Sunday, May 25, 2014

Animation Evaluation

I was born and raised in the Disney Generation, this means that a few undeniable truths are irrevocably connected with my childhood. Just a few examples: I can sing every word to every Little Mermaid song ever written, my favorite poster was a glow in the dark Lion King print that hung above my bed for years and I was Tinker Bell more than once for Halloween. Most kids who grew up in the same span of time that I did have similar memories. It's impossible to deny that Disney made it's mark on me growing up.

I still watch animated movies. I often times drag my little cousins to the theater to see the newest "kid movie" just so I have a good excuse to go myself. There's something magical about that opening sequence of Tinker Bell flying around the silhouetted castle... all of a sudden, I'm 6 years old again letting the magic take over.

Age brings about a difference in taste however. I've noticed that the animated movies that I tend to be drawn to now are a bit different than the ones I would have chosen at 10 years old. I  was reevaluating what I consider to be my current favorite animated movies... and I'm shocked at the lack of princesses on my list! So as of May 2014, here is a countdown of my top 5 favorite animated movies:

5. The Rescuers (1977)
Starting the list with this movie may sound a little strange. I rarely meet anyone who considers this film to be one of their favorites but for me, it strikes a resounding chord. I adore these crazy little mice and their singular devotion to helping Penny. The unlikeliest of heroes, a villain of mythic proportions (she's named Medusa for goodness sake) and the spunkiest little orphan girl to ever search for love (step aside Annie!). It all makes for an original story full of heart.

 The animation is rough, not neat and precise like the computer generated gems kids today are used to. The Rescuers retains a genuineness rooted  in beautiful story telling, the hand drawn frames make it feel like a bed time story, its effect is incredibly comforting and the music is hauntingly unique and beautiful.

Some days I feel like Penny, discouraged and lonely, wondering when things will start to look good again. This film is filled with hope... that even in the darkest of circumstances, there is always room for faith in a happy ending... a good reminder at any age.

"Faith is a bluebird. You can see it from afar. It's for real as sure as the first evening star. You can't touch it or buy it, or wrap it up tight but it's there just the same making things turn out right."
 - Penny

4. Robin Hood (1973)
I'm a sucker for Robin Hood in any format, whether it be live action, animated, in green tights or with a fox tail... it's a story I never get tired of. This Disney animated version is fabulous. It has song and dance, romance, drunken serpents and unruly hens... my kind of kid movie for sure.

I love how they allowed the story to grow and develop. Robin Hood has so much back story and it's hard to give that much information in a movie with a fast moving plot. Disney was good at giving you only what you needed without overwhelming the audience... especially since it was made for youngsters. I will say  though that the scene stealing moments belong to the straight shooting Little John and feisty Lady Cluck. This is the movie I go to when I need something reliable, that I know inside and out.

As far as animated romance goes, this foxy couple set the bar pretty high for my 6 year old heart. I love how straightforward the affection is. It isn't about two people falling in love, in this version, Robin and Maid Marian are already "sweethearts" albeit separated by the current political situation. Instead, the romance is about staying in love and finding a way to be together even when things look bleak. All the characters in this movie face their seemingly hopeless situation with a garnered measure of faith. I love the optimism of that and think it's something that kids need to learn (and adults need to be reminded of).

3. Despicable Me (2010)
This is the only modern animated (and non-Disney) movie to make my list...and if you've had the pleasure of seeing it, I know you aren't surprised. I didn't see this film in theaters, in fact, I think it had been out on DVD for quite a while by the time I finally watched it. I guess I was skeptical at the premise and it was so far from anything I thought I would like... but boy does this movie get me... (either that or I just have a thing for orphan kids... it is the second movie on my list centering around parent-less children).

This movie works on so many levels. The characters have a depth you don't expect, the relationships and themes have genuine heart and don't come across cheesy or overdone... and the humor is spot on. In fact, it's hilarious. I laugh every time and kind of want my own set of minions... I'm only a tad obsessed with these little yellow guys... pretty sure I could have a whole pinterest board devoted to them!

The way the film makers allowed for Gru's change of heart from beginning to end is brilliant. They could have easily have painted him very flat and one dimensional but they use his childhood, his broken dreams, his faulty relationship with his mother to show how he became the man he was at the opening of the movie.... and then with the help of 3 special orphan girls (geeze... what is it with me and orphaned kids?!) he becomes a man with a purpose and a new heart. It's a message that everyone can relate to and learn from...and who can resist a well timed fart gun?!

2. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
The only "princess" movie to make my top 5 and golly, it's a hard one to beat. Disney girls of my generation tend to pick a princess to relate to. Sometimes we choose them based on hair color, who scored our ideal kind of prince or simply on whose song we can shower sing the best. For me, Belle was always my girl. She was an odd bookworm with big dreams and mighty amounts of courage. She didn't settle for what other's thought she should do but instead held out for what else the world had to offer. She also fell for a beast...  and as a girl who has often fallen for the bad boy myself, I find this trait totally relate-able, (however, none of my poor choices have yet to change into wealthy handsome gentlemen a midst raining fireworks...or bestow upon me a two story library!)

This movie is special because so much of it's beauty lies within the story. So what if the romance starts off due to Stockholm syndrome, once you get to know the Beast, you find he's pretty stellar. It's about looking past someone's exterior and getting to know what's under the gruff. Ugly can come in so many forms and it sometimes takes patience to see past the layers to the heart within. To be completely honest, Beast was taking quite a risk on Belle, he didn't have many lady options around and she could have turned out to be a real dud. It was her or nothing... and she was a bit flaky in the beginning (imprisonment aside). She also happens to be brunette and I can shower-sing the hell out of any of the songs on that soundtrack! Give me an empty shampoo bottle and step back, Angela Lansbury and I got this!

1. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
I know what your thinking... out of all of the dozens upon dozens of animated movies, I chose the one about dogs as my top pick... but there is deep history here folks. In my closet right this minute is a stuffed Pongo. He has no ears, a sewed up foot, he looks more gray than white and is fairly unrecognizable, but I've never had a home without him in it. He was the last Christmas present my father ever gave me and thus became the center of my childhood world. I had a dalmatian shower curtain, piggy bank, bed sheets and these itzy bitzy replicas from the Disney store in our local mall.

This movie will always be a bit of a dream for me. Pongo was my hope... my hope that one day my dad would come back to me. It was reassurance that a father's love is unfailing. This was a hope that ended up breaking my heart... and this movie still has an uncanny way of making me cry.

I am able to find ample amounts of joy in this film however. I recently read an article on why Roger is actually the best Disney man and it convinced me hook, line and sinker. Lanky musician with a heart for his pup... step aside beastly bad boys and sign me up for the commitment ready man in a sweater vest! Not to mention he's voiced by Rod Taylor... my love for old movie actors began even earlier than I thought!

I love everything about this movie: the animals, the humans, the songs, the heart and the ink-like animation that sets the tone from the very beginning. I sing Cruella De Vil in my head whenever I come across nasty women in the supermarket, I smile every time I see dalmatians on the street and often times find myself looking for similarities between pet owners and their respective animals (much like the opening sequence of this movie...) The romance isn't one requiring the slaying of dragons or the acquisition of legs but instead feels more natural and realistic. A couple of normal people with matching pups who just happen to get tangled up before falling into a fountain... (on a completely unrelated topic, anyone know of any fountains in Los Angeles and/or have a dog I can borrow?) The theme of this movie is simple: it's love. Love of parents for their children, honest love between couples and the unfailing love of pet owners for their four legged friends.

This movie will always be my favorite, I feel certain of it. Whenever I watch it, I'm a little girl again clutching my stuffed dog and staring out a window waiting and wondering, hoping against hope that things will turn out right. That's why we watch animated movies even after we've surpassed the intended audience age. We want to be reminded, we want permission to be children again with all the innocence of our dreams stretched out before us. It's for the promise of hope.

So there you have it, my top 5. I too was shocked by my omission of some of the most popular Disney favorites, but I'll be honest, I will almost always pick one of these films over The Little Mermaid or Aladdin. And as much as I love the Disney/Pixar collaborations, I prefer the old school's a bit more... well... a bit more Classic... and if there's anything I love, it's a Classic movie!

1 comment:

  1. Your writing style and the ease at which you describe movies is a real joy to read. You teach as you write and as you share personal insights. You made me rethink some of my thoughts about silent films and confirmed some thoughts I had regarding Disney films. I think that you have a future in film blogging and hope that you share your link so others can enjoy it as much as I did.....I would love for you write a peace about love personal favorite. What makes a great love story for me is heart....loving because of the heart not the outward but the inward....Office and a Gentleman....Pretty Woman.....50 First Date....Beauty and The Beast.....Chocolate....I could go on and on. It is funny because I am not so brought in my the acting....but the story....enough right.....good job....keep it coming.