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Lady and the Tramp

“Butch-a he say he wants-a two spaghetti speciale, heavy on the meats-a ball” -Tony

One month before the opening of Disneyland in July 1955, Walt Disney’s 15th animated feature was released: Lady and the Tramp.  The story first came into being when Disney artist and writer Joe Grant approached Walt with an idea inspired by the frolics of his pet Spaniel named Lady.  Walt liked the sketches that Grant had shown him, and gave him the go-ahead to start developing the idea further.  Through the 1930’s and into the 1940’s, Grant and some other artists at the studio worked on a number of ideas for the story, however, Walt was displeased by all of them, as there wasn’t enough action to be drawn from the stories he had been shown.  Also in the 1940’s, Walt read a story called ‘Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog’, which encouraged him to continue developing the original story by having the main character, Lady, fall in love with another dog.  By 1943, a treatment had been completed for the film, but unfortunately production had to stop, as at that time the studio was working on their WWII propaganda cartoons.

At the beginning of the film, the camera passes over a small turn-of-the-century town in America at Christmas.  We are then introduced to ‘Jim Dear’ and ‘Darling’, who are exchanging presents.  ‘Darling’ is given a pink hat box wrapped in a ribbon by ‘Jim Dear’, and inside she finds a Spaniel puppy; our heroine, Lady (voiced by Barbara Luddy, who has also played many other Disney characters).  Apparently, this scene was inspired by a present that Walt gave to his wife Lily, a Chow puppy in a hat box.  We are shown some of the challenges that Lady faces as a puppy, such as climbing the stairs and getting through doors.  When she is allowed to sleep on her owners’ bed for one night, there is a dissolve to adult Lady, sleeping on the same spot on the bed years later, because now she is fully grown.

We are then introduced to Lady’s neighbours, Jock and TrustyJock is a Scottish terrier who is chipper and quick-witted.  His friend Trusty is a Bloodhound, a slow thinking old-timer; the complete opposite of Jock.  We are also introduced to Tramp, a stray dog who is very street-wise and likes to live life in the now.

After Lady notices a negative change in the way her owners are treating her, she discusses the problem with Jock and Trusty.  They put two and two together, and realise that Darling is expecting a baby.  Tramp overhears the conversation and begins to tell Lady how life will change once the baby arrives:

“When the baby moves in, the dog moves out”

When the baby arrives, Lady does not get kicked out, however when Jim Dear and Darling take a trip together and leave Aunt Sarah in charge, things take a turn for the worse for Lady.  She clashes with Aunt Sarah’s two Siamese cats, Si and AmAunt Sarah decides that Lady is not safe to be around the baby, and takes her to the pet shop to be fitted with a muzzle.  Lady manages to run away, but is chased by some stray dogs, which Tramp manages to save her from.  He takes her to the zoo and tricks a beaver into removing her muzzle, so that she is now free, just like him.

Cue famous meatball scene…

Tramp takes Lady for an Italian candlelit dinner at Tony’s Restaurant.  The comedic characters of Tony and Joe, two Italian chefs, lighten the tone of the film, even though they aren’t on screen for too long.  It is Tony who sings the song ‘Bella Notte’ as the two dogs eat their spaghetti and meatballs.  The next day, Tramp stirs up a coop of chickens, but unfortunately, Lady is caught for his crime, and taken to the dog pound.  Here, she meets a handful of weird and wonderful characters, including Peg (voiced by singer Peggy Lee), who tells Lady through the song ‘He’s a Tramp’ about Tramp’s reputation with the ladies.  When Lady is finally taken home from the pound, Aunt Sarah ties her up to the dog house in the garden, where she is visited by Tramp.  She confronts him about his exploits and gets angry at him for leaving her to be taken to the pound, at which point Tramp leaves.

 Lady then sees a rat entering the house and fears for the baby, she barks hysterically, and Tramp comes back to help.  Tramp enters the house and goes into the nursery to confront the rat, beginning a battle which ends badly for the rat.  Aunt Sarah hears all the noise, and sees Tramp standing next to the crib which had fallen over as a result of the fight; she then calls the dog pound to come and pick Tramp up from the house.  Jim Dear and Darling are returning from their trip as Tramp is being taken away by the dog catcher, and they rush into the house.  Jock and Trusty realize what has happened after overhearing everything, and run after the dog catcher’s wagon to try and help Tramp.  Although they manage to stop the wagon, it tips over, falling on Trusty; it is at this point that Jock and the audience believe him to be dead.

Writing this review was quite difficult.  If it was a bad film there would be plenty to talk about, but it isn’t a bad film.  In fact, since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it was the highest grossing Disney cartoon of that time.  The story was actually the first since Dumbo to be penned by the studio, and was the first feature-length cartoon to be produced in Cinemascope.  As, at the time, many cinemas were not equipped to show Cinemascope films, Walt had to film two versions of the movie, one regular version, and one widescreen version.  The regular version would often cut characters out of a scene, and provide a limited view of the environments, whereas the widescreen version shows the film in all its beauty.  The fact that it was shown in Cinemascope had to be a major draw for audiences in the 1950’s.  The backgrounds were particularly enhanced by this feature, as you could become more drawn in to the environments and the time period in which the film takes place.  The backgrounds are very intricate, particularly the houses, which ooze 1900’s charm and elegance.  This could have something to do with the fact that the artist, Claude Coats, was trained in architecture.  Originally, Mary Blair had done many concept paintings for this movie; however she left the studio whilst the film was still in production, which is when Coats was put in charge.  It is hard to imagine how different the film may have looked if she had continued with the project, as her style was very unique and distinctive.

The town where the story takes place is very much inspired by Walt Disney’s boyhood home of Marceline, Missouri, and in turn, also bears resemblance to Main Street U.S.A in the Disney parks.  It took 150 artists to draw 2 million drawings, resulting in 110,000 Technicolor frames of film, to complete this movie.  That’s a lot of drawings!  This would explain why the movement of the dogs is so fluid.  Anyone who has ever owned a dog or spent time with a dog can see, when watching Lady and the Tramp, how much observation and research of the canine-kind has gone in to making the film.  Stretches, scratches, licks and jumps all seem to be perfectly drawn by the artists to give the genuine feeling that these dogs are real.  So as to give the audience a feel for what life is like for a dog, it was decided that you would see humans as minimally as possible.  Sort of like the ‘feet’ in Tom and Jerry, you never see the face, you only hear the voice.  Although you do see a few humans throughout the film, it only happens when needed to, to move the story along.  The rest of the time it is solely feet, hands and legs.

Jazz singer Peggy Lee co-wrote most of the songs in the film, as well as voicing 4 characters, Darling, Peg, Si and Am.  The character of Peg was named after her, and also had the same walk as her.  Possibly the most famous scene in the entire movie, the spaghetti and meatballs scene, was almost not included in the story at all.  Walt didn’t like it, but was eventually swayed after seeing a full animation test of it.  You made a good choice, Walt!

I am reviewing this movie from the Diamond Edition Blu-Ray.  It has to be said, that this is another Disney classic which seems to have been given a new lease of life thanks to the wonder of HD.  The backgrounds especially are crystal clear, and the characters seem more lifelike than ever.  As has come to be expected from Diamond Editions of this kind, there are a ton of special features.  All of the features from the original DVD release are present, including of a ‘Making Of’ featurette, a puppypedia, a music video, deleted scenes, and storyboard versions of the film.  The Blu-Ray features consist of more deleted scenes, and a very nice interview with Diane Disney Miller called ‘Remembering Dad’.  She talks about Walt’s apartment in Disneyland, and also about the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.  This is a really nice feature, probably the best on the Blu-Ray, particularly for any Walt fans!

If you have never seen Lady and the Tramp, there is no better time to do so.  It looks beautiful; it has a simple, romantic storyline, with plenty of laughs along the way, as well as many memorable songs and characters.

I give this movie 5 Tinks.

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Steamboat Willie

If someone asked you what the first Mickey Mouse cartoon was, what would you say?

Well, unless you have delved deep into cartoon history, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was Steamboat Willie.  In fact, Gallopin’ Gaucho and Plane Crazy were Mickey Mouse’s first two cartoons to be produced; however, Steamboat Willie was the first to be distributed.

This 1928 short is most famous for being the first cartoon to feature synchronized sound; although a couple of other studios had already produced shorts with ‘synchronized sound’, though failed to keep their sound fully synchronized, losing the desired effect.  Disney got around this problem by using a click track to keep the sound in time with the cartoon.

Walt initially decided that he wanted to make a ‘talkie’ after watching The Jazz Singer (1927) starring Al Jolson, as it was the first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue.  The two cartoons which preceded Steamboat Willie were not given a warm reception by audiences, and Walt believed that by adding sound, the appeal of his cartoons would increase.  Production on Steamboat Willie began in July 1928 and ended in September of the same year, with a budget of almost $5,000.  The cartoon was a play on the Buster Keaton comedy Steamboat Bill.  Ub Iwerks, who had previously worked with Walt on the Alice Comedies and had animated Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, also animated Steamboat Willie almost single-handedly, often churning out up to 700 drawings per day, with the final cartoon consisting of 8,500 drawings.

Before the soundtrack was produced, to ensure that the cartoon would be believable enough with sound, Walt held a test screening of the then only partly finished Steamboat Willie, for a test audience made up of his employees and their wives.  Ub Iwerks banged on pots and pans, Wilfred Jackson played the mouth organ, Walt provided the dialogue (of which there was little) and Johnny Cannon provided various other sound effects, all from behind a bed sheet which was placed behind the movie screen.  Fortunately for Walt, the audience gave positive feedback, which encouraged him to go ahead with producing the rest of the cartoon.

Right, that is the history lesson over!  After all, this is a review…

Well, to judge a cartoon which is over 80 years old by today’s standards would be wrong of course, however, comparing Steamboat Willie to the black and white Mickey Mouse shorts which were released in the 1920s and 1930s, it isn’t hard to see why this little gem is as popular as it is.  At the time of release, its popularity was no doubt reliant on the novelty factor of it being a sound cartoon, however, at its premiere in New York on November 18th 1928 where it was shown before Gang Wars; it was more talked about amongst the audience than the main feature.  Watching it today, you may expect it the comedy to be dated, however it is still amusing in a charming sort of way, and even a little bit bizarre in places.  For instance, in some versions of the short, 30 seconds were removed where we see Mickey swinging a cat round by its tail, and playing a duck like a set of bagpipes, as it was considered as animal cruelty.

The story is simple; Mickey Mouse is ‘captaining’ a steamboat, whistling away, when the real captain shows up, (Pete) and orders him to leave.  The steamboat stops to pick up livestock, and is it leaves the dock we can see Minnie Mouse running along to try to catch up with the boat.  When Minnie lands on deck after Mickey picks her up with the cargo crane, she drops her sheet music, which is then eaten by a goat.  Minnie then uses the goat as a gramophone by turning its tail, as music plays out of its mouth.  It is here that Mickey starts to ‘play’ various other animals, as mentioned above.  A grouchy Captain Pete then puts Mickey to work peeling potatoes, where he throws a potato at a mocking parrot, knocking it into the water.

All in all, a slightly odd cartoon, but not as strange as some of the other cartoon shorts of the same era.  Maybe the story could have been a bit more interesting, but there is nothing else I would change about it! 

I am reviewing this cartoon from the Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White DVD.  The quality is as good as can be expected from such old cartoons, with the usual flickering and odd bits of dust on the film, though this does not make for a difficult watch.  I would love to say that this cartoon could be enjoyed by all ages, however, this cartoon and the DVD that it came on are intended more for Disney geeks and cartoon collectors, and though it may be watched by children, they would most likely be drawn to newer and more colourful Disney movies.  Another point to make would be that these DVDs are now hard to get hold of, unless you are willing to pay whatever someone on eBay is asking for them.  For instance, the DVD I am using came from Italy, so the box is in Italian, and this set was released way back in 2002.

I give this movie 4 Tinks.

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The Haunted Mansion


It has a Living Room, and a Dying Room…

Ok, so at the time of writing, Halloween is only a few days away, so I thought I would get cracking with a review of one of Disney’s supposedly more spooky efforts, The Haunted Mansion.

The film starts off nicely, with a promising title sequence which gives a nod to the floating candelabra in the Haunted Mansion attraction.  We are also given a glimpse of a back story, which doesn’t seem to give much away to the viewer.  We are then introduced to workaholic Jim Evers, (Eddie Murphy) who is a realtor, and his slightly neglected wife Sara (Marsha Thomason), who are due to celebrate their anniversary.  It appears that Jim had not been too attentive to his family recently, so to try to get back in his family’s good books; Jim decides to take them all on a trip to the lake for the weekend.  Before they leave, Sara receives a phone call from Edward Gracey (Nathaniel Parker), who is looking to sell his property, a large mansion near an isolated bayou.  On their way to the lake, Jim and his family stop off at the mansion to do some business.  When they arrive, they are solemnly greeted by Master Gracey’s butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp) who then introduces them to Mr. Gracey himself.  It is made painfully clear to the audience that Master Gracey has a questionable interest in Sara, Jim’s wife; however Jim seems pretty oblivious to that at this point.

Ramsley has a chat with Jim, and then leaves him alone in the library, where Jim accidentally stumbles upon a secret passage into a long corridor.  It is at this point in the film where a lot of influences from the attraction can be seen.  The schizophrenic pictures on the wall will be familiar to Disney theme park fans, as well as the ‘inside out’ busts and the ride’s signature purple wallpaper with glaring eyes.  At the end of the long corridor Jim finds a door that appears to be bulging, with what he suspects to be termites.  He passes through the door and continues deeper into the mysterious darkness.  Meanwhile his two children are following a floating ‘glow’ up into the attic, (time to whip out your imagination a bit at this point) where we can see a bridal gown (another Haunted Mansion reference) as well as countless other cobweb-clad objects.  In the attic they see a portrait of what appears to be their mother, but are sharply told not to ask any questions by a strange little man, who is actually a ghost called Ezra, and a jumpy maid called Emma.

In the meantime, Jim encounters Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly) in the séance room.  Fans of the ride will be familiar with this scene, where Madame Leota’s head smoothly recites incantations from inside a glass ball.  There are musical instruments floating within the room that periodically make noises in response to her readings.  Jim has a very strange encounter with Leota and is seen running down a corridor trying to escape a cacophony of instruments from the séance room; this is one of the film’s many pathetic attempts at comedy.  We then learn that Master Gracey is in fact dead, and needs Sara (who he believes is a reincarnation of his lover) to be reunited with him to free all of the residents of the mansion, who are also all ghosts.  We are then treated to what is possibly the best part of the movie (at a stretch), as Jim and his children are carried through the grounds of the house in a horse and carriage.  Haunted Mansion fans will recognise the horseless carriage from outside of the attraction in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  It is also here that we see a lot of the ghosts which occupy the famous attraction, the see-saw ghosts, the groundskeeper and his dog, and the particularly famous ‘Hitchhiking Ghosts’, also known as Phineas, Ezra and Gus.


Things become a little more tedious after this scene, and the rest of the story limps along lifelessly, however I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who wants to give this movie a fair chance!

The Verdict

The Haunted Mansion was released after The Country Bears and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and all three are based upon Disney theme park attractions.  Of course, there is no need for me to tell you which one of these films did insanely well at the box office, unless you have been living under a rock since 2003.  Unfortunately, The Haunted Mansion followed in the footsteps of The Country Bears, and did a belly flop into that ‘at capacity’ pool of Disney duds of years past.  What could have been something very creepy, very dark and very entertaining turned into a snooze-fest, dragged lifelessly through its 99 minutes by Eddie Murphy at a (pardon the pun) deadly slow speed.  Although watchable, it does beg the question of why this popular and well-loved attraction had to be degraded in a film which is in a tug-of-war over whether it wants to be scary or comedic.  In the end, neither wins out, leaving us with a confusing and shabby storyline with flat characters and drab dialogue to match.  Eddie Murphy should have been as strong of a character as Captain Jack Sparrow, carrying the story and making for very many laughs along the way, however he relies on his signature smile to steal a giggle from the audience, which hasn’t worked since the 90s.  Marsha Thomason who plays Sara Evers delivers some truly wooden acting, making the ghosts look vivacious.  Master Gracey who is played by Nathaniel Parker does not seem to have that ‘aura of foreboding’ about him that you would expect from a dead man, and therefore does not make for a very remarkable character, where he should have been exactly that.  The two most outstanding performances are by Jennifer Tilly and Terence Stamp, although they cannot carry the film along on their roles alone.

Ok so having angered all the fans of this movie, all 3 of them, I will move onto some good points, of which there are few.  As I mentioned earlier, there are many references to the attraction which the movie is based upon.  The main story of the film follows, albeit loosely, the story which runs through the Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris, as it involves a bride and a bunch of dead folks.  I mentioned above the scene with Madame Leota, the Hitchhiking Ghosts and the decor throughout the mansion.  Haunted Mansion buffs will also welcome the sight of the singing busts, which are actually voiced by the Dapper Dans Barbershop Quartet who perform in Disneyland.  The famous ballroom scene from the ride is also shown to the audience briefly, however it is not as grand as it is in the ride.

The sets are rather beautiful, large, spacious, luxurious, yet old and musty at the same time.  I remember visiting some of the sets at Walt Disney World at one point, and they were interesting to see, however I did wonder how many visitors had actually seen the film first.

In contrast to Pirates of the Caribbean (I make this comparison since the films were made around the same time and have the same basic idea behind them), there seems to be a lot of scenes and/or characters which have been taken directly from the attraction and used in the same form, rather than using them simply as a framework to build upon.   Sadly, since the film relies upon the audience’s sense of nostalgia regarding the attraction, it severely chops down the number of viewers who will ‘get it’, and therefore again cuts down the re-watch ability of the movie.  In fact, the ride which lasts only a few minutes, holds much more charm than this film ever could.

I am reviewing this film from the DVD version, (not the Blu-ray, I wouldn’t waste my money on that) which has a few underwhelming features.  The one I headed to first was ‘Disney’s DVD Virtual Ride: The Haunted Mansion’, thinking, as you would, that it was something to do with the attraction rather than the film.  Ok so they got me to click on it, but as soon as I realised that it was a very poor tour of the mansion in the film, it was swiftly turned off.  The rest of the features include commentaries, a deleted scene, an outtakes reel, and one of those God awful music videos.  If you’re looking for information on the ride, there is a feature that allows you to see photos and learn about the history of the attraction when you put the DVD into your computer.

I think children may enjoy this film, however for anyone else; it is certainly one to miss.

I give this movie 2 Tinks.

A Side Note:  Director Guillermo Del Toro is a massive fan of the Haunted Mansion attraction, and has, at the time of writing, almost finished the screenplay for a remake of The Haunted Mansion.  Of course, from a director such as Toro, great things are expected.  Great, dark, things.  Apparently the illusive Hatbox Ghost who was a part of the Disneyland attraction for not very long after it opened will be the villain in this film, and in honesty, I cannot wait to see it!

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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

‘I have done with society for reasons that seem good to me. Therefore, I do not obey its laws.’ – Captain Nemo

First off, I would like to state that this review was a joint effort.  Thanks Dad!  It would be silly to know a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fan and not utilize their wealth of information…

After Treasure Island and Robin Hood rolled out of the Disney studios in the early 1950s, another live action adventure would not be far behind them.  Though originally intended to be an animated feature, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (based on the novel by Jules Verne), after much storyboarding, was put into production as a live action feature.  This is the 2nd Cinemascope film ever made, took 2 years to make and wound up at $9 million.  This is one of Disney’s hidden treasures, which almost got the Disney Studio closed down, and which also apparently never made any money…

The Story

At the start of the movie, curtains go up to give the feeling of being in a theatre.  An elaborate copy of the novel appears on the screen and opens to a page that tells of a sea monster that is menacing shipping in the year 1868.  Next, a steam ship is seen sailing on a calm evening sea.  The camera pans down to show a monstrous shape surrounded by a green glow, rising from the depths of the sea and heading for the ship at a great speed.  A large explosion suggests that the ship has been destroyed.

The scene then switches to San Francisco harbour, where three of the principle characters are introduced; Ned Land (Kirk Douglas), a harpooner, immediately gets involved in a western salon-style fist fight for no logical reason.  Meanwhile, French Professor Pierre Aronnax (Paul Lukas) and his apprentice Conseil (Peter Lorre) are trying unsuccessfully to find a ship to take them home.  Approached by a government official, the French pair are persuaded to join an American warship that is setting out on an expedition to prove or (preferably) disprove the existence of the monster that is causing such havoc with the nation’s shipping.  Ned Land also joins the expedition-to hopefully kill the monster if it can be found.

Whilst in search of the monster, there are a few false alarms, such as the sightings of whales and dolphins.  They finally give up searching for the mysterious creature.  Ned celebrates in the form of song.  His singing causes a ship to blow itself up in the distance.  Well, actually, a ship just blows up, causing them to believe that something struck it, possibly the sea creature.  Sure enough, the creature’s menacing shining lights are soon seen in the distance.  We never really see much of the creature other than the very top of it and its gleaming ‘eyes’ for a good while into the film.  This adds to the mystery of what it might be.  The warship fires at the monster which attacks their ship, and unfortunately, Ned’s harpoons are no match for its tough outer shell.  The creature strikes the ship a glancing blow, causing the Professor and Conseil to go overboard, and while they are swimming, looking for safety, the monster emerges out of the mist, looking a lot less frightening without its menacing lights aglow.  Finally, realising that it is a man-made craft, they climb aboard, searching for signs of life, but to no avail.  Pierre discovers a large room in the submarine with beautiful red velvet seats, matching curtains, and a grand organ taking centre stage at the end of the room, with reflections of the sea coming in through the window and adding a mystifying characteristic to the silent submarine.

Ned is found floating along on one of the warship’s boats, and ends up joining Conseil and the Professor on the submarine.  Aronnax, fascinated by the underwater view through the saloon window, spots the submarine’s crew performing an underwater burial ceremony, complete with coral cross.  It isn’t long before the Professor and Conseil are spotted through the window by the crew, who capture them as they try to escape in Ned’s boat.  We then meet Nemo (James Mason), captain of the submarine that we now learn is called the Nautilus.

The three companions end up as guests/prisoners of Nemo’s, who by his own admission is not a civilised man.  After an eventful meal where we meet the remaining main character, Esmeralda the sea-lion, Ned’s best buddy, there is an expedition to collect food which provides an opportunity for some spectacular underwater photography.  There is also the obligatory tour of the submarine and its (apparently) atomic power plant. 

Aronnax, Ned and Conseil have different attitudes to Captain Nemo and their captivity on the Nautilus.  Ned has several confrontations with Nemo, and is desperate to escape.  Aronnax is overwhelmed by Nemo’s genius, and makes it his mission to persuade the captain to share his secrets with the rest of the world.  Nemo at first refuses, saying that such power in the wrong hands could destroy the world.  Conseil, at first, remains faithful to his professor.  Nemo gradually opens up to Aronnax, revealing some of his past.  At one point, he takes the professor ashore, to show him gangs of slaves loading nitrates into a ship-a cargo used for the manufacture of explosives.  Nemo reveals that he was once one of those slaves, before escaping and setting up a base on the island of Vulcania.  The Nautilus lies waiting for the nitrate ship to sail, and when it does, it attacks it, ramming the ship at full speed.  The ship sinks and explodes-watched by Aronnax, Ned and Conseil through the Nautilus’ window.  Aronnax is furious with Nemo, calling him a murderer and a hypocrite.  Nemo defends himself, calling himself ‘the avenger’, and saying that those on the ship were the real dealers in death.  In his mind, by preventing that cargo from reaching its destination, he has in fact saved hundreds of lives.  His actions are, in modern terms, those of a terrorist.

The Cast

It is hard to imagine anyone else but James Mason as Captain Nemo after watching this film.  He lives and breathes the role, perfectly portraying the mysterious and questionably villainous captain.  Kirk Douglas’ portrayal of the outspoken, down-to-earth Ned Land is also wonderful, providing comic-relief in an atmosphere which needs a little lightning from time to time.  Conseil as played by Peter Lorre, is the voice of reason, though torn between the beliefs of the Professor and the thoughts of Ned.  Paul Lukas portrays a perfect vision of a professor of this period of time.  He is intrigued by Nemo, and in a way they are similar through their fascination with knowledge; however the professor is much more civilized than the captain.

The Production

So 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, may not be one of the most famous Disney movies, but the Nautilus is instantly recognisable, even if you don’t know exactly what it is!  In fact, there were several different models of the submarine used for filming, including 20ft, 11ft and 6ft models, as well as a model of the fin of the Nautilus which was attached to a real submarine, for shots showing only that part of the vessel sticking out of the water.  Along with these outer elements of the submarine, a 150ft deck of the Nautilus was also made for shooting interior scenes.  A ‘squeezed’ version of the Nautilus was also created, to be filmed with a standard lens, and still be seen normally when projected in Cinemascope.  Production Designer Harper Goff designed the Nautilus, and said that it was basically a cross between an alligator and a shark, and was powered by nuclear energy, not by electricity as in the novel.  The Nautilus was furnished by Emile Kuri, who also designed Walt’s apartment at Disneyland.  The organ used in the film was bought for a mere $50, and can be found in the Haunted Mansion attraction in Disneyland, being played by a ghost!  The curved couch from the Nautilus can also be seen in the library set of the Haunted Mansion movie.

Harper Goff also designed the special diving suits which were worn by crew members when shooting underwater scenes.  They were essentially scuba diving suits, made to look like diving suits.  They had metal helmets which weighed 150lbs, and had tanks on their backs which contained enough air for 1 hour of filming.  Underwater shots were particularly difficult to shoot, especially as, when the crew all stood on the sea bed, the silt was stirred up and everything became too cloudy to film.  They got round this by putting carpet (that’s right, carpet) on the surface, preventing them from kicking up any of the floor.  Another difficulty they faced was that they were using only natural light to film, and weeks of cloudy weather put the film behind schedule.

A total of 3 lots were used for filming: Burbank, Universal and 20th Century Fox.  Of course, filming was expensive, with the original estimate at $2.7 million and the final total reaching $9 million.  It took them two years to complete the film.

The part of the film where we see Ned and Conseil trying to escape from natives on an island was shot in Jamaica, and there is a lot of footage of the crew, including Walt himself filming here.  If you look closely as the natives run towards the camera, you may see that one of them has ‘Eat at Joe’s’ written on his head…Another man’s head says ‘I ate Joe’.

Whale of a Tale is a fairly well-known song, especially in the world of Disney fans.  However, Kirk Douglas does not believe that he had a very good voice, but admits that he thought he did at the time.  Whilst this is the only song in the film, the main theme of the film is dramatic yet delicate and adventurous.

The Squid Attack


Of course, I don’t want to give the whole story away; however, one of the most famous scenes in the film is the dramatic squid attack.  This scene was undoubtedly the hardest scene for the crew to film.  There were two takes of the scene; the first take was ruined by a terribly unrealistic squid and a very calm sky, rather than a terrifying squid and a thunderous sky.  The cables which held up the tentacles kept breaking, and the crew started to see that the take wasn’t going to work.  More importantly, this scene had a lot of the film’s budget tied up, and filming it again was going to be very costly.  Everyone working on the film was gravely concerned not only for the future of the movie, but for the future of the Disney Studios, because of the vast amounts of money that were being sucked up solely on that feature.  Thankfully, the extra money was secured after financial backers were shown some shots from the film, and convinced that it would be a success at the box office.  When the second squid scene was filmed, the sky was made darker, taking place at night in a thunder-storm, which meant that the squid would be seen only in flashes of lightning.  However, this was not completely necessary, as a new 2 ton squid had been built, with longer tentacles giving the effect of snakes, as well as different methods being used to move them.  So much water was used on this scene that the entire set was flooded, pouring out into the lot, with even Mr. Disney himself having to don his wellingtons!


The Theme Parks

Disney’s Fantasmic was originally to have a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea sequence which would include a Nautilus on one barge, a squid on another, and presumably a fight between the two!  CinéMagique in Disneyland Paris also missed out on a taste of 20k, when the clip was not included in the final cut, and was instead replaced by a clip from The Hunt for Red October.   20,000 Leagues Under the Sea also found its way into the Disney theme parks.  Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland welcomed the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction in October 1971 as a sister attraction to the Submarine Voyage in Disneyland.  This ride lasted until 1994, and is very much missed by 20k fans and Walt Disney World purists.  In Tokyo DisneySea’s Mysterious Island, which is based on the storytelling of Jules Verne, and is home to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea dark ride.  In Disneyland Paris’ Discoveryland, which is based on the style of science-fiction writers (Jules Verne in particular) you can find Les Mystères du Nautilus, a walkthrough attraction, allowing you to tour the Nautilus for yourself, including a glimpse of the menacing squid!  Disneyland in Anaheim also housed the sets from the film from 1955-1964.

The Verdict     

If you made it this far, well done!  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is certainly a film that you should see a least once, as it is a Disney classic.  I am reviewing this film from the 2 disc DVD edition, which contains as much information as anyone could wish to know about the film (unless you are a die-hard fan of course!).  Let us look forward to the Blu-Ray!

I give this movie 5 Tinks.


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Bambi

‘Man is in the forest…’

After a few, well, negative reviews of Disney movies, I decided to go all the way back to the time of those Disney classics which possessed amazing animation, solid story and beautiful backgrounds.

Walt Disney started work on Bambi in 1936, the year before the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  It wasn’t until 1942 that Bambi got its release, meaning that Pinocchio, Dumbo and Fantasia were all completed before Walt came back to Bambi.  The film was based on a book by Felix Salten, who was actually an insurance clerk who began to write purely out of boredom.  Despite the popularity of the film in the modern day, it performed badly at the box office, prompting the Disney studio to re-release Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1944.

The story begins with moving multi-plane shots of the forest, which were designed largely by Chinese artist Tyrus Wong.  His environmental paintings were more softly drawn, providing a background, but a one which is not tightly finished like those in many other Disney movies.  This allows more focus to be on the animals.  The story centres on life in the forest, new life, as Bambi has just entered the world at the start of the film.  He soon discovers two friends which we are led to believe to be around the same age as him: Thumper and Flower.  Thumper acts as a mentor and muse to Bambi, helping him learn about the forest and teaching him how to have fun.  Flowers is a much more muted personality compared to Thumper, and has a slightly more wicked personality, often giggling at Bambi’s lack of knowledge on simple things.

According to TIME magazine, a Disney cast member was seen lying on the ground, not wanting to be moved, because he wanted to see how raindrops looked as they came towards your eyes.  There is debate as to whether this happened or not, but if it did, it had to be someone working on the wonderful ‘April Shower’ scene.  The raindrops look very realistic, and it is almost like a scene from Fantasia, with the visuals working in time with the song, to give the sense of the rhythm in nature.  The music in Bambi was almost like another character, more so than in many other Disney films, because in Bambi, there is a lot less dialogue.  It is also more noticeable when there is a long and dramatic silence, which emphasizes danger.

Bambi is by no means the most uplifting film to come out of the Disney studios; however, there are moments of comedy to break up the slower periods in the film.  For example, one of the most iconic scenes in the film is that of Bambi and Thumper out on the ice, with Bambi’s legs getting tangled up like spaghetti due to his hard hooves skidding along the ice.  It is extremely similar to a Pluto cartoon where Pluto is wearing ice skates and struggling to stand up on the ice.  The scene is welcome relief from the heavier scene which follows; possibly the first thing that many people think of when you mention Bambi: the death of Bambi’s mother.

Though never seen, we are introduced to the ‘villain’ in the film, the common enemy: man.  Bambi and his mother find a patch of green grass in the snow, a rare find in the cold of winter, so they begin to eat it.  Suddenly, Bambi’s mother hears something, and urges Bambi to run away.  The urgency of the situation is accentuated by the dramatic music used, and as they try to escape, you see Bambi get out of the way just in time, but his mother does not follow.  Although the mother is not too much of a central character like Thumper, Bambi and Flower are, the audience still has the slight expectation that she might get up and still be alive.  Unfortunately for Bambi, she does not.  Cut to a scene of Bambi in the forest alone, blinded by falling snow, searching for his mother.  Walt and his team had the idea of showing the shadow of man with a gun; however the idea was quickly scrapped, as it was thought that it was better to portray man as the unknown, almost alien-like, to make it more terrifying.  The design of Bambi being very baby like, and also the fact that he is still dependent on his mother, makes the death all the more horrifying and heart-breaking.  There had also been an idea to show Bambi’s mother lying in a pool of blood, an idea which was brought to life (albeit without blood) in The Lion King.

After these very heavy and depressing scenes, the mood is uplifted again by the return of spring.  It appears to be several years later, since Bambi has grown into an almost fully grown deer.  All his friends have also grown, and life goes on without his mother, with him finding love and going on to have his own children.  This is the original circle of life tale, decades before The Lion King would come to fruition.  At the end of Bambi, there is a fire started by man.  It had been considered to show man burning within the fire, but once again, that was much too graphic, and detracted from man being unfamiliar and terrifying to the forest animals.

Walt made sure that the anatomy of the animals was as realistic as possible, having his artists go to anatomy classes and draw deer from life.  The finished product: anatomically correct animals which are caricatures of human beings.

I have reviewed the film from the Blu-Ray release, and Bambi looks fantastic in HD!  There are extra features here compared to the DVD release, but the original features are also included.  The new features are wonderful for any Disney enthusiasts, featuring a very long look at Walt Disney’s story meetings, giving an inside view on the thought processes of the artists, story men  and Walt himself.  You can also access the usual deleted scenes, galleries, games, as well as a deleted song ‘Twitterpated’.  The wealth of special features really does feel never-ending, perfect for Disney fans.

Bambi is definitely one of the classic Disney films, containing comedy, innocence, tragedy and the life lesson of survival.  It is a very honest film.  I could go on writing and writing about Bambi, but instead, I would urge you to go and watch your own copy, and take in the beauty of the visuals, the songs, and realise the power of animation when used in its most mature form.

I give this movie 5 Tinks.

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