Hi friends so I have been tagged by Natalie over at her Disney Freak blog. The Golden Era of Disney films is considered 1937-1942 or basically 5 films- Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi. They are all true masterpieces and such bold artistic visions and I think they all hold up very well both animation and otherwise. As I love this era it was a pretty easy tag for me to do so here are my answers:
1.Are there films you haven’t seen from this era? Nope seen them all! You can read my reviews of all of the films here: (These were the first reviews I ever wrote for the blog!)
2.What is your favorite film from the era? My favorite is Fantasia because it has the most variety and I love seeing the artists interpret the beautiful music. I honestly don’t get it when people think it is boring- a new world, characters, story, music happens every 10 minutes or so!
3.What is your least favorite film of the era? Pinocchio. I didn’t like it as a girl and while I appreciate it now it still isn’t a favorite of mine. The animation is beautiful but as a morality tale it can be a little heavy handed and scary.
4.What is your favorite main character? I love Timothy Q Mouse. He sticks up for Dumbo and doesn’t allow him to be bullied or made fun of by the elephants.
5.Who is your favorite villain? Night on Bald Mountain aside there really is only 1 villain in these films- the Evil Queen. She is great because she is queen. She has all the power and money but her vanity wants more. She must be fairest in the land and when she isn’t she wants Snow White killed. That’s pretty wicked! I also love the vocal performance and her design both as old lady and evil queen.
6.Who is your favorite sidekick? Well I already said Timothy Q Mouse so I will go with Dopey. He’s so funny and sweet.
7.What is your favorite song of the era? When You Wish Upon a Star is about as good as it gets. It’s a song about hope and daring to dream for greater things in life. That’s what Disney does at its best is inspire hope and imagination. I would put Baby Mine as a close second.
8.What do you consider to be the most underrated film of the era? Dumbo because it gets a bum rap for being racist. I think the crows are a caricature but I personally don’t find them that offensive. I think it is especially forgivable when the entire message of the movie is about accepting people (or elephants) that are different.
9.What is your favorite thing about this era? I’m just blown away by the artistry and how bold Walt was. It would have been so easy for him to pump out 5 more Snow Whites but he went for Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi which are all artistic masterpieces and bold storytelling. Dumbo is the simpleton of the group and that’s saying something because it is also bold in kind of a simple way. They are challenging in tone and themes and take multiple viewings to absorb. I love all 5 more each time I see them.
10.What is your least favorite thing about this era? My least favorite scene is when the boys get turned into donkeys; although, as an adult I find it more enjoyable. As a kid I was petrified of it! The scene where Dumbo and Timothy Q Mouse get drunk isn’t my favorite either.
I haven’t mentioned Bambi at all in this tag, which is a shame because I really do love it. It’s so textured and beautiful to watch. I love how it doesn’t have much plot but is just a baby deer growing up. It’s sweet and simple and then sad when it needs to be. The scenes with the fire are stunningly animated and the way it uses music as a sound effect was groundbreaking. I was probably a little too tough on Bambi when I reviewed it. I definitely should have given it an A.
Lets talk some Studio Ghibli specifically their latest film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Studio Ghibli if you are not aware is the Japanese animation team that has produced anime films such as Spirited Away, My Friend Tottoro, Howls Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke. They are most known for the works by Hayao Miyazaki, the amazing artist and director.
There has been some talk of Studio Ghibli taking a break with the retirement of Miyazaki but he has talked of retirement before and then finds a reason to make another film so we will see what happens. In the meantime there is still plenty of talent at Studio Ghibli to draw upon as can be seen by Kaguya which is directed by Isao Takahata. By the strength of this film, I am very excited to see what Takahata has for us in the future! (I guess Takahata directed Grave of the Fireflies which is also dark and beautiful).
This is a very different kind of movie than the Miyazaki films and honestly it is going to be a tough sell for some western audiences. It is very slowly paced. The only thing I can think to compare it to is maybe Bambi. There isn’t a strong plot to Bambi but it is beautiful and it tells the tale of a deer growing up to be a prince. Kagayu is kind of like that.
It has a very different look than other Studio Ghibli films and reminds me more of The Secret of the Kells or Ernest and Celestine the way it uses watercolor and hand drawn animation to tell the story. Some may have issues with the film but, nobody can deny that Kaguya looks stunning.
Take a look at the trailer.
It tells the story of a bamboo farmer who finds a little girl in the bamboo. It looks like a doll but he takes it home to his wife and the baby miraculously grows very quickly as it is taken care of.
Kind of like with Bambi when you see him learning to skate or playing with Thumper, in this story you see the baby called Little Bamboo frolicking with her friends. There are multiple scenes with babies bottoms and women breastfeeding which I guess could bother some people but I think breastfeeding is beautiful so that didn’t bother me. You see Bamboo playing with frogs, eating melon, chasing pigs, scenes like that which are sweet but some may want more story.
Little Bamboo’s father finds gold in the bamboo and great silks and kimonos and he feels this is a sign from the Gods that she is of noble birth and must be trained as such. This leads us to the second half of the movie (it is a very long 2 hours and 17 minutes and it is slow paced so like I said some will find it boring) where Little Bamboo is trained as a lady and renamed by the naming man to be Princess Kaguya.
This part of the movie is so Japanese and may be a tough sell for western audiences. In Western films such as Mulan or Little Mermaid, our heroines Mulan and Ariel rebel against their fathers and cultural customs and find happiness. In this film Kaguya repeatedly agrees to do as her father directs whether it is moving to the city, painting her teeth black, listening to suitors, or plucking her eyebrows .
There is only one moment where she refuses to submit to the Emperor and be his concubine (all the suitors in the movie have multiple wives and concubines so that’s not the reason she refuses). She has a moment of free spirit that is gorgeously drawn but in the end even the God’s force her to submit.
This is such a different character arc than I am used to and it was challenging because it didn’t seem like she was a happy person. She’d have glimpses of happiness but then it would be taken away from her a second later; however, I know that is because I come from a culture that see’s happiness and life very differently, so I try to learn from this culture presented and not be too judgmental of their choices.
Like I said I think The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a tough sell for the average American audience. It is long. It has minimal plot and the characters make choices that go against our modern sensibilities. However, if you can set all that aside you are in for a treat. It is so beautiful. The music by Joe Hisaishi is one of the best scores I’ve ever heard. There are whole sequences when Kaguya is running or when a character is at sea and faces a monster that are stunning.
There is also something to be said for obedience and submitting your will to a higher power’s plan, even if it makes you temporarily unhappy . As a Christian, I certainly believe that is often the case. There are many things I do not do which at least seem to give others pleasure because I want to be obedient. So it does have a valuable lesson to teach. It’s just not the independence and strong will power we value so much in Western and particularly American culture.
I’d be very curious to know what any of you think if you get to see it. The US Dubbing is good with Mary Steenburgen, Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges, James Marsden and others. As with all Studio Ghibli films they manage to merge the languages so that it feels like the characters have always been speaking English.
It certainly strengthens my argument of how wonderful 2014 has been for animation because nobody can deny The Tale of Princess Kaguya is one of the most beautifully animated films of this or any other year. It is gorgeous. Some people will definitely have issues with pacing and character’s choices but I was able to move past those barriers and really was blown away by it.
See it in the theater if you can not only to get the most beautiful viewing experience, but to support hand drawn animation when you can because the box office is where it really counts. DVD and blu-ray sales help but when studios are deciding whether to produce movies they look at box office sales, so if you love hand drawn animation it’s time to put your money where your mouth is like I did. If it is not playing at a city near you (25 cities so far) than follow them on facebook and contact your local theaters. Let them know you want to see it.
It is going to be extremely difficult to determine this year’s Best Animated Feature for the Oscars because I don’t know how you don’t include this film. It is awe-inspiring to look at. I think either Boxtrolls or Book of Life is going to lose its spot which is a shame because they are both so inventive and great to look at. I don’t care if I’m the only one who feels this way I just love this year’s films! If Song of the Sea is as great as people say than the Oscars noms are likely to be Song of the Sea, Tale of Princess Kaguya, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Hero 6 and The Lego Movie. I would love to see Hisaishi get a nom for best score because it really is outstanding but it’s been a great year in that department too. A great year for movies!
Here are some more clips if you are still trying to decide whether to see it or not.
As far as a recommendation for kids it is tough. Certain kids will be very rambunctious throughout the film and like I said there are breasts, baby butts and talk of wives and concubines if that is a concern for parents. Other than that there isn’t any content that would be offensive. Nothing is scary or violent. There are some kids who really love artistic films and sometimes it’s the adults that get antsy! I’ve seen that happen many times.
My niece who really loves Japanese culture and art I think would love it, so it just depends on the kid. Maybe watch the trailers with them and gauge their interest? But I think it is good for kids to see challenging films on occasion and not the easy to digest but fun films mainstream Hollywood gives them. It’s good for the brain to have to work a little bit harder to appreciate what we view from time-to-time.
There probably is not a movie I am more personally divided on in the Disney Canon than Lilo and Stitch. About half I LOVE and the other half not as much… I guess you could say I love the Lilo but not as crazy about the Stitch.
As much as I enjoy the big epic Disney movies like Frozen I also love the smaller, more intimate pictures like Lilo and Stitch.
In fact, after 3 or 4 commercial disappointments they decided to embrace the Dumbo strategy. Back in the late 1930s Disney had 2 financial ambitious failures in Fantasia and Pinocchio. Bambi was also full of delays and expenses. Walt decided to pull a few animators and make a simple, easy to draw but likable film and they came up with Dumbo.
Dumbo had watercolor backgrounds instead of the layers like Bambi and the characters were relatively simple and appealing. The strategy worked and Dumbo was a big hit.
Lilo and Stitch followed this strategy all the way down to the stunning watercolor backgrounds.
Looking for an easy to execute idea Disney turned inward and animator Chris Sanders pitched a book he had drawn in the 80s about a girl who adopts the world’s meanest alien.
The animators liked the idea and decided on Kaua’i Hawaii as the setting because of the spirit of family, its visibility from space, culture, music and it had never been done before in an animated film.
They do a great job not just showing the lush paradise of Hawaii but also the poverty and harder sides. It feels like a place people actually live.
The adult actors are all lesser known (more cost cutting) except for Ving Rhames as Cobra Bubbles. Many of the cast like Tia Carrere and Jason Scott Lee who play Nani and David are Hawaiian.
Another cost cutting measure was using traditional Hawaiian songs and Elvis numbers which made the soundtrack easy to put together and had minimal recording. I guess because I love Hawaiian music and Elvis I LOVE the soundtrack!
There’s a personal reason I respond to the Hawaiian setting and culture in the film. In 2007 I was starting to come out of a very dark period. There was a time when I felt I had lost the ability to feel happiness. Then I made big changes in my life in early 2007 but hadn’t made the tough decision to quit my job.
That summer my girlfriends and I went to Hawaii and had the most amazing trip. It was an awakening for me. I realized I could be happy. That life was beautiful and lush. I called my Dad the night before we were leaving and cried my eyes out. The idea of leaving such happiness made me so sad. I realized I needed to quit my job and create a happy life for myself.
I guess you could say the ohana spirit moved me and made me a better person.
I’ve been back three times since then and each time I leave feeling renewed and happy. Watching Lilo and Stitch with its music, surfing, watercolor mountains, hula and everything else brings back those memories which are always close to my heart (I need to get back!)
The intro really captures the ohana magic
It was also the first Disney classic to be nominated for Best Animated Film at the Oscars but lost out to Spirited Away (who wouldn’t lose to that masterpiece?)
So let’s continue on this vein by talking about the things in the story that best show the Hawaii I love. Lilo and Stitch is about 2 sisters, Lilo and Nani who’s parents have passed on and are forced to try and make their ‘broken family’ work.
These scenes between the two sisters are perfect. I wouldn’t change them one bit.
Here they are arguing like all sisters do, but I so relate to Nani because I was the older sister carrying for a sister and a brother who were 16 and 18 years younger than me. I get how she was feeling
And then this scene is perfect too. This felt like a real sisterly moment.
The prayer at the end of it just breaks my heart and is one of the few prayers in Disney films. Again wouldn’t change a thing.
I love that Lilo is a weird little girl. She has a strange doll and doesn’t get along with the other little girls. She tries to feed sandwiches to fish and is just a strange kid- like all kids! (especially a kid who has experienced recent trauma).
I also love this is a Disney movie about a little girl. That is actually pretty rare. Most Disney movies are about adolescent girls like Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas etc. I love that little girls have a little girl in a Disney film they can relate too and feel a little less alone in their strangeness.
Unfortunately there are problems for Nani and a social worker is concerned about her problems keeping a job and the stress of carrying for Lilo. He’s not a bad guy- just doing his job, but the threat of the ‘ohana’ being taken away is palatable throughout the movie. Not so much it is depressing but a real fear propelling the story forward.
Now we get to the part I don’t like…
Nani decides to let Lilo adopt a dog. At the shelter the find a weird creature who Lilo names Stitch:
We have seen earilier in the film that Stitch is an alien genetic mutation created by a mad scientist alien for world domination.
I’m sorry but I just don’t like the look of any of the aliens. Stitch looks like a cockroach, which I guess is appropriate for Hawaii but it was so unpleasant to look at (I hate cockroaches btw!). And he is so awful. Everything else in the movie is so sweet and tender having this maniac alien thrown in hurt the tone and I couldn’t wait for him to get off the screen.
The other aliens are all modeled off of sea creatures and they don’t look much better and are kind of boring. I kept wanting it to be done with the alien story and get back to the sisters. This movie should have been simple like The Fox and the Hound but it decided to pay homage to ET. The problem is ET was kind of cute and aside from frogs and resees pieces he didn’t really hurt anything. Plus, Elliott’s family is not in crisis like Lilo’s so it feels like too much for Stitch to destroy their house (literally), make Nani loose multiple jobs and more.
I don’t know how you have enough story without the Stitch but maybe just tone him down a little bit or make him a little bit cuter. Make him something good to the family not another struggle. Hmmm
I did like Lilo teaching Stitch how to dance like Elvis and hula.
The ending drags a bit and it could have been 10 minutes shorter (or follow the example of Dumbo and make it 62 minutes!). I don’t want to give everything away but there is some fun action and the spaceships are pretty cool.
We do get a nice moment where even Stitch learns he has found his ‘little and broken family’ (that gets me every time!).
And we get a little Elvis which is tons of fun.
So like I said I have mixed feelings about Lilo and Stitch. I wish I could excise all the Stitch stuff out and just make it about the sisters. I loved their relationship. I loved the Hawaiian culture. I loved the watercolor look. I loved the music both Hawaiian and Elvis. I love the focus on families and ohana, and I love that Lilo is a little girl not an adolescent who behaves like a little girl.
I still think Stitch is one of the ugliest animated creatures ever created and the scenes with all the aliens drag. I found myself itching to get back to the sisters. It was so much more compelling. Unfortunately this is a large part of the movie so it is a problem.
It makes giving a grade very difficult .
I guess I’m going to treat it like Bambi. When Bambi works it works so well but when it doesn’t I’m not invested. I gave Bambi a B- so