what it is, the film is very enjoyable. Nigel Rathbone is the narrator for The Wind in the Willows and Bing Crosby was the narrator, and basically the only voice actor in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I personally enjoyed the Wind in the Willows segment, I think it had a better, more exciting story. It's no wonder that Mr. Toads Wild Ride was one of my favorites at Disney World.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was timely for the season, and would have been spookier if I had not watched it in the middle of the afternoon. I did enjoy the gag of skinny Ichabod eating as much as humanly possible. The animation in the scenes with the Headless Horseman was amazing. One thing my wife pointed out, several of the characters from this film, with minor adjustments, were like characters in Beauty and the Beast.

The Wind in the Willows is just a madcap, whirlwind adventure. Mr Toad obviously, much to the dismay of his friends, jumps from one fad to the other, throwing himself into each one, whole hog, Something I can relate to in my younger years. He does have the habit of emerging from each one scot-free, a talent I have yet to master.

Favorite part of the Film:

I'm going to go with Mr Toads escape through the city. The clever gag of hiding the ball in the dress as a hump was great.

Things I never noticed before:
- There are only about 3 voice actors, including the narrator in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Final thoughts on the film:

Like I said before this is a very enjoyable film, with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow being perfect for the fall season. As enjoyable as it was, thought, I'm glad that this was the last of the package films and they moved onto Cinderella.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Randomness - Death of the movie camera

I somehow missed this last week, but feel the need to talk about it now. It's official, the movie camera is dead. I'm talking about the camera that uses actual, honest-to-god film. For some reason this bothers me. I make my living in the digital world, I'm a computer technician, I write a blog, I have a $2000 digital camera, later today I'm going to pick up my new iPhone, but the "death" of the movie camera bothers me.

I like to think of myself as an analog guy in a digital world. I love my Polaroids (I have many), I have a ton of vinyl LP's that I still listen to. Other than my digital SLR my newest camera was made in 1968. I still have darkroom equipment to make my own prints from negatives if I wanted to. But I don't, most of what I do is digital because it's easy to use.

I grew up watching films. It wasn't until high school that we started watching videos. I remember the teachers getting the movie projector out and loading up the film. Running it through the machine and hooking it to the other spool. It was always a position of honor to be the one who got to sit at the projector and hit the little lever to stop the film from jumping. My brother used to make and edit Super8 films and we would watch them in the living room as a family. Even as late as the mid 80's Disney was selling 8mm films in the parks for people to take home, rather than VHS tapes.

I had a photography teacher tell me one time that working with film was an art and a craft. There are so many variables that go into working with film. You can repeat the same steps exactly and get different results because of something as minor as the temperature being off by a few degrees. When you work with film you have to have a feel for how the film will react.

We are going to loose those artists that have a feel for film. In my lifetime I know that working with film we become like being a blacksmith or a hat maker. Only a small number of people will fight to keep the tradition alive and people who are just growing up now will not experience the pleasure of seeing a true "Film", they will get just a digital reconstruction of what a film used to look like, and the world will be a sorry place for it.

Man, I sound old! "Back in my day...." Enough of this randomness. Up next is The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Random Thoughts on music

I've said it several times. I love film scores. Whenever I see a film I am always making an effort to listen to the music as much as I watch the film. If you were to look at my iTunes you would see that out of 330 albums, a good 80% of them are soundtracks. There are a lot of Disney albums, but a lot of other scores as well.

I keep saying score, when I talk about the soundtrack and it drives my wife nuts. There is at times a difference between the soundtrack and the score of a movie. Take a look at the Transformers (2007) soundtrack. It has 12 tracks which account for less than 5 minutes of music used on the screen. If you look at the album Transformers - The Score you will find the music that makes up the other 95% of the film. This is the music I love.

I have about 230 hours of soundtracks in my iTunes that I listen to on a regular basis so a lot of times I will hear a piece of music somewhere, a commercial, at the mall, or in this case at EPCOT, that I know I have heard but it will take me some time to process it.

At this point I should say that I don't watch all of the Disney movies on the same day that the my blog entry comes out. Right now I just finished the Rescuers Down Under that I watched last week along with two other movies. When I was watching the Rescuers: DU I keep hearing some music and thinking it was really familiar, so I popped in The Rescuers and scanned it listening to the music, but it didn't come from there. It bothered me but I chalked it up to a composer reusing some music (see the Rocketeer and Star Trek - The Wrath of Kahn for an example).

So on Sunday we went up to Universal and EPCOT for my wife's birthday. We had dinner at Restaurant Marrakesh, which was amazing, and stopped to have our pictures taken in front of the fountain on the way out. Right as we were getting up there the fountain show started and I heard that music again. It was the track "Cody's Flight" from The Rescuers:DU. I had heard it two weeks before when we went up for the 40th anniversary celebration and it got lodged in my mind for some reason.

At least now I know I'm not going crazy... er....

Day Thirty Four - The Rescuers Down Under

Movie: The Rescuers Down Under
Released: November 16, 1990
Formats Released: 1 VHS, 1 DVD
Format Watched: VHS
Watched With: Woody & Belle
Snacks: None

I'm actually watching this film out of my very loose plan. This is the second film in the Disney Renaissance of the 1990's. I originally was going to watch all the films of the renaissance in order, but I felt it was better to watch this film right after The Rescuers. This way it is better to see the similarities and differences in the two films.

This film also holds a very special place in my life. This is the film I saw on the very first date I went on with my now wife. I met my wife on my birthday in 1990, and this movie came out the very next weekend. I don't really remember much of the film in the theaters, only bits and pieces but I have seen it a few times since so it's not completely new.

This film made a number of firsts for Disney and for films in general. It was the first Walt Disney Feature Animation sequel, of 1977's The Rescuers, it was the first Disney film to be made completely with the CAPS system (Computer Animation Production System) which also made it the very first film to be assembled and completed in a digital environment (it would be transferred back to analog film stock for use in theaters).

My Thoughts on the Film:

Bob Newhart and Eve Gabor came back to reprise their roles of Bernard and Miss Bianca. Bernard Fox, also from the first film, reprised his role of the RAS Chairmouse as well as the outback Doctor and they were joined by John Candy, playing Wilbur the brother of Orville from the first movie. George C Scott does a great turn as the villain in the film to round out the cast. The cast was perfect for this film. I've said before that I like Bob Newhart's style, I like to think that have the same type of self deprecating humor that he has so his character in the film appeals to me.

The setting of the film, the Australian outback, is really only the location of the film and it doesn't play a "character" in the film. Some of the old reviews that I read seamed to think that this was a problem and that except for the title the film could have been set anywhere. This could be true but it doesn't really matter, it's the characters and the story that matter, the location only really sets the tone, it did it's job and got out of the way.

The use of computer animation continued it's rise in Disney Animation in this film. The sea of flowers at the beginning, McLeach's truck and the New York and Sidney skylines were all done with computer animation. As I think I said in The Great Mouse Detective, I have no problem with the computer animation as long it was not done for the sake of doing it. All of the computer animation in this film was used effectively and transparently and used in a spot where traditional animation would have been a nightmare.

This film also featured an amazing soundtrack by Bruce Broughton. It is amazingly easy to get swept up in the music to this film. From the didgeridoo at the opening, the outstanding "flying" theme, the "Bernard the Hero" theme and even the little call back to the Rescue Aid Society anthem. Unlike the location, the music almost does play a character in the film.

My Favorite part of the film:

It's hard to choose an absolute favorite in this film, but I have a couple. Top of the list is the Indiana Jones-esk map scene showing the RAS SOS traveling from station to station on the map, along with the "native" mice (I love Hawaiian shits, so mice in them rock). The flight sequence at the beginning of the film is great as well. This I remember from the theater, I remember almost getting the feeling of flight looking at the screen and that stuck with me. I love, in general, that Bernard is basically the true hero of this film, and he gets the girl!

Thing's I never noticed before:

- Mice in Hawaiian shits!
- Mice tricking Air Force people away from the computer with a random phone call
- Cockroaches as waiters (yuck) in the fancy restaurant
- "Pea Soup"
- The Outback Doctor using a shotgun to administer "shots"

Final Thoughts:

I was actually a little shocked to learn that this movie only made $47 million at the box office, an initial return of only $10 million. I would have thought that this movie would have made a lot more. I think it's a case of timing. This movie came out right after The Little Mermaid, which was a strict musical fantasy. That movie was a smash hit showing that Disney meant business again. The Rescuers Down Under, was grounded in real life. There were talking animals, but only kids could understand them. There was no magic, no fantastic (other than Australia) settings and no singing. When this movie came out people were expecting something like The Little Mermaid, but they got this, and I think it turned some people off. Their loss. I was a 16 year old on a first date and I remember parts of this movie, so I know I'm not alone in thinking that this movie has a little going for it.