Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Chris’s series exploring Disney history: “10 Disney Cartoons from the 1930s that Reflect the Can-Do Spirit That Survived the Great Depression,” “10 Ways World War II Affected Disney’s Filmmaking,” “10 Examples Of How Disney’s Productions Reflected The Changing America Of The 1950s,” “Walt Disney’s 7 Most Radical Ideas From His Last Decade on Earth,” “Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 1: How The Studio Reflected The Chaos Of The 1970s” and “Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 2: How The Studio Navigated The Hit-Or-Miss 1980s.”
A few years after Walt Disney’s death, the studio he founded entered a creative drought of nearly 15 years. The projects Walt had his hands on had dried up, and the most creative minds in the company were working directly on the theme parks. Walt’s son-in-law Ron Miller oversaw the company during most of this era, and, though the studio managed to produce some underrated cartoons and live action films during this time period, nothing matched the artistry and innovation of the years when Walt was still alive.
When Roy E. Disney and Sid Bass brought Michael Eisner over from Paramount to head Disney – along with Frank Wells – the company experienced an almost immediate injection of creativity. In the realm of animation, most everyone dubs the period beginning with 1989′s The Little Mermaid the Disney Renaissance. (Some people end the Renaissance with the execrable Tarzan from 1999, but for me, this period ends with 1995′s Pocahontas.)
A lot of exciting things took place at Disney during the first few years of the Eisner-Wells tenure, and here are the ten best of them.
10. Pocahontas (1995)
Pocahontas marked the end of the Disney Animation Renaissance of the late-80s and early-90s, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s nowhere near as good as the films that preceded it, largely due to its over-earnestness, Judy Kuhn’s vocal melisma, and the screenplay’s loose play with history.
However, Pocahontas deserves mention because of its firsts. It was the first Disney animated feature based on a historical person, and it also brought the Disney Princess banner to an American character (something the studio did much better in 2009 with The Princess And The Frog). Disney also deserves some credit for turning the dramatic “Colors Of The Wind” into a smooth pop hit.
Even though Pocahontas isn’t the greatest of the Disney classics, it does belong among the highlights of the early Eisner-Wells era.
For the past few weeks, we’ve looked at the company Walt Disney built and how it has survived over the decades. We talked about how the studio reflected the can-do spirit that beat the Great Depression in the 1930s, as well as how World War II affected Disney. We’ve also discussed the changing world of the 1950s and how Disney reflected it, and we looked at Walt’s seven most radical ideas from the 60s.
Last week, we delved into what I call Disney’s wilderness years – the period after Walt’s death when the company had exhausted all of its founder’s projects and its output suffered creatively. We looked at the 1970s and how Disney reflected the both the general malaise and the leadership crisis the country faced.
We’ve been looking at the output of the Disney organization by decade, from the 1930s to the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and this week, we’re looking at the 1970s. Everyone who experienced that decade has an opinion about its culture, or lack thereof. From polyester leisure suits to Pet Rocks, the 70s were the decade of disposable culture (in spite of some true classics like The Godfather films and Star Wars). I consider myself more of a child of the 80s, since that’s when I came of age, but I remember my younger childhood in the 70s – especially a lot of the music – fondly.
Much of the culture of the decade reflects a certain escapism. From the disco kids partying their troubles away to the punk rockers flipping a middle finger at pretty much everything, to the banal pop of the mainstream, much of the music of the era plays on a desire to get away from the troubles of reality. Movies and television share a similar escapism – witness the endless disaster films and idiotic sitcoms of the day.
The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) is digging into its pockets again to help Euro Disney, operator of the troubled Disneyland Paris theme park complex. The U.S. parent is backing a €1 billion ($1.25 billion) bailout, including a 420 million capital increase and the conversion of debt it’s owed by Euro Disney into shares in the French company.
Paris-listed shares in Euro Disney (EDL:FP) plunged as much as 16 percent today, Oct. 6, on news of its second major recapitalization in two years. Euro Disney hasn’t made a profit since 2008, a situation exacerbated recently by declining attendance as the French economy falters. The company has said it could lose as much as €120 million this year, with sales down 3 percent. By contrast, sales at Disney’s U.S. park and resort operations are up 8 percent this year.
Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how Disney and its productions reflected, and sometimes influenced, the times. We’ve seen how Disney mirrored the can-do spirit of the ’30s, how the studio overcame the challenges of World War II in the ’40s, and how Disney changed with the times in the ’50s.
By the time the 1960s rolled around, Walt Disney appeared to have done it all. He had elevated the cartoon from an opening-act short to a feature-film art form. He had conquered live-action movies and embraced television, and he even revolutionized the theme-park experience. But Walt wasn’t done — in fact, it looks like he saved his most radical and powerful ideas for the last years of his life. And here are seven examples to prove it.
7. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-1969)
After a seven season run for Disneyland on ABC, Walt wanted to explore different options. His greatest desire was to broadcast a show in color. Even though ABC had broadcast the show in black and white, Walt insisted on filming most of the segments in full color because he believed color would add long-term value to his productions. Rival network NBC had begun to promote color series heavily since parent company RCA made color television sets, and, after a brilliant sales pitch from Walt, the network bit.
Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color ran for eight seasons before undergoing a retooling and title change. During those seasons, Walt took advantage of the new and exciting world of color programming when few producers were willing to branch out, especially in the earlier years. Once again, Walt willingly blazed a trail, and once again his pioneering spirit paid off.
In my last two posts, we’ve looked at how Disney reflected the 1930s and the 1940s. As the studio emerged from World War II and into a new decade, it faced a changing nation. In their insightful book A Patriot’s History Of The Modern World, Volume II, Larry Schweikart and Dave Dougherty write:
Long-held and oft-repeated notions that the 1950s were a decade of sameness and conformity in the United States miss the revolutionary changes occurring in the decade – radical shifts that, fundamentally, may have altered America and the world far more than the superficial changes of the 1960s.
Far from reflecting a widespread sameness among Americans, life in the 1950s witnessed a burst of new businesses, consumer products, artistic expression, and social cross-pollination.
Disney ‘s productions from the 1950s reflect this rapidly changing America, and here are ten examples.
10. Matterhorn Bobsleds (1959)
Walt had two needs to fill: one was a way to promote the upcoming film Third Man On The Mountain, while the other was an attraction to fill space on a hill between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. He remembered the majesty of the Matterhorn when he visited the set of Third Man On The Mountain, and the Imagineers designed a roller coaster based on the mountain.
The resulting attraction became the first steel-tube roller coaster, providing a smoother – yet still thrilling – ride than the traditional wooden coaster. Disney changed the way we think of thrill rides and opened the door for endless possibilities. The Matterhorn Bobsleds still bring excitement to this day. Check it out:
Before Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the only fresh on-screen Star Wars content fans had to cling to was The Clone Wars animated series on the Cartoon Network. The show was hit or miss over its five aired seasons, occasionally hitting the right tone, but too often floundering with lame characters and boring stories.
Season Five particularly lagged with back-to-back four-episode story arcs centered around the misadventures of child padawans and astromech droids. Four. Episodes. It was ridiculous and indicative of the show’s tendency to skew too far from the recipe which makes Star Wars work.
The announcement of Disney’s acquisition came as Season Five concluded. Not long after, The Clone Wars was abruptly cancelled. Fans feared that might be the end of Star Wars on television.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the new Lucasfilm to announce Star Wars Rebels, a new animated series set to air in October on Disney XD. Here are 10 reasons to get excited about this new Star Wars television show.
#10. The Return of Kenobi
Occurring in the timeline between Episodes III and IV of the film saga, Star Wars Rebels benefits from an era fertile for storytelling. The series deals with the initial sparks of rebellion which eventually foment into the Rebel Alliance seen in A New Hope.
During this time period, we know that Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has exiled himself to the desert world of Tatooine to keep a close watch over the growth of Luke Skywalker. Fans have long wondered whether those years between defeating Vader on the slopes of Mustafar and seeking passage to Alderaan were spent meditating peacefully in his Jundland hovel or engaged in a more active role in galactic affairs.
This trailer for Rebels seems to indicate the latter. There’s something about this version of Kenobi, the hermit Ben draped in Jedi robe while graying in the beard, which excites more than his Clone Wars iteration.
This is Part II in an ongoing series exploring cultural changes by decade. See last week’s first installment here: 10 Disney Cartoons From the 1930s that Reflect the Can-Do Spirit that Survived the Great Depression.
Walt Disney’s phone rang on the afternoon of December 7, 1941. His studio manager was on the other end to let him know that the Army was taking over the sprawling campus of the studio. The nation was already in shock at the bombing of Pearl Harbor just hours earlier, and Disney would cohabit with the United States military for the duration of the war.
The federal government commissioned hundreds of projects big and small for Disney, ranging from insignia design to training films to propaganda pieces. World War II changed the way the Disney Studios made films — from their efforts to support the Allies to anthology cartoons made for quick turnaround to new techniques to get their own products into the market, Disney emerged from the war a different studio than when the Army marched in on December 7, 1941. Here are ten examples.
10. “The Thrifty Pig” (1941)
Even before the United States became involved in World War II in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Hollywood was willing to engage in helping “the war effort.” Our northern cousins in Canada commissioned a propaganda piece from Disney to sell war bonds.
“The Thrifty Pig” relied on the familiar footage from “Three Little Pigs” from nearly a decade before, with some noticeable changes: the Big Bad Wolf is now a Nazi, and the third pig constructs his house out of Canadian War Savings Certificates.
The aim of the cartoon, of course, was to encourage Canadians to “invest in victory” by buying the certificates. It was an early test of the effectiveness of Disney toward the efforts to defeat Germany and Japan – and it was a success.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend and editor David Swindle published an open letter to me dividing the history of Disney animation into ten eras and encouraging me to explore the history of Disney through the same frame of mind. Here is the first in a series looking at the eras of Disney history.
As the United States slid into the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s, Disney’s output grew tremendously in quality and quantity. Walt and his team of animators and writers released plenty of entertaining product, but they also experimented, honing existing techniques and developing new ones. A struggling nation loved what it saw and couldn’t get enough.
Disney’s output during this time period reflects a uniquely American can-do spirit, one that helped this country survive the Great Depression in both determination and innovation. Here are ten great examples.
10. “The Golden Touch” (1935)
The 1935 cartoon “The Golden Touch” carries a special significance not because of any achievement but because of its failure – and because Walt himself directed it. The short, which tells the story of King Midas, has more of the feel of an episode of the Twilight Zone than a charming Disney animated cartoon.
Walt took control of “The Golden Touch” after a period in which he had criticized his directors repeatedly. He had not directed a cartoon in five years. The short, with only two characters, ran long on time and budget. The characters lack the appeal and much of the humor of typical Disney characters, and the story takes a dark turn with little of the typical Disney optimism at the end.
As a direct result of the failure of “The Golden Touch,” Walt learned to trust his talented directors, and he allowed them to continue to create, which of course allowed him to oversee the company that would change entertainment forever.
You might recall that in January I offered up seven New Year’s resolutions that others could burgle from me Bilbo-style:
Usually when I’m working I have some combination of talk radio and Songza/Pandora on in the background. Now I’m going to replace the music with Disney films, cartoons, and documentaries, immersing myself in everything until I feel like I’ve really gotten a handle of the repeating themes and style.
This spring I utilized the PJ Lifestyle Cartoon at Noon feature to pursue this project, so far blogging through all 75 of the experimental Silly Symphony series, noting themes and cultural references. I’ll have more lists in the future explaining the significance of the series and its artistic depth but for now thsese first two are a good place to get started:
- From June: The 7 Revolutionary Silly Symphony Cartoons That Won Oscars In the 1930s
- and in August: 10 Classic Disney Cartoons For Introducing Mythology & Morality to the Next Generation.
In March I responded to a Roger L. Simon column with an approach for “How Conservatives Can Conquer Hollywood.” The Walt Disney method of becoming a billionaire? Depict the battle of Good Vs. Evil with innovative technology:
Conservatives should be looking to the future and to new mediums of entertainment. Humans are not going to amuse themselves by sitting around staring at screens forever. I still believe in the Breitbartian idea that the battle for the culture is more important than the fight over political ideology. Where I’ve changed is in realizing that there’s actually a force more important and powerful to affect and control. Culture is driven by technology. Movable type came before the Gutenberg Bible. Edison’s film camera came before Hollywood. The techniques of animation had to be discovered by Disney and his animators through years of experimenting with Silly Symphony and Mickey Mouse shorts before Snow White could be achieved.
So yeah, politics is downstream of culture. But technology has the power to carve the shape of the river itself.
Chris, as we start to think in a bigger picture direction with our continued research into Disney history and ideology, here’s my attempt to sort of lay out a broad look at the territory. How does this sound as a way to think of the different periods that run across the company?
All 75 of the Silly Symphonies, the Gold Standard of the Era:
- Walt Disney’s First Silly Symphony: ‘The Skeleton Dance’
- PETA Would Hate This 1929 Disney Cartoon…
- Nature Animated to Life
- A Disney Cartoon Set In Hell!
- Getting Drunk With Disney’s Merry Dwarfs
- Summer: The Sixth Silly Symphony, A Sequel to Spring
- Corn on the Cob as Musical Instrument
- A Cannibal-Version of Carmen With Clicking Human Skulls… Made By Walt Disney
- Frolicking Fish Almost 60 Years Before The Little Mermaid
- Mickey Mouse As a Polar Bear
- Toy Story‘s Great Grandfather?
- A Bug Flying Too Close to the Fire In the Darkness
- Innocence Incarnate: These Smooching Monkeys Will Make You Smile
- Goodbye Winter! Disney’s Playful Pan Emerges to Call In Spring (two cartoons)
- Birds of a Feather Flock Together
- A Cartoon First Released April 17, 1931: Disney’s Mother Goose Melodies
- Dora the Explorer’s Politically Incorrect Cameo in a 1931 Disney Cartoon
- Apparently Beavers Invented the Wheelbarrow Before Man
- A Sweet & Spooky Silly Symphony for Cat Lovers
- Egyptian Melodies Vs. Father Noah’s Ark
- Geppetto’s Original Workshop And Cogsworth’s Great-grandparents?
- When A Cavalry of Horseflies Goes To War Against the Spider
- Drinking Tea Before the Fox Hunt
- How Much Can an Ugly Duckling Grow Up Over a Decade?
- The Marx Brothers As Cartoon Birds
- A Primordial Winnie the Pooh
- A Dog Jail Break at the Pound!
- The First Technicolor Cartoon: Disney’s Still-Amazing ‘Flowers and Trees’
- It’s Amazing What Kinds of Cartoons Were Considered Family Friendly in 1932…
- Bugs In Love Battle a Blackbird in Black and White
- ‘Babes In the Woods’ Vs. The Witch In The Candy Cottage
- What Secrets Do You See Inside Santa’s Workshop?
- The Snake Hypnotizes His Prey
- The Disney Version of Noah’s Ark
- An Oscar-Winning Cartoon That Defined the Depression Era
- Who’s Ready to Open Pandora’s Box?
- Enter Sandman? Where We Go When We Sleep
- If You Don’t Pay the Piper He’ll Just Take Your Children Instead…
- When Walt Disney Imagined Santa Claus In Alliance With The Robot Toys
- The ‘Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil’ Monkeys In Cartoon Form
- ‘Oh, the World Owes Us a Livin’…’
- Among the Easter Bunny’s Secrets: Scotch-Colored Paint!
- Practical Pig Saved Little Red Riding Hood From the Big Bad Wolf
- Donald Duck’s First Appearance
- The Lesson of the Flying Mouse: Sometimes A Blessing Is Actually A Curse…
- Chill Out Today With These ‘Peculiar Penguins’
- Compare and Contrast: The Goddess of Spring With Snow White…
- Slow and Steady Wins the Race?
- What Would You Do If Everything You Touched Turned to Gold?
- A Cartoon To Teach Kids About the Danger of Celebrating Crime
- Dreaming of an Innocent Unity With Nature
- A Fantasy Land Where Everything Is Made of Candy…
- How Did Disney’s Mae West Bird Caricature Compare With Real Life?
- VIDEO: If Romeo and Juliet Were A Saxophone and Cello
- Another 1930s Disney Cartoon with Creepy Racial Stereotypes…
- What Does It Take to Be the Cock o’ The Walk?
- What Is the Fate of Broken Toys?
- Elmer Elephant: Is This the Most Adorable Cartoon in the Whole Series?
- How Kids Can Learn To Defeat Bullies
- ‘I Like a Man That Takes His Time…’
- The 3 Blind Mouseketeers Vs A Room of Traps
- A Country Mouse Discovers the Joys of Drinking in the Big City…
- This Very Cute Video of ‘Mother Pluto’ Parenting Chicks Will Make You Smile
- 3 Troublemaker Kittens Make a Mess in the Garden
- The Dark Secrets Hidden in the Woodland Cafe…
- What Is Animism?
- One of The Classic Breakthroughs In Animation History
- When Moths Fly Too Close to The Flame…
- 3 Babies Fishing For Stars In Dreamland
- Walt Disney Introduces The Farmyard Symphony on the DisneyLand TV Show
- Long Before Spongebob: The Underwater Circus of the Merbabies
- Katharine Hepburn As Little Bo Peep in Blackface
- Practical Pig Delivers a ‘Harsh Interrogation’ To the Big Bad Wolf
- This Ugly Duckling Abandond By His Family Will Melt Your Heart
12 Early Betty Boop Cartoons
- Betty Boop’s First Appearance
- Before Betty Boop Was Beautiful…
- Betty Boop as Snow White In A Cartoon For Jazz Lovers
- Your Initiation Into Betty Boop’s Secret Society
- ‘No, He Couldn’t Take My Boop-Oop-a-Doop Away!’ (2 cartoons featured)
- Why You Shouldn’t Try Robbing Betty Boop
- The Betty Boop Approach to Dealing With ‘Silly Scandals’
- Moving Day for Betty Boop!
- A Plus-Size Betty Boop As Kitty From Kansas City
- Playing Chess with Betty Boop & Taking a Mean Shot at Mickey Mouse
- Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions
22 of Fleischer Studio’s Color Classics, a competitor to the Silly Symphonies:
- A Redheaded Betty Boop As Cinderella Debuted a New Series
- ‘Joy Like This Cannot Be Bought!’ A Cartoon Variation of Hansel and Gretel
- An Elephant Never Forgets
- Back When Cartoons Taught the Miraculous Power of Prayer…
- ‘Momma Don’t Allow No Music Playin In Here’
- Animal Newlyweds Take Their Honeymoon In Outer Space!
- Seduced By the Black Swan
- An Old Couple Reminisces On Falling In Love…
- Somewhere in Dreamland Tonight
- When a Chick Tries to Be a Duck
- Newlywed Flies Pick The Wrong Hotel For Their Honeymoon
- Greedy Humpty Dumpty Enslaves Nursery Rhyme Creatures To Build His Gold Wall to the Sun
- Two Lovebirds Take a Hawaiian Honeymoon
- Dreaming of a Big Train
- An Eccentric Inventor Saves The Orphans’ Christmas
- The Wedding of Jack and Jill Rabbit
- The Rooster and His Harem…
- Animal Symphony Chaos: ‘The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Astray…’
- VIDEO: A Family of Peeping Penguins Finds a New Home
- A Little Fish Has to Learn His Lesson The Hard Way
- Cute: Little Lamby Eats His Grass With Sugar
- The Vegetable Children Don’t Want to Play With the Little Onion Kid
It’s with no small amount of irony that I, of all people, compose this list of hate against George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy. During their production, as each released, and in the years since, I have been quite the prequel apologist. There are several aspects of the films which deliver, and perhaps that will make for a follow-up to this list in the near feature. However, with the knowledge that six new Star Wars films are coming in as many years, and seeing how Disney has thus far chosen to treat the property, the flaws of the prequel trilogy seem more relevant than ever.
On the one hand, these criticisms serve as warnings for J.J. Abrams and the rest of the creative team working on Episode VII, the film which will set the tone for those to follow. On the other hand, it’s a testament to the enduring legacy of the Star Wars brand that the franchise may yet flourish despite these missteps.
Here are the top 10 reasons the Star Wars prequels sucked:
11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.
Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.
The world mourns the passing of one of the truest talents of all time – Robin Williams. The Juilliard-trained comedian and actor won an Oscar, two Emmys, five Grammys, and — dearest to me — became a Disney Legend in 2009. Williams made his struggles with depression and addiction public, yet he was unable to overcome them. But here at PJ Lifestyle, we’re going to celebrate his life. Here are Robin Williams’ ten best performances. I hope you’ll take as much comfort in these wonderful moments as I have.
10. The Crazy Ones (2013-2014)
One of the most underrated television series of the past season paired Williams with Sarah Michelle Gellar as father-and-daughter partners in an advertising agency. The Crazy Ones featured a terrific ensemble, sharp writing, and plenty of space for Williams to let loose. Williams had his best moments on the show when he had the chance to blend his trademark humor with sweet sentiment (as in the clip above). He couldn’t have a much better alter ego than the character of Simon Roberts — he and the writers even made recovery from addiction a huge part of the character. The Crazy Ones showed such promise, and it’s such a shame that CBS didn’t see fit to give it a second chance.
Last week I shared my picks for the ten most overrated films in Disney’s live-action canon. This week, we’re going to take a look at the flip side and explore the most underrated live-action Disney movies.
Believe it or not, some Disney productions just don’t get the respect that they deserve. That fact could be for a number of reasons: the movie didn’t make enough of a dent at the box office, the picture was overshadowed by another film, or the release just hasn’t had time for fans to consider it a classic. Whatever the reason, these ten films have gone underrated for too long. Enjoy!
10. Pete’s Dragon (1977)
The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Pete’s Dragon. (I had to have seen Star Wars earlier in the year, because I remember the excitement of a Star Wars watch I received for Christmas, but I just don’t remember it.) Disney first optioned the story of an orphan boy and the dragon he befriends back in the ‘50s, but sat on the property for two decades.
The film contains the hallmarks of a classic – great songs, an Oscar-nominated score, plenty of talent in the cast. Unfortunately, it came near the tail end of the Ron Miller area, which was a low point in quality for the studio. I can’t help but believe that had it debuted at another time in company history, people might remember it more fondly today. Still, it’s worth checking out.
Not long ago, I compiled my ranking of the ten most overrated and underrated animated films in the Disney canon. Now it’s time to look at Disney’s live-action output. Over the years, the studio has released an astonishing array of live action movies covering just about every topic and genre. While many of them are indisputable classics, a few of them are simply overrated. Here are the top ten. Enjoy!
10. The Rocketeer (1991)
I had such high hopes for The Rocketeer when it debuted right after I graduated high school. The previews looked amazing, and Disney hyped the film as an exciting period superhero film. I didn’t get a chance to see it until it came out on video, and it disappointed me.
The Rocketeer just isn’t an engaging film. I’ve only been able to make it through one viewing, and the times I’ve tried since, I can’t make it through the whole thing. (The presence of Jennifer Connelly, who I’m convinced is the most boring actress of all time, doesn’t help.)
The Rocketeer showed such promise, but it never delivered on that promise. That’s a shame, because, had it been a better movie, The Rocketeer could have been a classic.
Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?
12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.
“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.
The rumors of a forthcoming Star Wars land at Walt Disney World keep raising their heads from time to time. So I thought it would be fun to put myself in the Imagineers’ shoes and (to use their term) blue-sky some ideas for a Star Wars land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here’s what I came up with…
One of the prevailing rumors surrounding a potential Star Wars land at Walt Disney World (and other parks) concerns a restaurant based on the Chalmun’s Cantina at Mos Eisley. A.J. Wolfe over at Disney Food Blog has discussed the idea of a Cantina-based quick service space potentially coming to Disneyland Paris as well as to Orlando.
This idea has a ton of potential. I can picture an animatronic version of the band playing music from the films and dishes themed to the Cantina, along with menu items that conjure up life on Tatooine. Of course, a Walt Disney World Cantina would have to be much more family-oriented than in A New Hope, but I imagine how much fun a Cantina could be for fans of all ages.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published May 31, 2013
We live in an era where children in their formative years do not know what patriotism means. My grandparents’ generation knew what it meant to love America and to stand up for its ideals, but the leftists of my parents’ generation — the Baby Boomers — screwed it up for all of us. To them, the only measure of patriotism was opposition to President Bush. Remember: “dissent is patriotic.” (Tell that to the IRS.)
I was blessed to grow up with parents who loved America despite having lived through the ’60s, but many members of my generation don’t know how to be patriotic, thanks to political correctness, multiculturalism, and the growing influence of the far Left.
While the vast majority of pop culture mocks patriotism, one famous name has celebrated American exceptionalism for more than seven decades: Disney. This unabashed love of America began with the company’s founder.
Walt Disney grew up as part of the World War I generation — a time that saw both the enthusiasm of the dawn of the 20th century and the unspeakable horror of threats to freedom and peace across the globe. Though too young to serve in the war, Disney worked in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps after the war. He wanted to serve his country, one way or another.
After his move to Hollywood, Disney’s love for America drove him in many ways to develop the unique entertainment he created and to lead his studio the way he did. He believed that America’s values were worth celebrating and sharing with the world. He once said:
Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards — the things we live by and teach our children — are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.
Disney admitted to a patriotism that occasionally overwhelmed him. He once confessed, “I get red, white, and blue at times.” His love of country showed up in his films and television programs and has carried on in the theme parks that bear his name nearly half a century after his death. Sometimes the Disney brand of patriotism makes itself known in subtle ways, while at other times, it jumps directly in your face.
Last week I shared my list of the ten most overrated Disney animated features. While it’s true that many Disney cartoons get more attention than they deserve, just as many don’t get the acclaim that they should. Here’s my list of the top ten underrated Disney animated movies. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a new favorite among this list.
10. Fantasia (1940)
No one can deny the artistic spectacle that is Fantasia. There wasn’t anything like it before, and there really hasn’t been anything since, other than Michael Eisner’s attempt to recreate the magic with Fantasia 2000.
Fantasia makes this list because most everybody fails to realize what an audacious project the film was. Walt Disney and his collaborator, arranger and conductor Leopold Stokowski, took a tremendous risk combining animation with classical music, and the gamble didn’t pay off right away, as it took years for the feature to turn a profit.
I consider Fantasia underrated because most moviegoers (even Disney fans) just don’t understand how bold and revolutionary an undertaking this piece of art truly is.
For over 90 years, the Disney Studios has created some of the most memorable and enduring animated films of all time. But even a fanboy like me can admit that not everything Disney has released has been perfect. As much as Disney markets and hypes every animated feature as a classic, many of them are simply overrated. Here are the top ten.
My ground rules were pretty simple: I didn’t include Pixar’s output because they haven’t always been directly part of the Disney family. I also didn’t include the direct-to-video “cheapquels” that Michael Eisner made so famous, because they’re in a lower class all their own, and I left out the package features of the 1940s. Enjoy!
10. Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Once in a while, Disney tries to throw a bone to boys to make up for the prominence of the princesses in animated films. While the idea is worthwhile and the efforts are valiant, once in a while the more male-oriented movies fall short. 2007’s Meet the Robinsons is one of the latter.
Meet the Robinsons had a lot of potential – a twisty, time travel story with a sweet adoption plot coupled with clever, stylized animation. Instead, Meet the Robinsons is dizzying, noisy, and just falls short. Part of the cartoon’s problem may stem from the fact that John Lasseter, newly taking over as head of animation after Disney acquired Pixar, suggested a retooling.
Whatever the reason, Meet the Robinsons just didn’t make the impact that it could have.
Walt Disney’s Frozen is a huge hit and is causing some serious angst among mothers (like me) who are frantically trying to find Elsa and Anna costumes for their little girls. Normally, The Disney Store would be stocked with dresses and merchandise in preparation for a new release. For some reason, the brains in marketing dropped the ball on Frozen and there are now empty shelves where merchandise should be.
The most coveted items are the costumes. Disney makes these for around $50 each. You’ve all seen them: shiny, itchy ball gowns for little girls to play pretend. At some point, Disney stopped making quality items and outsourced everything to China where everything is cheaply manufactured with hideous material that falls apart within a year of playing. Up until now, we’ve all just put up with it and accepted that we must buy these costumes so our daughters can have their fantasy play.
It is a lot of fun to watch them pretend in these get-ups, but I started to realize they are seriously not worth the money when my oldest daughter, Kit, was visiting Walt Disney World for the first time. She had just visited the Bibbity Boppity Boo Salon where they give the children a princess makeover and do their hair and nails and give them a princess costume and a photo shoot, for the bargain price of $200 per child. (I did NOT pay for this. My parents decided they had to have this for their grandchildren. For the record, I objected to this foolish expenditure but grandparents are entitled to do what they want.)
Kit was beyond thrilled. She chose a Jasmine costume for her makeover and she looked adorable with a pink hair piece and crazy nails. However, within 10 minutes of leaving the air conditioned salon she began to sweat profusely in the Florida sun. By the time we reached the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland she was ready for her cotton shorts and teeshirt back. Her fantasy of wandering the parks in her costume ended there. Whose bright idea was this to make these things out of non-breathable polyester and non-washable acrylic?
As she got older, she began to stop dressing up, claiming she itched too bad and the costumes were uncomfortable. Who could blame her? They feel like scouring pads. Her little sister, Kat, still loves to dress up and it is she that sent me on the hunt for the elusive Elsa costume.
What I found disturbed me.
Here they are selling Elsa costumes (the same cheap, Chinese manufactured garbage) that goes for $50 at the Disney Store for $225 by Amazon poachers. The comments are especially entertaining. This is because Disney didn’t have the foresight to have enough merchandise for the demand and now enterprising scalpers are pillaging the pockets of desperate parents. Since Kat’s birthday is in July, I want an Elsa costume to give her by then. Clearly, I am not going to find the Disney version in time. It occurred to me to search Etsy, a website where handcrafted items are sold, and what I found there has turned me off from cheap and itchy Disney costumes forever.
Here are the 10 best, most creative Frozen costumes on Etsy that you can buy right now with no waiting or supporting of stupid companies that don’t seem to care about customer service.
Also check out the three previous shorts featuring the three little pigs overcoming the wolf…