Re-Disney: The Great Disney Rewatch

I don’t consider myself a super-creative type, but the origins of whatever small, water-droplet-sized amount I do have can be traced back to a movie theatre in 1989, where, at the age of four, I first saw the silhouette of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle cascade over a blue background. Every time I hear that music, the crescendo as Tinker Bell arches over the castle…man, shudders down the spine.

Those 15 seconds were my gateway drug to Disney.  And in 1989, as the castle faded away and Prince Eric’s ship sailed toward me through the fog, I was introduced to the immersive power of animation.  I mean, people actually drew all of this, creating a whole world out of nothing!  To me, a shy kid with a No. 2 pencil, they were like gods.

I never became the animator I aspired to be when I was a kid, but over the following 20-plus years, I did become a Disney-phile.  Say what you want about the Mouse-as-Corporation, or the Mouse-as-Antifeminist, or try to argue that animated films are for babies, but it’s gonna fall on deaf ears here.  My irrational love of Disney stems from my indebtedness to their creative teams for all of the joy they have provided in my life.

What’s really exciting is that in just over a month, Lance and I will be taking a jetplane down to Orlando for a mini-Disney vacation (thanks, Aunt Boo Boo!). It’ll be the first time I will get to stay at a park resort (as opposed to the Master Inn, amirite, guys?), the first time I’ve made dining reservations at some of the resort’s higher-end restaurants, and the first time that I’ll be able to have that whole Disney experience with Lance.

And to all you hipsters out there who only like Disney ironically while also bemoaning about how inauthentic, how manufactured it is: yeah, it is, and I know. But that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

So all of that brings me to what I’m dubbing “Re-Disney.”

According to Wikipedia, there are currently 51 films in the Disney Animated Classics canon.  And while I have seen 46 of them (sorry, Saludos Amigos), it’s been awhile for a few and I need to do my research.  Heaven forbid I run into a character down there and can’t recall there name (for whatever reason, my mind keeps going back to Mr. Smee from Peter Pan; do kids really want a photo with him?)!

Thankfully (or idiotically; your choice), I currently own 31 of the DACs, and I’m going to re-watch all of them before our trip.  I’ve got 36 days.

This past weekend, I re-watched my DVD copies of The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under (both are coming out this summer on Blu-ray. Yippee!).  I’ve always had a soft-spot for Bernard and Bianca (probably because I relate to Bernard’s bumbly everyman), but I wasn’t sure how these were going to hold up against my memory of them.

The Rescuers (1977), I gotta tell ya, is a little rough.  The animation looks terribly cheap.  That’s not to say that the effort was lacking; the animation on Madame Medusa in particular is wonderfully creepy and expressive.  The character work is unparalleled; I don’t think even Studio Ghibli ever really mastered character expressions in the way that Disney’s Nine Old Men and their collaborators did.

The cheapness comes from the Xeroxing process used to animate the film.  In an effort to keep down costs (Disney’s more famous classics, like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, went famously, nearly disastrously over-budget), the Xeroxing technique was utilized starting with One Hundred and One Dalmatians in 1961.  The process allowed for artist’s drawing to be copied directly from paper to cel without an intermediate inker to do the transfer and clean up a lot of the loose sketch lines.  This “Xeroxing” era lasted from ’61 to Oliver & Company in 1988.  While it’s sometimes interesting to look at, all of these rough lines, they often clutter the image and can be quite distracting as they dance around the character from frame to frame.  It just looks…sloppy. If people were to watch Lady and the Tramp (1955) and then The Rescuers (1977), they’d assume The Rescuers was the earlier film. The Xeroxing films just lost that touch of polish that made earlier DACs just gorgeous.

The Rescuers Down Under (1990) is like day to The Rescuers‘ night.  The Rescuers Down Under was actually the first film to fully utilize Pixar’s Computer Aided Production System (CAPS), which allowed for digital inking and coloring in films, and it shows (compare the coloring in this film to The Little Mermaid, released just a year before).  The colors are rich and varied, as opposed to the original film’s flatter, more neutral palette.  It is a simply stunning film, even by today’s standards.  I can’t wait for the Blu-ray, which will hopefully clean up a lot of grain present on the DVD release.

Of the two, I’d give the edge to The Rescuers Down Under.  Essentially, they’re the same plot (two mice save a kid from an evil adult out to try and obtain a treasure only the kid can help locate), but The Rescuers Down Under takes the original template and presents a more streamlined, slicker experience.

So that’s two down, 29 left (if I can obtain some of the other films, there may be more).  Next up: The Aristocats.

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