Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Big Bad Wolf

Today’s short puts to rest a long running myth among Disney fan communities. We’ve always heard from grumpy Disney fans that “Walt didn’t like sequels,” or that “Disney didn’t used to do sequels.” I’ve long believed and stated that this was untrue. Sure enough, today we get The Big Bad Wolf, a sequel to The Three Little Pigs. And guess what? It’s fantastic.

Call it the Godfather Two of shorts, or the Toy Story 2 of animated shorts. But The Big Bad Wolf lives up to its predecessor in every way. The storytelling is superb, the animation is fluid, crisp and dynamic and the music returns from the original to provide a great overall package.



In this one, the wolf is playing a dual role – he is out for revenge on the pigs, but he’s also playing the role of the Big Bad Wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood story. The main focus of the story is the re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood. There are some notable changes, however.



Red runs into the pigs early on, and the pig with the brick house warns her not to take the shortcut through the woods to Grandma’s house. Despite their earlier experiences, the other two pigs laugh at the possibility of the Big Bad Wolf getting Red, and agree to go with her on the shortcut. When will they ever learn?

Of course, the wolf shows up, and chases them off. There’s a funny bit where he pretends to be a fairy, but is soon revealed, leading the pigs to run back to the brick house while Red tries to make it to Grandma’s.



We all know the story, of course. The wolf makes it to Grandma’s first and dresses up as the old woman, to surprise Red. The pigs, though, make it back to the brick house before damage can be done. Taking the role of the woodsman from the original story, the brick house pig grabs his toolkit for exterminating wolves and heads for Grandma’s house.



The best gag in the whole short to me is how the wolf gets defeated. We get set up with ghastly expectations, seeing the array of weapons the pig has to beat the wolf. There are knives, cleavers and more. Instead of using those, the pig dumps unpopped popcorn in the wolf’s pants, then tosses in some hot coals. The result is a wolf running off into the sunset with popcorn flying out of his backside.



This short does not let up. Although it’s not as gag packed as some of the Mickeys, the action continues at a rapid pace from the opening sequence. There is some disconnect at the two pigs ignoring the danger of the wolf, but it’s quickly forgotten. Just like before, the wolf design is spectacular.

Contrast this short with yesterday’s subject, Funny Little Bunnies, and it’s almost a night and day comparison. Funny Little Bunnies was much more full of caricature and cuteness, whereas The Big Bad Wolf is a study in dynamic characters and action. It all depends on your tastes, but my preference is for The Big Bad Wolf.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


2 comments:

  1. A definite change of tone from Funny Little Bunnies and other Story Land shorts. This one maintains some of the silly details from the first Pigs cartoon (e.g funny portraits of relatives and silly items made from bricks - also notice Practical is now building an extension to accommodate his brothers!). However, this fairy tale cross-over really ups the level of tongue-in-cheek. It doesn't quite reach Shrek levels of mickey-taking, but Riding Hood's ridiculous cuteness is played for laughs (esp. the "What big eyes you have" scene), the Wolf talks to the audience (and references a contemporary comedian) plus he wears his most ridiculous disguise yet (Goldilocks the Fairy Queen? Brother!)

    All this silliness is great fun and quite refreshing, especially with a character as strong as the Big Bad Wolf.

    One thing I noticed about this is that the titles are considerably longer than usual. When I was a kid I used to tape Disney cartoons from TV and this one once aired unannounced. Luckily, the titles were so long I had enough time to find my video, stick it in the machine and start recording without missing any action! I bet the titles were made so long as a king of build-up for cinema goers excited to see a sequel to the most popular cartoon of that time. Disney may have expected a lot of excited chatter in theaters when "The Big Bad Wolf" title came up on screen.

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  2. One thing I noticed about this is that the titles are considerably longer than usual. When I was a kid I used to tape Disney cartoons from TV and this one once aired unannounced. Luckily, the titles were so long I had enough time to find my video, stick it in the machine and start recording without missing any action! I bet the titles were made so long as a king of build-up for cinema goers excited to see a sequel to the most popular cartoon of that time. Disney may have expected a lot of excited chatter in theaters when "The Big Bad Wolf" title came up on screen.

    Probably, though at the same time, I only wished the staffers gotten their due credit then anyway, they had to wait another decade before that happened. In those days though credits tend to run slower anyway, especially in cartoons (despite the sparse nature of production credits). I did notice though the title for "The Big Bad Wolf" also had to mention the appearance of Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and Grandma like we weren't expecting to see' em at all. I wonder if people cheered more for the pigs' return than Big Bad's?

    One of the earliest animation drawings in my stash comes from this cartoon. Right when the wolf was trying to open grandma's closet doors.

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