14 September 2010

The Rescuers & The Princess and the Frog

I watched two Disney movies recently.

The Rescuers (1977)
Many would consider The Rescuers to be one of the last "classic" Disney films from the original animators, and it certainly shows. The whole style and feel of it is pretty classic. It also adds a certain sketchiness to the quality of the lines, insisted on by the head animators, which really sets it apart from the very clean, digital lines we often see today.

Overall, the animation is pretty solid, and the story is fairly entertaining. Of course, the film also seemed a bit dated in its plot. Essentially, two mice named Bernard and Bianca set about trying to save a kidnapped orphan by the name of Penny. Of course, the female mouse, Bianca, is rarely good for much other than falling out into tumultuous conditions or getting herself into other dangerous situations which the far more practical and level-headed Bernard must get her out of. Of course, in the course of things, they fall in love and decide to continue trying to save children, but the ultimate nature of the relationship is sort of this "Hey, Bernard! Let's go on an adventure!" "Well, gee, Miss Bianca. That sure sounds s-s-swell!" "Whoops, I fell out of the boat!" "Oh no! Never fear, Miss Bianca! I'll save you!"

I mean, she still manages to come in handy, for example, using the smell of her perfume to lure crocodiles into a cage, but in general she'd be pretty helpless without Bernard.

Despite being made in 1977, the film feels a bit '50s in its style and mood. It was great to see something with such a classic feel to it, and it really reminded me how much I miss hand-drawn animation. The story was rather cute and touching, if a little heavy-handed at times (it's Disney, what do you expect?), but yeah. The whole gender role thing felt the most dated in a bad way. Still, it was fun.

The Princess and the Frog (2009)
It was nice to see Disney going back to the 2D stuff after its long love affair with 3D that still isn't over. It's not that I hate 3D, and I certinly don't hate Pixar. They tell wonderful stories and they do 3D animation exceedingly well. However, it's just that everyone else wants to be Pixar. So all we see is 3D stuff everywhere, and it's starting to get a little too bland and uninteresting. So whenever someone comes along and does something well in 2D, it's bound to get more notice. Especially when it's Disney, a company that previously swore off all 2D animation (and sadly fired all lot of great animators in the process).

Anyway, despite the reference to Steamboat Willie in the new Disney animation logo, this is, not surprisingly, a lot closer to Mulan than The Rescuers in its look and feel. The animation is good, but obviously computer-heavy. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but again... As I was watching The Rescuers, it felt so refreshing to see all those hand-drawn cells again. But I'm not going to complain. It was 2D Disney again. And it was good. And this means maybe more 2D Disney to mix it up with Pixar a little more again. That's great.

But just as the animation style was updated so was the idea of the role of women. I mean, yeah, I'm sure some feminist could still go to town on this movie because Tiana and Naveen are all perfect and beautiful and the ultimate message is sort of, "Yeah, it's okay to have a job and devote yourself to that, but you'd be happy if you found a guy." Feminists would take this and run. "Oh, so a woman can only really be happy if she has a husband, huh?"

Really, though, cut it some slack. I think a better way to look at is, "All the financial success in the world won't mean anything if you don't have someone you love to share it with." In a culture that is rampant with consumerism *coughcoughDisneycough*, it's nice to hear them say, "Eh, money isn't everything. It's people that really matter." It's also kind of humorous considering who's saying it, but whatever.

Compared to Biana, Tiana is hard-wroking and dependent. Throughout the course of the film, it's usually Prince Naveen who's falling out into tumultuous conditions or getting himself into other dangerous situations which the far more practical and level-headed Tiana must get him out of.

Of course, everything ends super happy and everyone get just what their pure little hearts desired. What else did I expect from Disney? But really, if I made one change, it would've been for it to be a little less perfect, I guess. I mean, sure Tiana finally gets her own restaurant, but instead of it being the lavish place she had dreamed off, it's some little place, but with lots of regulars visiting in and people lined up outside. It doesn't end in Tiana and Naveen singing and dancing and just shooting the breeze while waiters and everyone busy around them, but just the two of them working the kitchen and the counter. They aren't adorned in all sorts of pretty clothes and such, but work clothes. But they're happy because they're together, and because they're doing what they love.

But eh. You gotta take the small victories when they come. It was still good, and its heart was in the right place.


  1. you want some mad disney cel-ass cel animation? you watch you some "Sword in the Stone"

  2. I've been meaning to watch that one sometime. That was around the same era as The Rescuers, right? I know that the head animations wanted their original drawings to show through onto the film in that one, too.

  3. I think Sword in the Stone was 60's?

    and yeah, that really shows and gives the animation a really cool look.

    also i've never seen the rescuers