Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Wait a second, what happened to Disney?

Stop and think for a moment. Close your eyes.
When someone says the word "Disney", what films come into your head?
Go ahead, and be honest.

I'll be honest with you. Whenever I think of Disney, I think of classics such as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Bambi", "Cinderella", "Sleeping Beauty", "The Little Mermaid", "The Lion King", "Aladdin", "Beauty and the Beast" etc.

You know, those really old cartoons that were all hand made. Look at all the disney films we have now. They've completely changed and mainly because they've merged with Pixar. Now, I have nothing against films such as "Toy Story", "A Bugs Life", "Finding Nemo", "Up" and whatever else they've made, but in my opinion it does feel like that these Disney films aren't necessarily about storylines and the messages that go with it, but impressive animation to get "bums on seats" or "box office smash". Especially with all the 3D films that keep coming out. I work at a cinema, and I remember when 3D came out for the first time when I worked there. To me, it felt like a one off and a special occassion, but then it kept coming back, and coming back, and coming back again.

To be honest I got used to it, but then I watched some Animé films and the making of them, and these Animé films are made by hand.

Why did they choose to make everything computerised? What's wrong with handmade drawings? Nothing. That's what made Disney, and in my opinion it shouldn't be forgotten.

Storylines, characters and musical compositions should be strong enough to attract an audience, it shouldn't need all the flashy effects. I mean, for goodness sake, imagine Dumbo in 3D. We don't need 3D. Sure, it's impressive, but films should be good on their own, and while I appreciate all the hardwork that goes into all these computerised effects, what about the talented hands?

What I love about old school animation is the art. You don't get art like it anymore and I think it's sad.
I studied Art and Design: Fine Art for a year in my first year of college when I was just 16, and I was into cartoons and fairies and pretty things. My teacher slated my work and said it wasn't art (to which I replied "You're an ART teacher, isn't everything supposed to be Art?" and he did not reply) and he ended up giving me an E at the end of the year. But whatever, he was a dick. These videos which I'm about to show you shows Disney showcasing just how amazing their Art is and how incredible the detail is, and how much hardwork they put into it. They are truly beautiful videos and I implore you to watch them. What I love about the first video is that when you see the sketch animation it flashes between nearly completed versions and barely started versions. You really get the feel of how much goes into it and how hard it is. You start to appreciate the movies you used to watch when you were little a lot more.

Is this not one of the most beautiful things you've ever seen? I watched it in awe.
This next video shows you the making of Snow White, Walt Disney's first full length feature (my eyebrows were raised when the narrator kept addressing the female artists as "pretty girls", but that's a different topic).

You just don't get films like these anymore and I really wish they were created more often. I can't really describe why.

Another thing about Disney is the music. What happened to all those amazing songs? When I was younger we used to have those Disney "Sing-a-long" tapes. Drawing was my first love, then dancing, and then singing. I remember my sister and I singing to "A Whole New World" (I always got the male part, thanks sis) and it was Disney that made me want to sing, really. I treasured those songs as a kid.

This Disney film which I'm about to talk about is one of those films that tends to get overlooked. Even I forget about it sometimes but in fact, strangely, it's one of my favourites. It has a brilliant storyline that actually gets you to think, and has different shades of characters which helps enable the viewer to see things in a different perspective and it also has a fantastic soundtrack.
The film I'm talking about is called "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".

The musical producer of this film is none other than the amazing Stephen Schwartz, the brilliant mind behind the music for "Wicked". (Okay, so Alan Menken did Hunchback of Notre Dame, too) but I definitely think that there is a difference, musically, between this film and other Disney creations.

This is the opening of The Hunbackback of Notre Dame, sung fantastically by a talented man named Paul Kandel, who plays the gypsy puppeteer Clopin. (I have to say, I love the scene where Clopin goes '"Stop!" Cried the archdeacon' because the animation flashes between Clopin and the Archdeacon. It's very well done.)

Another thing I realised is that, when I was little(er), I thought the gargoyles were just there for amusement. I mean, talking stone gargoyles? Totally unrealistic, but when I watched it again recently I began to understand that these gargoyles were actually there to narrate Quasimodo's thoughts. Seriously. Watch the film and you'll get what I mean.

My favourite song from this film is called "Hellfire" because it's a really dark song that, I guess, only adults will get the true nature of the meaning behind this song. When I was younger I understood that he was a man who fell in love with Esmerelda and hated how he couldn't control these emotions, but this was before I discovered the birds and the bees! I watched this film last week (I think), and my eyes were wide open, because I just couldn't believe how dark, sinister and lustful it was. It was a bit "whoa", to be honest, because you really get to understand Frollo's torture and passion. I absolutely adore how you can see him battling his demons, the way they're represented in red-hooded Grim Reaper like creatures and how he runs up and down in confusion and despair, blaming it all on her. You can really feel the venom. It's possibly one of the best scenes in Disney history because it's so powerful. The best two lines in this song, in my opinion, are "This burning desire is turning me to sin" and "He made the devil so much stronger than the man." The amazing thing about Disney is that when you watch them as a kid you view it in an innocent way, but the film is so good that you remember it. Then, when you're older and you think about it, you realise certain bits that you never noticed when you were a child, because you've grown up and understood life a little bit more. A child will never understand Frollo's emotions, but an adult can and possibly relate.
Honestly. Watch this scene and be marvelled.

Another song I love from a Disney film is "I'll Make A Man Out of You" from Mulan. It's sung by Donny Osmond (I know, right? Crazy) and again, I love the lyrics and the music. I just Wikipedia'd the film and am amazed that a critic claimed the songs as unmemorable. Outrageous! "Reflection" is beautiful and "I'll Make A Man" is so powerful. "I'll Make A Man" has an army sound to it and even has army type insults included in the lyrics ("You're the saddest bunch I ever met...You're a spineless, pale, pathetic lot, and you haven't got a clue") but towards the end it becomes really uplifting and inspiring. It's just absolutely brilliant and I had the song on repeat in my room. (Yes, I have a Disney CD, so what?)
I love the chorus "(Be a man) You must swift as a coursing river. (Be a man) With all the force of a great Typhoon. (Be a man) With all the strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moon." because they incorporated those Oriental metaphors and elements into the song. I know they kinda had to because the movie is based in China, but you really get a feel of that culture (and if it wasn't for the Disney film "Hercules", I wouldn't be into Greek Mythology.)
Anyway. Watch this video. I adore the climax.

Now do you see? The new Disney/Pixar films are so bland in comparison. It's these films listed above that made Disney what it is today, and they should not be forgotten.


melody said...

loved reading that blog, as i'm a huge fan of disney movies. i also like the 3d ones, as most of them have a great storyline as well... but i agree that it gets boring after a while and it's just not as magical anymore as it used to be with the older movies, especially with the beautiful songs, miss those most. imo the disney movies between (and including) the little mermaid and mulan had the best combination of fun, magic and music.

btw, from "beauty and the beast" on, computer animation was included also in the hand made disney movies... i remember that the ballroom scene in beauty+beast was a huge thing back then, it was all over the media that they used computer animation for that movie and that was seen a breakthrough for animated movies.

and i must admit that i like it, like, take the ballroom scene from beauty+beast, the computer animation simulates a camera movement through the whole room and, together with the music and all, this scene totally gives me goosebumps cause it's so beautiful. i agree though that it shouldn't be ALL about special effects and that unfortunately it is, today.

got good news though, when i was in the US i saw an ad for a new hand animated disney movie, the princess and the frog: - don't know if they included any singing parts, but really hope they have.

beauty and the beast is actually my fave disney movie of all times, i've watched it 7x in the cinema when it was released, and about a million times on video since then. ;-) though i must admit that now when i watch that transformation scene, i always have to think of shrek, lol! ;-p

the hunchback of notre dame also has a great story+characters, and some fantastic songs, i agree. i prefer the happy songs though, my fave is "out there" (well, the solo part of quasimodo)

and i totally agree about "i'll make a man out of you", i love that song and also love listening to in on cd... got some strange looks from friends already for liking that song, pha, they just don't know what's good! ;-p

Sean said...

I see ur point Caroline. I myself am not fond of these new 3D films but thats just because im old fashioned and quite like films being made they were before as thats what im used to and dont see 3D as a necessary step forward in the way films are produced. It also does take away from the artists who used to do the old films and instead u have people who can just utilise computer software. And although this is difficult in itself and in no ways should be disrespected in the time and effort these guys put in i just feel u cannot get the same kind of soul behind a computer generated image as u can a hand drawn image. As when drawing by hand u out some of yourself into it which u cant really do via the computer. This is why im glad to see the standee on L1 (thats where i last remember seeing it lol) for the Princess and the Frog. Of course i dont know how good it will be and its not out until February 2010 i dont think but its nice to see Disney are still sticking to their hand drawn films as well as these 3D films.

automaticbrainchild said...

Oh my God, I fucking love Disney. That Beauty and the Beast one made me cry. xD

Kay Keefe said...

I love Disney films and I think all children should have Disney in their lives.
I totally agree with your opinion about 3D.
Life is 3D.
Disney films are cute and take you on magical adventures so they shouldnt be in 3D.

Mana said...

I think the early 90s were really the height of Disney. Although having said that, I think our generation is a bit biased, because those movies are the ones we grew up with.

Another one I fell in love with a bit later on was Lilo & Stitch. Released in 2002, it was one of the last best Disney movies that wasn't CG - and the backdrops were watercolour. Sigh.

PS: Thanks for remind me how much I love "I'll Make a Man". When they break into the acapella bit toward the end, it's just SO powerful!

Serena-Rose said...

Thank you EVERYONE for commenting my blog, it definitely makes me happy and makes me think that I do actually write about interesting stuff. Ha! No seriously, thanks.
Sean - completely agree with the line "i just feel u cannot get the same kind of soul behind a computer generated image as u can a hand drawn image."
As for those that wrote about a certain period of Disney, I believe that's called "The Disney Renaissance"
Melody, whilst YouTubing Beauty and the Beast clips I did learn about the CGI but it suits the scene, it's only a little bit plus when I was younger, I didn't entirely notice it, y'know? But I agree, the scene is really pretty.

Thanks once again guys!
x x x

uniquebarbiegirl.x said...

This is an awesome blog entry that I wholeheartedly agree with, Caz. I'd much rather watch an old-school Disney movie than a new Pixar collaboration. Don't get me wrong Pixar movies are great fun, but it seems like there's a new one being released every couple of months. I remember when Toy Story first came out & it was the best thing ever, people were in a awe of it. "How did they do that?!". Now kids don't care because it's being repeated over & over again.
This has turned into an essay of a comment so I'll end with this; Making kids' movies used to be about being talented enough to inspire others & teach lessons, using characters that are easy to relate to. Now, it's all about who can make the most money.

Serena-Rose said...

Wholeheartedly agree with those last two sentences, Sherry. Thanks for commenting :-)

NikJass said...

I personally enjoy and appreciate both methods & storytelling styles of these animations, but I agree these classics made Disney what it is today, and that they shouldn't be forgotten. In fact they're not completely forgotten, the 'Princesses' craze lil girls have these days proves that these classics are made to last and are timeless. It's a real joy to see young kids today sing & dance to the songs I grew up with. It must be even more wonderful for mums who can share their favourite animations with their kids. I think the studio is realising this hence the production of 'Princess & the Frog'. But whether it will work, only time will tell. In terms of techniques of making animations, I think they should continue to adopt both... each method definitely has different effects...

From my observation I think with newer animations like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up etc... they try to target an even wider audience (hence selling more) ... seems like they produce stories that everyone would want to watch & enjoy, parents & children alike, Boys or girls, whether they like musicals or not etc... however they're not necessary as memorable as the classics. More like one off hits and that's it, until the next one rolls in.

Sorry Caz, another essay like comment for you to read :)

Serena-Rose said...

I definitely see your arguement Nik, but I do think the old classics have more meaning and depth to them, rather than these computer animations. Sorry I have such a short answer for your uber long message lol xD

PinkStylist said...

100% on hun, n yeah bout Hunchback, I thought exactly the same thng bout Hell Fire, the rudeness of it i mean! i just sat there th other day thnking: "... OMFG this is rude!! he blates wants to bone her!! ... i never got this when i was younger... my minds been tainted!! >.<" lmao x gr8 blog hun x

SoaringSimpson said...

The thing that strikes me about the older Disney stories is that their characters don't have the "attitude" that all characters, cartoon or acted, can't seem to exist without these days. Snow White wasn't sassy, Lady didn't kick ass, and Dumbo really didn't do much except look cute and cry. And rewatching them now, they're just sooooo refreshing.

But at least I now know what you younger people are calling "classic Disney"- to me, that's what we called the ones made when Walt was alive, to distinguish them from the ones you all grew up with and loved!