Archive for Disney
(This post was originally featured at Eat Your Serial)
It’s hard to believe that the original Toy Story was released in theaters 17 years ago. I remember in my cynical old age of 11, I was curious to see what a fully computer animated movie would look like, but I also worried that the days of t
he hand-painted cell feature would soon be ended. I was right in many ways as the release of Toy Story had heralded the release of a slew of animated feature from everybody’s mother in varying degrees of computer animation…even anything approaching traditional cell animation these days is touched upon by computers (unless it’s some artsy-fartsy French cartoon about the never ending bloody nose). Of course, this is not all as bad as I thought and none of it is really to blame of Toy Story or the franchise that emanated from it. They are good movies and the vultures always circle around a good idea to peck it to death.
The thing about the Toy Story franchise that , as an adult, is amazing to me is the inherent sadness of the idea—a staple of Pixar features that hit its apex in the first few minutes of Up. The notion that these toys exist solely to provide happiness and support to a boy who will inevitably grow up, break them, forget them, move on and leave them behind has an ephemeral memory—a nostalgic twinge causing less than a moment’s pause on most occasions. These toys are well aware of the minute fate and treat it with the impending severity of a military operation despite the finite nature of their existence. The notion is touched upon in every installment of the fantastic series of movies. In Toy Story, Woody has to deal with the new toy on the block, Buzz Lightyear, knocking him from the utmost preferred spot in Andy Davis’s heart. In the second installment, Woody has to cope with the prospect of being outgrown and left behind after being partially broken, and in Toy Story 3 Andy is ready to move on to college and the whole crew has to cope with the prospect of living in the attic or becoming garbage. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty just in case someone out there has impossibly not seen all of these movies (like my wife impossibly has achieved).
My two-and-a-half-year-old son has recently become completely engrossed in the Toy Story movies and requests to watch them ad infinitum. Through the afternoons and nights, he chants “More Buzz! More Toy Story!”…regularly…even as I type this (which is why I said it’s high nigh impossible that my wife hasn’t seen them…I think she’s blocking it out using her Emma Frost-like telepathy). As an adult-child, I find myself invariably torn at the narrative of the story—I am now the parent of a child—children actually—who’s toys exist solely for their enjoyment and comfort. Toys that accompany them to bed, toys that escort them on excursions, toys that provide wondrous opportunities for faux social interaction and imaginative play—some toys that I saved for my kids to play with (that many swore I would never pass down! Fooey to you!). Watching the movies, I am torn between my relation to all the characters, human and toy.
This, of course, is due in no small part to the quality and standard set by the first—the movie that launched a billion dollars; produced by Pixar, funded by Disney, written by Joss Whedon (et. al.), and voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen (et. fantastic-al.). The bar was set high and, to this day, remains one of the highest regarded movie trilogies on Rotten Tomatoes—and, though a love a great many trilogies, I am inclined to agree. The series is remarkably consistent in its tone and humor and each is a well set up adventure-movie-providing its problems, conflicts, solutions, and developments naturally within the course of the plot and in the logical context of the setting (logical that is in the world of sentient toys). There are moments, especially written in to Toy Story 3, that bring elements from the first and second movies full circle in a way that is satisfying and rewarding; something rarely achieved in any movie let alone popcorn animated children’s features. As I am older and watch these flicks through the eyes of a child-now-grown-but-still-a-child, and through the eyes of a parent, I am appreciative of the magic that they bring to the minds of children as well as the, admittedly tear-welling, nostalgia of a kid who actually did save most of his toys to give to his son—and did—just to watch them be given a new life. If somehow you haven’t seen any of these movies, you are missing out on great stories full of laughter, friendship, and adventure. They are well written to such a degree that the man who wrote the first one was tapped to write and direct The Avengers, which is the current reigning top grossing film of all time, and the man who wrote the third was recently tapped to write the newest installment in the Star Wars franchise—you’ll never find a greater endorsement of popcorn entertainment. If you haven’t seen them all, you’re in for a great treat in watching a well-continued story that excellently fulfills all the promises of a trilogy.
Written by: Brandon Melendez
Normally, it’s fair to say that I stick to the tights and capes genre of comic book reading. With the exception of the stray Vertigo title ( Y: The Last Man, 100 Bullets) or some cultural touchstone, probably written by Alan Moore (and arguably some form of tights and capes at that!), I don’t venture out of this corner of the industry. That isn’t to say that I’m not interested…in fact of late I have been making major stride to broaden my exposure and see if’n the other areas are of interest to me. In seeking this out, I came to some good advice about reading faire from a friend of mine, Nick Newert (director, AV guy, and Copy editor extraordinaire) to read Don Rosa’s “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck”.
At first, when he first proposed this sometime back, I was reluctant; not because it wasn’t the capes and tights genre but rather because it was a Disney Comic. With other pressing matters at hand, and a lack of time to track down and read this volume of tales cataloguing the rise of the world’s richest duck, it sat in the back burner of my mind. Now, I have had many a heated discussion about the tights and capes genre with Mr. Newert, and besides respecting his intelligence, I respect his taste in comics (almost a higher, if-not-equal compliment IMO) so when there was a little bit more space in my life for comic book reading again I made sure that his suggestion was on my pull list.
I don’t know why I waited so long. All of my reluctances over the quality of art and writing in the comic due to my perception of what would be acceptable in a Disney book were assuaged almost immediately. The volume develops the character of Scrooge McDuck from a wee lad of 10, earning his #1 Dime in Glassgow, Scotland to the wealthy, tightfisted, and cantankerous old duck that the world has come to know as Uncle Scrooge with humor, intelligence, and a sophistication that appeals to both adult and child readers. For example: in the first chapter “Of Dimes , Ducks, and Destinies” Magica De Spell (that evil sorceress duck with the haircut that my wife had in her senior yearbook photo) travels back in time to steal Scrooge’s #1 dime (as is her M.O.). As part of fitting into the scenery she uses a spell to don clothing more appropriate to the time period—a duck is sitting in a nearby window having a drink from a brown bottle. This duck might not be suspicious at first, but after De Spell’s clothing have changed an arm is seen reaching out of the window pouring the drink to the ground. It is a simple, yet easy joke aimed more at an adult audience in acknowledgement in the fantastic nature of magic (if not anthropomorphic ducks and dogs) more so than children, despite their level of involvement with alcoholic hallucinations.
As a man born in the 1980’s I have an especially soft spot in my heart for Disney’s ducks as I was reared on a healthy diet of Duck Tales. The adventures of Scrooge, along with his grandnephews Huey, Dewey,and Louie and their most inept pilot, Launchpad McQuack are a cornerstone of my childhood. While I have somewhat less attachment to Donald (probably it only goes so far as the Dancing Donald Duck toy I had as a kid and my general predilection to incomprehensible sailor babble) I found it interesting that little effort is made in the comics to emulate his characterist “ducky” voice. His characterization, though limited in the long life span of his
miserly uncle (the tale spans 1877 to 1947) is interesting as I never really know what the hell he was saying before (perhaps Donald is only drunk in motion pictures). However, as characters like the afore mentioned De Spell,
it is interesting to see how they operate in different contexts. Additionally, I found particular joy in guessing a largely unnamed Afrikaner Duck who played the role of villain in “The Terror of the Transvaal” was in fact McDucks arch nemesis Flintheart Glomgold, as well as reading the formation of the Beagle Boys Gang in “The Master of The Mississippi”.
All in, reading the character of Scrooge develop from a 10 year old with a shoe-shine kid to an intrepid and adventurous teenager, to a hardened man of his twenties (stopping only to look for “tail” from Goldie O’Gilt –another character I remember from Duck Tales), all the way to a penny pinching, coin swimming, money bin hoarding, old man (duck) looking to connect with some family on Christmas Day is quite the ride; and a refreshing departure from my normal comics faire. The art, while maintaining the Disney character design and manual of style is remarkably dynamic, consistent, and relays at times the same amount of sophistication and humor as the writing does. “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” is a marvelous and fun read for any comic book fan and Don Rosa’s 1995 Eisner Award for it is well deserved, as is the 1997 Comic’s Buyers Guide Favorite Reprint award. I recommend it whole heartedly, and assert that anyone who can’t enjoy this comic book probably can’t enjoy comic books at all.
P.S. Finding out that Duckburg is located in Calisota, USA made me laugh. If only The Simpsons had come up with so simple a solution.