Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Favorite Disney Movies--still in progress

Favorite Disney Movies--They count as musicals. Animated, but musicals. :)
In Order, with some analysis.

Special notes: In Disney's case, I have to separate the source material from the "Disney Version" and evaluate them separately. This is Disney. Usually they do not make "faithful" adaptations. :-p I usually choose to ignore how badly they depart from the original story and just evaluate how well they tell their version of the story.
These are only fully animated ones...I am not counting Bedknobs & Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, Pete's Dragon, etc.  And actually...none of them except Mary Poppins even have a chance of making the list.  Mary Poppins...maaaaaybe top 10 but I'd have to give it another watch sometime.

1. Beauty & the Beast

Great story, Great, memorable songs, and great characters
Unique villain, with a unique villain song -- Gaston
Also, doubled--"The Mob Song (Kill the Beast)" is also a fantastic "villain song" (i.e. mob mentality a la The Crucible)
Non-useless, active heroine: Belle, who saves the Beast. :)

2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame--I feel this one may require more explanation, and I am happy to provide some. ;)

First of all, if you had asked me this a year or two ago, I would have said this is maybe, and only MAYBE in my top 10 Disney movies. When I first saw this when I was younger, I hated it! I didn't understand what was going on, and I was scared and creeped out. It's taken me awhile to get over that first impression; but the darker, more adult themes make it still interesting now that I'm a little older. BUT, I'm not a proponent of the "darker is better" movement (don't get me started)--what REALLY rocketed this movie up my list is the music.

Despite some story/plot and character problems--JUDGE Claude Frollo? Uh...wasn't he a priest...and that he's tempted is so central that it's kinda the crux of the book...and an odd choice of subject material/odd choice for adaptation for a movie meant to watched by children...--but there is SO MUCH fantastic music (and a fantastic overall score including both soaring and weighty choral arrangements) that I give it the edge over Aladdin. Per the Nostalgia Critic's Disneycember review (should I provide a link?), they should perhaps have taken it farther--it got watered down some, since they had to attempt to make it more appropriate for children. However, they still took a lot of risks with it, and it's still only somewhat watered down. Except for the gargoyles, Djali the goat, and Achilles the horse (and some of the Achilles jokes will probably go over young children's heads), this is not that kid-friendly a movie, IMO!

Tom Hulce as Quasimodo is terrific--I don't think he has the best singing voice, but somehow his voice is just perfect for these songs. He brings energy, spirit, and sincerity to every song he sings. Demi Moore is good as Esmeralda (totally the opposite of her character in the book, but that's fine with me, since Esmeralda in the book is rather silly). Yes, she does need to be "saved" in typical Disney heroine fashion, at the end (and hey, it's an iconic part of the story, you can't leave it out!), but she saves herself pretty handily at the beginning. (Ok, she escapes and then Phoebus "saves" her by claiming sanctuary for her...but, if he hadn't done that, she could probably have just hidden there for a bit before sneaking back out to the Court of Miracles). She also saves Phoebus (two, no, three times: first from beheading, then drowning, and then hanging) and Quasimodo (from hanging and falling--though Phoebus has an assist with the latter). At least she wasn't kidnapped. :-p  Captured (along with the rest of the gypsies) and singled out, yes, but not kidnapped.

I really love Kevin Kline's Phoebus--heroic, but not stuffy (and not a jerk like he is in the book). Also, although they didn't do much with him for plot or character, Paul Kandel's Clopin is great. He seems to be a combination of Gringoire (narrator) and Clopin (gypsy chief) from the novel, since Disney's Clopin provides the frame (or at least, opening and closing) of the movie. And of course Quasimodo isn't as ugly as he is in the book, and is also not deaf. Again, I'm choosing to overlook inaccuracies.

And of course we can't overlook Tony Jay's Frollo. Now, I'm not saying "Hellfire" isn't a GREAT villain song...but I think that part of its effectiveness is due to its combination with the innocence of Quasimodo's "Heaven's Light," providing contrast.  Come to think of it, "Out There" opens with some lines from Frollo ("The world is cruel, the world is wicked. It's I alone whom you can trust in this whole city; I am your only friend...") which also serve as contrast; crushing Quasi's hopes, before they come slowly bubbling back up and burst out as "Out There". It's difficult for me not to feel ready to try anything after listening to "Out There." And Quasimodo's reprise of "Heaven's Light" is just heartbreaking.

And there's also "The Court of Miracles"--is also sort-of a villain song since it has something of that mob mentality feel like "The Mob Song."

I must admit, the gargoyles are pretty silly, but there IS a very solid basis for them in the book. They don't really bother me. There are some very funny lines in this movie that make this movie fun for adults AND children.

(list coming)
The Bells of Notre Dame (opening)
--good narrative opening; with heart-pounding choral sections, building to a huge climax

The plot deficiencies are not enough to bring it down--the story is still strong enough, despite being a bit more convoluted than usual for Disney.

3. Aladdin--It's very close, between this and Hunchback.
I love this movie, I really do. And it has a good amount of music...I just wish there was a bit more. The overwhelming amount of fantastic music in Hunchback is what puts it over, for me. Honestly, if you catch me in the right mood, I may say Aladdin over Hunchback, it's that close.

1. Arabian Nights (I must admit, I almost always forget about this song, despite it's being the opening, setting the tone for the whole thing).
2. One Jump Ahead (wonderful, funny song that introduces, explains, and excuses? Aladdin's character and behavior.  Charming.)
3.  One Jump Ahead (reprise) -- combined with the scene before it, shows he's a good guy. :)
3. Friend Like Me
4. Prince Ali
5. A Whole New World
6. Prince Ali (Jafar's Reprise)--only a few lines, but it counts, I suppose

I don't often notice the score in this one.
Robin Williams as the Genie does MAKE this movie, I suppose, as his humor makes it fun for all ages.

4. The Jungle Book? Haven't made a solid decision on this one.

5. ?? Hercules? Tangled? Mulan?...this spot is still up for grabs.