Tag: walt disney


Pinocchio (1940)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Geppetto (voiced by Christian Rub) is a woodcarver who lives with Figaro, his cat, and Cleo, his fish. His latest creation is a marionette carved as a little boy, in which he named Pinocchio, a substitute for his own son. That same night, the old man looks up into the heavens and wishes for Pinocchio to come to life.

As Geppetto sleeps, The Blue Fairy (Evelyn Venable) appears, waves her wand, and turns the puppet into a conscious being. Although Pinocchio (Dickie Jones) has gained self-awareness, he remains to be a wooden doll. According to the fairy, if Pinocchio can prove that he is brave, truthful, and unselfish, he can become a real boy. Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards), a pocket-sized wanderer, is assigned as Pinocchio’s conscience.

Based on a story by Carlo Collodi, it is no surprise that “Pinocchio” is a great success, continuing to stand the test of time, because the picture consists of a wonderful story about what it means to be human paired with hypnotizing visual acrobatics.

The first third takes place in Geppetto’s house which is filled with wooden creations. The way in which the images are partnered with various sounds made me feel like I was in that quaint little house and interacting the carvings was very possible. Yet despite the many decorations and adornments hung on the wall, there is an undeniable sadness in the house. The creations serve to mask Geppetto’s loneliness: none of the displays can project human feelings no matter how much the old man adores and takes care of them. By flooding our senses with pavonine ornaments, the understated loneliness is subtly underlined and we are able to root for the relationship between Geppetto and Pinocchio and the latter’s quest to become a real live boy.

The middle portion takes place in the streets as Pinocchio is tempted by various shady figures and Jiminy Cricket struggles to keep the boy on track. I was especially impressed with how the film zooms in and out of conversations. For example, when Pinocchio is coaxed by a fox to skip school and become an actor, we observe the shot as if the two characters are right in front of us, not simply colorful moving drawings gracing the screen. Then the picture cuts to the tiny cricket so he can express his concerns and disapproval. Suddenly the crevices on the road and the background are magnified. The switching of perspectives allow us to compare and contrast, if we look closely enough, and appreciate the level of detail put into one or two seconds–and the entire film.

Furthermore, I did not expect the material to touch upon adult themes that go beyond the image of Pinocchio smoking a cigar. At one point, a dubious, burly character talks about collecting naughty little boys and taking them to a place called Pleasure Island. He claims that when the boys leave the island, they are no longer little boys. What exactly does the character mean by that?

“Pinocchio,” directed by Walt Disney, Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen, et al., oozes intricate artistry when it comes to the visuals as well as thematic control. It is consistent in continuing to surprise us on what it can do and, more importantly, what it is willing to do, whether on land or underwater, by moving our eyes and our hearts.

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

I grew up on Disney’s late 1980s to mid-1990s animated movies like Ron Clements and John Musker’s “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin,” Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel’s lesser-known “The Rescuers Down Under,” and Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff’s “The Lion King,” but I don’t know much about the history of the team behind such hits so I just had to watch this film. With their successes, it’s difficult to imagine, let alone appreciate, the hardships the artists went through to release commercially-pleasing projects and at the same time ward off their competitors (Steven Spielberg, working for a different company at the time, was actually one of them). And that’s exactly what this film was about: To tell the story of the behind-the-scenes struggles the writers, artists, and leaders in the company who had no choice but to live up to Walt Disney’s many profound accomplishments. I thought it was fascinating in the way it explored the collision of vastly different ideas in how to launch a story and how those ideas cost millions of dollars, while only a minute amount ended up on screen. When the documentary showed us how much of the sketches ended up in recycling, the voice inside my head couldn’t help but yell out a resounding, “No! Don’t throw all of that hard work in the trash!” I learned a whole lot from the film and, in a way, it changed the way I saw the animated movies I cherished as a child. I didn’t know that “The Rescuers Down Under” (a box-office flop upon its release and, to this day, highly underrated) was Disney’s first ever animated film made digitally. I thought that each frame was drawn by hand but looking back on it, the images looked sharper and more defined than its predecessors. I almost wanted to see the movie again so I could observe the risks that the animators took in order to release movies at a much faster rate. The documentary also tackled the issue of the workers’ debilitating health. Since the animation studios’ projects were hit-and-miss, at some point the workers were not properly compensated; they had to draw all night and come to work in the morning with uncontrollable shaking of the hands, while some suffered long-term carpal tunnel syndrome. I thought the company’s goal of releasing one Disney movie per year was unrealistic considering the amount work the team had to inject in each project. “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” directed by Don Hahn, is a required viewing for those who love classic Disney animated films and are children at heart. There were some fun and touching appearances from Tim Burton, Howard Ashman, and John Lasseter, but watching it should make us appreciate the talent behind the art we feel like we have a deep connection with.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Walt Disney’s first full-feature animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” directed by David Hand, may be too simple in story and animation when it comes to today’s standards but that was what I loved about it. An evil queen (Lucille La Verne) decided to kill her step-daughter named Snow White (Adriana Caselotti) because the Magic Mirror (Moroni Olsen) claimed that the queen was no longer the fairest in the land. The queen sent a man to kill her step-daughter but he instead let her escape because he couldn’t find it in himself to commit murder. Snow White then ran away to the forest and there she met the seven dwarfs with very distinct personalities. Most of this picture was pretty much singing and dancing, while the story could only be found in the beginning and the final showdown between good and evil. While I did think that Snow White was not a very smart character in particular (who decides to eat a random apple that came from a shifty stranger?), she was likable enough for me to ultimately root for her. And although the lesson in the film was questionable because it pretty much implied that women should be good at cleaning the house, washing clothes, cooking and depending on men to rescue them from a sad situation, kids should nonetheless be entertained because of the sheer amount of vivid colors and energy that the film had all the way through. Not to mention the songs were really catchy, especially “Heigh-Ho” and “Some Day My Prince Will Come.” It must be noted that this animated film explored a little bit of darkness that might scare the children. Some examples include the queen’s determination to kill Snow White in not-so-subtle ways such as cutting off her heart and poisoning her with an apple, the witchcraft and transformation scenes of the evil queen to a decrepit old lady, and the nightmarish experience that Snow White had when she ran into the forest. Yet, in a way, I was glad that those elements from the fairy tales of Wilhelm Grimm and Jacob Grimm, from which the picture was based on, remained intact because it kept me engaged, which meant that the older viewers would most likely not get bored by the repetitive singing and dancing. The great artistic endeavor that was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” opened the door to so many of Disney’s most excellent animated features. Although the film had its flaws, I believe we must honor it not only because it was progressive but also due to the fact that it provided people laughter and hope during the Great Depression.