Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Beaver Valley (1950)



It’s been quite some time on the blog since we discussed the True Life Adventures features.  Seal Island, the first of Disney’s nature films, was such a huge success that Disney immediately green lit more films to follow.   The first of those is In Beaver Valey, which premiered to the public in July of 1950. 

James Algar, who directed Seal Island, retained his entire team from that production, including the Milottes, who had camped out with their cameras to capture the footage that became Seal Island.  This time, the subject would be the Northwestern United States, focusing on a valley that Algar chose to name Beaver Valley through the narration of Winston Hibler.  The film tracks the life of the animals in the valley through the changing of the seasons from winter to spring.

The problem is that there is no flow or story to catch your attention, so the film suffers from a lack of something to grab onto and pull you through.  The idea is to latch on to the main beaver as an example, and follow his travails throughout the film.  Unfortunately, there is nothing given that makes you want to do this.  He has no name, isn’t faced with any particular struggle or conflict that makes you care about him and the situations he is involved in are rather mundane.

The beaver goes through contortions to court a female, fend off predators like a wandering fox and build a dam in the river to withstand the rushing waters.  While all of that is possibly intriguing, in a 30 minute or longer film, it is not compelling.  The problem is that this film is treated like a short subject, where plot is not as big of an issue and it’s all about the next gag.  Here, the gags are reliant on what happens to the beaver or other animals around him.

It’s no secret that Disney “arranged” for things to happen on these shoots, so the fact that these gags don’t come off as especially entertaining is a disappointment.  Especially when you consider that the cinematography and the camera work on display is simply amazing.  Just as in Seal Island, the Milottes do an incredible job of capturing nature as it lays out in front of them, and then relaying that to the viewer.  The vistas of the valley are breathtaking. 

The connective tissue, though, is what’s missing from Beaver Valley.  The overall film lacks the focus that Seal Island had, and there is not a central theme that ties things together.  It causes the narrative to wander about, creating more of a pastoral effect.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in this film, it tended to keep me from latching on to any of the animals and made me less likely to care how it all ended up.  If you’re looking to start your True Life Adventure stories, I would look to Seal Island first.

1 comment:

  1. I posted a comment on the Hercules podcast page. For your convenience, I thought I'd repost it here.

    Would you ever consider doing podcasts about Disney TV shows or older Disney Channel Original Movies? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on Kim Possible, Gargoyles, So Weird, The Famous Jett Jackson, Smart House, or the Zenon films.

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