Author Topic: Disney+  (Read 282 times)

Junior

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Disney+
« on: January 07, 2020, 12:50:20 PM »
Hi! I've been a little quiet round these parts as I've been immersed fully in taking and teaching a bunch of classes over the past year and a half. That part of my life as a PhD student is winding down, thankfully, so I should have a little more time to hang out here. I do still have one class this semester, one based around Disney+ and the history of that company. It will entail watching a lot of Disney stuff (movies, shorts, shows) from the beginning to stuff that isn't out yet. I thought I'd keep track of what I've seen here and invite any interested parties to follow along. Currently I'm planning on watching most of the movies on Friday night and, assuming my schedule works out, putting my thoughts on them here the following day. But y'all do you if you do end up following along.

Here's a link to the syllabus that's visible on my prof's website: https://www.jaredgardner.org/classes/7878sp20/

Likely some of those will be changed to optional or other movies, so I'll try to keep y'all updated. I do plan on watching the optional ones, though, so feel free to do the same. Also, anything with a P or a B next to it is not on Disney+ and I don't know what to tell you if you're looking for them yourselves. Sorry.

1/10: Select Shorts 1928-37: Steamboat Willie (1928) [D]; Gallopin Gaucho (1928); Barn Dance (1929); Plane Crazy (1929); Karnival Kid (1929); Mickey’s Follies (1929); Haunted House (1929); Blue Rhythm (1931); Flowers and Trees (1932) [D]; Mad Doctor (1933) [D]; Mickey’s Gala (1933); Three Little Pigs (1933) [D]; Big Bad Wolf (1934) [D]; Wise Little Hen (1934) [D]; Band Concert (1935) [D]; Mickey’s Rival (1936) [D]; Clock Cleaners (1937) [D]; Magician Mickey (1937) [D]

1/17: Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs (1937) [D]; Pinocchio (1940) [D]; Fantasia (1940) [D]

1/24: Bambi (1942) [D]; Saludos Amigos (1943) [D]; Song of the South (1944); The Three Caballeros (1945) [D];  Select wartime shorts

1/31: Mickey Mouse Club s01e01-03 (1955) [D]; Davy Crockett (1955) [D]

2/7: 101 Dalmations (1961) [D]; Mary Poppins (1964) [D]; Jungle Book (1967) [D]; Rescuers (1977) [D]

2/14: Tron (1982) [D], Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) [D], Little Mermaid (1989) [D]

2/21: Beauty & the Beast (1991); Aladdin (1992); Lion King (1994); The Rocketeer (1991)

2/28: Pocahontas (1995) [D]; Mulan (1998) [D]; James and the Giant Peach (1996) [D]

SPRING BREAK(ERS)!

3/13: Monsters, Inc (2001); The Incredibles (2004); WALL-E (2008); select Pixar shorts

3/20: Avengers (2012); Winter Soldier (2014); Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2014) [N]; Jessica Jones (2015) [N]

3/27: Thor: Ragnarok (2017); Black Panther (2018); Avengers: Endgame (2019)

4/3: The Last Jedi (2017); The Rise of Skywalker (2019); The Mandalorian (2019)

4/10: Clone Wars (2020); Mulan (2020); select Sparkshorts (2019-20)
« Last Edit: January 07, 2020, 01:33:21 PM by Junior »
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Bondo

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Re: Disney+
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2020, 01:16:16 PM »
Now that I am a Disney+ haver, I will be tempted to play along in parts at least. I should revive my animation marathon's Disney watch/rewatch phase.

Junior

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Re: Disney+
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2020, 01:44:57 PM »
That'd be fun!
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Re: Disney+
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2020, 09:59:26 PM »
I've been watching a lot of Disney+ since it launched (shocker!). Some re-watches, but it's mostly about finding those small moments of "not bad" in a back catalogue full of titles I normally wouldn't even consider, like The Bears and I.

Note from your schedule: Davy Crockett is a weak TV Movie, but the sequel, Davy Crocket and the River Pirates is a heck of a lot more fun.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Disney+
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2020, 08:13:10 AM »
I'm delighted they put up a lot of the early shorts. That's some of my favorite Disney work.

Junior

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Re: Disney+
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2020, 02:07:46 PM »
Early Shorts (28-37)

Steamboat Willie (28) - When I first got D+, I thought it was weird that they had only this as their black-and-white animated short. It's a perfectly fine short, focused on selling the new (but not exactly first) use of synchronized sound through its musical focus. And those are some fun gags, but nothing quite as good as later examples. At least it isn't racist! - B

Gallopin' Gaucho (28) - This one has some racism, especially early in it when there's some stereotypical depictions of "Mexican" character types. But then the back half is a fun chase scene that didn't need that early setup. If the racism wasn't enough for Disney to not want it up on their service, you might also look to the drunken ostrich, which is also the short's best gag. There's a swordfight at the end that I didn't love either. Not the best of these. - C+

Barn Dance (29) - I guess this is as good a place as any to talk about Ub Iwerks rubber-hose animation style in these early shorts. It is interesting primarily because it doesn't feel like what Disney is famous for, their sense of "realism" in movies like Bambi and such. I have a problem with that term that will probably get more play later on, but for now let's look at how the early stuff is very into the stretchiness and lack of body coherence that the rubber-hose animation technique can engender. The Fleischer's are most famous for this style, but here we can see Iwerks and Disney also practice it to great effect. The plasticity of the bodies on display here is primarily used for comedic effect, as you would expect. At one point (I don't remember in which short it happens), Mickey's ears are pulled and they look momentarily like his predecessor's (Oswald's) ears. That's fun. Anyways, this one is kinda boring. - C

Plane Crazy (29) - This was actually the first short produced with synchronized sound, but it isn't as good of a showcase of the tech. What it is a good showcase of is the other big reason why Disney might have avoided putting these shorts on its new service: Mickey's a total jerk in these early shorts. As the Mickey shorts gained popularity, Disney shifted his character from a scamp to a lovable scamp to just a nice dude. Here he's basically using his barnyard friends to get his plane off the ground and there's some stupendous animation supporting that premise but the whole thing feels like a better showcase of Mickey's perversity than anything else. It's fun though! - B+

The Karnival Kid (29) - Let's get this out of the way at the beginning. Early in this short, there are some hot dogs that play a large part in the coming gags. They dance, they talk back to the characters who try to eat them, they're a whole thing. Also, they look like penises. It's unavoidable. The rest of the short is kinda boring. - C+ (the plus is for penises)

The Haunted House (29) - This one is great. At the outset there's a clear indication that the animation and design has taken a leap here, with foreground elements that are slightly out of focus and more detailed background elements. The actual animation is better too, as they take the rubber-hose style to its maximum with the skeletons that would later become famous again for being featured on a youtube video for "Spooky Scary Skeletons." It's also Mickey's first time talking and oh boy is it weird! Deep, scratchy, and about as far away from the squeaky clean voice he'd become famous for later. - A

Blue Rhythm (31) - Some cool shadow work is what stands out here. There's not a whole ton of great gags or anything. And there's not really a story either. Also, a bit racist. - C

Flowers and Trees (32) - That's the good shit right there. The first Disney short produced in 3-strip Technicolor, and they put it through a workout with bright yellows, greens, reds, oranges, and blues. It looks great, and there's such a cleverness of design and animation here, with trees and flowers and fire anthropomorphized to great effect. The best gag is the lily solemnly walking up on the briefly knocked out "evil" tree so it looks like he's dead. That's fun. You get kind of used to the strange heteronormativity, which is pernicious in its own right. - A

The Three Little Pigs (1933) - Here we can see the animation start to edge closer to the classical Disney style. The pigs don't stretch nearly as much as the characters in the earlier shorts did, and even when the Wolf stretches a bit it never reaches the body-horror levels of the early stuff. This was also among my first memories of Disney animation, as the "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf" song was featured on a singalong VHS that I had as a child. For that reason I had nostalgic attachment to this short, an attachment that was given new dimensions when I could read the little titles of the pictures hanging in the last pig's brick house. "Mother" is a picture of a bunch of piglets suckling on their mom's teats, while "Father" is both a chain of sausages and a big hunk of ham. "Uncle Otto" is a football. Now that's funny. - A

Mickey's Gala Premier (33) - Basically an excuse to caricature the stars of the time and have them fawn over Mickey as a bit of brand building, but entertainingly so. I'm sure somebody who was better at this kind of thing would pick out more of the people than I could, but I got at least the Marx Bros and Charlie Chaplin, so that's ok. So's this short. - B

The Big Bad Wolf (34) - An attempt to recapture the success of "The Three Little Pigs" by shoving those characters into the Red Riding Hood story. It isn't very successful, but it's interesting to see the early efforts of Disney trying to capitalize on well-known parts of the public domain only to "Disney-fy" them in an attempt to monetize them. - C+

The Wise Little Hen (34) - A fine moral tale that you can also read as symptomatic of Walt's labor/union problems. The chorus talks about The Wise Hen doing all of the planting and reaping and cooking and eating on her own, but she's actually not doing a whole ton of the work because her offspring are the real laborers. "With nobody to help her" the song goes, and it starts to read like Disney's mythmaking about himself and planted over this story. Interesting! - B

Band Concert (35) - I was a little afraid this would be as boring as Blue Rhythm was, but I shouldn't have feared. Put Mickey in an oversized costume, get Donald to harass him as he tries to conduct an outdoor concert of the William Tell Overture and you've got yourself a recipe for success. Every time Donald interrupts with a piccolo (recorder? Hard to tell), I busted out laughing, and then when Mickey finally boots him out of there and Donald just spews dozens of the tiny instruments I was practically on the ground. Then a storm comes and the whole show is taken up into a tornado with a series of escalating gags. A treasure, this one. - A+

Mickey's Rival (36) - Out on a picnic with Minnie, Mickey's romantic afternoon is interrupted by Mortimer, a strangely designed mouse with long legs and a jutted butt and a longer nose and the whole thing is very strange and offputting. I don't even know if there were any good jokes or anything because I just kind of hated looking at Mortimer. It's kind of interesting to look at Mortimer as the shitty, jerk version of Mickey coming back to haunt Mickey, but that's literally the only thing that makes this watchable. - C+

Magician Mickey (37) - Wowza, this is great. Feels like a predecessor to things like Fantasia and Pixar's Presto! which lean into the actual magic of animation that can do things that would take fancy trick photography or CGI to do in live-action film. When you can really change things from frame to frame in minute detail, you can make Mickey into a real magician with ease. And it looks amazing. - A+

Clock Cleaners (37) - The first of these shorts that feels like the platonic ideal of a Disney short. Donald has his final form and there are gags a plenty with only the most minimal of storytelling going on (Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are cleaning a clock, go!). It's funny! - B+

A mixed bag as any such programming would be, but some standout shorts make it worthwhile.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Disney+
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2020, 10:11:58 PM »
Flowers and Trees is one is the best Silly Symphonies. Such lovely animation. Three Little Pigs is another great one. I love the picture of Dad in the background. Such a great visual gag.

Band Concert is probably my favorite of the early Mikey Mouse shorts. The rendition of The Storm is delightful.

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Re: Disney+
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2020, 09:49:42 PM »
Just went through some of these with your post nearby. First of all, I always thought Steamboat Willie was the introduction of Mickey Mouse, so Mind Blown. I can see why it's become the truth Disney likes to put forward compared to Gallopin' Gaucho. The jerkiness you point out in Plane Crazy is something that initially turned me off of Willie. Plane Crazy is more visually interesting, especially the plane POV running into telephone poles and cars, but Willie has that musical hook and doesn't have a scene where Mickey forces himself onto Minnie or threatens to toss her out of the plane if he doesn't get a kiss.(Minnie is very trampy in these early shorts, but that's more to blame on the men working behind the scenes.)

Glad you waited for Barn Dance to mention the rubber-hose style, because that's all over that one. BTW, when he pulls his ears he turns into a jackass, while Oswald is a rabbit.

The Karnival Kid is actually the first time Mickey speaks, ("Hot Dogs!") and he sounds nothing like the voice we identify as Mickey Mouse.

You're right about Big Bad Wolf, and you can point to it as the earliest example of Disney meddling with classic material to try and wring out more popularity and (I assume) cash. It might've been more interesting to have two wolves and the new one is going to show the one who was defeated by the pigs, rather than making it a sequel with the same wolf. It does have one great joke in the pigs' house where there's a photo on the wall that says 'Father" and it's just a hind leg.

I always felt in the minority for not liking Mickey's Rival, and for the same reason as you. I find Mortimer insufferable. There's a version of this with Donald and Daisy and the rival duck is all silky-smooth charm. Much funnier.

I'd never seen Magician Mickey and when I read your review I thought maybe this was Thru the Mirror (1936), but that one is obviously inspired by Alice in Wonderland. This was the discovery of the bunch, with great interplay between Mickey, Donald and Goofy.
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Junior

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Re: Disney+
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2020, 08:16:25 AM »
Thanks for the corrections! This is what happens when I write from memory. Glad there's another person in my We Hate Mortimer Club.

I wrote this little essay for my class, figured you all might be interested as well.

Though Walt Diseny’s public rhetoric often focused on the magic of animation, the supposedly enriching quality of the stories his company of artists told, and the development of his personal mythology as “Uncle Walt,” a kind, even-keeled, avuncular figure who give his young audiences their medicine with a spoonful of sugar, he was, under and through all of that, a capitalist of the highest order. Practically every technological innovation (whether really innovative or just sold as such) from Disney happened not in pursuit of higher art or science but because profits were lagging and he needed a spark around which he could advertise the latest picture. After two relatively successful films, Walt wanted to develop his reputation as a bastion of cultural importance by marrying his company’s animation prowess to old, famous, European, classical music. And yes, mission accomplished on that front. But Fantasia is a failure in another way, a failure that it took almost 80 years to correct. Based on statements and letters written by Walt at the time of Fantasia’s making and distribution, he seemed to envision it as a kind of perpetual profit machine, a film that could be constantly refreshed with new content that would entice audiences back to the theater to see what the man and his team dreamt up this time. For reasons I’ll speculate upon later, this didn’t end up happening. But nearly eight decades later, the launch of Disney+ in the era of Disney Corp.’s ever-increasing grip upon the production of filmed entertainment media has perhaps finally fulfilled Walt’s fantasy of a forever-fruitful fountain of profits.
   First exhibited as a roadshow production in major cities throughout the U.S., then edited for time for a wider theatrical release in 1942, Fantasia was a major production that, in its optimal roadshow format, involved installing Disney’s Fantasound technology, the first stereo system made for sound movies. Featuring some 96 speakers planted throughout the theater to play one of three channels of audio meticulously recorded and mixed for maximum impact and accuracy, the Fantasound system was both expensive and time-consuming to install for what might amount to a few-week-long run.  The shorter, widely distributed version of the film did not feature the Fantasound technology for obvious reasons. By all accounts, the Fantasound tech was impressive and accomplished the desired enormity and clarity of sound, but it was too costly and cumbersome to last outside the early roadshow exhibitions of the film.
   In addition to the infeasible sound technology, the use of three-strip Technicolor filming technologies and super-detailed drawings meant that the production costs for Fantasia were sky-high. With a production priced at $2.23 million in 1940 (nearly $41 million in 2020), the price for designing and animating so many characters and backgrounds for such a long movie was almost impossible to comprehend. Disney was banking on the film’s near universal appeal, given its relative lack of spoken dialogue and the immediate comprehensibility of its combination of music and images, and envisioned a distribution strategy that would see it succeed worldwide. The outbreak of WWII a year away from Fantasia’s release would basically close off the crucial European market. Disney would have to find another way to make the movie profitable.
   According to an article on D23, the official Disney Fan Club (basically an arm of the Disney Corporation), Walt stated in 1941 that it was his “intention to make a version of Fantasia every year.”  This wouldn’t be an entirely new film, of course, since that would entail incurring the same development costs that the original film was trying to recuperate. Instead, we know from correspondence between Walt and Fantasia’s conductor, Leopold Stokowski, that Walt was looking to use the film’s structure to his advantage. “From all the talk I hear,” he wrote, “I think if we put in one new number, almost everyone would go to hear the whole picture again. Then a few months later if we put in another new number, most of them will go again.”  This idea was born from the overwhelmingly positive audience response to the long-running roadshow presentation of the film in New York City, and it seemed to Walt like audience response was so positive that he could basically milk that relatively small audience for all it was worth. The film’s structure as a series of shorts based around different pieces of classical music could feasibly sustain such a milking, as perhaps the Beethoven segment might get pulled for some other respectable bit of music with its own new series of images to delight audiences anew. After all, these pieces of music have stood the test of time without much variation, why couldn’t Disney’s concert film work like an orchestra’s set, with “new” (or should I say, different) pieces introduced once “old” ones have been heard enough. Such swapping could feasibly happen every “few months” for forever! A perpetual profit machine.
   Disney developed, to one extent or another, eight new segments before scrapping the idea. I couldn’t find why the Fantasia reinvigoration idea didn’t come to fruition, though the timing of the 1941 animator strike at Disney Studios probably had a role to play in it. By the time that strike ended Disney had started looking to other revenue streams that depended less upon angry animators like live-action film and, eventually, theme parks. Perhaps the logistics involved in the development, recording, and filming of new segments for what was ultimately a small market was always untenable. 59 years later, Disney released a “sequel” to Fantasia which, in some small way, retained the idea of the film as a renewable resource in its reuse of the famous “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment. But that film, too, was met with less-than-expected enthusiasm and smaller-than-necessary box office receipts. We are unlikely to see a Fantas3a any time soon.
   That isn’t to say that the Disney Corporation has abandoned Walt’s dream of a perpetual profit machine, and they might have even achieved it in a way Walt could never have thought of. At the end of 2019, Disney released their Disney+ subscription streaming service. Leveraging their grip on a back catalogue of nostalgia-inducing films, giant IP acquisitions, and a professed—though not yet accomplished—desire to revive the animated short film as an exciting medium for their audience, Disney+ seems like it has the potential to work similarly to the way Walt wanted Fantasia to work. Every week or so a new animated short debuts on the service, and they seem to be rotating through their collection of animated shorts from the 1920s through the 1950s. With a built-in audience of paying customers who are forking up ~$5 a month for access to the service, Disney has found themselves a way to get a monthly infusion of cash. Their subscriber base will only grow as they continue to develop shows like The Mandalorian, and maybe one day they’ll start a series of animated shorts set to wordless music such that subscribers could curate their own Fantasia program. Disney+ doesn’t seem likely to collapse any time soon, and Disney has finally found its perpetual profit machine.
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Re: Disney+
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2020, 12:40:09 PM »
It seemed that Walt was always doing the easy money-makers to bankroll Fantasia or Mary Poppins or Disneyland. There was always the point where he bet all the profits on his next big idea. That's what is missing today. Pixar does it to a small extent, where you can say that Monsters University allowed Inside Out to happen, but where is the big leap. Where is the film that justifies bankrolling Cars sequels? The Disney project that all these live-action remakes were put into production for? Without that, it just looks like profit for the sake of profit.

Maybe, the artistic growth will come in putting the future tentpoles - Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar - in the hands of more women and minorities. Disney does seems to be a front-runner in productions helmed by non-white, non-males, though the top public figures remain Iger, Feige and Favreau.
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