Monday, January 31, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 4 - Tron: Legacy

Greetings Programs! This week the DFPP team heads into The Grid to take a look at Tron: Legacy - the long awaited sequel to the 1982 Science Fiction classic Tron.

Listen, Download, etc.

Or follow the links on the right hand side of the page for iTunes or RSS.

Show Notes:

Enjoy the show everyone!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Three Caballeros

At the end of 1944, Disney had made multiple trips to South America and Mexico as part of the Good Neighbor project and had released Saludos Amigos as a feature film that did fairly well. So well, in fact, that another feature was prepped using more animation that was intended for shorts as well as some brand new pieces that would expand the animation art form. The end result is a mixture of pieces that forms The Three Caballeros.

As in Saludos Amigos, there are separate pieces of animation, tied together by a framing device. In The Three Caballeros, it’s the idea of Donald opening birthday presents from Latin countries. The first one he opens is a film about Rare Birds, which manages to combine two shorts into one piece of the film.

The first short is Pablo the Cold-Blooded Penguin, featuring the story of a penguin who is trying to escape the South Pole and find refuge in warmer weather. A cute premise, it doesn’t quite play out well enough for the needs of the film. Pablo is an interesting little bird, but you don’t form much of an attachment to him in the film. There are nice tidbits, such as Pablo sailing up the coast in the same manner that Walt and his team did, but Pablo ends up being cute not interesting.

Things improve somewhat with the second short that lives inside the “Rare Birds” film, which is The Flying Gauchito. In this segment, a young headstrong boy dressed as a gaucho discovers a donkey that can fly and enters him in a horse race. The characters here are more appealing and the humor is better, primarily because of the oft used device of the narrator speaking to the character, similar to the Goofy films.

Where Three Caballeros hits its stride, though, is when Jose Carioca pops up, out of Donald’s second present, and offers to take Donald with him to Baia, a lovely town in Brazil. From here we get a beautiful mixture of the genius designs of Mary Blair, the live action performance of Aurora Miranda, and the technical wizardry of Ub Iwerks.

The Baia sequence combines all of these elements, sometimes shifting back and forth between them, and working the live action of Aurora into scenes with Donald and Jose. All of this is framed by the beautiful design work of Mary Blair, who was beginning here to exert more influence over the Disney look, as would be seen in later films and in the parks.

Once this sequence finishes, however, we are treated to the crazy mind of Ward Kimball, who animated the introduction of Panchito and the Three Caballeros song. Ward let his imagination fly on this piece, as characters pop in and out of the screen, singing wildly all the way. It’s a tour de force of zany animation that you would not expect from Disney.

To be honest, that piece is the highlight of the film, despite the fact that there is much more remaining. Panchito’s tour of Mexico with Donald and Jose is rather dull, despite Donald’s repeated insistence on chasing women and the fine effects that show up in the La Pinata sequence. There is lots of beauty there, but nothing hangs all of the scenes together in a satisfying way.
The Three Caballeros is a film that brings a huge variety of influences and styles together into one package. The problem is that these things don’t all mesh seamlessly, and they do not always compliment each other. If you watch each segment individually, they are fun to see, but they do not work together to make a great film.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Donald's Off Day

1944 ends with Donald Duck, which is fitting for what has been going on in the Disney shorts throughout the 40s. Donald eclipsed Mickey in popularity, and has begun to take over the central role in Disney shorts. To that end, he is now starring in shorts that have a little different twist, such as Donald’s Off Day.

This short plays well to Donald’s strengths, as it gives him a frustrating and difficult scenario, then piles on with the help of his nephews. However, it’s not the same sort of thing that was done earlier in Donald’s career, when the situation created the mounting frustration. There’s a different tactic here, as Donald’s anger doesn’t really build throughout.

The story begins with Donald eager to take on his day off by jumping out of bed and heading out to the golf course. We see him enthusiastically fixing breakfast, showering and doing all the regular morning activities while a bright, beautiful day shines outside. In typical Donald luck, however, the minute he steps outside, rain begins pouring down and ruins his chances for a golf outing.

With nothing else to do, Donald turns to books to entertain himself and ends up having quite the hypochondriac experience. He first looks and sees a “coated” tongue that could be a bad sign, not pausing to think that he just ate some licorice. When Huey, Dewey and Louie catch wind of what he’s doing, they decide to join in the fun, playing tricks on Donald to make him think he’s very, very sick.

All kinds of tricks take place in a short amount of time. The boys make Donald think he’s blind, then plant a squeaky rabbit under his blanket to make him think his heart is going. Donald even thinks that he’s about to die, and calls the boys over to say his last words.

It’s all rather disturbing to be honest, although it is funny. Donald pulls his will out of the safe on the wall and shows the boys that they will receive his prize golf clubs. It’s rather morbid, until Donald figures out what’s happening and comes after the boys. But, the sun shines through and he forgets about them, charging out to play golf. Only then does the sunshine break and lightning strike Donald.

Donald’s Off Day is sort of a schizophrenic short, not entirely about Donald’s golf day and not entirely about his perceived illness. It does manage to merge those two things rather well, though, and manages to be a nice Donald short, if not a great one.

All pictures copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 3 - The Sorcerer's Apprentice

This week the DFPP team breaks out their pointy shoes and peeks through a Hungarian Mirror Trap at the 2010 Action/Adventure The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Three shows already? Time flies when you're having fun.

Or follow the links on the right hand side of the page for iTunes or RSS.

Show Notes:

Enjoy the show!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 2 - Tangled

This week the DFPP team breaks out their frying pans to take a look at Disney's 50th theatrical animated feature Tangled. The wonky sluice is strong in this one.

Listen, Download, etc.

Or follow the links on the right hand side of the page for iTunes or RSS.

Show Notes:

Enjoy the show!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First Aiders

So Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Figaro living together – sounds like a good set up for a joke, doesn’t it? Apparently the Disney staff thought so, too, as this odd trio are set up as the stars of First Aiders, a decidedly World War II short.

Minnie is attempting to learn first aid, which was a common thing to do during World War II. Fears of bombings like Pearl Harbor or other enemy attacks prompted lots of emergency readiness among Americans of all stripes. In this case, Minnie is learning lots of things by practicing on Figaro and Pluto.

You read that right. Minnie is practicing first aid on Pluto and Figaro. The comic possibilities are endless, right? As it turns out, the animators chose to focus on a rivalry between Figaro and Pluto. I don’t know for sure it was the right choice, but it’s pretty darn funny. The two of them have a natural vicious streak that we have seen in other cartoons, so they play well off of each other.

One of the best sequences comes when Minnie tries to bandage Pluto up with splints, then runs out of bandages. Leaving Pluto laying on the floor, stuck to a variety of boards and splints, Minnie runs out of the house. Since Pluto had been antagonizing him before that, Figaro attempts to take advantage of his rival’s precarious situation.

Seeing Figaro leap into action, baring his claws and trying to attack, is quite funny. It’s interesting that these two characters were not used together more often. They would seem to be a natural counterpoint to Tom and Jerry or Sylvester and Tweety, just with different animals.

When Figaro begins riding Pluto like a bronco, I had to laugh. Although the back and forth gags between them aren’t particularly inventive, they are tried and true funny stuff. Minnie is there primarily to serve the role of a straight man, imploring one or either of the animals to back off. It’s a simple role for her, but it fits.

First Aiders doesn’t showcase these characters as well as other shorts they have been in, but there is definitely a fun dynamic between Figaro and Pluto, and since that doesn’t appear that often, it’s worth a watch.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 1 - Beauty and the Beast

Come one, come all - the first episode of the Disney Film Project Podcast is now live on iTunes!

Or follow the links on the right hand side of the page for iTunes or RSS.

Show Notes:

Enjoy the show, and look forward to next week's episode!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How To Play Football

It is so nice to come back from the holidays to an old familiar friend. For me, that’s the Goofy “How To” shorts, and How To Play Football is one of my absolute favorites. Seeing a team of Goofys taking on the sport of football is a laugh riot waiting to happen, and this one delivers that in spades.

An interesting note in our world that is dominated by pro football, that this short focuses on college football. The reason for that is that it was made in 1944. During this time, baseball was the biggest sport in the land, with boxing and horse racing not far behind. Pro football was an afterthought, and the college game was looked on as a much more relevant sport.

You can see that in the order of which the “How To” shorts were done. We saw shorts on skiing, boxing, baseball, track and field and riding a horse before football came to be. That said, this short seems to poke fun at football a little more than some of the previous entries in the series. It mocks the “chaos” of the game and even has a joke where the narrator’s explanation of the rules is muffled by the cheers of the crowd, implying that the rules are less than important.

The gags come fast and furious in this one, just like the best of the old Mickey Mouse shorts. Again, all the action makes fun of the back and forth nature of football, which was very true back in those days. The similarities to rugby were much more pronounced with fewer forward passes and much more wishbone formations, which is reflected in the lineups here.

Goofy plays all the parts as usual, and the distinctive differences in the different Goofs is an amazing piece of work. Taking the exact same character design and making it different enough that each one is a distinct design is not easy. But here, the Disney animation staff shows a wily coach, a pampered star player, a brutish lineman and a silly kicker all with the same character!

In the end, the short manages to tell the story of a full game, mixed with gags while also highlighting some of the intricacies of football. That’s not easy to do. It’s a testament to the skills of the animation team that they were able to do so. I recommend How To Play Football for anyone who loves Goofy or the sport of football.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Announcing The Disney Film Project Podcast!

This last year has seen such amazing growth here on the site, and along the way, I've been blessed that so many of you have become friends through Twitter and our Tweetwatches. In fact, it was a very good friend who suggested the whole idea.

One night on Twitter, Mr. Todd Perlmutter suggested that even though I was watching all of the films, it would be a great idea to share the fun. The effervescent Ms. Brie (@BufferflyBrie for those of you on Twitter) joined in the fun, and soon the Tweetwatch was born.

As the weeks went by, the twisted brain of Mr. Perlmutter sprung another idea - a podcast, where we would review films. I had been mulling this myself, so we discussed further, and brought Brie into the conversation. With the addition of the lovely and talented Cheryl Perlmutter as our producer and voice of reason, a podcast was born!

We've been refining our craft for the last few months, and we're ready to share the finished product with the world one week from today! The Disney Film Project Podcast will be a look at the world of Disney films, TV shows and everything else around the Walt Disney Company's filmed endeavors. Mostly, you'll hear us review films, but we have big plans.

So, starting next week, download from here or on iTunes the very first Disney Film Project Podcast, wherein our intrepid reviewers tackle Beauty and the Beast! And keep a look out for a new show each week in the weeks to follow! On behalf of Todd, Brie, Cheryl and I, we hope you enjoy the Disney Film Project Podcast and will make it a part of your Disney podcast family!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tweetwatch Returns in January!

Welcome back from the Holidays everyone! Hope you all had a great time with friends and family, and you're ready for the return to the work a day world. But of course, the return from vacation also means a return to Tweetwatch! There's lots of stuff going on this month, but we still have time to fit in a couple of Disney classics this month.

January 10 - 8:30p - The Three Caballeros

For everyone who joined in the Saludos Amigos Tweetwatch a few months ago, you should have Three Caballeros on the same DVD. If not, I highly recommend the DVD that has both. Even if you only watch it once, it's worth seeing. The Three Caballeros is a great one, and will be reviewed here on the site shortly after the Tweetwatch.

We'll take off January 17 as I'll be in Walt Disney World, and January 24 is my wife's birthday, so we'll be back on January 31 with another Disney classic.

January 31 - 8:30p - The Rescuers

If you haven't seen this one, you're going to love it. It's a great return to the fun of Disney animation in years past.

If you've never done Tweetwatch before, here's the basics:

1. Go get the movie on DVD or for rent on iTunes or Amazon.
2. Sign up for our Friendfeed room.
3. At 8:30p on the appointed night, head into the room.
4. I'll give the cue to start the movie and we'll watch together and chat!

It's lots of fun, so join in the celebration of great Disney films.