These Are a Few of My Favorite Animated Things

When this piece is published, I’ll be on a plane down to Walt Disney World with my friend Steve. Before any trip, I always listen to my favorite Disney music and try and watch a few films to completely immerse myself in Disney culture. Like I’ve said before, my obsession with Disney does not come from the parks, but from the movies. I’m not a fan of all of them though. For me, it’s pretty easy to come up with a least favorite list.
  1. Tarzan: it’s pretty bad when the soundtrack is better than the film.
  2. Fantasia: call me culturally deficient but…. SNORE.
  3. The Sword in the Stone: Arthur is turned into a fish, a bird, a squirrel… oh wait, was there an actual storyline to this?
  4. The Fox and the Hound: don’t you love Disney’s attempt to shove racist cautionary tales down your throat with mediocre animation?
  5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame: I really didn’t need to be worrying about my immortal soul at age 12, thanks.

As you can see, it’s easy to dismiss what you don’t like, but I find that it is just as simple to single out what you love. Of course this list changed a bit, but nothing that gave me more than a few moment’s pause. I’ve already explained why Aladdin is a favorite of mine and like Estelle, my list comes from memories as a child growing up with a VCR that never seemed to turn off. No really — I fell asleep to these movies on many occasions.

5. The Rescuers.
“Yeah, but two little mice! Wha – what can you do?”- Rufus

This movie is so underrated and it’s been so long since I’ve seen any reference to Bernard and Bianca in the parks that I feel it warrants a missing person’s ad. It really doesn’t get more endearing than Bob Newhart and I definitely went through a phase when I called everyone “dahling” in Eva Gabor’s lovely accent. I loved how The Rescue Aid Society was modeled after The United Nations and this movie was centered around the notion that even little people (er, mice?) can create big change. Sure, some parts are a bit unnecessary (did we really need that scene where Bernard is chased out of the zoo by an angry lion?) and some of the animation is a bit dodgy (I’m referencing the entire film here), but the movie not only has heart, but amazing characters. I loved Penny because she had spunk and she was brave enough to stand up to two very scary crocodiles, Nero and Brutus. And really, who could hate on the colorful hillbilly characters of the Bayou? Not sure if they could get away with those characterizations today, but hey – it was the 70s.But let’s just look at the best part of this movie — Madam Medusa. Where the entire movie seems a bit too thrown together for my taste, (perhaps it was because of the collaboration between the last of Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men and the new breed of young animators the company hired) but Medusa’s animation is flawless. So much so that my boyfriend actually studied her scenes during a master class he took with two Pixar animators. Milt Kahl, the directing animator for Medusa did an amazing job in creating a smooth character with flowing arms and a body that dances when she walks. Her power though lies in her facial expressions and of course the sometimes silky, sometimes shrieking voice of Geraldine Page that sucks you in one moment and makes you feel sleazy the next. Despite being the villain, she was always my favorite character.This movie also reminds me a bit of one of my favorite films of all time — All Dogs Go to Heaven. Both films feature an orphan who talks to animals and while Bernard is no Charlie, both characters are trying to protect the little girl from a villain who is trying to exploit her. Oddly enough, these two movies have something else in common — Don Bluth. While he was able to step up as a directing animator for The Rescuers, ADGTH seems to be his attempt at making the story better with far more edge and of course, there is no contest between the two. Sorry kids, Don Bluth maybe a back-stabbing asshole in Disney eyes, but you can’t deny the man has talent. Despite that however, The Rescuers will always hold up in my eyes because being a member of the Rescue Aid Society is for life.

4. Sleeping Beauty

“Oh, I just love happy endings.” -FaunaThere was a lot going on with this film. I liked the fact that the Prince had actual speaking lines, the three fairies reminded me of some of my batshit crazy aunts and for once, I wasn’t too into the princess (who is on screen for like 5 minutes anyway). Of course, I could have been mesmerized by the stylistic backgrounds of Eyvind Earle or the haunting and memorable music of Tchaikovsky. I’m sure it was a mix of all those elements that made me watch this movie a million times as a kid, always wondering how the infamous pink/blue dress debacle turned out.However, I must admit the real reason I loved this movie– the villain. And really, that’s not a bad reason anyway. I had an odd relationship with Maleficent. She scared the living shit out of me (so much so that I had to run into the other room during her first entrance and wait until after she started talking to come back in) but I was also so fascinated by her.  If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll notice I have a bit of a temper. Nothing I’m apologizing for, just one of many quirks I got from my parents and I remember thinking that if I had half the power Maleficient had, I could rule the world.

I was a cute kid.

All joking aside, Maleficent not only commanded fear through her facial expressions and body movements, but let’s face it– her voice could be silky smooth one moment and then make you pee your pants in terror the next. Eleanor Audley who also brought to life Lady Tremaine (the woman who used to give Stelle nightmares) created such a distinct voice and power that to this day, I really think no Disney villain has come close to matching.

3. A Goofy Movie

Goofy: This is a vacation with me and my best buddy.
Max: Donald Duck?

Goofy: No, silly, with you!

Despite the fact that Goofy has scared the living daylights out of me in the past, I gotta admit that I’m a sucker for his cute ah-hyucks and accident prone ways. It still surprises me how many people haven’t seen this movie because it’s amazing. Goofy maybe one of Mickey’s sidekicks, but he definitely has the star power for his own feature film alongside his son Max (I’ve stopped wondering who Mrs. Goof is. Clarabelle Cow perhaps?). Unfortunately Goofy is now experiencing something that being second banana to the mouse never prepared him for  puberty. I love how real this movie is from beginning to end. Forced to spend quality time with his embarrassing dad instead of that really cute girl he FINALLY got the courage to ask out on a date, Max feels like his life is pretty much over. Oh, teenage angst.

Also, this soundtrack is alllll kinds of awesome. The songs (minus the two that Powerline sings) were written by Jack Feldman who also did the lyrics for Newsies. They are just as memorable and catchy and if you stole my iPod, you’ll find at least one of the songs on most of my playlists.
In the end, Max realizes just how great his dad is and they even make it on stage to dance with Powerline after all. (Did I mention that I learned how to dance “the perfect cast” as well?)  Thankfully, moments before the movie ended, the filmmakers managed to work in Goofy’s signature holler as he goes flying into the air and crashes into Roxanne’s roof. It’s cinematic gold.

2. Pocahontas
“Look around you. This is where the path of hatred has brought us. This is the path I choose, Father. What will yours be?” -Pocahontas

This was Disney’s first attempt in animating a movie based on an actual historical figure and not a heroine out of a fairytale. Putting aside the fact that this movie has one of, if not THE best instrumental scores ever (Mr. Menken, I bow down to your genius) the maturity of this film I think was handled in a way that children weren’t forced to swallow lessons of racism in an after school television special kind of way. Pocahontas not only cares for her people but also of the world around her and the animals and plants she shares them with. This Shamanistic Princess certainly makes you think twice before throwing out the paper and glass together.Aside from giving Captain Planet a run for his money, Pocahontas succeeds in introducing a whole new culture to kids. After I saw that movie, I remember being very into Native American culture and history. I read books about the colonists and tribes of Indians that were subsequently forced off of their land. I found out that Pocahontas actually didn’t end up with John Smith, but rather with a different John in real life and while it upset me that not all went according to Disney plan, looking back now, the movie made me think and explore. There was so much flack for the inconsistencies of the story and how heavily dramatized it is, but seriously, we’re talking about an 80-minute Disney cartoon, folks. Did people really think Radcliffe was going to show up with smallpox infested blankets and trade them in for tobacco? Come on now. The movie did have many consultants (one main one being Powhatan himself, Russell Means, who is a Lakota Sioux Indian) and perhaps every detail wasn’t completely accurate, but I really believe the spirit of the Powhatan people was authentic.1. Beauty and the Beast

Beast: I let her go.
Cogsworth: You… what? How could you do that?
Beast: I had to.
Cogsworth: Yes, but why?
Beast: Because… I love her.

At this point, there is little more I can say about the genius of this movie. It’s no wonder that this was an idea that Walt himself had wanted so badly to create, but couldn’t figure out how to implement. Fast forward years later to find the incomparable Howard Ashman succeeding where Walt could not.

For me, Beauty and the Beast is the quintessential fairy tale that showcases the transformative power of love. Belle is a heroine who knows her mind and refuses to let her surroundings dictate her future. This small town girl has some big dreams and just as she’s about to retch over the idea of becoming Madam Gaston, the Beast enters and everything she knows changes.

Also, the reason I think this storyline is so powerful is mainly due to the amazing music and lyrics that further the plot. With every dramatic crescendo or soft violin, I’m hoping that the Beast can overcome his bad temper and that Belle can see beyond her fears. I’m hoping that these two characters can see that what they’ve been searching for, they can find in each other and when that happens during the ballroom scene, I always cry.

* * *
Now it’s your turn once again. What are your picks for favorite animated films or even least favorite? I’d love to hear them!

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

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