Sunday, December 27, 2009

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 6: Saludos Amigos

Series Intro:
Here's Part 6 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Saludos Amigos (in English: Hello Friends)
Release: August 24, 1942 (Brazil, just 11 days after Bambi!)
Running Time: 43 minutes (and I thought Bambi was short)
Estimated Cost: Can't find any figures but the whole cost was underwritten by the US government
Estimated Revenue: No info available, other than "highly successful"
Overall Rating: 1 stars out of 5

Plot Summary: We follow Walt Disney Animation Studios cartoonists as they travel throughout the South America. While we watch live action shots of the the cartoonists, a narrator tells us all about what we are seeing. Then the plot breaks away and heads to various cartoons depicting some of the places the cartoonists have been.

"Lake Titicaca" follows Donald Duck as he visits this mountain lake. Various Donald-esqu trouble happens.
"Pedro" follows Pedro, a mail carrying, child-like, airplane as he has to cross the Ande's mountains.
"El Gaucho Goof" follows Goofy as he is transformed into a an Argentinian Gaucho (cowboy).
"Aquarela do Brazil" (Watercolor of Brazil) follows Donald as he meets Brazilian local parot Jose Carioca and they dance the night away all around Brazil.

Aquarela do Brasil, Saludos Amigos and Tico Tico No Fuba

All wonderful for moving the plot along; but memorable... I think not. I can't even recall the lyrics or melody for the Academy Award Nominated song "Saludos Amigos"

Plot Rating: 1 stars out of 5

I understand that this endeavor was supposed to help relations between South American countries and the US, to help prevent South American countries from turning towards the Nazi Party. And if it was 1942, this film would be great propaganda for making me consider visiting South America. But the loose plot of connecting shorts based on animators going on a trip to make the movie... eh... not really a plot if you ask me. Also the shorts themselves don't really hold a strong plot. They are standard, one off shorts that could be told in a Looney Tunes, Merry Melody! Good for laughs, but not for depth and meaning.

Animation Rating: 1 out of 5

I felt like they really dropped the ball at WDAS! What happened here was a travesty to animation in American movies. The animation was television rate. In this retrospective (so far) this is the lowest and I can only hope that we will push beyond this "television-rate" animation. 

The Test of Time:

Considering this had only one re-release I don't think it has stood the test of time. The animation is campy, the music im-memorable, the "plot" illogical. Goofy seemed racist. Donald didn't appreciate the differences between his country and Brazil. As I child, I collected Disney animated movies (in the classics and masterpiece releases). When this was release, I was confused, I had never heard of the movie and never heard of WDAS doing shorts, but here it was, a 44 minute movie that does not fit in with all that came before it, and all the would come after it.

Again, I understand, that when Walt took on this project, WDAS was hemorrhaging money on Bambi, and the European market was closed due to WWII, but I just don't consider this a "Master Piece" or a "Classic." This is one movie that should remain in the Disney Vault, with Songs of the South.

Next Up:
The Three Caballeros


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Date-ability (Revisited)

So I thought it was time to revisit my series in Date-ablitiy.

I wanted to add some personality things to this list (the other list was a bit superficial).

So one thing a guy MUST have is self-drive and self-worth. He should be a self-starter. He has to know what he wants out of life and have a plan to get it. He should also be a generally happy person. This goes along the same lines. If he isn't making himself happy in life, how can he make our relationship a happy one. Also, I'm a generally happy person, and don't surround myself with people who are perpetually unhappy. My friends, despite the cards they've been dealt, make the best of what life has given them, and have fun with it! Unemployed, bad job, single, underemployed. We all make the best of it.


Shameless Self Promotion

So I'm just promoting the new layout of my blog! I designed it myself!

And the fact that you can now retweet, share on facebook or digg my blogs!


Monday, December 21, 2009




Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 5: Bambi

Series Intro:
Here's Part 5 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Bambi
Release: August 13, 1942
Running Time: 69 minutes (that's crazy short!)
Estimated Cost: I can't find exact figures, but most places say "Over $2,000,000" (1942) (Over $26,543,558.28 adjusted for inflation 2009)
Estimated Revenue: First Theatrical Release $300,000 (1942)(pitiful, I know)($3,921,356.80 adjusted for inflation 2008)
Overall Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
The story opens in an unnamed American Woodland, with the birth of a deer (the young Prince of the Forest to be precise). Bambi goes on several adventures with his new found friends Thumper (the rabbit) and Flower (the skunk). They spend all of spring and summer playing. As winter comes, times get hard for the animals in the forest, but Bambi and his mother survive. Then, in a moment that changed American cartooning, Bambi's mother was shot and killed. Bambi's father, the Great Prince of the Forest, ushers Bambi into adulthood, with a few words of wisdom (more than a few words if we take into account the Direct-to-Video mid-quel Bambi II "Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest). As Bambi and his friends reunite after the winter hibernation, they swear they won't be "twitterpated" (mate). But they do. Again though, things don't go as planned, for as Bambi and his newly won doe, Faline, are resting, the forest is once again invaded by man. This time, to more devistating effects - they let their fire rage on and soon a forest fire begins. Bambi meets back up with his father in the final reel as the two struggle to leave the forest. Many animals meet up at an isolated island, that is safe from the forests' flames. The final scene, an homage to the first, again brings new life to the forest, this time it's Bambi's fawns. The Great Prince of the Forest seems to retire and leaves the forest to Bambi.

 There is Life, First Sign of Spring, Through Your Eyes, Healing of the Heart, Bambi, Let's Sing A Gay Little Spring Song, Little April Shower, and Love Is A Song

All of these songs are beutifully scored, but are unmemorable. I might be able to sing a ditty from "April Shower" but nothing much. None of these songs moved on to become Disney classic songs.

Plot Rating: 1 stars out of 5

I've to say, "What plot?"  This movie was more like a nature expose than a feature animated movie (in fact it's too short to be feature length! - more on the length below in "Animation") In isolation, the adventures of young Bambi and his friends would have made excellent shorts (in the Loony Tune length), but there honestly wasn't enough plot to hold the movie together.

Animation Rating: 4 out of 5

Wow! Those animators at WDAS really brought their A game to this. They spend years studying real animals to make the movie as grand as it could be. Although they were fine drawing cartoon animals (such as all of the animals in Snow White), but Walt really wanted a sense of realism in this film. The same can be said of the art work in the backgrounds! WDAS animators really have a handle on the multi-plane camera, but that didn't make the drawing process go any faster. In fact, the drawing was so detailed and so exquisite, that the artists were only completing a half a foot a film a day! (or one second of film. (Previous releases were drawn at a rate of about 10 feet a day.) Because of the slow process and the grossly growing budget, Walt had 12 minutes cut from the movie!

The Test of Time:

Just like Snow, this had MANY theatrical releases; each one ranking in a lot more money for Disney. These re-releases in the theatre would actually allow Disney to recoup it's losses.

Bambi's test of time has to be started at it's release, during WWII in Europe! With basically the European market out, the release did pitiful. Domestically, it had a hard time too. Why would people want to see a movie in which PEOPLE were the villains! 

As time went on, more people accepted this movie and it's been highly rated on AMC's 10 best animated movies.

Personally, I never liked it as a child (I still don't like it now). Very little happens, and the few that do, I always felt personally responsible for, even though I've never hunted or even camped! This movie is a bit preachy, and there was never anything I could do to stop what it was preaching about.

Next Up:
Saludos Amigos

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 2: Pinocchio

Series Intro:   Here's Part 2 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Pinocchio
Release: February 7, 1940
Running Time: 88 minutes
Estimated Cost: $2,400,000 (1940) ($37,085,142.86 adjusted for inflation 2009)
Estimated Revenue: First Theatrical Release $39,000,000 (1940) ($592,538,580.24 adjusted for inflation 2008)
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Papa Geppetto is a lonely word-worker who makes a wonderful wooden puppet, whom he names "Pinocchio." When completed, Geppetto wished upon a star (soon to be a major Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) motive), that this puppet would be a real boy. That evening, the Blue Fairy visits the puppet, turns him into a living puppet (kid of creepy, I know), and assigns Jiminy Cricket to be the boys conscience. Once Pinocchio learns how to behave, he will be a real boy. Well, behaving doesn't come easy for Pinocchio as one misadventure (believing Honest Jon (the fox) and Gideon (the cat)) leads to another (being enslaved at a traveling puppet show) and another (turning into a donkey/puppet hybrid on Pleasure Island) to another (being swallowed by a whale!). Jiminy Cricket isn't that good at guiding Pinocchio on these adventures, and when Pinocchio lies to the Blue Fairy, his nose grows! In the end, after escaping from the whale, Pinocchio confesses to Geppetto and truly feels sorry for his wrong doings. The Blue Fairy makes one more appearance, and turns Pinocchio into a real boy.

I can't forget to mention Figaro and Cleo (Papa Geppetto's cat and fish), who add some comic relief at various points throughout the film.

Songs: When You Wish Upon a Star, Little Wooden Head, Give a Little Whistle, Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor's Life for Me), and I've Got No Strings

"When You Wish Upon a Star" will later become a big theme in both WDAS and at the Theme Parks

I believe that the songs were more integral to the plot. Although "Strings' happens on a stage, it really mimics what Pinocchio is feeling about life, and is sung ironically because although he is a walking/talking puppet without strings, he's not free, but a slave to Stromboli (the puppet master). And who could deny the importance of "wishing upon a star" in future Disney endevours

Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The plot moves much faster and more interesting than Snow. Pinocchio overs several sub-plots that help move the plot along. Pinocchio's naivete was more believable given the fact that he didn't have an internal conscious and that he was literally born yesterday  

Animation Rating: 3.5 out of 5

This movie was darker that Snow, both plot wise and the coloring. With this movie, WDAS showed it wasn't just a one trick pony and was able to create a "whole new world" that had more imagery and creativity than it's predecessor.

The Test of Time:

Just like Snow, this had MANY theatrical releases; each one ranking in a lot more money for Disney.

How did this movie effect me as a child? Well, I honestly only watched it a few times as a child, but my mother loved it. I did like that Pinocchio was a boy, and allowed me to have more of a relationship with the puppet. I could see how my conscious is an important part of my decision process and I could see what might happen (although to an extreme) if  I didn't listen to it.

Today, this movie doesn't have as much presence in pop culture as the "Princess" movies (thank you merchandising department at Disney for ignore the boys). He also doesn't have as much presence in the theme parks (where all my friends live!)

Next Up: Should be Fantasia and Dumbo, but both are currently in the Disney "Vault" so Bambi will be review next.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 1: Snow White

It's no lie, I believe that Walt Disney World is one of the greatest places. In my recent visit (August 2009), my friend over at Eric-Jost.Blogspot, decided he wanted to go back and enjoy the Disney "Classics" (as the mid-90's marketing team called their VHS releases). Well, he's inspired me to do the same.

So here's Part 1 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors (mostly in production order, save for a few not available on DVD).

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Release: December 21, 1937
Running Time: 83 minutes
Estimated Cost: $1,488,422.74 (1937) ($22,360,450.79 adjusted for inflation 2009)
Estimated Revenue: First Theatrical Release $66,596,803 (1937) ($988,490,962.11 adjusted for inflation 2008)
Overall Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Snow White lives a happy life at her palace with the step mother (The Evil Queen). One day her life is turned upside down when she sees a prince (The Prince) and falls madly in love with him. But the best laid plans; when the Evil Queen asks her magic mirror about the fairest woman in the world, the mirror tells her Snow White is the most beautiful person in the world. So Snow White is forced to run for her life; she stumbles upon the tiny home of 7 dwarfs. They take her in and care for her; that is until the Evil Queen discovers Snow White is not dead and transforms herself into a old beggar woman and convinces Snow to eat from a poisoned apple. The dwarfs mistake her magiked sleep for death and entomb her, when who should appear but The Prince, whose kiss of true love revives Snow White. The Evil Queen is presumed dead when a rock - meant to kill the dwarfs - rolls onto her.

Songs: Someday my Prince will come; High-Ho; Whistle While You Work; along with several incidental songs.

"Someday my prince will come" will become a staple theme of 'princess' movies of Walt's time.

The songs in the movie was simplistic and really did not move the plot along like later movies produced by Disney animation. But considering that this a groundbreaking movie in a new medium, I'll give it some slack. The background music did however add to the feel of the movie to help the audience clearly follow the plot.

Plot Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Overly simplistic by today's standards; this plot was character driven, spending many of the 87 minutes with just how Snow reacts to new things. Although, some of her reactions are amazing (just remember the scary scene in the forest!)

Animation Rating: 2 out of 5

Again, it was new, but it was still overly simplistic. The faces of Snow and Prince were under drawn and almost unable to emote (due to the artist actually just tracing film strips of actors portraying the characters. Some artists, the one who worked on the Evil Queen, refused to do this, and when you re-watch this movie, notice how much more natural she can emote.) The dwarfs are also more lively and animated

Again though, props to the art department though, for the forest scene and the beautiful backdrops.

The Test of Time:

With MANY theatrical releases, I would say that this film has stood the test of time. Or was it just Disney pushing it down our throats and their cleaver "Disney Vault" to hide home releases for years at a time. Or was it the insane "Princess" that began sometime in the onset of the aughts (2000's).

Snow White's moral might not stand the test of time though. A woman is helpless without a man ("Someday my Prince will come"). She can't seem to take care of herself at all. Grant it, she is some young child (I guess between 12 and 16).

One of my biggest problems with this movie was that the Prince and the Evil Queen never get names! Walt was able to come up with creative names for 7 goofy dwarfs, but can't give two major characters names! As a child growing up, although I related to Snow, I really wanted to know more about the Prince. But just like Lady Macbeth, he was never given a name, and although he plays such a major role in the movie, he seems to live on the back burner (looking forward to getting back up to Peter Pan when we have a "Hero" instead of a "Princess")

Too Much Light Makes Baby Go Blind

Go check out Too Much Light Makes Baby Go Blind at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in DC.

This was a crazy play, or  more like 30 vignettes, that looked at different social issues from Gay Rights to what it means to be a father, birth, etc. All these 30 plays (some funny, some serious) took place in 60 minutes!

The crazy part is, that each show is slightly different. At the end of each show an audience member rolls a die and that is how many plays must be replaced for the following night's show!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Black Community

So as the holiday season is upon us, Holiday parties are a must! And this weekend I've had two!

Both were a lot of fun.

Friday Night was with my gay family, with a lot of gay people talking about gay issues and gay pop references.

Saturday Night was with a friend from high school, she's black, most of the people at the party were black. At this dinner party we talked about a variety of topics, such as education, teen pregnancy, community, culture, oppression, sex, etc.

Now, here's what I see is the big difference between the black community and the gay community (based on the issues that as talked about at social events):

There is a black community. Literally. Most of the people at the party last night lived in the neighborhood and their goals weren't lofty affirmative action/civil rights; they want to better their community by bettering their neighborhood. The talk last night was about things to better the neighborhood. For instance, how can they keep their neighborhood clean with no trash cans!

But what is the gay community. We don't live in neighborhoods. We're not going to schools where most of the students are gay. This goes back to a previous post of mine about culture. When we define ourselves by just a single trait, what is the connection beyond that?

The wonderful people I met last night, are honestly trying to make the best for their community (by bettering their neighborhood, giving the people on their street the opportunities to make the right choices!)

Check out my new favorite blog at Congress Heights On The Rise to see some of the positive outreach and community growth the blogger is trying to do to better the residents of Congress Heights, DC.  Or my high school friend's Blog River East Idealist.  (Map shows highlighed section of DC, called Congress Heights)