Disney's unappreciated animated classics
Mark uncovers the too-often-overlooked gems in the Disney animated movies catalogue...
Not all Disney feature movies get the same level of appreciation, as they're overshadowed by the better known or more rambunctious siblings.
Here are five that, in my view, deserve better...
Alice In Wonderland (1951)
Part of the impressive fifties animated feature line-up, Alice never quite got the love that was reserved for Sleeping Beauty or The Lady And The Tramp. Yet, it's as technically competent, and uniquely styled.
Disney must bear some of the responsibility, however, as, after a somewhat poor box office (by their standards) outing, they demoted Alice to being the launch vehicle for their TV ambitions in a cut-down form. This choice meant that it didn't get recycled at the cinema and moved it down a notch from its 'cinema only' screened peers.
As they've all now been on TV, I think it's about time Alice In Wonderland was allowed back into the full-feature animation club.
The Sword In The Stone (1963)
I'm not sure why, but this movie isn't seen in the same light as One Hundred And One Dalmatians, released just two years before. I think it's quite brilliant in places, and an excellent alternative take on the Arthurian legend, using T. H. White's The Once And Future King series as a reference point.
Perhaps where it's slightly different is that most Disney stories up to this point have a serious jeopardy scene, like the whale sequence in Pinocchio, or the dragon transformation scene in Sleeping Beauty. But Sword In The Stone keeps it all pretty light-hearted throughout.
If you're not convinced this isn't wonderful work, then I'd check out the wizard's battle with Madam Mim, mostly the amazing work of Disney animation legend Milt Kahl. it's a hoot.
The Adventures Of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
An odd one this, because it's actually two movies in one, and one I like, the other I'm less impressed with. The two stories are The Wind In The Willows and The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, and it's that second section that deserves an accolade.
Based on Washington Irving's story, Disney got Bing Crosby to narrate the telling of what's quite an intense story for the young audience they pitched this at. I suppose there's a balance here, where The Wind In The Willows is the warm and fuzzy part, before Sleepy Hollow gets quite scary.
Some of the ideas in this movie are most imaginative, but I especially liked the idea that the horseman has a head, which is actually a fiery Jack-o-lantern! And, unusually for Disney of the period, it remains remarkably close to source material.
The Three Caballeros (1944)
Depending who you listen to, Walt Disney was sent to Mexico in 1941 by the U.S. State Department as part of its Good Neighbor policy, or the animators locked him out of the studio so they could finish Dumbo (1941) in peace.
Whatever the truth, Walt ended up in Mexico, and the influence of that cultural exchange ended up in some very imaginative titles, of which the The Three Caballeros is my favourite. It features Donald Duck, José Carioca, a Brazilian cigar-smoking parrot, and the Mexican cowboy rooster, Panchito Pistoles. It's a series of smaller story chunks lightly tied together with some exceptionally colourful and frenetic sequences, worked around the abundant cultural resources of Latin America.
My only sadness in respect of this production is that it's actually almost impossible to get this movie in its original form, as among a number of issues, chain-smoking cartoon characters are frowned on these days.
The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (1977)
This is on the list of full Disney animation features, although technically it's an amalgam of previous Pooh short movies created and released in the sixties and seventies. These are Winnie The Pooh And The Honey Tree (1966), Winnie The Pooh And The Blustery Day (1968), and Winnie The Pooh And Tigger Too (1974).
What's brilliant about it is that it all fits together remarkably well, and to achieve this some new linking material was created, in addition to a final chapter, loosely referencing A.A. Milne's The House On Pooh Corner.
I love almost everything about Disney's take on Pooh, as the visual style is remarkably like the original illustrations, and the voice talent is superb. If pushed, I'd say that the Blustery Day part of the movie is the best section, but it's delightful throughout and features some very memorable songs, like the main theme and The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers. If this ever came to Blu-ray, I'd be first in the queue.
Others that are worth a second look:
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Treasure Planet (2002)
Alice In Wonderland is available now on Blu-ray.
Follow Den Of Geek on Twitter right here.