Monday, July 23, 2012

1963 - The Sword in the Stone

Now it’s time for us to enter what I’m calling the Mourning Period. This was a time marked by the declining health and eventual death of Walt Disney. The movie we’re viewing today was produced and released while Walt was still alive, but shows many of the other signs of the era, including slashed budgets, cheaper animation, and overly cautious production. This is not to say that all the films of this era are bad. Two of them are quite good, and one is at least okay. Two of them, however, are not so great, and this is one of those. Depressed? So am I. So get yourself a leg of mutton and flagon of mead, and let’s talk about The Sword in the Stone.
Stop trying to make "fetch" happen!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

1961 - One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Well, after the lengthy production and less-than-hoped-for returns of Sleeping Beauty, the company was starting to feel that feature animation was more trouble than it was worth. Fortunately, the form was saved by a weird little dude named Ubbe Eert Iwerks. Ub was a longtime animator at Disney. He had already done his bit for the company financially, through little tiny things like developing the live-action/animation hybrid technique and inventing Mickey Mouse.
"Oh, don't mind me, just saving your company again."
 But never satisfied with being an unrecognized legend, he went for it again, developing a new form of animation called xerography. See, the way they used to animate was the lead animators would make pencil drawings, and their staff would ink each frame onto an animation cel. Using a camera based on a Xerox machine, Ub figured out a way to transfer the pencil drawings directly to the cel, eliminating the costly, time-consuming, and labor-intensive inking process, and going straight to the colorists. Of course, it also eliminated the jobs of like 400 animators, but hey, omelets and eggs. So, armed with a fancy new tool, the rights to a good book, and fond memories of Lady and the Tramp, the team went to work. Feeling the inexorable march of progress as machines take our jobs? So am I. Wait, no I’m not. Well, regardless, get some Kibbles and Bits, unless you’re Bits-intolerant, in which case, the SoyBitz are okay, and you can hardly tell the difference. Let’s talk about One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

1959 - Sleeping Beauty

Well, as I said last time, Walt’s ambition was at a peak. He wanted to go back to traditional fairy tales, and he wanted to go BIG. This movie spent four years in development, involved more detailed character design and background painting than ever before, utilized a new stylized form of design, was filmed in the INSANELY wide Technirama format. It was nominally an adaptation of Perrault’s “La Belle et la Bois Dormant” (The Beauty Asleep in the Woods) but also with a healthy dose of the Grimms’ “Briar Rose”. The pre-release publicity was huge, on TV and in print. Biggest of all, the newly-built Disney Land made the Sleeping Beauty castle its centerpiece, complete with mosaics depicting scenes from the film that was still TWO YEARS off. So was it a success? Well… That’s a big question. Inquiry to your emotive state? Assertion of agreement. Suggestion of food and let’s talk about Sleeping Beauty.