Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [sic]

tn_snowwhiteNot too long ago, as you know, I reviewed the animated cartoon movie BEBE’S KIDS. Today I want to acknowledge that there could never be a BEBE’S KIDS – or God forbid even a ROVER DANGERFIELD – if it wasn’t for Walt Disney and friends breaking ground nearly 75 years ago with the first feature length animation cartoon, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS.

I want to start occasionally Expanding My Horizons by reviewing respected or historically important movies that aren’t normally the type of thing I watch or write about. I think this way we can all learn together and I can be less repetitive and also be one of those worldly renaissance type dudes. But the real reason I rented this is that I got a new set-up. The high defintion type TV prices went down this Christmas so I finally scraped together enough cash to get one of those, and a cheap off-brand blu-ray player on the side. SNOW WHITE was recommended to me as one of the more impressive blu-ray transfers, and my sources weren’t lying. The thing looks so vivid you feel like you’re standing face to face with the original watercolor paintings. And some of them are still wet.

(By the way if you didn’t know a cartoon is a series of drawings and paintings shown in quick succession to create the illusion of dwarfs and animals dancing around, etc.)

Don’t worry, I won’t let high definition change me. I still got the VCR hooked up. I’ll try to stay sympathetic about the tyranny of the blu-ray only extras. Won’t waste your time whining about how the Michael Jackson’s Vision DVD upscales like shit, or how for the first time I understand why people give a shit about anamorphic transfers. But most of my movies will look better and I’ll learn more about movie star pores, wrinkles and scars (the novelty of staring at high-def skin got me through the DINNER WITH THE SCHMUCKS blu-ray). And I hope the Lord doesn’t strike us down or flood us for making THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE look so much clearer than He ever meant it to.

mp_snowwhiteSNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS is the story of a young princess named Snow White whose stepmother is so fuckin vain she doesn’t just have a regular mirror to stare at herself in, she sprung for the magic one with a slave inside to kiss her ass (not literally, as far as it shows, but technically I guess it probly could) and tell her how “fair” she is all the time. But the thing keeps it real and and tells her Snow White is “fairest” even though the bitch dresses her in rags to try to make her look bad.

God bless ‘im but in this case dishonesty would’ve been the better policy for ol’ Magic Mirror. The Queen wants to eliminate her fairness competition Tonya Harding style, so she calls on this Huntsman guy to kill the girl. I think at first he tries to psyche himself up with that whole Most Dangerous Game/HARD TARGET idea of “man is the deadliest prey,” but he wasn’t prepared for what a sissy Snow White was gonna be. When he holds the knife up she just holds her hands in front of her face and screams. This is not Mulan he’s dealing with. He probly feels like some perverted slasher going around with a boner stabbing little girls. So he calls off the murder, tells her to hide and brings the Queen a pig’s heart instead of the girl’s.

Incidentally the Queen already owned a wooden box with a knife-stabbed-into-heart theme, the right size to store a human or pig heart in. That’s the kind of crazy bitch we’re dealing with here. What do you buy for the Queen who has everything? Oh, does she have one of those hand-carved heart storage boxes? Yeah, she already has one. Okay, what about a talking mirror? Yeah. Pet crow? Yes. This bitch even has a spooky cellar that she goes into to do her black magic, like a Bat Cave, full of chemistry equipment. And I think there’s a skeleton in there. I bet she had a guy chained up in there to tell her how fair she was, but after she got the mirror she forgot to keep feeding him.

So anyway Princess White’s gotta run off into the woods. First she gets scared, then makes friends with pretty much the entire eco-system and finds this little house which is where these “dwarfs” live. She just walks in and it’s nasty, spider webs and dirty dishes, filthy clothes laying in the living room, no pizza boxes or cat shit, but might as well be. She immediately starts cleaning, and all the animals from her new woodland creature entourage pitch in.

This speaks volumes about Snow White. A wimp,  but a genuinely nice person, so nice she makes fast friends with birds and squirrels. A princess, but not averse to work, in fact does unsolicited housework for strangers. The anti-Goldilocks. So even if she’s not exactly the best role model for your 21st century daughters it’s hard to hate her. She’s a dork but she’s a good kid.

This story and especially this movie are so ingrained in our culture I forgot all the context and logic behind it. I forgot why Snow White was with these dwarves in the first place. Turns out it’s a safe house. She’s in hiding. And you just kind of accept seven dwarves without thinking about it, but really it’s unclear what their deal is. Are they a race, like in Lords of the Rings, or are they just little people? If it’s the second one how did they find each other and decide to live and work together? I mean this is before the internet, how you gonna find seven little people in this area who know how to mine diamonds? They’re a non-judgmental bunch, they got one retarded guy in the house and one with severe allergies. But somehow they found each other and they get along, agree what time to go to work in the morning, etc.

Do they have a genuine passion for diamond mining, or is this just the only work a little person can find in this fucked up kingdom? They seem to be self-employed, and at the same time very disciplined. They keep regular hours in the mine and have a long commute on foot, but apparently nobody to boss them around. We don’t see what happens after that, but I figure they must go out and sell the diamonds to somebody. This was before rappers or Liberace, so they probly just sold them for crowns and sword hilts. But whoever buys them can feel good about it. not only are they not conflict diamonds, they’re dug up by self employed miners, that’s gotta be rare. Free trade, organic, free range, whatever. No sweat shops. It’s like American Apparel minus the sexual harassment.

Speaking of sexual harassment, I think a pretty funny live action Snow White comedy could be made where the dwarfs really are the dirty old men they’re very innocently implied to be in this version. These guys are obviously sweet on her. She’s a real nice girl and they got every reason to adore her, but I also think they enjoy having a tall drink of water like that around, cooking for them and kissing them goodbye before work. I don’t want to see them slapping her on the ass or nothin, just exchanging sleazy glances to acknowledge that they hit the jackpot here, and don’t know how they got so lucky.

The other really funny aspect that could be played up is Snow White’s unintentional condescension toward the dwarfs. When she sees their beds she assumes that “little children” live in the house, which she seems to think is adorable. But really they’re hairy old perverts. It’s funny how cute she thinks their little things are and I’d love it if she kept cluelessly saying that kind of shit to their faces.

The aspect that has evolved the most in Disney movies since then is the portrayal of women, the “Disney Princesses.” It’s kind of off-putting at first to see this girl with her high-pitched voice singing to birds and running away bashfully when some handsome dude randomly shows up and starts singing to her. But considering how old this thing is it’s not that bad. There’s much worse shit that could’ve been in there. Luckily the only weird racial business is some bitch that wants her skin to be pale. Probly wasn’t that fair after she got struck by lightning. (SPOILER.)

It’s astounding how good the art is in this fuckin thing. The old European styling of the buildings, the nice watercolor backgrounds, the subtle character that comes through in the expressions, the tastefully muted colors. It looks beautiful. I think Disney probly made some better cartoons later, but this one really set a tone and atmosphere and a perfect balance of cute and spooky. He knew what the fuck he was doing. Now nobody gives a shit but back then everybody thought he was crazy, he knew he wasn’t, did what he wanted to do and made them all kiss his ass.

The Disney brand name has been around so long now, been so dominant in its field, become such a massive company, that there’s a pretty common attitude now where people think of “Disney” as meaning saccharine-sweet and merchandised-to-death and they think they’re blowing the lid off of America’s dark secrets if they say that such and such cartoon is racist or brainwashing children or they claim Walt Disney was a Nazi or some phony baloney like that. I’m not trying to pick on the fellas who were making similar claims in a recent comment thread, but I want to address it a little.

It’s true, Walt Disney was not a saint. He was merely a guy who completely revolutionized an entire art form, sought out and cultivated a team of incredible artists and led them in creating a whole bunch of pop culture’s most enduring characters and stories, and then spent the money he made from it to build a fucking fantasyland and hiring geniuses to invent robotic pirates and ghosts to fill it with.  That’s a striver for excellence if there ever was one, and to pretend otherwise is just horse shit.

It’s not some accident or 75 year long mistake that makes this body of work and style are such an institution. But of course it’s easy to take it for granted, like you would Coca-Cola or the Statue of Liberty, you’re not gonna praise those too often either. “Mmm, this can of Coke is delicious. Where did you find it?” But just because everybody in the world (with the notable exception of Hitler) loved Disney’s movies and they became inescapable doesn’t mean we gotta pretend they aren’t amazing.

I guess it’s a common human instinct to try to tear down and shit on anything that has lasted longer than you will. That’s fine for sullen teenagers, but as an adult I think you gotta look at it more rationally. Even if you hate it there are some areas in which you gotta be honest and give it props. It’s fucked up that Thomas Jefferson had slaves, but I like his Declaration of Independence. The then-progressive portrayal of African-American crows in DUMBO makes me a little uncomfortable, but they did a pretty fuckin good job drawing that elephant.

SNOW WHITE was both the AVATAR and the TOY STORY 3 of its time. It’s like AVATAR because Disney was doubted and ridiculed beforehand. The press called it “Disney’s Folly” because of the amount of money he spent and because they didn’t believe that people would be able to sit through a feature length cartoon. I guess people even said that the bright colors of animation would hurt people’s eyes at that length. In my opinion they were wrong.

The reason I compare it to TOY STORY 3 is because it made adults cry. Disney was the Pixar of their time, except way more revolutionary since they were doing something that had never been done before and was not believed to be possible. Even Disney and his animators weren’t sure if they could make people scared of a cartoon or sympathetic toward its characters. Nobody had really tried what they were trying. But when it came out it was known for making adults cry during the scene where the dwarves grieve over Snow White’s corpse. I don’t think it really has that effect anymore, but it definitely holds up to modern entertainment standards better than many movies from 1937, or the ’80s for that matter.

If you read anything about their history you know it’s not a coincidence that Pixar merged with Disney. John Lasseter and many of Pixar’s other founders and artists grew up worshipping at the altar of Disney. Disney movies made them want to be animators. Most of them went to the college created and founded by Disney, where they learned from Disney’s animators. Then many of them worked as animators at Disney. Lasseter also worked at Disneyland, driving the Jungle Cruise boat. And alot of their philosophy of training and storytelling comes straight out of the Disney playbook. Shit, they even send their artists on research trips or bring in animals for them to study just like Disney did.

That’s not to say you gotta respect all these movies or consider all of them as being in the same spirit. I don’t think Walt even has that much say in the movies they’ve made since his head was frozen. And later we can get into some of the other issues you brought up if you want, but the point is don’t give me that “Disney is the Devil and Pixar is God” shit. You know who you are. (Paul.) And more importantly I just want to say to give credit where credit is due. It doesn’t matter if you hate Mickey Mouse dolls or are offended by the dog’s accents in LADY AND THE TRAMP, if the guy made SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS then he deserves some god damn credit


This entry was posted on Sunday, January 16th, 2011 at 1:05 am and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

153 Responses to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [sic]”

  1. Vern – I’m surprised you didn’t mention that classic anecdote of director Sergei Eisenstein (BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, ALEXANDER NEVSKY, father of the goddamn montage) seeing SNOW WHITE and declaring it the greatest movie ever made.

    Or that it effectively served and inspired animators across the globe as the bible, as if the Disney method was the only way. Especially Japan, I mean you know you sometimes wondered why they would predominately draw white people in magna/anime? Apparently the first Japanese animators used those early Disney pictures as a role model are to blame.

    But yes I absolutely agree with you. Regardless of one’s opinion of said early Disney films, one must respect their impact, influence, and place in cinema history.

    Personally I respect Disney for willing to gamble (and lose) on something like FANTASIA. No offense to those wonderful people at Pixar, but would they be willing to throw down the dice on something like a FANTASIA now or anytime soon? I don’t.

    My favorite evil Walt Disney story is him timing his employee’s trips to the snaking machine and toilets. Its one thing to be meticulous, its another to be a penny pinching, perving voyeur dick.

    Speaking of which, I wonder why Disney picked Snow White as the subject of his first cartoon movie which was his boom or bust investment. He could have simply done an expanded Mickey Mouse feature, even though I’m not surprised considering he’s an uninteresting, boring shell. Especially compared to Donald Duck.

    Personally I wish the people at Pixar or Disney animation* would make a Scrooge McDuck picture. I’m certain this would do fucking gangbusters in Europe, especially Scandanavia. Especially since Spielberg/Lucas ripped off more than one idea (cough rolling boulder cough) from the comics.

    *=Which has become basically the Pixar dump for projects/ideas that they don’t like or are above it. I mean do you see Pixar doing TANGLED or BOLT? Nope.

  2. Man, HD TV and a Blu-ray player? You are such a sell out! (Just kidding, of course, although I still refuse to buy a Blu Ray player, because I think it’s unnecessary and better wait till the next movie watching medium, which has nothing to do with streaming.)

    Anyway, an awesome review that warmed the heart of the animation lover that I am. It’s not my favourite Disney movie though (and I haven’t seen it in years), but it’s a good one.

  3. And RRA: I seriously wish Disney/Pixar would make a movie out of Don Rosa’s THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCROOGE MCDUCK, my favourite comic book ever, although I’m not even an Uncle Scrooge fan! But if they wanna make it run shorter than 3 hours, they shouldn’t even think about doing it.

  4. Great review, and congratulations on the new equipment. Have you come across that ‘Blu-ray Blues’ article doing the rounds? I haven’t got a Blu-ray player yet and hearing this – and other – criticisms haven’t made me enthusiastic about doing so…


  5. I do want to see them slappin her on the ass. Great review Vern. I’m gonna have to check this out on blue ray. I don’t remember anything about the witch having a heart box or having a bat cave.

  6. “I seriously wish Disney/Pixar would make a movie out of Don Rosa’s THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCROOGE MCDUCK,”

    CJ – Who. Fucking. Hell. Yes.

    BTW, whats your favorite Disney animated picture?

  7. My favourite animated Disney movie is ARISTOCATS. I know, it’s neither very artistic or deep, but for any reason it’s the one I can watch over and over. I also have fond memories of CINDERELLA. I should really get all these movies on DVD, because my old VHS tapes will be worn out one day, but I hesitate to do so, because apparently many of the DVD releases have a new dubbing over here or are even edited! (THE FOX AND THE HOUND is missing a few seconds in its DVD release to get a G rating, compared to the uncut VHS which was rated “6”.)

  8. RRA – dammit man, your first post pretty much said everything I ever intended to say but couldn’t (because you said it first). Stop reading my damn mind!

    I saw this a long, long time ago, when I was probably too young to notice the dwarf-thing. Although come to think of it, it’s rather obvious. For some reason the mirror and the forest bits and the dwarves’ house stuck in my mind.

    In answer to your question though, I’d actually probably have to say it’d be a toss-up between this one and “The Lion King”. I feel like this one came out before the “formula” that you see so much got going. It’s got a spirit of naivety and innocence about it, but it also feels fresh and experimental. You can tell that it’s an original. Plus these two films probably have the most badass villains out there, which counts for a lot.

    And that’s the real overriding factor, really, right? I mean, we’re all fans of badass cinema here. It’s not as though – oh, say, “Bambi” – could ever be as good. Well, maybe not “good”, but we’re hardcore Stallone and Van Damme fans, we don’t get choked up… *sniffles…* over the tragic death of a cartoon fawn’s mother? Right? Especially one that’s so brave and cute and loveable… ok why are you all looking at me like that?

    OK FINE!!! It’s motherfucken’ BAMBI, alright? If this gets out, I WILL fuck your shit up.

    Anyway, “Lion King”. Best Disney movie I’ve seen. Definitely.

  9. BAMBI is boring and I didn’t cry once. There. I said it.

    Although I like the story about how Bambi was originally supposed to see the corpse of his mother, or at least the puddle of blood, but Walt Disney thought it would be better if his dad would just ask him to come with him, so Bambi takes one last look back and then follows him, without seeing the mess.

    Also in terms of Walt Disney being a racist: Years ago I saw a documentary about Walt, in which they interviewed lots of people who worked with him or somehow knew him. They also interviewed an african american animator, who told the story of how he met Spike Lee and Spike said: “Disney was a racist!” And the animator just said: “Spike, I love your movies, but you never met Walt! I did. I worked with him for years and I can tell you that he was the least racist person I’ve ever worked for!”

  10. Good call on Aristocrats CJ. The soundtrack is pretty awesome. Up there with The Jungle Book and Oliver & Company when it comes to a more modern flavor to Disney movie music. When it comes to the older Disney movies like from the 40’s to early 80’s I was always partial to Pinocchio myself. Also a big Fox & The Hound (it has Kurt) and Robin Hood fan too.

    Being a late 80’s to early 90’s kid though I do have to say my heart truly belongs to the likes of The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast and most especially Aladdin when it comes to Disney movies though. The Lion King as well, best version of Hamlet ever. Those were the perfect movies to contrast the RoboCop’s, Die Hard’s and Commando’s that I was so used to watching at home back in those days.

  11. “I think at first he tries to psyche himself up with that whole Most Dangerous Game/HARD TARGET idea of “man is the deadliest prey,” but he wasn’t prepared for what a sissy Snow White was gonna be. When he holds the knife up she just holds her hands in front of her face and screams. This is not Mulan he’s dealing with.”

    another classic anectdote from the web’s favorite outlaw lmao, genius.

  12. Oh yeah, Robin Hood! Peter Ustinov does some awesome voice work in it as Prince John! He even provides his voice for several foreign dubbings of the movie, including the German one! Man, he was a class act.

  13. Come to think of it Vern, there is irony when you bring up Pixar/Disney considering once TOY STORY arrived, Pixar effectively murdered the 2-D animated feature. Yet they’re the same people now trying to bring it back at Disney. Which I must admit, I admire this attitude of respect and nerdyness.

    Paul – I won’t leave your head. It’s too comfy.

    CJ – Shit forget Hamlet, LION KING basically remade Kimba from over in Japan. Of course to be fair, Kimba was public domain by then so they had full right to mine the fucker. Kimba, Simba, huh how about that?

  14. Forgot to say that I agree with Broddie on one thing – this was an awesome, awesome review, one of your best for AGES, probably one of the best ever. Seriously, I was laughing like a hyena played by Whoopi Goldberg the entire way through.

    Although I wasn’t a huge fan of “Robin Hood”.

  15. Is it bad of me to keep waiting for her to morph into betty boop? Cause that’s who she reminds me of , Betty Boop before she was the betty we all know and love.


    Seriously, If I’m going to do a guy let alone marry him, he needs an actual name.

  16. LOL that’s true. Might as well call them Prince Pantydropper since it’s what the Prince Charming moniker insinuates all the time anyway. At the same time I guess Prince Howard or Prince Franklin isn’t as catchy as Prince Charming. But if they called one Prince Paul he’d be the most awesome Disney prince ever, he’d be ducking lawsuits from music publishers and producing De La Soul records and all that good stuff.

  17. By some coincidence, I’ve just bought this, after seeing a major Disney film in the sale for possibly the first time _ever_

    Anyway, I’ve also recently got a new TV and one of the films I demoed on it was SLEEPING BEAUTY. It’s not a great film in terms of storytelling, but goddamn it for my money that must be one of the ten or so best looking films ever, and on this new TV it was positively mesmeric. The UPA-influenced (though they’d probably deny it) visuals are an acquired taste, but I think it has a distinctive style which has never been done better on screen.

    I’m not sure what my favourite Disney film is, but I feel the most underrated is THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE. At the time of its release I’d say it was their best film since Walt’s death by miles, and it’s a shame it was followed by OLIVER & COMPANY (a contender for the weakest major Disney animated film ever IMO) as otherwise I’d have considered it the start of their fabled “renaissance”

    BTW, if we’re going to talk reactionary politics in animated films, surely the all-time champ is Don Bluth’s ANASTASIA? The Russian revolution didn’t come about because people were suffering under the monarchy. No, things were great under those lovely people! It only happened because a spell turned them into zombies! Good film though, the finest of Bluth’s admirable but frustrating career, and better than Disney’s offering that year (HERCULES)

    P.S. Actually, it’s strongly rumoured that Hitler _loved_ SNOW WHITE. On the plus side, so did Orson Welles

  18. wells also liked bullfighting


    Seriously, If I’m going to do a guy let alone marry him, he needs an actual name.”
    There’s a comic book called FABLES, which is about fairytale and folklore characters actually existing in another realm and having to come into our world to escape a war, and it addresses this by making Prince Charming just one guy who Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all married, but later divorced because he cheated on them. Maybe Disney intended the same thing?
    Anyway, great review Vern. Can we expect an Anime review by 2015 at this rate?
    I wonder why no other adaptation of the story has caught on even half as well as this animated version did. Though looking at the upcoming RED RIDING HOOD, which from it’s trailer seems to have reimagined it as a fantasy erotic thriller werewolf movie, that probably explains why it’s for the best.

  20. Robin Hood! – a classic romantic-action-comedy-suspense-musical if ever there was one.

  21. And that’s not the first time. Neil Jordan already did a Red Riding Hood erotic thriller werewolf movie in the eighties called IN THE COMPANY OF WOLVES. And then there was the Sigourney Weaver SNOW WHITE that reimagined it as a horror movie.


  22. Now that you mention it: Wasn’t there really a Humpty Dumpty horror movie annoucned a while ago?

  23. That was so funny, Vern. My first thought upon reading about your new HD set up was, “Well, thatgreat but what about your VHS reviews?” Then I clicked on the rest of the story and breathed a sigh of relief. Seriously, HD is fantastic but there will always be a ton of great films that will never, ever get a DVD release, let alone a Blu-ray edition. Having said that, congratulations on the upgrade.

    On SNOW WHITE – For me, one of it’s enduring qualities is it’s fairy tale structure. Like a fairy tale, It doesn’t feel the need to explain everything with logic. The dwarves simply are. They mine diamonds, not for any logical goal or outcome, but because they must. It is their lot in life.

  24. I remember that Kiefer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon movie Freeway which was also another adult version of Red Riding Hood.

  25. Dirk: I second the Robin Hood love.

    Prince Charming is a creepy dude. He’s just walking through the woods and he finds a comatose/dead girl laying there… so he decides to make out with her. It’s just dumb luck she woke up before shit got crazy.

    As far as intended creepiness goes, the Queen’s dungeon messed me up when I was a kid. If you look at the caged skeleton you notice the bitch left a glass of water just out of reach while he died of thirst, and then she never moved the body. That is some cold-hearted shit right there.

  26. A lot of Disney imagery was fairly traumatic to me as a kid. The Demon from Fantasia, Monstro the Whale, Malificient’s dragon form, Henson’s Dark Crystal puppets. Which is crazy cause I grew up watching Dawn of the Dead and Demons 2 the Evil Dead movies, Fright Night and all types of shit like that. Lots of slashers too, this was the heyday of the original Jason and Freddy franchise iterations. Yet ironically it was fucking Disney movies that scared me and not the gore I saw in a lot of other movies.

  27. Robin Hood was one of my favorite Disney films when I was younger….looking at it now, it has pretty crummy animation, but the songs are wonderful, there are some excellent sequences (such as sneaking into Prince John’s bedchamber to steal the bags of gold, and the escape from the Archery Tournament that turns into a football game, complete with Carl Stalling-style soundtrack samples of “On Wisconsin”, “Princeton Tiger Rag” and “Boola Boola / Yale Fight Song” :)

    Peter Ustinov’s voice perfomance has got to be one of the greatest in the history of Disney animation. He is BRILLIANT. His cry of “Get the FAT one!” brings down the house with every group of people I’ve ever watched Robin Hood with. I’m laughing just typing this….And there’s lots of good vocal work in that film–Phil Silvers as Little John, the great old character actors who were Friar Tuck and the Sheriff of Nottingham–and the voice of the rooster balladeer was also one of the guards in Cool Hand Luke! And Maid Marian is a fox in every sense. :)

    Moving on…I would LOVE to see a Pixar Scrooge McDuck movie–they can call it DuckTales if they have too. Carl Barks is one of the great unheralded storytellers of the 20th century (literally–b. March 1900, d. August 2000, amazingly), one of the great figures in comics–right up there with Jack Kirby, I’d argue–and like it was pointed out above, hugely influential (Indiana Jones does indeed owe as much to his Disney Comics as anything else) with his name being criminally underrecognized by the general public. I think a lot of what many people, especially baby boomers, attribute to “Walt Disney” was actually very much Carl Barks. Get Connery of out retirement to do Uncle Scrooge’s voice…UP was another story that was absolutely 100% in the spirit of Barks, and if they could ever make a film of Bark’s Disneyverse with that kind of energy, it would just rock everybody’s socks off.

  28. Oh and regarding FABLES. How the hell could I forget that? mind you I haven’t read it since the great fables crossovers between the two books (FABLES and Jack of Fables) and a mini. So I’m at a lost to where it’s at now. For the longest it was one of the most consistent comic books ever though. Great series overall.

    Another cool thing they did aside from the Prince Charming thing was make Jack Horner the same guy as Jack from the beanstalk story, the giant killer, from Jack & Jill and Jack Frost. He’s not only the star of one of the aforementioned books but one of the funniest & slimiest motherfuckers in the funny books today.

  29. Oh, and Malificent is one of Disney’s most interesting characters. (So good that they just transplanted her whole into Enchanted, basically.) She’s really well designed and is an actual character with motivations–she’s pissed off instead of just EEEEVIL. I’ve always thought a worthy story would be Sleeping Beauty: The Prequel–how Malificent went bad. When she turns into a dragon I’ve always wondered if that isn’t a reference to the Babylonian goddess Tiamat…nah, probably not.

    I’d suggest Vern next examine Disney live-action films, a largely unexamined body of work. There’s the weird stuff like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and CONDORMAN (sort of a G-Rated Kick Ass meets James Bond); but my recommendations would to start with NEVER CRY WOLF (arguably the best live-action Disney movie ever) THE GAME PLAN (in the context of The Rock’s badass cinema, of course) and SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, with it’s unbeleivably awesome pirate battle ending.

  30. The guy who created FABLES really should have to pay Stephen Sondheim at least 50% of all the profits that book earns. Sorry, but it’s true. :)

  31. And as far as the creepiness of Prince Charming and the weirdness of the Snow White in general–anybody ever read Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, Apples”?

    Yeah, everybody go check that out, and “Into The Woods”…

    “He’s a very nice prince…”

    “Did you dance? / Is he charming? / They say that he’s charming…”

    “He has charm / for a prince, I guess…”

  32. FABLES does make it next to impossible to ever think about the Snow White story without getting really creeped out.

  33. CC- Gaiman fundamentally changed the way I look at Snow White. So fucked up.

  34. And who could forget one of the most popular bastardisations of the classic Snow White tale?

  35. This was apparently the first movie I ever saw in the theater.

    Congrats on joining the Blu Ray experience Vern.

  36. Robin Hood. Loved that as a kid.

  37. nabroleon_dynamite

    January 16th, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Mr. Majestyk check your E-mail Son!!

  38. nabroleon_dynamite

    January 16th, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Walt Disney was a hero to most…

  39. Here I am to talk about how great Disney’s animated ROBIN HOOD is, and you guys have already beat me three or four times. I’ll third the Peter Ustinov as Prince John as being the best voiceover work I’ve ever heard. I think one of the less-heralded aspects of Pixar’s success has been how their voice-casting is more along the lines of classic Disney, which I like to think of as casting the best person for the part, often character actors, rather than getting a few more tickets sold by being able to put celebrities’ names on your one sheets and using them for promotion. But yeah, ROBIN HOOD is one of my top five favorite films ever, just from watching it over and over as a kid. It’s interesting that unlike other Disney films, it’s a world of all animals, instead of being the animal world interacting with the human. It’s also interesting that for as many times as the story of Robin Hood has been told in cinema, this version has a very original sense of pacing and songs that set it apart. I think also having Robin Hood himself be a fox (a rather diminutive creature) it naturally emphasizes his craftiness, like with the costumes and accents, sort of making him more of a con artist than a macho Aryan symbol of manhood was way cooler than other versions. Little John’s probably my favorite animated character ever. He’s the kindly brawn, who adapts to the brains of his partner, and always comes through.
    I’m all for Expanding My Horizons, Vern. Honestly my favorite part of your sight is when you review those type of movies, this one reminded me of the MARY POPPINS classic. It’s just great to hear someone with your areas of expertise comment on old Disney films. I guess because that was basically all I watched as a kid. I second the suggestion that at some point you go through some of the old Disney live actions: CONDORMAN (my other favorite, and worthy of a look by fans of badass cinema), SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG, these are probably the most watchable.

  40. I loved this review, Vern. I could pick your Seagalogical brain all day but I’m all for some more Expanding Your Horizons stuff. Next how about something with Muppets?

  41. As a kid who grew up and still lives in uptown manhattan I was always partial to one Muppet movie. The Muppets Take Manhattan. To me that will always remain a true classic. For some time I was convinced I wanted to do puppet shit for a living when I grew up. Henson inspired me as a kid but my family was too poor to put me in any of those schools. If only there were school stamps to go with the food stamps back then. I could’ve been good money working on some muppet shit.

  42. If Vern does look at the muppet movies he should also watch Muppet Treasure Island. Tim Curry fucking owned. The Michael Caine as Scrooge one was cool too. I remember catching that in theaters. The rest of the newer ones suck though. Muppets From Space was a great waste of time.

  43. Broddie – well the “puppet shit” worked for John Malkovich.

    I second the “Freeway” love (not quite Disney though methinks) and also the Malificent love. Disney had a knack for producing really, really great villains. Anybody else remember the evil stepmother from Cinderella? That was one intimidating, creepy lady. Heck, as much as I’ve ragged on “Aladdin” recently, even Jafar, as pretentious and blatant a racial stereotype as he was, did get some great moments. Of course it helps when you’re a mind-controlling ninja-tooled sorcerer who can transform at will into a giant cobra. (I happen to know this for a fact.)

    I’m not as huge a fan of “Robin Hood” as many here seem to be, but one thing I remember about it that was great was its sense of pure fun. It did seem, though, to be very much a film for kids rather than something by – oh, let’s see – Pixar. (Wall-E and Ratatouille were kids’ films, but you could hardly call them films for kids.) I think maybe not seeing it until I was in my twenties meant that I slightly missed the point of it all.

  44. you should check out Waking Sleeping Beauty, doc about disney animation between 1980 and 1994, it’s pretty cool and touches a lil on the beginnings of their involvement with pixar.

    i really like the idea of “expanding horizons” entries. looking forward to more.

  45. Thumbs up on expanding your horizons, Vern. I look forward to that.

    In fact, I secretly always wanted a corner of your sight where readers could publically suggest pictures for you to review, and then other readers could like or dislike those suggestions, YouTube style. The most wanted reviews would move to the top, the least to the bottom.

    What is Walter Leno up to? Is he busy?

  46. Broddie – Hate to be boring, but I would pick the first one, Muppet Movie if only for that opening. That camera panning from the clouds to the swamp, to Kermit w/ banjo playing “Rainbow Connection.” Wonderfully sublime, perfect filmmaking which would have lost some of that magic if it was done CGI like it would be today.

    I’ll quote what Roger Ebert said it best in his review from back in the day: ” And if you can figure out how they were able to show Kermit pedaling across the screen, then you are less a romantic than I am: I prefer to believe he did it himself.”

  47. “Speaking of sexual harassment, I think a pretty funny live action Snow White comedy could be made where the dwarfs really are the dirty old men they’re very innocently implied to be in this version.”

    there’s a German comedy like that. can’t remember the name

  48. The only German Snow White comedy I know is 7 ZWERGE – MÄNNER ALLEIN IM WALD

    And its sequel DER WALD IST NICHT GENUG

    Haven’t seen any of them, though.

  49. The animated Robin Hood is far from a great movie, but it’s got a lot of good elements (like Ustinov) that deserve to be recognized. And people clearly love it.

  50. Yeah, “Snow, Glass, Apples” ruined Snow White for me too.

  51. Good choice on the Snow White Blu-Ray. The transfer is one of the best yet. Another tranfer that will blow your mind is seeing what they did with The Wizard of Oz. I think it would fit in with your new review theme of classics we wouldn’t expect.

  52. Good god is this movie annoying. My girlfriend’s daughter watches it occasonally and the movie is annoying even from another room. Snow White’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard. The long drawn out “humorous” interludes with the dwarves (especially Dopey) are just painful. Not Disney’s best effort at all.

  53. I’m pleased to see all the Robin Hood love out there. It’s easily my favorite of Disney’s animated films. The way the animators captured the movement of each animal in their anthropomorphic form is just incredible.

    Some of Disney’s live action stuff is strange but interesting. I remember loving Swiss Family Robinson as a kid. One of their overlooked gems is the Journey of Natty Gan, a film that takes place during the depression and is about a girl who is separated from her father while he’s looking for jobs cutting down trees. If my memory is warped from childhood nostalgia, I seem to remember the film being a more straightforward drama, missing a lot of the cutesy stuff Disney’s live action films are known for.

  54. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 17th, 2011 at 10:38 am

    So glad that this did not devolve into Walt Disney bashing. I am sick to death of “Disney was an anti-semite, Disney was a Nazi supporter” horseshit. Most of if perpetuated by the absolutely ludicrous books “Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince” and most recently by a string of jabs by FAMILY GUY. I am not one to be easily offended at all and I know FAMILY GUY makes fun of EVERYTHING, but their Disney knocks come off as McFarland’s true beliefs on the man. And again, it is all absolute horseshit. Dude could be a fucking tyrant, there is no doubt about that… but there is also no doubt that he was a warm man with the best of intentions and an absolute genius who (directly and indirectly) completely changed the face of popular culture, art, science and commerce.

  55. CJ – Since I won’t count Pixar, and haven’t revisited the “golden age” Disney animation since I was a kid and not bothered by choice a few of the newer ones (I have no urge ever to see ALADDIN), so my favorite Disney animation picture I guess by default would have to be GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE.

    Not a remarkably great film really, and this was working back when Disney was still penny pinching the animation department, but it definately showed ambition, style, wit, and some creativity. The Big Ben climax was well-crafted. Indeed this and ROGER RABBIT were the foundation of the Disney Renaissance.

    For example, you gotta love how the villain Vincent Price-voiced rat starts a singing/dancing musical number in his honor, stops it when a henchman calls him the “R” word, kills him, and then resumes the number. Badass juxtaposition?

    I also enjoyed, if too subtle to go over most kids and most adults too I’m sure, DETECTIVE making a visual commentary on Victorian England. The mice are the WASPs in power, the rats/gerbils/frogs/repties are the southern/Eastern European immigrants who’ve become the local hoods, vlaudeville performers, menial labor.

    Specifically the villain’s public denial (despite the obviousness) that he’s a rat does call back to Jews covering up their Semitic heritage and pass themselves off as gentiles and WASPs so they can get ahead in society and score wealth. Nevermind Victorian literature (like Dickens) were notorious for having Jews being the stock villainy, usually the evil money-hungry shrewed bastard.

    dieselboy – Preferably Vern reviews it while taking a toke and playing DARK SIDE OF THE MOON as the soundtrack.

    RBatty024 – the Disney live-action that comes to mind for me was 20, 000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. For a 19th century book that was high tech concept sci-fi, the movie in the 50s became by accident maybe the first steampunk sci-fi movie.

    Saw it again many months back on TCM, still a terrific adventure. Even if that segment of Kirk Douglas hauling ass from a cannibal tribe sits on the fence of “is this racist or not?”

    Haven’t seen it since then, but I remember really liking SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON as a tot. And why not? Pirates! Treehouse! Tigers!

    Chris – I think its less his actual beliefs and more McFarland beating a dead horse for the SHOCK value. Personally I liked that ROBOT CHICKEN gag where frozen Walt Disney head in jar is on top of a robot, and feeds on Cuban kids in Orlando sewers.

  56. For the record, I never said that a work of art had to be moral. I adore exalt the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and damn near every one of his novels had the hero of the story sleeping with a 13 or 14-year old girl, often not consensually, sometimes driving her to suicide. But I’ll be damned if Love in the Time of Cholera doesn’t make me overflow.

    And in this same vein, I like a lot of the Disney movies. I mean, I don’t have kids now and I won’t be having kids for probably another decade, if ever, so I can’t really speak to what morals my hypothetical daughter might take from these flicks (I personally watched The Nightmare Before Christmas ever single day for like a year when I was a kid, and I’ll be damned if I can tell you what the moral of that shit is), but as an adult they are mostly compelling, and as a kid, I’m sure they’re a damn good babysitter.

  57. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 17th, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Yeah, even though it is a ridiculous urban legend, I do not mind jokes about Walt and cryogenics at all. It is the anti-semitism that bothers me, mainly because so many people believe it. I have actually gotten into debates where people try and use words that came straight out of Brian Griffin’s mouth. Sheesh.

    If people looked just a little deeper into Walt’s life and beliefs they would find out about how he basically gave up the studio in WWII to the government to churn out training films and Allied Propaganda. Hardly the work of an Axis supporter. His ties to the German American Bund were minimal at best and he denounced the organization when their underlying fascist agenda became clear (as did scores of German-Americans who believed the organization to be a non-political one whose initial public goals were simply to retain goodwill in the states for German immigrants who had fled Europe during and after WWI). His favorite charity was one for the widows of Jewish WWII soldiers for fuck’s sake.

    As for The Great Mouse Detective, it truly is a winner. Not an artistic masterpiece, but definitely a masterpiece of character, voice acting and story-telling and yes, the true kickoff to the Disney Rennaissance. Though you really should give Aladdin a try. It is one of my favorite movies and I generally have very little patience for Robin Williams’ coke-addled nonsense.

  58. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 17th, 2011 at 11:51 am


    Moral of TNBC: Be Yourself, Don’t Drink Nightshade, Beware of burlap sacks that hang out in casinos and are full of bugs.

  59. I really appreciate THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE, but I never came to the point where I really loved it. It has a great atmosphere, though and one day I really have to listen to its original version, just because of Vincent Price. He stated more than once that Ratigan was his favourite role ever!
    BTW, I don’t know if it happened anywhere else, but in Germany, the first episode of GUMMI BEARS was in some theaters shown as supporting movie, before MOUSE DETECTIVE.

  60. Also in terms of Disney live action: One of my most watched DVDs of the last few years is SKY HIGH. Yes, it’s a pretty new one (2005, I think), yes, the story evolves into something that can be best described as “very predictable and seriously not original”, but damn, it has some great jokes, very likeable characters (Who doesn’t feel sad for Mr Boy?) and most of all a wonderful cast full of back then unknown teen actors (Michael Angarano, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Steven Strait) and a fucking AWESOME supporting adult cast! (Kurt Russell! Bruce Campbell! Dave Foley! Kevin McDonald! Kevin Heffernan! Cloris Leachman! I’m sure I forgot someone!)

  61. Seriously though. What the fuck is the message being sent by The Nightmare Before Christmas? Or any of Tim Burton’s early works? It seems as though his movies have a very strong underpinning of “No one will ever understand the things that make you special, and if you try to develop them or express them you will be rejected and ridiculed, so you should never leave your home.

    Peewee retreats out of the big world after his adventure (doesn’t he I haven’t seen this movie in years?)
    Edward Scissorhands goes back up to his mansion to die.
    Lydia never really overcomes her death fetish…in fact, she seems MORE into it at the end.
    Jack Skellington gives up on his dream of expanding himself.
    No one ever understands or appreciates Ed Wood.

    For all of the let your freak flag fly shtick that the cult of Burton talks about, his films have a very conservative agenda. Or am I totally missing the point?

  62. You can also interpret it as: “The most important thing is that you feel good as who you are.”

  63. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 17th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Yeah, Disney’s live action game has definitely stepped up in the past few years with stuff like SKY HIGH and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (which I know was co-pro with Walden Media) and ENCHANTED (which I know bothered Vern but I find it immensely entertaining and love the songs and Amy Adams, though it was a HUGE missed opportunity to have Idina Menzel in a Disney musical and not let her sing!). Plus, damn me if I don’t still love the Pirates movies.

    Best string of live action in decades. Now if they could make another fucking perfect live action musical even vaguely on par with MARY POPPINS, I would be a happy cat.

  64. Sky High is a superb film. It’s the only super hero movie I’ve ever seen that shows exactly what a 17-year old would do with super powers.

    There is one scene in particular where the lead boy kisses the lead girl on her doorstep. It’s his first kiss, I think, and afterward, he walks a few steps down the road and jumps up in the air and swings from a light pole in his excitement. I thought that moment was sublime.

  65. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 17th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    You are onto something, but at the same time, I do not think he is saying that it is ultimately pointless to “let the freak flag fly” so much as he is saying- “let it fly, but you will still always remain misunderstood and ostrasized… but me and a small group of others will still love and admire you regardless”. If he did not show so much affection for those characters, I may think differently, though.

  66. RE: CJ Holden

    but Jack’s love of Christmas WAS legitimate. He loved and understood it, it’s that no one else could understand his vision for Christmas (in Halloweentown) or his desire to spread joy (in the real world). So they tried to kill him…and then he gives up on his dream.

    Maybe it’s that Sally is alone too and feels all mixed up and like she doesn’t quite “fit” and so Jack sees some of himself in her and she calms the savage beast? But I mean…that’s not really established on his side of the story. We see all sorts of reasons why Sally loves Jack, but other than the fact that she is seemingly the only eligible female in all of Halloweentown, what does Jack see in her?

    But then, maybe that IS the message. You don’t need a great adventure to feel fulfilled, you just need someone who will try their best to understand you? Except, Jack rededicates himself to Halloween BEFORE Sally proclaims her love for him.

    It’s a wonderful film to look at, and I’ve literally seen in 300 times (I watched it every day after school…EVERY day), but it’s a deeply confused narrative that seems to have a lot of negative things to say.

  67. Paul – John M. is a god I am but a mere puny human.

    RRA – The Muppet Movie is generally considered the best but it could never quite stick to me like Manhattan or The Great Muppet Caper. I will say though that it had the best ensemble out of all of them with the humans. I mean Pryor, Mel Brooks, Paul Williams, Carol Kane, James Coburn, Telly Savalas AND Orson Welles all in the same fucking movie? it’s simply bananas.

    All this GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE talk is going to make me go track it down. I haven’t seen that movie in almost 20 years since the only time I saw it was when it was re-released in theatres sometime in the early ’90s. It’s high time to pay it a revisit cause it sounds even more awesome than I recalled it being.

  68. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 17th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    The Muppet Movie is easily the best of them, but I probably watch the Great Muppet Caper more than any of the others… The whole string of The Muppet Movie-Great Muppet Caper- Muppets Take Manhattan is pretty flawless though.

    “Schnookums prefers the rubber Wall Street Journal to the rubber Washington Post.”

    “Don’t we all?”

  69. Oh and regarding that Ebert comment very interesting. It’s one of the reasons I completely avoid reading spoilers or news on movies that are so many months from even being released. Unlike many other movie fans who thrive at any tidbit thrown their way. I even avoid the trailers whenever I can. To be surprised at the cinema. Removing the mystique from movie magic kills a lot of it’s impact and where the fuck is the fun in that?

  70. Yeah that first Muppetmmotion picture trifecta gives a lot of trilogies a run for their money in my humble opinion.

  71. I personally found ENCHANTED strangely unsettling. It also suffers from LAST ACTION HERO/KICK-ASS syndrome where the “real world” isn’t different enough from the world the film is supposedly trying to parody.

  72. While we’re on the subject of ROBIN HOOD I should mention that one of its great charms is that its songs are both written an performed by the great pre-Country singer Roger Miller, best known for writing and singing “King of the Road.” I can’t think of any other Disney movie that uses a singer-songwriter that way. Miller was a clever, warm songwriter with a unique voice and casting him in that role was a stroke of genius by someone.

    My other random Disney fact? If you grew up around the time I did or a little before, you likely read the children’s books by author Bill Peet (google image him, you’ll immediatly recognize his distinctive colored pencil drawings). He also, it turns out, worked as an animator, artist, storyboarder, and eventually writer and director, notably on SWORD IN THE STONE, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and JUNGLE BOOK (he was an artist during the SNOW WHITE DAYS). His illustrated autobiography is full of great anecdotes from his Disney days (including his epic freakout as an “in-betweener”) and details his complicated relationship with Walt Disney, who comes across as both a father figure and a difficult bully. It’s very funny reading, sort of straddling the line between children’s fiction and legit autobiography.

  73. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 17th, 2011 at 2:26 pm


    I get what you are saying in regards to Enchanted, but that is part of the way it is executed.
    There is a gradual shift from the fantasy to the “reality”… mainly in how the songs are portrayed once Gisele winds up in New York.
    1st song: Happy Working Song- Total fantasy, with music coming from nowhere, and animals (albeit vermin) showing up to lend a hand
    2nd song: That’s How You Know- Coming a bit more into reality… simply because a. there is a specific reason she starts singing and b. the musical accompaniment to the song comes from actual onscreen musicians
    3rd song: the one at the ball that I forget the name of- There to total reality where the song is actual performed by a band and singer and in a normal, plausible, real-world context.

    I think part of the movie’s charm is not just in how much Gisele changes those around her, but how they change her. She is becoming more “human” as opposed to the others simply becoming more fanciful (though they obviously do become somewhat more fanciful… it is more of a meeting in the middle kind of thing).

  74. I just kind of assumed they were hanging out in the middle of buttfuck nowhere due to some fantasy Megan’s law that forced them to live there. Kind of gels nicely with Vern’s crusty old perv analogy.

  75. I really don’t have anything against Disney other than the mouse. I’m the same with Star Wars and Luke.

  76. GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE: I remember seeing that in theaters with my mom and brother. Really good, almost a League Of Ext. Gentlemen (comic book) style steampunk story! Rattigan was scary, but holy god, his bat henchman was terrifying. We’re talking Dark Crystal-levels of nightmare inducement. I haven’t seen Great Mouse since then–now I gotta rent it.

    Journey Of Natty Gann: A GREAT movie. Meredith Salinger, who was sort of the 80s Hallie Eisenfeld (and who later played the mantis-woman on Buffy The Vampire Slayer), John Cusack, Ray Wise as her lumberjack father, her pet wolf–god, I LOVED that movie. I think you can rightfully put it up there with BONNIE AND CLYDE, Milius’ 73 DILLINGER, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, original KING KONG, and SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS as one of the best films ever made about America in the 1930s. It makes a great double feature with William Wellman’s WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD. : )

    Sky High: Right on! So much better then Kick Ass, in my opinion. I agree, one of the highlights of recent Disney live action. I totally forgot Mary Elizabeth Winstead was in that. And Kurt Russell brought it in Sky High as much he did in Death Proof.

    I mentioned it above, but I will put in a brief word for a film that I think deserves a place in the Sky High – Enchanted recent live action Disney pantheon, and that’s THE GAME PLAN. (and not just ’cause I worked on it.) I know it gets a bad rap, seen as the Rock’s sellout to family film wimpiness, but darn it, it’s an authentically good movie, a true Disney movie, and worthy of more respect then it gets. (and I will say, the working environment on set was wonderful. One of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. A lot of the crew were veterans of Sky High, actually, which is also reputed to have been a very fun movie–I will give Disney full credit, they’re a good company to work for. They truly, in my experience, care about their people. The making of the movie was almost itself like a Disney movie, come to think of it. : )

    Bill Peet and the Jungle Book: Of COURSE. Why didn’t I ever recognize that?! A lot of his books would make great animated films.

    I’ll reprise my nomination for greatest Live Action Disney Film Of All Time: Carroll Ballard’s truly great Never Cry Wolf. I always thought that and Tron were the two unique, out there, beautiful art films of the Live Action Diz. canon: I was really saddened to hear Tron get so viciously badmouthed recently. That’s just not correct, and I hope that WOLF doesn’t receive the same treatment if it’s ever rediscovered. It is a masterpiece.

  77. CJ: You forgot Wonder Woman! : )

  78. Good call on 20,000 Leagues, RRA. I remember loving that film when I was a kid. The steampunk connection is really interesting. I’m not that familiar with the genre or its history, other than the common signifiers of modern day machinery in Victorian times, but I would be hard pressed to think up a film that combined those elements earlier than 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

  79. CG: I watched the original “Tron” fairly recently (although before I knew there was a sequel coming out) and I gotta say, I didn’t think it worked, at all. It was just a gigantic bore, testament to the fact that you can’t just rely on pretty scenes and flashing lights to captivate an audience for two hours. I remember reading a review of “Tron 2” where the reviewer mentioned that he’d liked to have seen more of “Tron”. Well, after seeing the first one probably less than a year ago, I couldn’t even remember what or who Tron WAS. That’s how little impression it made on me. Sorry. “Hackers” had about a hundred times more of a sense of genuine “fun” than “Tron” did.

    I will happily join the “Sky high” lovefest though. That was a very fun movie.

  80. Good call on Natty Gann CC I will always remember it for Ray ROBOCOP Wise. Cusack was such a pussy compared to the likes of Lane Myers though but it was disney. Very cool movie. Reminds me of White Fang with Ethan Hawke cause of the wolf if I’m not mistaken that’s also a Disney one.

  81. Actually, small rant / gripe here, “Tron” being a perfect example of what I’m ranting about: why are techno-thrillers set in futuristic worlds so little FUN? Seriously, this is a movie about guys in computer games racing light-cycles and hurling explosive frisbees. How the fuck was it that dull? How’s that even possible? Can anybody actually name a single character from Tron, or describe them? I can’t.

    “Virtuosity” was the story of an escaped manic computer-program-turned-serial-killer, told through the eyes of one of the most depressing Denzel performances of all time, and it sucked. “The Thirteenth Floor” was full of long, drab exposition, taking place in a world where virtual reality isn’t a toy but an escape. It also sucked. “Sneakers”, one of my favorite films, was about FUN people doing FUN stuff and having FUN with it. Guess what? It didn’t suck!

    Seriously guys… I know not every film can have the tone that “Sneakers” had. What’s annoying me is this trend for films where you get a (often very-well realised) fantasy world, but you fill it with stock stereotypes and / or people who are just depressed or far too serious. This is why “The Matrix” (which had Cypher and Mouse for “human” characters) worked, whereas “The Matrix Reloaded” (which didn’t have a single recognisably “human” character in it – hell, there’s another film that I can’t remember the name of a single character in it except the ones from the original “Matrix”, although in that case it might be merciful amnesia) didn’t.

    You might say that it’s all about the characters, but I think it’s more than that. If you create a big fantasy world, and you want your audience to have fun in that world, I think you need at least one or two characters who are having fun with it themselves to draw the audience in. You need a Han Solo or a Cypher or a Mother or a Ray (from Ghostbusters). If you don’t have that character, I don’t think you can make that kind of film work.

  82. Grim Grinning Chris – Mr. Disney wasn’t a goosestepping anti-semite, but as a typical midwest American of his generation, he did start out on the toons with certain obvious prejudices of his time, like “Three Little Pigs.” That can’t be denied but that’s about it.

    ALADDIN doesn’t appeal to me because it fucking Grand Theft Auto ripped-off the basic plot and whole scenes from THIEF & THE COBBLER, maybe the greatest animated film never finished.

    Apparently the Disney people got a VHS copy of that legendary THIEF workshop print and since THIEF by then was in “production” since the 1970s, Disney probably figured they could get away with it if they get released first. They’re not in the wrong for doing that.

    My problem is, you should check out that THIEF print, its out there on the Internet. The animation is ambitiously diverse and clever (no wonder Roger Williams took so fucking long.) I’m certain Rube Goldberg would have jerked off to that war machine climax. And the picture itself is genuinely fun, good humor and good adventure with the title Thief character (technically a villain) stealing the show.

    And this will make me sound like a wuss but: The romantic intrigue between the cobbler and Princess is genuinely touching, not as contrived as it tends to be in most Disney cartoon features (even if Disney didn’t produce THIEF but now own the rights).

    Plus Robin Williams free, that’s a big plus.

    Don’t bother with that ARABIAN KNIGHTS cut that Miramax put out of the unfinished THIEF back in the 1990s. You know how those guys did with Hong Kong imports? Visualize the same treatment. Now I wish the Pixar guys now running Disney would put aside space in the books and finish that damn movie once and for all. Preferably before Williams kicks the bucket.

    P.S. – I just realized I unintentionally made a pun in the last paragraph. Apologies, I didn’t mean it.

  83. Look, I’m sorry, but anyone who finds HACKERS (HACKERS? HACKERS?!? ARRRRGH!! Why not THE NET with Sandra Bullock too???) superior to TRON, is not accessing the same Program as this User.

    I’ll be the first to admit TRON does not have the most fascinating characters. However, I really feel it’s less a conventional genre film or even narrative feature. I think it’s a lot closer to Avant Garde films, to movies by people like Harry Smith, Stan Brakhage, and Ken Jacobs. Or certain Bela Tarr or Tarkovsky films, or Michael Powell’s TALES OF HOFFMANN. The emphasis was not, I don’t think, really on the story or the characters. Which doesn’t excuse a badly told story or boring characters, although personally both in TRON have always worked for me.

    I think TRON was sort’ve the THEN RED LINE of it’s time–people came to both expecting one thing and got something very different and a lot of audiences left feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. Sounds like it still has that effect. I think the problem is that it was and is marketed as this big, mainstream, action-adventure-sci-fi movie, and it just isn’t that. It’s something a lot odder and more distinct, and probably should be recognized as such.

  84. Okay, breaking news, emergency update: everybody head over to David Bordwell’s site and check out the essay “The Dragon Dances”, on the art of action sequences. It’s a worthy followup to the “fight scenes” article Vern linked to earlier.

  85. CC – I like TRON. It does drag here and there with a paper-think story but overall I must admit I enjoyed it and the funky aesthetics and characters with those greyish dead faces contrasting greatly with the light and colorful environment.

    Really, that lightcycle race is still an exciting, tightly-cut action sequence. Even more remarkable in retrospect considering they pulled that off when they still couldn’t put both live-action and CGI in the same frame.

    And more than anything, it pointed the way towards the future of summer movies.

  86. CC – I didn’t come to Tron with any preconceptions whatsoever, because I’d barely heard of it. And it still bored me rigid. Don’t pull the “It wasn’t what you were expecting” argument on me. (Actually, didn’t I say in a post above that I prefer to see movies without any preconceptions at all? This was one of them.)

    Hackers is a gloriously terrible film. But at least it’s glorious. More to the point, it’s fun. The world bears no resemblance to reality (hacking from the top of the empire state building? 3D graphical neon file browsers?) but you gotta give it props. Hacking your school sprinkler system to come on at a certain point, then standing in the middle of the corridor with an umbrella? That’s a whole new level of awesome right there. (I was a teenager when I first saw this film, and I swear to God it’s what made me the sad creature you see before you.)

    Plus it has lots of great imaginative touches. (One point that sticks in my mind is when one of the characters mentions that God is a popular password “because of the male sysadmin ego thing”, and then hacks a system through the account of a tough female ball-breaker using the same password.) Character-based humour, see? Again, I’ve pretty much forgotten most of what I saw of “Tron”, but was there ANYTHING like that in it?

    Plus Fisher Stevens is a FANTASTIC bad guy. He has a laid-back charismatic swagger that shows he knows he’s invulnerable – as he genuinely believes that he is, at least until the final reel. Tell me what David Warner did in Tron, exactly? Jeez, he’s in “The Omen” for about ten minutes before he gets decapitated by a pane of glass [SPOILER]; he’s in “Scream 2” for about three minutes of uncredited cameo, and doesn’t even die in it; and he’s still more memorable in both of those films than he was in “Tron”.

    Look, I’m sorry to rip apart your childhood, but I fucking HATE this whole practice of defending movies because of their “aesthetics”, as RRA puts it. Don’t you see that that makes it worse? A fantastic aesthetic can turn a good movie into a great one. But “Tron” is not a good movie. It has a truly fantastic setting but wastes it on characters and a story that I don’t give a toss about. Imagine if this thing had been in the hands of a decent scriptwriter, what could’ve been – and then look at what it is. I’m not saying it’s terrible; it’s just… dull.

  87. “I’d barely heard of it”….”don’t give a toss about”….Oh, so Paul’s this pushy British guy, then?

    Look, just ’cause you don’t appreciate what’s good about it doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

    My childhood will survive fully intact and unmarred by anything you do, buddy.

    So can you please stop and consider that you are mustering this great effort in defense of “Hackers”? Is that really worth it? Or are you just annoyed that I made a coherant and well-argued defense of Tron? As opposed too, “David Warner! DAVID WARNER?!?!?” Well, at the end he was thirty feet tall and had his head split open by a glowing frisbee, I found that pretty memorable.

    BUUUUUT, just to waste my time shooting fish in a barrel, I will list two of David Warner’s best scenes in Tron: A). When, in computer world, the Master Control Program threatens to shut down his circuits and he gasps that he needs them; and B). When human Warner is at his console in the real world and the MCP says it’s going to be hitting the Pentagon’s computers soon. Warner’s worried, ambivalent look says volumes.

    I actually met David Warner in Los Angeles in the 90s and had a wonderful conversation with him, and we talked quite a bit about, yes, his performance in Tron! A film which he’s very proud of, both in general and in regards to his work in it.

    Next time you hang out with Fisher Stevens and he spends forty minutes fondly reminiscing about Hackers, get back to us.

    Sorry to be such a smart ass, but you seemed to take my previous comment as some kind of personal assault on your taste and / or intelligence. And, again: furious defense of Hackers. Kinda proves my point.

  88. I think TRON, enertaining or not (and I’ve certainly enjoyed it a couple of times over the years), was a genuinely visionary film. If anything it’s problem is the same as its merit; it was made be animators and technicians, excited by animation and technology, not storytellers. I think 1979-83ish is the one period where live action Disney films (as in films released under the Disney banner and not Touchstone etc.) were more interesting and inovative than the animated films of that era. TRON, THE BLACK HOLE, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, NEVER CRY WOLF etc. None of them great films perhaps, some of them not even good really, but certainly interesting films which tried something new and seemed more ambitious than THE RESCUERS or THE FOX AND THE HOUND

    Did you know when the Touchstone sub-division was being set up some Disney execs tried to stop it…by praying?

    RE: VIRTUOSITY; I know that was never a very popular movie, but are you telling me you didn’t have any fun with Russell Crowe’s performance? It’s possibly the only concrete piece of evidence that the guy has a real sense of humour. I also dug THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR but I wont go into that

  89. Fisher Stevens did talk fondly of HACKERS in an Onion AV Club interview. I’ve always liked him, but he came off as a bit of a pompous dick in that article to be honest, talking about how he researched his minstrelesque role in SHORT CIRCUIT by being “among the people in India” and how Steve Guttenberg was a nice guy but he felt working with him was beneath him.

    Got to admit I quite liked HACKERS too. Jolie seemed a lot more likable in those days. It’s got a great soundtrack, with everything from The Prodigy to a fantastic late-period Squeeze song

  90. I only remember two things about HACKERS: Matthew Lillard selling a mixtape with artists who suffocated on their own vomit and a seriously cool dance & techno soundtrack.

  91. I watched a doc recently called Waking Sleeping Beauty, which gets a recommendation from me. It details various power struggles between Roy Disney, Katzenberg and Eisner and gives the animators their point of view. Makes a good companion piece to The Pixar Story. Weird to hear that at one point Disney Studios decided that animation was a dead art.

  92. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 18th, 2011 at 10:21 am


    I would describe Walt most harshly as “racially insensitive”… Meaning that yes, he was a product of his time and upbringing and often not the best judge of what would or would not be considered offensive- but as much as I have read and and watched on the man (from all vantage points) I do not believe he ever harbored any actual ill-will towards minorities nor any sense of superiority over them. Example: He went to great lengths to NOT make Song Of The South come off as offensive or racist… like REALLY great lengths… and just had a strong desire to do the original stories justice… goingsofar as to have a NY Jewish liberal intellectual do a rewrite on the script and sending the script to numerous black scholars, authors and professors for notes before an inch of film was shot or a frame of animation was painted… and look how THAT turned out.

    As for Aladdin vs Thief & The Cobbler… I really only see surface level similarities. I think more of it was lifted from The Thief of Baghdad than the Thief & The Cobbler. Regardless, it is a fable/fairytale that has been told a gazillion times over with a gazillion alterations- Disney just cobbled (er…) some of the best elements from many different adaptations/iterations into something, that to me is still, wholly unique (or at least exactly what I would expect from a Disney telling of an Arabian Night tale).

  93. Hackers is far from the worst 90s computer-action subgenre; Angelina Jolie was never more alluring and still seemed vaugely like a human being (She was what, 22, or something? Yeah, schizophrenia usually kicks in right about then). I enjoy it too. It’s just a). let’s face it, not a very good movie, and b). that guy’s hectoring, bullying, “You’re a bloody stupid git you fucker” tone pissed me off. Hackers ain’t Tron, it’s got virtually nothing in common with Tron, and it is absolutely not, as PacManFever so accurately points out, a truly visionary film like Tron.

    Tron’s not a perfect movie, but it is indeed a visionary work, an artful film, a beautiful and unforgettable one. That’s all. You don’t have to like it or agree with me…

  94. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 18th, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I really want Vern to review Pinocchio now. That one truly is Disney’s most perfect golden age movie. Story, art, design, songs… perfection. And it fixed many of the issues Snow White had in the awkwardness of the animation of the human characters.

  95. CC – sorry to rant at you a bit. Like I said, I wasn’t trying to rape your childhood; but your comment about knowing “what to expect” just annoyed me. Anyway, we’re not going to agree on “Tron” so let’s let this one go.

    Plus I do give it credit, at least, for its aesthetic. That one we can both agree on.

    My defence of “Hackers” is that, in terms of pure fun, it’s simply one of the best “bad” films out there, and full of character-based humour. Despite the fact that it’s got about as much basis in reality as my recent claim to have pleasured two Swedish supermodels on top of the Empire State Building, and completely wastes Penn Gilette (playing the role of “exposition guy”), it’s still one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

  96. This tiff between Paul & CC is one of the dorkiest things I’ve ever witnessed. It’s all in good fun. Allah bless you 2.

    Also, stay out of our American landmarks, Paul, even in fantasy form. You don’t hear me bragging about how I brought all the Spice Girls to simultaneous orgasm atop Big Ben that one time. Vern should have referred to you as “the late Paul” in this review.

  97. “We digdigdigdigdigdig dig the whole day through…”

  98. Mouth – you don’t even want to know what I once claimed to have done to the Eiffel Tower.

    This is what I love about the Internet, a couple of strangers can get into a heated argument over which film is better: “Tron” or “Hackers”. Such a ridiculous way to waste your time.

  99. . . .

    I see dead people.

  100. “it’s simply one of the best “bad” films out there”

    Paul – Notice how people seem to have fun with bad films only after seeing them, not during them.

    At least I don’t. HACKERS was just a dumb worthless movie made by people who had no fucking clue about hacking or Internet or that matter, computers.

    Hell we only remember it because this was Jolie back when she still had her god-given body parts, before Beverly Hills surgeons had their way. HACKERS isn’t a fun “bad” movie, it just sucks.

    (and for the record, SNEAKERS is awesome. Vern would dig it.)

  101. Grim Grinning Chris – You know what’s fucked up? Disney won’t (nor ever will) release SONG OF THE SOUTH in America, but you can buy it in Europe. Can we Yanks start the “Europe is racist” meme here? Sorry CJ, nothing personal. :)

    I was going to mention the thievery of THIEF OF BAGHDAD too, but I figured nobody around here would know that reference. That’s what I get for underrating this web sight.

    Vern should also review DUMBO.

    PacmanFever – Fisher Stevens being a dick isn’t funny. Fisher Stevens being a dick while not doing dick? HILARIOUS. Oh and I enjoyed VIRTUOSITY. What’s so bad about it?

    RBatty024 – Steampunk the term came in the 1980s, but that gimmick has been around since maybe the 1950s at the earliest just not recognized as such?

    Another proto-steampunk movie from the same era as LEAGUES was THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON from 1964. Based off a H.G. Wells book from 1901 which back then it was real sci-fi but by ’64 in the age of Sputnik and Apollo was laughable so the filmmakers played off the idea that an Apollo-type mission goes to the Moon only to find a British flag, and beaten by some 60-plus years.

    I would also nominate THE TIME MACHINE. The wonerful fun 1960 George Pal picture, not that awfully stupid recent Guy Pearce one.

    Broddie – If GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE has one strong flaw, its how if you think about the villain’s great evil scheme for more than 30 seconds, you’ll realize how rather stupid it is. A minor quabble really, but its still there.

    Then again, the Robert Downey Jr. SHERLOCK HOLMES had the same problem with that blowing up Parliament shit. Did Joel Silver couldn’t find a good baddie scheme so he recycled V FOR VENDETTA’s opening?

    Which brings up a point: Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular, influential, ripped-off characters in all of world literature because his appeal is from tackling fantastical, impossibly unsolvable mysteries and rather solves them in cold, anti-climatic logic. Oh and he’s also a cokehead.

    He doesn’t need the big actiony save-the-world climax plotting to draw people in. Its like trying to give Batman an animal sidekick. Which DC Comics did in the 1950s. *shakes head*

  102. To be honest I’ve never gotten the big problem with VIRTUOISITY either, I’ve seen it a few times and always enjoyed it. It looks _very_ 1995, but that’s part of its charm now

  103. Oh Vern,

    you are such a pussy. Seriously, cartoons?

    But I love your other reviews.

  104. RRA – “What’s wrong with Virtuosity”? I believe I answered that question, but to paraphrase: to me, the only remotely fun or relatable character is Russel Crowe’s serial killer (Crowe to my mind is the one thing that makes this movie something more than a total dud, by the way; there is a certain “so bad it’s great” charm about his performance. At least Crowe seemed to realise the crap he was in and decided to have fun with it.) And this is the guy we’re supposed to be rooting AGAINST. Who would ever relate to Denzel’s character instead of Russell’s?

    FTR I can understand why people would hate “Hackers” just like they might hate “Street Fighter: The Movie” or “Dude, where’s my car?” I’ve said it before – I prefer a bad-but-fun movie to a mediocre one. This is why – referring back to a recent post – I actually prefer “Mission: Impossible 2” to “Mission: Impossible 3”, despite the latter technically being a “better” movie.

    Ali – Damn if your post didn’t have me spitting liquid substances all over my keyboard. I love it!

  105. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 19th, 2011 at 9:04 am

    And funny enough, I do not find SOTS to be racist. Racially insensitive and skirting some unfortunate stereotypes, but still good natured and good-hearted overall- and nothing nothing nothing compared to some of the Looney Tunes shorts of the day. In fact the only human characters portrayed in any negative light are those who disapprove of Uncle Remus’ friendship with the Bobby Driscoll’s character.

    I think it absurd, just from a film-history perspective that SOTS is not available in the states (though I do have a copy)… If I can buy “Birth of A Nation” at fucking BestBuy, I damn well ought to be able to buy SOTS.

  106. They should really have released SONG OF THE SOUTH as part of their “Treasures” series. There are Mickey Mouse cartoons that were released as part of that line that are definitely more “racist” than SONG OF THE SOUTH

  107. Oooh boy. “Song of the South” vs “Aladdin”. Interesting racism debate right there.

    So on the one hand you have a fun, kid-friendly film, set in a more innocent time, when elderly black working-class men were friends with prosperous white children, and nobody objected or lynched them or anything. Obviously he’s a “magic Negro” – in fact you could say he was the original “magic negro” – but y’know, I don’t necessarily think this particular stereotype is as bad as some others. Let’s just say the portrayal of the times was… whitewashed, to say the least. Still, if one ignores the context of the film, the story itself isn’t particularly bad.

    On the other hand, you have Aladdin, where literally every single character except Aladdin himself, Jasmine, her father and the genie is a grotesque racial stereotype. Every “real” Arab character has bad teeth and mis-shapen features, especially the villain (I seriously don’t think Jafar would’ve got past the censors if they’d have given him the same accent as the peddler at the start of the movie). It’s a bizarre white fantasy that’s so outlandishly racist, it’s almost funny to watch and count the number of blatantly offensive references in there. (“Ooh look, the monkey’s striking martial arts poses! Now he’s dancing jive!”)

    So which is more racist? Well, I gotta give it to Aladdin, and here’s why. Song of the South, if you ignore the infamous behind-the-scenes stuff and take the historical context in the best possible light, is an optimistic tale of people from different classes and races who get along just fine. Whereas Aladdin is the story of a white guy who fakes being an Arabian prince so the common folk, all grotesques, can throw banquets in his honour. Plus he gets laid by an “Arab princess” who just happens to have Father Christmas as her dad. Erm… yeah, I don’t think it takes much context to find something offensive in that!

  108. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 19th, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    What infamous behind the scenes stuff? I consider myself pretty knowedgable regarding Disney and backstage drama- and am not even sure what you’re referring to.

  109. Grim… wait a sec…

    *checks Wikipedia…*

    Oh well, colour me wrong on one point, which is what I was referring to. “The modern claim that no Atlanta hotel would give Baskett accommodation is false: there were several black-owned hotels in the Sweet Auburn area of downtown Atlanta at the time, including the Savoy and the McKay.” Provided that Wikipedia is correct of course.

  110. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 19th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Yeah… And that story was in regards Baskett’s inability to attend the Academy Awards ceremony (held in ATL that year) in which he was nominated (the first black man ever nominated for an Oscar). So I didn’t ever see that nugget as behind the scenes as it was like 2 years after the movie shot.

  111. The pink elephant parade in Dumbo still, to this day, scares the shit out of me. It’s the only reason I don’t own the movie. Vern should definitely review it. And Swiss Family Robinson. I’m still pissed that they renamed and retooled the SFR treehouse for Tarzan. As a kid, I wanted to live in Disneyland in the treehouse.

    I must also request The Three Lives of Thomasina. Mildly messed-up story about a family cat that goes AWOL after a near-death experience because the father harbors deep-seated resentment of his daughter’s affection for the cat. It has the kids from Mary Poppins in it. (Another good one to review!)

    Ah hell, Vern, just do a Disney month.

  112. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 19th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Vern did a fantastic review of Mary Poppins about 2 years ago.

  113. Anyone here know that Godley & Creme song “An Englishman in New York”? Am I the only one who was really disappointed to learn after hearing that song that there is in fact no film called SNOW WHITE & THE SEVEN BASKET CASES?

  114. Grim Grinning Chris – The reason BIRTH OF A NATION is available on DVD and not SOUTH, among many reasons (one is public domain, Disney still owns SOTS)….let me quote what Andrew Sarris wrote:

    “Classic or not, ‘Birth of a Nation’ has long been one of the embarrassments of film scholarship. It can’t be ignored…and yet it was regarded as outrageously racist even at a time when racism was hardly a household word.”

    You heard of banks/corporations too big to fail? BIRTH is a movie too big to lock up.

  115. I don’t know, Paul, but your task, to make ALADDIN into the most racist movie ever is getting slightly bizarre. Now you even suspect the mute animal comic relief sidekick of being racist, because among the physical comedy he is doing, are a karate pose and a dance move? I seriously keep waiting for you to accuse the genie of being a racist African American stereotype. (Y’know, his skin is blue, which is not just pretty close to black, but even starts with the same first two letters! And while he has to do whatever his MASTER wants him to do, because he is a SLAVE, who gets freed in the end, he spents most of the movie singing, dancing and cracking jokes! In one of the music numbers he even scats for a moment!)
    Also Santa Claus daddy is probably more a hommage to the also toy loving sultan in THE THIEF OF BAGDAD.

    Y’know, I’m not saying that racism doesn’t exist in Hollywood. Pretty much every movie somehow plays on racial stereotypes, even if it’s “just” that the hero is played by a white actor and the villain has an accent, even if it’s maybe just a British one. But if there is one thing that really annoys me, it’s when people violently force accusations of racism into everything. Maybe Jafar IS meant to be an “ugly Arab with negroid lips”, but maybe he is just another cartoon villain who was designed to look evil and would look the same, if the movie had taken place in modern day Brooklyn! It’s a miracle that in that discussion about Disney and racism nobody mention THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG yet! It’s a movie full of African Americans and the villain is the only black guy who looks like taken from a KKK propaganda poster! Although in the end he is just designed after “Baron Zamedy”, which gives him also the perfect appereance for a cartoon villain, considering that he is supposed to look like a skeleton.

    What I’m trying to say here is: Sometimes racism is a little bit more complicated than pointing with the finger at a dancing cartoon monkey and yelling: “Stepin Fetchit!” Sometimes it IS just a dancing cartoon monkey. Dammit, if you just try, you can put the “racism”-label on everything, even if it might not be true!

    Let’s try it with the SPIDER-MAN movies. Part 1: The villain is the Green Goblin, which is probably supposed to be a Leprechaun, which is Hollywood’s way to tell us that Ireland is full of criminals and monsters. Part 2: Doc Ock’s full name is Octavius. Sounds polish, eh? Hitler would love that! Part 3: BLACK Spidey is evil.
    You can even apply it to something like POLICE ACADEMY (doesn’t Hightower remind you of a Gorilla? Aw, these fucking racists did it again!) or MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE! (Skeletors skullface is just a hidden blackface! Not to mention that He-Man, the hero, is blond, blue-eyed and wears the iron cross on his chest!)

    I wanna make it very clear, that I’m NOT pulling the maybe-you-are-the-racist-because-you-are-the-only-one-who-sees-stereotypes-here-card on you, because I think that’s stupid and you made your point, that you are against racist stereotypes of any kind very clear. I’m also not asking you to close your eyes and just ignore it, because it’s just a movie. But just because one man thinks it’s meant to be racist, it doesn’t mean it was supposed to be anything else than just a cartoon monkey, who does a karate move for visual comedy purposes. Just look at SONG OF THE SOUTH! As already mentioned, Disney did everything to make it not offensive or racist. A few decades later, it’s suddenly on par with a Leni Riefenstahl movie.

  116. “You made your point, that you are against racist stereotypes of any kind very clear.”

    Erm… I don’t think that was the point I was making. Actually I think it’s directly OPPOSITE to the point I was making. And ok, if you take the monkey out of context it might not be obviously racist (one could say the same thing about the dancing jive-talking bears in “Jungle Book” for that matter). But couple it up with the rest of the movie and what you have is the most deadly drinking game EVER.

    And FTR I enjoyed both “Song of the South” and “Aladdin” although they’re by no means close to Disney’s best movies. “Aladdin” in particular goes way beyond the point of offensive and into the realms of unintentionally hilarious. My favorite bit is where Jafar’s parrot is introduced as “Iago”. (Othello – geddit? It’s not racist, IT’S SHAKESPEARE!) Although personally I think Jafar has more in common with Caliban. Both are brutish negro stereotypes played by white actors, both have magical powers, both sexually threaten the chaste princess character, both meet horrible and ironic ends, etc.

    I think you’re right about one important thing though, which is that it’s easy to see racism in anything if you try hard enough. Very few people TRY to be racist, unless they’re making propaganda films – more often than not it’s just a product of unconscious attitudes. Point is, we’re not talking about a few dancing bears – in Aladdin, we’re talking about the entire movie and pretty much every character in it. Except the genie. (Although some might find Robin Williams being “wacky” offensive enough in itself, for reasons that have nothing to do with race!)

  117. RE: CJ Holden

    “but maybe he is just another cartoon villain who was designed to look evil and would look the same, if the movie had taken place in modern day Brooklyn!”

    But why is it that one can easily equate non-white facial features with evil? THAT is the problem. We see Jafar and immediately think, “evil” even before he does anything bad. The very fact that “ethnic” features are a visual shorthand for “bad” is rather grotesque. And again, it’s not even about the movie itself. It’s about what the movie represents in the larger context of how our society functions.

  118. And here are the questions: What is a non-white facial feature and why do villains have to look like supermodels?
    Jafar is a very tall, skinny guy, with a thin shaped beard and sinister eyebrows. And he is dressed in black! What race do you imagine when you think of a guy with sinister eyebrows and a thin beard? Apart from the skeleton like skinniness, he looks very similar to Ratigan, who would nobody accuse of being a racial stereotype although race plays a huge role in his character (He is always denying to be a rat.). To me he is more inspired by classic movie villains, harking back to the time of the mustache twirling silent movie villain with a black cape, who tied the heroes love interest on a train track, while laughing sinister!
    What you have to remember is that animation is a medium of visual exaggeration. Look at Snow White! She and the Prince are looking perfect, while the seven comic reliefs look absurdly goofy and the evil queen looks exactly like you would imagine an evil queen. And in Aladdin the heroes look pretty (with – I give you that – a very typical and highly unfortunate just-dark-enough-to-not-offend-American-audiences-skintone), the silly and lovable dad looks like Santa Clause (and also pretty much like Belle’s dad from BEAUTY & THE BEAST, only with a thicker beard) and the villain looks like a mustache twirling skeleton. (Which still much lighter skin than the heroes!)

  119. CJ

    When you say “the evil queen looks exactly like you would imagine an evil queen,” again you’re highlighting my point. There is no essentially evil look, it is a socially constructed artifice. It is something you are taught. It is something you learn from repetition. Sometimes it is at random, sometimes it is done by a person trying to smuggle ideas into a narrative.

    The point is that you — an intelligent adult who cares enough about cinema and the visual arts that you are posting on an obscure websight dedicated to obscure movies during what should be work hours — have wholly internalized a concept that if you stopped and considered it for even 5 minutes, you would have to conclude came from something outside of yourself. When this is done tens of thousands of times to a viewer, child, teen, adult, elderly, it can effect one’s general perceptions if it is not balanced by alternative images that display big nosed, thick eye-browed, fat black people in a more human light (and no, Meet the Browns and House of Payne ain’t gonna cut it).

    While I do think there are limits to this, for example, a Feminist Studies teacher once tried to convince me that the genre name “black comedy” was somehow racist, I think that a lot of it is very surface level and very evident, even upon a casual viewing.

  120. Isn’t it simply a tribal thing you guys are talking about? I should imagine on an instinctive level human beings are less trusting of those from other tribes ie foreign looking people. Makes total sense that evil looking would = foreign looking if you look at it in an evolutionary context.

  121. Mode7,

    Why is white the standard in Hollywood cinema AND foreign cinema where much of the population is not white. It trickles down, man. Think about all the white folks in Anime. Think about the black models and actresses that look like Barbie dolls with deep tans, (though not too deep. Can you name one international female media figure with skin within 5 shades of Djimon Hounsou?) Think about modern French horror films.

    Our biology tells us to do a lot of things that are bad for us, or that we simply don’t do as part of society. Just accepting that our cartoons and that our media in general is always going to be racist because of our biology is to give up on a lot of what makes us human.

    Now, I have a theory about life. There are three things and only three things that are natural: Killing, eating what you kill, and using the energy gained from eating what you kill to gain access to the highest number of sexual partners with the highest level of fertility so that you can reproduce your genetic code.

    As human beings, our intellects and free will have expanded to the point where we recognize that if we don’t kill everything we encounter and if we delay the gratification of food, sex and violence that there can be more food and sex and a lowered likelihood of dying.

    The problem is this; though we can think on a higher level, we are still constrained by the three biological drives I outlined above. All of our plans, goals and highfalutin dreams are still traced back to these urges.

    Therefore, the whole of human history is an internal battle between a conscious mind that can think beyond the shortsighted violence of the natural world and the basic animal instincts of the meat machines that are our bodies.

    We have proven that we can overcome a great many of these biological dilemmas or at least adequately sublimate them with more socially positive alternatives, including cinema. There is no reason we cannot find a way to positively sublimate the race issue, especially because race is fluid and inconsistent throughout history. In American culture a great number of people have “become” white. There was a time when Irish people were certainly not considered white. There was a time when people of Polish descent were not considered white. Before the 1930s being Jewish was seen as a very low social placement, but today most of my peers are confused that I identify as “Ethnically Jewish” rather than simply “White.”

    There are defining physical features that are predominant or exclusive to each of these ethnic groups, but overtime they have become all but invisible signifiers to the vast majority of culture. Similarly, the average man on the street would be hard pressed to tell a Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese or likely even Filipino man or woman apart.

    We CAN of course tell differences between races, but our ability to do so is magnified by cultural focus on specific physical attributes.

  122. And overcoming this is of great importance to the whole of mankind. Racial tensions have long been used to keep the lower classes “in their place.” One of the major flaws, if not the fatal flaw of Marxian philosophy is that it fails to account for racial issues. Marx believed that the Proletariat in Algeria and the Proletariat in Haiti would band together to rise up against the Bourgeois class because they would identify with each other’s social placement. This was not the case, of course. The Proletariat is and has always been a reactionary class. The Proletariat in France, for example, cling to ideas of nationalism and race. They do not see themselves as linked to the Haitian working class and in fact see it as a step down the social ladder to align themselves with such people.

    Also, Marxism is a prescription for the Proletariat, not of the Proletariat. Look at any leader of a Socialist/Communist/Marxist uprising and you will see a member of the petty Bourgeois class, or someone from the lower class who was able to be educated in the Upper class, most often formally, but occasionally by a parent who had previous access to bourgeois education.

    All of this is to say, love thy brother and share all you can, but Marx was still dumb, yo.

  123. ***one international female media figure with skin within 5 shades of Djimon Hounsou?***

    Does the chick on the cover of THE BEST SOUL ALBUM IN THE WORLD EVER count? She’s hot. Pity you can’t see her legs in the google image search results.

  124. Indeed, she is an easy 10. But do you have any idea who she IS?

  125. I just ain’t sure how one would go about creating an evil-looking Arab dude without it seeming like some kind of racist stereotype. Seriously, what are Disney supposed to do? Stay away from non-white badguys altogether?

  126. You care about her name? Whoa man, just cuz I’ve proven not to be racist doesn’t mean I’m about to stop objectifying attractive women.

    For real though, I can only think of entertainers, TV ladies like Tamron Hall, FLOTUS, & Oprah. Donna Brasille maybe? That one talking head Jezebel.com rep with the hot lips who appears on CNN sometimes, uh, whatshername? Dr. Condoleeza Rice count? {shudder}

  127. Naomi Campbell.

  128. Mode 7,

    Damn, you got me. Never heard her name before, but she seems to fit all of my arbitrary, axe-grinding criteria quite well. I concede the point.

    As for evil Arab characters, you make this okay (and tell a better story!) by creating layers to the villain, a real motivation, and prominently featuring other roles for Arabs with a similar physical appearance that show diversity of opinion, practice and ethics.

    Right now I’m posting here while taking a break from editing act III of an action film I’ve written. The story only works because I made my villain a CIA guy who exists as a riff on the Nicaraguan cocaine trade of the 1980s. It was the most vile starting point I could think of…and then I found a way to identify with the guy. I spent a good month reading all sorts of ultra-right wing materials, listening to Rush Limbaugh every day, reading speeches by Reagan, Nixon, and Bush I and II. And by the end of it, I came up with a way to write the character from a place where he is also the hero.

    Now, I’m not saying that I did a GOOD job. That will be for the agents, managers, studio heads, and hopefully the viewing audience to decide. But it was sure a lot more rewarding than settling for stock white-guy-behind-all-the-brown-villains-to-prove-that-my-story-isn’t-racist # 14469035456040365.

  129. Mode 7: You either make ALL (or most) of the characters American, like they did in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, or you make all of the characters Arab. Don’t just have the “nice” ones American and make all the rest “foreign-looking” – which in Aladdin generally equates to “superficially ugly”. Simple.

    Of course one of those two options is considered culturally unjustifiable, the other is considered commercially unviable. Sad reflection on the society we (or at least you guys) live in? Maybe… but that’s how the cookie crumbles.

    I think Hunter D has it with this line: “As for evil Arab characters, you make this okay (and tell a better story!) by creating layers to the villain, a real motivation, and prominently featuring other roles for Arabs with a similar physical appearance that show diversity of opinion, practice and ethics.” That’s kind of what Aladdin lacks, for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can still enjoy and watch it, but Disney have done this a LOT better in other films. Scar, Rattigan, even the evil stepmother in Cinderella – these were all characters who were realized a lot more fully than Jafar was.

  130. Though, to be honest, Jafar was TOTALLY my favorite character as a kid. The villain always was. But then, Frankenstein’s monster was the first film character I ever really identified with…so what the fuck do I know?

  131. Yeah, I guess… I suppose I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Were Arabs actually offended when Aladdin came out? I’m not gonna go and get offended on their behalf because it’s almost like saying I think that they see themselves in that character, which isn’t cool. I watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air all the time, and I swear to god there is not one white person in that entire show that isn’t a fucking goon, but it doesn’t offend me because I just see a lame white guy – not myself.

  132. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 20th, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I dunno… I think Jafar’s features are not at all stereotypically Arabic. Take him out of the turban and lighten him one shade and you could slap the same face design on an evil English butler named Jeeves Knifesticker.

    As for a lack of character and motivation… Aladdin is essentially an action movie… And quite often in action movies, the main villains motivations are a bit thinner than in say a romance (Gaston in B&TB) where the villain’s character and motivations NEED to be more pronounced as their main villainous objectives are born of emotion and jealousy.
    Though flawed, as an action movie it accomplishes its goal with creativity, humor, a swift and constant pacing and well staged and well placed action. Add GREAT songs and a monkey… tada! One of my favorite movies of all time, warts and all.

  133. Bad guy from ABOVE THE LAW was white, and you could immediately tell within a fraction of a second of his intro he was evil, even before he opened his mouth or revealed he was Agency or threatened the locals. I thought it was just good acting, but maybe I’m racist against whitey.

    Listening to RushBo everyday? As a method form of screenwriting? Christ, I’ve heard of suffering for one’s art, but that’s out of control self-torture, brah.

  134. “But then, Frankenstein’s monster was the first film character I ever really identified with…so what the fuck do I know?”

    Nothing weird about that. Hell, has anyone ever seen FRANKENSTEIN and NOT identified with the monster? Or worse, do you think any one ever identifies with the mad, corpse-desecrating doctor?

  135. RE: Dan Prestwich

    I saw your response to me on the little sidebar that notifies you of recent postings and it read —

    ““But then, Frankenstein’s monster was the first film character I ever really identified with…so what the fuck do I know?”


    And I kinda hoped that that was your entire message.

  136. Mary Shelley inspired me to find & cultivate the spark of life. Dr. Frankenstein was misunderstood. Fuck you guys and your empathy for the monster; I related to the crazy motherfucker with the god complex. Fire scares me not at all.

  137. What, you look at fire and mumble, “Friend! Good!” ?

  138. I look at fire and recall NBA JAM.

  139. Mouth: Yeah, but the villain is ABOVE THE LAW was played by Henry Silva so of course he’s evil. That’s a given. He’s psyched when he gets to play someone who’s merely a scumbag. That’s like the Tom Hanks role for him.

  140. P.S. Only website on the Internet where ABOVE THE LAW is invoked to argue a point about SNOW WHITE.

  141. Mouth: Have you ever seen THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE? As a fan of FRANKENSTEIN, you might enjoy it. Moreso if you’re also a fan of Terrence Malick.

  142. Dan Prestwich – I totally identified with the doctor. But then I’m the kind of insane genius who would absolutely stitch a corpse together without fear or regard for the consequences. If I were in a zombie movie, I’d be the guy who, through wilful stupidity and ignorance, started the whole plague going, before myself dying in the most ironic manner possible given my state of hubris at the time.

  143. SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE is available to watch instantly on the soulless movie monthly subscription supersite. Your Malick mention motivates me to see it soon. Muchas gracias.

    This is also the only website where a Disney discussion devolves to oddball allusions by a Seagalogistical ally who allocates a lot of alliteration & assonance to his presumptively poetic posts.

    Sorry, Mary Shelley mention sparked memories of freshman English courses…

  144. Btw, does anyone else feel like Frankenstein the movie is vastly, VASTLY superior to the novel?

  145. That’s it, Hunter. We’re fightin’.

  146. hoory! I’m so happy that you decided to get an HDTV Vern! welcome to the madness!

    and I’ve always been a big fan of Disney, fuck da haters

  147. We can’t discuss Disney animation without bringing up how they were practicing recycling before it became hip.


    Also I won’t give the links but alot of those films (including MOUSE and a few Pixar titles) are on YouTube, just type and search.

  148. Grim Grinning Chris

    January 23rd, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Those are not recycled animations… The only ones that may be (at least in rough pencil sketch form) are the Baloo/Little John and the elephant… The rest cannot possibly be recycled animations even when the movements are near identical, because the character designs are completely different… More likely an issue of reusing stock live action reference footage of people dancing etc…

  149. For anyone who wants to read up on the production history of most of the “classic” Disney animated films, I recommend David Koenig’s excellent book “Mouse Under Glass”. What’s nice about the book is that Koenig doesn’t exactly dance around the low points or controversial aspects of the films (his writeup on the making of SONG OF THE SOUTH is especially interesting, plus he’s not shy about telling which films were box office failures when they were first released), he doesn’t legitamize the worst of the Snopesian conspiracy theories, either. It’s just an interesting look at a group of filmmakers who at times were visionaries but at other times did a lot of soul-searching to figure out how they got the “visionary” reputation in the first place.

    As far as ALADDIN goes, while there are some offensive aspects to the movie, I don’t think Jafar is one of them. He’s just suck a stock sinister villain cast from the same mold as Ratigan, Scar, Claude Frollo, Ratcliffe (POCAHONTAS), etc.: prim, beady-eyed, pencil-thin eyebrows/facial hair, British/pseudo-British accent. For me at least it was hard to see this guy as even remotely Arabic when he sounded (and kinda looked) like he had stepped out of a Sherlock Holmes flick. IIRC, there were some Arab groups that complained about the movie at the time, but I think most of their concern was towards the more obviously stereotypical characters on the sidelines like the sleazy peddler at the beginning and the apple seller who tries to cut off Jasmine’s hand. As for the whitewashed remainder of the cast, well, the Genie’s blue so who the hell knows what race he’s supposed to be (my guess would be “Blue”). Jasmine has that “ethnically ambiguous” look to her and would probably be played by Salma Hayek/Kristen Kreuk if they made a live-action version of the movie. And from what I’ve read, Aladdin’s design was basically focus-grouped down until he looked like Tom Cruise. You can blame the popular tastes of 1992 for that, I’m not sure what we were thinking at the time.

    To be fair ALADDIN may have been the last human-based animated Disney movie where you had this sort of “problem”. After ALADDIN was THE LION KING, and the next four films were POCAHONTAS, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, HERCULES, and MULAN. One of those had pretty much an all-White cast and the other three all had strong non-White protagonists, so there wasn’t really a debate as to whether the good guys had been “whitewashed” to contrast with the villains. If the animators felt like they had dropped the ball with ALADDIN then they obviously tried to make up for it in subsequent films.

  150. Oh, and on the subject of underappreciated Disney movies, I don’t know if anyone has mentioned THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER, but that was a personal favorite of mine from the early ’90s “renaissance” period of Disney films. I think it gets mostly ignored because it’s not a musical (like most of the other movies in the same time period were), but it’s a solid adventure movie and a rare sequel that improves on the original (THE RESCUERS is decent but it’s also a bit dreary and emotionally manipulative at times. Plus there is some dated “haha look at this silly woman” humor directed at Bianca). Also, it was the first Disney animated film to have coloring done entirely with computers.

    For those of you hoping for a Scrooge McDuck movie, there was a not-too-shabby DUCKTALES feature film released sometime in the early ’90s. It was another magic lamp story except with Rip Taylor as the Genie instead of Robin Williams. Unfortunately, it so far has only had a very limited DVD run (“Disney Movie Club”-only or something like that). The worst part is that the DUCKTALES movie didn’t do so well in theaters which led to the shelving of a supposed RESCUE RANGERS film which still makes me a little sad when I think about it. That never-made movie could have been awesome.

  151. My favorite Disney movies as a kid were the Herbie the Love Bug movies. Some of them were on TCM awhile ago and the first one still holds up a little. I’m really curious about the ’97 remake with Bruce Campbell, just because I’d want to see him in that role.

  152. So I saw FROZEN. (Sorry wasn’t sure where else to post this.) I enjoyed it enough, but those folks saying this is the best Disney non-Pixar effort since the heyday of the Disney Renaissance days I think are really overselling this, like they’re taking a perfectly good cheeseburger and serving it as filet mignon. But hey, still a good cheeseburger.

    In short, its a decent execution I guess of the old Disney cartoon movie formula, the THOR: THE DARK WORLD of the Disney animated canon if you will. Still I suppose I respect the writers for purposefully avoiding certain tropes/cliches of that formula. In fact whens the last Disney cartoon picture where *SPOILER* the villain isn’t revealed until the 3rd act? *SPOILER* Wish the movie left a bigger impression on me afterwards than it did. I think it doesn’t help for me that it had one really good song (“Let it Go”) and the rest of the tracks were forgettable relaly.

    I wonder what CJ Holden and Mouth and the other more Disneyphilic locals will think of this? In fact personally I think I might’ve enjoyed more the Mickey Mouse short “Get a Horse” attached to this more. Funny plus a technological neat-o trick simultaneously using both 2-D and CGI animation together. (Plus there’s something funny and meta-commentary sad that the horse wears a Captain America T-shirt at one point.) Also impressive that they actually reused Walt Disney’s old dialogue tracks from the original Mickey Mouse cartoons.

  153. I liked Frozen. It was refreshing to me that the movie was more about the sisters’ relationship than a love story. I was prepared for Olaf the snowman to be an annoying character a la that Eddie Murphey dragon in Mulan, but I thought he was actually a bit endearing. (My youngest son loved him and won’t stop talking about him, so we’ll see how long “endearing” lasts.)

    The music was a huge step up from Tangled. “Let it Go” really tapped in to that feeling of freedom of forgetting what’s expected by just saying, “Fuck it.” Olaf’s summer song was worth a few laughs, too.

    I look forward to seeing what this director could do with some stronger material.

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