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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 51: Winnie the Pooh

A Delightful Return to the 100 Acre Wood

happy ending

Originally Released: 2011

Winnie the Pooh is like coming home after a long vacation. It just has that comfortable, familiar feel to it. That is how I best describe Disney’s 2011 release and the 51st film in the Disney canon.

As I mentioned in my thoughts on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, back in the 60’s and 70’s, Pooh Bear still hadn’t caught hold in the hearts and minds of American children. Indeed, Walt Disney’s efforts can be thanked for that. But now that we are here in the 2010’s, it is very rare to find somebody who isn’t familiar with Pooh, Tigger, and the rest of the gang. They have been engrained into the very fabric of American society, no doubt helped along by countless spinoffs and television series, merchandise, books, and more that has been pushed by the Mouse Machine.

we need Hunny!

Just as Pooh’s prescription is more hunny, Disney has not been shy to push more and more Pooh on the masses throughout the years.

There has been so much Pooh over the years that it would be very easy to simply dismiss Winnie the Pooh as another pre-school cash-in attempt by Disney. However, when I heard that this was another one of John Lasseter’s “babies” and that he wanted to reach into the original books and recapture the spirit of the original film, I realized this film had some potential. And in my opinion, it delivers on that promise in spades. It may not have made much money in the end, but that should not diminish its worth as a Disney classic.

tigger still is great

That Harry Potter, I’ll pounce the guy! No, Tigger, no you won’t…

[Small side rant time: you can blame the geniuses in the Disney marketing department for thinking Winnie the Pooh was somehow a “Summer Blockbuster” and releasing it on the same day as the grand finale of the Harry Potter film series – yeah, like that was going to end well! This movie screams “Christmastime release,” and how they managed to kill its profit potential from the get-go by releasing it next to Harry Potter – only to be followed by Captain America the very next week – is truly baffling. There is an interesting theory laid out by my friends over at Rediscovering the Magic with Rick and Friends – check it out. I kind of believe their theory on this one.]

So back to the feeling of coming home. To illustrate this point, I’ve decided to look back at my review of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and look at specific points I made as to why I love that movie, and see if they still apply to this new adventure in the 100 Acre Wood.

whoops owl

Point #1: The collection of characters. 

In my thoughts on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, I said “There is such a variety of personalities on display here, and each character plays extremely well off of the others.”  This is still very much the case, and each character has its flaws on full display in Winnie the Pooh. In fact, I’d say that they are even more pronounced in the 2011 film than they were back in the original film, which is a great thing. Tigger is exhuberant as ever, Owl is still a know-it-all, and so forth. These characters are classics, and they continue on with their lovable traits here. Most importantly, though, their friendship still outweighs whatever flaws each character may have, and they manage to band together as a team and show a good example to children everywhere.

honey honey honey

Point #2: The storybook aspect

I loved the way the original film let you read along with the action and had characters interacting with words and letters on the page, hopping from one illustration to the next, and conversing with the narrator. This tradition is still very much the case in Winnie the Pooh. And it still causes me to smile and laugh.

cliche but still works

Point #3: The sense of humor and witty wordplay

The sense of humor, especially the wordplay, was probably my favorite thing about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I imagine this would be the most difficult thing to replicate, because humor is a very tricky thing, especially since several decades have passed from one film to the next. Yet to my delight, Winnie the Pooh delivers the smiles and the laughs, and manages to include the witty wordplay of the original film. The exchange between Owl, Pooh, and Eeyore about “issue vs. Achoo,” Piglet and his “not/knot” and, of course, the problems with reading/spelling leading to the Backson are all great and quite funny.

To me, Winnie the Pooh isn’t so much a sequel as it is an extension of the adventures in the 100 Acre Wood, with all its charm. If you ignore the obvious changes in animation technology, the widescreen presentation, and other advancements, I think you really could include Winnie the Pooh as an additional story in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and not really miss a beat. Winnie the Pooh has the consistency with the original where it counts the most. Winnie the Pooh feels like home.

the gang

bakson

welcome back

 

Week 22: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

A Delightful Trip to the 100 Acre Wood

C.R. and Pooh Bear

Originally Released: 1977

Every once in a while, a film comes along that as I watch I just can’t help but smile the whole way through. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is one of these films (two more are My Neighbor Totoro and The Artist, in case you were wondering). Although it is primarily aimed at children, the characters, friendships, music, and humor all combine to create a fantastic escape to an innocent, uplifting world in the 100 Acre Wood that even adults can appreciate.

T-I-Doubleguh-er

The history behind the development of this film is actually quite interesting. Winnie the Pooh first appeared in children’s stories by English author A.A. Milne, and the stories were hugely popular in Great Britain. They were also popular among Walt Disney’s children, and he worked to get the rights for the stories to create a film based on the books. He succeeded in obtaining the rights in 1961, and shortly thereafter proceeded to work on the movie.

Walt originally wanted to create a full length feature film, but he saw that at the time Winnie the Pooh was not nearly as popular in America as it was in Europe. So in his wisdom, he decided to break the film into three separate featurettes and slowly introduce Pooh and his world into mainstream America, one piece at a time. Later, he would combine the three featurettes into a single full-length film as originally envisioned.

The first featurette to be completed was Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, and it was released in 1966. Walt was directly involved in the production of the first short film and also of its follow up, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Unfortunately, Walt died before this second segment was released to the public and therefore did not see Pooh Bear’s rise to stardom as he predicted. But The Blustery Day went on to win an Oscar for Best Cartoon Short Subject in 1968, and Pooh and his friends did indeed gain popularity.

piglet kite

In 1974, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! was the third segment to be released, and this short was also nominated for an Oscar. With the three planned shorts finished, the animators completed the project by tying together each featurrette and including a proper ending segment for the full-length release in 1977. The collection of shorts was given the title of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

So what is it about this movie that makes me smile? It is hard to pin down the exact source, but I know part of it lies in the collection of characters. There is such a variety of personalities on display here, and each character plays extremely well off of the others. Pooh is brought to full life with silly and witty humor courtesy of Disney veteran Sterling Holloway (who I believe turned in his best work in this film). Rabbit is annoyed by basically everybody, yet he doesn’t realize that he himself can also be annoying. Then there is cheerful and brilliantly voiced Tigger, poor depressed Eeyore, and timid P-P-Piglet, to mention a few more. While each is vastly different, they are all still friends and all are valued. This friendship is something we can definitely learn from in real life.

storybook

I also love the storybook idea used throughout the film. You can actually read along to some parts of the story as the narrator speaks. Pooh has conversations with the narrator about what will happen next in the story. Pooh jumps from page to page in the animated storybook, while Tigger almost bounces out of the book completely. And rain floods the words on one page and causes them to fall down to the bottom of the book. It it all quite clever and adds to the delightful atmosphere.

Finally, I really enjoy the sense of humor in the film, including the wordplay in both the dialogue and the music. It just makes me laugh. Things like “tut-tut, looks like rain,” Pooh spitting the bees out of his mouth, Rabbit trying to decorate Pooh in his house, and the nonsensical lyrics in true Sherman brothers style all contribute to the happy tone of the film.

Tut tut! It looks like Rain!

Tut tut! It looks like Rain!

As popular as Winnie the Pooh is among the preschool age group, it seems like the film shouldn’t be nearly this enjoyable to adults. But that is part of the Disney magic. It manages to make something that appeals to the smallest of children also be worthwhile and uplifting to adults. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is filled with this Disney magic from beginning to end.

rabbit

Heffalumps and woozles are very confusels!

Heffalumps and woozles are very confusels!

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