Re-Disney: Week 2 Progress Report

Disney Animated Classics:
  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  2. Pinocchio
  3. Fantasia
  4. Dumbo
  5. Bambi
  6. Saludos Amigos
  7. The Three Caballeros
  8. Make Mine Music
  9. Fun and Fancy Free
  10. Melody Time
  11. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
  12. Cinderella
  13. Alice in Wonderland
  14. Peter Pan
  15. Lady and the Tramp
  16. Sleeping Beauty
  17. One Hundred and One Dalmatians
  18. The Sword in the Stone
  19. The Jungle Book
  20. The Aristocats
  21. Robin Hood
  22. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  23. The Rescuers
  24. The Fox and the Hound
  25. The Black Cauldron
  26. The Great Mouse Detective
  27. Oliver & Company
  28. The Little Mermaid
  29. The Rescuers Down Under
  30. Beauty and the Beast
  31. Aladdin
  32. The Lion King
  33. Pocahontas
  34. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  35. Hercules
  36. Mulan
  37. Tarzan
  38. Fantasia 2000
  39. Dinosaur
  40. The Emperor’s New Groove
  41. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  42. Lilo & Stitch
  43. Treasure Planet
  44. Brother Bear
  45. Home on the Range
  46. Chicken Little
  47. Meet the Robinsons
  48. Bolt
  49. The Princess and the Frog
  50. Tangled
  51. Winnie the Pooh
  1. Toy Story
  2. A Bug’s Life
  3. Toy Story 2
  4. Monsters, Inc.
  5. Finding Nemo
  6. The Incredibles
  7. Cars
  8. Ratatouille
  9. Wall-E
  10. Up
  11. Toy Story 3
  12. Cars 2
  13. Brave
Totals: 29 completed, 35 left

This week’s been spent re-visiting some of Disney’s less-celebrated films, like Bolt and Fun and Fancy Free, and it made me realize just how many of Disney’s films are effectively ignored…by Disney itself.  When you see Disney products at Target or the Disney Store, or you go to a Disney theme park, you’ll see hordes of Tinker Bell and Buzz Lightyear paraphernalia, but when’s the last time you saw an Oliver or Basil of Baker Street toy? (Admittedly, I do have a Basil plush from when the Disney Store was pushing their version of Beanie Babies back in the day.)

Obviously, there are market forces at work here; if people were clamoring for a Mrs. Calloway the cow t-shirt, they’re be one.  And yes, there are a handful of stinkers in the Disney animated classics canon that don’t get a lot of attention because it’s not deserved (I’m lookin’ at you, Make Mine Music).  But it does make me wonder how much of that, that lack of awareness or under-appreciation, is due to Disney’s marketing and promotion efforts.  Films that more or less died on arrival, like Home on the Range (which is cute and a little insubstantial, but no worse than 95% of what Dreamworks animation puts out)…are they lost to the Great Film Reel in the Sky because of that initial failure?

Disney pushes their back catalog all the time, bringing heavy hitters like Snow White or Beauty and the Beast, “out of the vault” every seven years or so to great fanfare, new soundtrack releases and TV commercials and waves of toys.  A lot of money is spent on consecrating a relatively small pool of films (there are only 11 or 12 films in Disney’s “Platinum”/”Diamond” DVD/Blu-ray release line, and they get the lion’s share of the attention), but why not divert some of that money to building up awareness of some of the lesser-knowns?  Hercules is a great example to revisit: it’s a funny, clever movie with some great characters (Meg and Hades in particular) and a fantastic score/song list.  With its self-deprecating style, it would shine given the current self-awareness prevalent in animated films, but it hasn’t been released on DVD since 2000! (And with a crappy transfer at that. Grrr!)

Wouldn’t Disney want to mine it’s back-catalog for new merchandising opportunities? Isn’t that sorta why they bought Marvel? To take advantage of characters/stories that already existed?

I’m sure Disney beancounters have crunched the numbers; I mean, when has Disney ever left untouched a money-making opportunity?  I suppose it’s just frustrating as a fan to see Stitch everywhere (not to say it isn’t deserved), while other characters languish, only to be used for the “hard” questions on Disney Scene It!

And, to borrow from The A.V. Club, some stray observations:

  • The package films (like Make Mine Music or Melody Time) are just…not for me.  The animation is simple and sloppy.  I understand the context in which these films were made (World War II, and a lot of the animators who worked on Snow White and Pinocchio were drafted), but these films, more or less thrown together just to have something to distribute, are very weak.
  • OMG how Lilo & Stitch made me tear up.  I haven’t watched this film in years, but so much of what was touched upon here (non-traditional families, feeling alone, finding your place in the world) really affected me more than in the past.  Of all of the post The Lion King Disney films, this is my favorite, which is funny, because I used to sort of resent it because of how much Disney was trying to make Stitch a BIG THING around the film’s initial release (I remember when I visited Disney World in 2004, the major characters featured on merchandise were Mickey, Donald, Goofy…and Stitch. What?)  At the time, I was like, “Disney, stop trying to make ‘Stitch’ happen,” all Mean Girls-like.
  • …Yep, upon second viewing, Dinosaur is a blatant knock-off of The Land Before Time.  And I’m not sure why it’s considered a Disney Animated Classic, since all of the backgrounds are actually real-life footage.
  • The Great Mouse Detective is one of my favorites. Rattigan is just an awesome character.  Glad this is coming out on Blu-ray on my birthday this year! (HINT HINT)
  • -I’ve also started the Pixar movies. Toy Story is still great, and watching it nearly 20(!) years after it came out, I wonder how many people really got just how revolutionary, how landscape-altering that film really was.  Would people have continued to pursue computer animated films in such droves if Toy Story wasn’t just a great movie (animated or not?)  What would Disney, and all animation, look like today without Pixar?

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