Monday, May 30, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 21 - Prom

This week the DFPP team takes a look at Disney's new release for April, Prom. The newest attempt by Disney to make a new tween franchise came out a month ago, so let's see how it went. Who did you go with? (Judging by the box office, no one.)

Show notes:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wet Paint

Another day, another Disney short, this time featuring our good friend Donald Duck taking the time to repaint his car in Wet Paint. If you’ve ever deal with wet paint, you will enjoy watching Donald struggle in this short as he deals with a bird that is constantly interrupting him and causing chaos.

If you think too hard about Wet Paint, you will ruin the fun. How is Donald painting a car with a paintbrush? Why does he have more than 2 colors when those are the only ones he uses? How did the bird get out of the paint in the first place? There’s not a lot of logic to the short, but it manages to entertain because of the classic formula of Donald’s frustration.

The variations on the theme of the bird messing up the fresh paint on Donald’s car and Donald trying to fix it could easily get repetitive. In Wet Paint, though, there’s a unique twist on each one that makes it fun. We get Donald covering one mistake then we get another scene where he splashes tons of different colors all over the car and then another where there is hair all over it. Each variation ups the ante just a bit and makes it quite fun.

Little details in each individual segment make Wet Paint a lot of fun. When Donald is first painting over the tracks of the bird, he paints up the hood of the car, paints over the entire windshield, over the trunk and then through the car by painting upside down on the underside. It’s funny, even if it’s not laugh out loud funny. Little details like that can make all the difference.

I like especially how Donald’s relationship with the bird escalates. He starts off annoyed and then gets progressively angrier. First he chases the bird away, then shoots at her and finally takes an axe to her tree before having a crisis of conscience. I’ve said before, Donald works best when this is his dynamic, so it’s wonderful to see it being executed here.

The ending seems a little cliché, as the bird’s babies flock to Donald’s head and stay his hand from chopping them down with the axe. Perhaps a better ending would have been to have Donald get some kind of comeuppance, but that could also be me splitting hairs. Wet Paint succeeds in being funny and engaging because it has some wonderful visuals and gags, and that’s probably enough.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Purloined Pup

In my years (has it been that long?) of watching the Disney shorts, I’ve learned that Pluto needs a foil. When he has a chance to play off of someone, Pluto is a fun character who can be truly entertaining to watch. In Purloined Pup, Pluto gets to work against Butch, the bulldog character he has matched wits with before. That simple formula creates a fantastic short for Pluto.

Pluto enters the film as a police dog, on the trail of a missing dog heir. It’s immediately laid out in the old spinning newspaper gag that Butch is the one who kidnapped the dog. Our first shot of Pluto in the short comes with a police badge around his neck and it makes all the difference in the world.

Giving Pluto a purpose and a direction makes him so much more focused. Typically we see Pluto darting around from gag to gag with no real reason why. Giving the police dog angle to him was an inspired touch. It doesn’t hurt that the gags are so magnificent in this short, either. The combination of story and well done gags are so potent here that you wonder why there were not more stories of Pluto in this vein.

My favorite gag in the short is when Pluto is sneaking into the abandoned location where Butch is keeping the stolen puppy. He nearly gets caught by Butch but instead manages to dangle himself just above the bulldog, hanging by his teeth on a string. Watching him dangle there ups the stakes of the short while providing fantastic comedy.

When he ultimately is able to break the puppy out and the inevitable chase ensues, it picks up the pace and makes things feel more exciting. It’s really just another set up for running from gag to gag. There’s another great one that features both Butch and Pluto in a connected pipe running around.

Purloined Pup ends up being one of the better Pluto shorts because it allows Pluto to be both heroic and goofy at the same time. He’s doing something brave by taking on Butch, but still manages to be the silly, loveable Pluto we’ve come to know and love. It makes for a fun, fast moving and satisfying entry in the series.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Donald's Double Trouble

A suave and debonair Donald Duck is an interesting change to the traditional Donald formula. As presented in Donald’s Double Trouble, we get to see what life would be like for Donald Duck if he were well spoken, well-mannered and a perfect gentleman. The ingenious step, of course, is to have our normal Donald there alongside the new and improved version, to make the contrast even better.

Donald Duck is taking a lot of heat from Daisy as this short begins, mainly for being the same Donald Duck we have all grown to know and love. To be fair, if you were dating the angry and unintelligible duck, you might want him to change as well. The problem is how will Donald change the things that make him so unique?

A solution presents itself rather quickly, as the double rounds the corner right after Donald’s blistering conversation with Daisy. The idea instantly comes to our fowl protagonist to have the “better” version stand in for him. But it’s not until Donald shows his double a picture of Daisy that he agrees to do it.

The contrast between the two could not be clearer at that point. Where Donald is in the moment and focused on the problems at hand, the double is looking ahead, plotting his attempt to woo Daisy over to his side. As we go forward, we see the double calm, cool and collected, while Donald loses his temper every few moments.

My favorite gag in the short is the bell ringing that Donald hears in his head every time that Daisy and the double kiss or show affection. It seems like an annoyance, which it can be for a second, but it’s a gag that pays off in the end. When the double and Daisy go into the Tunnel of Love during the finale, the bell goes off in Donald’s head, even though he can’t see them. That’s the signal that it’s time for Donald to intervene, which he does in hilarious fashion.

The contrast is the fun of this short, and it works fabulously. Seeing a Donald Duck that is out of the normal expectations is great fun. Making that Donald even more scheming than the original makes it more fun. Donald’s Double Trouble is a great short that takes a new twist on Donald, making it a novelty in 1946.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 20 - High School Musical 2

This week, the DFPP team continues our look at the High School Musical films with the second film, High School Musical 2. Brie drops out this week for summer, but we're joined again by Megan Annunziata as we ask "What Time Is It?" Summer Time!

Listen, download, etc.

Show notes:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Squatter's Rights

Can you believe it? After years of neglect, Mickey returns to the Disney shorts with Squatter’s Rights. Perhaps it is a stretch to say that he returns, however, because Mickey is merely the catalyst for this short, which really focuses on Pluto’s quest to rid their stove of Chip and Dale. As is usually the case in these later years, Mickey is merely window dressing.

Chip and Dale made a previous appearance to menace Pluto and now have returned to cause more mischief. The characters are back and will continue to become more a part of the Disney landscape in years to come, mostly as foils for Donald Duck. Pluto, though, always works best with a smaller or less menacing foe, and this plays to his strengths.

Chip and Dale have been camping out in Mickey’s log cabin, specifically in the stove. When Mickey and Pluto return to the cabin for what appears to be a hunting trip, the chipmunks are in a bit of trouble, since Mickey will want to cook things. Pluto sniffs out the interlopers when he goes to load the stove, and the first 2/3 of the short are about them defending their adopted home.

It’s sort of a “Home Alone” style plot, as the chipmunks come up with several different schemes to keep Pluto out. I enjoyed the slapstick humor of this part of the short, but it does tend to drag on a bit. Chip and Dale are entertaining enough, but you don’t get much personality out of them, or any kind of special gag.

Once they leave the stove, though, and Pluto begins chasing them through the cabin, things pick up a little bit. The chases and chaos you would expect from Pluto taking on Chip and Dale occur in this part of the short. It’s that fast moving action and chaos that makes Pluto his best. Adding Chip and Dale to the mix makes it that much more compelling.

The gag that tops them all, though, is Pluto getting his nose stuck in a rifle over the mantle. If he pulls to hard to get out then the gun will go off and shoot him. The delicate dance of Pluto getting out and Chip and Dale egging him on ends with a funny little bit that solves the problem of where the chipmunks will live. It’s an inventive solution that is a credit to the story team, and makes this a short worth watching, despite its low Mickey content.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Dutch

Seems like its all Pluto, all the time lately, but the next 1946 short features the main Disney dog again, this time in a different setting. In Dutch takes Pluto and moves him to a foreign setting, mixing things up a bit, and is much more cohesive and interesting than some of the more recent Pluto shorts.

That’s not to say that In Dutch is altogether great, but it does a good job of having one consistent story and serving the main character well. We get Pluto as a milk delivery dog here, making his deliveries in a small Dutch town. It’s an interesting choice, because we see Pluto as an independent dog, without an owner or a dog house to hold him back.

We get a complication, though, as a female dog shows up with a mind to get her paws on some of Pluto’s milk. Strangely, that is a literal statement, as the female gets Pluto to pour some milk in a bowl and eventually even in some flowers so she can get a drink. The interplay between Pluto and the female is fun and flirty. It’s very lighthearted and sets a nice tone for the short.

In their flirtation, however, the two get tangled up in the town’s warning alarm bell for the local dam, which every good Dutch town must have. Apparently there are a lot of Dutch towns built near flood plains, if cartoons are any example. When the villagers see that this is not a broken dam emergency, however, they get a little irritated.

You can see where this is going, and although it’s predictable, it’s still fun. The next time that the bell is rung, it’s Pluto ringing it on purpose because the dam is actually breaking. The nice twist that the animators put on the old “boy who cried wolf” tale here is that Pluto has to find a way to get the townsfolk’s attention. So, he decides to go through and destroy things to get them to chase him.

This little sequence of Pluto destroying things and causing havoc in the town is the most fun I have had watching a Pluto short in a long time. We get to see him being intentionally mischievous while still serving a higher purpose of saving the town. The damage he does is minimal, but it’s still fun to watch.  The main complaint I have is that by the time Pluto arrives at the dam, his lady friend has already fixed things. If that was the plan, then why go get the townspeople? The logic doesn’t quite make sense, but that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise enjoyable short. My hope is that Disney keeps up this kind of sort with the remaining 1946 Pluto shorts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pluto's Kid Brother

There seems to be a glut of Pluto shorts as we delve deeper into the 1940s here, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing. As discussed before, Pluto is not easy to do well, and is very easy to do in an offhand way, where the shorts are not very good. Pluto’s Kid Brother unfortunately falls into the latter category, which is kind of sad.

There is definitely some possibility in giving Pluto a little sidekick, which is what this short attempts to do. Since Pluto is generally rather irresponsible, it seems like having a younger dog around might be a good thing to shock him into a different kind of behavior that would be a new twist on the character. The key, though, is that the younger character needs to be compelling, and K.B. (yes, they named the character K.B. for Kid Brother) is not great.

The short is not helped by the fact that the story of this short is all over the place. Things boomerang from Pluto’s point of view to K.B.’s and back, but never with one coherent through line. It doesn’t really make sense what the main plot of the short is, other than K.B. getting into things.

If that was the main idea, that would be okay, but there is a whole section of the short where we deal with Pluto running away from a cat. If it sounds weird, that’s because it is. There is no involvement of K.B. in the cat storyline, other than the fact that he gets the cat riled up in the first place. Once the cat gets on Pluto’s case, however, it’s a long diversion from K.B. to Pluto’s losing war with the cat.

Then we have a bulldog that enters the picture, and K.B. decides to follow him, leading to another strange story. We see the bulldog and K.B. deciding whether or not to invade a butcher shop, ending up with the little dog entering through a delivery chute and pulling out a bunch of sausages. Pluto comes to stop him, but even that is strange, as at first he’s gung ho with the bulldog and then backs away.

The whole short is disjointed and not well constructed, which is very odd for a Disney short. We all know that Disney prides itself on a well told story, especially when Walt was around. It seems this was an attempt to create a new character, but not neglect the old one. In the end, Pluto’s Kid Brother services neither, and creates a muddled mess.

All images copyright Disney.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Knight For A Day

1946 is finally here on the blog, with a new Goofy short.  In A Knight for A Day, we get a nice new twist on the formula of the Goofy shorts, in a way that manages to make things feel more original. We’ve seen sports shorts before, such as the brilliance of Hockey Homicide, but in this short, the animators combine a medieval tale of jousting with the modern form of sports commentary to make a really fun piece of work.

We are introduced early on to the idea, as the short opens with an announcer building up the event that we are about to see, a joust in the courtyard of a castle. Rather than extolling the virtues of the event through flowery medieval language, the narrator uses the terminology and language of a sports announcer. It sounds like the old time radio announcers you may have heard before, in the best possible way.

The juxtaposition of the modern sports announcer with the medieval setting makes for some great comedy. The fact that Goofy is the main character only adds to that. Here again we have the case of multiple Goofys, portraying all the characters. We see the main Goof, a young squire named Cedric preparing his knight for battle. When an unfortunate accident occurs, it is up to Cedric to fill his knight’s armor and fight in his stead.

Cedric is sadly outclassed by his opponent, the cleverly named Sir Cumference. It gets to the point where even Cedric’s shield is scared and the lion on it runs away. It’s a fun gag, one of many during the jousting sequence. We get some great fun with Cedric trying to hold his own even as he figures out what to do next.

The ultimate strategy he comes up with is ingenious. Rather than let the larger man attack, he employs the old rope a dope strategy, letting the big knight tire himself out by pounding on the armor over and over again. All of this is to win the hand of a lady, who Cedric ends up with in the end.

All of this comes together to be a fun and fast moving short which is wildly entertaining. It is a true testament to the creativity of the Disney story team that they were able to take something like the formula of the Goofy shorts and stretch it to fit this format. As a sucker for medieval tales and Goofy, this one hit my sweet spot.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 18 - High School Musical

This week the DFPP team goes back to school and enrolls at East High. Join us as we become Wildcats and get our heads in the game for High School Musical.

Listen, Download, etc.

Grab the show from the links on the right hand side of the page.

Show Notes:

Don't forget to listen to the very end of the episode for information on our upcoming listener choice episode. You can also find this info here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Old Sequoia

There are some situations that work for Donald Duck without fail. Finding new ways for Donald to get frustrated or put upon is the job of the story team at Disney, and in Old Sequoia, they find one that is unique, yet somewhat familiar. They also use repeat ideas from earlier shorts to make something a little new.

Setting up the premise of the short could have been a simple affair. Donald is trying to protect a treasured tree, Old Sequoia, from a pair of beavers who are eating and knocking over every tree in sight. Instead of simply taking Donald’s custodial duties as fact, though, we are introduced to them through a ringing phone that badgers Donald into submission.

The idea of Donald being yelled at by an electronic device, be it a radio or robot is not new, but here we get the added benefit of it being his boss. Then we get the ticking time bomb of the beavers attacking the tree and the boss ordering him to answer the phone. There’s no possible way he can do both, and that makes things all the more interesting.

What makes me laugh so hard in this short is the treatment of the beavers versus the ringing phone. The beavers are not particularly menacing, although they do end up accomplishing their goal. Instead, Donald might have been able to fend them off if not for his boss calling all the time.

I have no way of knowing whether the phone device was the Disney artists commenting on the craziness of the corporate world or bosses in general, but it sure seems like it. The ringing phone takes the idea of a relatively simple Donald short and elevates it to something that is quite funny. On top of that, there’s some great visual gags that elevate the short even more.

Little visual gags throughout the short are simply fantastic. When the beavers succeed in chewing out the tree, Donald props it up with branches and sticks, then puts the bark back on the outside. Truly a funny bit, but topped by the falling of the tree, when the leaves form a hand of sorts to take Donald and his park ranger shack over the top of a cliff.

When Donald ends up underwater, steaming mad, you see his frustrations boil over after the phone rings and his boss fires him. Normally, I would pick on a Donald short when his anger doesn’t show up more often, but the set up here is perfect. Here’s a reason to delay, and it comes through perfectly here. Old Sequoia is a great short that shows some versatility to the old Donald Duck formula.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Canine Patrol

Pluto is definitely not my favorite character in the Fab Five, no doubt about it. The problem I have is that he can be a great character if done well, showing fantastic emotion and movement in the animation. The problem, though, is that if it’s not done well, if any one piece of the equation fails, then a Pluto short can be pretty awful.

While Canine Patrol is not awful, it’s definitely not good. While the facial features and actions of Pluto, the animators did good work, but they were not given much to work with here. The basics are that a turtle shows up at the beach that Pluto is guarding, to keep swimmers out. Hilarity ensues as Pluto tries to keep the turtle out of the water.

It’s a well trod path at this point in Pluto’s career to keep him vexed with a smaller animal. We’ve had puppies, chipmunks and now a turtle get in Pluto’s way, all with the same result. He gets upset, does some rather nasty things to the little critter, gets his comeuppance and then changes his mind. It’s predictable, which is the problem I had with Canine Patrol.

When you think of what might happen when Pluto encounters a turtle, it likely happens here. Pluto turns the poor guy around, so that he is headed the wrong direction. He puts him on his back, so the turtle can’t get up. Obvious gags, so I guess you could make a case they had to be in there, but they just don’t seem that entertaining in the course of the short.

That’s a disappointment for a short that could offer different possibilities. After all, it’s not often that we get to see Pluto outside his comfort zone of suburban life, or farm life in his earlier career. Taking him to the ocean could have been a stroke of genius, but it just did not pan out the way I had hoped.

My problem is that there was humor to be had in Canine Patrol, but it never came through for me. The ending, with the turtle and Pluto both in the water, was sort of cute, but nothing in this short really made me laugh or smile. It was mediocre at best, and I hold Disney to a higher standard than that.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 17 - Cars

This week the DFPP team gets ready for this summer's big Pixar sequel, Cars 2, with our take on the original film. Get revved up and head on down the highway with us for this fabulous film.

Listen, Download, etc.

Grab the show from the links on the right hand side of the page.

Show Notes:

Enjoy the show, everyone!