School of Movies
Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins

December 14, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]

An accompaniment to our Disney shows, and perhaps Walt's greatest film. Not his greatest achievement, that was surely the pioneering of a feature-length animated film in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Not his greatest achievement, that arguably is the founding of an entertainment business that today has significant influence the world over. But his greatest single film experience... maybe.

Journey back with us to 1910, a bright and naive era, sandwiched between two ages of intense hardship. And meet a woman who claims to never be cross and proceeds to spend most of the movie thoroughly peeved, claims to be practically perfect in every way, yet gaslights children and manipulates them into ethical opposition to the prevailing patriarchy, and by all rights should be an insidious destructive force, but is in fact a wellspring of healing for a family that is considered by its father to be actually perfect in every way. 

It's a triumph and a masterpiece and for the longest time, the author of its source book hated it for the same reasons a lot of people hate Disney. 

Guests:

Kaoru Negisa @Moonpanther22 and

Debbie Morse @bastet8300 of Sequentially Yours  

Mackenzie Easton @KenziePhoenix of Rainbow Connection @MuppetsPod  

Wreck-It Ralph + Winnie the Pooh

Wreck-It Ralph + Winnie the Pooh

October 19, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]  

We begin with a movie so underappreciated and barely known that it's not even in the British canon of Disney movies, they just skip over it and mis-number the next one. Winnie the Pooh 2011 is a charming, harmless, fun and short little adventure, and it was their actual final 2D cel-animated animated classic. There's more to say about its obscurity and design than there is to say about its events. 

And after that we launch into arguably the best movie ever made about video games, one that leaves the many dismal adaptations choking on its pixelated dust trails. Wreck-It Ralph is a Disney action adventure for all the family done so very right, and hides a generous helping of progressive nuance under its candy-coloured surface. 

Next week: Bram Stoker's Dracular is our Halloween Spooktacular episode. 

Guests

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus

Tangled

Tangled

October 12, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]  

I say this with no hyperbole, I think you may be listening to our best Disney show. It is epic in length and rich in scope, we go deep and the evolution of the Disney film takes a big leap, aesthetically, technically and emotionally. 

Rather than simply deliver Rapunzel in the style of the 90s renaissance the creative team here very deliberately updated the approach to a fairy-tale world in a way that would pay off big time in Frozen but makes itself known here with confidence, rather than reactively copying their competitors. This is how things are going to be for a long time, bolstered by the Marvel movies, which this follows in a similar and appealing pattern.

We also have an important announcement to make at the end of the show. 

Next week: Wreck-It Ralph and Winnie the Pooh

Guests

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus

Maureen Foley of The New Century Multiverse 

The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Frog

October 5, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]  

Now we're talking. While the last two movies were an upswing from the doldrums of Chicken Little this one was the first to confidently step out in a direction that was both established and classical and representative of Disney at its best AND also new and twisty, fondly critical of their past successes, progressive and modern.

If you've somehow not seen it but have enjoyed the 90s Renaissance you will find much of value here, including the directors of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, one of the most toe-tapping soundtracks and an animation style that is just heavenly to drink in. This is one of our all-time favourites.

This was the last of its kind, with 2011s Winnie the Pooh forming an epilogue to the 2D dynasty and Tangled, the year after truly kicking off the 3D animation era after a series of false starts.

Guest

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus

Meet The Robinsons + Bolt

Meet The Robinsons + Bolt

September 28, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]  

The mid-2000s saw Disney continuing to flail about in search of a new identity. They still didn't have a clear idea of who they wanted to be seen as now, they just knew it wasn't Aladdin and Jasmine singing on a magic carpet.

So here was a duo of CG animated curios, with some genuine charm amidst some baffling choices, deliberately homogenised with the output of their rival studios. They can be described thusly;

1. Genius orphan visits future and hangs out with a family of crazy people.

2. Deluded television superdog travels America to get back to his owner. 

Next week: The Princess and the Frog

Guest

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus

Home on the Range + Chicken Little

Home on the Range + Chicken Little

September 21, 2018

[School of Movies 2018] 

Now we have reached a truly dark time in Disney's history.

These are two barnyard adventures featuring shrieking animals, wafer-thin plots and zero growth, either for the characters or creatively for the production teams. 

As such there's little to talk about beyond ducks getting smacked in the head, so we devote most of this episode to discussing the painful transition from 2D cel animation to 3D. It began as one of our weakest, most aimless Disney shows, and for that I literally apologise midway through, but by the end, while the tone gets heavy and we are powered along by anger and frustration it turns into something a lot stronger as a true sense of loss begins to set in. 

There were far brighter things just on the horizon, but some decisions cannot be undone, and the repercussions are what we all have to live with.

Next week: A double-bill of Meet The Robinsons & Bolt

Guest

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus

Treasure Planet & Brother Bear

Treasure Planet & Brother Bear

September 15, 2018

[School of Movies 2018] 

Treasure Planet: Maybe Disney's biggest mistake since The Black Cauldron. Actually, that comparison isn't a bad one at all. Both were epic-but-short adventures with the focus on a young boy that many audiences struggled to love, both were adaptations of difficult books, both were departures from the studio's accustomed style, both had awkward comedy moments that didn't quite land, both were insanely expensive and both were expected to bear rich dividends at the box office, tanked instead and forced the house of mouse to re-evaluate, leading ultimately to a golden age of parity between creators and money men, garnering massive financial and critical success.

But to achieve that they had to fail big time first. And as failure's go Treasure Planet is a frequently beautiful one. It has its annoying characters and manifestly poor decisions on show, but there are bits that genuinely make us well up with emotion, a wonderful James Newton Howard score and the same deep canvas animation technique as Tarzan. It's an oddity and a bittersweet one at that. 

Brother Bear: This is the definition of a mixed Disney bag. On the one hand you have truly gorgeous animation, a promising premise, the chance to proclaim that you've learned from past mistakes as they partain to the portrayal of native peoples, the feel of The Lion King, a talented voice cast, an Oscar-winning singer and Tina goddamned Turner!

On the other you have a confused series of events, a tone that veers between how merciless nature is and a cloyingly sweet Saturday morning cartoon from 1984, a plot structure that appears to have gaps, an uneven sense of humour unlikely to make many people laugh, and worst of all, a panicking executive team ready to pull the plug on traditional animation if you screw up, and ready to chase Shark Tale into the sewer of quality.

Guess what happened... 

Guest

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus

Lilo & Stitch

Lilo & Stitch

August 31, 2018

[School of Movies 2018] 

While there are still some good Disney films left before they hit their modern fourth renaissance this one is special. Either the swansong of the 90s era or the strongest example of how the studio COULD have been amazing during this muddled 2000s period, had they married creativity with heart and focus more often rather than wildly attempting six different things at once in an attempt to stay relevant. 

Creator Chris Sanders (who cut his teeth on the best of the 90s fare working on Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and Mulan) was bound for big things. How to Train Your Dragon was in the distance, and it's very easy to draw a line between that series and this, with its focus on drawing alarming, dangerous creatures into families that don't realise they need these new members. He also directed The Croods, which is probably the best movie about neolithic people, despite being a family comedy.

Lilo & Stitch, the tale of how a creature of mass destruction finds a place in a little, broken family on a peaceful, beautiful island with no cities to destroy is a rightful favourite of many. We attempt to do it justice here. 

Next week: Treasure Planet.

Guest

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

August 24, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]

This project began life when its creators mused over why nobody made Indiana Jones style adventures any more and Disney certainly hadn't attempted an animated film along those lines.

And when you look at the chemistry at play here; a script begun by Joss Whedon (The Avengers), directed by Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise (Beauty and the Beast) starring Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future), art design by Mike Mignola (Hellboy) score by James Newton Howard (Batman Begins) with a support cast of amazing old, now all sadly-departed actors (Leonard Nimoy, James Garner, John Mahoney, David Ogden Stiers and Jim Varney) it's hard to see how it could have been anything other than a roaring success.

Atlantis made okay box office, not quite doubling its budget, and it set a dangerous trap by somehow conveying to general audiences that Disney's boys-own adventures were going to be mediocre movies to stay away from, which then hit them HARD with Treasure Planet the next year. 

But it's got some really good stuff in there, even if it is a bit of an uneven mess with missed opportunities left and right. 

Next week: Lilo & Stitch.

Guest

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus

The Emperor’s New Groove

The Emperor’s New Groove

August 17, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]

The Disney shows return. And this time we are entering their dark age. A period of creative freedom and box office flops, when the house of mouse was going through a serious identity crisis.

Thanks to Pixar and the evolution of 3D graphics animation had changed in a big way over the previous few years and the world was about to be flooded in barnyard adventures as studios began popping up doing cheap and cheerful, yet cynical animal comedies, and growing more successful than Disney who kept veering about, reactively changing direction, unsure of what it wanted to be.

An epic Prince and the Pauper drama set in Mesoamerica was halted part-way through production and The Emperor's New Groove was what it became.

Unlike any other Disney this film is a madcap comedy steeped in absurd, mid-20th century cartoon illogic, arch absurdism and fourth-wall-shattering canny narration. 

The people who love it REALLY love it, because for them it succeeds triumphantly. 

Guest

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus