Tuesday, June 18, 2013

10 Traditional Animation Projects Disney Should Animate

10. Rip van Winkle
This is a story that Disney had toyed with in the thirties.  One concept dealt with a live-action/animation hybrid (predating Anchors Aweigh if my sources are correct) starring Roy Rogers.  Disney has had previous success animating a Washington Irving tale.  The story of Rip van Winkle (which has not been immortalized on film) is that of a man who sleeps and wakes up years later who gets to see how the world changed without him.  I would say that the modern Rip van Winkle story is Captain America.  If Disney were to animate this I would not adapt the story as written in early colonial times, but rather Rip waking up in a story that is a fantasy in any time period.

9. The Three Bears
It is interesting to think that there are actually a few famous nursery rhymes and fairy tales that Disney has not yet defined.  I almost included Little Red Riding Hood on this list, but Disney has adapted that before (in one of the Three Little Pigs' sequels and a rarely seen nineties adaptation).  But the Three Bears is an enduring, archetypal story that really does not have an animated counterpart as recognizable as Disney's Three Little Pigs.  A Silly Symphonies style short with Goldilocks could make a truly classic cartoon.

8. My Father's Dragon
It is difficult to find worlds that Disney has not yet animated.  Looking back at several children's stories from my childhood there are many children's books that could make animated features such as The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (written by Julie Andrews, who has some experience with the Mouse House).  But the book I think that Disney animators could really improve on are the three books of My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett.  There is an anime and a new children's play based on the story, but no real famous adaptation to compete with.  These charming, fanciful stories are worthy of the medium of animation and innocent enough to have staying power.

7. The Miller's Artful Cat
The Antonio Banderas inspired version of Puss in Boots stole the show in Shrek 2 and earned an Oscar nominated spin-off.  However the Dreamworks character completely ignores the story of a clever cat changing the life of its lazy master.  Puss in Boots is such a basic story that has really never been told in mainstream animation that it could benefit from a more basic, non-pop culture reference and celebrity driven approach.  Disney could animate a really meaningful and complex relationship between the master and his cat and convey a character arc for the two.  Even though Puss is associated with Shrek, Disney should put their own stamp on the character.

6. Rumplestiltskin
This is probably the most famous fairy tale that has not been defined on screen.  Sure he was the villain in Shrek the Third and is a character on the TV series Once Upon a Time.  But the trickster Rumpelstiltskin could be a recurring animated character in shorts or even feature film.  I just picture him as a well dressed gentlemen.  Someone who dresses and talks trustworthy, but is clearly a short huxter.

5. The Hallo-Wiener
There are very few Halloween specials.  Which makes me wonder how we have not seen a TV cartoon based upon Dav Pilkey (of Captain Underpants ("Tra La La") fame)'s perennial favorite.  Much like Chuck Jones adapting the Grinch, Disney adapting the Hallo-Wiener is fairly relevant and a perfect combination of talents.  A short raises the wonderful book's profile and keeps people coming back every year.

4. Minnie Mouse
This slot is different from the others' on the list, but I am surprised it has not come up yet.  There is a serious lack of animated female role models.  Minnie is a rare example of a female cartoon character that everyone recognizes that really has not been sexualized.  If I ever became the head of Disney (which I still frequently dream about) one of my first orders would be to figure out how to make Minnie work as a solo hero.

Who are Minnie's friends?  What are Minnie's hobbies?  She needs a role other than Mickey's girlfriend or a pet's owner.  She needs gags that don't deal with her having a bow.  I envision a Minnie Mouse solo cartoon showing her auditioning for every Disney lead through the years (Snow White, Mary Poppins, Ariel, etc.).

3. A Midsummer Night's Dream
If Disney ever got back into traditional animation (which it sadly does not look like they will) it will not have a huge budget.  Disney will need projects that are cheap and efficient to make, something like an art house movie.  Directly adapting Shakespeare would be difficult, but just getting the general story would work.  I envision a Disney version of Midsummer not being targeted at young children, but rather accessible to all ages.  Just imagine Disney animating the transformation of Bottom or the movements of Puck.  I think it would look beautiful and would be different from any other animated feature.

2. Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Disney has a long history with the Land of Oz.  They have released Return to Oz, Muppets Wizard of Oz and recently Oz: The Great and Powerful.  But in the sixties Disney's publishing line released picture book and read-along adaptations of the Oz stories.  I grew reading and listening to their adaptation of the classic story.

I think that Wizard of Oz is an archetypal enough story that allows for several different interpretations, similar to Peter Pan.  Disney animating the familiar story of Dorothy as an animated short would have several advantages.  Keeping it limited to a 20 minute short subject would keep it tight and different from the two hour MGM classic.  Also traditional animation would create a marvelous look to Oz and Disney animators on these characters could make the fantasy characters look more like a Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion without losing their ability to act human.  Disney already has some great character designs, I think that they should use them.

1. Androcles and the Lion
Mickey Mouse is different from most cartoon stars.  Many people hold that against him, but I think that Disney should embrace the qualities that separate him from others.  Mickey Mouse has a capacity to be sincere and genuine that not many cartoon characters have.  He has evidenced this in Mickey's Good Deed and Mickey's Christmas Carol.  He also works great in classic stories (Sorcerer's Apprentice, Brave Little Tailor, etc.).  The classic story that I think he would work the best in is Androcles and the Lion.

Androcles and the Lion is a story of compassion and friendship.  Right up the mouse's alley.  Mickey is a character that is believable and compelling when he is being nice, if Disney played an Androcles and the Lion short for the heartstrings it could wind up being one of the studio's best efforts and a serious comeback for the mouse.

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