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Old 18-11-2018, 13:00   #1
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Journeying through the Disney animated classics

Over the past couple of months I've started going through the Disney catalogue in release order. Disney were a huge part of my childhood, but I've definitely missed a good chunk of their output and I've been meaning to fill in those gaps for a long time.

Currently there are 56 animated theatrical films (soon to be 57 with Ralph Breaks The Internet) which are now referred to as the 'Disney animated canon'. Here's the complete list that I'm following.

I'm going to post my reviews and thoughts here, would love to hear everyone else's memories of what are regarded as classic family films.


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Old 18-11-2018, 13:03   #2
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#1: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Disney's first animated feature film - and also the first of it's kind in the world - is a technical marvel to behold, especially when seen in the HD remaster. This film is 80 years old as I write this, and it still stands up as the basis of what animated films are today. That's not to say it isn't dated. The film's pacing is certainly peculiar, almost as if Disney felt he didn't have enough story and needed to pad things out. There are moments where the film's narrative entirely stops and we seems to spend a lot of time doing nothing (eg., the dwarfs washing and the Silly Song). These sequences really mark the film as being of a time.

Compared to what we see today, Snow White isn't particularly funny and only entertaining at times. There's more a sense of horror and dread about it which makes an interesting mix with the lighthearted scenes. Part of me isn't all that surprised that the film was cut in the UK for many years, because for very young children this is pretty scary stuff (even though kids LOVE to be scared). It creates a bit of a tonal mess for me.

Snow White herself seems to live in a dream land and is only vaguely aware of what's going on most of the time, seemingly thinking it's alright to enter someone else's house and just take over. I think she's meant to be very naive. The evil Queen's motivations are thin to say the least; apparently she's just extremely vain. Dopey is clearly mentally handicapped, but the film integrates him well and doesn't call any attention to it. The dwarfs are easily the heart of the picture despite them becoming kind of annoying as things go on. And I wasn't a fan of Grumpy's sexist rant about women being evil.

The film's ending falls back on Disney's unfortunate obsessions with "true love", and the uncomfortable image of Prince Charming kissing a sleeping woman and then whisking her away to do who-knows-what, but apparently she's already in love with him. The film could have benefited massively from given Snow White some personality and drives, because she's really a nothing character.

The film's soundtrack is sweeping, very fitting with the era it was made. There is some really strong songwriting here, clear in the fact that people still know these songs all these decades later. I'm blown away by Adriana Caselotti's singing voice, she has difficult parts and an incredibly high range. It's a shame that the audio restoration of the film could only do so much, because it's really noticeable that the "s" sounds are dulled throughout the film. In fact, a lot of the dialogue would have been lost on me if not for subtitles given how scratchy it sometimes is. Songs like Whistle While You Work and Heigh-Ho are standouts and real classics. Very upbeat and catchy. Meanwhile I found most of the other songs to be a bit ponderous, with I'm Wishing and Someday My Prince Will Come to be pretty dreary.

Overall, quite a charming film and an absolute milestone in American cinema. It's impossibly not to respect what this film accomplished. It's a blueprint that Disney can vastly improve upon, though.


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Old 18-11-2018, 14:14   #3
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You are Kristen Bell and I claim my Ł5

I never liked Snow White I didn't care for how she was animated, the Witch was right to try and get rid of her and I cried when she failed

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Old 18-11-2018, 17:43   #4
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Nah, I wrote that review a couple of months before she said that
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Old 18-11-2018, 20:43   #5
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Great idea for a thread, I loved Disney as a child and it would be so interesting to see them with an adult perspective.
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Old 18-11-2018, 20:56   #6
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This thread has great potential.

I expect I'll do some watching along.
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Old 19-11-2018, 09:35   #7
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#2: Pinocchio (1940)

Disney's second animated feature film is a decent improvement over Snow White. This one actually has a strong plot and lets the characters lead the way through. While still feeling dated, it has a much better message at its centre and is quite a lot more fun and engaging to watch.

I was most struck by how much more personality everyone in this film had. While Snow White herself was pretty much empty headed, Pinocchio uses similar characteristics as a reason to become curious about everything (not to mention that they make much more sense as being a part of his character). It also makes him a little bit unexceptional, especially in comparison to everyone else.

For me, the film is stolen by Jiminy Cricket and Honest John. Jiminy is a source of great positivity throughout the film, not to mention being incredibly cute. His attempts to instil good morals in Pinocchio are always charming, but it never stops him being a bit of a clown himself at times. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Honest John is a delightful bad guy with an incredibly expressive design (not to mention excellent voice work). He and his partner make for the most entertaining parts of the film.

The film meanders and goes through a surprising amount of different sections. In many ways it's disjointed and haphazard, feeling like a bunch of short stories glued together with little to connect them. I found that distracting. The Pleasure Island section is probably the weakest part, and I'd say the most disturbing. Kids films were not afraid to go dark back then, and I don't know if I was more shocked by all the kidnapped boys being turned into terrified donkeys or the images of little kids encouraging drinking and smoking. Really, a different time!

The best is saved for last with the incredible section with Monstro the Whale. I'm pretty sure this would have scared the hell out of me as a child, but I can't really remember. It effectively conveys Monstro as an enormous beast and in terms of animation and art is really stunning to watch. I found the real downer throughout the whole thing to be Gepetto. He's not only annoying, but he's also a complete idiot. What kind of father sends their magic puppet son off to school on his first day of existence? Even worse, why did he send him there ALONE? Did he just expect everything to be okay? On top of that, I thought he was kind of abusive to Figaro.

The art and animation throughout is stunning, this time relying far less on the rotoscoped style seen in Snow White. There's a lot of creative shots and attention given to small details. I was (pleasantly) surprised at how few songs are in the film, and just about all of them are pretty good. There's a reason that 'When You Wish Upon A Star' became the general Disney theme tune.



My current ranking:
  1. Pinocchio
  2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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Old 19-11-2018, 12:38   #8
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Pinocchio or Dumbo are my faves I think, I realised that I'd missed loads of films that are not really classics that count as the numbers, so will be interested to see how you get on and if all are available.
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Old 19-11-2018, 13:35   #9
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Was just about to ask lefthandedguitarist what his favourite was before watching them all, be interesting to see if it changes.

My favourites are Dumbo followed by Jungle Book, have seen them all except the package age and not sure if I've seen Brother Bear, Home on the Range or Meet the Robinsons, The princess and the frog or Winnie the Pooh. Most over-rated goes to Frozen followed by Tangled (like them both but they are nowhere near as good as the classics, same goes for Lion King, of the new stuff I loved The Little Mermaid the most)
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Old 19-11-2018, 13:46   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cliff homewood View Post
Was just about to ask lefthandedguitarist what his favourite was before watching them all, be interesting to see if it changes.
At this point in time, my favourite one from my childhood would be Aladdin. I absolutely adored Tangled the first time I saw it, too.
On the more negative side, I never enjoyed Fantasia and I thought Wreck-It Ralph was terrible.

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Old 19-11-2018, 14:41   #11
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For my sins, I don't think I've seen a Disney film all the way through except Jungle Book and Lady & The Tramp. And I was so young when I saw them, I don't have any real memories. I've seen clips and ten minutes here and there when stuff has been on the telly.
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Old 20-11-2018, 13:49   #12
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Trying to get my 9 year old daughter to watch some of the classics, away from the modern ones (tangled etc) even though we have many of them at home.

Aristocats for me
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Old 20-11-2018, 15:39   #13
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I absolutely adored Tangled the first time I saw it, too.
I thought Tangled was vastly superior to Frozen, yet it never gets as much love
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Old 20-11-2018, 16:08   #14
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That confuses me too. Frozen has a story that can be best described as "just okay", but it really suffers in the character department. Elsa and Anna just have no personalities or drives. I can only guess that the songs clicked with kids a lot more.
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Old 20-11-2018, 18:28   #15
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Tangled and Moana are both miles better than Frozen.

But then again I'm not a 7 year old girl, so what do I know.

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Old 21-11-2018, 06:40   #16
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Originally Posted by cliff homewood View Post
not sure if I've seen Brother Bear, Home on the Range or Meet the Robinsons, The princess and the frog or Winnie the Pooh.
The Princess & The Frog is a fantastic film, and the songs are superb - well worth a watch.

LeftHandedGuitarist - this is a great idea for a thread, I look forward to reading your thoughts on each.
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Old 21-11-2018, 13:15   #17
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#3: Fantasia (1940)

I have to admit, I wasn't much looking forward to this one. I recall this from my childhood as "the boring Disney film", although watching it now I'm not convinced that I ever saw the whole thing before.

Fantasia is an abstract art piece based around visuals and classical music; that alone is enough to turn me off. I have nothing against classical music but my enjoyment of it usually comes through the context in which I'm listening to it, and I can't for a second claim to really understand it. I do, however, have a problem with experimental mood pieces that go on for over two hours.

I liked the live action orchestra sections, and Deems Taylor's narration was quite enjoyable (even though it never feels like the voice is coming out of his mouth). The colourful way in which the orchestra is shot is also quite delightful. But the animated sections are really a mixed bag.

The most famous one would be 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' starring none other than Mickey Mouse. This is the highlight of the film, a really enjoyable little adventure in which Mickey accidentally brings an army of broomsticks to life through misuse of magic. I remember this one from when I was a kid, and finding the brooms a little scary. I also kind of enjoyed - and had some memories of - the final piece, 'Night on Bald Mountain', which I'm sure was pure nightmare fuel for me when I was little. I was surprised to find myself captivated by the opening as well which is nothing but explosions of colour and shapes, but the quality of the animation made it feel like a daydream come to life.

Indeed, the animation is top notch throughout and moves through a huge range of styles while still retaining the classic Disney look. Most of the characters on screen move incredibly fluidly and end up dancing in time to the music, and it's quite stunning to think about the amount of work that must have gone into it.

The problem is, it does this and not much else. There's no story to get invested in, no characters (apart from maybe Mickey) to follow. A number of the sequences go on far, far too long and feel nothing but repetitive (the section with the centaurs, and the hippo ballet that follows were the worst culprits here). It never really engaged me.

I'm trying to find a good answer as to why that was, because I know that this film is generally beloved and I can certainly recognise it as the animated classic that it is. The presenter mentions early on that the aim of this film is to conjure up imagined visuals that could accompany the music we're listening to, and I'm wondering if part of the problem is that what's put on screen is so rarely the imagery which my own mind would put to it.

Fantasia is a peculiar oddity. Overlong, repetitive but overflowing with ideas and some of the best quality animation possible for the era it was made. It's just not for me at all, and I found the abstract nature of it incredibly dull. It's also got more breasts than I ever expected to see in a Disney film.



My current ranking:
  1. Pinocchio
  2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  3. Fantasia

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Old 23-11-2018, 11:16   #18
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#4: Dumbo (1941)

Maybe the most charming and also saddest Disney film so far. This was one I watched quite a lot as a kid, but now I found it had some things which reduced my enjoyment.

The lower budget is very noticeable. Due to the second world war, Disney hadn't made much (or any) profit from their previous films from overseas markets. So, Dumbo is a money saving exercise. It has a super short run time at only one hour long (which isn't a big issue for me, that suits the story) and the quality of the art and animation is considerably lower than the gorgeous work we've gotten used to. There is a noticeable lack of detail in shading and shadows, and some human characters don't even have faces. I think it's just because I expect a certain quality when I know I'm watching a Disney animation.

The story itself is quite lovely, though, even though it gets pretty dark and downbeat. Dumbo is a baby elephant with big ears who is ruthlessly mocked for them; this makes most of the characters apart from him really unlikable. The haughty old-woman elephants in particular are just unnecessarily evil, but I do love the way their personalities are really distinctive from each other.

There's some fun in the form of the mouse who befriends Dumbo when he takes offence at how people are treating him. Timothy defends Dumbo and does a pretty good job of it, while simultaneously trying to exploit his talents. It could make for a weird mess of morals and ethics, but Timothy comes across as genuine rather than greedy, so it works.

The film has really strange pacing, especially given it's short length. The circus sequences all felt like they went on too long without enough happening. The main hook of the story (Dumbo's ears allow him to fly) doesn't kick in until the final 10 minutes. Just about everything before that is poor Dumbo getting treated like crap, and I have to admit that it's absolutely heartbreaking at times. This is quite a mean film and Dumbo is incredibly cute and adorable.

There's a very strange psychedelic dream sequence in the middle that occurs from Dumbo and Timothy getting drunk (I never understood that's what happened when I was little). The imagined pink elephant dance goes on a bit too long and feels like an abandoned sequence from Fantasia, and I just don't really see why it's in the film other than to pad things out.

My favourite part of the film is the ending, once Dumbo meets the crows. I know there's all sorts of discussion about whether the crows are racist stereotypes and I'm really not qualified to comment on it, but all I can say is that they are the highlight of the film and save it from all being a bit dull.

Not quite as good as I remember and the lower quality art hurts things, but this is a really sweet and lovely film with a message about accepting those who are different and embracing what makes you special - even if that message comes with some dubious morals.



My current ranking:
  1. Pinocchio
  2. Dumbo
  3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  4. Fantasia
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Old 25-11-2018, 18:11   #19
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I'll leave this here...
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Old 25-11-2018, 20:31   #20
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FFS can Disney not leave well enough alone, take a move about a flying elephant and remake it with lots of stupid kids in it.

The money the CGI cost why not just make new cartoons instead of scraping the bones of old classics.

Although I can't imagine how they will remake Song Of The South
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