Friday, December 30, 2016

My Top 20 Disney Films: 20-11

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and fluffed it out to 31 entries (since December has 31 days).  I have done a 30-day challenge before for movies, though that one was poorly executed (I started it in the middle of a month, at one point I posted 2 entries on one day, it is a mess).  I did another one just this year in August on Video Games, that one was better, go read it after this one, all of it.  Or don’t, no pressure.

            Today is day 30 and the topic is “Top 20: 20-11”.
            This was tiring to write.  I should have just picked two of the thinner entries earlier in the month and made four entries of 5 movies each, or even five parts if I gave the Honorable Mentions their own section.  Live and learn.
Before I start let me just drop in a few Honorable Mentions.

Honorable Mention: “Mulan”
            This has a song that stands out as one of the best workout montages ever.  It has some good action; good lessons about using intelligence to circumvent challenges and defeat enemies; interesting themes about gender roles in society; and it is well animated doing their best to replicate the armor and styles of historical China, but stylizing them to keep the animators from dying of exhaustion.
            So why is it not in the top 20.  Mostly it is the Eddie Murphy dragon, I did not care for him.  But beyond that everything is very GOOD.  Not great, not amazing, but very good.  Nothing hits me especially deep.

Honorable Mention: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
            Frollo is my favorite villain overall, and while I do like the movie there is one thing that drags it down greatly.  The Gargoyles.  They are just the worst.  It is not the fault of the actors or animators; these things just do not belong in this story.  Unlike “Mulan” in which everything was just good, this thing had the potential to be better but the tone was destroyed by those gargoyles.

Honorable Mention: “Princess Mononoke
            I like this movie and other Studio Ghibli productions more than most of the stuff on my list.  That being said their relationship to Disney is secondhand, as this was distributed via Miramax and is not tied into Disney studios directly.  They are most certainly a compatriot and ally of the Disney machine and animation culture, but they are not strictly in there. 

Honorable Mention: “The Force Awakens”
            I excluded the Lucas Film stuff at the start of the month, but this movie made me feel okay with the direction Disney would take the franchise.  I love it.  “Rouge One” not so much, but that will have to be a thing I talk about next year.

Now on to the List.  These are in no particular order, I had a few movies I said, “Definitely, yes, yes, yes, okay, now let’s go over the list and pick a few more, and a couple more, and a couple more” just to fill it out to a full 20.  Then I just shuffled them up.

Number 20: “The Lion King”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            The Prince of an African nation goes into exile after the assassination of his father.  He is framed for causing the death of the king and his personal shame keeps him from returning home. His nefarious uncle allows a foreign military to invade the country as part of his scheme to keep control.  After a decade the nation is run into the ground and the exiled Prince is pulled back home to kill the usurping uncle, banish the foreign interlopers, and assume the throne as the divine right king.
            Also, they are all lions.

My Thoughts:
            I actually have some problems with this story because I am not a fan of Monarchies or the idea that there is some supreme order to the world that only functions properly if certain people sit on a throne.  Mostly because this sort of thinking has been used to justify a great deal of historically bad mismanagement of governments.  These people are on the throne not because they are competent or have merit, but because they were “born to it”.  That is not a healthy world view.
            That being said, I still like political machinations, betrayal, power struggles, and one’s own hesitance to take on power because of a fear of not measuring up to those who came before.  And it has all those things that I like.
            And as far as philosophy goes, the Circle of Life is a good one.

Number 19: “The Princess and the Frog”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A young woman who has bought into the idea that hard work eventually pays off (she is surprisingly naïve), dreams of one day owning her own restaurant.  This dream goes off the rails when (sub textually) racist bankers deny her loan.  After having her dreams dashed she is then transformed into a frog via Hoodoo curse and must make it home quickly in hopes of breaking the curse.

My Thoughts:
            This one is heavily weighted toward my enjoyment of the bad guy and the setting.  I feel that New Orleans is a crossroads of numerous cultural traditions that have permutated into something distinct, this has also lead to it being mystifying to outsiders and ripe with story juice waiting to be squeezed.
Shadow Man is voiced by one of my favorite voice/genre actors Keith David and as I expressed before, has both strong motivations and clever confrontation with the hero.  One that few other characters’ match.  Unlike “Hunchback” the goofy sidekicks do not break drastically with the tone of the film, instead complimenting the action and being entertaining.  Shadow Man kills one of them and it is a pretty brutal character establishing moment.  Overall I think the elements hang together well.

Number 18: “Alice in Wonderland”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A young woman of prose tries to make sense of a world of poetry.  Disney takes out a lot of the creepiest vibes from the book.  And then puts in some stuff that completely fits the lighter tone they were shooting for.  It still has some edge to it, but not likethe book does.

My Thoughts:
            I feel this is an adaptation true to the spirit of the book it is taken from.  I have talked about it enough really.

Number 17: “Finding Dory”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A lovable fish played by national treasure Ellen DeGeneres goes on an adventure to find her home.  Along the way she learns how she became who she is and the friends and family that helped her grow into such a wonderful person

My Thoughts:
            I didn’t watch its predecessor, “Finding Nemo”, and I still thought this movie was great.  It is a mystery story in which the clues are pieces of memory, skills, and pneumonic devices.  It is “Memento” for children.
I have not talked a lot about this one this month but it is a solid film that I would recommend to anybody really.  So long as they are not the sort of joyless dipshit who can’t watch a cartoon about talking animals without bitching about how, “Real fish can’t talk” as Aesop spins in his grave.

Number 16: “Duck Tales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A billionaire who could already afford anything he could ever want is given a magic lamp to wish for whatever he wants.  Hashtag .1% Problems. 

My Thoughts:
            DuckTales is a quintessential adventure series and the movie takes them on as epic an adventure as it could.  The humor is a bit silly and overall the film skews closer to “kid’s movie” than “family movie” but the action moves at an excellent pace, the antagonist is a threat, and the treasure they are trying to find and protect is not just more money, but something that affects the plot in a meaningful way. 
Not all action movies have those elements working for them.  Too frequently the treasure/tchotchke driving the plot is just more money, and that is boring.
“Treasure of the Lost Lamp” is similar to another movie with a Genie in it, but not to a distracting level.

Number 15: “The Fox and the Hound”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            Two childhood friends are driven apart by social forces as they grow into the roles society has set for them.
            Also, they are a dog and a fox.  This movie might be (sub textually) about segregation.

My Thoughts:
Screw society!  Their social conventions that break friendships!
Society should not set us at each other’s throats and tell us it is our way!

Number 14: “A Bug’s Life”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A community is under siege, as an ostensibly more powerful militant group is extorting them for crops.  The local eccentric inventor strikes out to search for help and employs a cadre of actors thinking that they are a group of mercenaries.  Ultimately the community is spurred to band together and confront the invaders as a united front and win their freedom.
            Also, they are all bugs.

My Thoughts:
            I haven’t mentioned this one at all this month.  Oversight!
            I generally like narratives that revolve around the community’s odd duck concocting a plan that allows them to save the day via the power of team work.  Cause that is basically me, and most of my life philosophy is about the power of collective action.  This movie hits that mark with air strike force and precision.
There are some things holding “A Bug’s Life” back a bit, like the community being a little too resistant to the oddball’s ideas.  As if Ayn Rand threw in some script edits with “Anthem” on her mind.  But overall a solid movie.
            I still remember seeing this in theaters with my dad and brother at the Hollywood 20 at the north end of the county when the first opened the new theater.
This movie came out the same time as the film “Antz” which I have never seen.

Number 13: “A Goofy Movie”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            After a popularity stunt goes off like fireworks the high school doofus becomes a made-man on campus and is about to go on a date with his dream girl.  His father throws a wrench into the plan by wanting to take the boy on a road trip to reconnect.
A chain of funny, sad, and complicated father-son bonding commences and culminates with sneaking into the biggest concert on Earth cause Goofy is a ride or die fam who goes to great lengths for the sake of his son. 

My Thoughts:
            I already talked about this movie as the underrated comedic treasure that it is.  Go read about it there.

Number 12: “Toy Story”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A favored son and community leader is feeling himself be pushed out of the spotlight by a new favorite.  After getting lost far from home the favored son and newcomer become trapped by a demented and abusive monster.  Banding together with the tortured and malformed prisoners of the monster they must escape and reunite with their community before they relocate forever to parts unknown which would leave the favored son an newcomer lost forever.
            Also they are a toy cowboy and spaceman respectively.

My Thoughts:
            On paper the idea that toys are secretly alive with their own personalities is terrifying and sad.  Very much a, “I have no mouth and I must play” scenario coupled with a creepy sense of voyeurism.  Somehow this movie not only makes it work, but does so in an emotionally affecting way.
            The idea that Andy, the toy owner, is moving with his family is the perfect backdrop.  Childhood playthings being left behind as the child who plays with them moves thru life is a pretty literal metaphor and that the toys must work to stay in his life could be read as grappling with keeping one’s own sense of fun and adventure while growing.
            It might be seen as a complaint by many that moving is such a common backdrop for kids’ movies, just last year “Goosebumps” had it, and in the past others like “Karate Kid”, “Casper” … and “Twilight”.  Along with TV shows like “Gravity Falls”, “Eerie Indiana”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and “Spooksville”.  It is a common trope because it works.
Moving is a transitional period which pairs naturally with the concept of growing up.  It also allows the main character to start the story out of their element or familiar local, this means that making new friends and being drawn into a story has a sense of adventure and tension in it even without extra-normal elements.  It is also easy for the writer to work explanations into the script, when characters explain things to the protagonist it makes sense that they would, because the main character is the new person who doesn’t know things.

Number 11: “The Nightmare Before Christmas”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A local community leader is going thru a midlife crisis and after getting lost in another community while on a walk far afield, he decides to expand his horizons and try out a radically different career.  Ignoring that he has no idea what he is doing and that such attempts will endanger lives and property.

            Also, he isa ghoul and he orchestrates the kidnapping of Santa Claus and the usurping of Christmas into a horror show of monsters and demonic toys.
Have you noticed how I keep giving descriptions of the plot and then throw in the elements that set it apart from all the other times you have seen a similar story?  It is a joke, but it is also a comment on how Disney tells stories that should not be dismissed just because they have cartoon lions or talking toys in them.  Maybe similar considerations should be afforded animation in general so that stories with different levels of scale can be attempted with the freeing medium of animation rather than being compromised to fit into live action adaptations.  Or, WHATEVER!

My Thoughts:
            I already talked about the fantastic design work and originality in this movie.  Beyond that it has one of the best villain protagonists in any family film, and a great character arc/moral lesson.  You may get bored with your life sometimes, but don’t use that as an excuse to terrorize people, just try to remaster what you know and find joy in the world and friends around you.

            Tomorrow is my Top 10.
            Share your own thoughts on this in the comments.  I know I am not the only person out there who is nostalgic for Disney products, and I am sure many people disagree with my selection for today’s entry. 
I picked Disney stuff just because I knew there was so much of it to talk about and it lends itself to discussion in the comments.
What are some of your favorite Disney movies?
Do you have a top list?
Do you have a blog like mine talking about it?  If so, then post a link below.


If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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