Thursday, January 22, 2009

Random Thoughts For Upcoming Films

Today we'll take a break from the Alice shorts for a while and catch up on some random notes I have thought of as we're viewing the last two years of Walt's life.

  • First and foremost, thanks so much to Tom at Tom’s Vintage Films, who has been gracious enough to assist me in gathering some of the Alice films that I do not have yet. If you have not checked out Tom’s blog and seen what he’s doing to preserve early animation, you need to do so. While this blog deals with the wide variety of Disney films, Tom is focused on preserving the original silent material of not only Disney, but Walter Lantz, Max Fleischer and more. If people like Tom don’t do this stuff, it doesn’t happen, so please consider heading over to his site and picking up one of his DVDs.

  • One theme that I am looking at as we’re moving through this first phase of Walt’s career is the anti-authoritarian streak that I discussed in Alice and the Dog Catcher. It’s definitely something that shows up in his later works on the Mickey shorts, but then fades away some as you get into the features and the live action films. Where does that feeling come from, and is the fading of it something that is natural as one grows in stature and age? That’s something to keep an eye on as we move through the Alice shorts into Oswald and Mickey.

  • Another thing to recognize here is Walt’s ability as a live action director. While it’s true that he’s mostly ripping off the Little Rascals for story ideas featuring Alice and her gang, the action is still very well done. The main thing is that the action features great acting from the principals. Some people won’t like it, but there’s better acting in these Alice shorts than in the Star Wars prequels. Walt would continue to get performers to do their best work for him later in life. Think of Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins and you get what I’m saying. The man knew how to get the most out of his actors.

  • From an animation perspective, Margaret Winkler was a constant pressure on Walt to make gags prevalent over story. As such, the animation in these early films is not great. The quality varies greatly from film to film, and even the length of the animation varies wildly. The real question is how this will change in our next film, Alice the Peacemaker, which is the first one that Ub Iwerks animated. The partnership of Walt and Ub is one of the untold stories of these early years. In an upcoming blog post, I’ll talk about this collaboration and what it meant to the evolution of Disney.

  • Finally today, some books to check out, since I’ll be posting on them soon. First is Walt Disney’s Missouri, a book about Walt’s time in Kansas City. It’s a great one to get insight as to where Walt came from and what influenced him later in life. Second is The Hand Behind the Mouse, a book about Ub Iwerks and his works with Walt Disney. Both are good reads, and they offer some insight into Walt that his biographies don’t offer.

    Thanks, and I’ll talk to you guys after the weekend.

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