Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Disney & Me

I do not remember the first Disney film I saw or where. As a kid in the Seventies, Disney was everywhere.  They had a few TV shows Wonderful World of Disney, Mouse Factory, and The New Mickey Mouse Club.  The thing that kids today would not get is pre-Video Tape or DVD Disney would re-release their films every few years into the Theaters.  I saw films released in the 1930’s in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  That changed with the advent of the video store and the ability to buy personal copies of the films.  During the Seventies, the video store was not quite an entity.  Video tape machines were expensive and rare.  If you wanted to see a Disney Film you either watched it heavily edited on Television or went to the Theater.  The quality of film prints was variable depending on the source.  In the early Eighties the Disney Channel was a premium cable channel like HBO.  They were where you could see various Disney films unedited on Television.  Unlike now, there were no commercials on it.  Enough of the history lesson, let’s get to my relationship with Disney.

There are two films that are inexorably linked to my childhood.  They were the ones I wanted to watch over and over again.  They may not have been my first Disney films.  They were the most influential.  The first was Jungle Book.  The story of a boy raised by wolves and his attempt to reconnect with humanity was something that spoke to me.  At the time I had no clue as to why.  In retrospect it seems to be, because I felt isolated from humanity.  The reason for that was I felt that I was so different that I was all alone.  That was not necessarily the reality, I had family who cared and loved me.  The songs also stuck with me.  I Wan’na Be Like You and The Bare Necessities are songs that still speak to me. 

The next film was 1973’s Robin Hood, the animated film.  It did not hurt that Roger Miller was Alan-A-Dale.  Roger Miller was one of my Dad’s favorite Country musicians and we loved Oo De Lally, the main song of the film.  The Anthropomorphic story of Robin Hood I found interesting.  The use of certain animals to represent these characters had lasting affect on me.  To this day I am fascinated with animal symbolism in various cultures.  This is where it all started.  I have always had a soft spot for the Robin Hood story.  The Theme of breaking the rules to do the right thing made sense to a 5 year old me.

I watched other Disney films over the next few years. Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the Aristocats, the Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, and The Rescuers.  Now I had a contentious relationship with Dumbo.  As a child my ears protruded and the kids in my neighborhood referred to me as Big Ears or Dumbo due to this.  It is a wonderful story, I just had some problems with the image as it was as to respect of my personal history.  Pinocchio freaked me out.  The whole scene where the bad boys became donkeys, messed with my young head.  I was a good kid, but the idea of things like that happening to me if I stepped out of line scared me straight.  I liked the shorts as a kid, but even then I preferred the Looney Toons shorts.

I watched the Wonderful World of Disney till I was in High School.  I had seen quite a few of the live action films as well.  My mom grew up on the original Mickey Mouse Club so we watched all the Disney and non-Disney Annette Funicello films.  I liked the Kurt Russell teen films growing up.  The Live Action films were fun and my parents saw them as safe. Some of the stuff I enjoyed from the Wonderful World of Disney were Swamp Fox, the Tall Tales shorts, Davy Crockett, Doctor Syn, Zorro, Kidnapped, Treasure Island and the other adventure films and shows from the 50's and 60's.  Those works led to my love of Zorro and all things from the golden age of Piracy.  Growing up in Southern California I saw all the real life settings for the Zorro show.

In my teen years I was not that much into Disney, they were for kids.  Although I thought Tron and Something Wicked This Way Comes were cool.  I even went a saw Fantasia as a teen.  I loved it, but I always loved art.  I did not get back into the Disney Animated films until college.  It restarted with the Great Mouse Detective.  They had me at Vincent Price as the villain.  I never saw Oliver and Company, but I was there for the Disney Renaissance for the late 80’s and early 90’s.    I have followed most of the movies since.  I still have a handful I have not seen but I enjoy them.  Barbara, my ex, used to admonish me for watching something intended for children.  Honestly they are intended for the whole family. 

In the 1980’s Disney got into Television animation with a splash.  They started with Duck Tales and Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers then later with Tale Spin, Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop. Aladdin and Gargoyles.  They had more, but the ones I listed were the ones I watched.  Duck Tales was the animated adventures of Scrooge McDuck which before then were limited to Carl Bark’s comic books.  Theses shows did not have the same level of Animation the theatrical animation had however were still quality shows.  I enjoyed Gargoyles because of the writing and the wonderful cast that came from Star Trek: The Next Generation and other Sci-Fi Shows.  After Gargoyles ended I stopped watching their Television shows till Tron: Uprising.  Tron: Uprising’s animation was reminiscent of Aeon Flux.  

I fell in love with Pixar’s work back in the late 80’s. I followed the progress of Computer animation with films like Tron and the Last Starfighter.  I watched various shorts including the classic Grinning Evil Death.  I saw the various shorts from Pixar, which I had know as part of ILM and Lucasfilm.  They proved that computer animation could have character.  As of now I have seen all but Monster University.  Incredibles blew my mind.  I agree with Bobby Roberts, of Cort & Fatboy and Welcome to that Whole Thing, that Superhero Films should be animated.  With animation the possibilities are endless; you think it, you can create it.  Even with CGI Superhero films seem limited by realism.   Up! And Wall-E were wonderfully poignant.  Ratatouille was lovingly uplifting. 

I may no longer be what many consider the target demographic being over forty without kids.  Good is good and one’s situation does not keep you from appreciating it.  Some of the Disney films over the years have fallen flat for me.  That is OK.  You cannot like everything.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

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