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.
Figured since I posted about the series and shared my brackets I would post the round 1 results of the AMC Animation Movie Madness. I am a little surprised all the anime films got beaten, but I don’t think any of the winners are bad.
Anything surprise you about what won out? A little surprised on Monsters Inc and Toy Story 3 winning. Happy Wreck it Ralph didn’t make it on but sad about Spirited Away and Wall-e but Pinocchio is great.
What do you think about the next match ups?
I see it being a Pixar lovefest which as a Pixar fangirl (I even like Cars 2) is fine with me. I think the winners of the round will be Lion King, Toy Story, Up, Aladdin, Toy Story 3, Monsters Inc (Frozen should win over Monsters Inc but youtube seems particularly virulent in the backlash dept), Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story 2. As a Disney fan cool to see an all Disney/Pixar Sweet 16 except for Iron Giant. I am glad to see that one Golden Age Disney made it to Sweet 16 even if Pinocchio wouldn’t have been my choice, it is certainly a great film.
It’s the very definition of a popularity contest but I think it is kind of fun. I wouldn’t take it too seriously. It’s not saying what is the ‘best’ animated movie. That would have to be determined by animation experts but it is just what people like the most, which on a certain level is interesting.
I did a bunch of brackets a while back including the best of the worst of Disney which Bolt won. So it is the movie I would most like to watch again of all the bad Disney movies. Would be really fun if you guys did that bracket too and we could compare our sweet 16, final 4’s, winners. Give it a try!
Being a Disney buff I have often been asked for my feelings on Once Upon a Time and indeed I probably should have started watching the show much sooner but it was on Sunday nights and my Sunday nights were filled with Amazing Race, The Simpsons and other shows. Now TAR is on Fridays and I find myself having little to nothing to watch on Sundays besides the Simpsons and I’d heard great things about the recent OUAT season featuring characters from Frozen that I decided to give it a watch. Luckily seasons 1-3 are on Netflix stream so that makes catching up very easy!
It’s a pretty simple premise for a show, one that only ABC could stage with it’s Disney pedigree. The story begins with a town in Maine called Storybrooke. It is a town of displaced fairytale creatures who have all forgotten their alter-egos because of a curse put on them all by the Evil Queen/Regina in modern world. Regina is played with a lot of gusto by Lana Parilla.
A seeming commoner named Emma comes into the town by a boy who claims to be her son. She is played with mixed results (the acting is not great in this show…) by Jennifer Morrison who some might recognize from How I Met Your Mother.
Henry played by Jared S Gilmore is Regina’s adopted son but he hates her and knows she is out to destroy everyone in Storybrooke. It’s kind of funny to have a kid completely deplore their mother. Never seen that in a show before.
Emma becomes the Sheriff and as she seeks to uncover her past we meet with a variety of storybook characters. The biggest are Snow White played by Ginnifer Goodwin, who I am not a huge fan of but she is Ok here. Of course she has her Prince Charming who is played by Josh Dallas in a more fleshed out role than the few seconds the animated film gives us (naturally of course). His storylines about being a false prince is one of the most entertaining of the first season.
Then we get episodes with one or more of the following characters.
Geppetto and Pinocchio
Belle played by Lost’s Emile de Ravin
Cinderella played by Jessy Schram
The Blue Fairy from Pinocchio (and other fairies and one who I think is Tinker Bell but I’m not sure) The 7 Dwarves, Grumpy in Particular gets a plot Hansel and Gretel
Red Riding Hood by Meghan Ory
Jimminy Cricket- a heavy Snow White and Pinocchio influence on the show
The Mad Hatter
And our main villain of the franchise aside from Regina is Rumpelstiltsken who is played very creepily by Robert Carlyle. I kind of hope that success of this series might inspire Disney to do a Rumpelstiltsken. I’ve often wondered what their version would look like. It would be different than any of their other animated fairytales because it would have to feature a princess who gets married towards the beginning of the story and has a baby. So far Disney princesses have always been virginal adolescent girls. Also, you’d have to have her marry a King who was going to kill her if she didn’t make straw into gold which isn’t exactly PC but it would be interesting to see what the Disney people could do with it .
So what are my thoughts on the first 22 episodes of the show? Well, overall I’m entertained by it. The acting is sometimes cringe-worthy and the production values are not strong but the story is interesting enough and keeps me flipping between worlds enough to be engaged. It’s not meant to be taken too seriously, just a lot of fun.
Some may wonder why I hated Maleficent, a recent fairytale adaptation and give a passing recommendation to this telling. Here’s the difference- Maleficent fundamentally changes the characters. What was once evil is now good and what was good is evil or inattentive and idol at best. In this show what was bad in the movies are still bad. Sure Regina has a few softer moments but she’s pretty ruthless both as the queen and mayor of town. Anything that is added to it is in addition to the original stories, not a replacement for those stories.
Maleficent pissed me off because it ruined the character of Maleficent. Plus, I am way more likely to be forgiving of terrible production values and bad acting in a TV show than a big budget Disney movie. When they carefully restage pivitol scenes from the original movie and then change everything that happens it makes me angry. They do not do anything like that here in Once Upon a Time. The events are the fairytales. It is the before and after for the characters and the importance of said actions that matter.
For example, the Snow White story is basically the same as the movie down to the poison apple. Where it changes is after they are married and the curse is placed on them and all in attendance. Pinocchio is basically the same down to Monstro and the Blue Fairy (although no Pleasure Island yet) but what happens to Pinocchio when he grows up is different. You see what I mean?
All the lame fairytale retellings of late have attempted to reshape and reform the originals and they’ve all sucked. This does it’s own thing and it works pretty well. It’s campy and silly but I was entertained. I’m curious to keep watching (which I suppose is the real test of a good show).
What do you guys think about Once Upon a Time? I’ve still got 2 seasons to watch before I can catch up to Season 4 but I have been enjoying the podcasts over at Post Show Recaps by my twitter friend Mike Bloom. If you like that kind of thing be sure to check it out.
Halloween is coming so it seems only appropriate that we talk about some Disney scares! This is not limited to the canon although there are a few movies with scares I have not seen or have not seen in a while, so this is by no means definitive. It is also not necessarily the scariest movie just scenes. Make sure to read my piece on Darkness in Disney to see where I draw the line on good scares and too much for kids (and me. I’m a wimp!).
Some of these are more funny scary than terrifying scary if you know what I mean.
13. Bear- Fox and the Hound- I have an animal phobia so the look of this bear is enough to give me the creeps!
12. Night on Bald Mountain- Fantasia- I mean it’s the devil and his minions with power and fury. Not terrifying in a jump scare kind of way but in a ‘better repent now’ way…
11. Snow White Forest Scene- Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs– Snow White holds up extremely well including this scene when she is spooked in the forest. I think most of us can relate to that feeling of being watched and that the trees may stretch out and grab you!
10. Headless Horseman- Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad- The story of Ichabod is the perfect ghost story for kids. It’s dark and scary but not too scary. Enough to make them feel excited and giggle but not give nightmares. I couldn’t find a great clip but look at the face of the horse. That should tell you something!
This imagery with the pumpkin and the horse with the red eyes. That’s pretty scary stuff!
9. Crazy Donald- Fun and Fancy Free- Crazy Donald is Disney’s version of The Shining. I mean he goes completely insane, axe wielding and all. Best part of Fun and Fancy Free by a long shot.
Get this duck some food!
8. Mob Song- Beauty and the Beast- Think the delusions of crowds and mass hysteria is most terrifying thing of all than Mob Song from Beauty and the Beast is the scare for you! The thing that makes this song particularly scary is the way it escalates and it actually feels like there is little hope for our friends. How can they defeat the entire town? It is also scary because Gaston has reached full madness. He couldn’t get what he wanted and pride made him snap. That is a very human villain.
7. Syndrome- Incredibles- One of the most human villains in all of Disney and that’s what makes him so scary. I mean he has the whole family captured and nobody knows where they are. He’s bitter and resentful but clearly smart. The voice performance is chilling. He even tries to take the baby at the end!
6. Kidnapping- Great Mouse Detective- If this scene were with people instead of mice it might be too much for me. It is really scary and certainly starts the film off with a bang.
5. Remains of the Day- Corpse Bride-
(Found out this is not a Disney! Oh well. It’s still scary!)
This is more funny than scary but it is a great song and ghost story. I love the brilliant animation. If you listen to the tale it is pretty grim stuff. ‘At the end of the day we are all remains of the day!’ Kids will probably laugh but be a little scared too. I love it!
4. Incinerator Scene- Toy Story 3- This is a scene that is not scary in the traditional sense like Remains of the Day or the Headless Horseman. This is scary because it really feels like they are all going to die. My nieces were all very upset by it. I mean they get awfully close to that incinerator!
3. Heffalumps and Woozles- Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh- I had to pick either Pink Elephants on Parade or Heffalumps and Woozles because they are very similar. I went with the latter because it is aimed at smaller children which makes it bolder and scarier. Also I think the song is scarier in the lyrics and way it is sung. Pink Elephants on Parade is more trippy than scary (same with Alice in Wonderland). Plus, creepy toys are always effective in scary movies!
2. Boogie Man’s Song- Nightmare before Christmas- a gambling burlap bag of bugs gambles on whether to kill Santa. Yes, I think that makes the list!
1. Pleasure Island- Pinocchio. Was there any doubt? This scene is nuts! Pinocchio is a morality tale designed to teach children sin is bad and the wicked are punished. And boy does it teach it effectively. I remember as a kid being terrified of the kids turning into donkey scene. They were bad kids but couldn’t you send them to reform school? I mean how many donkeys do these salt mines need?
As an adult the most terrifying thing about Pleasure Island is the kids stay donkeys! There is no redemption or forgiveness to the kids. That’s it. They are done! And the Coachman is never punished. Pinocchio escapes and we assume the Coachman continues to rake in the cash. Yikes!
This is a bad clip but it’s the only one I could find with the scene.
13. Honorable Mention- If I was doing live action I would include Return to Oz on the list even though I hate it . It’s too scary, dark and grim. Not a fan but can’t deny it is very scary Disney! (I’m also a Wizard of Oz purist. I love the original and hated, hated, hated, hated every other version that has been made)
So now we get to a terrifying moment of my childhood- watching Pinocchio. And on a rewatch I have to say I was perfectly valid in being scared! It’s kind of a nutty movie but in a way I now find quite brilliant.
Bambi was originally meant to be Disney’s second animated film but with delays that honor went to Pinocchio. It debuted in 1940 and was initially a huge flop. It wasn’t until a re-release in 1945 that the studio began to make back it’s investment.
It won Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song and is considered by some as Walt’s masterpiece.
It was certainly a bold undertaking. All the post- Snow White movies were very bold. I think we have an idea of the 30’s- 50’s as being squeaky clean and polished but that’s definitely not the case with Disney. Snow White, Bambi and Pinocchio all have darker themes and moments of characters dieing. Dumbo has a baby separated from his mother, which is quite devastating. To be clear, the darkness is not necessarily a bad thing because it is always paired with lightness and humor. Still I don’t think Disney takes as many risks these days.
Pinocchio is based on Carlo Collodi’s 1883 novel. It was purchased by an animator and given to Walt Disney who immediately loved it. The story of the novel is changed drastically (In the book evidently Pinocchio is cold, rude, and ungrateful).
They also changed Pinocchio from an all wood design to give it more of a fluid feel. Animators used the puppet Charlie McCarthey as inspiration for Pinocchio’s appearance.
The story of Pinocchio is what is called a ‘morality tale’. Morality plays were popular in the Victorian era and usually involved a character having to make choices and fight off temptation. ( fables, greek myths, etc were popular choices). These stories also typically had biblical illusions. Masonry and other groups also have morality tales as part of their rituals.
When the Blue Fairy comes she tells Pinocchio that he ‘must learn to choose between right and wrong’. I could see illusions to Adam and Eve. She also tells him ‘the wrong things may seem right at the time’
She also tells Pinocchio that in order to turn into a real boy he must learn to be ‘brave, truthful, and unselfish’ so each of the episodes of the movie teach Pinocchio (and the viewers) these lessons.
The Blue Fairy gives Pinocchio some help in Jiminy Cricket who is his conscience and serves as a semi-narrator to the movie. Evidently Jiminy was added to the story in 1938 because Walt felt it needed to be softened and I think he was right.
So off Pinocchio goes to school and he meets the first of many villains, Honest Fox and his cat friend Gideon.
The world Pinocchio operates in is very strange. For instance, we have Gideon the cat anthropomorphized and yet Gepetto also has a cat named Figero that is a normal cat.
There is also an acceptance of magic which is interesting but it is used at some points and then other times they have to push through. For instance, they are able to travel under water for large periods of time and yet another scene shows Pinocchio as having drowned.
Unlike most Disney films Pinocchio does not have one evil villain but a series of corrupt people trying to lead Pinocchio astray. It is almost as if evil itself and sin is the villain.
The ‘Honest Fox’ meet Pinnochio on the way to school and convince him to join them on ‘the easy way’ and they sing Hi Diddle Dee is all about how it is ‘great to be a celebrity’
Honest Fox then sells Pinocchio to the gypsy Stramboli who wants him in his marionette show. At first Pinocchio is dazzled by the bright lights and attention.
Even Jiminy see’s Pinocchio on stage and walks away in despair ‘They like him. He’s a success. Maybe I was wrong? What does an actor need with a conscience anyway”
Then it turns out Stramboli imprisons Pinocchio so he won’t run away. The Blue Fairy comes to rescue him but not before Pinocchio tries to fudge how he got there. This causes his nose to grow.
So he is sent on his way but he is tricked again by the Honest Fox and meets a boy named Lampwick who promises Pinocchio fun and excitement. Drawn in he meets The Coachman and goes to Pleasure Island
Lampwick introduces Pinochio to many evils. Pleasure Island has pool, alcohol, cigars, mayhem, and lots of children out of control.
It turns out The Coachman is drawing all these children to Pleasure Island in order to turn them into donkeys for the salt mills.
This is absolutely terrifying idea. There are even donkeys who are half-way turned so they are still talking and The Coachman throws them to the side to ‘deal with them later’… Yikes! Is this Disney or a horror movie!
So are we supposed to assume that all the animals are secretly naughty children? What’s amazing is that Pleasure Island is never really resolved. Pinocchio escapes but that is it. I guess the hundreds of children we see playing early on are donkeys and The Coachman keeps with his scheme. Who knew mines needed so many donkeys?
From Pleasure Island Pinocchio has learned to not be selfish. To think of Jiminy, his father and others and not just doing what is fun.
Jiminy and Pinocchio get back home but Geppetto is gone and the Blue Fairy gives them a clue that he is in the belly of the whale looking for Pinocchio. It’s kind of funny that the Blue Fairy doesn’t help them any more but I guess Pinocchio wouldn’t have learned to be brave.
So off they go to find Geppetto and defeat the final villain Monstro, the whale. There is a dazzling scene under the water. Pinnochio was a pioneer in animation because Disney developed a technique for layering animation on top of animated backgrounds.
Look at how the bubbles and waves are layered around the characters in this scene.
Eventually all are saved and home but Geppetto is grieving because he thinks Pinocchio is dead. The Blue Fairy comes and turns him into a real boy because he has learned what he needed to know.
We also get a reprisal of what became the official anthem of Disney- When You Wish Upon a Star. It is also why the Disney logo is blue for the Blue Fairy.
I know that was a lot of detail but it’s such an odd movie I couldn’t think of any other way to describe it.
As an adult there is lots to like about Pinocchio. It is creative and different. The artistry is often dark and beautiful. It teaches good lessons and has wonderful music.
On the other hand, it can be heavy-handed in the delivery of those morals, which can be intense for children and annoying for adults. Modern storytelling has learned to be a bit more nuanced in its messaging.
It also creates a world that doesn’t really make any sense. It is almost like an anime world of today like in Sprited Away where some animals behave one way, others another. Sometimes people are magic, sometimes they aren’t.
The Pleasure Island scene is pretty scary. I remember being terrified by it. Also it is unsettling to not know what is going to happen to all the Donkey children. Stramboli is scary and so is Monstro the whale.
But sometimes kids like to be scared. I don’t’ think it is so much that it will harm or scar a child, so it’s appropriateness depends on the child.
The music by Harline and Washington is wonderful. In the first scene Geppetto plays a music box and you can hear that influence throughout all the songs.
Some express concern about When You Wish Upon a Star because dreams do not always come true but I don’t think encouraging children to dream is a bad thing. They have plenty of time to learn the harsher realities (plus many are presented within the movie) so that doesn’t bother me.
It is interesting that Pinocchio only has one female character in the story- the Blue Fairy. In Snow White we have 7 male dwarfs, a prince and an evil queen. In Pinocchio Geppetto, Jiminy, Honest Fox, Stramboli, The Coachman, Lampwick. I don’t know if that will affect a girls enjoyment of the movie but it is interesting.
Pinocchio is visually gorgeous with good, if heavy-handed moral teachings. It can be scary for kids and has a grim overall in feel. I appreciate it but I can’t give it my highest rating because of how I know it affected me as a child.