Thursday, March 31, 2011

DAF #29 - The Rescuers (1977)

Bianca: "Doesn't he fly beautifully? And you wanted to take the train, you fraidy cat. "
Bernard: "Fraidy cat? No, uh... it's just that I like trains. I mean, they serve Roquefort."

Title: The Rescuers
Year: 1977
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 17 minutes

Eva Gabor as Miss Bianca
Bob Newhart as Bernard
Geraldine Page as Madame Medusa
Michelle Stacy as Penny
Jim Jordan as Orville
John McIntire as Rufus
Joe Flynn as Mr. Snoops
Pat Buttram as Luke
Jeanette Nolan as Ellie Mae
Plot: Two mice of the Rescue Aid Society search for a little girl kidnapped by unscrupulous treasure hunters.
Based on: The children's novels The Rescuers and Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp.
Setting: New York City and Louisiana, the 1970's.

Tagline: A girl in danger... A cry for help... And two marvelous mice who will risk anything to save her!

First Viewing:
Oh crap, let's just go with the 90's.

A while back, I stated that the 80's were not a good decade for Disney. Well, that was true until the coming of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and The Little Mermaid in 1988 and 1989, when Disney went back to holding the American family film viewing crowd by the balls. Before that, however, was the 70's which was a barren wasteland in comparison, at least in terms of animated fare. Four DAF's were released in that groovy decade, all of which have been reviewed here in a rather tight succession. (Coincidence?) However, I've saved the best for last. I am speaking of The Rescuers, the only bright spot (a.k.a. the only money-making DAF) of the decade.

After the death of Walt Disney in 1966, Disney Animated Features pretty much went down the crapper. The Aristocats was the first of the DAF's to be released without being touched by The Man himself, although the story was reportedly approved. Then came Robin Hood, which seems like the whole thing was made in a hungover stupor. And finally, the hap-dash quick fix, Winnie the Pooh package film. As you can imagine, these films did okay at the box office. (Never underestimate the crap parents will take their kids to to shut them up). But, The Rescuers did pretty fucking good. It was even one of the highest grossing movies of know, just a tad bit behind Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The film begins in an abandoned river boat in Devil's Bayou when little orphan Penny throws a message in a bottle into the river. Through a series of matte paintings (and a wicked awesome song!) we see the bottle's journey to New York City and eventually into the hands of the Rescue Aide Society, a UN type of organization of mice who's main concern is, well, rescuing wayward humans.

The message is read by the sexy Hungarian representative, Miss Bianca, who eagerly volunteers for the case. However, the bumbling and over protective janitor Bernard thinks she ought to have a man go with her and she consents. The two visit the Morningside Orphanage where Penny originally lived. They talk to the old house cat, Rufus, who says a woman named Madame Medusa was trying to lure Penny into her car and was probably kidnapped by her.

Bianca and Bernard go to Medusa's pawn shop and learn that she and her inept sidekick Mr. Snoops are in search of "the world's biggest diamond", the Devil's Eye. Penny is somehow a pawn in this quest and is down in Louisiana with Snoops. Bianca and Bernard waste no time in hitching a ride to The Pelican State on the back of an albatross named Orville.

Upon arriving, the mice meet a bevy of swamp folk including Evinrude the dragonfly, the resident sea captain and Ellie Mae and Luke, Disney's answer to Ma and Pa Kettle. Bianca and Bernard are directed to the riverboat where they meet Penny. She explains that she's ritualistically sent down a hole into a pirate's cave where the Devil's Eye is rumored to be located.

Due to a botched escape plan, Penny is forced down the hole the next morning. Luckily, Bianca and Bernard accompany her and soon find the stone. Once Medusa has the diamond, she attempts to steal it without letting Snoops in on the deal. She hides it in Penny's beloved Teddy bear. However, with the aid of the swamp folk, the mice and Penny take back the diamond leaving Medusa at the hands of her pet alligators.

Back in the Big Apple, the Rescue Aide Society watch a news broadcast and learn that the Devil's Eye was given to the Smithsonian Institution and Penny was adopted. (How in the hell did they get back to New York?) Bernard and Bianca remain mission partners and set out on a new adventure, this time with Evinrude.

Upon re-watching The Rescuers, I was surprised at how "Post Women's Movement" it was. Before I open up the Disney Sexism file, let me just state that every movie ever, Disney or not, is a product of its time. Social mores change and sometimes some unfortunate, politically incorrect ideas (to us in the 21st century) are frozen onto celluloid. However, since Disney movies are specifically targeted at children, they usually get the Responsible Film Making finger wagged in their face more than say, Paramount or Universal.

We've all heard it before:  Disney perpetuates negative feminine stereotypes. As an adult, I can accept Cinderella's passiveness as an example of the re-femininization of women after World War II. I can also accept Mulan's all around badassery is a product of late 90's Gurrrrl Power. But when a little girl watches Cinderella and Mulan back to back, she is not going to know (or care) that one movie was made in 1950 and the other in 1998. So, I sort of get the bra-burners' argument.

I am here to argue that up to this point in the DAF canon, The Rescuers has the strongest female characters. At the forefront is Miss Bianca, the composed, elegant, and intelligent Hungarian mousetress. She is brave, ready to take on any mission but undeniably feminine at the same time. Bianca falls to the same womanly wiles that plague us all! She wears perfume and packs to many things whilst traveling. On board Orville, Bernard says to buckle her seat belt to which she responds, "I can't. It will wrinkle my dress." In these respects, Bianca is one of the most girly (and annoying) of Disney heroines. But her Bianca shows us there is a happy medium. So don't feel bad if you're not a karate chopping, sword wielding warrior princess. We can have adventure, thrive on our wits, and look and smell good while doing it.

On the other side of the good vs. evil spectrum is one of the most underrated villains, Madame Medusa. She often falls into the skeletal shadow of Cruella de Vil. (Seriously, why must she be the go to Disney villainess?) Both are greedy, both are horrendous drivers, and both have over the top personalities. But unlike Cruella, Medusa actually interacts with the her oppressed little victim. She sweet talks Penny while at the same time hitting on her weaknesses: "What makes you think anyone would want a homely little girl like you?" and thus cementing her control.

Of course, Disney villainesses are always strong and independent so my little Feminist argument is kind of wash with Medusa. But let's take a look at Penny. It's probably safe to say she is the most annoying of all Disney children because of her slight lisp and all around treacly nature. But she is does take initiative. Yes, she was dumb enough to get kidnapped (although did she willingly get into Medusa's car? Do they ever fully explain that?), BUT she is also strong enough to attempt escape. It fails, but she's a seven year old girl, of course she's going to failing. AND instead of surrendering to Stockholm Syndrome and a life with Mommy Medusa and Papa Snoops, she sends for help. I don't like Penny, but I respect her.

And finally, there's Ellie Mae, a small character, but still the leader of the Rescue Aid Society: Hee Haw Chapter. So you see? Strong female characters all around. It's interesting because it was only four years prior that Robin Hood, with it's most weak and distressed damsel ("Help, Robin! Help!") was released. Was Maid Marian complained about? Is that why every lady in The Rescuers is so strong? Or is it the source material? Hmmmmm...

Despite the last few paragraphs, there are other things about this movie I like. Say like the blossoming romance between Bernard and Bianca. It is mainly a B story, but always enjoyable when a flirtatious moment pops up. They are opposites, surely, and why, out of all the mice men, Bianca would pick Bernard is the stuff of nerdy male screenwriters. But just like all of Disney heroines can't be meek princesses, all the Disney heroes can't smooth-talking charmers.

And finally, there's the music WHICH I ABSOLUTELY LOVE!!! Here were are given the most 70's soundtrack possible. Well, easy listening 70's. There's no disco or progressive rock. (Damn it!) "The Journey", "Tomorrow is Another Day", and "Someone's Waiting For You" are all sweet, meandering little songs that would work perfectly in a dentist's office, each sung with breathy vocals and a sort of drunk, optimistic attitude. I can't help but smile when I hear these songs. It only makes me sad Disney didn't hire the Carpenters to do the music. Now that would have been the shit!

The Rescuers is a great Disney film. You don't hear many people say "The Rescuers. Pfft. I hate that one." because you can't hate it. There's nothing to outwardly dislike other than maybe Penny. It's easy to see why, out of all the DAF's, this one was the first chosen to have a sequel.

"The Journey" - Shelby Flint
"Rescue Aid Society" - Bernard Fox (Chairman), Bob Newhart (Bernard) and Robie Lester (Bianca)
"Tomorrow is Another Day" - Shelby Flint
"Someone's Waiting For You" - Shelby Flint

Favorite Song: “Someone's Waiting For You”
Favorite Moment: Medusa emotionally abuses to Penny.

Favorite Character: Bernard

Next DAF: The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Friday, March 25, 2011

DAF #32 - The Aristocats (1970)

Uncle Waldo: "Prime Country Goose A la Provencale, stuffed with chestnuts"...? "And basted in white wine."
O'Malley: "Basted? He's been marinated in it."
Uncle Waldo: "Dreadful! Being British, I would've preferred sherry."

Title: The Aristocats
Year: 1970
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Eva Gabor as Duchess
Phil Harris as Thomas O'Malley
Dean Clark as Berlioz
Liz English as Marie
Gary Dubin as Toulouse
Roddy Maude-Roxby as Edgar
Sterling Holloway as Roquefort
Pat Buttram as Napoleon
George Lindsey as Lafayette
Hermione Baddeley as Madame Adelaide Bonfamille
Scatman Crothers as Scat Cat
Plot: A disgruntled butler kidnaps a family of cats and abandons them in the French countryside after he learns they will inherit his wealthy mistress's fortune before him.
Based on: Original story.
Setting: France, 1910.

Tagline: DIG THESE CATS...and all that JAZZ!

First Viewing:
1996 after the Masterpiece Collection video release.

Aaaaand welcome to One Hundred and One Dalmatians-Part Deux! I jest, I jest. Although many will tell you that The Aristocats is simply a feline rip-off of the aforementioned film, I am here to disagree. If anything, it's One Hundred and One Dalmatians meets Lady and the Tramp, but more on that later.

Picture it: Gay PareĆ©, circa 1910. A pussy named Duchess lives with her three kittens Berlioz (the black one), Toulouse (the orange one), and Marie (the one with the pink bow) in the opulent mansion of Madame Adelaide Bonfamille along with her faithful butler, Edgar. Duchess and her children live a comfortable life and she urges them to become patrons of the arts; Marie sings, Berlioz plays the piano, and Toulouse paints.

One day, Madame changes her will stipulating that Edgar will inherit her entire fortune if he takes care of Duchess and her offspring until they die. He fears he will expire before the cats (you know, nine lives and all) so he hatches a plan to get rid of them.

Edgar drugs Duchess and the kittens and dumps them out in the country. However, two dogs, Napoleon and Lafayette (both with southern accents, oddly enough) give him a rough time and acquire his umbrella, hat, and sidecar to his motorcycle. Edgar escapes and is an exceptionally toe-tapping happy pants mood the next morning. Roquefort and Frou-Frou (mouse and horse friends to Duchess n' kids) discover THE BUTLER DID IT and Disney's original great mouse detective starts tailing Edgar.

Meanwhile, Duchess awakens in some horrid swamp far away from her soft bed and loving owner. Luckily, charming alley cat Thomas O'Malley sees the lovely lady and offers to take her anywhere she wishes to go. Even after he learns of her children, he still insists on guiding them first by stowing away on a milk truck and then by following pair of British geese sisters, Amelia and Abigail Gabble.

Cats and geese make it to Paris and part ways. It's too late to return to Madame's mansion just yet, so O'Malley takes Duchess and the kittens to his bachelor pad. There, the kittens meet Scat Cat and his jazz band. After rollicking fun, the kittens go to bed and Duchess and O'Malley discuss a possible marriage between the two. However, Duchess decides she cannot leave Madame and O'Malley is too much of an alley cat to completely settle down even in the lap of luxury.

The next morning, the cats return to the mansion and O'Malley departs. But Edgar is waiting with a Gunny-Sack of Doom. He locks the cats in a trunk soon to be sent to Timbuktu. Duchess tells Roquefort to find O'Malley. He returns with Scat Cat and his band of stereotypical nationality cats who fight off Edgar and send him to Africa instead. Later, Madame rewrites her will to exclude the missing Edgar and to include newlywed O'Malley.

Really, the only similarity between The Aristocats and One Hundred and One Dalmatians is they are both about a family of kidnapped pets trying to get back to their home. The differences are much more plentiful: one is set in 1910's France, while the other is "contemporary" soon-to-be swinging London; the whole family is kidnapped in one, while in the other it's just the kids; Duchess and O'Malley have a budding romance, while Pongo and Perdita are married; will stipulations vs. wanting a COAT MADE OF DOG FUR. Need I go on?

I'll admit there is a similar tone and structure to both films, but like I said above, The Aristocats is far more similar to Lady and the Tramp in theme. Both Duchess and Lady are pampered and loved by their owners and therefore, are fiercely loyal to said owners even when a dashing, devil-may-care scoundrel offers them a life of fun and freedom. Both females consider this alternate life but ultimately decide their masters need them more than they need romance. On the other side, both Tramp and O'Malley consider themselves too wild and below the social status of their mates to settle down.

Interestingly, The Aristocats gives a look into the dating life of the single mother. Now, just how Duchess came to be a single mother is never mentioned. Considering this is Disney, it can be concluded she was widowed. One of the kittens even says "Well, we almost had a father," after O'Malley and Duchess discuss their possible future. After O'Malley first hits on Duchess, he is surprised when he learns of her family. Duchess seems to understand his motives and decides to go back to Paris on her own. This says that she's maybe "dated" before but all the suitors don't want kids that ain't their own seed. O'Malley realizes he's being a dickweed and falls in love with Duchess and her children even though it conflicts with his hep-cat persona. In the end, he's happily domesticated in his nuclear family. (Gotta love those Disney morals!)

Both The Aristocats and One Hundred and One Dalmatians deal with some eccentric ladies. So as bat shit crazy as it is to make a dog fur coat, leaving one's entire fucking estate to a family of cats is just as bat shit crazy, even if it is infinitely more benevolent. Madame Bonfamille is surely a nice lady, but come on! You're leaving your money to cats! Cats don't use currency, lady. No one wonder Edgar wanted to get rid of them.

While Cruella DeVil is usually ranked as one of the top Disney villains, Edgar the butler always ranks dead last. Why? Well he's not eeeeeeeeeevil, technically. He's just greedy. He's dealt with this crazy old ex-opera singer and her equally crazy, elderly, rheumatic friends for GOD KNOWS HOW LONG. Then he learns all his years of loyal service were in vain because now a family of cats is inheriting Madame's vast fortune. So what does he do? He drugs the cats and leaves them out in the country. Does he poison them? No. Does he drown them? No. He abandons them. Honestly, if they never got back to Paris they would be fine BECAUSE THEY'RE FUCKING CATS and survival is their DNA.

Granted, it is cruel for Edgar to take away Madame's only friends, so I'm by no means saying he's a nice guy that deserved all that money. His end is rather cruel. He probably suffocated and/or starved to death in that trunk on his way to Timbuktu. Justifiable homicide? Eh, maybe. The cats probably would have met an untimely end as well, but again, Edgar's intent was to send them Far Away, not to asphyxiate them.

I like The Aristocats. It's a DAF that often gets the shaft because, yeah, it ain't that good. Boys don't usually like it either because it's about cats. The music is weak (according to me) and the animation is still that tried n' true cheap ass xerography. But, for it's "daring" single mother romance, I have to rank it higher. Honestly, I don't know why everyone loves 101D so much more whilst comparing these two. To me, they're about the same.

"The Aristocats" - Maurice Chevalier
"Scales and Arpeggios" - Liz English (Marie), Gary Dubin (Toulouse), Dean Clark (Berlioz) and Robie Lester (Duchess)
"Thomas O'Malley" - Phil Harris (O'Malley)
"Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" - Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers (Scat Cat), Thurl Ravenscroft (Billy Boss), Vito Scotti (Peppo), and Paul Winchell (Shun Gon)
"She Never Felt Alone" - Robie Lester
"Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat (Reprise)" - Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers, Thurl Ravenscroft, Vito Scotti, and Paul Winchell

Favorite Song: “Scales and Arpeggios”
Favorite Moment: Thomas meets the Gabble Sisters.

Favorite Character: Toulouse

Next DAF: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

DAF #33 - One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

"As far as I could see, the old notion that a bachelor's life was so glamorous and carefree was all nonsense. It was downright dull."

Title: One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Year: 1961
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Rod Taylor as Pongo
Lisa Daniels/Cate Bauer as Perdita
Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella De Vil
Ben Wright as Roger Radcliff
Lisa Davis as Anita Radcliff
Martha Wentworth as Nanny/Lucy/Queenie
Fred Worlock as Horace Badun
J. Pat O'Malley as Jasper Badun/The Colonel
Dave Frankham as Sergeant Tibs
Thurl Ravenscroft as The Captain

Plot: After their litter of puppies is stolen, two dalmatians seek to save them from becoming a fur coat.
Based on: The children's novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Setting: London and Southern England in the early 60's or late 50's.

Tagline: One great big ONEderful motion picture.

First Viewing:
Uh...early 90's.

Not unlike The Fox and the Hound, One Hundred and One Dalmatians was a movie I didn't care for in my youth, but as I've grown older, I've come to respect it. No, I will not be comparing these two movies (how useless would that be?) and no, the reasons are not the same as you will soon learn.

In London, not so very long ago (Uh...the 60's), a dalmatian named Pongo lives with his owner Roger Radcliffe in a bachelor pad. Tired of the single life, Pongo starts looking for prospective mates for Roger and himself. He watches out the window as several lady/canine pairs cross his path, but naturally, Pongo is drawn to a cute dalmatian bitch and her svelte owner. Pongo urges Roger to the park where he and Anita have a "meet cute" by falling into a pond. Luckily, Roger and Anita have a good laugh about it. Some time later, both human and dog couples marry.

Roger, Anita, Pongo, and Perdita move into a small flat, along with their housekeeper, Nanny (by which I ask how in the hell can a struggling songwriter afford a maid??). It's not long before Perdita is expecting. On the night she gives birth to fifteen puppies, an "old schoolmate" of Anita's, Cruella De Vil, arrives wanting to purchase the whole litter. When Roger refuses to sell them, Cruella hires brothers Horace and Jasper to steal the puppies.

Roger and Anita file a report with Scotland Yard accusing Cruella, but she remains innocent. Pongo and Perdita take matters into their own paws a use the "Twilight Bark", a sort of doggie gossip chain, to ask for help. Colonel, an old sheepdog with his friends Captain (a horse) and Sergeant Tibbs (a cat), here the call and discovers the puppies are being held at Hell Hall, the "old De Vil place". Tibbs infiltrates Hell Hall and discovers 99 dalmatian puppies, most of which had be legally purchased from pet stores. He learns Cruella means to turn them into a fur coat. Tibbs sends this information down the Twilight Bark and Pongo and Perdita leave London to rescue their puppies.

Cruella orders Horace and Jasper to kill and skin the puppies that night, so Tibbs attempts to shuffle all 99 out of the house before the TV program the brothers are watching is over. Pongo and Perdita arrive to assist and insist on adopting the other 84 puppies. They begin traveling towards London, with Cruella and the Badun brothers not far behind.
While trying to catch the dogs, Cruella crashes her car into a van, allowing the dogs to escape to London. Meanwhile, Roger's song "Cruella De Vil" has become a big hit, but the couple misses their pets. Soon they arrive back home, much to their owners' delight. Roger and Anita decide to use the money made from the song to adopt all the dogs, bringing the count up to 101.
Let me begin by saying that I really do like 101D. However, I have a lot of logistical problems with it. I should probably just shut my mouth and take it for what it is; a charming, animal adventure in which good triumphs over evil. But I just can't let sleeping dogs lie. (Pun intended).
I love the beginning of this movie. The first ten minutes where Pongo shops around for wives is absolutely adorable. And the character design on the various women and their dogs is amusing and believable. When Roger and Anita and then Pongo and Perdita marry after a seemingly short period of time, I still believe that the couples will be happy. In fact, I think 101D is the only DAF that gives us a glimpse into a marriage, human or animal.

Everything seems just fine until the arrival of psycho bitch Cruella De Vil, an old schoolmate of Anita's. 
Wait. What? 
Anita, at the most has got to be around 27. Cruella is a corpse. How in the hell does that compute? Was Cruella a senior when Anita was in first grade? Or is this was cigarette smoking does? And another thing, how in the hell would Cruella know that Anita's dog just had puppies...or that her dog was a dalmatian...or that she even had a dog? It doesn't strike me as very likely that Cruella and Anita would keep up their acquaintance after school. This has always bothered me.
But then there's the real problem. Cruella De Vil is often cited at the "greatest Disney villain" because of her diabolical scheme to make a coat out the skins of dalmatian puppies.
Wait. What?

First of all, ew. 
Second of all, is there no such thing as faux fur circa 1961? 
Thirdly, why puppies? Is their fur softer? I pet a dalmatian once and his fur was short and spiky, not fuzzy like say, a bunny's. If it's simply the spots, can't you dye black spots on some kind of easily found white fur? If Cruella can afford to buy 84 puppies, then she can certainly afford to pay someone to dye spots onto a white fur coat. 
Fourthly, why 99 puppies? I know they're small but isn't 99 skins over-compensating? 
Fifthly, after Jasper and Horace supposedly skin all these dogs who in the hell is going to sew this coat together?
And lastly, how could Cruella ever wear it out in public? Surely if she said, "Yes, daaaarling, it's genuine dalmatian fur!" she would be cast out of the high society she operates in. She would have to lie and say it was faux which defeats the purpose of using real dalmatian fur.

So you see, this whole dalmatian coat concept is just to make Cruella eeeeeeeeeevil for the sake of being eeeeeeeeeeevil, because the movie needs a conflict. 
Granted, this isn't Disney's fault. Cruella was in the original 1956 novel, The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. From everything I've read, it's a very fantastical type novel for kids, ala something written by Roald Dahl, so maybe I should shut the fuck up, huh?

No! I won't do it! Then there's the ending. How in the hell are Roger and Anita going to adopt all those puppies? Not only are they going to have to buy a new house in the country, but they need hire a shit ton of people to care for those dogs. And then those dogs will just breed more dogs and more dogs...AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I know, I know. Children's story. Shut the fuck up, Jordyn.

Onto the stuff I like! 101D is the first DAF to be set in "the modern day", save for a few segments in the package films. (But who gives a shit about those, am I right?) It is, indeed, the first to feature the new fangled television set and poke fun at it simultaneously. TV is satirized with "What's My Crime?", a parody of panel game shows featuring B list celebrities. Also the irritatingly catchy Kanine Krunchies commercial wreaks of 50's style jingles. The way the Pongoes are shown watching TV together as a family bonding experience is representative of American (and British?) families at this point in time, which also makes it sort of culturally relevant.
As far as music goes, 101D is pretty sparse with only three technical songs, two of which are ludicrously short. The biggie is "Cruella De Vil", which to me, has always been an okay song, but nothing to perform at a talent show, if you get my drift. Still, if I think about it, there really isn't any good spots to put in more songs.

Like I said before, I really do enjoy this movie, despite it's flaws of sublime ridiculousness in which I am the only one who can't get over. After the puppies leave Hell Hall it drags a bit, but it's still easily one of the best comic DAF's.

"Cruella De Vil" - Bill Lee (Roger)
"Kanine Krunchies" - Lucille Bliss
"Dalmatian Plantation" - Bill Lee

Favorite Song: “Kanine Krunchies" - Lucille Bliss
Favorite Moment: Pongo shops around.

Favorite Character: Sergeant Tibbs

Next DAF: The Aristocats (1970)

DAF #34 - Robin Hood (1973)

Lady Kluck: "Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Maid Marian: "Or forgetful."

Title: Robin Hood
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Brian Bedford as Robin Hood
Phil Harris as Little John
Peter Ustinov as Prince John/King Richard
Monica Evans as Maid Marian
Pat Buttram as Sheriff of Nottingham
Terry-Thomas as Sir Hiss
Andy Devine as Friar Tuck
Carole Shelley as Lady Kluck
Roger Miller as Allan-a-Dale

Plot: The legend of England's hero who steals from the rich to give to the poor is given an animal flair.
Based on: The English legend of Robin Hood 
Setting: England, the 1190's.

Tagline: Join the MERRIEST MENagerie the world's best-loved legend!

First Viewing:
Early 90's at my grandma's house.

Out of all the Disney Animated Features, I can safely say that Robin Hood is the laziest of them all. Now, I myself am quite lazy so this isn't as big of an insult as it may seem. Yes, Robin Hood reuses animation. Yes, it doesn't have much in the way or plot or character. But dammit, I'm quite fond of it still.

Since the Tale of Robin Hood is based on poems and legends and not an actual specific text, there isn't a steadfast plot, per se. Robin Hood is an outlaw who steals from the rich to give to the poor. His friend is Little John. Prince John is a bastard. Maid Marian is the token female. In every rendition of Robin Hood, you will find these characters and roughly the same order of events. Disney's version is no exception, although it puts animals in place of the humans.

Robin Hood is narrated by the minstrel named Allan-a-Dale, a rooster voiced by some semi-famous country singer. He tells of Robin Hood (a fox) and his best friend Little John (a bear) who are constantly on the run from the Sheriff of Nottingham (a wolf). As you probably know, Prince John (a lion, but not a king. Haha!) is squatting on his brother Richard's throne until he returns from the "noble" Crusades.

One day, Prince John and his toadie, Sir Hiss (not a toad, but a snake) are traveling through Sherwood Forest to collect taxes from the poor and oppressed. Robin Hood and Little John take this opportunity to disguise themselves as female gypsies and swindle the Prince out of many a coin and his solid gold hub caps.

Prince John realizes he was grifted by the notorious Robin Hood and puts a bounty on his head. Meanwhile Robin disguises himself as a blind man and attends the birthday party of Skippy the Rabbit and gives him his bow and arrow and snazzy cap. This is where we're introduced to our annoying child voiced characters: other than Skippy, his sister "Sis", their baby sister literally named "Tagalong" (!), and cowardly Toby Turtle.

Skippy and co. go out to play and end up at the castle of Prince John, where Maid Marian (a fox, but still somehow related to the royal family) and her maid Lady Kluck are playing badminton. The characters interact and Maid Marian realizes she still loves her childhood sweetheart Robin Hood. At the same time, Robin finds himself thinking of Marian, and oh, my, oh if only they could be together.

To snare Robin, Prince John creates an archery contest with the prize being a kiss from Marian. Robin's pride and lascivious desires draw him to the match, but disguised as a stork. Naturally Robin wins and his identity is revealed. Prince John orders his execution, but he is freed and a big long ass chase scene ensues. Robin and Marian confess their love to one another and plan to marry.

Prince John, now dubbed "The Phony King of England" hikes taxes to an all time high. Friar Tuck (a badger) attacks the Sheriff of Nottingham in retaliation and is sentenced to hang. The night before, Robin and Little John rescue him, steal back a shit ton of money, and all the tax dodgers are freed from prison. After that, King Richard returns, forces Prince John, the Sheriff, and Sir Hiss to hard labor and pardons Robin. He and Marian marry and live happily ever after.

As I finish my traditional synopsis, I'm at a loss to discuss Robin Hood thoroughly or even remotely in an entertaining fashion. I enjoy it, yet I know it's not that good. I accept that fact. This is just a movie that is, and I'm fine to let it stay as is. I suppose Robin Hood and I have a very conflict-free relationship.

Sure, they reuse a shit ton of animation, particularly in "The Phony King of England" segment. And it should annoy me, but for some reason, I just shrug my shoulders and let it fly. You can make a fun little game out of it: "Oh there's Snow White! There's The Jungle Book!" Perhaps it would even make a great drinking game.
And the child characters are a bit cloying, as Andrew (Diversion 2.0) has already stated. But again, for some reason, I'm more tolerant than usual. I did watch this one growing up, but I don't want to hand the reins over to Nostalgia quite yet. Perhaps it's the voice work, Peter Ustinov particularly. And I always appreciate Phil Harris even though he's just doing Baloo/O'Malley.

Then there's the music, which I have to admit, I enjoy. It's nice to have a break from those Sherman Brothers when you're watching the DAF's in chronological order. I'm extremely fond of the Oscar nominated "Love" which is decidedly underrated and at the same time, deserving of its obscurity. Soft as cotton candy and six times as sweet, that syrupy ballad is the highlight of the movie for me.

I guess I'll discuss the romance, since that's what I usually do when I run out of things to say. Robin Hood and Maid Marian are often ranked among "The Great Fictional Couples" but this is only for name recognition. As far as I know, there is very little to put them on that list. Sure, sure, everyone's wet for External Conflict Romance, but this movie makes exceptionally light of it. It's about half-way through the movie when Robin finally mentions her and their childhood romance. I'll admit bringing in their childhood connection makes their reunion and declarations of love more believable. But it raises some questions: How exactly did they meet? When did they meet? Who forbid their love? And why, oh, why couldn't we be treated to some flashbacks?
Interesting that a mere two posts ago I complained about how The Sword in the Stone failed to fulfill its potential and yet, I'm pretty much content with Robin Hood. Why is that, I wonder? Is it because Disney was dead when this film went into production and the animation team just didn't know any better? Or is it because I'm forgiving of those movies that nobody seems to like. Well, it would have to be "nobody likes on a technical level." God knows Robin Hood has its fans. Ah, just one of the mysteries of being a Disney-phile. We can easily pick one film to death and then let another one just comfortably occupy #34.

“Whistle Stop" - Roger Miller (Allen-a-Dale)
"Oo De Lally" - Roger Miller
"Love" - Nancy Adams
"The Phony King of England" - Phil Harris (Little John)
"The Phony King of England (Reprise)" - Pat Buttram (Sheriff) and Terry Thomas (Sir Hiss)
"Not in Nottingham" - Roger Miller

Favorite Song: “Love” - Nancy Adams
Favorite Moment: "Love"

Favorite Character: Toby Turtle

But I'm all Milhouse!
Next DAF: 101 Dalmatians (1961)

DAF #35 - The Fox and the Hound (1981)

"Forever is a long, long time, and time has a way of changing things."
-Big Mama

Title: The Fox and the Hound
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Mickey Rooney as Adult Tod
Kurt Russell as Adult Copper
Keith Mitchell as Young Tod
Corey Felman as Young Copper
Pearl Bailey as Big Mama
Jeanette Nolan as Widow Tweed
Jack Albertson as Amos Slade
Pat Buttram as Chief
Sandy Duncan as Vixey
Dick Bakalyan as Dinky
Paul Winchell as Boomer

Plot: A fox cub and hound dog pup become friends before they learn they are supposed to be enemies.
Based on: The children's novel The Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix
Setting: United States, probably the 1930's based on Amos's car and the costuming.

Tagline: The story of two friends that didn't know they were supposed to be enemies.

First Viewing:
Oh crap, I honestly don't remember. Maybe the seventh grade? I was staying over at a friend's house and her little sister was watching it.

Ah, 1981. One of my favorite years in pop culture history. Oh let's just put all the cards on the table: it IS my favorite year in pop culture history! As of now, the reasons for that shall remain secret, but I will say I have a certain fondness for early 80's cinema, which is why it pains me on a superficial level that The Fox and the Hound should rank so low on my list.

Remember how I said there are Boy Disney Movies and Girl Disney Movies? Well...dogs, foxes,, I don't have to draw you a map. In fact, I used to rank this one significantly lower than #35. Maybe I've grown up (ironic perspective to take considering it's a children's film) or maybe it's my obsessive love for 1981. Let's just see, shall we?

After perhaps the most boring credits sequence in a DAF (seriously, background paintings of the woods plus birds chirping), a young fox's mother is shot and killed by a hunter (The hunter who killed Bambi's mother???? We may never know...). A sassy black matriarchal owl named Big Mama, and her two bird companions Dinky and Boomer, rescue the young one and arrange for him to be taken in by the good Widow Tweed. As a lonely old woman, she treats the baby fox like a child and names him Tod.

Meanwhile, her crotchey neighbor Amos Slade (a huntin' man) brings home a hound puppy named Copper. He advises his old hunting dog, Chief, to be Copper's teacher and guardian.

After the two canids grow out of their infancy, Tod longs for a companion and wanders into the woods. Copper, at the same time, follows a strange scent and discovers its Tod. Before you can say BFF, the two vow to be besties for life despite having JUST MET EACH OTHER.

Amos grows tired of Copper's wandering and puts him on a leash. This doesn't deter Tod, however, and he sneaks off to see his friend. Amos catches him and warns the Widow Tweed that he will shoot Tod if the fox is found on his property again.

Luckily, it's hunting season and Amos takes Copper and Chief into the wilderness until spring. Big Mama explains that Copper and Tod won't ever be friends again, because the hound was meant to hunt the fox. Tod is doubtful and remains steadfastly sure that their friendship will continue come the spring.

The circle of life continues and Tod and Copper grow into robust versions of themselves voiced by the biggest box office draw of 1939-1941 and Snake Plissken (Escape From New York, also 1981!). When Copper returns, Tod is anxious to revive their friendship but Copper calmly explains that things are different now and it's dangerous for Tod to be around. Chief then wakes up and another chase ensues. Copper tries to divert Chief and Amos, Chief is injured in the process. Copper vows revenge.

Amos alerts Tweed who realizes that Tod's place is in the wilderness. Sadly, she takes him to the game reserve where the pampered fox suffers to grow accustomed to the forest. (This is very reminiscent of the Bongo scenes in Fun and Fancy Free). The morning after, Big Mama finds Tod and introduces him to the stone cold lady fox, Vixey. The two have an immediate attraction, a quick fight, and then decide to "get married" forest style.

Meawhile, Amos and Copper break into the game preserve looking for Tod. Big chase scene. Bear attacks Copper. Tod fights bear. (People love this bear.) Copper is touched by Tod's sacrifice. Amos aims his gun at Tod, but Copper steps forward, refusing to yield. Amos understands and takes Copper home. Tod and Vixey are reunited and live in the forest happily ever after.

(Love that font!)
So basically, it's Romeo & Juliet for boys.

There's been a lot of debate and contradicting opinions about TFATH. One side suggests it's an important and oft unseen allegory of directed at children about how prejudice is taught and not inherent within us. The bittersweet ending is meant to teach a moral: Only YOU can prevent prejudice, kids!

The other side says, "It's sad. I don't like that one."

The fact that Tod and Copper don't fight the system and say "Fuck it, let's be friends anyway" is a bit of a Disney mind screw. If say, Lady and the Tramp and Duchess and O'Malley (and more importantly, their respective owners) can get over the couple's class differences, if a mermaid can walk on land, if a beauty can love a beast, if a lion cub can get over his neurosis and reclaim his throne, then WHY OH WHY can't a fox and a hound be friends???

This is why I like The Fox and the Hound. It is honest. Despite the talking animals, it's a mostly realistic view on friendship. Sometimes they just cannot be. Sometimes they simply fall apart. Time and distance, new friends, lack of commonalities all lead to the disintegration of a friendship. But even though Tod and Copper are now leading their seperate lives, does that make their time together any less special? Of course not. Just because it doesn't last forever, doesn't mean it's not important.

Still, just because I like the themes behind The Fox and the Hound doesn't mean I like it as an entertaining movie. The music is bland and just plain forgettable. It's very slow, which is fine if you're sick and desperately need to fall asleep. But character-wise, there isn't really anybody I'm particularly fond of; Big Mama would have been played by Hattie McDaniel if possible. Dinky and Boomer, the resident Jar Jars offer nothing in the way of plot advancement or entertainment. Chief is pretty much no different from Napoleon from The Aristocats or Luke from The Rescuers. Then there's Vixey...

Oh Vixey, you romantic lead, you. What do you bring to the table? What's that? A generic love at first sight plotline? I exaggerate, but only a little. Tod and Vixey get into a little fight when they first meet, but I honestly think this is to pad the movie for time. Vixey's sole purpose is to make the forest a more inviting habitat for Tod and much like Faline from Bambi, she represents Tod's transition into manhood. This offers a bleak message: it's time to become a father a leave your friends behind, but don't worry, you get POOOOON!

In conclusion, I like The Fox and the Hound much more than I dislike it. (And it has nothing to do with the year of its release either!) It's a movie I feel a little sorry for, because I don't know anybody (with exception of a childhood friend's little brother) who likes it. Certainly, most females I know balk at it, which from a sexist standpoint, I completely understand. But like I said, it's a good movie if you're sick or just in a crappy mood wanting to be in a crappier mood. Just like there's a need to escape to a whole new world or dip into a tale as old as time, there's also a time for realism. I, for one, am glad The Fox and the Hound exists for that reason.

“Best of Friends" - Pearl Bailey (Big Mama)
"A Huntin' Man" - Jack Albertson (Amos Slade)
"Lack of Education" - Pearl Bailey
"Goodbye May Seem Forever" - Jeanette Nolan (Widow Tweed) and Chorus
"Appreciate the Lady" - Pearl Bailey

Favorite Song: “Goodbye May Seem Forever” - Jeanette Nolan and Chorus
Favorite Moment: Copper steps between Amos and Tod.

Favorite Character: Squeaks (The unmentioned caterpillar cum butterfly that Dinky and Boomer chase around. He doesn't talk. I like the ones that don't talk!)

Next DAF: Robin Hood (1973)