Week 47: Meet the Robinsons

Disney Decides to Keep Moving Forward

the future

Originally Released: 2007

What a breath of fresh air Meet the Robinsons must have been to those Disney loyalists who actually watched it at the time of its release in 2007. I think by this time, the general idea is that most people had pretty much left Disney animation for dead and had moved on to the bigger and better things coming from Pixar, Dreamworks, and others. Such was certainly the case for me. While I never missed a Pixar film opening weekend, I had skipped the Disney releases from 2004 all the way up to 2009 when The Princess and the Frog hyped me up with a promise of the return to tradition (and how did that go? Click right here!).

It turns out that I should have hopped back on the wagon in 2007, because Meet the Robinsons has as much heart as any Disney classic out there. Put simply, I love this movie.

awesome sauce

First of all, the movie’s sense of humor is totally the kind of humor I crave. I love the frogs and their homage to an old Looney Tunes classic. I love that the family has a “Japanese-dubbed” fight with spicy italian sausage in the middle of dinner. The bad guy is referred to almost all the way through the movie as “The Bowler Hat Guy.” There is a picture of Tom Selleck. There are just so many great comedic touches to this film.

One of the great moments in Disney animation history? Ok, probably not. But it is still pretty darn funny.

One of the great moments in Disney animation history? Ok, probably not. But it is still pretty darn funny.

The animation is leaps and bounds improved over Chicken Little. Visually, the film is bright and cheery, and the depiction of the future is one of the most encouraging to come out of Hollywood, despite being incredibly fantastical. But it adds to the atmosphere and overall theme of Meet the Robinsons.

bowler hat guy

Hello, The Bowler Hat Guy.

The characters are fun overall, and the ones that really matter have some good depth to them. The Bowler Hat Guy may not be one of the top Disney villains of all time, but what they do with him is a nice touch, and the twist in the end is something I wasn’t expecting at all.

This next aspect is more of a side note because it doesn’t really add to the movie directly, but I’ll mention it anyway. I’m a huge fan of the song “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas. When I first heard the song back in college, I remember many times putting this song on repeat, and constantly coming back to it for some reason. It is just a great song with a great message by a great singer. It is a great match for the movie.

Speaking of great messages, the most important thing I appreciate about Meet the Robinsons is its message. It is the icing on the cake that really makes this film hit home for me. In today’s world, more than ever we are in need of sources of encouragement. We all have our dark times where we wonder why we even keep trying to carry on with one thing or another. I don’t know anybody who at one point hasn’t felt like they were beaten down by false messages from schoolmates, associates, or even the media, telling them they are not smart enough, not good enough, that they will never amount to anything, etc. But the truth is, we all have huge potential if we have the right encouragement and if we know where to turn for inspiration. Every last one of us can make a difference for good.

great quote

This is a great quote. But it only explains half of the important message of this movie.

That, in effect, is the main takeaway of Meet the Robinsons. Nobody is a mistake. Each of us is is important and can have a positive effect on this earth. Even if we fail at times when we try to do good, we can pick ourselves back up and “keep moving forward.” In Hollywood, there is such a dearth of good, inspirational messages, that it took me by surprise to find that Meet the Robinsons contained such wise advice. But how glad I am that the advice is there.

Disney took its own advice when it made Meet the Robinsons. Disney could have hung things up after the debacles of Home on the Range and Chicken Little. But apparently some of the team listened to the ghost of Walt Disney telling them to keep moving forward, and as a result, 2007 and Meet the Robinsons marked the dawn of a new era of greatness that is currently occurring at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

goob

Black eyes happen. Just keep moving forward, Goob!

frogs

family-about time

Family. Isn’t it about time?

treasure planet

This guy would later set sail and eventually get stranded on Treasure Planet

 

Advertisements

Week 46: Chicken Little

Or, ‘The Film With a Serious Identity Crisis’

Weird group

Originally Released: 2005

Chicken Little is a real head-scratcher. Disney’s first true foray into 3D animation doesn’t feel at all like a real Disney animated film. Rather, if all labels were removed, I would have said it was made by some other studio like Dreamworks or 20th Century Fox Animation. It is almost as if the Disney team saw the success of Shrek and Ice Age and decided that irreverence and weirdness was the only way they were going to make money. Of course, they could have instead looked towards the stuff Pixar was churning out during the same time period (Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles), but after viewing Chicken Little, it is clear that the film is devoid of Pixar-style inspiration.

Now, I wasn’t there at the time, so I obviously don’t know what the filmmakers were thinking during the production of Chicken Little. However, it is very apparent that there was no clear direction in what was intended for the final product. Chicken Little, as a film, suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Indeed, watching some of the special features that delve into the making of the film confirm this notion.

Point#1. There are about 3-4 wildly different film opening scenes. The opener they went with in the final product is, incredibly, a flat-out mockery of Disney’s past (a past which was much, much better than this movie, ironically). I guess it is supposed to be funny. I guess. The other openers weren’t much better. But anyway, good or bad, the point I’m trying to make is that the multitude of opening scenes shows that the filmmakers had no clue as to what kind of tone they wanted the film to have. Was this a comedy? Was it a fairy tale? Was it sentimental and serious? It depends on which beginning scene they would have chosen.

chicken girl

Point #2. Chicken Little was a girl for some time in production. If switching genders of the protagonist doesn’t scream ‘I don’t know what I want this movie to be,” what would?

Point#3. Chicken Little, at one point in production, had a mother. If she remained in the film to the end, this probably would have been a much different film. Apparently the filmmakers wanted an insensitive sports jock father with no counterbalance as one of the main antagonists for Chicken Little. But it goes to show that even fairly deep into production, the filmmakers still had no idea what they wanted to do with the plot, the personalities of the characters, and the theme.

chicken mother

There are more points to make, surely, but I think that should be sufficient. What we end up with is a film that seems to be missing its heart and soul. I’m not a professionally trained filmmaker, but I would suspect that when you make a movie or write a story, it would be beneficial to know some of these types of things from the get-go, or at least very early on.

Now, there are a few things I do enjoy about the movie. Some of the jokes are pretty funny (of course, most of them were in the trailer. Yes, it’s one of those movies). The “Hollywood-style” movie at the end of the Chicken Little is great (Why didn’t they just make the whole film like that? I would have been all over something that completely makes fun of Hollywood for the entirety of the film).

But that’s about it. On the flip side, beside having no heart, soul, or identity, there are a few other things worth pointing out that mar Chicken Little. The first is the animation. It’s just not that great. I know some slack should be given due to it being Disney’s first true attempt at the medium, but the characters are very stiff at times, and overly bouncy at others. It feels like it belongs on the slate of One Saturday Morning instead of Disney’s flagship animation studio output.

Chicken 1

Another negative thing that I just have to point out is this: Chicken Little uses not one, not two, but THREE songs in my “Songs-that-should-forever-be-banned-from-all-future-films-because-they-are-so-overused-that-they-are-beyond-cliche” list. So in addition to having a lack of direction, you can throw in a lack of creativity and innovation. The music does nothing for this film.

Lastly, why is everybody so mean in this movie? Where are the likable characters? Runt is probably my favorite character in the movie, and that’s not saying much at all. I know we’re supposed to sympathize with Chicken Little because his life stinks, but in order for that to work, Chicken Little needs to be a little more interesting and likable. Maybe he is for some, but I didn’t feel anything with his plight. And I was even in the “unpopular” crowd growing up. That’s saying something about this main character.

Sadly, when it comes to Chicken Little, I have to place this film into my (amazingly small) group of legitimately bad Disney animated films. Save for a few good gags, there’s not much good going on with Disney’s 46th studio release.

Chicken Pow

“Pow! Bang! Scathing review coming your way, little chicken!”

chaos

This picture is a chaotic mess. Much like the movie.