700 Subscribers Q and A Request

Hi guys!

Over on my youtube channel I have almost reached 700 subscribers.  To celebrate I thought it would be fun to finally do a Q and A.  I wanted to give you my lovely readers the chance to participate.

Since most of the readers of this blog are into movies and animation ask me about those topics.  Ask me about Disney or the Disney parks or what I loved growing up.  Ask me about television or what I think of a particular property or brand such as Marvel or Batman.

You can ask me about other topics like books, music, swimming, life, blogging, work.  Whatever you want!

You can put your put your question in the comments of this post or the video or you can email me at smilingldsgirl@yahoo.com. I look forward to answering your questions and chatting with you!

Thank you for all your support!

Just so you know I am also starting a Disney Canon series on the youtube channel you guys might want to check out.  I will review a movie a week so this week posted on Snow White

 

The Disney Era Tag: Golden Era

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!)

Snow White

Pinocchio

Fantasia

Dumbo

Bambi

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! fantasia poster

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.

pinocchio4.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.

Timothy_Q._Mouse

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.

evil queen6.Who is your favorite sidekick? Well I already said Timothy Q Mouse so I will go with Dopey.  He’s so funny and sweet.

dopey7.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.

crows29.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.

donkeysI 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.

bambi2

 

Adventures of Prince Achmed Review

achmedBack in my review of Snow White I learned that it in fact wasn’t the first animated feature film.  It was the first American animated feature film (I believe).  I kept hearing about this thing called The Adventures of Prince Achmed and that not only was it the first animated film but I had to see it. Quickly I ordered it from Netflix and naturally the DVD has been sitting around since the beginning of May. I finally had a chance to watch it and I do see what all the talk was about. It’s a very unique movie!

Made by artist Lotte Reiniger, Achmed uses what’s called ‘silhouette animation’ which takes takes cardboard and lead cutouts under light and moves them kind of like a combination of shadow puppets and stop motion animation.   What amazes me is how Reiniger was able to get small details like leaves and fingers with the paper.  I would think that would be incredibly difficult to pull off.

the_adventures_of_prince_achmed_by_snartha-d78dm9dAchmed was made in 1928 in Germany (2 earlier animated films were released in Argentina but they are considered lost according to wikipedia).  Reiniger worked with 3 other avante-garde artists to make the film named Walter Ruttmann, Berthold Bartosch and Carl Koch.  (On the DVD there is a featurette about these artists that is very interesting).

achmed4
Reiniger and Carl Koch working on the silhouettes

The film is a silent movie with no dialogue and only title cards to know what is going on.  The score which is so key in a silent movie is excellent by Wolfgang Zeller under the heavy direction of Reiniger (this seems like a very neat lady.  They should make a movie about all of this!).

achmed6The plot has multiple acts and it’s actually more complicated than you’d guess for a story made of silhouettes. It is reminiscent of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves and starts out with a magician who creates a flying horse that he shows the Caliph, or ruler.  The Caliph offers any treasure to buy the horse but instead the Magician chooses Dinarsade, the Caliph’s daughter.

achmed2Dinarsade’s brother, Prince Achmed objects and steals the horse and the Magician is imprisoned.  Eventually Achmed controls the horse and lands in a mysterious land called Wak Wak with a beautiful maiden named Peri Banu.

achmed3The Magician ends up escaping and confronts Achmed.  Then we get introduced to Aladdin who has his magic lamp which he has used to court and marry Dinarsade until it is lost and he is banished to Wak Wak.  Here’s a scene where they meet Aladdin.  This will hopefully give you a feel for the style of the film.

Finally a magic witch arrives who agrees to attack the Magician and they get the lamp back and after a little more adventure all is returned as it should be with couples in love and a the end of our story.

Adventures_of_Prince_Achmed_4Aren’t you impressed with all of that for a 65 minute film all done by silhouettes?  I was.

Here is a the first few minutes of the film to give you more of a feel of it.

Like I said it is only 65 minutes so why not spend a little of your time with something so unique and beautiful?  Plus, you can tell people you’ve actually seen the first animated film.  None of this Snow White stuff! 😉 .  It is a silent film so it does require some focus and reading of the cards but again it’s only 65 minutes! So it’s not concentrating for that long.

I am shocked this is not  Criterion release.  It seems right up their ally.  So far I believe the only animated film they have done is Watership Down (which I own).  The restoration added back the original color tints which were missing for many years, but the DVD release feels very dated and Criterion could do amazing things with it.

It’s always hard to give  grade when something is the first of its kind so I won’t.  Just watch it and enjoy!

Do you watch any silent movies?  In Salt Lake there is an old movie theater that has the largest theater organ in the world and you can see silent movies with the live organ accompaniment.  It’s pretty amazing.

Once Upon a Time Season 1 Review

ouat2Being 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.

ouat4

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.

emma

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.

henry

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. snow whiteOf 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.

charming

Then we get episodes with one or more of the following characters.

Geppetto and Pinocchio

pinocchio Belle played by Lost’s Emile de Ravin

belle

Cinderella played by Jessy Schram

cinderella  The Blue Fairy from Pinocchio (and other fairies and one who I think is Tinker Bell but I’m not sure) blue fairy  The 7 Dwarves, Grumpy in Particular gets a plot7 dwarves   Hansel and Gretel

hansel and gretel

Red Riding Hood by Meghan Ory

meghan-ory-red-riding-hoodJimminy Cricket- a heavy Snow White and Pinocchio influence on the show

jiminy cricket

The Genie

Genie_111

The Mad Hatter

mad hatter

Maleficent

maleficent3

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 .

rumpel

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.

http://postshowrecaps.com/category/once-upon-a-time/

Ranking Official Disney Princesses

Disney-Princess-disney-princess-33854150-1778-1779

So we have 2 weeks till Big Hero 6 premiere and I will post my Frozen review this weekend (I intend to watch it 5 or 6 times to do a very good job)

In the next 2 weeks I will also be posting lots of top 10 lists culminating in my complete rankings once I see Big Hero 6.  This should be a lot of fun and I would love it if you would share your lists in the comments each time.

Of course, it goes without saying it is just my opinion and most of these are nitpicking.  Out of 53 movies I will give 20 movies an A category grade, 30 with a B or higher  (which is pretty remarkable when you think about it) so I like them all but minute differences lead to my rankings.

I thought I would start with ranking the official Disney Princesses because I love the princess movies. These are not all the women, or even princesses in Disney Canon, that will be another list.   However, I am including Anna and Elsa in Frozen because they are considered princesses in waiting (they have a coronation ceremony and everything).

Some people gripe about Mulan being included but that doesn’t bother me because there are no princesses in China.  If there were she would have been made one in the movie for sure.  She certainly shows all the qualities of a princess so it’s fine with me.

This list also includes Merida from Brave, which I have not reviewed, because she is an official Disney Princess. Also, this is a ranking of the princesses themselves not the movies they are in.

RANKING DISNEY PRINCESSES

1. Belle- smart, thoughtful, compassionate and brave

Princess-Belle

2. Ariel- free spirit, not afraid to take risks, loyal, impetuous

ariel

3. Cinderella- hard worker, good friend, kind, optimistic

cinderella24. Tiana- hard worker, dedicated, loyal, goal setter, soft spoken but bold

tiana5. Rapunzel- optimistic, naive but smart in own way, inquisitive, fun-loving and hopeful

Rapunzel_and_pascal

6. Mulan- Loyal, brave, strong, determined, a fighter

mulan

7. Elsa- Free, empowered, conflicted, learns self acceptance and control, beautiful, strong

elsa8. Merida- bold, impetuous, free spirit, brave, confident,  curly hair

Merida_web_small9. Jasmine- independent, loving., spunky, compassionate

jasmine10. Anna- innocent, sweet, kind, believes in others, impetuous, willing to take risks

anna11.. Snow White- optimistic, kind, positive, happy

snow white12. Aurora- asleep most movie but beautiful, a singer, a dreamer, optimistic, loving and  like her better in blue!

Auroraonmodel13. Pocahontas- loves nature, kind and brave.  Last because she doesn’t change or grow much and her choices actually cause death

Pocahontas-disney-princess-31322105-1280-800

Movie 1: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow_White_1937_poster

To begin this project of course we have to start where it all began.  The first full length animated film- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Debuting in 1937, Snow White was not only a creative success but a commercial hit as well.  Earning $8 million dollars in its initial release, making it the highest grossing film at the time.  Walt Disney was given an honorary Oscar in 1939 for his achievement and the 7 Dwarfs became marketing icons on all kinds of merchandise, creating a commercial profitability which film had not seen to that point.

Work on the film began in 1934 with an initial budget of 250k.  For a time it was called ‘Disney’s folly’ because Walt had to mortgage his house and ran up a cost of nearly 1.5 million to produce.

Disney was fond of the 7 Dwarfs and many different personalities were tested including Tubby, Jumpy Puffy, Dizzy and Shorty before they settled on Doc, Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy and Happy, Dopey, and Sneezy

Originally there were more comedic elements with a dungeon skeleton dance and a more laughable Evil Queen and Prince.  But Disney will show in nearly every film he produced a concern of realism and taking his subjects seriously.

We will see in Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi that darker elements are not glossed over and comedy is relatively muted.

Initially frustrated with the project, Disney went to Europe in 1935 and was inspired by the architecture, landscapes and the creativity of his team.  They say he had  renewed confidence and was ready to push forward.

Disney was also famous for having his animators take classes on many European art movements and styles and you can see this influence in many of his films.   He even set up a school in the Disney Studios for the animators to improve.   These classes were referred to as a ‘brutal battle’ by some of the animators, but it did inspire them to try new ideas and create the beautiful lush atmosphere we see in Snow White.

snow white castle
You can see the European influences in this castle scene from Snow White

The music was composed by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey.  Snow White was the first American film to have a soundtrack album released with the film.

Movie Review-

So how does it hold up?   I think very well.  I do not have children but the story is familiar enough with a balance of laughs and spooks to still entertain a child today of many ages.  Perhaps pre-teens and teens will be less interested in the plot but if they appreciate art maybe they can enjoy it on that level.

The strengths of the film are still the Dwarfs.  Their ‘Heigh-Ho’ work song is catchy and their movements sparkle and feel smooth and easy whereas Snow White sometimes seems plastered into the shot, less natural.

The dwarfs taking a bath to ‘The Washing Song’ will still bring a smile to any viewers face.

The villain is also first rate.  Perhaps only eclipsed by Cruella Devile, no other Disney villain has been so obsessed with beauty and vanity.  She doesn’t need power or money.  She already lives in a castle as queen.  No, she needs to be beautiful and most importantly more beautiful than anyone else.  Even Cruella didn’t seem to care what others thought of her in the way the Queen did.

This is interesting when you think of the despots and villains of the late 30s.  Someone like an Adolf Hitler already had power but it was not enough.  He had to have everyone look a certain way, act a certain way, total control.

This transformation scene is stunning.

Where the film is weaker and outdated is with Snow White and The Prince .  The voice by Adriana Caselotti is squeaky to a modern ear and The Prince is given no name or personality at all.  We have instant love which makes both their characters and motivation kind of boring.

The songs are actually not half bad with the melody for Someday My Prince Will Come being one of Disney’s best (the lyrics could use work but the melody is beautiful). The Work Song is also charming but the high pitched squeal is a definite distraction.

It is the Dwarfs we become emotionally attached to through the film.  I love how classic Disney was open with children about all kinds of emotions including grief.  Surely the funeral scene would be tempered and muted today

Conclusion

Grade- A

A landmark achievement of both art and film.  Beautiful music, loveable Dwarfs, dynamic villain and at only 83 minutes the squeaky singing doesn’t go on for long.  A definite must for any film lovers library.