School of Movies
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

Fantasia 2000 + Dinosaur

Fantasia 2000 + Dinosaur

August 17, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]

Fantasia 2000: Probably not many people's favourite Disney movie unless there's some deeply personal story attached what this is represents an attempt to resurect Walt's idea for an ever-changing roster of musical sequences with Disney animation. If you figure it would have changed and evolved over the years, had the original proved successful, and gone with the original model of adding new sequences in place of old, some might say that 59 years later it would resemble this movie. Then again, some wouldn't. We also debate what a third movie in this style could be like, and what it would take to finally start drawing in the crowds. Daniel Floyd once again joins us for a talk about this contentious battle between artists and money men. 

 

Dinosaur: [Found at the 1h 24m mark]. Disney's attempt to enter the 3D animation markert involved computer animated model dinosaurs set against real world environments. It could have been spectacular and transportive... if they hadn't simply swallowed and regurgitated Don Bluth's Land Before Time without any of the heart or special moments. 

Guest

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus

Tarzan

Tarzan

February 2, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]

This time we go deep and we go long. Tarzan is for me one of the absolute greats of the Disney canon and so rarely talked about with the reverence of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, so this time that's what we did.

It's been hugely influential on my writing and stands as maybe the crowning spectacle of the marriage between 2D characters and luscious 3D backdrops utilising the "Deep Canvas" technique. 

Daniel Floyd joins us once again to explore the last of the 90s renaisance. After this it was Fantasia 2000 and Dinosaur and while they occasionally put out something amazing, Disney lost their way until Tangled established the new normal. 

Guest

Daniel Floyd of Extra Histories 

Mulan

Mulan

January 26, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]

Dan Floyd joins us once again as the Disney Project continues.

The house of Mouse picked themselves up from the financial low for the 90s that was Hercules, and came back punching with this Chinese legend of a girl who steals her father's armour to take his place in the army.

Still to this day one of the most beautiful and moving of their animated classics, Mulan had its detractors, and all of them had solid reasons to admonish story decisions. However, it is also beloved and inspirational, and the kind of movie that could be made today (with a few tweaks). 

Jerry Goldsmith's soaring yet delicate score was fortunately in plentiful supply for this one.

Guests

Daniel Floyd of Extra Histories 

Hercules

Hercules

January 19, 2018

[School of Movies 2018]

Now we reach the point where Disney seemed off their game, at least in comparison with the lightning strikes of Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin and Lion King. The fact that I really like Hercules is neither here nor their, this was a snarky yet earnest take on Greek mythology framed around an action sports movie for boys. 

It had one of the most real-feeling and grown up of Disney heroine's so far, James Woods before he revealed himself to be a complete dick, Danny DeVito on top form as a washed up boxing coach and a quick-witted, slightly-too-energetic pace which a lot of people might consider off-putting.

It was also an ideal, basic model for the superhero movies that were around the corner, and in fact it's a better Superman story than any of Kal-El's movies that have followed so far, though Thor and then Wonder Woman far exceed its reach. 

Since Alan Menken's lovely, lively score only spans a few minutes I have used other, tonally appropriate music for this one. Next week, Mulan. 

Guests

Daniel Floyd of Extra Histories 

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