It's time to play Speed Racer now. Since I started the Fantasia post, I've been debating how to handle days 24 and 25. Technically, Fantasia is really nothing but a collection of shorts that are melded together into one piece, but it was created as one piece at one time. Tuesday and Wednesday's selections are the same with one specific difference, most were designed to be shorts first, then packaged together. So the issue is, do I count them as shorts, or as one full-length animated feature? Well, there is no easy answer to that, so I guess we'll just find out together.
Even though Fantasia was a flop for Walt, he really actually didn't give up, he just changed the format up a bit. There were a few films he put out in the 40's and 50's, with a definite Fantasia-esque flair, but with popular music versus classical and a more traditional, simpler style of animation without all the bells a whistles (so to speak).
I started Tuesday night with Melody Time. This wasn't the first of these films and it wouldn't be the last, but it's my favorite of the ones I have, so I decided to watch it first. Actually, I did have a specific reason why I wanted to watch it, ever since Ichabod and Mr. Toad, I've been cravin' me some Pecos Bill somethin' awful and it happens to be on this disc. There are some other amazing pieces, a couple of which are very Mary Blair, one of Disney's great artists (think Small World). She has a very definitive style that is quite graphic, but with a lot of whimsy. This is the best example of her essence:
But on to Pecos. I know every word by heart, every fluctuation in animation style, every little nuance of the pen strokes, well, to say I'm obsessed would probably be putting it mildly and I really can't explain why. As a general rule, cowboys and the west aren't really my thing. There are hundreds of more technical pieces, pieces with better soundtracks, even pieces that are probably more entertaining, but there is just something about Pecos.
It starts off with a trip through the desert as the tumbleweeds blow, the coyotes howl, and a little partridge family makes their way through. Then you come to a clearing filled with the likes of Roy Rogers, Trigger, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers, Bobby Driscoll and Luanna Patten (the two kids from Song of the South...they were in a lot of Disney pieces back in the day, about like Haley Joel Osment voiced almost every single boy for Disney in the 90's and 00's). But anyway, the gang all sitting around a campfire singing songs and telling stories. Luanna asked Roy why the coyotes howl at the moon and thus, the story of Pecos, the roughest, toughest critter in the west, begins.
There is one thing about Pecos that really burns my hide (for some reason, even talkin' about Pecos, brings out my Southern accent somethin' fierce!), the fact that later publications of the cartoon has been edited to remove the cigarette from Bill's mouth. I don't smoke, never have, never will, but it's part of the original artwork and should have been left alone. It was the 40's for goodness sake! But I guess there is no need to rehash censorship yet again, what's done is done. I wish I could have found the whole thing for you, but unfortunately, I couldn't even find a decent clip, so I guess this is the best I can do:
I'm so far gone when it comes to this cartoon that my favorite meal at Disney World is Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, a sub-par counter service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. I have numerous taco salads from there every single visit and, if I actually pay attention to what I'm eating, it's really like cafeteria food, but I don't care, it's Pecos food! I've shown this before, but I'm feeling like sharing again. The Disney geeks know who Lou Mongello from WDW Radio is, but here is the coolest clip of him giving background about the knick-knacks scattered about the restaurant:
Even though Melody Time is made up of 7 shorts, I'm going to call it one full-length film because it has a very Fantasia-like flow to it. But there are also three separate bonus shorts on the disc, including a Donald Duck take on Johnny Appleseed (another Mary Blair inspired short that's on the disc) called Donald Applecore and, thank goodness, I managed to find it on YouTube in its entirety!
Because I was on such a Pecos high, I decided to stay in the same vein and watch Tall Tale: The Adventures Of Pecos Bill because it is a Disney movie too. I'm not a real fan of this movie overall. I love the premise of Pecos, John Henry, and Paul Bunyan helping out a boy, but I'm not a Patrick Swayze fan (I know, blasphemy, right?) and that kid couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. I manged to find yet another crappy quality trailer, but it's ironic because it makes the movie look far more exciting than it actually is.
I found another, non-Disney Pecos movie on Amazon Prime (I was REALLY having a Pecos night) that was some kind of weird Shelley Duvall story with Steve Guttenberg and Rebecca DeMornay in it, and it pretty much cured my Pecos craving for the night because it was HORRIBLE! Even as a child's production it sucked. I'm not even going to go in search of this on YouTube because I don't want to see it in my history.
But come Wednesday, I was still in the Fanstasia-ish/Pecos Bill frame of mind, so I went with Disney's American Legends next. Now, where the others are an obvious cohesive blending of shorts, this disc is strictly four shorts on a disc, each introduced by James Earl Jones, so this one is going to be added to the shorts total. Johnny Appleseed is shown again on this disc as well as John Henry's story, Paul Bunyan, and Casey Jones.
Here is where I have to complain a bit on animation. I love the story of John Henry, have since I was little, but whoever allowed this piece to go out like this hopefully didn't last long at the Disney Company. I can forgive loose sketch lines on the likes of Jungle Book, Robin Hood or, in the extreme form, 101 Dalmatians, but actually showing grid lines on the faces is just WRONG!!
For those that don't know, when you draw a face, real or animated, you start first with a circle, then you split that circle in half lengthwise and width-wise, essentially splitting it into four quadrants. Then you draw another horizontal line in the middle of the bottom half and another horizontal line to split the final bottom half (does that make sense?). The vertical line represents the midline of the face, the middle horizontal line is the eyes, the second horizontal is the nose/bottom of ear line, and the last line is the mouth. If you draw faces this way, it is very hard to fail. Every feature is lined up perfectly every single time and pretty much all artists, portrait or animation, draw this way. Even animal characters like Donald and Mickey have grid lines. I tried to find an example to show you, so I hope THIS helps.
I drives me batty to watch John Henry because every character has flashes of that gridline showing up on their faces as well as their bodies (because there is a whole other grid set for that). It's awful and distracting and just plain LAZY! Otherwise, it's a great segment to stitch to because the music is great (if nothing else). If you look close, you can see glimpses of it on this trailer:
But I was still in the compilation mood, even after the disaster that is John Henry, so Make Mine Music was next. Technically, this one did come before Melody Time, but I don't like it as much, so I watched it last. Again, it is a cohesive melding of the shorts, so I'm considering this one film. Where Melody Time is primarily all popular music, this group mixes things up a bit with all different styles of music. A few of the pieces have a more Fantasia-feel as well because they are just music and animation, no story per-se or speaking parts. I couldn't find a trailer for it, but I did find a pretty good quality clip of my favorite short in the piece, All The Cats Join In. I have a thing for animation that includes a pencil or paint brush still in the progress of creating the piece (there are a lot of those in the cartoons of the 40's and 50's).
There are also three shorts on this disc including the 1935 Mickey Mouse Silly Symphony cartoon, The Band Concert. Classic Mickey and Donald at their finest!
Come Thursday, it was time to change gears (at least for now, I have other compilations I'll get to later). Bedknobs and Broomsticks was my only selection for Thursday simply because I needed to get caught up on these reviews! I know that Mary Poppins is supposed to be the seminal mixed-medium film, but I hold Bedknobs in a much higher regard than I do Mary Poppins (although not nearly as high as Pete's Dragon, that will always be my favorite). I do love Mary, but that scene with the lady and the birds, Tuppence A Bag, used to terrify me as a kid and it's the reason why I'm scared of birds today. Bedknobs doesn't have any scary moments and about the only scene that irks me is the Portobello Road scene simply because that drag that song out WAY too long and it gets a bit tedious.
Plus, when I think of Angela Lansbury, I don't think of her as Mrs. Potts, I think of her as Miss Price and I always expect Mrs. Potts to go "Traguna macoides tracorum satis dee" (I actually had to look up the spelling of this, so I cheated a bit). Guess it just goes to show how old I actually am (although, in my defense, I was only one when this movie came out!).
Yea! We're caught up now (until the weekend when I always get behind). I wish I could say I've reached halfway, but I haven't even scratched the surface yet. On with the totals:
Live Action: 17
Full-Length Animation: 51
Animated Shorts: 221
Live Action Shorts: 5
Mixed-Medium Shorts: 1
Animated Series: 13
Mixed-Medium Series: 2