John’s Disney Movie Countdown: Part 3

We come now to the third and final part of John’s Disney Movie Countdown. Previously I counted down from dinosaurs and lemurs at #54 to an awesome superhero squad at #31 in Part 1, while Part 2 took us from #30 to #13, beginning with a mouse tale in The Rescuers and ending with the dogs of Lady and the Tramp.

The final dozen films has plenty of animals, its fair share of beautiful princesses, as well as cuddly friends and some of the most menacing villains ever animated. What we have left are what I believe to be the finest twelve animated feature length films the Disney Canon has to offer. With these twelve films, we are now entering ‘deserted island’ territory.

(Side note: If you read the first two parts of the countdown and wondered if I’ve caught the Hollywood bug of splitting things up unnecessarily – a la Hobbit and Hunger Games – I’m sorry about that. But I figured this piece would be better broken down into more digestible portions, because let’s be honest, in our internet browsing age, after writing or reading a 1000+ word essay, people start to get antsy.)

So here they are: my Top 12 Disney animated classics.

Group #5: The Best of the Best: Ten True Consensus Masterpieces, and a Couple that Should Be Soon

This group was exceedingly difficult to order from 1 through 12. I mean, even 18 films of the previous group were basically 10 out of 10, 4-star efforts. So when you have ten masterpieces (and a couple that should be soon) and are trying to position them against each other, it makes for tough work, especially with #2-#7, which are almost interchangeable rank-wise. But, like I said before in part 1, I believe I pulled it off, and I am satisfied with where everything shakes out. 

12. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

The film (okay, films) that made Pooh Bear popular in the U.S. is as charming as they come. Pooh is an engrained part of our culture now, and I’m convinced that the world is better for it. It is a great film for little ones, yet it has some sharp wit and enough humor for adults to be pleased with repeat viewings as well.

T-I-Doubleguh-er

11. Tarzan (1999)

Alright, if I had things my way, Tarzan would be classified as a true masterpiece as the closing bookend of the Disney Renaissance, and Disney would be giving it a Diamond Edition release and then throwing it in the vault like the other top-tier canon films. Apparently the rest of the world isn’t in agreement with that notion just yet. But I love this film and cannot think of any flaws to mention. I loved it in 1999, and I loved it just as much, if not more, when I watched it during my project. Tarzan has incredible animation, incredible action, excellent characters, and more. I’m hoping it eventually gets this status generally, but that doesn’t stop it from cracking my personal top tier of Disney animation.Tarzan meets Jane

10. Tangled (2010)

Disney’s 50th feature film also claims a spot in the top 10. Unlike with Tarzan, which I can only hope will achieve true “masterpiece” status, I’m pretty sure that in a few more years from now, Tangled will be making the Disney vault/release/vault rounds. Tangled is terrific fun.

Tangled meaningful music

9. Dumbo (1941) 

Dumbo may be a short film, clocking in at only 64 minutes, but it packs one of the strongest emotional punches of any Disney canon film. It also has one of the best Disney mice not named Mickey.

photo(17)

8. The Little Mermaid (1989)

I was a bit surprised when I finalized my list and The Little Mermaid cracked the top ten. But the more I think about it, the more I agree with my placement. The music is fantastic, the animation (in and out of the water) is excellent, and the characters are all great. Additionally, The Little Mermaid stands as a very important film for Disney. It is the one that truly brought Disney back. It brought back the Princess, it brought back the fairy tale, and brought back the magic. It is really a magical piece of work.

Ariel

7. Bambi (1942)

I think I said it best in my original post for Bambi: 

“Bambi offers a little of everything: drama, suspense, character growth, romance, and even a little action. Above all, it is a tale about life, and particularly learning how to deal with the curve balls life can throw at you.”

Bambi is a triumph of storytelling, art, and animation. It expertly teaches one of the most basic and important life’s lessons as well. So much so, that basically, if you tell me you don’t like Bambi, then I will start to question A) whether you have actually seen it, or B) whether you actually have a soul.

photo(24)

Do not be deceived, there is much, MUCH more to Bambi than cute and cuddly animals.

6. Cinderella (1950)

It’s Cinderella, for crying out loud. Your grandparents loved it, your mother and father loved it, and you most likely love it too. This film began the Silver Age of the 1950’s, helped fund Disneyland, and deserves every bit of praise it has garnered throughout the past three generations. This is an easy top-10 choice.

photo(64)

5. Pinocchio (1940) 

I’m not sure any other film in the Disney Canon is quite as effective at letting the viewer delve into the mind of three main characters like Pinocchio does. Be it the titular marionette, his conscience  Jiminy Cricket, or Geppetto, we know what they are going through, and we know how they feel.

I also don’t know if there is any other Disney film out there that so effectively teaches good, true morals like Pinocchio does. Pinocchio is a standard-bearer in more ways than one.

Pinocchio and Fairy

4. Fantasia (1940) 

They call it the Golden Age of Disney animation for a reason. Four out of the first five Disney Canon films have a place in my top 10, and the fifth isn’t far behind. Fantasia is my favorite of the bunch, and is one of the most unique viewing experiences a person is going to have. While it does require the viewer to forget about traditional 3-act storytelling that he or she is so used to and to delve a little into more abstract and artistic planes, this small sacrifice is well worth it on the other end. As I said in my original post about Fantasia, it is like having your favorite song and favorite painting blended into one synergistic, triumphant whole.

photo(15)

3. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

“Number 3? Really? No! It has to be number 2! But number 2 should be number 2, too! But what about Sleeping Beauty?”

That’s kind of what goes on in my head with my #2 and #3 favorite Disney films. The debate rages on, and switches depending on which film I saw most recently. I love the Tchaikovsky music in Sleeping Beauty. I love the color. The stunning detail of the backgrounds. The Fairies. Maleficent. The Dragon fight at the end. The overall feel of the film. It is all incredible.

photo9

2. The Lion King (1994)

Even if The Lion King was just 89 minutes of black screen accompanied by its score and songs, it would still probably be in my top 10. I just get the bonus of having a brilliantly animated, powerful and moving tale of responsibility and redemption as well. And to think this was accomplished by Disney’s “B-team” at the time of its creation! I’d say they earned their paycheck on this one.

Hakuna Matata

1. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

I know I’m not alone in saying that Beauty and the Beast is my favorite animated film. I also know I’m not alone in saying that Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies, period. This film hits all the right notes and is a supreme accomplishment by the team that created it. It may have been very difficult to order the rest of the top 12, but even though the other 11 come close, making Beauty and the Beast my #1 film was not that hard of a decision at all. Quite simply, it is that good.

Dance

Kiss

Well, that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed reading this countdown as much as I have enjoyed creating it. And, as always, your comments are welcome. I’d love to hear what your top Disney film is, as well. Thanks for reading!

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Week 50: Tangled (With Frozen Comments, Too)

Disney’s Greatest Triumph of This Millennium?

Tangled meaningful music

Originally Released: 2010

I know, I know, my little title above is a bit of an exaggeration. There are still 986 years to go in this millennium, which means there are that many more chances for Disney to one-up Tangled. Some of you might even argue that it has already been eclipsed by a certain top-grossing animated film of all time. But I wanted to try my hand at current trends in news headlines. Feel free to supply more catchy headliners about Tangled in the comments section, by the way.

Actually, there is a reason I bring up Disney’s reigning financial juggernaut. See, I find myself in a bit of a dilemma: when I embarked on my Disney project in January 2013, there were only 52 films, which made my project make sense at the time. Now here we are, less than a month away from the debut of Disney’s 54th animated feature, and I have some decisions to make. Should I ruin my “52 weeks, 52 animated classics” theme even more by making it “100 or so weeks, 54-ish animated classics?” Or should I just stick to my original plan and close it off at 52?

I’ve decided to compromise  (i.e. cheat) a little bit by making my Tangled post double up as my Frozen assessment as well (though that still doesn’t solve how I will tackle Big Hero 6 when it comes out. Bonus Week, perhaps? Oh, and here, have a gander of the Japanese trailer to Big Hero 6 – because why not?). I actually have been wanting to say something on the matter of Frozen vs. Tangled ever since Frozen came out late last year. Unfortunately, many moons have passed, and many an internet article has already been dedicated to direct comparisons of Tangled and Frozen. But I thought of it first. And I’m going to do it anyway.

gloves are off

The gloves are off! Here comes the real fight!

I’ve thought of various categories, and I’m going to pit one film against the other in each one. It is all scientific and (mostly) unbiased, of course (I am an engineer, after all), so there will be no disputing the winner at the end of my little head-to-head matchup.

Category 1: The Title

Tangled vs. Frozen: this one is difficult: each consists of a single word, each is not even a noun, and each would not be pleasant if it happened to me. I have to say this is a tie. Except wait, the word tie, when used as a verb, would infer a future state of being tangled. So I guess Tangled wins this one.

Category 2: The Leading Lady

Leading Lady Tangled

Rapunzel, VS…

 

Anna

Anna!

This is a difficult category. On the one hand, Rapunzel has amazing, flowing magic golden hair. On the other hand, Anna’s hair displays the cruel remnants of magic gone awry. On the one hand, Rapunzel sure knows how to use a frying pan in a jam. On the other hand, Anna needs nothing but her hand to knock someone cold. I could go on, but I’ll just call this one a tie and give each film a half a point.

Category 3: The Leading Man

Flynn Rider VS...

Flynn Rider VS…

Kristoff!

Kristoff!

This one is not quite so difficult. Flynn’s got the smolder. Kristoff spits in into the wind and his girlfriend. ‘Nuff said. Tangled wins this round.

Category 4: Music

Here is another tough one. I’m not a four-year old girl, so I’m not going to default to “Let it Go” and call it a match. When considering the music and songs in these two films, there are a lot of things I’ve given consideration. Which songs are catchier? Which has more memorable songs? Which songs actually serve a good purpose in the film? When are the songs sung in the film’s running time? Are there pacing issues? Are the lyrics clever? What about the score throughout the film? What about the soundtrack when played on its own?

When it comes to catchiness alone, Frozen wins this by a long shot. The songs in Frozen also have more of a tendency to get stuck in your head, for better or worse. And yes, “Let it Go” wins bonus points just for being so darn good in the film. It is just a magnificent scene overall.

When it comes to lyrics, however, the brilliance of Alan Menken begins to shine through and catch up.

Consider, for example, the lyrics of “Mother Knows Best” and compare them to “First time in Forever.”  One sounds like it was written by a brilliant wordsmith with unlimited vocabulary, that say exactly what would help the story move forward and establish characters. “First Time in Forever” does also help the story move forward, but has lyrics like “actual real live people…it’ll be totally strange” while later on in the same song comes this gem: “which is totally bizarre.” Every time I hear that second “totally,” I can’t help but wonder if the songwriters just ran out of gas the night they were writing the song. Surely they could have come up with some other word that means the same thing, right? People may try to argue that they were trying to use words a ditzy teenage girl would use, but I’m not buying that argument.

Next, what about how the music flows in the movie? In this category, I believe Tangled takes it. Not only does it have music throughout that does a great job of pushing the story forward, it also makes excellent use of reprises, both for Rapunzel and the villain. Also, in Tangled, it doesn’t feel like all the songs were crammed into the first third of the movie.

love song

Subcategory: The Love Song. What about the love song? Do you opt for a beautiful, quiet melody, or a bombastic “High School Musical” song? Even though I like Love is an open door,” I prefer “I see the Light.” I saw Tangled in 3D when it was in theaters, and what “Let it Go” did for so many who watched Frozen, “I see the Light” did for me. I was awestruck by the scene: The 3D lanterns flowing into and out of the screen, the melody, and everything else combined to create a sweet scene in the movie.

love song Tangled

A real love song. I love it.

At this point, I’d probably give music a tie between the two films. Each has great music, a nice score, and each has its own strengths. However, I have to pull out my wild card in this scientific matchup: I have a serious music crush on Mandy Moore. Ever since “I Wanna be with You,” Mandy Moore’s voice has just melted me. Everyone has a guilty pleasure, and Mandy Moore’s music is definitely mine. Imagine my reaction when I found out that Mandy Moore would be lending her vocal talents to Disney and become the latest princess! It’s not every day your musical crush joins forces with your animation obsession. So yeah, due to the Mandy Moore factor, Tangled wins the music category.

Category 5: Horse-Like Sidekick

Maximus, the horse, VS...

Maximus, the horse, VS…

Sven, the Reindeer

Sven, the Reindeer!

Do we really need to make this comparison? Maximus wins. Tangled wins.

Category 6: Villain

villain Tangled

Manipulative, sinister, vile Mother Gothel, VS…

Villain?

Villain?

Villain?

Villain?

Give credit to Frozen for keeping us guessing. I was honestly thinking that maybe Disney would go the Studio Ghibli route and do a real villain-less movie, like Kiki’s Delivery Service or something like that. Well, in the end we got a true villain, but I wasn’t satisfied.

Mother Gothel, however, is a villain in the truest sense, hearkening back to the great Disney villains in the past. I think something can be said for having someone in your film who you can immediately root against and who makes it no secret he or she is evil. It makes the inevitable triumph of good a little more satisfying in the end. Mother Gothel has many tricks up her sleeve, and she is a master manipulator. She easily outdoes the Duke…er, Elsa…er, the Prince. Chalk another one up for Tangled.

Category 7: Non-Horse Sidekick

Pascal, VS...

Pascal, VS…

olaf sidekick

Olaf!

As charming as little Pascal is, I have to repeat my answer to my horse comparison. That is, there’s really no comparison. Olaf wins. Frozen wins.

Category 8: Supporting Cast of Merry Folk

Band of thieves with a dream (and the best jumping photo ever), VS...

Band of thieves with a dream (and the best jumping photo ever), VS…

Trolls!

Trolls!

The trolls fight valiantly and play a crucial role in Frozen, in that they are pretty much the catalyst to all the major events in the film. But the Band of thieves are so funny, and their musical number is a lot more fun than the trolls. Tangled wins this one.

Category 9: Villainous Sidekicks

These guys, VS...

These guys, VS…

These guys!

These guys!

Really, now, Disney, I feel like Frozen is just starting to copy and paste elements from Tangled. One villainous sidekick with awesome facial hair, and the other clean shaven. The goons in Tangled are more memorable, are more of a factor in the film, and are going to win this category.

Category 10: Teenage Angst

Gothel teenage angst

Scary mom with horrible advice, locked up in your house for all your life, a musical number about finally getting out, VS…

Parents with horrible advice who later die, locked in your house for all your life, a musical number about finally getting out - but a double dose of each!!

Parents with horrible advice who later die, locked up in your house for all your life, a musical number about finally getting out – but a double dose of it all!!

Frozen wins this one. Two is better than one!

So there you have it, after my scientific, engineer-like comparison of the two films in ten different categories, I conclude that Tangled is basically Frozen, just slightly different and slightly better, with a final tally of 7.5 to 2.5.

mental synchronization

Don’t be sad, Frozen. You are actually quite synchronized with your older sibling film.

maximus horse sidekick

Maximus FTW!