Monday, December 10, 2012

Overrated/Underrated Disney Animated Features

Most Overrated Disney Animated Feature: Sleeping Beauty (1959)
I am a lifelong die-hard Disney fan but there are a couple that I have never really gotten into.  The Rescuers (1977) is certainly one I would consider to be overrated, I find it duller than dirt (its sequel definitely makes up for it though).  However I think that the most overrated Disney feature is Sleeping Beauty.  There is a lot going for it: the lush backgrounds, Marc Davis' animation and design of Maleficent and the ambition behind it.  But that's about it.  The characters are forgettable.  Aurora has little personality, Phillip has less and Flora, Fauna and Merryweather aren't funny.  Certainly not a bad movie, but one of Disney's masterpieces?  Definitely not.
Most Underrated Disney Animated Feature: Winnie the Pooh (2011)
There are so many that I could mention here.  I already did a review of the criminally underrated Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) elsewhere.  But I could certainly mention Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Fantasia 2000 (1999) and Treasure Planet (2002).  Even successes such as Great Mouse Detective (1986), Tarzan (1999), Emperor's New Groove (2000) and Princess and the Frog (2009) don't get their due.  However I am choosing to highlight one of the best movies of last year, the most recent incarnation of Winnie the Pooh.  I will probably do another blogpost on this later because there is so much worth mentioning.  The Hundred Acre Wood has never looked better as the greatest character animators in the world were in charge of this (Andreas Deja was the best thing to ever happen to Tigger).  And the original songs from Robert Lopez and Kristin Andreson-Lopez all work.  Alas Disney did a terrible job with marketing this and nobody saw this movie.  I suggest that you correct that soon.

Most Disappointing Disney Animated Feature: Oliver and Company (1988)
It is difficult for me to pick a Disney movie I was disappointed by.  There are ones that don't reach their ambitions or dramatic potential such as Dinosaur (2000), Brother Bear (2003), Meet the Robinsons (2007) and Bolt (2008).  And then there are the one's you liked as a kid that just don't hold up.  I always enjoyed Oliver and Company, but I really didn't enjoy it the last time I viewed it.  The songs are catchy especially its signature number, "Why Should I Worry?" and its forgotten gem, "Streets of Gold."  It is fun seeing Disney animate something modern and the animation is up to Disney's standards, but the story just doesn't hold up past repeated viewings.  This was certainly a step in the right direction in 1988 but it will never be among Disney's most beloved.

Most Surprising Disney Animated Feature: Lilo & Stitch (2002)
I was going to go with Tangled (2010) because I really did not expect it to be anywhere near as good as it was.  But Lilo & Stitch is a movie that surprises me every time I watch it because I always discover something new.  When I first watched it when I was 11 Stitch's humorous antics were clearly my favorite part.  However when I watched it again when I was in middle school I related more to Lilo not fitting in with the other kids.  I specifically remember understanding Lilo in the scene when she says, "People treat me different."  Gradually I grew to understand Stitch as a tragic figure and Nani's stuggle as a sister/single parent.  There is so much depth to this movie, which really takes you off guard since it feels so light and fun.  I absolutely love this movie.

My Guilty Pleasure Disney Animated Feature: Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
Not anything to real feel guilty about as it is not a bad movie, but it is not up their with Disney's best.  I really enjoy the package features, I wouldn't mind Disney attempting a modern day one.  I love Jiminy Cricket as a narrator and he brings so much charm and heart to this little feature.  The story of Bongo isn't anything special, but it has a distinct Disney 1940's feel to it.  My favorite part, which I can rewatch anytime is Mickey and the Beanstalk.  Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy's schtick have aged this movie, but I still find them hilarious.  There is great physical animation with Disney's number one trio as they are lifted up and explore the beanstalk.  And Willie the Giant is a fun bad guy.  Not going to make anybody's top ten list of animated movies, but it is one that I always smile while watching.

My Favorite Disney Animated Feature: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Okay this is my favorite movie ever and I doubt that anything will ever change that.  I just watch this movie differently.  I have it memorized and anticipate every little moment in it.  This was the first movie I ever saw, my parents took me to the 1993 rerelease when I was very young and something about this has always stuck.  The character animation on the dwarfs can't be beat, the songs are iconic and it features some of the most effective horror scenes in any movie.  I love and respect the ambition and the risk behind this feature as it could have easily ruined Walt.  But it launched a new form of storytelling, of which this still remains my favorite.

The Worst Disney Animated Feature: Chicken Little (2005)
Now Snow White will always be my favorite movie, but this will most likely always be my least favorite movie.  I hate what it represents.  Disney is a studio that has always pushed the boundaries and set the standard for others, this movie is them giving up and trying to follow the crowd.  And it doesn't even work by Dreamworks standards who makes far superior movies to this.  The character designs are ugly, the jokes are cheap and desperate, and it makes fun of better Disney movies.  This was a success on its initial release but it seems to have been forgotten.  This was the low point for Disney, in my opinion worse than The Black Cauldron (1985) which at least had some ambition to it.  This is shameful.

The Best Disney Animated Feature: Beauty and the Beast (1991)
I already mentioned this as cinema's greatest musical and I am mentioning it as Disney's greatest achievement.  This movie takes advantage of everything the medium of animation has to offer.  The characterization is uniformly strong, the animation is flawless and every design is memorable and iconic.  The songs all tell a story that is mature, but accessible to everyone.  This can be viewed as escapist fun or prestigious.  This is the movie that I am waiting for Disney to beat.

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