Like Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella last year, The Jungle Book offers a lavish new reimagining of a beloved story, blending elements from the original literary source material with the classic animated Disney version.
Tomorrowland argues that the future is as dark or as bright as we choose to make it; that artists, scientists and dreamers can save the world; that the dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmares dominating popular culture are killing us, and are no more inevitable or realistic than the Space-Age techno-optimism of Disney’s Tomorrowland and EPCOT, Roddenberry-era Star Trek and even The Jetsons.
Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella is such a gallant anachronism, such a grandly unreconstructed throwback, that it offers, without ever raising its voice, a ringing cross-examination of our whole era of dark, gritty fairy-tale revisionism.
Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. That’s almost enough to sell the picture by itself, isn’t it? Who but Hanks can one imagine in the role?
An intriguing question posed to me in another forum: “Who is the worst Disney villain? Mother Gothel in Tangled is bad (kidnapping, brainwashing). The evil Queen from Snow White?”
From the beginning the rodents were always there, tiny sidekicks running around in the periphery of Disney animated features, starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White’s woodland attendants included chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits as well as raccoons, bluebirds and other critters — everything but mice, it seems, though there is at least one mouse in the picture, an irritable little fellow in a mouse-hole in the Dwarfs’ house who objects to the sweeping squirrels using his hole as a dust-bin.
Yesterday I wrote about the possible effects of the box-office success of Alice in Wonderland on fairy-tale revisionism in family films to come. The flip side is the box-office disappointment of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, which hit DVD shelves yesterday.
Now, encouraging signs of change in recent Disney films suggest that the Mouse may be starting to get the message. The new trend began with surprisingly strong pro-family themes in direct-to-video sequels such as Lady & the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure. This positive depiction of family continued in the theatrically released (though still low-budget) sequels Return to Never Land and Jungle Book 2.
Is Home on the Range really the final entry in the canon of Disney’s traditional hand-animated feature films — a body of work that goes back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and includes such landmarks as Fantasia, Pinocchio, and Beauty and the Beast?
The modern era of Disney animated greatness started with a splash in 1989 when the promisingly fresh The Little Mermaid hit theaters. Delighted audiences actually burst into applause at colorful show-stopping musical numbers like the sprightly "Under the Sea" and the enchanting "Kiss the Girl." Coming as it did after a string of uninspired releases (The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, Oliver & Company), The Little Mermaid set the stage for a creative comeback.
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