Friday, December 11, 2009

Reviews of every Disney 2D animated film I've seen

Some people are most looking forward to seeing Avatar this holiday season. Some are most looking forward to Up in the Air. Some are most looking forward to Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel. And I really hope I can look down on most of those people.

Ah, but the film I most want to see in the remainder of this year is Disney's The Princess and the Frog.

I freely admit, I'm a fool for most things Disney, and with good reason. Their animated films were among the first powerful stories I heard in my youth. And being a Disney aficionado has earned me some of my most wonderful friends.

While I have been a staunch Disney defender, and even something of an apologist for their work, I have to admit, the past decade has not been kind to Walt Disney Feature Animation. There have been a couple great films and a lot of good ones, but the 2000s have been nowhere close to their magnificent run in the 1990s. Somewhere along the way, Disney's storytelling went slack.

Pixar picked up that slack, and I've made it abundantly clear I adore their work. However, Pixar is not Disney. Pixar picked up a lot of traits from Disney, to be sure, but each studio has a very different vibe. I want both. And I am very hopeful that Disney is on the rebound with a most welcome return to hand-drawn animation, given the reviews so far.

I hope to see The Princess and the Frog on Saturday. In commemoration and in preparation for that imminet viewing, I offer up short reviews of every Disney hand-drawn animated film. (Please note this list does not consider hybrids like Mary Poppins or Pete's Dragon,  and certainly does NOT cover the direct-to-video titles, which were largely responsible for watering down the brand.). The list that follows is considered Disney's official roster.

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs - I always thought Snow herself was kind of dull, but the dwarfs and the wicked queen absolutely make the move. GRADE: A

Pinocchio - Still my favorite animated film of any kind. Magnificent. GRADE: A+

Fantasia - Remains ahead of its time, nearly 70 years later. GRADE: A+

Dumbo - "Baby Mine" ... oh god ... GRADE: A+

Bambi - Bambi's mom. oh god ... GRADE: A+

Saludos Amigos - Fun, but too slight; it's barely a feature. GRADE: B-

The Three Caballeros - Delightfully zany and trippy. One of the studio's most underrated films. GRADE: A-

Cinderella - My favorite of Walt's princess movies. GRADE: A+

Alice In Wonderland - A little disjointed story-wise, even for a Lewis Carroll adaptation, but visually inventive, very funny, and far too maligned over the years. GRADE: B+

Peter Pan - A bit dated, particularly in its depiction of the Indians, but mostly delightful. GRADE: A

Lady And The Tramp - The famous "spaghetti kiss" is seriously one of the most romantic moments in the movies, animated or otherwise. GRADE: A+

Sleeping Beauty -  I've never cared much for the angular style of the animation here, and story problems abound. On the plus side, Maleficent is one of the most terrifying villains ever created. And the three fairies are quite funny, just to balance the scales. GRADE: B

101 Dalmatians - Great fun, and Cruellla is another great villainess, but for some reason I can't quite define, has never been one of my favorites. As dog movies go, Lady and the Tramp has it all over this one. GRADE: B+

The Sword In The Stone - Has one great scene in the battle between Merlin and Madame Mimm, but otherwise, this is depressingly average, and the weakest movie of Walt's era. GRADE: C

The Jungle Book - Walt's final film is just a touch thin narratively, but great characters and irresistible songs carry it a very long way. GRADE: A-

The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh: (Starts humming the theme, which means you'll all have the theme song stuck in your heads now.) GRADE: A-

The Rescuers - Not one of the great Disney movies, but I have a very soft spot for it because it was the first new Disney film of my childhood - that I can clearly remember, anyway.  GRADE: B+

Oliver & Company - Billy Joel's musical number "Why Should I Worry" is fun, but otherwise, barely memorable. My vote for Disney's low point. GRADE: C

The Little Mermaid - Hello, renaissance! GRADE: A+

The Rescuers Down Under - Entertaining if fairly indistinct sequel. GRADE: B

Beauty And The Beast - My absolute favorite of the "renaissance" period. It should have WON the Best Picture Oscar. GRADE: A+

Aladdin - The funniest movie Disney has ever made. GRADE: A+

The Lion King - Excellent at its best, but I never understood why people went SO bananas over this film. It has some excellent scenes, but "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata" aside, the songs were weak. GRADE: B+

Pocahontas - Not a great film overall, and it IS a tad on the preachy side, but I will forever maintain this is a better film than The Lion King. So there. GRADE: A-

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame - The comedy mixes a little uneasily with the drama, but this is the great underrated Disney film of the 90s. The opening sequence especially is a knockout, and Alan Menken's score is one of his best. GRADE: A

Hercules: Yes, this one is underrated too - and I thought that even BEFORE a certain bias took hold, just so you know. GRADE: A

Mulan - The songs are a bit flat, (by now, "Reflection" has been sung by 341 American Idol contestants too many), but quite moving and powerful on the whole. GRADE: A-

Tarzan - Stunning in almost every respect, particularly in the amazing visuals rendered with the "deep canvas" process that made camera movement more fluid and the backgrounds more lively. GRADE: A

Fantasia 2000
- Couldn't possibly match the original but at times comes astonishingly close. GRADE: A

The Emperor's New Groove
- I remember being distinctly underwhelmed by the trailers,  then couldn't stop laughing when I saw it. GRADE: B+

Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Has some great action scenes and fun comedic touches, but the story is  extremely scattershot. It feels like the script was endlessly tinkered with and picked over. GRADE: B

Lilo And Stitch - The ad campaign intermingling Sitich with classic characters was a stroke of genius - and the movie pretty much lived up to it. GRADE: A

Treasure Planet - This dazzlingly inventive movie got shafted, even by its own studio. It did NOT deserve to stuff at the box office the way it did. GRADE: A

Brother Bear - What do you know, another underrated film. The moose Rutt and Tuke's comedy alone makes it worthwhile. GRADE: A-

Home On The Range - Has some funny moments, but it evaporated from memory very quickly, and it contains not one memorable tune. Alan Menken was way off his game here. GRADE: B-


Make Mine Music/Fun And Fancy Free/Melody Time - I've seen parts of these omnibus films, but never the complete works, so I can't consider them here.

The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad - I've seen the Ichabod sequence many times, and it's great, but I've still never seen Mr. Toad. I know him only from the fairly lame ride.

The Aristocats - The first actual Disney film of my childhood, but I was a wee bit young to see it then and have still never gotten around to it.

Robin Hood - My understanding is it's better that I've missed this one.

The Fox and the Hound: Actually, I have seen this one, but it's been so long, I can't review it fairly.

The Black Cauldron: It can't be THAT bad, can it?

The Great Mouse Detective: The Disney film I most regret missing. Many say the renaissance had its roots in this movie.

I'd love it if my readers would chime in with their own Disney critiques - or at the very least, name their favorites.


Erica said...

I loved Sleeping Beauty as a kid, mostly for the scenes in which the fairies change the color of Aurora's dress.

But my top three are The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. I'm so glad those movies came out during my childhood!

And I urge you to see The Great Mouse Detective. Great, great fun!

Dave said...

You've got to see "The Wind in the Willows" (AKA Mr. Toad). I'd seen it as a kid, but when I watched it with my kids I absolutely cracked up. I now show it to my residents every year Thanksgiving week. It's about a manic-depressive frog. Still the best depiction of bipolar disorder in the movies ever!

Scott Copeland said...

I have copies of every single one of the films you haven't seen. I'll loan you them sometime.

My favorites are Fantasia, Lady and the Tramp, and Beauty and the Beast. By the way, you forgot the plus in Beauty and the Beast's grade.

Sir Critic said...

So I did, duly corrected! Thank you for the loan offer!