Monday, June 8, 2015

Disney Movies - Days 13-15

I wish I could say that Day 15 is the halfway point, but I haven't even scratched the surface of Disney movies, so continue on I will. I figure it will take me about 100 days if I keep up at this same pace...time will tell!

On Friday I only got through one movie thanks to some fabulous bonus features that I had never watched before. The movie was Swiss Family Robinson. This is another one of those movies that I absolutely adore and have watched over and over again since childhood (and not just because their treehouse is at Disney World - I rarely go up it anyway because the stairs are absolutely brutal on my poor knee). I had the biggest crush on Fritz as a kid (and kind of still do), so it was nice to see him in the special features. I didn't know he was the son of Helen Hayes (from my beloved Arsenic and Old Lace) just like I didn't know that James Mills (the dad) was the real-life father of Hayley and Juliet Mills...learn something new everyday!

And, surprisingly enough, there was a Donald Duck short on the disc as well, which led me down Saturday night and all of Sunday's path.

Saturday was a very morphing path. I started with The Three Musketeers, the one with Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Chris O'Donnell, Oliver Platt, and the brilliant Tim Curry (yes, both Kiefer and Charlie have been in a Disney movie...wonders never cease). As many different incarnations of this movie as there are (and I've probably seen most of them), this one is by far my absolute favorite (but that's the 80's geek girl in me talking).

Then I moved far left and watched Song Of The South. I wish I could get the whole negative hype about this movie considering the hyper-PC world we live in, but I don't get it because I can accept the context in which it was made and move on. Thus my ranting begins, so either bear with me, or skip to the next section (because this is probably going to be long). Anyway, by praising this movie, I'm going to offend someone, so I might as well be true to my feelings than cow-tail to the masses for the sake of political correctness.

95% of the people with a bone to pick about it have never seen it. I don't care who you are, how can you be offended over something you've never actually seen yourself? Watch the whole thing (not just clips), then condemn it from the mountain tops with my blessing. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, as long as it's yours and not someone else's.

Yes, it is a racially-charged movie and I don't deny that nor do I ignore it, but it was made in the 1940's about a time in 1890's Georgia during Reformation, what do you expect? Gone With The Wind is just as, if not more, racially-charged and it's played constantly on TV and yet the world sees it as a great love story. Well, I see Song Of The South as a great love story in another sense.

This movie is about a man who tells tales to a little boy, whose parents have separated and he's been forced from his home to his grandmother's sugar plantation in the country. He misses his daddy, he's constantly battling Ginny's brothers who want to beat him up all the time, and he just wants to go home. The stories teach him life lessons and, not only make him feel better about his family situation, but bring him closer to Uncle Remus. In the end, it's the love between Remus and Johnny that save the boy when he's seriously injured and it's Johnny's love that makes Uncle Remus realize that his stories have come to life through Johnny (literally) as they all go hopping off in the distance. Color or even financial status isn't an issue or even brought up by a single character in the entire movie, that's all on the viewer.

Yes, this movie deals with some serious issues concerning slavery or post-slavery...the fact that the slaves are too "happy" and the whole "whitewashing" of slavery in general, the whole Brer Rabbit/Tar Baby scene is offensive to many, the "ignorant" grammar they use (I live in Northeast Arkansas and know quite a few people of varying colors that still talk like Uncle Remus, so that's not an excuse), etc. Again, 1946...the world was viewed differently.

The movie softened the seriousness of slavery in an effort to be politically correct. They didn't know at the time that their political correctness would be offensive to future generations...thus the stupidity of political correctness, what is good for the goose isn't always good for the gander, but in the end, they are still all just birds.

We can't change history no matter how hard we try, but we can accept the wrongs of our forefathers and learn from them. And I'm not saying that future generations should be condemned for the actions of their forefathers either. That, in itself, is stupid too. That period of time has become so distorted and stigma'ed that the historical facts have been all but lost in some cases. That's the thing about history, it is what it is and changing it to make ourselves "feel better" about what our relatives may or may not have done is the biggest offense we can do to our ancestors and future generations (take that, Ben Affleck). Learn the truth, learn from the truth, and strive to do better (I'm sure you wish I could move on from this rant, but I'm not quite finished yet).

The Brer/Uncle Remus stories were actually written in the late 1800's and were old African-American folklore tales deeply rooted in African history. They are quite fascinating actually. Having studied some of them and their history in school (I'm old and we read "risque" stuff then...I've also read most of Mark Twain's stuff, pre-edited versions and pre-banning, and I haven't been scared for life, go figure). I can say that the Brer Patch cartoons are pretty much all true to the original stories. Nowadays, it's hard to even find a copy of them that hasn't been edited. That to me is offensive because it ruins how the stories were meant and ruins their historical significance. Granted, the Uncle Remus stories were written by a white man, but he wrote them, and I'm quoting him here: "to preserve in permanent shape those curious mementoes of a period that will no doubt be sadly misrepresented by historians of the future." If he only knew.

James Baskett (Uncle Remus) won an Oscar for this movie (even though it was honorary, it still counts), making him the very first African-American to win an 1948 no less. It's just a shame that his work isn't praised for the brilliant performance he was awarded for but was condemned for it's portrayal of slavery. It was his last work (and reportedly, the one he was most proud of), so why not praise it if for that if nothing else?

Song Of The South is also a horrible double standard. Where the world condemns it as a whole, most everyone loves Zip A Dee Doo Dah just as Disney park fans love Splash Mountain and the Brer's. I'm sorry, but if you're going to condemn the source, don't enjoy the fruits of the labor, it's hypocrisy in the biggest sense.

A lot of Disney fans have said why not release it as a collectible, maybe in with another movie, with one of those lovely little "warnings" Disney loves to give for questionable material. You know, the ones that warn us to speak to our kids about the content and explain their negative connotations and how wrong those opinions are. I agree if that's what it takes and would like to have an updated, fully restored version, but alas, that will NEVER happen and I'm restricted to my overseas copy (where it is ironically still in print). Anyhoo, enough ranting (about Song, anyway).

This brings up one more little rant...I watched enough of those stupid warnings in my next four selections till I almost went mad. Things like smoking, drinking, murder, suicide and the like were warned against due to the "prejudices of the day" (Leonard Maltin's words, not mine). Call me weird, but when I was a kid, seeing Donald Duck smoking didn't make me want to go out and smoke, so what is wrong with the current generation that parents have to sit down and explain the negative effects of such things to keep them from doing it? I got that it was just a cartoon even as a very small child and what Donald was doing was bad and I understood right from wrong without the parental lecture. That didn't (and doesn't) keep me from laughing like crazy when Donald turns green from smoking or when he goes all crazy eyes when he contemplates blowing his brains out when he thinks his butt has been amputated. I don't get offended when they make fun of fat people, or Scottish people, or Native American people, or whatever other blood I happen to have running through my veins (all of which they do). Maybe it's my Asperger's and my lack of sensitivity gene where I don't take things as personally as everyone else. Anyway, soapbox dismount FINALLY!

So, back on track...I started with my Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald series next. Volume 1 begins with Donald's "birth" through about 1941.
There are a lot of great cartoons in this DVD set, but not a lot of special features...those really start in Vol.2.
Volume 2 is probably my favorite because they cover the golden years of animation, from 1942 to 1946. There's a lot of great special features in this set, including all the war cartoons that I love so much (although I didn't count them toward my total because they were covered in On The Front Lines set) and a really great episode of Disney's Disneyland show called A Day In The Life Of Donald Duck. I was able to find it in pieces, but not as a whole so, if you watch this, you'll need to click through to the next three parts:

I continued on with Volume 3 and 4 on Sunday.
Volume 3 goes from 1947 to 1950, when Donald was at the peak of his popularity.
Volume 2 might be my favorite, but Volume 4 has my favorite Donald cartoon of all-time, Trick Or Treat, as well as my favorite Donald costar (Humphrey's) debut.

Now on with the totals (I don't think I have another movie in my collection so controversial, but I can't promise future's what I do!)

Live-Action: 16
Full-Length Animation: 19
Mixed-Medium: 4
Animated Shorts: a whopping 198 thanks to the Treasures
Live-Action Shorts: 4


Tiffany Pincombe said...

Wow.. that was quite the weekend! It sounds great to me. I haven't seen Song of the South, or at least I don't remember if I have, but the Brer tales were always my Mom's favourites, so I've heard a lot of them.

Emma Louise Brown said...

I agree with all that you have said in your soapbox moment and I haven't seen the film! A couple of French films that I like have their non-pc moments but it fits with the background/context.

Vickie said...

I show Swiss Family Robinson in my room and my students have never seen it. They always like it

Miamina said...

I remember seeing Song of the South as a child and I loved it. The songs were amazing and the stories were fun. I don't see the point of changing films to fit in with the thinking of today. It was made in a different time, it should be a snapshot of the thinking of those times, not be modified for the thinking and views of today.