Film Review: The Rescuers (1977)

Also known as: Bernard and Bianca (alternative title)
Release Date: June 19th, 1977 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Art Stevens
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Vance Gerry, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas, Burny Mattinson, Fred Lucky, Dick Sebast, David Michener, Ted Berman
Based on: The Rescuers and Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp
Music by: Artie Butler
Cast: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Joe Flynn, Geraldine Page

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

“Poor Evinrude. Your carburetor is all pooped out.” – Miss Bianca

The Rescuers was a movie I watched a hell of a lot as a kid. It came out before I was born but my uncle that had access to things gave me a copy, I think before it was even commercially available on VHS tape. I was young, details are murky.

Anyway, I guess this was immensely popular, even though I feel like it’s been forgotten today. In fact, Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers originally started out as a Rescuers show. It was changed once The Rescuers were given a theatrical sequel film, being the first and only Disney animated feature of the old hand-drawn style to receive a theatrical sequel. There would end up being many sequels for various Disney films after that, however, except those were always straight-to-video.

Staying focused on this film, however, it still plays well and I think it’s aged tremendously and represents an era of Disney that is too often overlooked and underappreciated.

The Rescuers is also kind of a dark film, even if it is kid friendly. It deals with dark subject matter and a fairly realistic, truly evil woman as its villain.

However, most of the characters are cute animals, so that helps keep the movie from going too deeply into darkness.

I love the characters in this, though, specifically the mice Bernard and Miss Bianca. I think it also helps that they were voiced by the great Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, who already had voicework experience from The Aristocats.

The story is about a kidnapped orphan, an evil woman obsessed with a mythical diamond and how these two mice are on the search for the little girl and ultimately, have to take down the villainess.

I really liked the setting of the film being the bayou. It gave it a very unique look and style and it also provided the right type of place for those two villainous alligators to thrive. I always loved the alligators as a kid but I also grew up on the edge of the Everglades, which isn’t too dissimilar from the bayou.

The Rescuers is still an entertaining movie and my second favorite of the ’70s Disney animated features after Robin Hood.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

Release Date: March 11th, 1977
Directed by: John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Vance Gerry, Xavier Atencio, Ken Anderson, Julius Svendsen, Ted Berman, Eric Cleworth
Based on: Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
Music by: Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman (songs), Buddy Baker (score)
Cast: Sterling Holloway, John Fiedler, Junius Matthews, Paul Winchell, Howard Morris, Bruce Reitherman, Jon Walmsley, Timothy Turner, Clint Howard, Sebastian Cabot (narrator)

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, Buena Vista Distribution, 74 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it.” – Eeyore

It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen this animated Disney classic but I loved it as a kid and I think it still plays exceptionally well.

The story is narrated by the great Sebastian Cabot and it features a bunch of small tales set in the world of Winnie the Pooh. So this is more of an anthology featuring the same core characters than it is a feature length story.

The animation is smooth and dreamlike and I still think that this is the best adaptation of the written material and the quintessential Winnie the Pooh film to introduce to kids that might like the character and his world.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh also features a pretty stellar voice cast that brings these characters to life in a remarkable and memorable way. Sterling Holloway, especially, achieved legendary status with his performance, here, as he gave the world the voice and personality that we would forever associate with Pooh.

I also didn’t know until now that Clint Howard provided his voice for Roo, the little kangaroo character. That, in its own way, adds another layer of coolness to the picture.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: Robin Hood (1973)

Release Date: November 8th, 1973
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry, Frank Thomas, Eric Cleworth, Julius Svendsen, David Michener
Based on: the legend of Robin Hood
Music by: George Bruns
Cast: Peter Ustinov, Phil Harris, Brian Bedford, Terry-Thomas, Roger Miller, Pat Buttram, George Lindsey, Andy Devine

Walt Disney Productions, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Buena Vista Distribution, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, Robin, you’re so brave and impetuous!” – Marian

When I was a kid, this was, hands down, one of my favorite Disney animated films. It still is, actually, because upon viewing it this time, the first in years, I was pulled right into it and captivated by it from start-to-finish.

I think I just really love these interpretations of the legendary characters and I always loved that they used animals, as opposed to humans. In a way, it made it unique and helped it stand out amongst all the other Robin Hood pictures that were made before it… and after it, for that matter.

The opening song and credits really sets the mood and makes you feel pretty laid back. Ultimately, this is a laid back picture and even though it has some good action sequences, it’s still just kind of a chill movie.

It’s also playful and I think that it was a really good thing that they brought back Phil Harris, who played Baloo in The Jungle Book, to play a very similar looking bear in the role of Little John. Baloo’s look and voice are very distinctive and Little John just feels like that fun-loving character we all know and adore.

This also features a lot of characters but you’re not overwhelmed by them and most of them get their own moment to shine. It’s just a cool ensemble cast of various animals and personalities but it meshes together incredibly well.

I also like the art style of the film. It employs the same style as the films from One Hundred and One Dalmatians forward but also looks more crisp and refined. The motion of the characters is very fluid and it’s just impressive all around.

While everyone should already know the general story of Robin Hood, all the little unique flourishes in this one are really creative and well-executed. At the end of the day, this stays true to the legend but is also very specifically Disney.

Robin Hood is a pretty stupendous animated feature and in my opinion, still one of Disney’s top animated films.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: The Aristocats (1970)

Also known as: The AristoCats (alternative spelling)
Release Date: December 11th, 1970 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Ken Anderson, Larry Clemmons, Eric Cleworth, Vance Gerry, Julius Svendsen, Frank Thomas, Ralph Wright
Based on: The Aristocats by Tom McGowan, Tom Rowe
Music by: George Bruns
Cast: Phil Harris, Eva Gabor, Sterling Holloway, Scatman Crothers, Paul Winchell, Lord Tim Hudson, Thurl Ravenscroft, Dean Clark, Liz English, Gary Dubin

Walt Disney Productions, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Buena Vista Distribution, 78 Minutes

Review:

“Ladies don’t start fights, but they can finish them!” – Marie

Well, The Aristocats was a lot more fun and lively than I remembered. This is a classic Disney animated feature film that I hadn’t actually seen since childhood.

The story is about a rich lady that loves her cats. She decides to leave everything to her cats in her will with the butler getting everything after the last cat has passed on. Once her butler discovers this, he decides to get rid of the cats, so he can obtain the woman’s inheritance upon her death.

I forgot how cool of a character the cat, Thomas O’Malley, was. After revisiting this, he may be one of my favorite protagonists from animated Disney movies. He’s just a pretty suave, romantic and heroic character that meets Duchess and her kittens, once they’ve been dumped way out in the country. He helps them on their adventure back home and along the way, becomes the surrogate father figure to this family. He also introduces them to his other feral cat friends who are pretty awesome jazz musicians.

Out of all the animal-centric Disney movies, this one is the most entertaining, overall. It’s also heartwarming and sweet. There really isn’t a character that you won’t love, except for the villainous, greedy butler. However, he gets what he deserves in the end.

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: The Jungle Book (1967)

Release Date: October 18th, 1967
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry
Based on: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Music by: George Bruns
Cast: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, John Abbott, Louis Prima, Bruce Reitherman, Clint Howard

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

“What do they call you?” – Baloo, “His name is Mowgli, and I’m taking him back to the man village.” – Bagheera, “Man village? They’ll ruin him. They’ll make a man out of him.” – Baloo, 

While I always liked The Jungle Book it wasn’t one of the films that popped into my head when thinking of Disney’s greatest classic animated features. However, seeing it this time, the first in a few decades, gave me a new appreciation for it, as seeing it through the eyes of an adult made it a richer experience.

The reason for that, is that even though I can relate to Mowgli, I have more appreciation for Bagheera’s point-of-view and also have grown away from my more care-free ways that Baloo exhibits. Well, until Baloo has to ultimately let the kid move on and live his life.

The magic of this film is that it can connect to anyone through the youthful Mowgli but it has the ability to speak to the adults watching it in a way that the kids also probably understand but can’t fully connect to until they’ve actually experienced more in life.

Also, this is just such a fun and jovial movie that its music really stands out for this era of Disney pictures.

I also like the art style and the lush colors and environment.

It reminds me a lot of the film before it, The Sword In the Stone, in how this plays more like two friends going on random adventures where the main plot is just kind of secondary. Except, this does that better and overall, provides a more memorable and emotional bond.

The Jungle Book is simply great. It’s a positive, fun, coming of age story that has some of the best tunes in the history of Disney films.

Rating: 8/10

Documentary Review: Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009)

Also known as: Persistence of Vision (working title)
Release Date: September 5th, 2009 (Telluride Film Festival)
Directed by: Don Hahn
Written by: Patrick Pacheco
Music by: Chris P. Bacon
Cast: Don Hahn (narrator), Roy E. Disney, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Randy Cartwright, Howard Ashman, various

Red Shoes, Stone Circle Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“People always talked about Roy as the idiot nephew. That was his nickname. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was smart, unassuming and powerful. You could easily underestimate him, but you did so at your own peril.” – Peter Schneider

If you like old school Disney stuff, there are a lot of documentaries about old school Disney stuff on Disney+. Honestly, it’s the only reason I’m currently subscribed other than having access to the classic movies I also love. I barely care about Star Wars or the MCU, at this point.

Anyway, this is one of those documentaries.

Waking Sleeping Beauty is the story of how the backbone of Disney, it’s animated feature films division, was suffering by the mid-’80s and how several creatives came in and turned it all around with what’s now referred to as their “renaissance”.

This is a compelling story and for fans of classic Disney animation, this is certainly worth watching. It features interviews with lots of people who were there and who understood the structure and politics of the company at the time.

My only real gripe about the documentary is that it never felt focused enough on the important topics and it jumped around quite a bit, as it tried to cover a lot of films and their whole creation process in a documentary that was less than 90 minutes. However, Disney+ could easily expand on all of this, as they already have several documentary shows that spend full hours on specific topics from their past.

Still, this held my attention from start-to-finish and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I just wish a lot of it was expanded on and fleshed out more because it was all so interesting. It just felt rushed through at times.

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: The Sword In the Stone (1963)

Release Date: December 12th, 1963 (London premiere)
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Bill Peet
Based on: The Sword and the Stone by T. H. White
Music by: George Bruns
Cast: Rickie Sorensen, Karl Swenson, Junius Matthews, Sebastian Cabot, Norman Alden, Martha Wentworth

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, 79 Minutes

Review:

“Sounds like someone’s sick. How lovely. I do hope it’s serious. Something dreadful.” – Madame Mim

This was one of my favorite animated Disney films to watch growing up. Although, I wouldn’t consider it to be one that’s near the top.

This tells the story of a young King Arthur, called Wart in this, as he meets Merlin the wizard and learns many lessons from him. Although, the film plays more like an anthology of comedy skits with a very thin overall narrative.

However, in the end, it all comes together nicely and we see Wart pull the legendary sword from the stone and thus, become the first king in a new lineage of royalty.

I do like the humor in this and the sequences are still enjoyable. It would be really hard not to like Wart and Merlin and their adventures.

The animation is also good and it kind of shows a change in what was the typical, standard Disney style. This visual change started with One Hundred and One Dalmatians but then again, Disney really experimented with the visual style of Sleeping Beauty, a few years before that. But I like the ’60s style, as well as how they started to color their films a little more vividly.

The Sword In the Stone is an amusing picture but I can also see why it hasn’t stuck in people’s minds historically like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio and others. But it’s also unique in that it treads similar territory to Disney’s “princess” movies but from a boy’s perspective.

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

Also known as: 101 Dalmatians (alternative spelling)
Release Date: January 25th, 1961
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Bill Peet
Based on: The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Music by: George Bruns
Cast: Rod Taylor, Cate Bauer, Betty Lou Gerson, Ben Wright, Bill Lee (singing voice), Lisa Davis, Martha Wentworth

Walt Disney Productions, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Buena Vista Distribution, 79 Minutes

Review:

“My only true love, darling. I live for furs. I worship furs! After all, is there a woman in all this wretched world who doesn’t?” – Cruella De Vil

I had reviewed every classic Disney animated film of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s and then decided to take a break, as I covered a lot. But I figured it was time to revisit and review the ’60s, which starts with this film.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians is probably the most iconic classic Disney animated picture that features animal characters. While, Lady and the Tramp has a slight edge on it, in my book, this property has probably been tapped the most by Disney in regards to sequels and live action remakes and their sequels.

The thing I like most about this film is just its vibe. It uses a unique art style that fits well with Disney’s older pictures while still being fresh looking for the time, giving the film more character that helps it stand out. With that, I like the character design and it’s a combination of the art style and character design that brought one of Disney’s most iconic villains to life: Cruella De Vil.

This was Cruella’s debut into the world on the big screen and like Maleficent, before her, she made one heck of an impact and cemented herself as one of Disney’s greatest villains of all-time. And she’s held that distinction now for decades, which is why we recently got a live action origin story for the character starring Emma Stone.

I think that Disney did a good job, here, at telling a lighthearted and sweet story that also had a lot of darkness running through it. We knew what Cruella wanted all those puppies for but somehow the film doesn’t get bogged down by that.

Then again, this was such a different time, culturally, that I think introducing this story to kids, today, would get every easily offended busybody in an uproar. This is probably why Emma Stone’s Cruella only made a flippant joke about making a handbag out of a puppy while she just accepted the Dalmatians into her family of friends and pets.

Overall, this isn’t near the top of the list as one of my favorite classic animated features by Disney but it’s still a wonderful picture and better than anything that studio puts out these days.

Rating: 7.25/10

Documentary Review: Walt & El Grupo (2008)

Release Date: April 26th, 2008 (San Francisco International Film Festival)
Directed by: Theodore Thomas
Written by: Theodore Thomas
Music by: James Stemple
Cast: Walt Disney (archive footage), various

Theodore Thomas Productions, Walt Disney Studios,106 Minutes

Review:

Walt & El Grupo is the story of Walt Disney’s 1941 US government sponsored trip to Latin America with a group of other artists in an attempt to study the culture in an effort to create two of Disney’s World War II era animated features: Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.

Considering that I really like those two movies, quite a bit, it was cool finally seeing the story behind their creation.

For those that don’t know, those movies were made to get Americans interested in traveling to the beautiful, exotic nations south of us. The films also gave us one of my favorite Disney animated characters, José Carioca! Granted, I also like Panchito Pistoles but José takes the cake for me.

Walt Disney was always a fascinating figure to me, so learning the reasons behind why he did this was pretty neat. It was also nice learning about who went with him and what they all were looking for and how they created the iconic material that they did from this Latin American adventure.

It was really cool seeing what the culture was like in Latin America in the early 1940s and kind of comparing that to where those places are at now. I like that this documentary showed these places in the modern era, in an effort to illustrate their changes and growth. Granted, that wasn’t the bulk of the story here.

The most important thing about this documentary is that it simply helps you understand Walt’s creative process, his business mind and his passion.

Rating: 7/10