It is my tradition that when I have a Disney trip coming up, I watch all my Disney movies before I go. I also get all the Disney movies from the library, and this time Netflix even got into the mix. To me, that is like another countdown as I save my very favorites until right before I go (meaning on the docket this week is Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog, The Rocketeer and Wall-E). One thing I wanted to do this time was revisit some of the classic Disney films, ones I hadn’t watched since I was a child.
I started with Dumbo. I have only vague memories of ever watching this film as a kid. Re-watching it, I was touched by the drama of the animation. The storm when they are pitching the circus tent, the fire in Dumbo’s clown stunt, the very odd almost Heffalumps and Woozles sequence after Dumbo gets (gasp!) accidentally drunk. The artistry of the film struck me as I know this was not one of Walt Disney’s favorite films because of what he saw as a lack of artistry in it (it was essentially only made to make money and that was never something Walt was interested in doing really). This could be because hand drawn animation is becoming more and more a lost art that I just revel in it when I watch it. So that struck me. What also struck me was how…well…politically incorrect it is. The animal cruelty it displays is a bit appalling at times especially in the treatment of Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo’s mother. And I won’t touch the singing crows with a ten foot pole. That said, I liked Dumbo. It’s a fabulous little movie with a lovely story and great music. The crows that sing it might be questionable but “If I See an Elephant Fly” has to be one of my all-time favorite Disney songs. It’s so catchy and bouncy and, English nerd alert, the word play is just plain fun!
I next tackled Bambi, and I do mean tackled. I have memories of sobbing watching this film as a kid because remember, it’s me and this is a film where animals will be in peril ergo there will most likely be tears. However, I actually made it through without crying and I think that was because I spent the whole movie waiting for the other shoe to drop if that makes sense. I knew what was coming so I was on pins and needles, steeling myself for it the entire film. The first basically has the two major disasters and the plot works around both of them. It’s almost episodic, more along the lines of a Fantasia with the same characters reappearing in each section. Now, in Bambi, hand drawn animation is shown at its finest. It was one of the film they used the multiplane camera on and you can tell they had fun playing and continuing to learn how to best use that camera. The depth of the camera shots is astounding and reminds me a lot of one of my favorite scenes in Beauty and the Beast – the opening shot of the Prince’s castle through the forest and over the waterfall – the depth of that scene never fails to capture my imagination and all of Bambi basically had that sort of depth. The story is perhaps not my favorite – it’s portrayal of family dynamics was fascinating but very 1940s and I won’t even go into the ridiculousness of Bambi’s love interest Faline. I didn’t think it was possible to want to smack a deer…it is. That said, I am in love with Flower – he has officially entered Krystal’s Favorite Disney Character Annuals.
I finished up with Pinocchio. I distinctly remember not liking this film when I was a kid. I think Pinocchio annoyed me. I was very much a goody-two shoes (still am, let’s face it) and Pinocchio’s failure to do what he was told at every turn was just irksome, even to my eight year old self. Particularly when he had Jiminy Cricket there telling him that what he was doing was a bad idea (I am very much a fan of Jiminy’s – I associate him more with the Disney environmental movement and as the voice of Wishes than I do with his own movie though). I also remember being scared by this film, a lot more than any others we watched when I was young. Not even the evil queen in Snow White could scare me as much as the scenes at Pleasure Island when the boys are all turning into donkeys. However, I am happy to report I liked it on my recent viewing. It will never be my favorite Disney movie – I doubt I’d ever even shell out the money to add it to my movie collection but I appreciated it much more as an adult than as a kid. The storytelling is really quite good – it flows well and it is plausible for Pinocchio to end up where he does at all times. Again, the animation was impressive, particularly the Monstro scenes. A belated kudos to the special effects animation team because those scenes were awesome as were the appearances of the Blue Fairy.
Overall, I was glad I took the time to re-watch these classics and revisit them as I truly don’t think I’d watched any of these films since I was 8 or 9 years old. I grew up in the second golden age of animation – I was much more into Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King but as I get older, I can appreciate more the legacy those films fit into. I particularly wanted to watch these films again as these were Walt’s films and as I get to (FINALLY) visit the park that Walt built later this year, I wanted to make sure to fit the classics of the first golden age into my schedule.