Friday, August 26, 2011

Dear Mr. Watterson

Just wanted to give my support to an indie film that will be released next year. It's documentary on Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes. Seth Green and one of my heroes, Berekely Breathed are interviewed in said film. You can find the site here:

http://web.mac.com/joelallenschroeder/DMW/main.html

And the Facebook page here:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/5639504355/

I will be adding this site to the side bar. Please spread the word and tell friends about this film.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Update

There's been a bit of a search for an identity with this blog. The reason I wanted to start it up in the first place was because writing is my favorite thing to do. I need a place online to hone my skills. Anyway, this place will have some changes in the oncoming months. I'll be writing about whatever I feel like, but it will be pop culture related one way or another. Maybe it has to do with some of my favorite things to research (cartoons, abandoned places, urban legends, roller coasters) or just me waxing about nostalgia. You'll see so just stay with me.......Oh, and I'm aware no one is reading this, but for the record, I'm only posting on the offhand that I'll get lots of feed later.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Obscure Disney Movies Part 10: The Conclusion

Humphrey Bear was originally a foil for Donald and Goofy. He got his own series, but that was only limited to two cartoons. In his shorts, he was constantly getting in trouble at a national park, and was as a result, punished by Ranger Audubon Woodlore. Sound familiar? That's because Humphrey was the inspiration for Yogi. Check out "In the Bag." It's a good cartoon to start with.
Most know Figaro as the cat from Pinocchio. However, not only did he get his own set of cartoons, but he also played (to this day, even) Minnie's cat and Pluto's rival in several Mickey shorts. "Figaro and Cleo" will always be a favorite of mine due to the song that it spawned.

"Darby 'O Gill and the Little People" is a very interesting movie not just for its story, but for the fact that the special effects were very impressive in their day. Leprechcauns appeared to be their natural size, for example. However, effects such as the banshee that is pictured are remembered from the kids that were scared spitless by them. There are quite a few scary elements like this that make the film fun. In fact, to promote this movie, Walt Disney actually created a prequel to the film on his show staring himself! This was one of the few times we've ever seen Walt act, and he proved to be very good at it.

One of Disney's oddest films was also one of its first for mature audiences. Max Devlin is sent to Hell for being, well, a bastard. The bureaucratic devil that meets him gives him a chance to grab three other souls to take his place. Is it just me, or does Bill Cosby as a demon just plain hilarious?
Seriously one of my favorite live action films Disney has ever put out, and maybe one of my favorite action flicks of all time. Dick Tracy retells the story of the detective from the old comic strips. The goons he chases are cartoony in themselves, and the entire city is ablaze in bright colors that echo a Sunday comic. Madonna is a surprisingly good actress here, but we all know that the character that really sticks out is the maniac known as Big Boy. Seriously, that guy was over the top! Recently, Warren Beatty won the rights to use the Dick Tracy character in film and TV media. Guess that was a punch to Disney for not making those sequels!


"The Muppets at Walt Disney World" was a Sunday night TV film where Kermit and company go to visit Florida relatives, but end up being chased by security around (and backstage) the WDW resort. This was made to show the merger between Henson and Disney (which didn't fall through until 2005 due to Jim's death). You can easily find this online, and it's worth the watch if not for the fact that a 2D Mickey interacts with Kermit. One of Jim Henson's last performances, sadly.

"Noah's Ark" is a story that has been done by Disney at least three times. Once in 1933 as a Silly Symphony, once as a segment of Fantasia 2000 with Donald and Daisy, and finally in this cartoon made entirely with puppets. The humans and animals are very unique to looks at for they were all made of household objects: thimbles, pipe cleaner, paper clips, etc. The middle number hasn't stood up very well, but this is still a very interesting cartoon for the most part.


"Off His Rockers" was a short that played in front of "Honey I Blew Up the Kid." (On a related note, the Roger Rabbit short "Tummy Trouble" played in front of the first film in the series.) The cartoon is about a boy who is fixated on video games. Therefore, his old toy rocking horse tries in vain to get his attention. The cruel irony here is that the horse is CG and the boy is hand drawn. (Sorry I took your image, Hyperion blog. This was one of the few pictures I could find.)


The picture you see is of "Destino," a short that was completed recently, but was started back in the day as a collaboration between two of my favorite artists: Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. Meant in recent years for a third Fantasia movie, it ended up on Blu Ray as an extra instead. Other shorts made but not released as "Fantasia 2006" (or "Fantasia 3") are "Lorenzo," "One by One," and "The Little Match Girl." All these shorts share the theme of cultures from around the world.
A family favorite of mine, for sure. Most of you know "The Shaggy Dog" at that atrocious Tim Alan movie. The REAL movie was the one with Fred MacMurry as Wilby Dannials who gains ancient powers that lets him swap bodies with a sheepdog. This is one of the few films that, despite Wilby's rescue of his love interest, the hero gets no recognition nor does he get the girl. An even funnier sequel, "The Shaggy D.A.," was released in the 70's. Personally, deciding which film is better is quite a task.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Obscure Disney Movies Part 9: Some of the Greatest Contenders

The Adventures in Music series came about due to the popularity of flat stylized cartoons by UPA such as Mr. Magoo or Gerald McBoing Boing. The series contained two shorts: "Melody" and the award-winning "Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom." The host, Mr. Owl, went on to narrate the original "Disney's Sing A Long Songs" VHS tapes.

"Dinosaur" is considered cannon in Disney's line of official animated movies from the animation studio. It came about a time when photo realistic CG (and CG in general) was still new to the public despite being around so long. This was the first movie to combine CG characters with real backdrops. That's right, the environments are all real. The story really isn't that great: dinos travel to a safe haven from extinction. However, it's the silent parts of the movie that play out like a modern day "Fantasia" that are the real highlight.

OK, this is really a sore spot with animation fans. I know the NC summed it up before I could, but here's a rundown. Richard Williams is a beloved animator by many. He animated 2D elements of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." He directed one of the weirdest but most unique movies ever: "Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure." However, the majority of his career, in fact, his life, was devoted to making one film: The Thief and the Cobbler. After nearly 60 years of independent development with no money from outside sources, Warner Bros. took him in and tried to get him to finish the film. However, Disney, despite having Williams animated one of their biggest hits at the time, stabbed the animator in the back. They stole his characters and story, thus making what you know as "Aladdin." Warners pulled out and Fred Calvert took over production. He wanted the film out before "Aladdin's" release, so they threw some songs in the picture, added some cheap animation, cut out entire scenes, and dubbed the voice acting with celebrities. The result was "Arabian Night," but released onto video with its original title. It was seen by the public as a Disney rip-off (despite being finally disributed by Miramax, a Disney company) and dismissed as a failure. Poor Richard Williams. However, there is a cut online using original storyboards and animatics called the "Uncobbled Cut." I demand that you see it, for I personally believe it is one of the greatest animated films of all time. I should also note that the animation itself is beautiful. It was inspired by patterns on ancient Arabian architecture and relics. Very trippy-looking backgrounds and just weird styles of the characters are products of this style.

This is a beloved movie by many animation buffs and retro lovers, myself included. It it known, however, more for its dark elements than for anything else. Like many kids movies in its time, it had some darkness, but way more than you'd expect. I'm talking about "The Brave Little Toaster." Interesting to note, this film was based on a Gibson sci-fi novel. It was proposed as a CG/2D hybrid by John Lassiter when he first worked at Disney. The terrible rough cut got him canned, and the film was completed by another Disney-owned company, Hyperion. Thurl Rafenscroft, John Lovitz, and Phil Hartman lent their voices, and Jerry Rees directed. This was my favorite film at a young age. I liked the dark aspects since they made me a braver kid for enduring them. I have since become good friends with Jerry Rees and we talk about this movie often. He's a great guy, and a wonderful director.

"Susie the Little Blue Coup" was a Disney short based on a story by animator Bill Peet. Peet is a interesting character himself for having mostly failures under Walt's rule. His film "The Sword and the Stone" was not a big hit, and he spent two years making "The Jungle Book" until Walt made him shut down production and start anew. That's when he left the company. However, before his departure, this film, an actual success was made. It's about a car who ages over time and has to adjust to not being "new" anymore. I can see how this may have influenced "Toaster," but it was surely an inspiration for "Cars," since the eyes of the characters are in the windshield and not the traditional method of having the headlights be the eyes. If you hate "Cars" as much as I do, you're sure to love this short. It's very different.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Obscure Disney Movies Part 8

During the war, Disney had little money. In order to keep from falling behind in the theatrical business, they had just enough resources to pull together several "package films" that were made up of various short subjects. Some even had live action segments as well as a thin story to tie them together. Going into detail on each of these would require an entirely new post, so for now, lets go through the basics.

First, two films of this nature, "Saludos Amigos" and "The Three Caballeros," were created when the government sent Walt and his crew ("El Groupo") to South America to create friends with the natives in that time of war. This is where Mary Blair would get her start with the company and later go onto do the artwork for "It's A Small World."

Next came "Make Mine Music" and "Melody Time" which were modern versions of Fantasia. "Fun and Fancy Free" included two shorts: "Bongo" and "Mickey and the Beanstalk." The former, narrated by Diana Shore and a certain cricket, and the later by Walt's good friend Edger Bergman.

Finally, we had my personal favorite, "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad," a retelling of "The Wind and the Willows" as well as "The Legend of Sleepy Hallow."






Not much happens in "Summer Magic." It was a vehicle for Haley Mills (the Miley Cirus or Hillary Duff of her time) to get a staring role. Of course it was also a nice way to have Burl Ives star in a Disney film. Although the plot is pointless, the songs are so memorable, every single one of them has been heard at a Disney park at one point or another. My personal favorites include "The Ugly Bug Ball" and "On the Front Porch."





Good luck getting your paws on this one. In the 80's when Tim Burton was employed under Disney, he created such shorts as "Vincent" and "Frankenweenie." He also created a live action kung-fu parody called "Hansel and Gretel." Yes, both characters were Japanese. Vincent Price introduced the short, and it played only once on Disney channel. It has since then been rotting away in the Disney vault. One of Burton's weirdest creations, indeed.





As Disney entered into the 50's and 60's, the company started making educational shorts for classrooms as well as theaters. (See: "The Story of Menstruation.") One of these, still used today, was "Donald in Mathmagicland" which includes a very helpful guide on how to play pool. Another was the first cartoon staring Donald's Uncle Scrooge, only previously seen in the Carl Barks comics. This one, "Uncle Scrooge and Money," taught us that you can't just keep cash for yourself, because "money has to circulate."





"A Spymposium of Popular Songs" marked the only theatrical debut of World of Color's host, Ludwing Von Drake. Here, he guided us through the history of music via each decade. What made this short stand out was that only the host segments were 2D. The others were all stop motion. The first one using moving fruit, the others using paper animation. You may have seen some of these shorts as a kid on your old Sing A Long tapes and wondered "What the heck?! What movies is this?!!" My favorite is the one about the little Chinese dude who makes fortune cookies.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Obscure Disney Movies Part 7: A Big Batch of 5 of Em'!

"So Dear to My Heart." Based on Walt's childhood in Missouri, this movie was the follow-up live action film to Song of the South, and it shows. It takes place in the south, and animated sequences mix with live action ones. Also, the two lead children from Song of the South, are the leads in this film. The story is about two children who want their lamb (a black sheep) to win at the fair. Guided by a wise owl, the lamb learns about heroes with impossible challenges that they overcame. The lamb uses these stories as life lessons. Walt claimed that this was his favorite film for a while until the studio released "The Happiest Millionaire."


The uncut version of the film starts with an extremely long orchestral score. Obviously, this film was trying to be the next "2001" when the public wanted "Star Wars." The story is about a crew of space astronauts and their robot friend who happen to discover a space station in the middle of a black hole. The master of the station is sort of a Captain Nemo persona. He does experiments for the greater good, but at the cost of lives. Is he friend or foe? This is worth a watch despite the constant cheesy jokes that were supposed to lighten the subject matter. A remake is planned for the near future.


As a few of you may know, I'm a huge fan of the original Oz books, and this movie is more or less an adaptation of the main parts of the second book: The Marvelous Land of Oz. This is as sequel to the original MGM musical, but much darker with no singing. Dorthy is sent to a shock therapy doctor after talking nonstop about Oz to Em and Henry. She escapes to Oz where she meets Pumpkinhead, Tick Tock, and the head of a Gump. The new band of heroes must save the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tinman from the evil Nome King. This movie is known mostly for its puppetry and dark scenes. All the kiddies who watch it seem cry right when the witch, Mombi, takes off one of her many heads. Quite a journey.


More or less an extended episode of the series, DuckTales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp is significant film in that it was the first feature length venture for Disney's television studio, DisneyToon Studios who would later go on to make one of my favorite Disney films, A Goofy Movie. The first half hour may be an Indiana Jones parody, but the plot is still unique. Scrooge and the nephews find a magic genie, but he becomes more than the ducks can handle. Top that with the fact that an evil wizard is after the same genie, and you have another DuckTales adventure. Whoo-hoo!


OK, I want to make this very clear. There are two versions of this movie: The full-length one which can currently only be found in the Disney Treasures or Disney Movie Club DVDs, and the featurette found within the movie that is more widely available and marketed more at kids. This movie was made to give a behind the scenes view of the Disney studio since at the time, the public demanded it. Now, one thing to remember about Hollywood back then: everything was a show. The movies themselves, the awards ceremonies, and even behind the scenes footage. Therefore, this does not give a very accurate view of Disney's lot, but more of a romanticized look at it. We follow comedian Robert Benchley, as he runs around from Ink and Paint to Animation to the screening room as he tries to pitch "The Reluctant Dragon" story as a Disney film. However, he gets distracted watching shorts such as "How to Ride a Horse" and the first and only cartoon short with Casey Jr, that they make the picture without him. This film is notable for giving Walt a great cameo role, and also for showing the public for the very first time, the role that storyboards play in a short called "Baby Weems." Storyboards were, by the way, invented by Disney as an orderly way to build the plot of the movie.

Picture of the Day

Taken by moi from Norton's furniture in Cleveland.