Category Archives: M-R Movies

Melody Time

Here at MMR, we love obscure Disney films.  Well, maybe the less heard of ones at least.  Melody Time is one of these.  This would be the 10th animated feature to pop out of the Disney cannon, in 1948.  It is essentially a mini Fantasia, made up of a series of shorts which are set to music.  Several films of its kind were produced by Disney, with this being the fifth; the others were Saludos Amigos, Make Mine Music, The Three Caballeros and Fun and Fancy Free.  There are seven short segments knitted together to make Melody Time, but they are all very different.

 

The first, Once Upon a Wintertime, was styled by Disney artist Mary Blair.  Her style was very graphic and modern compared to a lot of the other Disney artists, who achieved a more traditional look to their work.  Her work was beautiful, and she did a lot of concept art for Disney films; in the future she would go on to contribute to many features, including Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, as well as being key in the designing of It’s a Small World in Disneyland.  Unfortunately, in Once Upon a Wintertime, you can see that her characters do not translate as well as her still environments do, as their simplicity limits a lot of their personality through movement and facial expressions.  It also seems to lack festive spirit a bit, considering that it is set in winter.  It is about a young couple whose fun on the ice swiftly turns into peril; a nice little story, including quite a few animals.  I really wanted to like it, but I can’t help but think that it would look better static as a print on a wall rather than an animation.  It was later released as a standalone short though, so it must have been loved!

 

Bumble Boogie is the second segment, which is set to the jazzed-up tune of Flight of the Bumblebee.  The style is such that would fit perfectly into Fantasia, with a bumblebee trying to fight off a frenzy of music and musical instruments.  In fact, the music was originally considered to be in Fantasia several years earlier.  This piece is much more fun and a lot less ‘grown-up’ than Once Upon a Wintertime, which makes you think that maybe Mary Blair’s style would have been more suited to Bumble Boogie!  The bee is cute, which helps the audience to feel his frustration in this crazy little number.

 

The third short, Johnny Appleseed, was also styled by Mary Blair.  It is about American legend, John Chapman, who roamed Mid-Western America planting apple trees (hence his nickname).  In comparison to Once Upon a Wintertime, the characters seems to flow much better, and the colours of the backgrounds are rather beautiful, with bright green trees and rosy red apples.  Considering the subject matter, however, maybe a more traditional style could have been used to tell the story.  Johnny is visited early in the short by an angel, who sends him on a mission to plant lots of apple trees.  Johnny does so all of his life, wandering fields and meeting animals, and planting hundreds of trees.  The characters, particularly the angel, are quite humorous; the angel is a no-nonsense type with a pushy attitude, but also has a streak of kindness in him.  The story is quite educational in its own way, and probably one of the best stories in Melody Time.

 

Little Toot, in my opinion, is the first segment in Melody Time that has a style to match its subject.  Little Toot is a tugboat, who wants to be just like Big Toot (presumably his father), but ends up causing chaos instead of helping.  It is based on the story by Hardie Gramatky of the same name, and the music is provided by the Andrews Sisters.  This one is probably aimed more towards children, as it is a story about proving yourself, and putting right your wrongs.

 

Trees.  Trees, trees and more trees.  This one is based on a poem by Alfred Joyce Kilmer, and kind of reminds the audience of Bambi, with the forests and whatnot.  Essentially, it is a very slow paced piece, which also looks like it could have fitted nicely into Fantasia.

 

Things are taken up a notch in this next segment, Blame it on the Samba, which looks like it escaped from The Three Caballeros.  Donald Duck and José Carioca are woken by the Aracuan bird, who introduces them to the joys of samba music.  Ethel Smith plays the organ while Donald and José dance on top of it, so live action and animation is twinned in this piece.  Definitely uplifting compared to Trees, and generally more fun!

 

Now we come to the last short on Melody Time, Pecos Bill.  This also includes live action and animation, but not simultaneously.  Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers tell/sing the story to Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten, who some of you may remember from Song of the South.  Bill fell off a wagon as a baby, and his parents didn’t notice, so he ended up being raised by wolves, almost like Mowgli in The Jungle Book!  The turned out to be the best cowboy that ever lived along with his horse, Widowmaker.  We are told of all his tall tales, but one day he meets a girl named Slue-Foot Sue, who he intends to marry, essentially taming his wild lifestyle…slightly.  She decides that she wants to ride Widowmaker on her wedding day, but Widowmaker does not like Sue, as he is jealous of her relationship with Bill.  It just so happens that on this day, Sue is wearing a mighty big bustle, so when she gets on Widowmaker and he starts trying to buck her off, she goes flying up into the air.  Nobody, not even Bill, can stop her bouncing, and eventually she bounces all the way onto the Moon.  In his depressed state, Bill goes back to live with the wolves, and howls at the moon for his beloved.

The song in Pecos Bill is pretty good, I recommend that everyone goes and listens to it!  Apparently, all scenes of Bill’s cigarette were digitally removed on the NTSC versions of the film, and one scene cut entirely, where Bill rolls a cigarette and smokes it.  The PAL version still includes these scenes.  Also, if anyone has visited Walt Disney World, they will be familiar with the burger restaurant: Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe.  Definitely visit if you can, they do out-of-this-world food, and even have ‘props’ on the wall from the film, including Sue’s white gloves.  This is without a doubt, the best short on Melody Time, so they saved the best until last!

Overall view?  Pretty good.  It is hard to give a rating to something with such a diverse selection of segments.  I think you can judge how much I liked each one by how much I’ve written about it.  Definitely check it out of you get the chance, it is worth it for Pecos Bill alone.

 

Out of the seven shorts, I really liked 3 of them, and the rest I could leave alone.  So for that reason, I give this movie 3 Tinks.

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Meet the Robinsons

‘Bake them cookies, Lucille!’  – Grandpa Bud. 

Close your eyes, and think of Disney.  What comes to mind?  Maybe Mickey Mouse, possibly princesses and castles, or maybe Uncle Walt!  What you probably don’t think of are space ships, dinosaurs and singing frogs.  Another of Disney’s less-mentioned movies comes in the form of Meet the Robinsons, which popped up in 2007 after 4 years in production.


Twelve-year-old science-crazy Lewis lives in an orphanage, and is fed up with nobody wanting to adopt him.  He gets the idea into his head that his mother (who we saw leave him as a baby at the start of the film) will want him back now that he is older, so he sets about making a brain-scanner, so that he can try to remember what she looks like.  This is much to the dismay of his long-suffering room-mate, Goob, who, with no sleep due to Lewis’ ‘inventing’ through the night, loses his important baseball game.  Remember that part, it is important later!  Lewis takes his invention to the school science fair where he meets Wilbur Robinson, who claims that he is from the future.  He is looking for a time machine that a man in a bowler hat has stolen.  Sadly, Lewis’ memory scanner falls apart and causes chaos; enough chaos for Bowler Hat Guy and his robotic bowler hat Doris to steal the scanner unnoticed.
Wilbur then finds Lewis on the roof of the orphanage, and tries to persuade him to fix the memory scanner.  Lewis says he will only fix the scanner if Wilbur can prove that he is from the future.  So, Wilbur throws Lewis into his own time machine/spaceship and whisks him off to 2037.  This year is also used in the film The Time Machine, as the year that the world would end.  When Lewis realises that Wilbur really does have a time machine, he refuses to fix the memory scanner, saying that the time machine can take him straight to his mother.  They end up arguing and crash the spaceship, and Wilbur asks Lewis to fix it.  Lewis agrees, but only if Wilbur takes him to see his mother after it is fixed.  Lewis is hidden in the garage, so as Wilbur’s family do not see him.  However, he isn’t there long, before he ends up outside and meets the rest of the Robinson clan.  He comes across Grandpa Bud, who is looking for his teeth and has his clothes on backwards, Uncle Joe who works out, Uncle Art the ‘super hero’ who delivers pizzas (voiced by Adam West…yes, thatAdam West), Aunt Billie and Gaston.  We also briefly meet Lucille, who is in a room that appears to be a disco, and is ‘baking cookies’.  Then Lewis is back outside again, still with Grandpa, where he meets the dog, who is wearing glasses.  One of the wonderful one-liners in this movie:Lewis: ‘Why is your dog wearing glasses?’

Grandpa: ‘Because his insurance won’t pay for contacts.’

Next Lewis meets Uncles Spike and Dimitri, and a large purple octopus called Lefty.  Then we meet the mother of the family, Franny, who is conducting an orchestra of frogs; the singing voice of Frankie the frog is voiced by Jamie Cullum.  Lewis does not meet Wilbur’s Dad, but Wilbur tells him that he looks like Tom Selleck (cue photo of Tom Selleck).  The introduction to this massive and wacky family is probably one of the best sequences in the whole movie.

Are you starting to see what I mean when I said that this is not the traditional Disney film?

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the story, but it does get weirder!

The story is based on the book by William Joyce called ‘A Day with Wilbur Robinson’.  Some of the characters are based upon real relatives that Joyce had, such as his grandpa who had so many artificial bits and pieces such as false teeth and a glass eye (Grandpa Bud), or his uncle who was 7ft tall and claimed that he was from outer space (Uncle Art).

There seems to be more characters in this movie than you would expect there to be in your average film, however, most of them do not play a big part at all, and are there simply to aid some of the many fabulous one-liners that make this film unique.  The whole Robinson family represent freedom, and they do whatever makes them happy; they even celebrate failure, as it means that you will learn from your mistake and move forward!  The main characters such as Lewis and Wilbur are easy to identify with, especially for young children.  Design-wise, the characters are rather similar to the ones that are found in the original book.

The version of the future that we see here is rather similar in many ways to what you would see in Tomorrowland in a Disney theme park.  In fact, you see Lewis and Wilbur fly past ‘Todayland’ in their spaceship, with almost an exact replica of Space Mountain in the background, and the original Rocket Jets.    

As far as music goes, this isn’t one of Disney’s more musical efforts, but the story doesn’t really call for that anyway.  The wonderful Danny Elfman wrote the score, with artists such as Rufus Wainwright, The All-American Rejects and Jamie Cullum contributing to the soundtrack.  On the whole, the music is upbeat and futuristic in a very Disney-esque and charming way, although whenever Lewis’ family is mentioned or we are meant to feel his sense of loneliness, the music does take on much more of an emotional feel.

There is a theme running through this film which comes from the saying ‘keep moving forward’.  Anyone familiar with Walt Disney will recognise this from one of his famous quotes, which is actually tagged onto to the end of the movie.  A nice touch!  In fact, the whole film does share the same values that Walt had about the future and moving forward.  Lewis is actually very similar to Walt, wanting to make the world a better place through technology.  There are a few nods to Walt and the Disney theme parks throughout this film, as the director is also quite a fan of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Meet the Robinsons was released in 2007, two years after Chicken Little, which, if you have read my review on that, you will know I’m not a fan of.  That is an understatement.  Most folks tend to think of Pixar when they see a CGI Disney film, though neither of these films had Pixar involved.  This film is actually the first film to be released under the new Walt Disney Animation Studios label, after the Disney/Pixar agreement expired.  In the case of Chicken Little, I actually wish that Pixar had been on hand to…well…to scrap that movie and make a better one.  Where Meet the Robinsons is concerned, Disney did an amazing job all on their own.  Meet the Robinsons was the fourth highest grossing film that year, behind Ratatouille, Shrek the Third, and The Simpsons Movie. (it is streets ahead of Shrek the Third).    

This is definitely an odd film.  In this case though, odd is good.  If you are a fan of the values of Walt Disney, a fan of the theme parks, or a fan of sci-fi in general, this is the Disney film for you!  It is definitely one of the less talked about Disney movies, and it deserves a lot more recognition than it gets.  I would say that teenagers and young adults would probably be the target audience for Meet the Robinsons, as its random and bizarre characters and comical scriptwriting are fantastic, and a lot of the jokes will probably be lost on a very young audience.

I am reviewing from the DVD edition of the film, which isn’t exactly loaded with special features, but there is the expected ‘Backstage Disney’ section which is the best bit.  It includes interviews with the director, some of the voice artists, William Joyce, Danny Elfman and some of the other artists that are included on the soundtrack.  There is an audio commentary which is always fun to listen to, as well as deleted scenes, music videos (sigh) and a game.  This is probably worth picking up on Blu-Ray if you have the option to do so!

I give this movie 4 Tinks.

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The Nightmare Before Christmas

Twas a long time ago, longer now than it seems 
In a place that perhaps you’ve seen in your dreams 
For the story that you are about to be told 
Began with the holiday worlds of old…

Originally I was planning on reviewing this film for Halloween, however with the film being a crossover of Halloween and Christmas, I decided to aim more for Thanksgiving.

I went to see The Nightmare Before Christmas when it was released in 1993, and although I was about 4 at the time, I still enjoyed it, and have loved watching it ever since.  It was originally released under the Touchstone Pictures banner, since it was thought that it was too dark to be released as a Walt Disney Picture.  The movie is entirely stop motion animated, and took 3 years to complete.  It is based on a poem by Tim Burton.

The title sequence introduces us to an assortment of bizarre and wacky supporting characters who reside in Halloween Town.  The song ‘This is Halloween’ sets the tone for the rest of the film with its upbeat tune and dark lyrics.  We are then introduced to the hero of the story, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town.  The people of the town seem to adore him, and he plays up to their cheers, however, we soon see that Jack is bored with his role of Pumpkin King when he wanders off forlornly into the woods.  Another great song here as Jack sings about his boredom with the ‘same routine’ every year, and how he longs for something different.  Jack walks through the night until he is in a part of the woods he’s never been to before.  It is here that Jack discovers the ‘Holiday Doors’.  There are several trees standing in a circle, and on each tree there is an image representing a different holiday, including; a four-leaf clover for St. Patrick’s Day, a heart for Valentine’s Day, and a turkey for Thanksgiving.  Out of all these doors, Jack is drawn towards the one which has a Christmas tree painted on it.  He opens the door and falls into the tree, which transports him to Christmas Town.

Meanwhile, Jack’s love interest, a rag doll named Sally, is being held against her will by her creator, Dr. Finkelstein, though she often manages to outsmart him so that she can escape his lab.  Sally is concerned for Jack, who has seemed distant and lonely recently.  The love story between Jack and Sally runs very loosely (almost not at all) throughout the whole film.

Christmas Town is in massive contrast to Halloween Town, adorned with lights, awash with brilliantly bright colours, and inhabited by cheery and joyful people.  Another rousing song by Jack at this point illustrates his disbelief at such a different place to what he is used to, as he asks ‘What’s This?’  The lyrics are quite amusing too:

‘There’s children throwing snowballs, instead of throwing heads/they’re busy building toys and absolutely no-one’s dead.’

It is here that Jack gets a glimpse of Santa Claus, though he mistakes him for ‘Sandy Claws’.  He is so taken with the idea of Christmas that he heads back to Halloween Town to tell his fellow townspeople about it.  While Jack was away, the town seems to have descended into a state of chaos, even the Mayor of the town declaring that:

‘I’m only an elected official here; I can’t make decisions by myself!

Jack becomes obsessive over Christmas, trying to learn all he can about it, and this causes him to decide that he will take over Christmas for the year; all with the best intentions of course.  He sets all the people in the town to work making Christmas toys, including a hat made out of a rat and a duck with bleeding gunshot wounds.  At this point it becomes obvious that the people of Halloween Town have not understood the meaning of Christmas.  Jack also goes to the extreme of sending his enemy’s henchmen, Lock, Shock and Barrel to kidnap Sandy Claws.  After making the mistake of trawling back with the Easter Bunny, they return later with Santa in a big sack, and are told by Jack to take care of him while he ‘does’ Christmas.  Sally starts to get more and more concerned for Jack, having visions of his idea going terribly wrong, though he doesn’t listen when she tries to tell him.

Up until this point in the film, we have not been introduced to the villain of the story, though he does make a brief appearance in the opening sequence, only as a shadow.  Oogie Boogie has Santa given to him by Lock, Shock and Barrel, and sets to work torturing the poor soul.  One of the most visually exciting parts of the whole film, Oogie Boogie sings ‘Oogie Boogie’s Song’, which tells of the ways he likes to inflict pain and suffering upon his ‘guests’.  The whole scene is set in Oogie’s dark lair, though all the objects like his roulette wheel and dice are fluorescent colours; even Oogie himself, who is usually a brown colour, is bright green under UV lights.

Meanwhile, Jack has set out to create his own Christmas, with his sidekick ghost dog Zero lighting the way for the sleigh in the fog with his glowing nose.  Nice play on Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Since Jack never really got the idea of Christmas straight in his skull, he starts delivering presents such as severed heads and snakes to several children in the ‘real world’.  After the police are alerted to someone posing as Santa, Jack is unfortunately shot out of the sky, landing in a snow-covered graveyard.  It is at this stage that Jack realises he has made a mess of everything, and vows to put it right by rescuing Santa from Oogie Boogie and getting Christmas back on track.

The styling of the film, especially Halloween Town, reminds me a lot of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with its sharp silhouettes and weird perspectives.  Christmas Town has more of a Dr. Seuss feeling about it, and is rather similar to the town in The Grinch.  One of the most iconic images from the film is Spiral Hill, which can be seen on the original movie poster, as well as in the Kingdom Hearts series of games, where the whole of the Nightmare world can be explored.

The voice cast are pretty amazing on this film, though by now we shouldn’t expect anything less from Disney.  Jack is voiced by Chris Sarandon and his singing parts are performed by Danny Elfman.  Catherine O’Hara voices Sally and Shock, and Ken Page voices Oogie Boogie.

The music, as I have mentioned above, is amazing, and possibly one of the best film soundtracks I have ever heard.  The songs were written by Danny Elfman, as well as him lending his singing voice to Jack Skellington.  It is hard to choose a favourite song out of the whole bunch, as the lyrics on each track are fantastic and are performed beautifully by the cast.

The Nightmare Before Christmas saw a revival in 2006 when it was released in Disney Digital 3D.  I was lucky enough to catch it on its 3D release and it looked better than it ever did!  Although I am reviewing from the DVD, I have heard that this film gains a lot by being viewed on Blu-ray.  The special features on the 2 disc DVD are pretty good, though in fact, disc number one holds all of the ‘Making Of’ features, which in my opinion are the best features to watch.  There is also a big section on the Disneyland Haunted Mansion’s Nightmare Before Christmas overlay which is really interesting.  On disc 2 is Tim Burton’s short live-action film Frankenweenie, which is a nice watch, along with his animated short Vincent.

As a side note, Disneyland overlay their Haunted Mansion each year to make it look like Jack Skellington just landed down the chimney and decorated the place.  There is a Spiral Hill in there as well as Oogie Boogie and Jack Skellington with Zero floating by his side.  If you ever get a chance to visit over Christmas time, you really should!

You could be forgiven for thinking that this film has rather a morbid aura about it, however it more than makes up for the gloom with plenty of jokes and quirky characters throughout.  The music also lifts the viewer’s spirits even when the subject matter is a little bit gruesome.  Tim Burton’s direction is as interesting as ever and really does not disappoint.  Hopefully if you have never seen this film before you will give it a fair chance, as it isn’t just for the tween Goths and Emos, it is for anyone who loves Christmas, Halloween and simply being entertained.

I give this movie 5 Tinks.

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Mickey’s Christmas Carol

 

It may be a little early in the year to start reviewing Christmas movies, so I got around that problem by reviewing a short instead.  Mickey’s Christmas Carol was released in 1983 along with the reissue of The Rescuers.  The story is familiar to us all; Ebenezer Scrooge is a selfish man who has no joy or compassion in his heart, and in this take on the classic, Scrooge McDuck plays, very appropriately, Scrooge.  He works in a counting house in London, along with his sole employee Bob Cratchit, who is played by Mickey Mouse.  His wife is of course Minnie Mouse, who doesn’t actually speak in this short, and they have three children (mini Mickeys and Minnies!)  On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, as well as his deceased business partner Jacob Marley, played by Goofy.  The first ghost is The Ghost of Christmas Past, played by Jiminy Cricket.  The second is The Ghost of Christmas Present, played by Willie the Giant, as seen in the Jack and the Beanstalk segment of Fun and Fancy Free.  The third and final ghost is The Ghost of Christmas Future, and is played by the original Disney villain from Steamboat Willie, Pete, who is wearing hooded robes, and smoking a cigar!

After Scrooge’s encounters with the three spirits/ghosts, he is a changed man, flashing his cash all over the town and being kind to everyone.  Happy endings all round!

I think that the best way to look at this version of Charles Dickens’ story is by comparing it to a couple of others.  Muppet’s Christmas Carol is clearly superior to this version, though that is mainly due to the one-liners that the Muppets pride themselves for.  The more recent version of A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey was, visually, a masterpiece in my opinion, and the visuals alone made up for the story which we have seen regurgitated time and time again.  If you are a big Disney fan and are familiar with a lot of the older characters, you will spot a few cameos in this short, in addition to the ones already mentioned above.  Mr. Toad plays Fezzywig, and also in his scene you may recognise animals from Robin Hood.  On the street there are also a few folks who I believe to be from Basil the Great Mouse Detective.  This was the last film for which Clarence Nash provided the voice of Donald Duck.

I think that this short would be suited best to younger children, as it does not run too long, and tells the story with some very familiar characters.  This is in comparison to the other two films mentioned above which can be mildly scary in places.

 

I am reviewing this short from the Walt Disney Treasures DVD-Mickey Mouse in Living Colour Volume Two; however you can also watch it on Mickey’s Magical Christmas – Snowed in at the House of Mouse, which also includes some other festive fun.

I give this short 4 Tinks.

 

 

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Pocahontas

‘You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you’ – Pocahontas

In 1995, Walt Disney Feature Animation released Pocahontas.  It was five years in the making, with production beginning the same time as The Lion King.  It was believed by many at the Disney studio that it would actually do a lot better than The Lion King.  However, on imdb.com the film has a rating of 6.1 out of 10, and Rotten Tomatoes gives it only 56%; with many critics slating it.  In fact, Pocahontas was a box office hit, and it also scooped up numerous awards for animation and for its soundtrack.  It also holds the record for the largest movie premiere in history, packing a mammoth 100,000 people into Central Park on June 10th 1995.  So what went wrong?

I personally think that Pocahontas is simply different, and that may have been the ‘problem’ with it; that it was too unfamiliar to its audience compared to previous Disney movies.  In comparison to many of the earlier Disney movies, its storyline is much slower and quieter in a way, more of a lake than a waterfall.  It is less theatrical and more like reality.  The main difference with Pocahontas in comparison to previous Disney films is that the main character was a real person, who lived around 1595 and died in 1617.  He story is quite interesting, especially considering that her life was very short.  Apparently she was ten years old the first time she met John Smith, though I understand why in today’s society Disney chose to portray her as a fully grown woman rather than a child.

Pocahontas means ‘little mischief’, and although she is not so little in size, she possesses the qualities of a child: freedom, excitement and curiosity, as well as being very smart and cautious at the same time.  Her styling is very angular, though different to the styles used in Hercules and Sleeping Beauty.  Her face is quite flat, and her features are simplified.  Her eyes are more of an arched shaped than they are rounded, and throughout most of the film they are simply black, not showing any colour at all.  Her nose is simplified to the point of only her nostrils showing, and her jaw is much stronger than many of the other Disney heroines.  Her hair symbolizes her free spirit, long, flowing and full of life.

 Even the main character’s two sidekicks do not talk, to allow the dialogue to come totally from the adult figures, and, debatably, taking away the humour that we had come to love from Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion King.  Originally Pocahontas’ sidekick was going to be a turkey, voiced by John Candy, and he had apparently recorded a lot of the lines for it already before his death.  Whether it was the loss of Mr. Candy, or for creative reasons, the turkey got the boot, to make way for the quieter pair of Flit and Meeko.  They are quite amusing and cute, but their lack of speech seems to distance them from being characters the audience can warm to.  The humour is made up however, in the character of Grandmother Willow, who does have a voice.  She is old, wise, and feisty, which is understandable since she is a very large willow tree who has most likely been standing there for hundreds of years; ‘don’t worry…my bark is worse than my bite’.  Governor Ratcliffe is the villain, he is greedy and pompous, hearing that there is gold in Virginia, and not letting anyone or anything stand in his way until he gets it.  He is played by David Ogden Stiers (Beauty and the Beast,The Hunchback of Notre Dame), who also plays Ratcliffe’s manservant, Wiggins.  Ratcliffe is accompanied by his small, white dog named Percy (who is also mute), who seems to validate the saying about dogs looking like their owners and vice versa.  Governor Ratcliffe always refers to the natives as ‘savages’, whereas John Smith uses more respectful words such as ‘Indians’.  

  John Smith (Mel Gibson) is the story’s love interest, and is technically on the side of Ratcliffe, since he came to the new world with him and the ship’s crew looking for riches.  However, he is much kinder and more considerate to the natives and their land.  Pocahontas is the daughter of Chief Powhatan, leader of the Powhatan people, and he is wise like Grandmother Willow, and offers Pocahontas a lot of guidance, trying to send her down the correct path in life.  Christian Bale plays Thomas, John Smith’s bumbling but kind-hearted friend, but he isn’t one of the main characters.  There is also a cameo from Billy Connolly, as one of Ratcliffe’s men.  ‘Alright you howling nutter, get to work’ he snaps at one of his colleagues.

The beginning of the film has a perfect transition between the two separate worlds seen in the film, through the songs ‘Virginia Company’ and ‘Steady as the Beating Drum’.  We are introduced to the landscape of Pocahontas’ home, with lots of earthy colours and trees which reach to the heavens, along with a beautiful pink sky.  This is in contrast to the cold greys and blues we see at the beginning of the film in London, when Ratcliffe and his men are boarding their ship.  We are then introduced to our heroine, and the song ‘Just Around the Riverbend’ tells of her personality, and how she wishes to be free in spirit.

When Pocahontas first sees a ship coming towards her land, she thinks that the ship’s sails are ‘strange clouds’, having never seeing anything like it before.  Smith’s first meeting with Pocahontas is very beautiful, and conveys a sense of feeling, yet not quite understanding, between the two characters.  John Smith puts down his gun, after pointing it at her initially, yet she still runs away.  It isn’t long before the two of them are introducing themselves and getting to know one another.

Cue the song ‘Colours of the Wind’, which apparently set the tone for the film before it went into production.  It is a very powerful song, with great lyrics and wonderfully colourful backgrounds to match.  The song ‘Mine Mine Mine’ is a clever play on words, since Ratcliffe believes that the gold is ‘mine’ whilst he orders his men to ‘mine’ for it.  The song is the traditional Disney theatrical number, with lots of Busby Berkley type imagery of men performing synchronized shovel dancing, and trees being shot down in unison against flaming orange backgrounds.  Another impressive song is ‘Savages’, sung in two parts, with fantastic lyrics and use of staging, with the sky turning redder and redder, almost as though it is on fire.  Ratcliffe and his army of men are similar to the angry villagers in Beauty and the Beast, and here you can find a change of lyrics in the song to what is on the soundtrack.  The change is understandable when listening to the original lyrics:

Original – “Dirty redskin devils, now we sound the drums of war!”

In film – “Dirty shrieking devils, now we sound the drums of war!”

Original – “What can you expect/ from filthy little heathens? / Their whole disgusting race is like a curse!”

In film – “What can you expect/ from filthy little heathens? / Here’s what you get when the races are diverse!”

Overall, the story is a bit different from what you would expect from the ‘average’ Disney film; however it boasts wonderful songs, a good helping of comedy, as well as bags full of charm and maturity.

I have to praise the special features on this one.  It is a two disc set, so it is expected that the features should be good, and they don’t disappoint.  ‘The Making of Pocahontas’ is 27 minutes long, then there are five more sections of goodies:  Production, Design, Music, Abandoned Concepts and The Release.  I have decided not to review all of these because anything I wanted to include has been written about above, and also I urge you to watch them for yourself, as they are a wealth of information!

I give this movie 4 Tinks.


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