Week 40: The Emperor’s New Groove

Pretty Groovy

lever

Originally Released: 2000

Ok, as fair warning, let me just get it out of the way and say that this post isn’t going to discuss much of The Emperor’s New Groove. Rather, I suppose most of you are wondering if I died or something and why so much time has passed without any entries to this blog.

Well, as it turns out, life can be a complicated and busy thing, and certain leisurely activities tend to fall by the wayside. The last few months has been filled with schoolwork, graduation, moving, new jobs, and various other exciting (and exhausting) endeavors. Perhaps I could have sacrificed more sleep to write a once-weekly post, but anyone who actually knows me would know that that’s just not going to happen.

Yes, I think I can relate to poor Kuzco in this picture - minus the whole bump on the head, of course.

I think I could relate to poor Kuzco in this picture at times in the past few months. Except the whole bump on the head, of course. And the villainous woman. And the Llama transformation.

Anyway, I am happy to report that I fulfilled what I consider to be the most important part of my goal set in January 2013: I actually did watch all 52 (53 if you count Frozen) Disney canon films before the year ended! It took some dedication, careful coordination (thanks to my family for bearing with me on Christmas break), and empty slates at the end of the year so I could do double features, triple-headers, and even a quadruple-header to make it happen. My December 31st, 2013 concluded with a triple-header featuring Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, and Wreck-it Ralph. Personally, I don’t know of a better way to spend a lazy New Year’s Eve.

The bad part about finishing the “watch” part of the goal, however, is that it leaves precious little incentive to conclude the other end of the goal set in early 2013 – writing in this blog. Don’t get me wrong, I have found over the past year that I really enjoy writing, and it is fun comparing opinions with those of you who read this blog. But with all the things happening, it was hard to dedicate the time to the task.

sword in the stone

Slow and steady, right? Better to finish late than to never finish at all.

Despite all that, I must say that all this time I have had this nagging urge to finish what I started. I don’t like leaving things unfinished, and having a subtitle that says “52 animated films” on my blog – but only having 39 entries in it – is something that has been extremely bothersome all this time. Besides, I am so close to finishing! Thus, I have a new goal: complete the remaining entries in the blog post by the end of the summer.

Ok, with that out of the way, on to The Emperor’s New Groove. What can I say about this film? It’s just a lot of fun. It has to be the most zany and irreverent of all the Disney films, and it is better for it. I’m a fan of the David Spade/John Goodman combo, and I usually enjoy Seinfeld alum appearances. Oh, and that Tom Jones opener? Yes please (but if only it would have been this, though…nothing tops the Carlton Dance)!

I think I will close with that (I told you discussion would be short on this one), but here is a collection of some of my favorite scenes from this great Disney film. Feel free to add comments to discuss this movie further!

pinata

Pacha and Old Man

vicious kitty

Jump rope

Ahh, feels great to be back in the swing of things, finishing this blog!

Ahh, feels great to be back in the swing of things, finishing this blog!

Week 31: Aladdin

Still One of Disney’s Funniest Films

Dangerfield

Originally Released: 1992

With Aladdin, the team at Disney took a risk. Rather than stick with the rule that said they should strive for timelessness, as they had done with the majority of their films (Oliver & Company being a notable exception), they decided that for Aladdin, they would disregard that rule and throw in all sorts of contemporary gags and references in telling the story. Most of these gags would revolve around the genie, voiced by Robin Williams, who at the time was becoming a very popular comedian and actor. Williams had a gift for referencing and imitating famous people and characters. He also excelled at improvising. The Disney producers decided to let him play to his strengths and do these things in his voice work for the film.

The strategy worked and Aladdin was a huge success when it was released in late 1992. However, the risk of going contemporary is that it may not age so well after a time. And now that over 20 years have passed since it was originally released, I was interested to see how well Aladdin has held up. Would it still be as funny now as it was back then? Or has time taken its toll on this once-acclaimed classic?

"Wait, you think I may be out of style?. Let's think about that for a minute."

“Wait, you think I may be out of style?. Let’s think about that for a minute.”

As I watched the film again, I was reminded that though Genie is a large factor to making Aladdin a success, the movie boasts much more than just jokes and imitations of old celebrities. I’ll get to that in a moment, but as these jokes do play a significant role in Aladdin, the topic merits some thought here.

It is true that in today’s world younger viewers are less and less likely to understand references to Rodney Dangerfield, Ed Sullivan, Jack Nicholson, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger. They may not understand things like “You’ve just won the heart of the princess (the Superbowl), what are you going to do next?!” Is this a problem, though? It may be that knowing the references will enhance the comedic effect, but even without this understanding, because of the way Genie is animated, the gags still manage to be funny. The many shapes, sizes and caricatures create a zany feel to Genie, regardless of whether or not we know exactly who or what is being imitated in any particular scene. Besides, if you think about it, how many of us knew when we were younger that Genie was imitating William F. Buckley Jr. in his “Uh, master, there are a few provisos” bit? How many of us know who Buckley is even today? But it was still pretty funny even if we had no clue who the heck he was supposed to be imitating. Animator Eric Goldberg did an excellent job of matching Williams’ clever voice work with visuals that were just as funny and which remain humorous today.

Does anybody under the age of 30 or so understand this reference? I know I didn't. But I still find it funny.

Does anybody under the age of 30 or so understand this reference? I know I didn’t. But I still find it funny.

But moving on. As mentioned earlier, Aladdin has more than just the genie that makes it a good movie. One thing that stuck out to me was how much I liked ALL of the characters in this movie. Aladdin benefits from what may be, taken collectively, the strongest cast of characters of any film in the Disney canon. From Aladdin and Abu to Jafar and Iago, each character is strong and contributes to the film in a positive way. In fact, though they are great themselves, Aladdin and Jasmine sometimes get overshadowed by the supporting characters. With this great collection of characters there is plenty of personality and humor to go around. This is probably what impressed me the most as I watched Aladdin again.

Jafar Iago

In addition to the characters, the songs are still as fun and memorable as ever. Disney decided that Aladdin would continue the successful Broadway-meets-Disney style used in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, and assembled many of the same players that were involved in The Little Mermaid to make this film. It was a smart move. Aladdin showed that this style was a winning formula that was even compatible with Robin Williams. And Alan Menken supplied another Oscar-winning score for the film, to go along with his wins for his two previous efforts at Disney. He managed to do this despite losing lyricist Howard Ashman in the middle of the production of Aladdin, which no doubt would have been difficult to deal with.

Best part of the "Prince Ali" song, right here.

Best part of the “Prince Ali” song, right here.

Finally, in addition to the characters and the music, the main messages of the film still resonate with me and ring true. Be honest and be yourself. Freedom is a blessing. Have integrity, and keep your promises and commitments. These are good messages that anybody would be wise to adopt.

So in conclusion, 20 years after Aladdin’s initial release, I say the risk that Disney took by ditching the “timeless” mantra didn’t kill Aladdin‘s future. All things considered, Aladdin has actually aged quite well in my opinion. It will be interesting to see if, in another 10-20 years, this is still the case. But for now, at least, I believe Aladdin still soars.

happy family

Abu and rug

"Seek thee out the diamond in the riamond in the rough..."

“Seek thee out the diamond in the riamond in the rough…”

Whole new World