So I recently finished reviewing the Disney Renaissance and I know how everyone loves lists, so I will do my best at ranking these films (and I will try to not have everything be Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid.
Silver- Beauty and the Beast
Bronze- Hunchback of Notre Dame
Favorite Lead Character/Hero-
Favorite Side Character-
Even More Minor Characters-
Gold- Wilbur, Rescuers Down Under
Best Vocal Performance-
Gold- Robin Williams, Aladdin
Silver- Samuel Wright, Little Mermaid
Bronze- Pat Carroll, Little Mermaid
Honorable Mention- John Candy, Rescuers Down Under
Best Original Score-
Gold- Lion King, Hans Zimmer
Silver- Rescuers Down Under, Bruce Broughton
Bronze- Little Mermaid, Alan Menken
Best Song- (this is tough)
Gold-Part of Your World- Menken and Ashman
Silver- Be Our Guest- Menken and Ashman
Bronze-Friend Like Me- Menken and Ashman
Honorable Mentions- Out There (Menken and Schwartz), Under the Sea (Menken and Ashman), A Star is Born (Menken and Zippel), You’ll Be in My Heart (Phil Collins), Reflection (Wilder and Zippel)
Best Villain Song-
Gold- Poor Unfortunate Souls, Menken and Ashman
Silver- Be Prepared, Elton John and Tim Rice
Bronze- Savages, Menken and Schwartz
Honorable Mentions- Gaston (Menken and Ashman),
Gold- Mufasa’s death
Silver- Quasimodo getting mocked and tied up by gypsies
Bronze- Beast dies
Bronze- Rescuers Down Under (not a comedy but the funny moments were so funny)
Gold- Mcleach and the knife throwing, Rescuers Down Under
Silver- Mob Song, Beauty and the Beast
Couldn’t think of anything else scary in Renaissance. That’s strange.
Gold- Burning down house with family in it, Hunchback
Silver- Hellfire, rape and murder song, Hunchback
Bronze- Pocahontas teaching John Smith about how gold is stupid, Pocahontas
Honorable Mention- Basically all of Pocahontas except Savages number
Gold- Rescuers Down Under
Most Romantic Moment-
Gold- Belle and Beast dancing
Silver- Kiss the Girl
Bronze- Jasmine and Aladdin kiss
Best- Beauty and the Beast
Co-Best- Little Mermaid (I love both so much!)
I just finished reviewing Dinosaur (oh my…) and here’s how we currently stand rating-wise
A+ we have 6
B+ we have 4
C+ we have 2
D we have 3
A we have 9
B we have 1
C we have 3
D- we have 3
A- we have 2
B- we have 1
C- we have 3
F we have 1
What are your favorites from the Renaissance? Please share.
Thank you to everyone for your comments. We might not always agree but I enjoying conversing with all of you!
I ask because in the end enjoyment of Tarzan will radically lie whether you like Phil Collins or not. Also, if you aren’t a big fan of The Lion King style of movie, I don’t know if you will like Tarzan.
I, however, am a fan of both, so I do like it. It isn’t perfect but there is a lot to like in Tarzan.
Released in 1999 it marked the end of the Disney Renaissance and the last film to make a lot of money before the slump of the 2000s (it’s going to be interesting reviewing the next decade).
Directed by Disney regular Chris Buck and Kevin Lima, Tarzan is adapted from the movie adaptations and novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan and the Apes.
It’s actually the only Tarzan movie I’ve ever seen so I can’t tell you how close it is to any other version.
First of all, the whole movie looks gorgeous. Tarzan kind of surfs on the trees and the backgrounds zoom in and out and are so lush . The water scenes look stunning. If I was just going on visuals it would get an A++++. I could turn off the sound and just watch it and be entertained.
To create some of the look they actually created a new technology called Deep Canvas which allows 3D painting and you can tell. It looks great!
The reason why I said it reminded me of the Lion King is they are both very pop influenced films. We even get the hook structure of pop music from the dramatic beginning with a bold title card just like Lion King. All of the 5 songs Phil Collins wrote have a pop feel where Lion King did have Be Prepared, which was a little different.
Tarzan also has the comedic song/side characters, Terk and Tanto, which may as well be carbon copies of Timon and Pumba.
Incidentally, Tarzan was made into a Broadway musical and it was considered a big flop, but I actually prefer the music they added and the way the songs are sung by the characters not background.
The story is pretty predictable but it is engagingly told. We start out with our dramatic beginning showing us how Tarzan is adopted by the apes. This might be a little scary for young kids under 5.
You either get hooked in with this intro or you don’t. You either like Phil Collins singing or you don’t. I’m always hooked. I think it is pretty engrossing.
So Tarzan gets adopted by Kala voiced by Glen Close (another similarity to The Lion King lots of celebrity voices who don’t have to sing much).
Kala rescues Tarzan but her mate Kerchak does not like the idea of having the ‘man cub’ (to use the Jungle Book) in the herd. So, he is hostile towards Tarzan from the beginning.
As Tarzan begins to cry Kala sings the best song of the movie and my favorite lullaby- You’ll Be in my Heart. If I am rocking one of my nieces it is the perfect song. I LOVE it!
I actually prefer the Broadway version with the mother singing it the whole way so here it is:
We then get a bunch of middling scenes with Tarzan feeling excluded and having a hard time making friends. Eventually he makes 2 friends (the Timon and Pumba stand ins)
He grows up and there is a song called Son of Man. My Mother hated the song because son of man is a title of Christ, and she felt it was sacrilege for a pop song to have the same name as the Lord. (We got into the biggest fight one time over it. Sigh…)
Terk, his guerrilla friend was voiced by then talk queen Rosie O’Donnell and it is not my favorite vocal. She kind of grates on me.
Eventually Tarzan hears a sound and follows it to find a woman running in distress, being chased by monkeys.
Some people will no doubt groan at the Jame, damsel in distress, trope but I don’t mind it here. She’s strong in other ways and I don’t think every female character has to be strong. They just have to have a personality of some kind (that’s what drives me crazy in Bella. She’s damsel in distress and no personality).
Plus, I am a mess in the outdoors and an animalphobe so if I was being chased by monkeys I would be screaming louder than Jane so I guess I relate.
I had a really hard time finding clips for this movie for some reason but I do like the encounter of Jane and Tarzan first meeting. It is very well done.
This is the first movie I can recall where Disney uses the big eyes common in Japanese animation such as Studio Ghibli. Some people don’t like the large eyes but it doesn’t bother me.
Jane is in the Jungle with her father and their guide Clayton to try and study the guerrillas. Clayton is a snooze of a villain who like Radcliffe in Pocahontas is only there for the GOLD! Greed is only on his mind in the form of guerrillas to sell for money!
Unlike Pocahontas who teaches John Smith her ways, Jane teaches Tarzan her ways which was very well done and then Tarzan shows Jane his world. I really like the chemistry between Jane and Tarzan. I liked that neither was stupid or patronizing. They seemed sincerely interested in each other and their views. Minnie Driver is very good as Jane’s voice .
We also get a song sung by Terk called Trashing the Camp which is basically the Hakuna Matata of the movie and it’s ok. I’m sure little kids love it.
Eventually the time for Jane to leave comes and Tarzan realizes he doesn’t want her to go. Clayton convinces him if he shows them the guerrillas Jane might stay. Kerchak has forbidden this for the safety of the herd.
Tarzan decides to anyway and at first it goes well. It’s just beautiful!
But Kerchak comes and is enraged at Tarzan for betraying their home. They fight and Tarzan leaves. It is then that Kala takes Tarzan to the tree-house where she found him. He learns who he is and decides to wear his father’s clothes and go with Jane and since Kerchak has forced him out what choice does he have?
The day of departure comes and they get on the ship only to find Clayton and all his men roping everyone up and going to get the guerrillas to sell.
Terk and Tantor help free Tarzan and the gang and they get back to help the herd and there is a great final battle with one of the gnarliest villain deaths in Disney history. It is maybe too intense for little children to see a man hang himself? I don’t know.
Our ending with Jane and Tarzan ending up together in the jungle is predictable but I think done very well. I liked it.
I own this movie on blu-ray because it is so beautiful to watch, and I don’t mind the music, so I really enjoy it. The vocal performances are good and I think Tarzan and Jane have nice chemistry and are a believable couple.
The comedic characters don’t work as well for me, but they aren’t terrible, and the villain is super one-note, but I still think it is a very satisfying picture.
I love You’ll Be in My Heart and like I said I just love watching him fly through those trees. It’s stunning.
I know at the end of this project people will want me to rank all 54 in order from greatest to worst and I don’t know how I am going to do it. It feels impossible. Take The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast . Both are masterpieces. Perfection. Little Mermaid probably means more to me personally, where Beauty and the Beast is probably more of a universal story but they are both sensational. I said it with Winnie the Pooh and immediately a chorus of detractors surfaced, but who cannot like Beauty and the Beast?
Who knows but I love it!
Here’s how I know it is a great movie. The other day I was thinking about it and it occurred to me there are some major plot holes. For instance, we know the Beast has till 21 to break the spell but he has 10 years so he was rude at 11? If time stood still in castle and he is 21 forever (which would seem to be the case given Chip who is probably 7ish?) than how does he know he is 21 yet and if he is 21 wouldn’t that still make him very young when the spell was given? Or has he been 21, 10 times?
Also when you think about Be Our Guest, all the flatware and napkins and everything else, if each of those things is a person that is a lot of servants at the castle? Thousands! Finally, is the whole kingdom under the spell? Is that why there are so many items? Because wouldn’t people notice their prince is gone? Also how long are Belle and the Beast together because Lefoux and Maurice are outside the whole time but their courtship seems like many months?
So plot holes, yes? But here’s the thing…None of that matters AT ALL! Even a little bit! The characters are so rich, the writing is so sharp, animation stunning and the music- oh is it perfect. To me it is like Up in that regard. Yes you can nitpick plot points but all the pieces are so strong it carries the viewer away with it if they will allow it to.
Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture and it sure deserved it.
It’s hard writing this blog because I have tons of information on this and it is all very interesting stuff. The audio commentary has so many great tidbits from Allan Menken, Gary Trousdale, and Kirk Wise.
Like Little Mermaid, this film was treated like a traditional Broadway musical and much of that emphasis came from lyricist Howard Ashman who I have grown to have such immense respect for when doing my research for this project. He tragically died from AIDS before Beauty and the Beast could be released but this was not simply a song writer. This was a man who acted out the characters and had definite opinions about casting, dialogue and everything else. They said on the Gaston number Ashman had sheets and sheets of lines of funny prose that had to be trimmed out. He could have gone on for days.
He was so crucial to Beauty and the Beast that they moved production to an upstate New York Radisson Inn so they could be near him as he was sick. What a creative gift to give the world as you are on your death bed. Quite touching really.
I think we forget how bold the traditional musical structure was in 1991. Even with The Little Mermaid precedent, to do a Broadway musical was basically unheard of. We are more used to it now because we get a musical release every year or so but that would not have happened if Menken and Ashman and Disney had not kept the medium alive in the 90s.
They said in the audio commentary that the New York Film Festival gave a standing ovation to a rough draft version of Beauty and the Beast and part of that is because it is so great but another is because it hits every nostalgic musical button without being corny.
The casting went a long way with the film’s success. Jodi Benson, from Little Mermaid was considered for Belle, but they decided to go with an older, more mature sounding voice of Paige O’hara. The Little Mermaid needed a girl who is uncomfortable in her own skin. Beauty and the Beast needed a woman. Belle has already figured out what she wants and it is not just a thing like legs or a man. She wants adventure and a spiritual belonging.
What takes Ariel probably 40 minutes to realize when she sings on the rock, Belle has announced in the first 15 minutes. Both are important characters but just at different phases and ages. I love that.
All the other casting is brilliant with Richard White as Gaston, Robby Benson as Beast, Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, and Angela Lansbury as Mrs Potts. I went to a concert of Angela Lansbury and she felt great ownership over playing Mrs Potts. She said after 9/11 she would talk with kids and her voice was a comfort to them because of Mrs Potts. You can feel that kind of connection in all the performances. Mrs Potts is a great example of how perfect the characters are developed. With her we have a character with no arms or legs and yet she is warm and maternal. Pretty remarkable.
What amazed me this time around is how every character in Beauty and the Beast is established in the first 30 seconds of them talking. The Beast is the only one we don’t understand and have to see change. Usually this wouldn’t work but when the writing is this sharp it does. It is kind of like the Justice League of animation. Individually they may be a boring character but together they work great.
Allan Menken’s score contributes so much too. The way scenes build to crescendos and the way storytelling is done within songs is amazing. this is not a action, stop and sing, and more action type of musical. The music tells the story and introduces us to the characters flawlessly.
Think of The Mob Song. We start out with Gaston proposing to Belle and by the end they are practically at the castle and that all happens convincingly with the lyrics, vocals and music. (And each reaction totally makes sense when given the behavior of the Beast at the beginning and what little we know about each of the townspeople and Gaston).
It also took the CAPS work of Rescuers Down Under and combined it with special effects in a new way. Remember in my Rescuers review I said the computer graphic sequences like the Sydney Opera House didn’t really hold up for modern audiences? These do. The ballroom scene is just as beautiful now and sweeping as it was then. There isn’t a moment of the film that feels antiquated or tired to me.
There is personal value to Beauty and the Beast for me as well. I responded to the story of course but I have always loved Broadway since I was in High School. When I was in college my dear cousin Lisa and I conceived of a plan to take a trip out to New York with our Grandma. While we were there we saw Beauty and the Beast and were blown away. We also saw Music Man and the Rockettes (it was a Christmas trip). 4 months later Lisa passed away of a long-term illness, so I can’t help but watch it and think of her.
I’m sorry if that seems sentimental but it’s true. For me movie-going is not just images on the screen but stories and stories matter in my life.
Normally in my reviews I go over the story talking about what I like in one character or another, what songs I like, how the story moves and flows. I literally have found that to be impossible for Beauty and the Beast. I’ve tried 4 times and each time ended up with so much material nobody would ever read it. My last attempt at keeping it simple had 10 pages and I had only gotten to Something There. I know some people enjoy my writing but 20 pages on Beauty and the Beast might be a little much.
So, basically it’s a story about a girl who feels out of place named Belle
The town jock Gaston is in love with her because she’s pretty but she wants more
Her father gets lost and finds an enchanted castle where he is imprisoned by a beast
She agrees to go in the place of her father so that he can be free
The house is full of enchanted objects created by the spell changing not only the beast but all in the household
They do their best to make Belle happy
Gaston is depressed about Belle’s rejection and his pubmates try to cheer him up
Belle’s father tries to get help, everyone thinks he is nuts and that gives Gaston an idea to manipulate Belle into marrying him
Meanwhile in some amount of time Belle starts to see a softer side to the Beast and he indulges her love of reading
Beast and Belle have a night dancing where he is ready to tell her he is in love with her
But she learns her father is in trouble and despite the enchanted rose wilting Beast allows her to go
When home Gaston tries to have Belle’s father committed unless she will marry him, she refuses
Gaston and the townsfolk learn about the Beast and storm to the castle to kill him
The household objects defend themselves but Gaston finds his way to the Beast
At first the Beast doesn’t care because Belle is gone and let’s Gaston win at the fight
Then he see’s Belle and Gaston and Beast fight, with the Beast letting him go. Then in return Gaston literally backstabs the Beast and then falls to his death
Beast dies in Belle’s arms but just before the pedal drops Belle tells him she loves him. This love is enough to reverse the curse and bring Beast back
All the household objects are returned to their pre-curse state and Belle and Beast are happy forever.
Phew! I’m exhausted. I must have written that 5 times and I’m not entirely happy with a clip show summary (I have so much I could tell you!) it was the best way I could come up with to simply let the story talk about itself.
Like I said at the beginning Little Mermaid has more personal meaning to me but Beauty and the Beast is a close 2nd. It had great impact and is one of only 3 movies I remember seeing as a little girl and loving. So, if I could give a co-champion of my youth it would be Beauty and the Beast.
Every aspect is perfect. Villain? Perfect. Heroine? Perfect. Animation? Perfect and still looks great in 2014. Backgrounds? Stunning works of art. Side Characters? Perfect. Humor? Perfect. Musical score? One of best ever written. Songs? Perfection. It really has the feel of someone’s master work and that is probably because it was. Thinking of Howard Ashman working on the lyrics when he was on his deathbed had to give special meaning to the whole project for all who worked on it. I have a feeling that is what made it so special.
I have seen the stage musical probably 15 times and it is a delight. Whenever they do it at local theaters by me it is sold out quickly. They had so much interest a few years ago they had like 6 performances on Saturday.
It has lessons of redemption, forgiveness, vanity, pride, ambition, dreaming, and fun but it doesn’t beat you over the head with any of them. It has us so attached to every character including the Beast that when they transition to humans it feels like a bit of a letdown. We are so used to them as candlesticks and clocks.
I honestly had forgotten how great this movie was until it was released in 3D (and I could do without the added scene for the 3D release) last year and I saw it on IMAX and sat in my chair for about 10 minutes after and marveled.
I would say it is not only one of Disney’s best but it is one of the great movies ever made.
Overall Grade- A+
No wonder it was the first animated movie to be nominated for Beast Picture and won for best score and song for Beauty and the Beast.
Hey, and it also introduced us all to Celine Dion so there’s that 😉
Oh and the other great thing is for most viewers we want to be Belle because she’s smart, kind and beautiful, but we also want to be the beast because we hope someone will love us even with all our flaws. To have that kind of relatability with one character is hard for a writer, but to do it with two is really hard. Perfection!
We are just about to start the Disney Renaissance, have passed the 50 years of Disney mark in the reviews and am at half way through the Disney classics. So it seemed appropriate to do a little report card of the films I’ve reviewed so far.
At the end of every review I give a grade. There were only 2 reviews which got 2 grades. The first was Make Mine Music which I liked on a ‘so bad it’s good level’. It’s one of the most bizarre cinematic experiences of my life but I can’t say I wasn’t entertained by it. I’d rather watch a strange failure than a lazy bland movie like Fun and Fancy Free, but that’s just me. The other double review was The Rescuers because if you can tolerate Medusa it is fine movie.
So with that said, let’s go over my grades:
4 movies received A+
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
If you had asked me to pick 4 before the project started I don’t think I would have said those 4
6 movies received A
Snow White and 7 Dwarfs
Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad
Alice in Wonderland
Only 1 film got an A-
Great Mouse Detective
4 movies received a B+
Lady and the Tramp
1 movie received a B-
2 movies received a C+
Fox and the Hound
The Rescuers (for most people)
I look at a C grade as average. And of course all of these grades are relative to Disney. I know in the realm of all animation these C’s are not average. They would be higher when compared with a lot of other pictures.
3 movies received a C
The Black Cauldron
Oliver and Company
2 movies received a C-
Make Mine Music
The Sword in the Stone.
1 movie received a D
The Three Caballeros
3 movies received a D-
Fun and Fancy Free
The Rescuers (for me)
People are always curious to know my favorites and it is such a hard question because I like them all for different reasons. Even the D’s I’m not sad I watched them. They aren’t the kind of terrible movies where I want to rip my hair out and hope for death. Usually I just felt like the tone was off and it wasn’t original or creative enough for me to like.
I will try though. I’ll give a gold, silver and bronze on a few categories.
Silver- Lady Tremaine
Bronze- Cruella De Vil
Honorable Mention- Ratigan
Silver- Alice in Wonderland
Bronze- Sleeping Beauty
Favorite Lead Character/Hero-
Silver- Winnie the Pooh
Bronze- Lady, Lady and the Tramp
Favorite Side Character-
Gold- Baloo the Bear
Silver- Tinker Bell
Bronze- Trusty and Jock from Lady and the Tramp
Even More Minor Characters-
Gold- Timothy Q Mouse, Dumbo
Silver- Jaq and Gus, Cinderella
Bronze- Olivia, Great Mouse Detective
Worst Vocal Performance-
Gold- Gurghi, Black Cauldron
Silver- Snow White
Best Vocal Performance-
Gold- Verna Felton- Dumbo, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty etc
Silver- Sterling Holloway- Dumbo, Bambi, Three Cabelleros, Peter and the Wolf, Alice in Wonderland, Jungle Book, Aristocats and of course Winnie the Pooh
Bronze- Phil Harris- Jungle Book, Robin Hood, Aristocats
Strangest Scene- love all these scenes
Gold- Pink Elephants on Parade, Dumbo
Silver- Heffalumps and Woozles, Winnie the Pooh
Bronze- All of Alice in Wonderland
Best Original Score-
Gold- Black Cauldron by Elmer Bernstein
Silver- Bambi by Frank Churchill
Bronze- Jungle Book- Sherman Brothers
Best Song- (this is tough)
Gold- When You Wish Upon a Star by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington
Silver- Bear Necessities by Sherman Brothers
Bronze- Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston
Gold- Snow White’s death and Grumpy crying
Silver- Dumbo Baby of Mine scene
Bronze- Christopher Robin goes to school (I know but it just struck a nerve with me)
Gold- Robin Hood
Silver- Peter Pan (the slapstick is very funny)
Bronze- Great Mouse Detective (not a comedy but some good laughs)
Gold- Pleasure Island, Pinocchio
Silver- Grizzly Bear Scene, Fox and the Hound
Bronze- Headless Horseman, Ichabod and Mr Toad
Gold- Red Man, Peter Pan
Silver- Siamese cats, Lady and the Tramp and Aristocats
Bronze- Bongo, Fun and Fancy Free
Honorable Mention- Every instant love scene but specially Vixey and end of Jungle Book…
Not that Bad (Big problems but not as bad as I expected)
Gold- Black Cauldron
Silver- Melody Time
Bronze- Saludos Amigos
Film Everyone Else Loves but I Just Liked OK
Gold- Fun and Fancy Free particularly Mickey and the Beanstalk which I thought was lazy.
Silver- Sword in the Stone
Most Sentimental/Corniest Moment–
Gold- Fox and the Hound (whole movie but especially the Widow’s poem. I know I’m made of stone)
Most Romantic Moment-
Gold- Spaghetti, Lady and the Tramp
Silver- Phillip and Aurora dancing, Sleeping Beauty
Bronze- Pongo and Perdi, 101 Dalmatians
Worst- The Rescuers (just for me and my taste would never want to watch again)
I guess out of the 4 A+ movies I will go with Cinderella. I have every version of Cinderella I can get on film. I love the story and Disney pulls it off pretty flawlessly.
Thanks for Reading!
So there you go! It’s funny we are down to 89 and have 1/2 left. That old releasing a film every year makes the 90s and 2000’s very productive times for Disney. Should be a blast. Please keep up with the blog and let me know if any of these rankings surprised you.
How would you rate your favorites? I always enjoy a good back and forth with my commentors, especially when we are talking Disney so put your thoughts below!