The Disneyathon – Part 11: The Disney Renaissance

Link to Previous Part: The Disneyathon – Part 10: The End of The Dark Age

Here it is. We’re at the start of The Disney Renaissance. After two weak decades Disney really needed a hit and this is the era that recaptured what people loved about the good old days. This is the half-way point in this series and we’re finally looking at the big hitters that defined my childhood. So don’t be surprised if I sound a lot more positive for this part of the series. (Just a heads-up, I will not be covering any Pixar movies as I’m saving that for another time.)

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If I wasn’t terrified of the ocean I would want to be a part of her world.

I get the feeling some people didn’t like my thoughts on Snow White, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty because I don’t hold them in high regard like everyone else. I see them as visual masterpieces, but story wise they suck! These movies had me rooting for the villains because the princesses were dumb idiots asking for trouble and they needed some boring hunk to come along and rescue them from their big mistake. I guess it fits in with the time period that these characters were created, but times have changed since then and I like my heroines to have some guts and brains.

Thanks to Princess Aurora, Disney abandoned this genre for 30 years. Luckily the success of The Great Mouse Detective and Who Framed Roger Rabbit helped regain Disney’s reputation as a quality animation studio. In 1989 Disney released its biggest game changer, next to Snow White and Cinderella.

You know what’s it called, and guess what, I actually liked it so we’re off to a good start.

The Little Mermaid has the same story as Cinderella and Snow White, but has a modern twist that makes it way more appealing. It’s very simple, but it also manages to pull off being funny, sweet and compelling all at the same time.

I can’t gush enough about how much I love Ariel. For starters she’s not boring. Ariel has similar traits to some of the other princesses, but she’s way more compelling because of how innocently ditsy and cute she is. She’s up in the clouds and she doesn’t put up with her dad’s rules. Her determination to be with this prince also really sells it for me and is why I think she’s a better role model for young girls. She does make some really dumb decisions, but I can excuse that for her age and friendly naive personality.

My favourite song is Part of Your World, sung beautifully by Jodi Benson. It speaks a lot about Ariel’s character and desires. I think what makes the songs in this movie great is because they are all about the characters and fit perfectly into the story. Whereas most of the songs in the bronze age feel like they are there just because. The score is amazing. Kiss the Girl and Poor Unfortunate Souls are also great.  The only bad song is the one sung by that crazy French chef. I didn’t really like that character and I felt it should have been cut.

What I like about this movie is that all of the characters, despite playing a typical Disney role, still feel quite three dimensional. I think King Triton is a good example as he is a strict dad who still gets all giddy and excited about Ariel getting a boyfriend and is a bit of a softy. Sebastian also kind of fits the same role. The side characters in this movie are pretty fun and they don’t overstay their welcome. My favourite character just happens to be a side character. Scuttle, the human expert, is hilarious and his “insightful” knowledge into the human world was easily the most entertaining part in the movie.

The animation in this movie is greatly improved over the last couple of movies. This is the last movie to use traditional hand drawn animation and it’s incredibly detailed. The wavy mood of the ocean, the lighting and all of the interestingly designed creatures are all unique. It’s top notch and I commend the team for all of the hard effort they put into this.

It’s a very well made movie with some faults. I know the prince guy almost drowned and Ariel has a great voice, but come on, how can you forget a pretty face like that! I like Ursula, she’s a fun villain, but this is an occasion where I wished I knew why she was banished from the mer-kingdom, or whatever it’s called. While we’re on Ursula, who else thinks that final battle was very anticlimactic? I also like Under the Sea, but it went on for too long and it shouldn’t have won best original song, but that’s not this movie’s fault.

The Little Mermaid is almost a masterpiece in my eyes. I could watch it any day of the week and have a fun time. A 9 to 10/10, it’s the first princess movie that I highly recommend and I’m dreading the day when that remake comes out and ruins it.

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Oh-No! The day has finally come!

Crikey Mate! We’re up to movie number 34 in the Disneyathon and we have just reached our first Disney sequel. Oh boy, I have so not been longing for this day!

As far as I’m aware The Rescuers Down Under is Disney’s most divisive movie yet. Some say it’s an underrated classic and others say it’s extremely mediocre.  If you haven’t guessed, that’s where I stand and I’m not the type to cast doubt on other people’s opinions, but I don’t get it.

I think a great Rescuers sequel can be done, but they chose to re-do the same movie, except worse. We move on from the dark mysterious swamp to the vast emptiness of the Australian Outback. The detective work of learning who Penny and Medusa are will be summed up simply by a 10 minute boring eagle ride and a wanted poster. The sequel is a lot less exciting and instead is more silly, stupid and tedious. I remember only one tense moment in the entire movie. It’s when Bernard and Miss Bianca were stuck on the tank treads. Pretty cool, but not enough to save it from the other dreadful 90% of tension free dribble.

Before we dive down the rabbit hole, let’s be positive. The animation is outstanding and the Australian Outback makes a great backdrop for the movie. The downside is that the 3D models look kind of terrible. Bernard is the best part of the movie and Bob Newhart gave a great performance. Bernard and Miss Bianca are still a great couple and their introduction is probably the best part of the entire movie. It’s just a shame that they are barely in it and have almost no stake in the entire plot, which is nuts!

We also have an abundance of annoying new characters like mini Steve Irwin who just tags along for no reason and is pretty damn irritating. There are some caged Aussie animals who’s only purpose is to fill up time. John Candy is the fill in for the fun albatross character from the last movie and he quickly overstays his welcome. Too much Candy for my liking! He’s in this movie so much that I would argue he’s in it for the same amount of time as The Rescuers themselves.

Then there’s the annoying little boy who’s so used to the wild that he could have easily saved himself if the plot allowed it. How he gets captured is so stupid! The kid finds a tied up mouse in the middle of the jungle, connected to some sort of mechanism that leads underground. You could describe it as some sort of a trap. Mr Jungle expert didn’t figure that out and once he freed the mouse it made him fall through one of those leaf pile traps. Wait, how does that work? The leaf pile collapses because of the weight of the person, not because of some tied up mouse! It would have made more sense if they had used the net trap thing that Chewbacca walked into in Return of the Jedi. We also find out later that the hunter guy is after the big eagle. I can’t imagine it landing in the middle of the jungle and wouldn’t it go after bigger game, like small children!

For a movie with the exact same length as the first Rescuers it was such a drag. It took way too long to get the plot started as we’re about 15 minutes in before the kid is captured and there is only an hour left before we even see Bernard and Miss Bianca. The middle is complete fluff. There are too many unnecessary subplots with the caged critters and John Candy going to the chiropractor. It’s worse when we catch up to our heroes travelling to the villain’s lair and they’re doing basically nothing.

What a disappointment! It’s a nice enough looking movie but an extremely average adventure flick. I seriously don’t understand when people say this is better than the original. For me it’s 4/10.

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Wow!

Beauty and the Beast is truly a remarkable piece of art. It’s kind of hard to believe that this is from the same studio that made awful films like The Black Cauldron, Melody Time and Song of the South. Beauty and the Beast is in a league of its own. It’s that amazing!

This movie probably has the best story of all of the Disney Princess stories thus far. We have Belle, a lovely, intelligent young woman who dreams of something more. (Definitely haven’t seen this before.) She feels like she doesn’t belong because no one in the entire town has ever picked up a book. Belle is a pretty good character, but she’s no Ariel.

Then you have The Beast who is the best male lead in this entire series. A monster that hides in his own shame and when approached by another human after so many years all he can do is lash out in self preservation. Thanks to Belle we learn he does have a tender side, but the lack of social interaction makes this transformation very difficult. The Beast has the best redemption arc I have seen. The movie does a great job at making a bad first impression as he lingers in the shadows, but an excellent job at making him a sympathetic tragic character.

I’m not normally too rapt in the romances of these Disney films, but with this movie that’s the whole point. Beauty and the Beast absolutely nails the bond between Belle and The Beast. At first it looks like The Beast has to win Belle over, but I really liked that they showed a more collaborative effort was required to make this relationship work. In a strange way it felt like they were a real life couple. It’s also why the ballroom scene is so gratifying, along with the amazing singing from Angela Lansbury and the masterful animation on display. This relationship is so fantastic that I felt legitimately devastated when The Beast let Belle go to save her father despite knowing he has no time left. It was really touching.

Don’t worry, there aren’t that many tear-jerking scenes and dark moments as it’s mainly a comedy. The inanimate objects and the townsfolk were all used effectively and are surprisingly complex. Lumiere and Cogsworth, despite the very specific names, were a great comedy duo. As I alluded to a bit earlier, the animation is flawless. The score is also incredible, the songs are all quite light hearted and are fun to listen to. My favourites being Be Our Guest and Gaston.

Speaking of Gaston, he’s such a refreshing villain. Most of these Disney villains, while being fun foils, all kind of blend into each other, with similar motivations. Gaston is different as he starts out as a bit of a goof, wanting Belle to be his trophy wife, but as the movie progresses his intentions become a lot more sinister. He’s the first villain I actually began to hate and wanted to fail because of how malicious he was becoming. He’s great because he’s the most down to earth out of all the Disney villains.

In my opinion Beauty and The Beast is Disney’s crowning achievement. A simple story filled with great characters and songs. It’s got a great message that isn’t in your face. A movie I imagine thousands of hours were put into to make everything flow so flawlessly. Do I need to say it’s a masterpiece? I will say it deserves our first ever 10/10 in the Disneyathon.

My Official Disneyathon Ranking List

Link to Next Part: The Disneyathon – Part 12: Original Classics

2 thoughts on “The Disneyathon – Part 11: The Disney Renaissance

  1. I was as surprised as you with both The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast! I’m mainly referring towards the end when the movie pulls on your heart strings and the darker moments are scattered throughout the movie.

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