Classic No. 24 The Fox and the Hound (1981)

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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How can Tod be in two places at once? Will this destroy the universe?

The Fox and the Hound marks the beginning of what we like to call the ‘Passing the Torch Era’. The 1980s was a major transitional phase and there was a lot of experimentation taking place, not all of which worked, but we will get to that. For the first time, they had serious competition; beforehand there had been of course many independent animation producers like Ralph Bakshi, Martin Rosen, etc … but Disney was still considered to have the monopoly over mainstream animation. However, during production of The Fox and the Hound, Don Bluth, Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy, three of the most talented animators at the studio, left Disney to form their own studio: Don Bluth Productions, taking eleven animators with them.

Gary Goldman: ‘We found out that convincing the management (during the ‘70s) that we wanted to add more special effects, cast shadows on the character, water, rain, and other environmental phenomena, it was discouraged. They wanted us to cut costs, not increase costs. It seemed as though the more we tried to return to the beauty of the older films, the more difficult our jobs became. We finally decided that maybe we could turn them around if we started our own company and challenged Disney on the big screen, that maybe then they would see what we were talking about … We loved Disney, but the company was failing and at the time … management was running the show, not the artists. So, we chose to leave’.

When this major event took place, it was such a shock to the studio that production on The Fox and the Hound was delayed for a year. On top of all this, another prominent change was taking place at the studio. The older animators were retiring and the younger, less experienced animators were getting ready to take over. The former led the first half of production, while the latter led the second half, with the older animators officially stepping back, finishing their careers on the film and passing the torch. This was a real beginning for those who would go on to be some of the greatest contributors to animation in film history, such as Glen Keane, John Lasseter, Chris Buck, Ron Clements, Ron Husband, John Musker, Brad Bird, Tim Burton, and many, many more. They were eager to learn, as they were mentored and taught by the older animators …

Based on Daniel P. Mannix’s novel of the same name, The Fox and the Hound truly is a loose re-telling of Mannix’s story. You think Disney’s adaptation is bleak? Spoiler alert: In Mannix’s novel, the fox dies from exhaustion while being hunted down (plus his mate and children are all killed), and the hound is shot when his owner has to go into a nursing home where dogs are not allowed. Truly the Les Miserables or the Titus Andronicus of the animal world … albeit on a much smaller scale. But of course, Disney does go off course plot-wise, creating a less miserable version of the story – note that we say less miserable. The Fox in the Hound is definitely one of Disney’s most melancholic films. How so? Let’s find out! But first as always …

Original Trailer Time!

  • Woah! Something’s different! We have a new Original Trailer Man
  • Possibly the cheapest opening to a trailer so far, as we see the title of the film loom blurrily forward on a cheap blue background
  • Original Trailer Man is giving a tongue-twistingly awkward speech
  • TWENTIETH? What films have they attempted to airbrush from history??? And bearing in mind The Black Cauldron hasn’t even happened yet!
  • We hear The Fox and the Hound, and the first thing we see is The Caterpillar and the Bear … now why was THAT never released? Seriously it writes itself:

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‘We’re … we’re still friends aren’t we?’

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‘Squeaks … those days are over. I’M A BIG BLACK RAINCLOUD NOW!’

  • ‘Look out. Here it comes’, as we see images of WACKINESS … Yeah! Boy does that capture the essence of this movie!
  • ‘Hot’ out of Walt Disney’s Productions … pardon? ‘HOT’? Cool your jets new guy!
  • Amos’s bright red face interrupts Tod and Copper’s touching declaration of their everlasting friendship
  • The rest of the trailer from here on out is BIG SPOILERS as we see just about everything that happens … cheers editors
  • ‘A real killer’ – chipper cartoon music accompanies Tod’s moment of horror
  • ‘But never can sneak up sooner than you think’ … seriously where did they find this guy?
  • ‘Best friends!’ As they snarl at each other, ‘Make the worst enemies!’ Wow … signing off this trailer like a horror movie … wait hang on it’s still going?
  • Jarring cut from Tod’s snarling face to rootin tootin wacky music! Dangling keys time! Forget those scary mean old animals – IT’S FUN! LOOK AT THE FUN WE’RE HAVING!
  • Original Trailer Man starts emphasising how great DISNEY is … hmm could this have something to do with the fact that they now have competition?
  • Original Trailer Man and the editors seem to think that we may not know that this film is about a fox and a hound, so they keep telling us that … again … and again … AND AGAIN! It’s almost as excessive as this:

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Modern Era Overview

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

The Modern Era (as we dubbed it) is divided into two halves (hence why it is has been so long since we last did one of these overviews!) – before Walt’s passing and afterwards. There is a lot of sadness at the studio during this era, not just because of Walt’s death and consequently losing their leader – although that is certainly a significant factor – but also because of the almost constant struggles for the animation department throughout this period. Continue reading

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Classic No. 23 The Rescuers (1977)

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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Based on English novelist, Margery Sharp’s ‘The Rescuers’ series, The Rescuers was in production for four years (an improvement on the ridiculous sixteen months in production that was Robin Hood). The film marks the bridge between the experienced, older animators and the new, younger animators, with the next film, The Fox and the Hound being the film in which the torch was officially passed (but more on that next time). Therefore, The Rescuers is the end of an era – The Modern Era (Post Walt). It is the final film to be directed by Wolfgang Reitherman and one of the last films in the canon to be animated by most of Walt’s ‘Nine Old Men’ altogether. Don Bluth is a directing animator, and Glen Keane, Ron Clements and Andy Gaskill pop up in the credits. The animation itself also marks the end of an era; the Modern Era’s sketchy trademark style changed as development in xerography restored a softer outline, as the lines no longer needed to be just black. Many changes!

Although The Rescuers was released eleven years after Walt’s death, Walt was involved as development began in 1962.

Back from the dead … again!

In Sharp’s novels, it was not called The Rescue Aid Society, but rather The Prisoners’ Aid Society, in which the mice would brighten the lives of prisoners.

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But that wouldn’t make a successful movie … oh

 However, Walt disliked the original idea of rescuing a poet from a prison, and wanted Bianca and Bernard to instead rescue a polar bear called Willie …

(Special Note from David: No wonder they missed Walt so much! Who else could come up with gems like that?)

(Special Note from Melissa: Willie the Polar Bear can go and join Rocky the Rhino down in development hell)

When Walt passed away, the animators went back to Sharp’s novels for inspiration. Good thinking.

The Rescuers is the studio’s biggest success since The Jungle Book and the last until The Little Mermaid. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston even considered it their best film without Walt. The older animators knew that they were retiring or at least retiring soon, and so they wanted to go out with a bang, working that extra bit harder. It certainly does capture an element of the bleak, heavy tone of the films from the Golden Age, especially in contrast to the comic, more light-hearted films of the 1960s and 1970s. The humour is a lot more subtle, and is not at all the focus. But on the other hand, it certainly does not look or sound like typical Disney…

Original Trailer Time!

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Classic No. 22 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

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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It feels like the 1950s-1960s again as we find Disney adapting yet another British classic story. A.A. Milne wrote a collection of stories in the 1920s inspired by his son’s toys, in particular a beloved teddy bear called Winnie the Pooh.

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Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories were not very well known in the USA, which is what both attracted Walt to the project and simultaneously unnerved him. Like his discovery of the Mary Poppins books, Walt discovered Milne’s stories through his daughters. Because it was not well known in the USA, Walt had the idea that they would ‘test the product’ by easing the US audiences in with shorts, and finally compiling them together into a film if the shorts were successful. They were successful, and this did take place, but not until eleven years after Walt’s death.

A film of this nature was a smart move for the studio during this era, as it made effective use of the studio’s limited resources. Rather than being a singular narrative, the film is comprised of three shorts. This makes the film something of a throwback to the “Package-film Era”

(Special Note from Melissa: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!)

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(Special Note from David: Arrgh! Noooo! I won’t go back!)

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The three shorts are Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974). Additional material was added to join the shorts together, and also an epilogue was created to conclude the film (inspired by elements of The House on Pooh Corner).

(Special Note from Both: The film does wreak havoc with the overall continuity of our Odyssey as the three shorts were made at different times, which means that we see the return of the Sherman Brothers, even though they had left the studio by the time this film was released … Also WALT COMES BACK FROM THE DEAD!)

For two thirds of the film

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Anyway onto the review – and Original Trailer Time!

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Classic No. 21 Robin Hood (1973)

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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Robin Hood is not the first time in which Disney have attempted to adapt the English folk legend of Robin Hood – they produced a live action feature in 1952 called The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men. But it is the first Disney animated feature film that showcases entirely anthropomorphic animals in human clothing, with no human characters at all. When Walt was still alive, the studio were considering making a film about the European fable of trickster, Reynard the Fox, but Walt was concerned that Reynard was not an ideal choice for a hero and that the themes from the fable were controversial. Consequently Ken Anderson had to incorporate many of his ideas into Robin Hood, hence why Robin Hood is told from the point-of-view of the ‘animal kingdom’. Ken Anderson was on story, Larry Clemmons (again!) wrote the screenplay and Wolfgang Reitherman (again!!) directed the film. This film was made on the cheap and production lasted a mere sixteen months. Tiny budget, zero time …

This is inevitable

Disney was not in a good place at this stage financially (and likely emotionally as well) – due to the tiny budget and limited time, they had to cut a lot of corners, and consequently this will show in Robin Hood. But does that mean that the film is bad? Or did the creators have to work extra hard in spite of the small budget, and create ‘excellence’ on the cheap?

There is no original trailer, so no Original Trailer Time –

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Bonus No. 2 Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

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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What do Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks have in common?

  • Don DaGradi and Bill Walsh wrote both screenplays
  • Robert Stevenson directed both films
  • Irwin Kostal did both scores
  • The Sherman Brothers wrote the songs for both films
  • David Tomlinson stars in both films
  • Reginald Owen stars in both films
  • Set in England
  • Contained a live action / cartoon sequence
  • Magical female leading lady and goofball leading man
  • Loosely based on British children’s books
  • MAGIC!
  • DISNEY!

It could go on. But while they are of course different films, it is universally acknowledged that Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks do have a lot in common, and that is due to its own origins. While early work and development was taking place on Mary Poppins in the early 1960s, author of the Mary Poppins books, P.L. Travers was still holding on to the rights. As a Plan B, Walt Disney bought the rights for Mary Norton’s two books, The Magic Bedknob and Bonfires and Broomsticks. Essentially if Travers refused the studio the rights, Bedknobs and Broomsticks would have been made instead of Mary Poppins – an alternative live action project that still featured magic and was set in England. That is primarily why Bedknobs and Broomsticks is packaged with such a similar production team. It is a very loose adaptation of the source material, as according to Richard Sherman, they were more interested in the premise of the books than the story itself.

Development took place on Bedknobs and Broomsticks, mainly on story and songs; Walt had said while they were working on it in the early 1960s that they ‘had a long way to go on this one’ and It’ll have to wait. It’s not ready yet, the story doesn’t quite jell’. When they officially got the rights for Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks was put on the backburner, assuming they could pick it up again in the future. However all changed when Walt passed away unexpectedly, and thus when the production team eventually returned to work on the film, despite being a fun project, it was inevitably a bittersweet experience. This is even reflected in the tone of the film, noticeably in the parallels between Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks – the former made in the brightest moment in Walt’s career (remember – the most excited he had been about a project since The Three Caballeros …), the latter made after his death when the studio’s future was rather uncertain; the former produced in the bright, optimistic 1960s, the latter in the gloomier, grittier 1970s; the former set in the innocence of pre-war 1910, the latter in World War II in 1940. By 1971, World War II was still fresh in the memories of not only the audiences, but those who worked on the film itself. David Tomlinson served in the RAF, Robert Sherman in the United States Army, Angela Lansbury, Robert Stevenson and Roddy McDowall emigrated to the US from the UK during the war, and actor Manfred Lating, and animator Fred Hellmich lived under Nazi rule. According to Richard Sherman, by making Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Walt wanted to ‘promote the heroism and the bravery of the British people at the lowest point in their history’.

Before we get into our review, we must point out that when the film was due to be released, it had a running time of between two and a half to three hours. However Radio City Music Hall argued that in order for it to be screened, the film needed to be below two hours, and thus the film was literally hacked to pieces, much to the dismay of many who had worked on the film. A restoration was done in 1996, in which they pieced back together as much as they could, led by Disney’s Manager of Library Restoration, Scott MacQueen – but unfortunately the vocal track was lost meaning that the lines had to be re-dubbed in ADR, which only a few actors could do, as the other actors were either deceased, in ill health or had grown up. Consequently … the dubbing is usually horrible, not sounding remotely like the original actors (especially anything that Charlie’s dub actor says – argh!), and in the case of Mrs Hobday, her accent alternates between Welsh and Scottish – it’s appalling.

(Special Note from Both: Disney in the mid 1990s … you have a LOT to answer for – did you seriously think that no one would notice? We’d have thought you would have made an effort to find actors that sound like the original actors. Clearly no. Booooooooooo!

Booooooooooo! You had all those resources and you treated it like garbage!

Plus while some scenes that the restoration team put back in do work (we even really enjoy some of them, which we will get to in the review), some do not, and there is also footage that is lost forever. So thank you Radio City Music Hall. You are why we do not have an ‘ideal’ version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Bravo.

Anyway enough ranting, on to the review!

Original Trailer Time:

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Classic No. 20 The Aristocats (1970)

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 Modern Era (Post-Walt) continues with The Aristocats, a film with many similarities to its most immediate predecessors, but with a noteworthy difference: this was the first film in the animated canon to be released after Walt’s death, in which none of his personal touches were incorporated, although allegedly there was a lot of ‘What would Walt do?’ circulating at the studio. However, although it was released four years after his death, Walt did approve it and had involvement – but not in terms of what the film would turn out to be.

Walt approved the film in the early 1960s, and originally, The Aristocats was set up as a live action double feature for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Colour conceived by Tom McGowen, Harry Tytle, and later Tom Rowe. They were inspired by a story featuring cats in New York, and the setting was changed to Paris, as they felt that the London setting in One Hundred and One Dalmatians made a huge difference to the film’s atmosphere. Walt did a lot of collaboration with McGowen, Tytle and Rowe, and the film was very different, even when they changed the idea to making it an animated feature. Edgar the Butler was accompanied by Elvira the Maid (voiced by Elsa Lanchester), there were no scenes with the geese or the dogs, the Sherman Brothers were to write all of the songs, etc… However there was a lot of politics in the studio at that point, which worsened when Walt died, as The Aristocats changed over the years to what it is now. Rowe even sued the studio. Tytle melancholically reflects, ‘In my opinion, the resulting film lost the very element we tried to build, the Parisian atmosphere and characters, all the French charm. I honestly think the original story that Walt bought was much better’.

So … aside from dark politics at Disney, The Aristocats (as we know it now) was in development for four years. It features a cast of ‘big names’, with Eva Gabor, Phil Harris, Pat Buttram, George Lindsey, Scatman Crothers, Monica Evans, Carole Shelley and Hermione Baddeley, many of whom were popular stars in the entertainment industry. We imagine that we will be seeing a lot more of this pop culture seeping through the canon from here on out.

No Original Trailer Time …

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Classic No. 19 The Jungle Book (1967)

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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‘Meet Mowgli the man cub. Baloo thinks he’ll make a darn good bear. Shere Khan thinks he’ll make a darn good meal.’ Ba-dum-tish.

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It had been four years since Disney’s previous animated feature, The Sword in the Stone, was released, and significant events had taken place in those four years, manifesting the highest and lowest points in Disney’s history. Mary Poppins had been an enormous hit both commercially and critically in 1964, but a mere two years later, in 1966, Walt Disney passed away quite suddenly. Doctors had found a tumour on his lung in November that year and he died a month later, ten days after his 65th birthday. The studio was shocked and devastated by the loss of Walt, and the future of Disney was strongly questioned.

The Jungle Book consequently is Disney’s final animated feature length film in which Walt had significant personal involvement (he had approved The Aristocats and had been involved in early development for The Rescuers). Walt had become very detached from animated features in recent years, in particular from One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Sword in the Stone. Disappointed in those films, Walt was determined to get more directly involved with animated features again, and ‘mark his territory’ so to speak. Bill Peet had suggested Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book to Walt, and Peet wrote a script that was a dark, story-heavy treatment of the source material. Walt was not happy with it, and after a very heated argument, Peet left the studio – he had been at the studio since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs so it was a massive deal, especially since he had been such a prominent figure in the company. The script was passed on to Larry Clemmons, and Walt told the production team to ignore Kipling’s books because they were going to create their own version of the story. Sounds like typical Walt really!

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I did it myyyyyyyyyyyyyyy waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay

For Walt, the aim was to create rich, entertaining characters that would drive the story, which meant keeping the story simple, focusing primarily on Mowgli’s journey back to the Man Village. Although Walt was a major entrepreneur (Disney likely would not be here had he not been), but at heart he was a story man, excellent at knowing what needs to stay and what needs to go so the film does not meander; and consequently we have one of Disney’s paciest films in the canon.

Before we dive into Original Trailer Time, The Jungle Book is a special one for us because back in early 2009, the two of us were cast in a play adaptation of The Jungle Book, in which we played Bagheera and Shere Khan. I Wanna Be Like You kept slipping into our rehearsals, much to the frustration of the director. Ironically as much as Walt wanted his production team to forget about the book, our director wanted us to forget about the film … a near impossible task. Alongside being in the play, we have a very fond memory of re-watching The Jungle Book for the first time since childhood with some of the cast in our halls of residence. It rekindled our love for the film; especially since at that point, Disney (from our perspective at the time) had not been doing anything particularly note-worthy for years.

(Special Note from Both: Disney in the 2000s … shudder!)

NOW! ORIGINAL TRAILER TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME!

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Bonus No. 1 Mary Poppins (1964)

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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(Special Note from Melissa: Apologies for this wildly lengthy delay. I finished my Masters Dissertation recently, which as you can imagine took up a LOT of the summer! It’s lovely to be back writing for pleasure again)

Our first bonus review! Mary Poppins, directed by Robert Stevenson, featuring a screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, and songs and musical score by Richard and Robert Sherman, is often perceived as Walt Disney’s masterpiece – his magnum opus. The film is adapted from P.L. Travers’s series of novels, and Walt Disney was determined to obtain the rights, fighting for more than twenty years as Travers continued to refuse on account of her dislike of animated films and cartoons. Disney’s daughters had loved the books and he had promised them that he would adapt the books one day. When he did finally achieve the rights, the creators and Travers were in a gruelling battle for creative control, so gruelling that it is amazing that the film was made, let alone becoming one of Disney’s greatest films and such a classic in the esteem of many viewers. Strangely enough it may even be why the film is such a beloved masterpiece, because in the conflict there was precise attention to detail in creative discussion, and many of Travers’s suggestions did make it in to the final film (but some thankfully did not!)

(Special Note from Melissa: I was privileged to read and analyse P.L. Travers’s notes and suggestions to Don DaGradi at a film museum at my university. Don DaGradi circled fifty-eight out of one-hundred-and-thirty-four of her suggestions as ones that he agreed with. They are a fascinating and often humorous read. Several favourites of mine include her dislike of the name Cynthia, the original name for Mrs Banks in the script, calling it ‘cold and sexless’)

By 1964, Disney had produced numerous live-action films, many of which are perceived as classics today, but Mary Poppins certainly broke the mould. There were many, many hard-working people working on this film and that is completely clear in the final result. As we said in our last review, this process was the most excited that Walt had got about a film since The Three Caballeros …

Yes … The Three Caballeros. We don’t understand it either.

Rather than dividing it up into Protagonist, Antagonist and Supporting Cast, we have put the Cast into one section, because we feel that Mary Poppins does not follow the conventional format of Protagonist and Antagonist.

But first … Original Trailer Time! We have missed you dearly.

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A Quick Update – Normal Service To Be Resumed Shortly

We had hoped that we wouldn’t need to take another hiatus from the blog – especially so soon after our previous break – but there has been a legitimate reason for this. The Disney Odyssey is a recreational activity for the two of us, and consequently there are occasions when certain factors in our lives require our attention. For the last few months Melissa has been writing her final dissertation for her Masters Degree, the deadline for which is fast approaching. Naturally this has meant that the focus has been taken off the blog for a short while, as the dissertation takes priority over a recreational activity.

We’ll reiterate a sentiment that we’ve stated before: even though this blog has gone quiet for a while, we’ve not given up on it, and we’re in this for the long haul. We’re really looking forward to getting started up again, in fact most of our next review has already been written, it’s just temporarily on hold until this dissertation has been handed in. We love writing this blog, and are looking forward to various films throughout the canon; we’re looking forward to reaching the Renaissance-Era films that came out when we were young; and we’re looking forward to being able to say that we’ve “seen them all”. We’ve even discussed the possibility to Disneyland as a reward once our Odyssey finally comes to an end!

We have plenty of incentives for continuing this blog, but probably foremost is the simple fact that we really enjoy writing it.

Thank you for your patience, we’ll be back really soon!

Melissa & David

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