The Jungle Book (1967)

 

The Jungle Book

 

For a lot of people, this animated movie is the first (and sometimes only) version of The Jungle Book they will see. In some ways, this is sad. The book, by Rudyard Kipling, is an incredibly interesting piece of literature. Is it anything like this movie (or any other adaptations since then)? Absolutely NOT. The book is extremely dark. The book doesn’t end with Mowgli in the human village. He gets to the man village early, then goes back and forth from it to the jungle having adventures, making the book feel very episodic. It paints the struggle of man vs animal. Definitely NOT the swinging jazz-induced film we’re used to.

In some ways, that shows the power that the Disney Studio has over pop culture. Anyone in the movie business knows that should they choose to adapt a movie Disney’s already done, their movie will get compared. Heck, sometimes that even happens if the Disney movie is made after another version. Suddenly the first one isn’t good enough or “it’s not the Disney one” so no one remembers it. The Jungle Book falls into both these categories. Movies were made before, and versions were made after, and none of them ever seem to do as well or compare to the Disney version. The Jungle Book is locked in association with family entertainment when in fact it shouldn’t. I’m not blaming Disney. It’s just what’s happened. I would LOVE to see a version that follows to the book. I want the dark, scary drama. Sure it’s a little outdated these days, but still, it would be interesting.

This was the last movie that Walt Disney personally oversaw before his death in 1966, and it shows. After having been a bit “hands off” with both 101 Dalmations and the Sword in the Stone, (and partially because the latter was a bit of a disappointment), he oversaw all efforts on this production. So you can thank him for the swinging jazz and family friendly entertainment. In movies after this, you can start to see just how much of an influence Walt had in his studio and what happened afterward (a lot of people refer to the 70s and 80s in Disney as the “Dark Ages,” but I don’t really…).

So back to The Jungle Book. This movie follows a young boy in India named Mowgli. He’s found as an infant and raised by a family of wolves. One day it’s discovered that the apex predator of the jungle, a tiger named Shere Khan, has returned to this part of the jungle, and out of fear for the boys life, it’s decided he must leave the jungle and return to the man village. He reluctantly goes with Bagheera, the black panther, all the while complaining and saying he can take care of himself. From here we have a journey movie with our duo meeting some strange characters, arguing, getting in trouble, and eventually meeting the very tiger they’ve been trying to avoid. At the end they do make it to the man village, but will Mowgli decide to stay in the jungle?

I will start discussing this by putting a disclaimer at the beginning of this: I absolutely despise this main character. In reality, there really is nothing wrong with him. I just really don’t like this kid. I never used to have an issue with him. When I was a kid, I thought he was hilarious and he was someone I could relate to. In that way, it shows he’s a good depiction of a really annoying 8 year old. In my personal life and my teaching life, I’ve found that I really don’t like this age. Maybe that’s why I have an issue with Mowgli, but this kid is just so damn annoying. He thinks he can do everything. He thinks he can take care of himself. I understand he doesn’t want to go to the man village, but this kid thinks he’s goddam invincible. He thinks he can take on a giant tiger. There’s being brave, then there’s just being stupid. Mowgli is the latter. Sometimes I wish this kid would get eaten by a tiger or a bear. I’m sure Bagheera was thinking the same thing. But putting my issues with him aside, he is just a kid. Kids think all the things I said. They think they’re invincible. They think they’re braver than they are. I have to give them credit for making a really believable child that kids can themselves relate to. If I was a kid that lived in the jungle, I wouldn’t want to be taken from there either! I would probably kick and scream and say I could take care of myself just so I could stay. So although I hate him, Mowgli is a well developed child character.

The thing about this movie that makes it really enjoyable and memorable for me (and I’m sure lots of others) are the side characters. Everyone remembers Baloo the bear, King Louie, Bagheera, Colonel Hathi, the vultures, and Kaa (Fun fact: the animators actually created the character of King Louie. He’s not in the first Jungle Book book). While none, besides maybe Baloo and Bagheera (I’ll get to them later), are on screen very long, they all have something quirky and memorable about them. Colonel Hathi the elephant is a war veteran that has his herd walk in formation and shouts out orders. He’s tough but has a soft spot for his son. King Louie is obsessed with learning how to be a human and will do anything to capture the power of “man’s red fire”. The vultures are beatles wannabes (fun fact: Disney wanted the Beatles to voice them, but they said no). Kaa is persistent, funny, and can hypnotize his prey, being possibly the scariest thing in the jungle if it weren’t for Shere Khan.

Then there’s Baloo and Bagheera. Bagheera the panther also acts a bit like a narrator, doing a voiceover in the beginning and a few times though out the movie. He’s been in Mowgli’s life since the beginning. He found him abandoned and brought him to the wolves. Bagheera is the one who volunteers to take Mowgli back to the man village, and as such acts as a guardian the entire movie. He’s serious and set on doing his job right. He’s a realist and very rational, and as such constantly rolls his eyes or grows angry when Mowgli goes off on his “I can survive on my own in the jungle” talk. I thought Bagheera was a boring character as a kid, but now I understand that he’s a responsible adult. Yeah, apparently now we’re all boring if we’re responsible adults. Throughout the course of the movie he does learn to loosen up a bit (with the help of Baloo), but he’s still him. He still wants to do what’s best for Mowgli, and he’s one of my favorite characters.

Then there’s Baloo. He’s the polar opposite of our responsible Panther. He’s Timon and Pumbaa before they existed. He lives a carefree life, and represents Mowgli’s ticket to stay in the jungle. He, like Mowgli, believes he’s responsible enough to look after someone and look after himself. What he fails to see is that kids can be unpredictable – because he’s in many ways a kid himself. Baloo is fun loving and unpredictable too. He doesn’t think things through and barges right in to every situation. Bagheera has his hands full dealing with the two of them. At the same time, Baloo has an extremely good heart, and he’s willing to do anything to save Mowgli. Baloo is who kids always remember, and he’s one of the only characters in Disney-dom who got a spin off that had nothing to do with the movie (Heck yeah Talespin! Sing it!).

The movie’s villain, Shere Khan the tiger, is a really cool villain. He’s only in about a quarter of the movie, but we’re no less afraid of him in his absence. The animals of the jungle talk him up about his hatred of man and how dangerous he is to Mowgli. When we do meet him, it’s because he’s overhearing that Mowgli has escaped. Suddenly, he’s a threat, and he knows about the boy. The tiger’s personality is cool and collected. He knows he’s a bad ass, and he knows there’s no one who can stop him. I’ve always loved when he finally does meet Mowgli, cause the kid is so brave just standing there preparing to fight (or dumb… I’m gonna say dumb) and Shere Khan gets upset because he won’t run and join in the “game.” In the end, even our confident tiger has a weak spot, and Mowgli uses that to his advantage.

Other than the characters, what people remember the most is the songs. What I find interesting about this movie is the discrepancy between the instrumental soundtrack of the movie and the actual songs in the movie. The instrumental parts of the movie are very suave and, for lack of a better word… jungly. You can picture the snake slithering through the grass. You can picture the tiger slinking through the trees. The songs, on the other hand, are 100% jazz and pop. “The Bear Necessities,” and “I wanna Be like you” jump out, but there are others, like the one the vultures sing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the songs and I love the instrumental music, but I just find it odd that the two are so different. It doesn’t detract at all, that’s the funny part. It seems as if they’re polar opposites, but they happen to compliment each other rather enjoyably. If that’s even a word….

The other thing I want to mention about this movie is the animation. Specifically, I want to talk about Disney reusing animation. Whether for budget reasons, staffing reasons, or time reasons, Disney has always been reusing animation. He would take things from his shorts or other movies, change the drawings so it matched the characters, and put it in his current work. A lot of times, you can’t really tell. The movies were either so far apart in time, or the scene borrowed was from a short you might not have seen. Starting with The Jungle Book (at least for me) it becomes a lot more… noticeable. They start borrowing from more recent movies. And it shows. There’s reused animation in here from 101 Dalmations, Sword in the Stone, Snow White, The Wind in the Willows, and a few shorts. Some of those movies were not that long ago. And while sometimes they do a good job covering up that they’re reusing the animation, The Jungle Book (and subsequent movies) don’t try to hide it as much it seems. Again, for me this sloppiness really just lasts through the Disney Dark Ages, even though I know they recycled through the Renaissance. If you’re more curious about this, there’s lots of links, videos and pictures showing the recycled animation. Just search (and here’s one for your enjoyment:

This was never actually one I caught until I was older - I always caught the 101 Dalmatians one earlier with the wolf pups

This was never actually one I caught until I was older – I always caught the 101 Dalmatians one earlier with the wolf pups

The Jungle Book as a whole is a really enjoyable movie. This is another one of those Disney movies that I always forget I like as much as I do. It’s not nearly my favorite movie, or even in my top ten Disney movies, but it’s enjoyable and fun nonetheless. Why does this not crack my favorite Disney movies despite having talking/singing animals, good characters and good songs? For me, it’s that stupid kid. He’s so freaking annoying to me I can’t stand it. really, that’s it. If they had made him a little more enjoyable, this movie would have been amazing. And while the songs are good, to me, they’re not stuck in my head all day (although I know they get stuck in lots of peoples…). They’re not Disney’s best. (In fact, the song I always get stuck in my head after watching this movie isn’t even from the movie. It’s the incredibly catchy theme song to Talespin…)

If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you have and haven’t read the book, I suggest giving it a read. Whichever medium you choose, the characters will stay with you for better or worse. After this movie, the animation studios would have to move on without Walt (although he had still been in production and storyboarding for movies all the way through The Rescuers before his death). This, also, was for better or worse.

I give The Jungle Book (1967) a 3.7 out of 5

Next up: Robin Hood (1973)*

 

*Yes I know The Arisocats is between these, but I do not own this movie because it is the most god-awful thing and I hate it with a passion. I don’t even know if I could explain why.

 

 

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The Sword In The Stone (1963)

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I’ve decided that our education system grossly underuses this movie. Every single science and biology teacher should be using this movie. Imagine the excitement on the kids’ faces when their teacher tells them that today they’re going to watch a disney movie! The one time that happened to me, it was in 7th grade. We watched Hercules and compared it to the actual story (yeah.. more on that later obviously), but we were SO EXCITED. Because no one EVER watches an actual movie in school, unless it’s the last day. But this movie… man… this movie REALLY needs to be used.

I almost put this movie in the same realm as Alice in Wonderland in the sense that this movie really doesn’t have much of a plot, but instead it’s a movie you experience. Sure the movie follows characters we know: Merlin the wizard and Arthur the future king of England. But it’s not like this is a knights of the round table movie. It’s not full of fights and dragons and action and adventure….

Actually as I’m writing this, it actually does have all those things. But… not in the way you’d think. This movie follows Arthur (or Wart, as they call him) when he’s an orphan kid working up to be a squire in a castle. He meets Merlin, who has it set in his mind that this kid is destined for greatness and he must teach him the really important lessons. We follow through some of these lessons, and it all leads up to the inevitable moment that Arthur is in… London…? for a jousting match as a squire and pulls the sword from the stone, signifying he is King.

This movie preaches brain over brawn. It preaches the importance of knowledge and of schooling. It tells us that to be destined for greatness, you must be educated. It teaches lessons about love and the way the world works. But it doesn’t do it in an annoying way. It’s very subtle, and is handled in ways that kids can easily understand and enjoy.

This movie can easily be shown just pieces at a time to kid who is younger or doesn’t have the attention span for the whole movie. It’s really great in that aspect. I honestly think I remember this happening on the Disney channel when I was younger. They’d show just the fish part, or the squirrel part, or the duel with Madam Mim. That’s sort of the brilliance of this movie. Because it doesn’t really have a huge plot it has to follow, it’s instead split into lessons that Merlin teaches Arthur. After changing him into a fish, they learn about action & reactions, and brain over brawn. As a squirrel, Arthur learns about the harsh realities of love and loss. As a bird, we learn a bit about the basics of flight, but more about instinct. Heck, even in the duel with Madam mim, we learn that a germ is a living organism! (how many kids actually think that?)

The characters are memorable. Arthur is a bit bland, but I think that’s the point. He’s like a blank slate. At the same time you can tell he’s a smart kid, but wants to just fit in and be a squire like he thinks he’s supposed to. He doesn’t think he can rise above that because he’s not a royal, and so at some level wonders why he should even try. (by the way, can we also talk about his ever changing voice? for the longest time I thought more than one kid voiced him, but that’s not it. That poor voice actor must have been going through puberty. It actually REALLY bugs me in this movie that his voice changes from scene to scene!)

Enter Merlin. There have been many depictions of Merlin the wizard throughout the years. A lot of people remember this one, and for a long time this is the one most people think of. He’s a nice old man if a bit forgetful and a bit bumbling. He has a good heart but at the same time is passionate about teaching to the point where he can be a bit mean if people don’t see it his way. He makes references to the future all the time, signifying he’s either been there or has knowledge of it, and at one point in the movie even returns from Bermuda wearing very modern looking clothes. *Side note: seriously, now that I watch this, I’m wondering if this is where they got some of the idea for the modernness of the Genie in Aladdin. Obviously Merlin is nothing like the Genie, but the same general ideas are there* He knows that Arthur is destined for greatness, but he doesn’t seem to know what that greatness is; he just knows he has to help him get there by teaching him the important things in the world. And honestly, without Merlin, would Arthur have been as good a king? We can only surmise that his time with Merlin helped him become who history remembered him for. (on a personal note: I much prefer BBC’s Merlin. If you’re a fan of this kind of stuff, I really suggest watching. It messes with the whole story, but it’s SO good. It’s on netflix)

Our other more major character is Archimedes, Merlin’s “pet” owl. He’s arguably smarter than Merlin, but can be a bit cranky. He acts like he doesn’t care about the boy and calls him lazy, then goes and saves him from the moat from the barracuda. He remembers things Merlin doesn’t, and even takes over teaching for a bit, arguing that not only should the boy have knowledge of the world, but he should be able to read and write as well. It’s a good point, and he’s a good character. Honestly he’s my favorite in the movie.

We also have Sir Pellinore and his son Sir Kay. they’re meant in the movie to be a bit of an adversary for Merlin and Arthur, but they really aren’t “bad” per se. They took Arthur in (they call him “wart”) and are giving him the chance to become a squire, which they see as a pretty good deal for the kid. Kay does think he’s a bit of a bumbling idiot, and both think that this whole “learning” business with Merlin is worthless and have some major issues with it. But they’re not really villains. they still allow Arthur to have meetings with Merlin, and he even stays in the tower. Sure they get mad at Arthur for any little thing, but that’s the way that society is, so they’re acting in accordance.

Then there’s Madam Mim. I don’t know why but this is always the character most kids remember. Probably because she’s an evil witch, but at the same time she’s kinda hilarious. She catches Arthur when he’s a bird, tries to eat him, then gets into a wizard’s duel with Merlin. She lies and cheats to get her way to the top, but ultimately falters because Merlin is too smart. Lesson? lying and cheating is no way to get ahead.

This movie doesn’t have a ton of songs, but that’s ok; this movie doesn’t need them. The songs it does have are mostly ok, and then there’s “That’s what Makes the world turn round” or whatever that one is called. If you’ve seen the movie, you know which song I’m talking about. In that song we learn about action and reaction, we learn that it’s up to us to make our own success, and we learn what mediocrity is. Plus, that song will get stuck in your head FOREVER.

So this seems like a really great movie, and it is, don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of friends and relatives who say it’s a favorite. There is so much going for this movie, and so much of it is actually better when you watch it as an adult. Personally, it’s not one of my favorites. There’s one big reason: I think it’s long and boring. It’s NOT a long movie by any stretch of the imagination, but what I mean is it feels long. I’m normally good until right up after they turn into squirrels and back, then i’m kinda like “ok, how much longer?” I dunno if it’s the lack of plot or what. Maybe I saw it in chunks too much as a kid. For whatever reason, this is why it’s not in my top 10 or 15 Disney movies. It’s almost like Alice. I love what the movie does, but for me, I prefer my movies to have plots. You can bet I’ll be showing this to my kids though. Seriously. Most educational Disney movie EVER!

I give Sword in the Stone (1963) a 4 out of 5 (but it’s going to place lower on my personal list) Great movie with a lot in it. Even if I think it’s boring.

Up Next: The Jungle Book (1967)

 

101 Dalmatians (1961)

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When I was a kid, there were periods in my life when I would literally become OBSESSED with movies (heck… I still do it today). A lot of the time when I was little, that movie would 90% of the time be Disney related. Most of the time it was animation.

101 Dalmatians is the first movie I really remember becoming OBSESSED with. I had a Dalmatian hat, complete with a face on the brow and ears hanging off the side. I had Dalmatian bedsheets (heck… I honestly still use the pillow case with Lucky’s face on it under my bird’s cage so it doesn’t scratch the dresser). I had at LEAST three stuffed animals. I just HAD to have all the McDonald’s toys. I had to have the books. I had to have EVERYTHING. To anyone who knew me in 1st or 2nd grade, I was the Dalmatian girl.

This doesn't even begin to cover what my obsession looked like....

This doesn’t even begin to cover what my obsession looked like…. BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!

To state the obvious, I like this movie. I still do. The characters are good, the plot is exciting, the villain is awesome. And it has cute puppies. What more could you want? Is it one of my all time favorites? It’s definitely got a spot in the top 15 if not the top ten. We’ll have to see where it ends up. But it still manages to be charming.

This movie is based on a book of the same name by english author Dodie Smith. While there are a few differences between the book and the movie, they follow each other pretty closely. The story follows a Dalmatian named Pongo and his “pet” human, Roger. Roger’s a bachelor and a composer, and Pongo decides that his pet needs companionship. This leads them to meet Anita and Perdita (wow I just now figured out that those two rhyme… that’s bad), which ends in a marriage for the two humans. Soon after, Perdita gives birth to 15 puppies. At this time an old friend of Anita’s, Cruela de Vil comes to visit and wants to buy all the puppies. She’s scary and crazy and they see through her and Roger exclaims that the puppies aren’t for sale.

We bounce foreword in time a bit, and one night when the puppies are older two men named Horace and Jasper break in and steal the puppies. Forlorn, the humans try everything but cannot locate where they were taken or who took them. Pongo and Perdita try their way, starting the “twilight bark,” or almost a telephone of barking dogs to figure out where the puppies are. The message gets out to the country where an old Sheepdog named the Colonel and a cat Mr. Tibbs realize that they heard barking in “hell hall,” the old de Vil place. Tibbs goes to investigate and not only finds the 15 stolen puppies, but a whole lot more as well – 99 in all. He finds out that Cruela stole them to make coats out of them. He returns and Colonel sends a message back. Pongo and Perdita race out to the country to rescue the puppies, and Tibbs gets them out just in time. The rest of the movie is a race against Cruela and Horace and Jasper to get home without getting caught.

Like Sleeping Beauty before it, what this movie does so well is its villain. Cruela is a force to be reckoned with, and dear sweet lord is she scary. Her character design is reminiscent of a starving woman, but you don’t see it because they surrounded her in this ginormous yellowish fur coat. If you weren’t sure, this clinches it. Fur is her first and only love. She even says that in the movie. Her two toned hair, constant smoking, high heels and voice like nails on a chalkboard makes her one of the most memorable disney villains in the canon. She’s in your face, knows what she wants, and isn’t going to let anything stop her. Plus, can we mention for a moment that she was going to kill PUPPIES to make a coat? way to hit extremely low. Anyone who wants to hurt a puppy is diabolical. And creepy. I remember the day I figured out that her last name was really devil. I also remember wondering why Anita would ever have been friends with someone like her. I also still wonder what happened to her after the movie. I mean, she crashes into horace and Jasper, but… then what? do they turn her in? does she get arrested? or is she just going to try this again?

The rest of our characters are good. Our four adults, Roger & Anita and Pongo & Perdita, are good enough. This movie has a lot going for it, so it’s hard to really say they’re incredibly good characters. I like that Roger has his music thing and he’s a little goofy. I like that Pongo is a big goofy as well but is a good dad, is smart, and really cares about his kids and Perdita. Anita and Perdita are less developed, but we still get that they’re both incredibly sweet. We understand that Perdita will do anything for her puppies and is devastated when they’re taken. I don’t know that you honestly could have done much more because there are so many characters in this movie and they all needed (and got) a personality all their own.

Our next more minor characters that still manage to be memorable and have great personalities consist of our three animals at the farm: The Colonel, Tibbs, and… the horse. I have to look up his name. The Colonel is an old sheepdog, takes everything super seriously, but you can tell he’s got a few screws coming loose. He can’t hear really well, he barks orders but then goes and does funny things like tries to run on ice and doesn’t understand what Tibbs is trying to do. The Colonel has a great heart, and is willing to do anything to rescue the puppies and get them safely to their home. Tibbs the cat is honestly probably my favorite character in the movie. He takes orders from this old sheepdog, but you get the feeling he’s really the brains of the operation. He’s the one who finds out why the puppies are there, actually rescues them from the hit men (at least until Pongo and Perdita show up) and he expects order but at the same time understands they’re just kids. The horse (Captain!! I remembered it!) only has a few lines. He’s not as developed because he’s stuck in the barn, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t help.

Then we have Horace and Jasper. Cruela’s bumbling sidekicks are as stupid as they look, and in a kid’s movie, that always gets a laugh. They’re hired with doing the actual job, but don’t manage to because they want to see the end of a TV program and for some reason don’t see that all the puppies are disappearing beneath their feet. They remark while they’re chasing them that dogs aren’t as smart as they are when we see Pongo et al doing some pretty smart things. They’re trying to point out just how dumb these two are, and they do a good job. They’re funny but there’s also something scary about them, because they don’t think twice about killing and skinning the dogs. just… ugh….

The puppies are the last characters I’ll talk about, because I literally could go on and on telling you about everyone they meet, from the cows to the labrador, but that’s pointless. Of Pongo & Perdi’s 15 puppies, we get to know a few of them. By “know” i mean that these few puppies actually have names and lines. In the book most of them had names, but in the movie, they don’t. We know Rolly the fat puppy who always complains he’s hungry & Lucky the puppy who loves TV and is named Lucky because he’s the one that almost died (btw that scene is done so freaking well). Patch is the one with a black spot over his eye and is a little feisty. I guess they’ve all gotta have a gimmick. Freckles is the puppy who’s on Pongo’s head all the time, and Penny is the polite one. We apparently have a pepper, but you only hear his name and never know which one they’re talking about. After the live action movie (ugh) we had a few more puppies named, and if you go online, you’ll see a few more, but in the original movie, this was it. As a kid I latched onto Lucky and Patch. Kids are weird like that. Their favorite characters in the movie have 2 lines. Ah well.*

Switching gears, this movie has TWO songs. It’s such a change from the movies before you’d think the songs would be missed. But… they don’t. It’s kinda refreshing that the dogs don’t sing. The only song we have is a doozy though, in Roger’s “Cruela De Vil.” Now there’s a song you’ll get stuck in your head. The last one is another one of Roger’s (which is fitting because he IS a composer) called “Dalmatian Plantation.” It’s catchy too, and a good way to end the movie. I guess what I’m saying is that although I love Disney songs, this movie is BETTER because it didn’t have a lot.

Ook, here’s what I don’t like about the movie:

~ This is the first movie not to use hand drawn cells. There was a new technology and this is where Disney Animation starts to look sort of “messy.” I understand Walt liked to work in new tech, but this movie ushers in what I call the “dirty” Disney movies. You can see the line strokes as the character moves. the backgrounds aren’t quite as detailed. This would continue until the 80s, when a new technology would replace this one. Thank GOD.

~I feel like the end is rushed. I remember being a kid, and they’re singing the “Dalmatian Plantation” song and saying they’re going to keep all the dogs and buy a big house in the country. I wasn’t a stupid kid. I remember how much time they spent in the beginning setting up the fact that Roger & Anita are poor. They talk about how they’ll keep all the puppies even if it will bankrupt them. Now they’re talking about buying a huge house in the country? I know NOW that there is a line or two about how Roger sold the Cruela song (actually she just goes “That song is the best thing to happen to us; we have more money than we could have ever dreamed) and it plays on the radio. Apparently as a kid I couldn’t make that connection : they have money, the songs on the radio = he must have sold it. I dunno. It’s a stupid problem i have with the movie. I just feel like that line would have been better placed after Roger says “let’s buy a big place.” Anita could have gone. “Yes, now we can afford it because you sold that song!” I dunno. Like I said. It’s nit-picky, but I have to be like that with this movie.

101 Dalmatians is definitely worth watching if you’ve never seen it. It’s fun for kids and adults. I DO remember being scared of Cruela when I was a kid, and a few of the scenes near the end can be a bit scary. But this movie is awesome. A personal favorite.

I give 101 Dalmatians (1961) a 4 out of 5.

Up Next: The Sword and the Stone (1963)

* I was just reminded as I was searching for images of the short lived animated 101 Dalmatians. I used to watch that. I’m ashamed…

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

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This movie has become the bane of my existence. I know it’s a classic. I know it’s a masterpiece. I know a lot of people really like this movie. I don’t. I really really don’t. I REALLY REALLY want to like this movie more than I really do, but I can’t bring myself to do so. It’s my mother’s favorite, and I think I’m going to have to pick her brain as to WHY.

Nevermind. I know why. The same aspects I like about this movie are why everyone seems to adore it. Maybe that’s my problem. I can’t just focus on the good. Because to me, this movie has a lot of issues. There are things about this movie that I just can’t move past. To me, this movie jumps between freaking cool to watch to incredibly boring to frustrating. Let’s find out why.

Everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty. A Princess is born. There’s a big “party” where the three good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merrywheather bestow upon the Princess Aurora gifts. Flora gives her beauty, Fauna gives her song, but before Merryweather can bestow her gift, an evil sorceress, Maleficent, curses the baby, saying that before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Not able to completely counteract the spell but able to fix it, Merryweather changes the curse so that Aurora will not die when she pricks her finger, but simply sleep until true loves kiss awakes her. Terrified still, the King has all the spinning wheels burned on that very day, and the three fairies take Princess Aurora to a cottage in the woods where they raise her as mortals, change her name to Briar Rose, and hide her.

16 years passes, and Rose is out in the woods, dreaming of her true love when she meets him. They dance, then promise to meet later that night. Unbeknownst to her, this man is Prince Phillip, the man she is betrothed too. She’s excited to tell Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, but instead, they tell her it can’t happen, because she’s the princess and she’s betrothed. Meanwhile, the same thing happens to prince Phillip when he returns to the castle. The fairies return Rose/Aurora to the castle, but go figure, Maleficent has had spies in the woods, her crow finds that Rose is Aurora, and she puts her plan into motion. Under some sort of spell, Aurora pricks her finger and falls asleep. The fairies put the rest of the kingdom under a sleeping spell, and Flora learns from Phillip’s father that Phillip is in love with Rose. Knowing Maleficent was on her way to the cottage to steal her true love, the three fairies visit her castle, rescue phillip, and help him battle the Maleficent dragon and the Briar patch to reach Aurora and kiss her, awaking in the kingdom and everyone lives happily ever after.

I’m going to say the things I like about this movie first, because I feel once I start ranting I won’t be able to stop. First of all, this movie is known for it’s amazingly unique and beautiful backgrounds. Walt didn’t want it to look like any of his other movies, and I’ve heard each background took 7-10 days to complete, where with the others it was more like 3-4. It pays off. The angularity of the movie is beautiful, but at the same time you don’t think it’s too weird. Somehow, the square bushes and the completely straight trees work with this movie. The characters themselves aren’t too angular, but the details are put into them as well, such as sharp elbows (that’s always something I’ve noticed with this movie). I would watch this movie strictly to see the backgrounds and the designs of the characters and the settings.

I love love LOVE that this movie used music from the Ballet. This was one of the first movies to ever produce a soundtrack that people could buy, and it is great. The music from the ballet fits SO well, it’s amazing. We all know the music when they’re in the castle rescuing Phillip. We know the slurred notes that mean trouble is brewing. I’m humming it right now, and if you’ve ever watched this movie, you know the music. Music is behind every scene throughout this movie, and it’s beautiful. I also love the song “Once Upon A Dream.” Not only is it a great song to sing but it’s animated beautifully with Aurora and Phillip. It’s great.

The last thing I LOVE (yeah there’s only 3) is Maleficent. She seriously makes this movie for me. Voiced by the same woman who did Lady Tremaine in Cinderella (Eleanor Audley), she is evil, vile, smart, and incredibly wicked. Just being in the same room with this woman would make me pee my pants. She is Disney’s first REAL Villain, and she does it well. She has a huge presence, they actually give her a personality, and she has her own story arc. She has her own henchmen. She’s the first fully fleshed out Disney villain, and I enjoy every minute that she is on screen. Her character design is unbelievable, and that ending with the dragon? awesome. The work they put into her paved the way for other great Disney villains. Just like true love and silly things have become associated with the Disney name, I think good villains have as well. Maleficent is the original good villain.

Alright, so that’s what I love about the movie. That’s what a lot of people love about this movie, and those things really ARE enough for it to be called a classic and for it to have a ton of fans. But this movie has issues. Issues that for me completely change the movie, and are things I just can’t seem to get over. Ready? Let the torches come out!

For a movie called Sleeping Beauty, our titular character is so NOT in this movie it really bugs me. She has a grand total of 18 lines, the last of which comes only 38 minutes into the movie. Now I understand she’s asleep for half of the movie, but still! Most people argue that this movie is really about the fairies, and I do believe that’s true: they’re more fleshed out characters with personalities. And that’s fine. THAT BEING SAID, it doesn’t mean our secondary characters have to be as dull as bricks. Especially our titular princess. I swear, this movie is probably the driving force behind why people think Disney Princesses don’t do anything. She has no personality. They just show her crying as she comes to terms with the fact she’s a princess, but it’s silently. She doesn’t fight back, she doesn’t do anything. She doesn’t even express her feelings besides crying and standing there with a glazed look over her face. After a Princess like Cinderella, I feel this was a giant step backwards. I understand if you don’t want her to be the main character. You at least have to give her something besides beauty and a pretty voice (I guess that’s all they gave her…).

Then theres PRINCE PHILLIP. oh dear sweet lord. I was ranting to my husband right after watching this movie about Prince Phillip, and he really just wanted me to rant on here. By the end of it he was laughing his butt off about how serious I was getting. Well, I’m going to try my best, but I probably will rant a bit about this. You’ve been warned.

The reason I think this whole thing really bugs me, why this whole movie really bugs me, is because I can see what it could have been. I’m willing to forgive Aurora’s lack of personality and lines because she’s really not the focus. But Prince Phillip? This character could have been SO great. He’s in more of the movie than Aurora is, and he arguably has more of a role in the movie than any other character besides the fairies and Maleficent. He could have been Disney’s first fully realized prince that actually did something. We saw in lady and the Tramp that they had the capacity to make a good male character lead in a love story. But for some reason – they didn’t.

Prince Phillip got the really short end of a stick in this movie. Despite being a central part of the last half hour, he NEVER SAYS A WORD. Even when Maleficent tells him her plan of keeping him in there for 100 years and finally letting him out when he’s old, he doesn’t say anything. He just leans forward angrily in his shackles. You can’t tell me he wouldn’t be yelling at the evil old sorceress. Seriously?? If my true love had just been put to sleep and was waiting for me, I would be pissed. I would try anything to get out of the situation I was in. Instead, he just sits there and waits to be rescued by the fairies. He’s as bad as a freaking Disney Princess girls!! Sure he defeats a dragon by the end and has the urge to rescue her once he’s out, but really? The shackles scare you and stop you more than a dragon does?

He could have been an awesome character. Really, he could have. The potential was there to make him incredibly interesting. They made him snarky in the beginning with his horse! There was potential there. He had personality! I love when he tells his father about the girl he’s going to marry, and it’s NOT the princess. He dances around in love, acting like an idiot. Why couldn’t they just keep that up?? why why why??? It’s like they just gave up and decided to take away his personality at a time when it was most needed. WHY!?!?

Ok… mini rant over. I honestly could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ll just move on.

This movie is also, to me, a bit boring in places. It has some strange art sequences that are just… blah. With the music that goes along with it, it’s a wonder I didn’t fall asleep. Seriously. Luckily those sequences last at most 30 seconds.

A lot of people like this movie, and I can understand why. This movie is beautiful and has a lot going for it. It gives us our first really great Villain, as well as some memorable moments, both musical, comical, sweet, and scary. In a lot of aspects, it is one of the most classic Disney movies. But… I just can’t get over what they did to some of the characters. As I’ve said before, characters for me equal a lot in a movie. The plot can be crap but if it has good characters, I’ll love it. What it is with Sleeping Beauty and me is that is that it just seems like they developed some of the characters, then just got lazy and said “screw it” on the rest. The ones they did develop are great. I just don’t understand why we couldn’t have enjoyed Aurora and Phillip as secondary characters as well as say, the kings.

It’s definitely worth a watch. Despite my issues with it, it is, as I’ve said, one of the classics. My rating is going to be lower for this movie because this is my opinion, but I know many who would rank it much higher than I will.

I give Sleeping Beauty a 3 out of 5.

Up Next: 101 Dalmatians (1961)