Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Walt Disney Animation Studios: Part 50: Tangled

Series Intro: This is Part 50 of a multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors.

Official Title: Tangled
Release: November 24, 2010
Running Time: 100 minutes
Estimated Cost: $260 million (nearly twice the cost of Frog)
Estimated Revenue: $590.72 million
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Rapunzel holds a drop of sun in her body, thanks to her mother using it to survive childbirth. However, the flower that had grown from the drop of sun was being used by Mother Gothel to stay young. After hundreds of years of staying young, Mother Gothel steals the baby and discovers her hair now holds the magic of the sun and locks her in a tower.

Eighteen years later, Rapunzel wants to leave the tower to find out about the festival of lights that occurs on her birthday. Of course Mother Gothel refuses, but Rapunzel tricks Mother Gothel to leave the tower for a few days.

Flynn Ryder, local thief, has stumbled upon Rapunzel’s tower, while running away from the lead horse of the guard (Max), for stealing the princess’ crown. Rapunzel makes Flynn take her to the festival to see the lights in person.

Rapunzel and Flynn have many misadventures (ala the frogs in Princess and the Frog and many other buddy films from WDAS). But Mother Gothel has grown wise to their scheme and sends Flynn’s betrayed partners after them.

After the wonderful day at the festival, Rapunzel and Flynn find themselves in harms way as Flynn is captured by the guard and Rapunzel returns home after an attack by Flynn’s partners. Rapunzel believes Flynn sold her out, and is betrayed as she just thought they were falling in love.

While home Rapunzel realizes she is the lost princess for whom the festival of the lights is for. At the same time, Flynn escapes a hanging thanks to his fellow riff-raff (whom were charmed by Rapunzel). Mother Gothel, refusing to let Rapuzel return to her true home, begins to take her away from the tower, when Flynn (thanks to his new partner, Max) enters to be stabbed by Gothel. Rapunzel trades her freedom for saving Flynn. Gothel agrees, but Flynn has another plan, he cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and it looses all its magic. Gothel falls out the window (with a little help from Pascal (Rapunzel’s chameleon side-kick). Rapunzel cries over her lost love, but her tears contain the drop of sun and save his life.

Flynn and Rapunzel return to the castle to be welcomed into the royal family. And they lived happily ever after.

1. When Will My Life Begin?
2. Mother Knows Best
3. When Will My Life Begin? (Reprise)
4. I’ve Got A Dream
6. Mother Knows Best (Reprise)
7. I See the Light
8. Healing Incantation

Welcome back Mr. Menken! It has been too long. The music for this movie was interesting. While there were some standout songs, like “I’ve Got A Dream” (that evoked old feelings of belonging not seen in quiet a few movies). I didn’t quite like the pop feel of the “I want” song – “When Will My Life Begin?”

Plot Rating: 5 stars out of 5
The music, did help move this plot along, and the whole movie hand a much closer structure to WDAS’ renaissance. I fell in love with both leads almost from the moment they were on the screen.

Animation Rating: 4 out of 5
WOW! Just WOW! Finally, WDAS has learnt from PIXAR. The CG animation was clean and the hair was amazing (not just Rapunzel’s 70 feet) but all of it. The soft matted backgrounds from Bolt return to make the characters live in a hand painted world. The characters moved and lived very well in the world. Of course though, there were some moments when the CG was overwhelming, but they were few and infrequent, although when they happened (say when a character was moving too fast) it did take me out of the story and reminded me that I was watching CG.

I did have some trouble believing that Rapunzel was 18. She was so much smaller and less developed than Mother Gothel and the Queen. I kept thinking she was 14 or 15.

The Test of Time:
Rapunzel became the 10th Disney Princess even before the movie hit the theaters. I think Disney was jumping the gun, and we do need to wait.

I also feel that this section will close now too, and be called “Final Thoughts,” as “The Test of Time” can’t exist from now on, as not enough time has passed.

Final Thoughts:
WDAS was extremely proud of this movie, as it marked the 50th animated movie released into theaters.

Next Up:
Winnie the Pooh

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

PIXAR Animation Studios: Part 11: Toy Story 3

Series Intro: In my purposeful retrospective of WDAS I couldn’t ignore it’s younger sister: PIXAR. This is Part 11 in the retrospective of PIXAR

Official Title: Toy Story 3
Release: June 18, 2010
Running Time: 103 minutes
Estimated Cost: $200 million
Estimated Revenue: $1.063 billion (yes, Billion with a “B” – $1,063,171,911)
Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Andy has grown up, as boys tend to do, but his toys remain ever faithful that one day he will play with them. But due to a mix-up the toys (other than Woody, who has been saved to go to college) believe they have been thrown away. They decide that being donated to a day-care is a better fate. Woody follows them to right their error.

All seems to be going well at the day-care, Buzz, Woody and the gang (Mr. and Mrs. Patato Head, Slink, Jessie, Bullseye, Rex, Ham, three aliens and Barbie) meet a charming bear, Lots-O-Huggin’ (Lots-O), a Ken doll, and a Big Baby. Woody escapes to return to Andy, but is taken by a young child, Bonnie. Things turn worse for the gang left behind as all new toys are placed with the two year olds. Buzz seeks Lots-O to remedy this, and he is reset to factory settings, and now polices his former friends. Lots-O rules the day care with an iron paw.

After a fun day with Bonnie, Woody tries to head back to Andy, but finds out that Lots-O is a dictator, due to the fact that he lost his child and was replaced. Woody sneaks back into the day care and begins the plot to save his friends.

After an elaborate plan, Woody and the gang make their way to the dumpster, only to be stopped once again by Lots-O. Big Baby, tired of being bossed by Lots-O, pushes the bear into the dumpster, but he pulls Woody in with him, just as the garbage truck takes the trash. Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Ham, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, Rex and the three aliens jump on to the truck to rescue Woody (Barbie stays with the new reformed Ken).

At the dump, the toys meet with certain fate several times, only to be clever enough to save themselves. However, once they trusted Lots-O to turn off the conveyor belt, things looked bleak as Lots-O double cross puts the toys in a collision with an incinerator. Thanks to the dues-ex-machina of the aliens controlling the “Claw” the toys are safe.

Lots-O is fated to spend the rest of his life on the front grill of a garbage truck, as the toys head back to Andy’s. Woody, changes the label of the box from attic to that of Bonnie’s house. Andy brings the toys to Bonnie, including Woody, and spends his last day before college playing with his old friends.

Plot Rating: 5 stars out of 5
This movie continues the wonderful plot of the previous two. This picture can explain the entire plot rating:
Who hasn't had to get rid of beloved toys?

Animation Rating: 4 out of 5
I know that it’s been 10 years since the last Toy Story, but it doesn’t look like that. The only thing that looks different (more advanced) is the hair.

Final Thoughts: I don’t know if I want a fourth movie. The toys clearly have more adventures to tell, but this movie wrapped up such a large chapter of their life.

Next Up:
Cars 2

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Walt Disney Animation Studios: Part 49: Princess and the Frog

Series Intro: This is Part 49 of a multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors.

Official Title: The Princess and the Frog
Release: December 11, 2009
Running Time: 97 minutes
Estimated Cost: $105 million (nearly $50 million less than Bolt)
Estimated Revenue: $267.05 million
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Since childhood, it has been Tiana’s dream to open a restaurant. And she is close during this Marti Gras. She has been working two or three jobs, never having fun since her childhood days of playing with Charlotte La Bouff (who’s life-long dream is to become a princess).

At the same time, Prince Naveen (disowned by his parents) comes to New Orleans to find a rich wife to return to the life he has grown accustomed to. Charlotte has her daddy throw Naveen a party. But in the streets of the French Quarter, Naveen is tricked by Dr. Faciller, who wants to rule New Orleans, and this can be done by killing Charlotte’s farther (the king of the Marti Gras parade). Dr. Facilier turns Naveen into a frog and Naveen’s manservant, Lawrence, into a copy of Naveen.

Frog Naveen gets away and meets Tiana at the party (where Lawrence is masquerading as Naveen), and convinces Tiana to kiss him (mistaking her costume grown for a real thing). This turns Tiana into a frog and thus begins their misadventure on the bayou to solve their problems.

Along the way they meet Louis (a trumpet playing alligator) and Ray (a firefly). The four go to look for Mama Odie to help solve Tiana and Naveen’s frog issue. Tiana and Naveen fight a lot (he’s free loving, she’s rule following).

Mama Odie sends them back to the Marti Gras parade for Naveen to be kissed by Charlotte (princess of the parade). Dr. Facilier sends shadow creatures to keep the frogs away. Only at the last moment, does Dr. Facilier get taken by the shadow creatures (after killing Ray). Charolette is told the entire saga and tries to kiss Naveen, but the clock strikes midnight and is too late.

Frog Naveen marries Frog Tiana (they had learned to love each other along the Bayou), and when they kissed they were both turned into human (when he married her, Tiana became a princess).

Naveen, now settle down, is welcomed back into his family, and they help Tiana open her restaurant, where Louis is the main entertainment. Charlotte thinks she will marry Naveen’s brother (she will wait until he’s much older than 6). And Ray joins his love, a star, in the night sky.

I’m so happy to have this section back!
1. Never Knew I Needed
2. Down in New Orleans (Prologue)
3. Down in New Orleans
4. Almost there
5. Friends on the Other Side
6. When We’re Human
7. Gonna Take You There
8. Ma Belle Evangeline
9. Dig a Little Deeper
10. Down in New Orleans (Finale)

I found it odd that WDAS didn’t bring in Alan Menken (of Mermaid, Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Hercules, and Home On The Range) considering how successful so many of his previous scores have been. Yes, Randy Newman wrote the score to Pixar’s Toy Story, Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monster’s Inc, and Car but none of these were musicals. I think Menken would have given the score more “umph.”

Plot Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
The movie has all the elements for success, but it just didn’t do it for me. As I said above, the score wasn’t enough (save for Almost There). I liked the idea of Dr. Facilier using voo-doo and I thought it was interesting that this movie took place in New Orleans. I just didn’t enjoy the leads begin frogs for most of the movie.

Animation Rating: 4 out of 5
It was so nice to see the gorgeous hand drawings again. Although WDAS had claimed that Home on the Range was to be the last hand-drawn animated feature, I am happy they were wrong. The backgrounds were still too CG’d for my tastes, and there were several moments when I had to reflect on how little growth WDAS had made in making their characters look natural in the settings. Of course the CG settings mimicked those of Bolt that they looked like paintings, but just the way the character interacted with the settings seemed too forced.

Above I mentioned the song Almost There, this song (both musically and stylistically) was the standout moment of this movie. The art deco design and oil pastel colors beautifully matched the jazz music.

The Test of Time:
Tiana has been forced down our throats as a princess equal to the status of her predecessors. I can’t help but wonder, is she only there because she’s African American. Yes, she was the star of a good movie, but I don’t think we know if she has the staying power.

Through the Modern Lens
Isn’t this modern? This section is now closed.

Next Up: