The Disneyathon – Part 8: The Bronze Age

Link to Previous Part: The Disneyathon – Part 7: The End of an Era

Now we have entered the Bronze Age of Disney animated. With their founding father no longer with them, all they have left are the table scraps of Walt’s ideas. It’s up to those who remain to make a good piece of entertainment out of it. It also doesn’t help that their last two films weren’t as popular as the ones that came out back in the 50’s.

This era is also known by many fans as The Dark Age of Disney because either Disney tried to be edgy or maybe it just really sucked. I don’t know, let’s find out together.

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Ha ha, how cute.

On the 11th of December 1970 we got a little movie called Aristocats. (How clever.) I’m guessing the Disney writers realise they have already done dogs, twice! So now it’s time for a movie about the second most popular animal on the planet.

I don’t want to spend too long on the story because the writers obviously didn’t! An old rich chick wants to give her inheritance to her cats after she dies.  Mad with jealousy, her butler kidnaps the cats and along the way he makes more screw ups than a Disney villain sidekick. Alone and stranded, the cats are discovered by Baloo and he teaches them how to live like the Tramp.

Aristocats copies some of the same tropes as Jungle Book. It’s boring, meanders too much and is plotless which surprisingly is also a positive as the more they focus on the plot the worse the movie is. The mini set pieces I found quite entertaining as they all have a carefree cartoony feeling. It nails the tone and style that Jungle Book failed at. It’s when Duchess weeps about returning to the old bag or when the butler is covering his tracks that I lose interest.

What else is there? I’m struggling to remember anything else which is probably this movie’s problem. It’s forgettable, and it’s come to the point where they’re ripping off themselves. It’s a talking animal movie, again! It’s a musical comedy, again! Thomas O’Malley is an exact clone of the Tramp. Duchess has similar traits to every other female Disney protagonist. I could go on but I choose not to.

Aristocats is a good movie to have on in the background. You could be cooking, on your phone, talking to a friend, etc. and you’ll occasionally look at Aristocats and get a laugh. The music and the voice acting are the most stellar thing you’ll get from this movie. I don’t really see myself watching this intentionally ever again so I’ll go a 4 to 5/10.

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No one is concerned that they’re 100 feet under the sea.

Here it is, another live action musical with some animation. Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a movie I was aware of, but never cared to know what it was about.

Probably the first thing you think about when you see the cover of Bedknobs and Broomsticks is ‘Oh, it’s just a Mary Poppins clone.’ You are right to think that but there is more to it. Bedknobs and Broomsticks has no moral lesson or hidden narrative, there are more endlessly boring scenes, not many memorable songs and this time the animated sequence is essential to the story. There is a lot to love and hate about both films, but only one of them was entertaining.

To start off with, the main leads in this movie are far superior to the ones in Mary Poppins. I like Mary Poppins, but she wasn’t the one driving her film. Miss Price is not practically perfect in every way, but I found her more interesting to watch as she has a bit of a relatable factor. Also I just prefer Angela Lansbury over Julie Andrews, she’s a much better singer.

With the male lead it’s not a real competition when you’re up against Burt. Mr Banks is back and I am pleased that’s he not a copy and paste of the same character. Mr Browne is very much the opposite of George Banks, but at least they have the same singing voice. If only the movie was about these two because I really couldn’t take the kids! It’s like Burt had triplets! I’m never a fan of kids in these Disney movies and I prefer it when they’re just along for the ride not a driving force in the story.

I was really into the first 15 minutes, it was great! Then we learn Miss Price is a witch apprentice and it started to go downhill from here. The magic was pretty cool to begin with and it was during the Portobello Road musical number (a sequence that annoyingly refused to end) where I began to stop caring. The thing with Mary Poppins is they never tried to explain how it worked, but showed it from the perspective of the kids and it made it all magical. Here they explain what the magic does, then they just forget about it and other times it’s just inconsistent. As for the kids, they don’t seem overly interested except for the girl and the boys are selfish little brats.

You know when I said the animated sequence was essential? Turns out George Banks got trod on by animals for nothing because the little boy had a children’s book that had a picture of the exact necklace they had been looking for. Their excuse is no one cared what the kid had to say because he’s a kid, but before that scene it was because of his book they found out the name of the animated animal island in the first place!!!

I wasn’t shocked to learn there’s another cut to this movie that included more scenes as they would explain some things. Like there is a priest that looks like he’ll play a bigger part in the movie, but he doesn’t. They set up some villains when the kid first shows him his book and we never see them again. There is also apparently more missing musical numbers which explains why it felt so empty in the middle and maybe why I don’t remember any of the songs.

Overall, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is flawed, but there are some things I like about it. The final battle against the floating knights and the Nazi’s was pretty impressive for 1971. It’s more a technical achievement than a compelling film so I’ll go with a 6/10. It’s almost two hours long so up to you if you want to sit through that.

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Something is seriously wrong here, I can’t put my finger on it, but I think it has something to do with drugs?

The next famous folk tale Disney hadn’t already done is Robin Hood, but this is different to other incarnations as the characters are all animals.

There isn’t much to say about this movie so we’re going to speed through this. The characters are alright but in a class of his own is the villain, Prince John, brilliantly played by Peter Ustinov. Prince John is interesting as he’s a literal man baby. He’s so pathetic and full of energy that he blows all the rest of the cast off the planet. It’s perfect casting, unlike the other John played by Phil Harris/Baloo/Thomas O’Malley. I think it was a terrible decision to have Little John look almost identical to Baloo and also sound just like him. It is so distracting! The only difference is their personalities as Little John is not as carefree and confident as the other two characters.

I found the music very forgettable this time around. Except for the forest dance sequence because of how obviously the animation is completely ripped from Jungle Book, Aristocats and even Snow White! The laziness shows in some shots where it’s clearly Baloo, but tanned. I guess my favourite aspect of this movie is how cartoony it is. It has a Looney Tunes level of cartoon violence where none of it makes any logical sense as bow and arrows become as powerful as Nerf Guns.

It’s a good Saturday morning thing to watch on the Disney Channel. You could really do better and Disney should do better. I’m going with the same rating I gave Aristocats as they’re about on par with each other.

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This reminds me alot of Christmas Day.

Four years after Robin Hood we are given The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which is just simply fantastic. It only took them 27 years, but they have finally, finally GOT IT RIGHT!

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh takes an idea from the Package Era as this movie is made of already existing shorts which are all combined to make this one film. I think it works perfectly for Winnie the Pooh as all the stories are nicely condensed, they never seem to drag on and everything you see and hear has a good reason to be there.

Another thing is it’s also fun! This movie has so much charm and heart in it that I can’t help but get swept away on these fun adventures. I guess I would best describe it as cute, but a good kind of cute. It’s presented in a very sweet and innocent tone. As this is all in the mind of a five year old child it makes perfect sense.

Why I love this movie so much is that there are no bland or unnecessary characters. Everyone is great as they have so much personality and they’re very distinguishable from one another. The voice cast did a really good job, especially Stirling Holloway as Pooh and Paul Winchell as Tigger who both really nailed their characters.

The animation has significantly improved from the last few entries and the music is simply great.  I’m not too familiar with A. A. Milne’s books, but from what I can tell from the unique art style and the stories used in this film, this is the most faithful to source material in Disney’s catalogue.

I think why I gravitate more to this film than others is because I feel it’s got depth. It’s still a movie for children but, if you think about it, Winnie the Pooh and friends do relate a lot back to real life. Each character works through an situation that a child might be familiar with, such as fear, selfishness, loneliness and abandonment. The movie teaches us that these can all be overcome with high self-esteem, conquering those inner demons, being surrounded by good friends, feeling accepted or loved and a willingness to improve for the better.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is another winner in my book. It’s fun for the whole family, full of heart and passion and it’s a movie I think all kids should watch. (I didn’t as a child but now I wish I had.) It’s almost but not quite perfect – there are some things that bugged me, but I imagine future rewatches might change my mind.  A 9 to 10/10. Disney at their best!

My Official Disneyathon Ranking List

Link to Next Part: The Disneyathon – Part 9: The Dark Age

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