Frozen 2

Frozen was a mega-hit for Disney in 2013. It almost tripled the box-office of Wreck-it Ralph, the previous Disney animated title in 2012. And at the time of its release, it was the fifth highest-grossing film of all time. Therefore it was clear as day that we would get this inevitable second title.

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Anyone that is a parent has no doubt been at the mercy of their children as they play Frozen on repeat and hear the song long after the credits roll. Even Tangled which may have been a better film didn’t catch on like Frozen. Frozen success could be attributed to the release window as it fit the Christmas holiday aesthetically, and the catchy smash hit song Let It Go. I think it may have been the way it broke the traditional mould of seeing a damsel in distress. Frozen is not a film about saving a Princess, it’s about saving a sister. I think the family bond enriched the staying power of Frozen between audiences young, and old. The two sisters also show unique perspectives for empowering women, whether they’re strong or meek.

Frozen 2 takes place maybe a couple of years after the first film. Everyone we grew to love in the first film are all happily settled now in Arrandale. All except for Elsa. Elsa has again become distant as she begins hearing the sound of a lullaby calling to her like a Siren at sea. Elsa’s journey takes her on a discovery of the past and into where her magic originated from. Alongside Elsa is Anna who won’t let her journey alone, while Kristof tries to propose to Anna throughout the movie. The proposal is something that never holds any real drama because we know she would, of course, say yes. What Frozen 2 does is opens the mythology of the story tenfold.

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Overall, Frozen 2 continues the story in a competent way. In my mind, the movie sets itself up for a third movie and that one could potentially rival the first one whereas this one is trying to add too much new stuff. It is still a good time, but I question whether scenes were cut near the end and replaced with some hastily written songs.

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Frozen 2 is good and has already made an incredible $740 million within the first ten days of release. These records if anything has greenlit a third theatrical movie. Hopefully, you enjoy this slightly darker and more mature Frozen 2.

Robert Ring

Disney Plus

Disney Plus is finally here in Australia, and the age of the Disney Vault is behind us.

The line-up available mirrors most of the Disney Plus US titles. There are heaps of 4K titles on here and the price is covered in the subscription at no extra cost. I watched my Blu-ray edition of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace last week, so I scrubbed through the 4K edition on Disney Plus to compare and it absolutely pops in 4K. All the movies appear to be presented in at least High Definition while there are Standard Definition showings in the television series from the 90s.

They have already begun putting some of the Fox films into the Disney library like The Sound of Music, and Home Alone. I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of these make the move over in the next couple of years. There is also a slew of classic live-action Disney films such as Babes in Toyland, Treasure Island, and The Shaggy Dog (1959).

Anyway, here are a few movies and shows that have me excited to revisit.

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First of all, I think everyone that has not seen the documentary Free Solo should make it their first pick on the platform. There is usually one stand out documentary every year, and last year it was Free Solo. The film is about a rock climber that dares to climb without the use of a harness and it’s an incredibly gripping watch that will have your body tensed to the max in that last half hour.

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Heavyweights is that movie alongside Good Burger that I loved watching on repeat. I haven’t been able to see it since I was a child, so I sure hope it holds up, and it’s the first movie I’ll be watching on there. Basically, this one is about a group of overweight kids that are sent by their parents to a “fat camp,” but it’s a fun, laugh-filled ride.

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DuckTales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp is another hard to find gem, I purchased the DVD from the UK because it hasn’t seen a release here since the original VHS. It is probably my favourite straight to video movie from Disney. This one is a movie to the tv series DuckTales and it involves Scrooge finding a genie in a lamp.

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The Love Bug is the classic live-action Disney movie that stands out to me the most. It’s been so long since I’ve seen it now, but I’m looking forward to seeing it again, and perhaps even the sequels too. It’s titles like these that I’m happy that children today will get to experience on Disney Plus.

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Return to Oz is one of my favourite childhood films. It’s the darkest take on the Oz story as Dorothy returns to find Oz in ruins. I own this one on DVD, but scrubbing through this HD version is like getting to watch it all again for the first time and I can’t wait.

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Quack Pack, like most of the television shows on my list, was a part of the Saturday Morning Disney in the 90s. Starring Donald Duck and his three nephews. The nephews are all teenagers here so they are even more mischevious then they were in DuckTales.

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Goof Troop is another terrific show that even spawned two Disney movies. It seems like an odd choice to have made a show about Goofy with a son, but it works.

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DuckTales is something I never really saw although if it’s anything like the movie I’m going to love it.

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Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears is another show with a peculiar premise that I adored as a kid. I’m not sure if my nostalgia for it matches how it’ll be for me today, but you never know. Get this, the show is based on the Gummi Bear sweets, and you wouldn’t know it because that’s as far as it goes, the name of the show.

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The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was something I watched on LaserDisc and it’s just charming.

The problem Disney faces with Disney Plus is the lack of content for adults. However, that will likely change in time as they begin feeding more Fox films into the mix, as well as the other film studios they own under the Disney umbrella. For now, this bodes well for Netflix and the rest of the streaming platforms as it becomes clear that Disney is not competition in the streaming space, just yet. The one gripe I have is how The Simpsons has been handled as they’ve zoomed in on the image to fill the screen. Since the outcry was overwhelming in the US they have decided to give us the option to watch it in 4:3 at a later date. The other problem I have is with the censorship of Stark Raving Dad in The Simpsons, by not having it available at all because of the presence of Michael Jackson. That one I’ll discuss at a later date.

Also, I’ve been reviewing some of the classic Disney Animated films listed on this page HERE.

For now, hopefully you enjoy the library from Disney Plus

Robert Ring

Dumbo (1941)

Dumbo is one of the most beloved Disney animations. It was also the movie to help Disney out of its run of financial losses. This is somewhat surprising due to the team working on the film were the B-team, as the A-team was working on Bambi. Dumbo was a more economical film to make after the excessive budgets that weren’t profitable in Pinocchio and Fantasia. It helped that Dumbo was only sixty-four minutes long. Audiences loved Dumbo for its simple storytelling and emotional attachment. Considering it was a financial success without much international distribution says something to the impact it had at the time.

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Dumbo starts with a moving scene showing cranes delivering babies to all the animals, all except Mrs Jumbo. Sadly, Mrs Jumbo gets on the train the next day along with the entire circus to move onto the next location. By luck, the crane that was carrying Mrs Jumbo’s baby spots the train and unites the two. Once the bundle is unwrapped revealing the young elephant the cute ques turn quickly to dismay from the crowd of elephants once they see his ears are huge. The name Dumbo is given by those elephants quickly to the tears of Mrs Jumbo, who loves her baby wholeheartedly. The teasing soon proves to be too much for Mrs Jumbo as they open the circus at the next town and Dumbo is teased relentlessly by the visitors. Mrs Jumbo in a fit of rage tears the place down and earns herself exile from the show and away from Dumbo. Like Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio before, Timothy Mouse makes it his mission to help Dumbo through these hard times and tries to excel him. After a bad start, Dumbo ends up as the star in a clown act that mocks him further. In one of the most memorable scenes, Timothy Mouse and Dumbo try picking themselves up, however, the pick-me-up seems rather literal as they become intoxicated and see “Pink Elephants”. The morning after they find themselves at the height of a tall tree that they realise Dumbo flew up. And here our story ends with Dumbo’s ears being the most incredible trait as he can soar through the air, and finds himself in stardom and reunited with Mrs Jumbo.

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After what has come before, Dumbo is cheaply made. The story may be rich with merit, however, the animation is largely simple and undetailed. There are massive blocks of scenes that are as if they could have been coloured in by the way of a colouring-in book. For example, a scene where all the elephants are gossiping is filled with just flat grey bodies, with only minute detail on the trunk and face, leaving no detail of depth to the body. Dumbo by today’s standards would be a straight to video release, much like the Disney animated sequels that were plentiful in the 90s and 2000s.

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The story to this day has continued to resonate with audiences and just this year a live-action film was released. However, time has not been completely kind to the film as more and more critics find controversy in the crow sequence near the end (atop the tree with Dumbo), for portraying African American stereotypes. It’s easy to see why Disney is the target of this sort of thing when they are by all purposes a family-friendly company. I have no qualms with it as it is timely to that era. With the release of Song of the South only a few years later, critics have reason to criticise the scene. The scene was going to be cut or reconfigured to edit out the crows with the release of Disney Plus, and thank goodness they had the sense to not go through with it.

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Dumbo is a really short story that goes by in a breeze, but I think more could have been added to the film, so I’m curious what they added in the live-action film to almost double the screen time. Whatever the case Dumbo is a good wholesome film.

What do you think of it overall?

Previously The Reluctant Dragon

Next Bambi

Robert Ring

Splash

Quite literally a fish out of water tale.

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The classic tale “Den lille Hayfrue” by Hans Christian Andersen, or as English depicts it, The Little Mermaid is a remarkable tale beloved by children since it was first published in 1837. The story is about a young mermaid searching for a life above the sea amongst people, where she proceeds to fall in love with a prince and makes a Faustian bargain with the sea witch to continue out her days as a human. A statue inspired by The Little Mermaid story was unveiled in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1913. The statue represents a mermaid looking longingly across the land, longing to be human. It has been a subject of vandalism over the years, from decapitations to paint jobs. Like the Hans Christian Anderson story, The Little Mermaid has been retold time after time, in some respect, the vandalism represents the times of change in society and this is seen through each adaptation. The fairy tale has been retold and modernized to this day, with the most iconic being Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Before the heralded Disney animated film was Splash.

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Splash is the first Disney movie created under the Touchstone Pictures banner in 1984, as Disney wanted to produce more content for adult fare. These films would still be generally wholesome movies, however, they contained suggestions of sex, booze and sometimes drugs. You certainly wouldn’t find these ideas in the live-action Disney films before it. Splash was also the movie to get Tom Hanks out of television and into stardom.

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The movie starts twenty years in the past with a young Allen on a trip with his family at Cape Cod. Allen jumps overboard to see a young mermaid before being ripped back onto the boat by the crew. Now in the present Allen (Tom Hanks), works a successful job with his brother in the shipping of produce goods, but his love life is in shambles. Allen can’t seem to find commitment in any of the women he has relationships with and they eventually leave him because of it. After a big bender Allen decides to travel back to Cape Cod to perhaps find himself, but when he’s knocked out of his boat and drowning she finds him instead. The mermaid played by Daryl Hannah watches Allen awaken on the beach and there ignites the romantic spark Allen has been missing since he first met her as a boy. When Allen approaches her she kisses him and leaves by the sea. It later becomes apparent that Splash is The Little Mermaid story without any of the context. Instead of showing us the sea hag granting her a wish, we understand that she has been given a week’s time frame for being on land. Allen and the mermaid now called Madison experience a romantic and comical relationship as she hides her true identity from him. What may seem like a happy ending is only just the beginning as Dr. Kornbluth tries to uncover who she is, while Madison must eventually confront Allen before its too late.

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Splash was a fresh take on The Little Mermaid story at the time and is still holds up great. What works best is the relationship between Hanks and Hannah. Madison is a much stronger character than Ariel and heads towards society head-on in search of Allen. Allen isn’t a Prince Charming character either but a sweet down to earth guy that she shares a spark with. While these two carry the bulk of the film, the supporting characters in John Candy playing Allen’s brother, and Eugine Levi playing the villain brings a lot of wholesome laughs and fun to the screen. Splash is a good romantic comedy that doesn’t drown you in fantasy but makes the film feel like a believable tale in the present day.

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The ending is spectacular and I don’t think you would see it done like that today.

Robert Ring

The Reluctant Dragon

Walt Disney was on an upward projection as the success of Snow White allowed for his studio to relocate and become a haven for Walt. The idea was to make the best environment for all of his staff with living arrangements, entertainment, gymnasiums and anything that Walt found would be endearing to everyone. The problem is that the amazing facilities were not available to everyone, it was a faulty system based on hierarchy. Before Snow White, the studio offered bonuses to the staff when the animated shorts proved successful, but these bonuses went out the door to allow for the development of the new studio. Staff at the top were awarded wages as high as $200-$300 per week, while at the bottom staff were earning $12 per week. The staff at the top could get their meals provided for free throughout the day, while the rest had to pay absurd prices. It’s no surprise that after the successful unionization of other animated studios that Disney would be next.

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Disney was the best-animated studio to work for before every other studio became unionized, but times were changing. From within, employees started becoming disgruntled and went on strike. After five weeks Disney had to give in to them. Walt felt betrayed as he spent so long creating what he thought was an idealistic career path for his company that he thought he knew better. Even after things began to settle Walt would always remember that his people turned on him, and he would always carry that from then on and seek to slowly remove those that fought for it in the strike. Walt would go so far as saying that the strikers were communists and some of who would be blacklisted. During the strike Disney released The Reluctant Dragon, and the entire film is essentially an advert for the amazing way of life and work for the Disney studios. In the end, The Reluctant Dragon was slightly profitable, although it probably did more damage than good releasing it in the middle of the strike.

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The Reluctant Dragon starts with a husband and wife that come up with an idea that they think is a great idea for an animated feature after reading a book entitled The Reluctant Dragon. The movie then follows the husband as he travels to the Disney studios to pitch the idea. Along the way, he experiences nearly all manners of production to create animation at Disney. Between that, we get to see various animated shorts such as the animated work-in-progress “Baby Weems,” followed by a Goofy short, and finally “The Reluctant Dragon.” All the animated shorts are entirely mediocre, even for the time. It’s the live-action segments that become charming the longer you spend going through the Disney studios that make the film watchable.

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Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this feature. It was clearly made as a way to generate some income to keep the studio afloat after experiencing financial losses with Pinocchio and Fantasia. The Reluctant Dragon segment is the most boring segment of the entire thing. The live-action components seem to be the seed that generated plenty of straight to television live-action features, that Disney would produce after the second world war. This feature, however, would have worked much better as a prime time feature on television. It must have been a great disappointment for many going to see this at the cinema after seeing such wonderful productions in Snow White, Pinocchio, and Fantasia.

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I don’t even know if hardcore Disney fans would enjoy this feature in its entirety. I recommend skipping it or checking it out on Disney Plus for a few minutes.

Previously Fantasia

Next Dumbo

Robert Ring

Fantasia (1940)

Disney made a smash hit with Snow White that gave them the funding to expand their studios and work output. While the profits of the first feature film went straight back into the business the budget of the next animated feature, Pinocchio was double that of Snow White. Sadly Pinocchio would only make back just over half of its budget. It’s clear by the sheer work that was going into these productions that Walt Disney was getting them as near to perfection as possible regardless of the money required. After Pinnochio was a financial failure at the time, it was but a blip on Disney as they had made one of the biggest films before that, and while Pinocchio was made at a loss, it was still a masterpiece. However, it was imperative for Disney to make money on the next animated feature because there were now higher stakes as the studio had moved to a bigger location and employed much more staff.

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Fantasia would have performed better on release if it could get into more theaters. Disney instead required the theaters to upgrade their sound systems to Stereophonic sound for Fantasia to run in them. Basically, it brought sound into modern times, and sound was only rather new in theaters back then. This sounds similar to when James Cameron basically did the same for 3D when Avatar came out and most theaters had a refurbish in at least one cinema to allow for audiences to have a slightly more immersive experience. That’s all Walt wanted, he wanted his films to be seen in the best possible way they could be. For Fantasia, it was to recreate the opera experience in an animated spectacle. Fantasia would also lose money at the time although it did play in select theaters nearly all year round. Between Fantasia and Dumbo, there would be a union strike from inside Disney that could have ended the company completely and would change Walt forever forward.

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To describe Fantasia, for the most part, is to describe a poem. Without knowing the context we draw our own emotions however close or far from the meaning they may be. Overall, what we get is the feeling of a mood. Fantasia has a fascinating opening. Deems Taylor, our narrator, walks forward and gives us a formal introduction to the different types of imagery we are about to watch. That could be music that follows a narrative, or just imagery that comes to the mind like a fever dream without a sense of direction. From here we are given some beautiful images of the orchestra being silhouetted against interchanging colored backgrounds. The music and imagery seamlessly transition to animation and we are carried along without question. There are eight segments that are self-contained and follow along to a piece of music. The most notable is before the midway mark is The Sorceror’s Apprentice, the one where Mickey wears the big sorcerer’s hat and animates a broom to do his chore. It’s still a splendid segment. It was originally the inspiration for Fantasia in the first place as it was created as a Silly Symphony, but came to cost way too much to be profitable in the short format. Now it’s the centerpiece of Fantasia, and the thing that I would say propelled Mickey into the icon he is today.

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Other than The Sorceror’s Apprentice we are treated to amazing visuals that take us to the heavens and to hell, and to the beginning of time itself. A Night on Bald Mountain is rather chilling and would have come across as terrifying on initial release as we watch this massive gargoyle take havoc over a small township. Or seeing dinosaurs brought to life for what must have been the first time on the big screen in the Rite of Spring. The parts of Fantasia that may seem abstract still keep you entertained. With a lengthy two hour duration, you may start to wiggle around in your seat just because it can be draining to move from narrative to narrative every ten minutes or so.

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Fantasia is a hard sell, and I might’ve rathered that we just jumped in without any introduction or understanding of what was to come. It would feel more like a piece of German expressionism then. All those films are still just as stylistic and memorable even after a hundred years. Walt Disney was putting a lot on the line so it must be assumed he didn’t want to alienate anyone what is, for the most part, an expensive experimental film. It’s hard to see how Snow White would have been a risk today, but Fantasia definitely still is, and Walt had plans for a sequel he wanted to start working on soon after. Walt may not have gotten his sequel in his lifetime but nearly sixty years later we would get Fantasia 2000

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Fantasia is not for all. It’s a film that might be more moving watching by yourself on a Sunday afternoon. I liked it and respect it a lot. I know I’ll get something different out of it when I watch it five years from now or twenty.

Previously Pinocchio

Next time The Reluctant Dragon

Robert Ring

Joker

When Joaquin Pheonix turned down the role of Doctor Strange fans were understandably upset, but then it all turned out in the end when Benedict Cumberbatch took the role. The thing is Joaquin Pheonix wouldn’t be able to work within the constraints of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film. The character depth we’ve come to find in the MCU films are shallow and fit into archetypes we see all the time. They will never get a fast one over the fans, not really because we can see where the characters are heading. They also wanted to lock Joaquin down for a slate of films within the MCU. So why would he turn down Disney and later choose to do a character in a DC film? Well, Warner Brothers gave him freedom, and what we got is an amazing arthouse film centered around the greatest comic book villain of them all.

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Joker takes place in the seventies as we follow Arthur Fleck, the man who will become the monster we love to hate. Arthur works for a company that rents out clowns, so he will go from holding up a shop sign to cheering up ill children at the hospital. Arthur’s life isn’t much, but he’s satisfied that he’s on the right track as he thinks he’ll become a big stand-up comedian someday. Arthur struggles at connecting with society and tries to emulate others to become more accepted. This is usually due to his affliction for laughing at inappropriate times, he can’t help it and is even carries a medical certification of the fact when in public. After a number of bad turns, he is fired from his job and his life turns to disarray. The city of Gotham seemingly follows these bad beats as Arthur gets knocked down time and time again. While Arthur seems to not be able to gather the spotlight in comedy clubs he finds himself to be an icon for the downbeat that are sick of being treated poorly by Gotham. Arthur becomes like a martyr to Gotham and in his place, Joker is born.

Joker is a fantastic movie. Unsurprisingly, it has also opened the floodgates for media to shred it to bits. Joker is being misunderstood by people who have probably either not seen the film or are fitting it into a narrative that will generate views for their outlet. Joker is not a film that promotes violence, or a film that tries humanizing a monster. Here’s the thing… people are fascinated with monsters. You go to a bookshop and there is half an aisle dedicated to serial killers. People don’t read these books as to how to murder? but instead, we want to know what drove them to it. It’s not always clear what triggers these people to do the things that they do, and yet in a perverse way we are interested. We want to know what made the Joker become the villain of the story? There are also minimal deaths in this movie, way less than any action film. The reason people are holding this one to be so violent is that it feels authentic and resembles our world very closely, even more so than the Nolan films. Like most arthouse films, we are so close to Arthur in every shot that we are intimate with his character so much so that we see how his psychosis morphs into the Joker by the end. This film resembles something like the movie Falling Down with Michael Douglas as we watch over the course of a day his character shifts from a level headed individual to an unstable person on the brink. For these reasons don’t take your children, it’s not a movie for them and it seems that a number of kids are going into this movie.

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After watching Batman: Year One recently, my girlfriend said that this is what she would imagine a Joker: Year One would be and I tend to agree. Joker takes a lot of inspiration from the flashbacks filled within The Killing Joke graphic novel that sees his roots in stand-up comedy and home life. Todd Phillips may have directed Joker, however, it’s Joaquin Pheonix’s movie. You could not have created such a showpiece of what a superhero film could be with just any other actor. At the moment Joaquin Pheonix has a nomination spot for Best Actor in a feature film this year from this performance. And as the year begins to near its end he may keep it, if not win the Oscar. As much as I loved this film I hope it’s a one and done film with Joaquin Pheonix. I hope they do more of these standalone ventures that don’t feel the need to be threaded into a bigger narrative.

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I’m interested to see where everyone falls on Joker once the media blowback settles, like will it be atop of the superhero genre, or fall among the many others in time?

Robert Ring

Pinocchio (1940)

After the astounding success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney had the capital to make whatever they wanted, or so they thought. With a budget that almost doubled Snow White, Pinocchio didn’t make nearly as much money at the box-office as its predecessor. It didn’t even earn enough to cover the budget of the production. This was not really the fault of Disney, but things were changing in 1940 as the second world war was incoming. This was only the beginning of Disney’s financial woes as the next animated feature Fantasia later that year would make for an even bigger loss.

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The Adventures of Pinocchio was written in 1881 by Carlo Collodi. It was originally published in parts for a children’s magazine before being sold as a book a couple of years later. Many great works of literature were published in a similar fashion like Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was first printed in chapters before being bound into a complete book. Like Snow White, the source material was much darker than the route Walt Disney went down, even with the terrifying transformation. The story was full of moral lessons that are thrust upon Pinocchio, being a naughty boy trying to fulfill good deeds so he can become a real boy. These adventures feed into Disney’s Pinocchio because you can essentially break apart the film into separate sequences.

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Disney’s Pinocchio begins with Jiminy Cricket playing narrator to the story of Pinocchio. Jiminy recounts how he wandered into the comfortable home owned by Geppetto. Geppetto is adding the final touches to the marionette, Pinocchio. As Geppetto lays in bed he sees a star shining bright and wishes that Pinocchio was real. Shortly after the Blue Fairy arrives and makes Pinocchio come to life, she explains that he can become a real boy if he proves to be courageous and good. The Blue Fairy appoints Jiminy Cricket as the conscience to Pinocchio. Up until this point, we have stayed in one scene for the first twenty-seven minutes. That’s a third of the movie, yet it gets us to be emotionally connected to Geppetto as his journey becomes important later on. The next scene is the following morning and already we are seeing that Pinocchio is led astray by Honest John. Honest John is a con man that convinces Pinocchio to skip school and join a traveling circus. The audience loves Pinocchio so the show owner Stromboli decides to kidnap him when he tries returning home to his father, Geppetto. The Blue Fairy comes to the aid of Pinocchio, but when he finally returns home he finds that Gepetto has gone in search of him. Again, Pinocchio has been led astray while searching for Geppetto, however this time he ends up on Pleasure Island. Pleasure Island is a place that instills fear in kids because it’s a place without rules and overindulgence, so there has to be a catch. The catch comes in one of the most terrifying scenes from a Disney film as we see the children turn into donkeys. The scene is Hitchcockian in its execution. Pinocchio escapes Pleasure Island and now heads for Monstro the whale, where he has heard Geppetto was in the belly of. In a scene that outdoes anything from Snow White, we see Pinocchio rescue Geppetto from the angered and charging Monstro. The story ends with Pinocchio having overcome so many personal obstacles that the Blue Fairy makes him a real boy and he lives happily ever after with Geppetto.

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There’s a lot to love in Pinocchio from the many memorable characters to the magnificent animation. In Geppetto’s house, we get to know his cat, Figaro. Personally, I think Figaro is my favorite character in the film, he’s cute and clumsy. Even Honest John is a great villain, particularly so as a fox because I just don’t think they were particularly great at drawing humans. Geppetto is the exception due to the voice actor being the inspiration for the character himself too. You may be surprised to find that on Pleasure Island Pinocchio takes to drinking and smoking. I like that Walt was able to really drum up the darkness of this place with such adult mannerisms. There is no way we would ever find this in a current Disney film, especially since there will never be any smoking seen in a Disney film again. The film as a whole has a Don Bluth feel to it, so I can only imagine he was greatly inspired by these early Disney films. Finally, the most lasting thing about the movie is the theme song When You Wish Upon a Star, which subsequently became the theme song for Disney’s company. The song is timeless and probably in the top ten film songs since the inception of film itself.

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Watching Pinocchio I couldn’t help wonder about a sequel where we got to uncover more about the mystery of Pleasure Island, and I would have liked a sequel where he returned to save the other boys. And maybe that was part of the planned sequel they were toying with in the 2000s. They’ve since moved on and are developing a live-action Pinocchio. There’s no shortage of Pinocchio films as Guillermo del Toro is directing one set for 2021. There is even a Pinocchio coming out this year starring Roberto Benigni as Geppetto, which is interesting because he himself directed a live-action Pinocchio in 2002 with himself playing Pinocchio.

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Overall, I like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs more as it resonates in the simplicity of the story much like The Wizard of Oz. Pinocchio is still a masterpiece that grows more timeless with age.

Previously Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Next time Fantasia

Robert Ring

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

In 1937 audiences flocked to the theatres to see the first-ever feature-length animation. What was at first famously reported as “Disney’s Folly”, turned out to be the beginning of the Disney empire we know today. Walt Disney was already a known name before he started making this celebrated feature film. He first became a prominent figure in Hollywood for making short films that would play before features. These would include some of the first shorts to include Mickey Mouse in things like Steamboat Willie. The success of the animated shorts led Walt to expand his business and employ hundreds of people. As cinema was in its infancy Walt Disney saw an opportunity to take what his company had learned from making animated shorts and move into a long-form narrative that could match the quality of live-action films. More than eighty years later Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is very much still a part of pop culture.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs starts with the literal opening of the fairytale book as we watch this live-action scene bring us into the animated tale. We are taken into this harmonious world where Snow White is cheery to her life even as a princess dressed as a maiden in rags. She conducts the chores of the castle seemingly set by the Queen, her evil stepmother. The first song comes minutes into the film as the Prince stumbles upon Snow White singing, and what a song it is. The song I’m Wishing/One Song is such a great love song that you would have been satisfied with the two having their happily ever after then and there, but then there would be no adventure. After the Queen spies the two lovebirds she asks the mirror, “who is the fairest of them all?” to find out it is, in fact, Snow White. Considering that the queen would ask this often I’m led to wonder if it the change in fairest happened when Snow White found her true love or if it was the Queen’s jealousy in Snow White’s happiness. Regardless, the Queen sends the Huntsman to kill Snow White, which really kills the mood for the young princess, doesn’t it? The Huntsman finds it in himself not to kill Snow White and he instead banishes her, so she flees into the forest. The forest scene is probably the most striking scene to me, it’s terrifying as a kid. The forest begins to personify into abstract faces and shows how the young mind can exaggerate their fears of the unknown into physical manifestations. Through it, she finds that there was nothing to fear from the forest after all, but cute little critters. Next Snow White comes upon the home of the seven dwarfs. Those little men are in for a shock when they come home to discover the place has been cleaned. Each little men named after the trait they embody open their home and their hearts to Snow White. For the most part, the dwarfs have more personality and character than Snow White. It’s with them that we grow attached to emotionally, so when the Queen poisons Snow White with the apple, we also cry with the dwarfs at Snow White’s grave.

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So how does Snow White stack up to the source material? Well, Snow White was written by The Brothers Grimm as one of their many collected stories in 1812. The Brothers Grimm updated their stories over time as they became popular with children, so the evil Queen was originally Snow White’s biological mother and thus changed to an evil stepmother. If the story stayed with the original intentions it wouldn’t have resonated for generations. Walt Disney follows the narrative similarly, but it’s rather short so he extrapolates on it by realizing the characters, adding musical numbers and embellishing in the look of the world. The Grimm story was much darker in tone as the Queen ate what she thought was Snow White’s liver and lungs. The Queen also visited Snow White multiple times to kill her; first time in disguise she stitched Snow White up tight in a lace dress so she couldn’t breathe, next the Queen made a poisoned comb that administered itself into Snow White as it was combed through her hair, finally after two unsuccessful attempts the Queen gave her a poisoned apple. Snow White was thought to be dead and her body was placed in a glass coffin. Later a prince finds her and pleas to take the coffin because he must always lay eyes upon her. As the prince’s servants carried the coffin one trips and the poisoned apple lodged in Snow White’s throat becomes unlodged and she awakens. The tale turns incredibly dark in the end as the Queen is invited to Snow White’s wedding and is forced into iron shoes that were pulled off burning coals. She must dance in them until she finally dies. If you compare the source material to Disney’s feature you can see where Walt has turned a harrowing tale into a family film and continues to steer in that direction with each subsequent feature film.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has stood the test of time for a few reasons. Aesthetically, it has a very European style, especially in the backgrounds that draw audiences into this world of fantasy. There is also Snow White’s animation, which has a softness to the colors overall. This helps invoke the joyfulness in the atmospheres involving Snow White and the dwarfs. It also juxtaposes perfectly with the darkness when we’re with the Queen and in the forest. The songs are all memorable from I’m Wishing/One Song, Whistle While You Work, and Heigh Ho. Every character is endearing, with each dwarf full of individual personality. So there really isn’t one thing that makes the movie memorable. It’s an accomplishment to Walt Disney that his first film stands against any Disney film ever since, and there have been some great ones.

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Next time Pinocchio.

Robert Ring

Frozen Let Go

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first animated feature film. Everyone believed it wouldn’t work, and that it couldn’t. All kinds of rumors spread before its release. My favorite was one that said people could go blind watching the bright colors for a feature-length amount of time. Nobody went blind. Disney instead made a critical and commercial success. The movie was so successful it held the title of being the highest-grossing animated film for fifty-five years. It wasn’t until Aladdin’s release that it was overthrown in 1992. Since then the title has been passed along every couple of years, and now it has once again. This time Frozen has passed the crown to The Lion King (2019).

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The Lion King (2019) undoubtedly looks like a live-action film, so don’t feel stupid questioning it. It will even make it into the top ten highest-grossing films in the next couple of weeks. The question is can Frozen 2 take the number one spot? It’s possible, although I feel unlikely.

Disney is now king of the box office and I’m curious to see what’s in store for the future. So I want to get deeper into the storied history of the Walt Disney Company in future posts by digging into the past. I’ll start by looking at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

For now, I think The Lion King (2019) may hold this title for two to three years.

Robert Ring