Lady And The Tramp (1955)

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What a Dog!

I will come right out and say it: this has always been a favorite of mine. Even as a kid, I liked this movie. Really, there’s only a few things you need to know about me to understand how I rank my Disney movies: 1) I love animals, 2) I love me some good songs, and 3) I love good characters. #3 becomes more important later in life, as I watched Disney movies as a high schooler to now. If a Disney movie has all three, I’m going to ADORE IT. If it has 2/3, I’m going to LOVE it. If it has just one, it’s going to be a favorite. That being said, I literally have like, 15 favorite disney movies; typically I classify them as before I was born/after I was born. This is one of my favorite classic Disney movies… along with 101 Dalmations, Robin Hood, and Bambi.

Lady & The Tramp has, in my opinion, 2/3 of my favorite Disney formula. That doesn’t mean I’m going to rate it higher than, say, Peter Pan. It just means that I might like it better, but maybe it has a weaker story. Maybe it doesn’t make me feel as happy or as good as another movie. But I still love it. It makes it closer to the top of MY list with any of those three things than if it had none. In the end, it’s just a feeling as to how I rank favorites: how many times would I watch this movie over and over? how does it make me feel? those things.

Anyway, Lady & The Tramp is only Walt Disney’s 2nd original story, after Dumbo. That’s right. All the movies between were adaptations. There’s some freedom that comes with that. There’s no book or fairy tale to adhere to (not that Disney was ever one for really adhering to details – I mean… classic fairy tales have DEPRESSING endings). Things can change with the story or the characters as the animators and the story tellers get to know them. As a viewer, seeing an original story is exciting. We have NO idea what’s going to happen, and we don’t spend the entire time comparing it to the source material (and in a day and age like today when everything is an adaptation, I know what I’m talking about).

Our story follows the life of a cocker spaniel named Lady. She is a Christmas present to her owners, who we only know as “Jim Dear” and “Darling.” They live in a very nice area of their city in the Southeastern part of the United States in the late 1800s/early 1900s (sometime before cars). Everything is fine and dandy in Lady’s life for a few years, until it’s discovered that Darling is pregnant. Lady gets confused and doesn’t understand what’s going on. Enter The Tramp – a street dog who ends up in the posh end of the neighborhood. He comes, touting how babies ruin everything and how she won’t be the center of the universe any more and how she’s one step away from being thrown on the street. Lady’s friend’s, Jock and Trusty, kick The Tramp out, and reassure Lady that everything will be fine.

The baby comes, and go figure, everything’s fine. Although Jim Dear and Darling are busy, they enjoy including Lady as part of the family. Then they go on a trip and leave Aunt Sarah in charge, who is crazy cat lady and hates dogs. She thinks that dog is going to hurt the baby, so gets a muzzle to put on her. Lady gets scared, escapes, and after an encounter with some evil street dogs, meets The Tramp again. He helps her get the muzzle off, then shows her his way of life, complete with, of course, that spaghetti dinner. After spending a night together, Lady wants to return home, and Tramp reluctantly takes her. But dogs are dogs, and after talking her into chasing chickens, it’s not the Tramp that gets caught, it’s Lady. The poor girl is thrown into the dog pound, where she finds out that The Tramp has a rather long list of former girls he’s had affections for. She’s returned to her home, the Tramp comes after her to apologize. She gets mad, but then they see a rat head into the baby’s room. The Tramp rescues the kid, making a mess in the meantime, and Aunt Sarah freaks because there’s a dog in the room. They come to pull The Tramp to the pound, but then we all figure out (Jim Dear and Darling are back by now) what’s happened, and Trusty & Jock go after them, rescue the Tramp, and he decides to stay with Lady. The end.

In all honestly, there really isn’t much to this movie. What I love about it (much like Bambi) is its simplicity. We’re experiencing life through the eyes of a dog. As a person who IS a dog trainer (it’s my hobby/2nd job), wow, did Walt nail puppies right on. And owners of puppies. They try to separate her in another room, and when the whining starts, they give her attention. In the movie, you can see the dog incredibly happy she got through to them, even though it was yelling. So she continues. Seriously, I may refer my puppy customers to the opening scene of the movie. It’s that good. “just one night in the bed.” HAH.

The other thing I love about this movie are the characters. Lady herself is soft spoken, sweet, and very devoted to her family. Being loved and obedient is what she lives for, and when things go off her routine, or Jim dear calls her “that dog,” she takes it personally. She’s young and naive, but through the movie grows (partially in anger) to become more outspoken.

The Tramp is also a very lovable character. He’s footloose and “collar-free,” as he calls it. He’s not tied down and loves it. At the same time, as an adult now, I can see a bit of a burned character in him. He seems to know a lot about new babies, and I think he might even mention how he once had a family. Suddenly his actions and behaviors make sense. He was dumped, and had to figure out how to survive on his own. Does he really enjoy his free life? I think it’s argued that no, he really doesn’t. While lady’s in the Pound, a dog named Peg mentions that one day he’ll meet a girl he’ll actually stick around for. Lady just happens to be that girl.

This story is first and foremost a love story. love between humans and their dogs, and the love between Lady and The Tramp. I guess a lot of people don’t really get why at the end the Tramp just stayed with Lady. He loved her. She made him better and she made him realize that families aren’t bad and oh, look, they actually came after him and rescued him when they realized he had saved their baby from a rat. I would adopt that dog too!!

We have a bunch of side characters, from the Beaver in the zoo to the two cats, Si and Am (I’m not even gonna do my whole Disney race talk for them. just go back and read my Peter Pan or Dumbo part if you’re curious how I feel about that.) We have the dogs in the pound (which Jesus! show that scene to everyone and they’ll adopt a dog – it’s sadder than any Sarah Mclachlan commercial i’ve ever seen!) These characters are all well done, even if they’re not in the movie for a long time. They serve their purpose and they’re quite memorable. I never forget one of them.

Most prevalent in the movie we have Trusty & Jock, a bloodhound and a Scottish Terrier that live in Lady’s neighborhood. They’re both older and act almost as mentors/friends to the spaniel. Trusty’s old, tells stories all the time about his old hunting days, and a big thing in the movie is that they all think he’s lost his sense of smell (surprise! he hasn’t!). Jock is smart and gives good advice, but is fiercely protective of his friends, chasing off The Tramp from annoying Lady. As a duo they’re great. (side note: Trusty was actually supposed to DIE in the cart-chasing scene, but Walt thought it was too scarring for kids, so made animators add him in to the final scene. Thoughts?)

The animation is beautiful. I love that we only see the Jim Dear and Darling from the knees down (Muppet Babies anyone?). It’s from a dog’s point of view, and it’s brilliant. The Backgrounds are beautifully painted. Each character is noticeably a certain type of dog, but they each have their own personality given in the way they’re designed. I still really can’t figure out what type of dog The Tramp is – I’m going to guess Schnauzer/terrier (maybe fox terrier). Maybe something else. I dunno. He’s a mutt. Leave it to me though to try to figure out the breeds in a cartoon.

The songs are great. Of course everyone knows “Bella Notte.” The scene with the spaghetti and meatballs is part of our culture. The song itself is beautiful. I used to think it was boring, but it really is gorgeous. The song the cats sing “We are Siamese” is ok. I love the animation that goes along with it, as the cats destroy the house and Lady tries to put everything back together, but the song itself is unique enough sounding that I find it a bit out of character for the movie. My personal favorite from the movie is “He’s a Tramp,” sung by our friend Peg in the dog Pound. Seriously, it’s so unique, and I get it stuck in my head all the time. Are these the best songs in a Disney movie? hah – far from it. But they’re good all the same.

This movie holds up really well. It gives us Disney’s first “real” love story, and as such, our first sort of developed male lead that’s also a legit love interest. Now if Disney were this good with our next male character…

I love this movie. Others will definitely disagree with me. I can watch it over and over, but not as much as a lot of others. It’s a harmless movie with a few scary moments. If you or your kids enjoy just a fun, cute, harmless movie with some great characters, this one’s for you.

I give Lady & The Tramp (1955) a 3.8 out of 5.

Next up: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

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Peter Pan (1953)

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Second star to the right and straight on til’ morning!

I bet if you say that line to anyone of a certain age (I don’t know about kids these days, that would be an interesting experiment…) you would get one of two reactions: “Neverland!” or they might just start breaking out into song. “You can fly!” Peter Pan is in our culture’s consciousness. The boy who wouldn’t grow up. Captain Hook and Neverland. Tinkerbell, Wendy, and Tiger Lilly. We know these characters very well. Although the story has been around for much longer, and we continue to get new films (and some strange tweaks on the story…) I think most of us will always associate our first encounter with Peter Pan to be the one Walt Disney made for us.

I will come right out and say it: I ALWAYS seem to forget how much I like this movie. I always put it low down on my list, then I watch it and go “geez, that was great!” So you can bet this one will be moving up in my list – possibly way up. I feel like this was Disney’s first really fun movie. It’s got action, adventure, pirates, fairies, and some incredibly well done characters.

Originally a play written for adults by J.M. Barrie (then later a novel), Peter pan is the embodiment of childhood. He’s a boy (some argue he’s more like an elf, some argue an angel… yeah, that whole theory is weird) that escaped growing up and living in Neverland, a place where there’s fun and games, danger, and best of all, you don’t have to grow up.

The Disney movie follows three of the Darling children – Wendy, John and Michael. Wendy is getting older, and her father tells her she’s moving out of the nursery and must become a lady. Upset, that night they’re visited by Peter Pan (who’s looking for his shadow) and she explains her predicament. Not willing to have any of that, he whisks the three of them off to Neverland, where they have some adventures with the Indians and Captain Hook. Eventually Wendy (and eventually John and Michael too) realize that they miss their home, and Wendy realizes that maybe it’s ok to grow up.

That’s a plot in a tiny nutshell. There’s more, but we’ll get to it. I want to talk about some of the characters. If I did all of them, we’d be here a while. So I’m going to group a few together, and probably talk at length about a few. Because unlike some of his earlier movies, these characters (finally!) seem complex.

First lets talk about Peter. I actually despise this character, but I think that’s sort of the point. In the movie he’s depicted as being about 10 years old (in the play and the novel he was younger…like 6). He’s egotistical, self-centered, and careless. In other words, he’s a boy. He doesn’t care when he puts himself in danger, and is almost foolishly cocky when he is in danger. He doesn’t understand families, nor why anyone would want one, or why anyone would want to grow up. He sees himself as the savior of children, and views any girl as more of a mother figure than anything else. Yet somehow through all his vices, he’s still an extremely likable person; he has a lot of friends. Because he’s a kid. Because I’m sure we’ve all known kids like him, and in some ways, it’s refreshing. In a lot of ways, that’s what it’s like to be a kid. Peter Pan is, like Bambi, a personification of childhood… just… a different part of it.

Wendy, on the other hand, is incredibly responsible. She already acts a bit like a motherly figure to her brothers, and when on Neverland, she acts that way to Peter and the Lost Boys. She has more rational sense than all of them, which is actually about right when comparing girls and boys at a young age. She has an affection for Peter, which is not returned. I always thought Wendy was a bit of a boring character, or a bit of a cliche. All girls want to grow up to be mothers. All girls don’t want to get rough with the boys. That’s very not true. I was the one out there roughing it up and getting cactus in my fingers and picking up lizards like the rest of them. While Wendy does try to join in at the indian camp, they don’t allow it because she’s a girl. Again… just a sign of the times, and this one isn’t Walt’s fault. It’s the same way in the novel and the play as well. If anything in the novel her want to be a mother/caretaker is even more exaggerated. Disney gave her a little more edge. Tiny bit.

I’m not going to talk about John, Michael or the Lost Boys because they’re a bit of an extension of Peter. I think it is hilarious that in the movie they wear outfits like animals. That was creative. I don’t like that we don’t know their names, because they did have names. I mean really, why did I have to find out in Hook of all movies that one of the lost boys was Tootles?

Then there’s Tinker Bell. Wow the Disney label has just ruined her, haven’t they? All those horrible direct to DVD movies that portray her as sweet, etc. Did those people never actually WATCH Peter Pan? While she does redeem herself at the end (arguably… although now that I think about it not really), she is sort of a jealous B*tch. Her first and only love is Peter, and when another girl comes into the picture, she will stop at nothing to destroy and even KILL her. She sends the lost boys to shoot her down. She tells the pirates where they’re hidden so they can take them hostage. Seriously, the entire movie, her entire motivation is to get Wendy out of the picture so she can have Peter all to herself. It’s only when she figures out Captain Hook means to kill Peter too that she rushes to his aid. But she never redeems herself with Wendy. I mean I guess her devotion to her friend is nice, but uh… yeah. She’s kinda evil.

Then there’s Captain Hook and Smee. If you ever wanted an evil but likable villain, this guy is it. He hatches these plots, and they sound smart, but he ends up getting tricked out of all of them by a 10 year old boy. Gotta give the guy credit. He’s nothing if not persistent. Because everything on Neverland IS a game. No one will really ever win. It will go back and forth forever. Captain Hook is a joy to watch because he is HILARIOUS. This is a grown man – a pirate – that’s terrified of a crocodile. (although he IS an awesome crocodile). Smee is just as funny and somehow dumber AND smarter than Hook. I think he really is the classic bad guy sidekick. Before Peter Pan, we only had the evil stepsisters as “sidekicks,” but I don’t really count them. Smee is genuine. Maybe without him, we wouldn’t have gotten such later Disney villain sidekicks like Iago, the Hyenas, or Flotsam & Jetsom (the eels from The Little Mermaid). What a worse world it would be without them!

The songs are, like Cinderella’s, are timeless. “Following the Leader” and “You can Fly” are personal favorites. Can’t forget the awesome background music for the crocodile, which of course is the tune “Never Smile at a Crocodile.”

Then there’s “What Makes a Red Man Red?” I know I talked about racism with Dumbo and the crows, but I’m going to have this conversation many times throughout my Disney run simply because a lot of people get offended/see offense to these movies. As I mentioned with Dumbo, a lot of it, simply put, is because of the times. Is it right? not really. But AT THE TIME it was generally accepted to be ok. Adults might get the reference and either laugh or take offense, but at the same time, will kids?

I was very forgiving with Dumbo and the Crows. Because it was an old term, and how many kids would see that in an animal? Peter Pan and their depiction of Native Americans (or Indians) I’m a little less forgiving with. A lot of that reason is because, sadly, this stereotype of the red indian living in teepees speaking in broken english hasn’t quite left us. Kids STILL associate indians with teepees and headdresses, regardless of where they’re from. They’ll still go “how!” How do I know this? because I teach preschool kids (at a nature center – not a preschool) and every November it still comes up. Indians wear headdresses, Pilgrims wore those funny hats with belt buckles (technically that’s not correct either…). The kids tell me about their crafts they make. They still think that all Indians lived in teepees. It makes me extremely sad, because Native American culture is SO much more interesting than that. Maybe they’ll learn more about local Native tribes when they get older (I know I did), but until then, you have that Indian stereotype. And if they DON’T learn, then they’ll continue to carry that throughout their life. I can’t tell you how many kids think that Native American’s “don’t exist” anymore. Come here kid, you’re about to get schooled.

So should Disney have been a bit more kind with his depiction of the Indians? Probably. If we haven’t gotten there yet, lord knows what it was like back then. This depiction was probably extremely accepted. I’m happy that some people have taken offense to it. Personally, I find it hard to watch, but I’m not going to keep my kids from watching the movie just because of it. If you’re relying on TV and movies to teach your kids important lessons like acceptance of diversity, then you’re not doing your job as a parent. Just my two cents.

This movie is full of swash-buckling fun. I actually have read the novel, and it is pretty good, and very close to Disney’s depiction. Finding Neverland is one of my favorite movies of all time (and part of the inspiration for my blog title). I love the whole idea around the fantasy of Peter Pan and Neverland. There’s just something about it that draws you in. So I have absolutely NO idea why I thought I didn’t like this movie. Cause I do. I almost put it above Bambi, but I couldn’t.

I give Peter Pan (1953) a 3.9 out of 5. Fun, but like I said, some of the characters annoy me, and that has NOTHING to do with Disney.

Up Next: Lady & The Tramp (1955)

Alice in Wonderland (1951)

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“The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and ceiling wax, of cabbages and kids. And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings…”

This movie is…. weird. I don’t know if there’s really any other way to describe it. The scary thing is, I’m not making fun of it. Lewis Carroll always said his Alice books were meant to be weird and fun. They weren’t meant to have morals. They were just random silliness for kids and readers to enjoy. There have been theories that some of the stories have mathematical allusions or political allusions, but I don’t know what Carroll himself ever said these theories were right. Maybe he did unconsciously. These books were just silly and weird and fun. In that aspect, Disney did those books justice. This is a lot of random silliness. Is there a moral? People have been digging for one for years. Some people have found them (or many of them in her different smaller stories), and some haven’t. I’m of the latter crew. To me, Alice in Wonderland is just weird and silly, and much like “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” just something to be experienced (wow… NEVER thought I’d make that comparison!!)

Disney’s Alice in Wonderland is a hybrid of Carroll’s Alice through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. All but one of the characters we meet in the movie come directly out of the books (the oddball original being the doorknob in the beginning.) So what’s it about? Here we go:

Alice is a young girl in victorian england..? that hates having to study and recite prose, etc. In other words, she’s a kid. After wandering in her garden chasing after her cat, Dina, she sees a white rabbit with a huge pocket watch exclaiming “I’m late/I’m late, for a very important date!” Curious, she chases after him and ends up falling into a hole and is transported to Wonderland. I’m not going to go into great detail here (cause honestly that would take a LONG TIME), but once in Wonderland she meets a whole host of strange characters, each of them, she ends up realizing, is completely mad and bonkers. It all culminates with meeting the red queen who puts her on trial and wants “off with her head,” to which Alice runs, realizes that this whole thing has been a dream, and wakes up.

I honestly don’t even know how to go about this review. The only central character is Alice herself (voiced by a girl we’ll see in our next movie – Kathryn Beaumont). She seems smart enough. I like that we almost get a running commentary done by her throughout the movie: she doesn’t mind talking to herself, and I really enjoy those moments when she’s trying to figure things out for herself in Wonderland. Otherwise, this movie is kinda just one character and one small story after another. Some of them we might see later in the movie (like the mad hatter and the Cheshire cat) and some – many – we don’t (the walrus and the carpenter, the caterpillar, etc). Each has some sort of strange interaction/story to share with our main character, and then she either gets fed up and is on her way, or she’s kicked out.

That being said, this movie is just creative and fun. It’s a bunch of smaller stories/interactions, so it would probably hold a kid’s attention pretty well, even in this day and age. The characters range from silly to scary to just… uh…. yeah. Their personalities can change at the flip of a button (i’m looking at you you racist flowers!) or they can be strangely understanding (the cheshire cat is – arguably – the only who seems to care about what happens to the girl, even if he does get her in trouble with the queen – he does help her.).

The Mad Hatter is always one that people remember, and with good reason. He’s crazy with his tea party and his “Very Merry Unbirthday” song and the way he fixes watches. Ed Wynn was a staple of early Disney and embodying strange characters, so he was a perfect choice for this character.  And also – what’s up with the dormouse?? is he high on tea? seriously. Then there’s the caterpillar… yeah. How was this ever a kids book/movie? I guess for the same reason I argued about the crows and Pink elephant parade in Dumbo. Kids don’t know what they’re watching. the caterpillar is just smoking (which they might see as bad, but not in the way adults see that bong…). They might just think the dormouse is sleepy. (Is he? I’m still not sure I know what’s going on…).

I always loved the Walrus and the Carpenter. I can seriously recite that whole poem, don’t ask me why or how. It’s morbid, sure, but I don’t know, it’s just a one off in the story and then they’re gone. I don’t know why I always like them. I’m also a fan of the queen. She’s just goofy, with the croquet and the crazy need for her flowers to be red and being so keen to say “off with their head.” I’m sure you could read all into that, but I choose not to. to me, it’s just crazy wacky goodness.

I am a little depressed we didn’t get to see the gryphon, the jabberwocky or the mock turtle, but I understand. when you sort of combine two books (Although the movie really IS mostly …In Wonderland) you can’t have everyone in them. I almost wonder what would have happened had he just done one of the books (I personally like …Through the looking glass better.)*

The songs in this movie are forgettable, with the exception of the little diddy the rabbit sings and the mad hatter song. I actually love that Disney included some of Carroll’s poems from the story in the mix (such as “twinkle twinkle little bat,” “In the Golden Afternoon,” etc). The animation is great: wacky and kooky and goes along well with the story. The character designs are great too. The flowers are wonderful. I LOVE the cheshire cat design. I also love the forest character where there’s the dog with the broom head, the birds out of glasses and mirrors. It’s just so… wonderfully weird.

I know a lot of people just forget this movie. They say it’s too weird or they don’t get it or that Lewis Carroll must have been high when he wrote it. Like I said – I’ve heard he wrote it to just be fun and silly. I’ve also heard that he wrote it to explain complex mathematics? (I don’t know much about that theory…) Whatever the reason, you shouldn’t look at this one too deeply. If you just let yourself get swept away in the story and the characters and the weirdness, you might find yourself really enjoying it. I myself will actually probably end up moving it down in my list, simply because I prefer movies with plots and morals. But it’s still fun. Still extremely fun and weird, and sometimes you need to just watch a movie like that.

Give it a watch if you haven’t seen it, or even if you haven’t seen it since you were a kid. And try not to think too deeply. That will keep you from having the fun.

I give Alice in Wonderland (1951) a 3.5 out of 5. Strictly because sometimes I can’t stop myself from trying to make it into something it’s not…

Up Next: Peter Pan (1953)

*Also, please do not ask me to ever compare this to the Johnny Depp version. Although that one is actually much more of a combination of the books, I absolutely despise it and have no idea how it got so much money. That movie probably is making Lewis Carroll roll over in his grave. Alice wasn’t even the main character!!! (ok, mini-rant over!)

Cinderella (1950)

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Alright. As many of you may recall, when I made my list of Disney Animated movies from most liked to least liked, Cinderella was way down on my list. In fact, I didn’t even own it. To me, I hadn’t seen Cinderella in years. I was just remembering that It was never my favorite. I’m a huge animal person. Stories about princesses just didn’t get me as a kid. They were too girly. I remembered the mice, Gus and Jack, and that was about it. And honestly? I was fine with leaving it at that.

Then something bizarre happened yesterday. I got home from work, and as I was pulling into my driveway, I glanced at the front door and happened to see an ever familiar box from Amazon. Confusion overwhelmed me. I didn’t order anything. My husband has been known to randomly order stuff, but he was in Baltimore at a conference. We have Amazon Prime, and I feel as if he would have told me if he ordered something while he was gone so I would be on the lookout for it. For a second I thought maybe Amazon had gotten confused and sent me another copy of Frozen (which I got the day before). It was addressed to me, so I carried it in and opened it up.

The first thing that greeted me was a cat toy. weird. Under the cat toy was a copy of Cinderella. I started laughing, wondering what in the world was going on, then I found the note. It read “No way should Cinderella be lower on your list than the Fox and the Hound. –Love your Aunt.” HAHA. This made my day. I promptly put it in the blu-ray player and watched it (because I needed to back track if I wanted to put this in the correct spot – I’ve already watched through Lady and the Tramp).

You know what? I completely misjudged this movie. That’s right, my loving Aunt, YOU WERE RIGHT! It’s definitely not my favorite movie by far, but it is much better than I gave it credit for as a kid. There’s a reason I remembered the mice: they are actually a very big part of the movie!

Everyone knows this story, so I feel I don’t have to explain it here. What I do find interesting though, is that this movie ushered in Disney’s first renaissance (I’m arguing we’re in the beginning/middle of #3). It had been nearly 10 years since he had made a feature length animated movie (My last review, Bambi, was his one prior to this) due to financial restraints and WWII. Knowing that, this movie becomes even more special. You can tell the difference in the movies before and after. We get the ever loving Disney tropes – the animal sidekick, the singing princess, the scary villain – that didn’t really exist before this. Not well defined at least.

Say what you will about Disney Princesses. I think, after watching this, that Cinderella gets a bad rap. People always argue that the early princesses weren’t capable of doing anything themselves. That they would wait for a prince to rescue them, whereas now we have stronger more outspoken princesses. I think a lot of that is a reflection of the times, but it’s not like Cinderella honestly just sits there. I mean, 1) she’s been abused her entire life so her confidence isn’t exactly at a healthy level. It’s understandable that when her stepsisters ruin her dress, she just cries. 2) She takes care of an entire freaking house and three people and a stupid cat ALL BY HERSELF. This is HARD work. Despite her situation, she still manages to be extremely positive. She still manages to find joy in her work, and friends in the animals of the house. Geez, that’s a lesson I think all of us need to learn: yeah, stuff can be monotonous, but sometimes it has to be done and the best way to deal with it is to be positive. As a character, Cinderella was much more enjoyable than I remember, and I think she gets a bad rap for a “do nothing” princess.

Also more enjoyable (and more evil) than I remember was Lady Tremaine. Voiced by the same lady who will later go on to voice Maleficent (Eleanor Audley), she is absolutely wicked. While she doesn’t have a huge part, the facial features and the way the character moves, as well as the voice acting portray a extremely smart, selfish, evil woman. She always seems to have a plan, even if her dumber than paper daughters don’t. It’s all the more wonderful in the end, then, when Cinderella pulls that second slipper out of her pocket and her face goes all crazy. Turns out someone was smarter than you. Hah!

The stepsisters Drizella and Anastasia are just kinda there, and while they do have some relatively interestingly funny scenes (I do remember the piano/flute/voice trio from when I was a kid… awful!), they’re not extremely important to the film. They act more like puppets to their mother. They were given this hatred of their stepsister when in another life they probably could have all gotten along. Ah well.

On the other side of the coin, we have the King and his Grand Duke. The King wants badly to be a grandfather and see his son married, and they’re the one’s who decide to have the ball. They work for a bit of comedy, and in the 50s, this works. I couldn’t help but wonder, honestly: “What if this movie were made today?” I don’t know that I really wouldn’t have wanted a “strong” Cinderella, like our more recent disney heroines. I think she’s strong enough, and what, would they have her go to the ball regardless? then we wouldn’t have a fairy Godmother. Her part, I think, should have remained the same. The royal side, however, is really where, if this had been made today, they could have really expanded. Instead of just the king and the Grand Duke, I feel like we would have gotten to know the prince, so he wasn’t just a drab face. He would be arguing for his rights about how he doesn’t want to just marry anyone. We would have gotten more with him and Cinderella at the ball. HE would be the one searching for her, not the grand Duke. And I’m sure he would have had some plucky animal sidekick (but only if it were made in the 90s when everyone had sidekicks…). That’s one of the ways I would have improved this movie. The whole royal side is kinda dull.

That being said, the movie IS called Cinderella. It focuses on her. But it also focuses on the animals in the house, which to me, signifies what Disney is all about. Talking animals (and songs – we’ll get to that). The mice, the cat Lucifer (Lucifi!), the Dog Bruno… they all have great personalities. You could argue they’re there for the kids, but at the same time, Jack and Gus are so charming that as an adult you can’t help but fall in love. They’re animals with good hearts that want nothing but to help Cinderella, even if it means putting their lives on the line. Really, some of the best scenes in the movie are Jack and Gus dealing with Lucifer. Hilarious.

Ok, now that songs. Disney is known for songs, and every time a Disney movie doesn’t have songs, I actually get upset (damn you Lassiter for saying no more musicals!!! At least we’ll have Moana – in 2018…?). As a 90s kids, Disney is synonymous with songs. Good songs. Songs that get stuck in your head and that everyone is singing at school. Cinderella has some classics that I still know the words to, and some that I honestly forgot existed. Always my favorite is the Mouse song, or as I call it, “Cinderelli.”* When I was growing up and we were complaining, my mom would always bust out with this song. There is also, of course, Bibbiti-bobbity-Boo. Classic. And of course, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes. Really, He set the bar high for his next movies. Good thing he followed through.

Rewatching this movie makes me realize I need to give the movies I thought were horrible as a kid a second chance. I am redoing my list, putting them in order as I watch them. There’s already two that I know will move up. This is one. It’s a great movie. Good for kids, enjoyable, good for adults. Cinderella is done very well. I just almost wish we would have gotten to know that prince a little bit. But I guess that’s fairy tales for you.

I give Cinderella (1950) a 4 out of 5. You were right, my lovely Aunt 🙂

Up Next: Alice in Wonderland (1951)

*now I’m going to have that song stuck in my head all day…..

** It was almost impossible for me to find a freaking picture for this that wasn’t just in the Disney Princess Line. Seriously. Stupid consumers and marketers with their money making schemes….

Bambi (1942)

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When I was a kid, watching this movie was like torture. It was SO FREAKING BORING. Like Dumbo, there are only certain parts that I remembered as a kid. mostly they were the parts with Thumper, because he’s awesome. The rest of it, until I was an adult, I found myself falling asleep during. While this is a kids movie, it can be argued that, like Fantasia, this is one of Walt’s more dramatic masterpieces, suitable and understood more by adults than children.

Based on the book Bambi: a Life in the Woods by Austrian author Felix Salten, It, like the movie, follows the life of a white-tailed deer named Bambi, starting with his birth in the forest. We follow him through childhood as he learns about the forest, through hardships as he loses his mother, and into adulthood as he finds a mate and deals with the great villain that is “man.”

The plot is simple enough. In all honesty, not much happens. That is part of the charm, and part of the reason I think people really love this movie. It gives us a glimpse into something so simple: the life of a simple deer in the forest. But what Disney does in the process is gives us a glimpse not only into the beauty of the forest, but the beauty of discovery. He gives us a glimpse into our own childhood, and what nature can do for our curiosity. It puts the humanity into common animals.

The book was touted as the first environmental novel published. Having never read the book, I believe this movie does it justice. The backgrounds of the forest are beautifully painted. This movies takes its time to show you the beauty of a leaf falling to the ground, or something so simple as a spring storm. Things that we overlook are painted in such beauty that we can’t help but be mesmerized. In a time and age where technology reigns and people are so rushed, I believe this movie becomes even more important. It reminds us that there is beauty in EVERYTHING.

The characters are ok I guess. Like Dumbo, I really feel like there could have been more character development, or more personality given to Bambi. He’s a bit of a forgettable character. More people seem to remember Thumper than Bambi, and it’s with good reason. Bambi is just there. He’s shy and naive, and almost represents the innocence of childhood and the innocence that is in all of us.

Thumper, on the other hand, almost is the kid we all knew. He has a good heart, likes to have fun, but is a bit of a troublemaker. But at the same time he’s super innocent too. He’s just is a kid. Sometimes he says things that aren’t nice. Sometimes he wants to eat the flower on the clover first.  We also have a skunk named Flower, and he’s just… sweet. We don’t get to know him much, but he’s adorable. I think Disney was trying to change people’s minds about skunks.

Bambi’s mother is possibly the best mother in all of Disney – dom (probably partially because she’s one of the few mothers that’s actually IN a disney movie that we get to sort of know…).  She loves her son, and she’s always there to keep him safe and answer his questions.  She’s patient and teaches him the important things in life that he must know. This is part of the reason it is so sad when she is eventually shot by the hunter. She sacrificed her life to save her son. It’s what all mothers would do. Is it scarring for children? uh… i really don’t think so. I dunno. That scene is synonymous with horrible death scene in our culture and with scarring your childhood. I can understand how it would affect a lot of people, but I dunno, I always had a sort of “Chandler Bing” reaction to it (Yes, it was all very sad when they stopped Drawing the deer…)(yes, I’m a giant Friends fan…). It’s sad and all, but emotionally scarring? not really… Mufasa was much worse.

I actually adore the father. I know he’s barely there and barely says two words the entire movie, but I LOVE that he’s just sort of this enigma. He’s the oldest deer in the forest, so they call him the “great prince of the forest.” I love that Bambi is his ONLY offspring (because seriously, with a rack (antlers) like he has, he should be siring ALL the babies – sorry, I am a biology person). I love that he’s strong and silent. He’s something to be reckoned with, and everyone knows it. I almost wish that we had seen a few scenes of him with his father growing up (yes, I know there’s a mid-quel… but I doubt it’s good nor I doubt it follows the original source material…). There were apparently parts in the book that had Bambi with his father. At the same time, I understand why they didn’t. It adds to the mystery that surrounds his father, and I kinda like it.

I do want to talk about one other thing, and that’s the whole thing that happens when they’re grown up. That’s right. I don’t know about all of you, but I think I was introduced to the whole idea of love through Twitter-pating. haha. It’s hilarious, because as Owl is explaining it, it does seem like the worst thing in the entire world. “you completely lose your head!” Sure it’s old fashioned, but it’s great. And then it happens to all of them. And there’s nothing you can do about it!! In reality, it’s part of growing up, once again, establishing that this movie really is about life in general

Bambi is a joy. Sure it’s not the most amazing plot or doesn’t have the most complex characters, but what it gets right is the atmosphere and the tone. that’s not a flaw: it was what Disney was going for, and he nailed it. This movie reminds us what it’s like to be a kid experiencing everything for the first time. It gives us a glimpse into the innocence of childhood and the beauty of the forest. That’s why I love it. I think that’s why a lot of people love it. Parts may be boring, but it is simply beautiful, charming, and you can’t help but love that little deer.

I give Bambi (1942) a 4 out of 5. I still can’t watch “April Shower” song without wanting to fall asleep….

Next: Cinderella (1950)*

*yes, I realize I said I didn’t own this movie. It’s actually a funny story….

Dumbo (1941)

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I realized  as I was typing it that technically this isn’t the oldest Disney movie I own. I have Fantasia, but I bought it in a double pack with Fantasia 2000. Therefore I have made my own executive decision to review those two back to back whenever I get to them (that should be interesting…). Now onto Dumbo.

Ah, the story of the little elephant with big ears who learns how to fly. I have to say, it’s amazing how much of this movie I seemed to block out of my memory as a kid. What does that tell you? haha. It could tell you a lot. Maybe it scarred me. Maybe I found it boring. This was never my favorite, nor is it now after watching it again. Personally, it’s very far down on my list; probably my least favorite Disney movie I own. That being said, I’m going to try my best and give this a sort of impartial review. I’m going to REALLY try…

So Dumbo is about a little elephant that lives at Casey Jr.’s circus. We see him get delivered by a stork to his mother, Mrs. Jumbo. But something’s different about this little elephant. Dumbo has HUGE ears. He’s automatically the laughing stock of not only the other elephants, but the patrons of the circus as well. Kids begin making fun of him, pulling his ears. This makes Mrs. Jumbo go all mother bear aggressive protecting her baby, which gets her tied down and labeled “mad elephant,” pulling her away from Dumbo. After the other elephants refuse to talk to him, he befriends a circus mouse named Timothy, who becomes a friend and mentor. After a nixed stunt goes awry, Casey Jr. turns him into a clown, which is belittling but goes over well with audiences. After a night of celebrating (ohhhh pink elephants…), Timothy and Dumbo wake up in a tree with some crows, who help him learn how to fly with the help of a “magic” feather. At his next clown show, he shows the whole circus up by flying instead of falling (after learning the magic feather isn’t really magic… he could do it all along!).  He becomes respected for his flaw and reunites with his mother. The end.

This movie clocks in at a mere hour and three minutes, making it the shortest disney movie in the canon (other than the anthology of shorts…). This was originally going to be a short, but Walt wanted to expand it a bit more and made it into a feature film on its own.  I think this was a good call. As a short, it would have been rushed. Honestly? it could have been longer. For a movie that’s about a flying elephant, he really only learns he can fly in the last 10 minutes. It would have been nicer if we got a little bit more of him practicing or with the magic feather, or a little bit more build up when he loses the feather.

The characters are a bit bland. I do find it nice and a bit refreshing that Dumbo doesn’t talk at all. We still get that he’s a picked on little guy and he really needs someone to help him because he doesn’t know how to deal with it and he’s helpless. Honestly, he and Timothy are really the only characters (besides the mother) that you get to know. Timothy is great. He’s a breath of fresh air in the circus that seems to hate Dumbo, being the only one that seems tolerant and blind to the fact that the elephant has big ears. He even remarks “I think they’re cute!” He’s the friend we wish we all had growing up. He instills us with confidence and wants nothing but to help us. He’s a bit like jiminy cricket in Pinocchio, but Dumbo is a bit more… blah… as opposed to Pinocchio.

The mother Mrs. Jumbo is obviously very loving, and makes it well known that she will do anything to protect her baby. Possibly the saddest scene in the entire movie is between her and dumbo during “baby mine.” Good God. If you don’t understand the connection the two of them share after watching that scene, you’re blind.

My qualms with this movie really come out of the fact that it was made in the 40s. As we all know, our social norms and ideals have changed since the 40s. While a lot of people look back on early Disney movies and claim racism, I tend to be much more forgiving. I instead just go “eh, it was a sign of the times.” We as a species have progressed much. We’re not perfect yet by any stretch, but we have learned. Anyway, it’s mainly the abuse shown by the circus folk towards the animals that I don’t like watching. It’s actually hard for me to watch the scene where Mrs. Jumbo is getting tied down after attacking the children.

Believe what you want about the crows. I have no problems with them. Again, back then, almost everyone thought that was an acceptable way to depict them. As kids, we don’t make these connections that “oh, the crows are a vulgar racist depiction of black people.” Instead, as a kid we go “oh look at those crows! that one’s wearing glasses!” As kids, we don’t make these connections unless someone points them out for us. Just because kids laugh at the crows singing “when I see an elephant fly” doesn’t mean they’re racist. I think *most of the time* it’s pointless to argue about racist things in Disney movies. Kids don’t get the connections. It doesn’t mean they’re going to carry those beliefs with them their entire life.

That being said, I do understand that NOW it’s offensive. Obviously if I movie depicted crows in that way, we’d all flip out. That’s understandable. Because it’s wrong. But at the same time, we as people have to understand that things change, and back then, it was acceptable with the general populace. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m saying it’s a bit more forgivable, and that in a KIDS movie, unless they come right out and say “oh, we’re crows, and we’re meant to be a crude interpretation of black people,” we shouldn’t get irrationally upset. Kids don’t understand what adults do. They have no prejudices unless adults put them there. I know I didn’t. And as an adult now, I look at those crows and go “wow, they’re hilarious and helpful and without them Dumbo wouldn’t have flown.” To me, they’re unique.

I have a feeling I will be reiterating myself a lot during these reviews on this point. I also know i’m one person, and that a lot of people probably feel differently. To each his own. Ah well.

Oh… let’s also talk about how this is one of the only Disney movies where the main character gets drunk. that to me is a lot more offensive than the crows. I know it’s not on purpose, but dear sweet lord, “Pink elephants on parade” is something that I know I pulled out of my memory as a kid. If that doesn’t scar you, I don’t know what will. But again… drinking was much more accepted, and they didn’t worry too much if kids saw it. Therefore we shouldn’t get *too* upset that its in a Disney movie.

Everyone knows Dumbo. It’s a character that has rooted itself into our collective consciousness. There’s a species of Octopus named after it. We call someone a “dumbo.” (sad that it’s not in a good way!) As a movie, it’s a good shorter one for kids, but it’s one that I think you can skip. There are so many other great Disney movies out there to take its place. That being said, Dumbo and Timothy are likable. I think I would have liked this movie better if it had been longer and we had had a bit more character development and story development.

Disney Message: Even if you have something that doesn’t make you “normal,” it makes you unique. Learn to love yourself and embrace the flaws everyone else seems to think you have.

I give Dumbo (1941) a 2.8 out of 5.

Up next: Bambi (1942)

Screw Comedies: Onto Disney!


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Alright – I know I said I was doing comedies next, but given the fact that 2014 so far has been far from perfect, I find that even watching hilarious raunchy comedies do not satisfy my need to be happy. Whenever I’m in a bad mood, depressed about the weather, dealing with stress, sick, etc, one thing in my life remains constant: no matter how bad I’m feeling, The good old movies of Walt Disney Pictures Animation can always put a smile on my face.

I am 110% a Disney kid. I was a child in my impressionable years during the Disney Renaissance, and because of that, I have an extreme love of Disney (my recent obsession with Frozen is a good example…). Even when they put out horrible movies, I always have hope that they’ll return back on top (which they have FINALLY done in that past few years – go John Lassiter!). I own most movies in the Disney canon, with a few notable exceptions. And honestly, the movies I don’t own I find I don’t miss (with 2 or 3 exceptions – I’ll get to those and find some way to review them…).

Disney, for all the crap it gets sometimes about being racist, teaching people horrible lessons, and being nothing but recycled fluff, is amazingly tolerant and teaches AMAZING lessons. Sure, there’s always a happily ever after, but a lot of times, people need those happy endings. Movies and books are a way to escape, and in my mind, Disney movies are always a great way to do it.

Like with Miyazaki movies, Here’s my list of Disney movies ranked on my most favorite to my least favorite. These are Official Disney Canon movies, so Pixar and live action disney movies like Mary Poppins aren’t included. We’re talking animated classics here. In all reality, I love most of these, and will easily watch every single one of them. Theres only a few that I really can’t stand (I’m looking at you Cinderella…). And yes, I had this list already existing on my computer. Don’t judge me.

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The Lion King

Frozen

Beauty and the Beast

Tangled

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Wreck-it Ralph

Bambi

The Rescuers Down Under

Tarzan

Bolt

Lilo and Stitch

The Princess and the frog

Mulan

Brother Bear

The Emperor’s New Groove

Hercules

Pocahontas

The Little Mermaid

101 Dalmatians

Robin Hood

Lady & the Tramp

Aladdin

Fantasia

Sleeping Beauty

The Jungle Book

Oliver and Company

The Fox & the Hound

Dinosaur

Fantasia 2000

Peter Pan

Pinocchio*

Meet the Robinsons*

The Sword & the Stone

The Rescuers

The Black Cauldron

Treasure Planet*

Alice in Wonderland

The Great Mouse Detective

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Dumbo

Cinderella*

Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs*

The Aristocats*

* = I do not own.

This IS just the official Disney canon, so sequels are not on this list. that being said, I do own 3 disney sequels, and I WILL be reviewing them in sequence. Most of those are god awful, but the three I own I actually like.  You also might notice that some official Disney canon movies aren’t on my list, such as Make Mine Music, Ichabod and Mr. Toad, etc. That is because I don’t own them and I honestly haven’t seen them all the way through (although I have seen parts of most of them on saturday morning cartoons growing up). therefore I didn’t rank those, nor will I be reviewing them. We’ll be going chronologically with what I own. So that being said….

Up Next: Dumbo (1941)