Classic No. 39 Dinosaur 2000 (2000)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

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Dinosaur …

Dinosaur … you weren’t even meant to be here. 2000’s Dinosaur wasn’t even part of Disney’s canon until Tangled’s release.

‘Do you even belong to this canon?’

‘… No’

Dinosaur is allegedly only in the canon because of Tangled’s marketing campaign as being the 50th film to be released in Disney’s animated canon. The Emperor’s New Groove used to be listed as the 39th classic. We had to watch this … because of a marketing campaign.

One of the reasons it didn’t belong in the canon is that it was a collaborative project delivered by Disney and a company called The Secret Lab, which was the result of a merger between Dream Quest Images and Disney’s feature animation department. Pixar was doing very well at this point and Disney wanted to get on the CGI bandwagon.

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‘Every studio is jumping on the bandwagon. All the animated movies that make money are CGI – we don’t wanna be left out of it’
‘But we don’t know anything about this gadget …’
‘What do you have to know? It’s a picture. You do what you always did! You just add CGI to it’
‘Yeah? …’

The producer, Pam Marsden said: “It’s unlike anything ever made before.”The entire movie, 1300-plus shots, is made of effects shots, yet there are no people in it.”

Miranda - The tempest, by John William Waterhouse

‘Oh brave new world that has no people in it’

So how did the canon’s first full CGI film come to be? Dinosaur’s origins remind us of the egg sequence in its own film – it constantly ended up passed around from the 1980s to the 1990s. It started as an idea conceived by Paul Verhoeven in 1986 (while he was filming Robocop, in which it was suggested by Phil Tippett he make a dinosaur film) and that it would be a Shane-esque story, with Walon Green writing a script, and it was pitched to Katzenberg (note: near half budget). It originated in the live action department with the conception of it being a stop motion project, and being like a nature documentary with dinosaurs. Verhoeven and Tippett left and in came Thomas G. Smith and writer Jeanne Rosenberg. There were conflicts between them and Disney, as Disney wanted a cute talking dino pic and Smith (and clearly his predecessors) wanted to do a dark film incorporating real lemurs (they even were auditioning lemurs …). Lemurs didn’t exactly exist when dinosaurs were around so we’re unsure why such determination for lemurs.

Why does anyone have to be lemurs? 

(Allegedly the directors ‘knew this, but felt the real mammals of the Cretaceous era were “hideous”, thus supplanted them with “cute” mammals.’)

Cute you say? …

THEN …

This happened:

Ah …

Smith: ‘The thing that ultimately killed it is that Disney knew that Jurassic Park was coming along pretty well, and they knew it was being done digitally. They figured, ‘Well, maybe, we should wait until we can do it digitally.’

THEN Smith got taken off the film to work on Honey I Blew Up the Kid and he was replaced by David W. Allen.

Disney knew by then they wanted it to be a combo digital-live action piece. THEN Allen was replaced by George Scribner (remember George? He was the one who wanted The Lion King to be like a nature documentary), co-directing with Ralph Zondag. THEN Scribner left the project to work at Walt Disney Imagineering, and was finally replaced by Eric Leighton …

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… Yep that’s it. Pass the parcel has ended

Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton ended up being the final directors for Dinosaur. Zondag’s directing credits to this date (2020) include Dinosaur and We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, and Leighton’s include Dinosaur … They never directed again after that.

To be fair, both do have experience in animation – just not in directing a full feature and they never directed again after Dinosaur. Maybe not their cup of tea?

With all of these shifts in personnel, perhaps this may have been a warning sign that the project may not be a good idea … BUT sometimes troubled productions have led to great films. Is this a great film? …

Let’s see.

Original Trailer Time!

(Special Note from Both: Our memory of this film is mainly from seeing it as a trailer on another Disney DVD … and this sequence used to freak us out)

Agh!

  • Great start … close up of brown scales on brown background. A lot of brown
  • Ah … nice scale shot of some dinosaurs
  • A potato?
  • Ugh weird face!!! And more brown on brown
  • We get a sped up version of the Egg Travel sequence (apparently that entire sequence was the teaser … not surprised considering it is probably the best sequence in the film – although Circle of Life it ain’t)
  • Agh a group of Gurgis! But uglier
  • ‘Things like that eat things like us as snacks’ … quick piece of advice: If your film has bad dialogue … DON’T PUT IT IN THE TRAILER
  • Oh dear … we could be wrong, and we had to rewind this a few times, but after Aladar says “oh no, there’s too many” there’s a noise which sounds suspiciously like a fart
  • We then get a seismic tonal shift as we go straight from hijinks into a meteor shower
  • A minute and a half in, suddenly there’s narration
  • “Discover a world that you’ve only imagined” – unfortunately timed to align with Aladar’s head stuck between a bigger dinosaur’s legs
  • “The love monkey” ??? We really don’t want to go into this
  • Walt Disney Pictures Presents … notable by its absence is the word “proudly”
  • A significant moment from the film’s climax is given away in the trailer
  • EXPLOSIONS! That will sell right?

Truly though those eggs look like potatoes:

Mmm shall I steam them or roast them? Decisions, decisions!

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Classic No. 38 Fantasia 2000 (2000)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

Fantasia2000_Poster

Does calling Fantasia 2000 an ‘exclusive engagement’ kind of defeat the purpose of what a Fantasia film should be? …

Walt Disney: ‘Fantasia is timeless. It may run 10, 20 or 30 years. It may run after I’m gone. Fantasia is an idea in itself. I can never build another Fantasia. I can improve. I can elaborate. That’s all.’

Guess the Walt Disney Company thought otherwise …

Fantasia 2000 … in many respects was a film that was in development hell for 60 years.

The film comes with an interesting story – more interesting than the film itself to be honest. Ultimately a Fantasia film is never going to be seen as a commercial opportunity – so much so that Walt’s dream of having a series of Fantasia films never came to be – they’re just not commercially viable (although to be fair, it also didn’t help that the original was released during WWII in which overseas distribution was a massive problem and Fantasia itself made money back through re-releases). They’re experimental, expensive and difficult to pitch to specific target audiences – not a great combination when you’re keen to make a profit. Walt’s idea had been that Fantasia films would be an evolving medium – an event film re-released every few years with new shorts added and some taken out. This never came to be – the closest he got to that was through the production of the package films, and even then, they were filler projects. This is not an issue unique to Walt – Gene Kelly, an innovator not too dissimilar to Walt in ways, always tried to push the envelope in his films, but his 1956 film, Invitation to the Dance was his most ‘Fantasia-esque’ feature – an anthology film with no spoken dialogue. It was expensive to produce and box office was poor, but it is now perceived as a landmark film for dance. To make a Fantasia film, it seems like you would have to not care about box office – an ‘art for art’s sake’ project. But this is the 1990s and box office is EVERYTHING!

How did Fantasia 2000 come about? In 1980, Wolfgang Reitherman and Mel Shaw had an idea for a music anthology film reminiscent of Fantasia called Musicana, ‘mixing jazz, classical music, myths, modern art’ and presenting ‘ethnic tales from around the world with the music of the various countries’. However, after being pitched (And lots of hard work produced – seriously look at the ideas for segments – the storyboards look brilliant) the project was seen as (guess it) not commercially viable and it was dropped – they replaced it with Mickey’s Christmas Carol instead. Following this, Roy E. Disney discussed the idea for a Fantasia-esque film in 1984 when they were still in the infamous ‘What Would Walt Do’ frame of thinking.

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In addition, Fantasia was allegedly Roy’s favourite Disney film. Eisner liked the idea but Katzenberg did not. Eisner only became fully convinced when the 1990 re-release of Fantasia was a commercial success as well as the home video release, giving the greenlight in 1991 under the working title of Fantasia Continued.

(Special Note from Both: While proof-reading this we started riffing potential Fantasia sequel titles: Son of Fantasia, Fantasia the Second, Wrath of Fantasia, Fantasia Blew Up The Fantasia, Fantasia Strikes Back, Fantasia II: Electric Boogaloo. Post your own suggestions in the comments)

Allegedly Katzenberg continued to hate the idea and Roy would have meetings with Eisner without Katzenberg present.

The film was originally going to be closer to Walt’s original idea, in that they would preserve some of the original segments and add in new ones. However, the film wound up retaining just one of the original segments (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and a much shorter running time than the original at less than 75 minutes long.

(Special Note from Both: We were stunned when the last segment was announced as our DVD box lied to us and said it was about 2 hours long)

Ultimately the film became known as ‘Roy’s Folly’ … was it a folly? Let’s see.

Original Trailer Time:

  • Walt and Roy look like they’ve been condemned to the phantom zone … or got stuck in a Windows 95/98 screensaver
  • Original Trailer Man HATH RETURNED (Did DreamWorks not work out?)
  • ‘Now the first full length animated feature …’ MASSIVELY LONG PAUSE just long enough to consider that highly contentious claim ‘… exclusively in IMAX theatres’. Thanks for the disclaimer Original Trailer Man
  • ‘In a motion picture unlike any other’ … apart from Fantasia? It’s a trailer least qualified to claim that out of most films in the canon!
  • They just showed a snippet from The Nutcracker sequence from the original … it’s not in Fantasia 2000!
  • Bit odd seeing the set pieces to music they were not orchestrated to
  • Knock off Simba and Nala
  • January 1st … it’s like Disney were trying to have a kiss at midnight on New Year – start off the millennium with a bang and spend the rest of it being brilliant …
  • They have said they’re ‘proud’ twice, just to be sure

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Classic No. 37 Tarzan (1999)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

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Tarzan in many respects is a landmark film – not only did it mark the end of the Disney Renaissance era, but it was the film that introduced the Deep Canvas technology and it was the first Tarzan film (of many adaptations) to be animated. Kevin Lima had been asked to direct Tarzan by Jeffrey Katzenberg, with the intention of it being animated at a Canadian-based satellite television animation studio, which Lima was not keen on as he felt the animators at this studio would struggle with this very difficult concept. However when Katzenberg resigned, Michael Eisner asked Lima about Tarzan again, but this time with the deal that Feature Animation would produce the film – Lima accepted and brought on his friend, Chris Buck, to co-direct, following a few months studying the novel, Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tab Murphy wrote the initial treatment – he had the idea that Tarzan should travel to England, which Lima and Buck rejected as it would bring Tarzan away from his family and for them, missed the point for the message they wanted to deliver. Noni White and her husband, Bob Tzudiker, contributed to the script, in aid of bringing more humour, focus and emotional weight to the film. We’re back in adaptation territory – the last time we had a novel adaptation was The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Why had Tarzan never been adapted into an animated film before? Thomas Schumacher insisted that it was a novel that ‘cries out to be animated’ – was it and did it pay off? Let’s find out!

Original Trailer Time!

  • The trailer strategically frames it to look like Kala was woken in the middle of the night to source the noise
  • For whoever edited this trailer, the brief must have been drama, comedy and … Phil Collins
  • ‘Was it alone?’ /’Yes, there are no others’ … hearing this line out of context makes it sound very shady. It’s like Kala stole that baby … and potentially murdered his parents
  • Daddy issues!
  • ANTICS!
  • ‘Is this water sanitary?’ A second later we see Tarzan age by 15 years after contact with said water – THERE’S DEFINITELY SOMETHING IN THE WATER!
  • ‘I was saved by a flying WILD MAN in a LOINCLOTH!’ – of all of the lines they chose not to use, this is the one they went with? Who are they trying to appeal to? Could have cut it off at wild man but it was crucial to get the very necessary loincloth in.
  • Hmm cute mother-child content, Jane’s sexual awe of Tarzan, and Fabio-esque shots of Tarzan – trying to draw in the Fabio-loving mums who will bring their kids and thus make MONEY?
  • Points! The trailer teaches consent. Tarzan tries looking up Jane’s skirt and she kicks him in the face
  • This is actually a decent trailer – we miss Original Trailer Man – there’s less for us to poke fun at
  • Action and moody shot of Tarzan that they loved to milk in the marketing
  • June 18th shot at the end – won’t this look cool on the ride yeahhhhhhhhhhhh?!

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Classic No. 36 Mulan (1998)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

Mulan Poster

To quote this film:

We have missed writing here so much! We took an unintentional year-long hiatus because in the last six months, we were caught up with our A Midsummer Night’s Dream tour (as well as planning future shows, taking a rest and our full time jobs), and the first six months concluding in a pretty special day. We got married …

Wedding planning was rather all-consuming, as was touring and full-time work, but it has been wonderful getting back on The Disney Odyssey horse, especially as Mulan … is really good!

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. When we were doing research for our Hercules review, we came across a quote from John Musker, when he was explaining what projects were coming up for Disney, and without revealing the name of the project, he referred to Mulan as Tootsie in China.”

Plot of Mulan (According to IMDB): To save her father from death in the army, a young maiden secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China’s greatest heroines in the process.

Plot of Tootise (According to IMDB): Michael Dorsey, an unsuccessful actor, disguises himself as a woman in order to get a role on a trashy hospital soap.

It’s like saying Game of Thrones is The Lion King in medieval times because they both feature kings. All Tootsie and Mulan have in common is cross-dressing. That … is … it.

(Special Note from Melissa: This infamous Tootsie in China quote was the first thing we wrote for our Mulan document, while we were writing the Hercules one – knew it HAD to go in)

So … Mulan, while not ‘Tootsie in China’, is a milestone project – it was Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida’s first independent feature film. A little background – the Florida studio opened in 1989 with the goal being to produce shorts and featurettes, but the Florida team wound up contributing to some of the Renaissance’s feature films. They asserted that if they could produce all of this work, why shouldn’t they make their own feature film? How did Mulan come about? An interest in Asian-themed stories arose at Disney, and children’s author, Robert D. San Souci, handed in a book manuscript based on the poem, The Ballad of Mulan. At the same time a short called China Doll was in development, so in the end, the two projects were combined. One of the directors, Barry Cook was offered either Mulan, or a Scottish folk tale featuring a dragon, to which Cook suggested incorporating a dragon into Mulan, and the second director, Tony Bancroft, was allegedly assigned the role on a recommendation by Rob Minkoff. More than 700 animators worked on Mulan for over 5 years and a group of the key creatives were sent to China for research purposes in 1994.

Multiple film adaptations of the Mulan legend had appeared before in China, but the story was relatively unknown in the West. Bancroft said on the adaptation process, ‘We knew we had to respect the material. This is a beloved story to the Chinese people. We also knew we weren’t going to make a Chinese picture. We couldn’t. We’re not Chinese. We have a different sensibility, a different storytelling style.’ In other words, the legend had not only been ‘Westernised’ (in spite of allusions to Chinese culture, it is very much China through an American lens), but also ‘Disneyfied’, as had been myths and legends before this one. Disney have tackled legends like Britain’s Robin Hood and King Arthur, Greece’s Heracles, and, (although based on a real person she has been mythologised), legends like Native America’s Pocahontas. In our esteem, Disney hasn’t particularly done a great job with legends, as The Sword in the Stone, Pocahontas, Hercules and even Robin Hood are films with a lot of problems, but how will Mulan fare by comparison? Let’s see!

Original Trailer Time:

  • It immediately strikes a serious tone, setting the viewer up with striking visuals. Is Disney trying to act like it’s edgy?
  • It is so serious that we thought it was fan-made – it has genuinely surprised us
  • Are Disney trying to compete with DreamWorks a la The Prince of Egypt?
  • In fact … there is no voice. What has happened to Original Trailer Man? He’s GONE …

… Did he go to DreamWorks?

  • Fa Zhou is weirdly cut off mid-sentence – ‘I will die doing what’s ri-‘ THUNDER CLAP
  • Instead of a voiceover, words are stamped across the screen in CAPS – COURAGE, FAMILY, HONOUR, as the music dramatically swells to let us know we should feel moved
  • Apart from a couple of split-second appearances from Mulan’s trio of friends, this trailer really de-emphasises the comedy of the film, plus … Mushu does not appear AT ALL. Surely Mushu as a character exists purely for marketing purposes!!! And he is not in the trailer! What gives? We’re not complaining – we’re just puzzled.

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Classic No. 35 Hercules (1997)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s source material may have been packed to the brim with controversy … but now Disney is going into the world of Greek mythology? A world of war, pettiness, sex, rape, punishment, mutilation, death, murder, violence, madness …

So … how did Hercules come about? As early as 1992, The Odyssey was pitched during one of the infamous Gong Shows and it was accepted. We both love The Odyssey myth so one of us squealed at the prospect that it could have been an animated film at all and the other immediately said, ‘They’d have messed it up’.

(Special Note from David: That was me)

Apparently this adaptation was shelved as it was ‘deemed too long and lacked central characters … and failed to translate into animation comedy’.

Disney … not everything has to be a comedy. Just because Pocahontas was blah, it doesn’t mean all dramas are blah. Lacked central characters? What about Odysseus, Penelope, Telemachus, Odysseus’s crew, and all the characters they encounter? Sod it. If it had been like Disney’s Hercules, that would have been a sad case, so best be glad it didn’t happen. It would work amazingly in animation though … perhaps Cartoon Saloon could do it? Ooh who would be in the voice cast? We’ve gone off topic. OK The Odyssey – no Hercules!

(Special Note from Melissa: Genuine typing mistake – felt too joyous to take out – Hercules is the Emily to us if The Odyssey is the Rachel).

Animator, Joe Haidar, pitched Hercules (very anxiously after The Odyssey got tragically shelved), with the idea that both sides in The Trojan War seek Hercules for their secret weapon with the moral being Hercules learning that strength is not always the answer, and the value of humility.

It was approved, and oddly … he had no involvement in the film following his outline! It ended up passed on to John Musker and Ron Clements, who at that stage were developing Treasure Planet (a film neither of us have seen yet …). Jeffrey Katzenberg said he would green-light the project if they produced another commercial hit, which seems quite unjust considering that they directed Aladdin, which had been the biggest box office hit for Disney at the time of its release. We assume Katzenberg detested the idea, and he hoped by saying that, the idea would eventually go away.

Oh I wish I could greenlight Treasure Planet but I don’t want to

We had reservations at the idea of Disney approaching Greek mythology and clearly so did Musker and Clements – after reading many interpretations Greek mythology, they decided not to go for a ‘traditional’ adaptation (worrying it would be too ‘stuffy’), with the elephant in the room being that Zeus had sex with a mortal woman as opposed to his wife, Hera, and the child was named ‘Heracles’ in attempt to ‘mollify’ her. Plus … she puts Heracles into a fit of rage, causing him to kill his wife and children.

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Instead we have a loving family in which Hera is not out to murder and Zeus does not sleep around and cause most of the world’s problems

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Musker said: ‘In a Disney film, issues of philandering and illegitimacy are a little hard to handle’.

It seems fruitless to discuss straying from the source material regarding this film, so we’ll keep it to a minimum but … argh it is so annoying that he’s called his Roman name, Hercules, while the rest of the characters have their Greek names. ANYWAY … Musker and Clements were inspired by the popularity of sports athletes and celebrities, as well as films like Rocky and Superman and 1940s screwball comedies, for the writing process, with them citing Michael Jordan as the inspiration for the central character …

Oh yes that won’t date at all Disney

Meanwhile, Katzenberg has left the building and many animators have fled to DreamWorks, bringing back déjà vu of the Bluth exodus in the 1980s. Eisner is freaking out and is trying to keep animators from defecting by being extra connected to them, including telling Musker and Clements that their Treasure Planet project would be immediately put into practice after HerculesHercules feels like the fallout from a really horrible divorce – Katzenberg had figuratively left, remarried and taken some of the kids with him, while Eisner was left with the house and the rest of the kids, struggling with duties Katzenberg used to do better than him (e.g. knowing and hiring celebrities), and hoping the kids won’t leave him to go and live with Katzenberg, so he promises them treats and rewards (in the form of Treasure Planet …).

So how does the film fare from all of this chaos? Let’s see!

But first Original Trailer Time!

  • Starting with dialogue. That’s different!
  • Also a groovy piano rhythm, which syncs up with the dialogue. Good job editor!
  • Walt Disney Pictures presents Hercules: … getting punched in the face
  • ‘Two thumbs way up’ – Are you trying to sneak your own review of your own film into the trailer? That’s not allowed!
  • Please don’t use ‘wildly imaginative new characters’ in the same shot as Disney’s Zeus
  • ‘Big blue eyes’ … first of all. Meg doesn’t have blue eyes. Unless he’s talking about self-love?
  • ‘Pain and Panic’ – Don’t bring them up! You’re supposed to be selling the film. We think we’re figuring out why the film underperformed
  • We know we’re mishearing this but it sounds so much like Hades is saying ‘Nixon’ rather ‘Nix ‘em’ we both had a double take
  • ‘The legendary story of Hercules’ – don’t say legendary Original Trailer Man. The film is definitely not that
  • Hades’s final line is skillfully inserted … the editor gets a tick from us

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Classic No. 34 The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

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Note: We have missed this blog so much! We ended up on a completely unintentional year-long hiatus as life really took over – we did a tour of Twelfth Night in 2017, got engaged at the end of 2017 (hooray!), have been doing wedding planning, and then a tour of As You Like It this year … as well as full-time jobs. But we want you lovely readers to know that we love writing this blog and it has pained us to not be writing it. Hunchback has kept getting opened and closed as a document off and on for the last year and it has been frustrating, as we’ve been itching to move on to the next films in the canon. It is getting to the stage where it feels like the length of the Odysseus’s actual Odyssey in how long these gaps are! We want to reassure you that we love doing this, and it is a joy to publish this now.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame … let’s look at it in its most surface level form: it stars an underdog protagonist determined to break free from his chains, going through a coming-of-age story. That does sound very fitting for the Renaissance era, and to be honest of the Disney canon in general – Quasimodo fits right in with the likes of Aladdin, Jasmine, Cinderella, Ariel, etc… But what happens when you throw hypocrisy, genocide, explicit lust, sexual threats and assault, murder, arson, abuse, and execution into the mix? And on the other side, toss in some cartoony sound effects, pop cultural references and talking/singing gargoyles?

No wonder this film has viewers divided!

Development executive, David Stainton, allegedly came up with the idea to adapt Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris (we heard that Hugo hated the English translation of the title so we’ll respect that), after reading a comic book adaptation of the story.

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Beauty and the Beast directing team, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise at that time were developing an adaptation of the Greek myth of Orpheus. The film wasn’t working and Jeffrey Katzenberg told them ‘Drop everything – you’re working on Hunchback now’.

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As much as we’re sure they wanted to do that, they did agree to direct Hunchback. Trousdale and Wise, post the enormous success of Beauty and the Beast, seemed to feel a lot more pressure than ever, with the former saying that they had ‘a great bulls-eye painted on [them]’, and the latter pointing out, ‘If we concentrated on trying to please everyone and not to offend a single soul, the films would be so watered down that we’d be making a Care Bears movie. That would be creative suicide.

Creative suicide

Hunchback, no matter what anyone thinks of it, is a risky and ambitious film, and we can tell that Trousdale and Wise, along with their team, just went for it – they went for it so much, that it nearly became the first Disney film to receive a PG rating since The Black Cauldron

When Disney lost to ‘Creative Suicide Squad’

 

Remember, this was back in the days when a Disney film getting a PG rating was seen as box office disaster – the rating ‘threat’ was due to Hunchback’s dark and sexual themes. Also, remember Glendale? This is a case of Glendale Part 2 – most of the Hunchback animation team (many of whom were hired from the UK, Ireland, Germany, France and Canada) were moved into a large warehouse facility in Glendale to make room for the Pocahontas and The Lion King team back in the new shiny Disney Feature Animation building in Burbank – they named the building, ‘Sanctuary’.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame came about during a strange time for Disney. Katzenberg had left under toxic circumstances, and it marked the end of an era for Disney, as the film concluded with a mass exodus of animators, many of whom left to go to Katzenberg’s new company, DreamWorks, invoking a sense of déjà vu a la The Black Cauldron.

Yes Disney … we know

So original trailer time! How we have missed you!!!!!!

  • We can hear the chirpiest rendition of ‘Hellfire’ imaginable to start things off – seriously it sounds like a Christmas film ‘coming this summer’
  • Narration describing the ‘mysterious bell-ringer’, only to immediately show his face … way to build suspense guys
  •  ‘He lived a solitary life’ – If only Quasi did lead a solitary life, it would be a much better film …
  • ‘Adventures he had never imagined’ – such as being forced to dance the can-can
  • Original Trailer Editor … are you framing this film to look like Quasi and Esmerelda are the central romance? Bad Trailer Editor
  • Of all the songs to showcase … you show ‘A GUY LIKE YOU’???!!! No wonder this film will ‘tank’ domestically (sorry a spoiler!)
  • ‘Join the fun’ – followed by clowns’ heads exploding. Then ‘pour the wine and cut the cheese’ – one of the worst lines in the film
  • ‘Arrest her!’ / ‘Nooooooooooooooooooooo!’ – Inadvertently hilarious editing
  • A lot of this trailer is taken from Topsy Turvy sequence (because bright colouuuuuuuuuuuurs) and … the Gargoyles feature HEAVILY in this trailer … hmm do they have absolutely zero faith in the rest of the film’s content? The marketing department really got cold feet didn’t they?

This was our first time seeing that particular trailer.

This is the trailer we saw when we were kids at the cinema in the UK:

Not a gargoyle in sight

(P.S. Love this trailer)

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Classic No. 33 Pocahontas (1995)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

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‘I don’t want to jump to conclusions and get us all excited, but I think we’re definitely going to win’

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‘Pocahontas, no points …’

Perhaps we are immediately being too harsh regarding Pocahontas, but of all of the films that we have seen so far, nothing quite sums a film up as well as this delightful series of Father Ted quotes. Pocahontas likely has the cockiest and most pretentious origin of all of the films we have seen so far in the canon. As we discussed in our previous review, Pocahontas was the Team A project to The Lion King’s B Project – the Home Run to The Lion King’s Base Hit – the one nearly all of the top animators wanted to work on – predicted to be the prestigious, Best Picture-winning ‘West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet meets Native Americans’, guaranteed hit. Result – B project, The Lion King became one of the highest grossing films of all time, while Pocahontas made about a third of what The Lion King made worldwide, made less than Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, and received mixed reviews. What went wrong for Pocahontas?

The Rescuers Down Under director, Mike Gabriel initially partnered up with veteran animator Joe Grant (he left Disney in 1949, but returned in 1989 to work on the Renaissance films – what a leap! The last time we spoke about Grant was in our Lady and the Tramp review). They initially worked on an adaptation of Swan Lake, but their outline was dismissed as ‘the most amateurish, worthless nothing. There is no movie here, no story’ – we have no idea who said that but we can most certainly hazard a guess. It’s a shame as there could have been potential in a Swan Lake film – especially if they’d run with the ballet and incorporated dance into it – that could have been exciting and risky.

But this happened instead, produced by Richard Rich, former Disney animator … 

So! Gabriel wracked his brains for other ideas, focusing mainly on American Wild West legends such as Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill and Pecos Bill …

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Pit of Despair flashback!

However at the infamous Gong Show, Gabriel made Disney history as his pitch for Pocahontas was the quickest story turnaround in the studio’s history. He took a one-sheet colour image of Tiger Lily from Peter Pan, wrote ‘Walt Disney’s Pocahontas’ on the front, and on the back wrote, ‘an Indian princess who is torn between her father’s wishes to destroy the English settlers and her wishes to help them—a girl caught between her father and her people, and her love for the enemy’. At the time Peter Schneider had been very interested in an animated version of Romeo and Juliet (a West Side crossed with cats film was suggested at one stage …), so he really got on board with Gabriel’s idea: ‘We were particularly interested in exploring the theme of ‘If we don’t learn to live with one another, we will destroy ourselves’’.

Again, this was the project that the top animators wanted to work on, including star animator Glen Keane, who was assigned Pocahontas, and many fought to swap from The Lion King to Pocahontas. Eric Goldberg, supervising animator of the Genie, became Mike Gabriel’s Co-Director (inspired especially to work on the film by the 1992 LA Riots) and Tom Sito was appointed as Head of Story. Determined to be authentic (and likely trying hard to make up for the appalling representation of Native Americans in Peter Pan), they hired mainly Native American performers and employed Native American consultants. It all seemed very exciting as it would be Disney’s first ‘American’ story, the first to showcase a true historical figure and the first to have an interracial romance at the film’s heart.

So … what happened? Jeffrey Katzenberg really pushed for the film to be a sweeping romantic epic, even more so than Beauty and the Beast, to strive for a Best Picture win, likely also considering that Dances with Wolves won Best Picture in 1991, which features Native Americans. We imagine this was the mindset:

When you look at a creative project with ‘AWARD!’ in mind, it is very possible to be led astray. Katzenberg pushed for Pocahontas to be older (initially pitched as Pocahontas’s real age, 10-12), for there to be an adult relationship between Pocahontas and John Smith, and for the animals to be mute. Executive influence became so difficult that Goldberg worked under the pseudonym, Claude Raynes for Chuck Jones Productions, just to get a breather. Both he and Sito thought the film would be more cartoony, comic and broad but the ‘higher-ups wanted it more winsome, more gentle. Some of the folks were so concerned about political correctness …’ A specific example was when an executive took umbrage with the fact that Meeko was wearing a Spanish ruff, and Percy a feather, in a drawing by Joe Grant: ‘Animals don’t have the intelligence to switch their clothes! They don’t even have opposing thumbs’.

Despite their efforts to be authentic, story and character went off into a multitude of directions, and consequently prominent Native American activists issued an open letter condemning the film for its historical inaccuracies, and stereotyping of the Indian people. We’ll discuss this in Protagonist and Story.

What did we think of Pocahontas?

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No … no we didn’t like that one. No we were a bit disappointed with that one to be honest. That wasn’t very good at all! You know we generally love Disney but that film was catastrophic!

Ok maybe that’s being a tad harsh, but we’ll be fair! Let’s dive in and analyse. But first, Original Trailer Time!

  • Somewhat bafflingly … we may have come across a trailer that is quite good! The epitome of the ‘trailer that makes the film look better than it actually is’
  • However we do still have ‘SHEEEEEE was the daughter of a chief’. You never fail to disappoint or amuse us Original Trailer Man
  • ‘No not that … way’ – cue the sounds of kids laughing … a lot (Special Note from Melissa: This is my own memory of seeing this trailer in the cinema)
  • The editing makes it look like Pocahontas’s dive had a butterfly effect, causing the storm to happen
  • ‘HEEEEEE was an explorer’
  • ‘Come taste the sun sweet berries’ – coupled with shots of CHERRIES! LIES!
  • Kokoum makes ‘bad smell’ face, which is backed up by Meeko going ‘Bleghhhhh’
  • ‘I think my dream is pointing me down another path’: Did Kokoum get erased from existence when she said that?
  • Love that changed the world? Erm no! Seriously, stop lying Original Trailer Man
  • Dangerously close to giving away the ending – ARGH!
  • ‘I love him Father’ / ‘BRAVO!’ Thanks for the support Wiggins
  • ‘Experience the adventure … until you can paint with all the colours of the wind’ at which point you can stop experiencing the adventure.

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Classic No. 32 The Lion King (1994)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

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With one of us four years old and the other five when The Lion King was released in the UK in October 1994, this is a milestone moment for us in the canon, as it came out at a time when we remember the release ‘hype’. But what we didn’t know, until the last few years, was that two films were made simultaneously by two different teams – one film was perceived as the ‘A’ project (predicted to be a prestigious, Best Picture-winning, ‘West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet meets Native Americans’, guaranteed hit) and the other the ‘B’ project (dubbed as experimental ‘fill a gap’-ish). The former was Pocahontas and the latter was The Lion King … one of the most commercially successful films of all time.

Let’s swivel back! Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy Disney and Peter Schneider came up with the initial idea for a film based in Africa, during a plane journey to Europe to promote Oliver and Company. Thomas Schumacher became involved because ‘lions are cool’ … Scripts flew around over the next few years from a number of writers, from Thomas Disch writing a treatment called King of the Kalahari, to Linda Woolverton writing King of the Beasts, and then King of the Jungle. The plot was rather different, focusing on a war between lions and baboons … More on that in Story!

Initially Oliver and Company’s director, George Scribner, was appointed as The Lion King’s director. However, he would leave after six months, as he clashed with Roger Allers’s style and disliked the choice to make it a musical film, as he had envisioned a more documentary-like ‘National Geographic’-esque film, probably closer to Bambi than your average Renaissance era musical. Producer, Don Hahn, Directors, Rob Minkoff (Scribner’s replacement) and Roger Allers and Head of Story, Brenda Chapman, rewrote the story, aiming to focus more on the theme of ‘leaving childhood and facing up to the realities of the world’. Screenwriters Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts came on board, and the title changed to The Lion King as King of the Jungle made no bloody sense. Fun fact: Apparently Richard Curtis and Ben Elton were approached to write the screenplay.

As we said, The Lion King was the B project. Most of the top animators chose to work on Pocahontas, while The Lion King was filled up with more inexperienced – but eager – staff and top animators who were interested in animating animals (e.g. Andreas Deja and Ruben Aquino). At that point Pocahontas seemed like the better option – Glen Keane had been assigned to work on it (allegedly everyone wanted to work with Keane as he was perceived as the crème de la crème of animation at that stage … because he’s awesome), Mike Gabriel who’d directed The Rescuers Down Under, Eric Goldberg who’d received acclaim for Genie, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s music was already there on display, and to top it off, animators were excited that it was an ‘American’ story. The Lion King was not in a great place when it came time to choose a project – the African rhythms had not yet been incorporated into the film, so Elton John’s tunes sounded very poppy next to Menken’s Broadway pizazz, and it hadn’t quite found its feet in terms of story – it was being pitched as ‘Bambi in Africa’. Some even tried to transfer over to Pocahontas but were told ‘no’.

Despite Katzenberg’s feelings that the film was ‘a little a bit about [him]self’ (based on his early career in politics), he set up this competitive streak between Team A and B, stating that Pocahontas was a home run, and The Lion King was a base hit. It was being stressed that animals don’t sell – audiences want to see people. Ultimately, like the animators being kicked out of their building and into rickety-old Glendale, it inspired Team B to work even harder and prove themselves. Akin to two siblings, the golden child wound up being the disappointment despite high expectations, and the black sheep became incredibly successful despite low expectations …

Do we think the Black Sheep proved itself? Let’s see! But first …

Original Trailer Time! Disney made a landmark move in that they released the entire ‘Circle of Life’ sequence as a teaser trailer in 1993. It was so well-received that many became concerned that the film as a whole wouldn’t live up to the teaser trailer.

However because it was a teaser (and a scene from the film), we won’t be looking at it, but instead the full trailer released in 1994:

  • Lebo M you are AMAZING!
  • Oh hi Original Trailer Man – any mystical epic vibe you had been going for in this trailer has now officially been squashed
  • We genuinely misheard 32nd animated motion picture as ’30 second’ – hardly qualifies as ‘feature-length’
  • For some insane reason, Hans Zimmer’s incredible score gives way to a trumpet fanfare straight out 1960s Disney … looking at you The Sword in the Stone! … just WHY???
  • ‘This’ll all be mine’ ‘Everything the light touches’ ‘Wow’ … misleading editing there!
  • We’ve got to commend the trailer for strategically avoiding giving away Mufasa’s death
  • Oh wait no they DO give it away … cheers trailer. Compliment withdrawn
  • What’s with the AWFUL score in the background? 90s to the max!
  • Unsubtle name dropping – ‘Grammy winner Elton John and Academy Award winner Tim Rice’
  • A very different arrangement of ‘Circle of Life’ there … we’re not fans

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Classic No. 31 Aladdin (1992)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

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‘Disney, you’ve had a Best Picture nomination – what are you going to do next?!’

Aladdin is the film that follows not only Disney’s, but one of cinema’s major milestones – it follows the first animated feature film to get an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Beauty and the Beast. Could they top it? But more importantly, did they even want to top it?

Aladdin itself originates from ‘Aladdin and the Magic Lamp’ from ‘One Thousand and One Nights’. It was not originally part of ‘Nights’, but was edited into the collection by Antoine Galland, a French translator who claims that he heard the story, along with ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ and ‘The Seven Voyages of Sindbad’, from a Syrian storyteller in Aleppo. Ironically enough, despite being part of a Middle Eastern collection of tales, the Aladdin story is set predominantly in China.

(Special Note from Melissa: But perhaps that has all the authority of Shakespeare setting Measure for Measure in Vienna, when it is clearly London … and in fact any of his plays set in European cities)

Aladdin, like Beauty and the Beast had very rocky beginnings. It was originally the dream-child of Howard Ashman, who had been in a local theatre production of Aladdin when he was a child, in the title role. Ashman wanted to write and direct the film; he pitched it in 1988 and wrote a 40-page treatment, writing songs with Alan Menken. He re-imagined the Aladdin story as a campy 1930s-style musical in a Hollywood-ised version of Baghdad, paying homage to the Bing Crosby-Bob Hope road movie musicals. The story featured a villain named Wazir, his parrot sidekick Sindbad, and Aladdin had three pals called Babkak, Omar, and Kassim. Princess Jasmine was a shallow, spoiled brat that Aladdin falls for, all the while a girl-next-door tomboy inspired by Judy Garland would be his true love in the end. There were two genies; the ring genie sung Arabian Nights, while the genie of the lamp was an amalgamation of Cab Calloway and Fats Waller.

Both Ashman and Menken were super jazzed up about this project (we could tell as they sound very giddy in the demos). Unfortunately for the two of them, the studio dismissed Ashman’s treatment, and they were removed from Aladdin to rescue Beauty and the Beast, which at that point was in dire straits. Beauty and the Beast’s screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, took on Ashman’s treatment and incorporated some elements of The Thief of Baghdad into the screenplay (because Disney had purchased the remake rights …), adding a villain named Jafar, a thief named Abu and a handmaiden for Jasmine. It had no songs … that would have been tragic. It got tossed around to different screenwriters, but in the end, John Musker and Ron Clements picked it as their follow-up to The Little Mermaid. They had a choice between Aladdin, Swan Lake and King of the Jungle.

Well … they all happened … one even at another studio

Ashman was glad that Musker and Clements had revived his baby, and while only two of his songs from the original treatment ended up in the film, Arabian Nights and Friend Like Me, when the dynamic duo were brought on board, Ashman and Menken wrote two new songs, Prince Ali and Humiliate the Boy … we’ll come back to these in Music. Unfortunately, Ashman never saw Aladdin through; when he wrote those two songs, he was already extremely ill, and he died shortly after the first story reel presentation – he passed away in March 1991. Tim Rice was brought in to be Alan Menken’s new lyricist.

The infamous story reel presentation became known as Black Friday – another case of déjà vu from Beauty and the Beast, Katzenberg hated the reels and told them to start again … again – ‘Guys, I gotta tell you, I was so disengaged that all through the movie, I was working on the guest list for my wife’s surprise birthday party!’

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Nice

So, they had to start again, the mood was apparently ‘funereal’ and Katzenberg refused to change the release date of 25 November 1992. Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio were brought in to rework the screenplay, meaning that the four of them get screenwriting credits for the final film. From Black Friday, they had eight days to make a new outline. PRESSURE! Eight days later, Katzenberg accepted the new treatment, and the film got made … thankfully.

A lot changed from that original treatment from 1988; it very well could have been an incredibly different film. We’re happy with the way Aladdin turned out, but it is hard not to wonder what could have been … However, what did it end up being? Likely Disney’s most postmodern-esque, most self-aware film in the canon so far – this is the moment when the creators felt brave enough to challenge its own medium and style, and even poke tongue-in-cheek fun at both themselves and Disney itself.

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How did they do? Let’s find out!

But first … the let’s enter the Cave of Wonders … also known as Original Trailer Time.

  • Wait a minute! That’s not Aladdin music … did we put the right trailer on?
  • Hmm … 3 years ago … last year … what happened 2 years ago Original Trailer Man?Ah yes, using the glory of their previous recent hits, not including The Rescuers Down Under of courseit may as well be lifted out of the Renaissance altogether

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  • ‘A beautiful girl looked into the heart of a beast and found the man of her dreams’ … on the strength of that tagline, you may have avoided Beauty and the Beast altogether!
  • ‘Come with us and enter a whole new world’ … how clever
  • One of Robin Williams’s conditions was not to be heavily used in advertising … um about that …
  • Someone very crudely shoehorned in the title mid-sentence – so fast and shoddy it feels like subliminal messaging
  • ‘A whole new world of excitement’ … thanks we got it!
  • Poor Alan Menken – never gets named in these trailers!
  • They certainly give a lot away in this trailer – we even get a shot of the genie hugging everyone at the end of the film!
  • They’re really downplaying Abu and Iago in this trailer … hmm we wonder why? We don’t even hear a syllable from Gilbert Gottfried

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Classic No. 30 Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, are property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The authors’ claim no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the authors and are not to be viewed as factual documentation

It’s been a LONG time since we have posted a review. We’ve been insanely busy from March-August with one of our theatre productions, which took up nearly all of our time outside of work, meaning that the blog had to take a another step back, which is always hard to do, as we love writing it so much. But we’re very glad to be back writing, and here is our review on Beauty and the Beast. We hope you enjoy!

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Like The Little Mermaid, another beautiful poster

After the controversy of The Rescuers Down Under being pulled from the screens early (including its marketing), Disney needed a hit. Although there have normally been significant gaps between Disney releasing fairy-tale films (13 years, 9 years, and a whopping 30 years), the release gap between The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast is a mere two years! Disney’s 30th animated classic from the canon, Beauty and the Beast, originates from the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and later abridged, rewritten, and published by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in the 18th century. According to research, variants of the tale have been around for at least 4000 years. Like The Little Mermaid, Walt Disney attempted to adapt Beauty and the Beast during the Golden Age and again during the Restoration (Romantic) era. We imagine that there was a struggle to adapt this ‘beast’ because when it comes down to it, most of the fairy tale …

(Special Note from Melissa: In terms of the couple anyway, notwithstanding that half the plot is actually about Beauty’s father – But Daddy and the Beast has less of a ring to it somewhat)

… consists of the unlikely pair having dinner together, the beast proposes, the beauty says no, rinse and repeat, until the end – hardly the most scintillating plot for a film. There was also fear of having to compete with the French 1946 Jean Cocteau version – perceived by many as the definitive adaptation of the fairy-tale.

Fast-forward decades later, following the critical and box office success of The Little Mermaid they opted for another fairy tale (instead of waiting 30 years), and offered it to Who Framed Roger Rabbit director, Richard Williams. Williams turned it down to work on his long-term (30-year-long!) baby The Thief and the Cobbler, but suggested British director, Richard Purdum. It was originally conceived as a non-musical; the team relocated to London to work on it, and six months later they returned with the first rough 20 minutes of the film. After the presentation, they were told to bin the whole 20 minutes and start again.

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‘I’ve got to write the whole thing over again!’

Purdum resigned from the project. Ron Clements and John Musker were approached to direct but they were knackered from The Little Mermaid. They took a chance on two young first-time feature directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, appointing them as acting directors for a few months before officially giving them the job. Don Hahn stayed on to produce, and Linda Woolverton wrote the screenplay (with a very strong story team behind her). Throwing the non-musical concept out of the window, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were asked to provide their musical touch and help save this sinking ship. At that point, Ashman’s heart was in his pet project Aladdin, but he grew into the idea and both he and Menken jumped on board, casting the film in New York (rather than the usual LA casting) – and thus Beauty and the Beast became the second Broadway infused animated musical of the Renaissance. Despite its rocky beginnings, would it surpass the success of The Little Mermaid, and make up for the under-performance of The Rescuers Down Under? Let’s see! But first … ORIGINAL TRAILER TIME!

  • Walt Disney presents … Bambi?!
  • He was a lonely beast cursed by a mysterious spell’ … we’ve all been there!
  • She was the beautiful young girl who could set him and his kingdom free’ … so no pressure?
  • Also we have to point out, how 90s sounding is this trailer??? ‘He was a’/‘She was a’ – it sounds like a parody!
  • ‘Until something wonderful happened’ thanks for the spoiler Original Trailer Man! We may as well just start the film half way through
  • ‘It’s a story filled with fun’ – We don’t think having someone sneeze in your face is FUN!
  • Seriously how much of the climax are you showing?
  • Very little of Gaston in this trailer … surprised!
  • ‘From the Academy Award winning composer and lyricist of The Little Mermaid’ … whose names we won’t mention … nice
  • Credit where credit’s due – once Be Our Guest starts, the editing is top notch … are they getting better at this?

So on to the review!

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‘On your marks! Get set!’

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‘BAKE!’

(Special Note from Melissa: For so many years, my sister and I used to be in hysterics during this scene as it sounds like he’s saying ‘bake’ – ‘What does she want me to do? BAKE???!’)

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