Film Review: Roller Coaster Rabbit (1990)

Also known as: Roger Rabbit: Roller Coaster Rabbit (alternative title)
Release Date: June 15th, 1990
Directed by: Rob Minkoff, Frank Marshall (live-action part)
Written by: Bill Kopp, Kevin Harkey, Lynne Naylor, Patrick A. Ventura
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Cast: Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner, Lou Hirsch, April Winchell, Corey Burton, Frank Welker, Charlie Adler (uncredited)

Amblin Entertainment, Silver Screen Partners IV, Walt Disney Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, 8 Minutes

Review:

“Save me. Save me.” – Jessica Rabbit

Like Tummy Trouble, this Roger Rabbit animated short was released theatrically and paired with a big live-action Disney movie. In the case of this film, it was originally released in 1990 with Dick Tracy.

I don’t like this one as much as its predecessor but it’s still a quick, amusing animated short that does a pretty good job of using Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman and Jessica Rabbit.

The plot follows Roger, as he once again has to babysit Baby Herman. Except in this cartoon, they find themselves at a theme park with dangerous carnival games, an angry bull, a roller coaster and other obstacles. We also get another Droopy Dog cameo.

Overall, the plot and the gags aren’t as good as Tummy Trouble but it’s still effective and hits the right notes.

From a production standpoint, the animation looks like it’s a bit of a step down. The colors and shadowing look muted and more simplistic but that could also be due to where this takes place. Regardless, I can’t look at this after Tummy Trouble and not feel like this one was rushed out.

It’s still fine for what it is and honestly, I wish Disney would have made more of these than just three.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Roger Rabbit shorts, as well as the fill-length Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Film Review: Bambi (1942)

Release Date: August 8th, 1942 (London premiere)
Directed by: David Hand (supervising director), James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Graham Heid, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Norman Wright
Written by: Perce Pearce, Larry Morey, Vernon Stallings, Melvin Shaw, Carl Fallberg, Chuck Couch, Ralph Wright
Based on: Bambi, a Life In the Woods by Felix Salten
Music by: Frank Churchill, Edward H. Plumb
Cast: Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright, John Sutherland, Sam Edwards, Paula Winslowe, Sterling Holloway, Will Wright, Cammie King, Ann Gillis, Perce Pearce, Thelma Boardman

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 70 Minutes

Review:

“What happened, Mother? Why did we all run?” – Young Bambi, “Man was in the forest.” – Bambi’s Mother

In spite of it’s darker moments, Bambi is one of the most peaceful and serene motion pictures ever produced. It’s absolutely beautiful to look at and Disney once again shows a leap in improvement in the fluidity of their animation.

What’s interesting is that not everything in this is hand-drawn. Most of the backgrounds and landscapes are painted but it also blends really well with the traditional animated characters. It has a wonderful, dreamlike symbiosis and even if it looks like the patented Disney style, it also has a real uniqueness to it. Frankly, the picture looks more like a painting come to life than anything they’ve done before this.

Now I wouldn’t say that it’s as an incredible as the masterpiece that was 1940’s Fantasia but it’s an impeccable looking animated feature in its own way.

As far as the story goes, this is one of the most heartbreaking films Disney has ever made. It’s effect still holds up and even if you’ve seen Bambi a dozen times over, it’s emotional moments are still a punch in the gut.

At its core, this is really a simple coming of age movie where the characters just happen to be animated animals. But their issues and struggles aren’t all that dissimilar from human beings and it’s not hard to relate to what happens onscreen.

Out of the original five pictures, I’d rank this towards the top.

After this movie, Disney got a bit more experimental and wouldn’t return with a feature length animated story until 1950’s Cinderella.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other early animated feature films.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Also known as: Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (working title), P.O.T.C. 2 (promotional abbreviation), Pirates 2 (informal short title)
Release Date: June 24th, 2006 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Based on: Pirates of the Caribbean by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Naomie Harris, Tom Hollander, Geoffrey Rush (uncredited) 

Second Mate Productions, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures, 151 Minutes

Review:

“There will come a time when you have a chance to do the right thing.” – Elizabeth Swan, “I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by.” – Jack Sparrow

Man, this movie was so good and I found myself asking myself, “Why the hell don’t you fire up these movies more often, dummy?!”

While the first Pirates of the Caribbean flick is the best of the lot, this one is still a damn fine adventure movie with the right balance of swashbuckling, really cool lore and fun, complex characters that have immense chemistry with one another and superhuman levels of pure, unadulterated charisma.

The only real downside of this film is that Barbosa is only in it for about 5 seconds but if I’m being honest, you really don’t notice because everything before that ending cliffhanger is great.

The film picks up where the last one left off and we see Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan have their wedding day ruined by a government douchebag that wants to have them executed for helping Captain Jack Sparrow escape at the end of the first movie. This sets Will on a mission to find Jack Sparrow and to retrieve his magic compass for the shitty bureaucrat.

Pirates films can’t be that simple though, so we see our characters chase multiple MacGuffins for multiple reasons and we get a well-layered plot where everyone wants this film’s treasures for their own reasons. Jack wants to escape the curse of Davy Jones, Will wants to save Elizabeth and his father, Elizabeth wants to save Will, Norrington wants to redeem himself and Barbosa’s former stooges just want the treasure because they’re f’n pirates.

The film also introduces Bill Nighy as the physical embodiment of Davy Jones, one of the coolest onscreen villains in motion picture history, as well as the kaiju-like beast, The Kraken.

I’ve heard some people complain that the plot is too complex and hard to follow but I disagree. Each character is well-defined and their personal motivations are made pretty clear. And even though you feel you know them and understand them, there are still some surprises, twists, turns and double-crosses that only enrich the story and the series as a whole.

The film also has incredible special effects and it’s obvious that Disney didn’t waste a penny making this movie. Just the amount of time that had to go into Davy Jones and his crew must’ve been insane and a really painstaking process. But that hard work and time paid off, as the effects are near perfect and help to make this a more fantastical picture than the previous one.

This chapter in the series also brought in Hans Zimmer to score the music. While he uses the iconic themes of the previous movie, he builds off of them and provides his own brilliant original compositions that don’t betray the work done by the previous composer and in fact, enhances it.

There are so many stellar sequences in this film but the three-way sword fight between Jack, Will and Norrington is, hands down, one of the greatest swashbuckling moments in motion picture history.

Additionally, the whole cannibal island segment of the film was cinematic perfection. While it does get pretty slapstick-y, it doesn’t feel out of place or too hokey. I’ve said elsewhere that Depp’s Sparrow is his generation’s version of Chaplin’s The Tramp and that comparison seemed even more clear to me after revisiting this chapter.

Dead Man’s Chest is a great film. While it falls short of The Curse of the Black Pearl, it does so just barely. In fact, the only thing that really works against it is that it’s the first part of a two-parter and isn’t its own self-contained story.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the original trilogy.

Vids I Dig 413: Defunctland: The Failure of Disney’s Arcade Chain, DisneyQuest

From Defunctland’s YouTube description: Defunctland discusses the rise and fall of Disney’s high-tech, virtual reality arcade, DisneyQuest, located in Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney in Orlando, in Downtown Chicago, and almost in many other places.

Film Review: Dumbo (1941)

Also known as: Dumbo the Flying Elephant (working title)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1941 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Ben Sharpsteen (supervising director), Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Bill Roberts, Jack Kinney, Samuel Armstrong
Written by: Otto Englander, Joe Grant, Dick Huemer
Based on: Dumbo, the Flying Elephant by Helen Aberson, Harold Pearl
Music by: Frank Churchill, Oliver Wallace
Cast: Edward Brophy, Herman Bing, Margaret Wright, Sterling Holloway, Verna Felton, Cliff Edwards, James Baskett, Nick Stewart, Hall Johnson, Jim Carmichael

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 64 Minutes

Review:

“[singing] I seen a peanut stand /And heard a rubber band /I’ve seen a needle that winked its eye / But I been done seen about everything / When I see an elephant fly.” – Jim Crow

Coming off of the masterpiece that was Fantasia, Disney had its work cut out for them but this was still a great animated feature film. I’d say that it falls somewhere between Pinocchio and Snow White, which just proves how consistently good Walt Disney Animation Studios were from the get go.

Dumbo is a really short film at just 64 minutes but it tells its story well and also still has time to get in some of the most iconic musical sequences in Disney’s long history.

The tone of the film is very similar to Pinocchio and it also shares some narrative similarities, as it follows a young, newborn character, as he tries to overcome adversity, learn from his experiences and grow into someone better. Like Pinocchio, it’s a film about personal growth but it does it in a fresh way that doesn’t simply retread what Pinocchio already did.

Additionally, where Pinocchio was an improvement in animation over Snow White, this film improves upon its predecessors. The animation is even more fluid here and Disney got really experimental in some sequences. The use of animated shadows is superb for the time and then in the “Elephants On Parade” musical sequence, Disney experimented with animating vibrant colors over a black background. They had to tweak and rework how they produced that sequence and ultimately, their innovation won out, creating one of the coolest moments from any Disney picture.

Dumbo isn’t close to being my favorite motion picture in the larger Walt Disney oeuvre but it’s simple, straight to the point and displays the greatness of the cinematic craftsman behind its production.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other early animated feature films.

Vids I Dig 409: Filmento: ‘John Carter’: How Disney Lost 200 Million Dollars

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Although 2013’s The Lone Ranger might’ve become the biggest box office flop of all time, Disney was not resting on their heels in that time period because just one year earlier they released another huge summer blockbuster flop, John Carter. This project was based on a book that was hot in the early 1900s, A Princess Of Mars, and ultimately became the first film in history to lose more than 200 million dollars. Business reasons aside, the core factors that contributed to this are quite similar to the main problems with The Lone Ranger, but only functioning in very different ways. So, in today’s Anatomy of a Failure, let’s see what Disney did with John Carter that broke the record of a 200 million dollar box office bomb. Well, firstly it’s like a mix of Lone Ranger and Mortal Engines which is not so great box office wise, but maybe there’s something else too.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Also known as: Pirates of the Caribbean (working title), P.O.T.C. (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: June 28th, 2003 (Disneyland premiere)
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Based on: Pirates of the Caribbean by Walt Disney
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Zoe Saldana

Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures, 143 Minutes

Review:

“This is the day you will always remember as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow!” – Jack Sparrow

I’ve wanted to revisit the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy for quite some time but as is apparent for those of you who read this site regularly, I watch a lot of stuff and usually cover film series in their entirety with one review per week scheduled in before moving on to another franchise. So since I had a lot on the docket before these pictures, it took some time to catch up and get reacquainted with them. Especially, since I’ve been working through all the major comic book movie film series.

I’ve also already reviewed the Pirates films after the original trilogy.

Revisiting this one was a lot of fun, though. I’ve always considered it the best film of the lot and I still think that’s true. It’s pretty much a perfect adventure movie that really hearkens back to the great swashbuckling films of yore, as well as the live-action blockbusters Disney made in the ’50s and ’60s.

This is highly energetic from start to finish without a dull moment or a wasted frame of film. And while the plot takes many twists and turns, this still feels less complicated than the other Pirates pictures. The objective of the film is made clear and this rich world is established and built up in a pretty effective way.

The film is well-balanced on every level between it’s world building, it’s character development, the adventure itself, the supernatural and fantastical elements, the comedic and jovial tone, as well as its big action sequences.

I generally enjoy Gore Verbinski’s directorial work but this is still his magnum opus. That doesn’t necessarily mean he peaked early, it just means that the guy has immense talent and he really made an exceptional film really early on in his career. Frankly, I’m surprised that he doesn’t actually direct films more often than he does.

Johnny Depp is the scene stealer in this picture but that should come as no surprise, considering how talented the guy has been from day one. Also, for younger fans, it may be hard to envision a world before Captain Jack Sparrow but seeing this character come to life back in 2003 was an incredible experience. Truthfully, no one else could have given us this Jack Sparrow and the character very much is Johnny Depp’s regardless of what was on paper before he took the role.

Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are also solid but my favorite person besides Depp is Geoffrey Rush. It’s like he was born to play a bastard of a pirate. His character, Hector Barbosa, is my favorite in the film series, as he has an incredible story arc despite his “death” in this picture. He grew to become just as important to these films as Depp’s Sparrow and he also became a more fleshed out, complex character with each new chapter in the film series.

Moving beyond the acting and directing, the film has incredible special effects that have aged pretty well, as we’re nearly twenty years into the future from when this was first released. God, that’ll make anyone feel old.

Out of all the movies in the series, this has the best story and it’s the best picture of the lot. It’s a movie that succeeded in what it set out to do and it’s perfect in every way.

I only wish it would’ve brought the swashbuckling genre back to prominence beyond just its own sequels.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the original trilogy.

Vids I Dig 404: Defunctland: The Failure of Disney’s Chuck E. Cheese Ripoff, Club Disney

From Defunctland’s YouTube description: The last stop in a long journey to Disney Quest, Defunctland takes a look at Disney Regional Entertainment’s first venture, Club Disney. Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater, McDonald’s Playplaces and Leaps and Bounds, Discovery Zone, Showbiz Pizza, and more are discussed in this little-known part of Disney history.

Film Review: Fantasia (1940)

Also known as: The Concert Feature, Highbrowski by Stokowski, Bach to Stravinsky and Bach, The Musical Feature (working titles)
Release Date: November 13th, 1940 (New York City – original roadshow version premiere)
Directed by: Samuel Armstrong, James Algar, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen, David D. Hand, Hamilton Luske, Jim Handley, Ford Beebe, T. Hee, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson
Written by: Joe Grant, Dick Huemer
Music by: various
Cast: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor (host, narrator)

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 125 Minutes, 124 Minutes (2000 roadshow restoration), 80 Minutes (1942 cut), 120 Minutes (1991 VHS cut), 115 Minutes (1946 cut)

Review:

With only their third animated feature film, Walt Disney Animation Studios achieved true perfection and describing Fantasia as anything less than a masterpiece should be criminal.

Okay, hyperbolic speech aside, this is still an amazing motion picture that was, hands down, the best use of the animation medium up to its existence. Frankly, it’s still a hard movie to top and it has aged tremendously well, still being one of the greatest works of motion picture art in history, regardless of its genre or style.

Now I can see why this wouldn’t be some people’s cup of tea. But we can’t all appreciate greatness or understand the artistic and historical significance of something so old in a time where people barely have the attention span to read just a tweet.

Fantasia is an incredible motion picture, regardless of how you may feel about it, as it showcased how versatile the animation medium is while also taking it to a level that people couldn’t have fathomed in 1940.

It’s a beautiful looking film that’s meticulously crafted and executed on every level. It showcases the best animation of its time with some of the greatest musical creations in human history and it all comes together in a perfect, visually stunning, audibly pleasing and fluid composition.

The film is a series of different small films within the larger tapestry. Each one features classical music tunes played with incredible animated visuals that are cued up to the music. It’s a unique and really cool experiment that more than paid off for the studio and it’s gone on to inspire countless other films and animated releases in various formats from film, television, video, live shows and modern concerts that use animation and cued lighting techniques to respond to the music being performed.

Out of all the old school animated Disney pictures, this is the one that I’ve always wanted to see on the big screen. It’s eluded me over the years but hopefully, if we’re ever in a post-pandemic world, I’ll be able to eventually see it how it was truly intended.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other early animated feature films.