1 The Mickey Mindset: January 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

News Update: January 31st 2014

Mitchell Stein- The Disney masterpiece Frozen, hits theaters again today with an all-new special sing-along version of the film! Over 2,000 theaters across North America are taking place in this all-new experience to Frozen. As the movie's soundtrack is heard in the film, a bouncing snowflake will follow the on-screen lyrics. The rest of the movie will remain untouched.

Along with that, a special version of Get A Horse! will accompany the Sing-Along at the El Capitane Theater in Los Angeles. The sing-along will also include appearances by Anna and Elsae and flurries inside the theater itself.

Check local listings to find a showing of Frozen Sing-Along near you!

Saving Mr. Banks the Disney biopic telling the story of how Walt Disney wooed P.L. Travers into the rights of her books Mary Poppins into a film adaption is to be released on March 18th 2014. The release date was made official by Amazon.com and the Walmart website but not yet confirmed by Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

Last week we reported that The Muppets would be starring in an all-new commercial alongside Terry Crews promoting The Toyota Highlander during the Super Bowl this year. Toyota released the entire ad online as well as a whole bunch of extra bonus videos. Read some more about it on our sister site, The Muppet Mindset.

The Muppets will also be appearing on Jimmy Fallon's final show on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon as announced last night. The final show will premiere February 7th on NBC as Fallon prepares to take over Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. 

Maleficent, the film based on the villain from Sleeping Beauty and starring Angelina Jolie released an all-new trailer this week, includes Lana Del Ray's rendition of Once Upon A Dream from the original Sleeping Beauty film. The trailer can be seen on the right.

Maleficent hits theaters May 31st, 2014.  The soundtrack will be released on May 27th.

With the Super Bowl approaching, be prepared to see several Big Game Spots for many upcoming Disney movies. So far announced was for Need For Speed, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Maleficent and probably many more. Be on the lookout for an ad for Muppets Most Wanted, The Wind Rises, and more.

Speaking of Captain America, an all new poster for Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released late last night. The poster showcases the return of Steve Rogers (A.K.A Captain America) Natasha Romanoff (A.K.A Black Widow) and S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury.
The Winter Soldier arrives in theaters April 4th 2014.

Continuing in the promotion for Need For Speed, the Disney distributed film set under the Touchstone Pictures banner in partnership with Dreamworks, released yet another incredible behind the scenes look at how they filmed the movie. This week's video includes Dominic Cooper in "Driving School...Again."

Construction has already begun on Avatar Land in Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando. This week, John Rhode and John Landau held a press conference and explained lots of new info about the expansion. Here's video of the event, courtesy of Big Fat Panda.  

                                  That's it for this week's news! Have a great weekend! 

The Mickey Mindset: mickeymindset@gmail.com

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Retro Reviews: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Mitchell Stein- Not exactly a Disney movie, per say, but worth the title of a Disney Classic by far.

Released under Disney's Touchstone Pictures banner, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, directed by Robert Zemeckis (who also directed my other favorite movie of-all time, Back To The Future) and produced by Stephen Spielberg, is a masterpiece which combined brilliant animation with the classic “film noir” 1940’s detective style and created something really unique which will live on forever.

When I saw this movie for the first time a few years ago, I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I did today. In traditional movies, like Mary Poppins, Pete’s Dragon, and Song of the South, the animation was a lot less sophisticated and usually was the animation pasted on to the already existing live action sequences, creating a flat looking 2D effect, but still cool. Who Framed Roger Rabbit created a highly sophisticated new style to animated-live action films. Every sequence had to be drawn over stand-in puppets, and some of the sequences call for some really wacky cartoon acts, and the Toons are usually holding an actual item, ( i.e. a gun, or handcuffs, cigar) so the animation must have taken them months to fill in and a lot of work as well. 

To ensure the effect of cartoons living in our world, the camera had to move as much as possible. 2D sequences barely exist in this movie, not to make it look like the characters were just pasted over the scene. Once you start paying attention to the small details in this movie, you’ll come to appreciate it a lot more than you already do. Every sequence had to be filmed with stand in puppets or costumes (depending on how big the character was) and in some scenes, the actors had to act a two-man scene with themselves since the animation hasn’t been filled in yet. The work that went into this movie was tremendous and was worth it all.

The film starts off with a classic style cartoon, with a familiar style opening, trademarked as the Warner Bros. cartoon openings. In this scene we are introduced to Roger Rabbit and Baby Herman who as you see until the director yells cut, work at a cartoon film industry. The transition from the first scene into the real world is incredibly brilliant. I can’t think of a better way to move that wacky cartoon-ish type scene into our real world. It also establishes the fact that characters actually exist in this movie, and are not actually drawn by anyone.

But don't be fooled by the cartoon-ish style of the film. This movie is by far not a kids movie. There's violence, language and other innuendo that might be considered a PG-13 rating in today's style of movies.  Be aware. The first scene when we're introduced to Judge Doom still creeps me out 'till today. 

Another one of the incredible feats that Who Framed Roger Rabbit accomplished was managing to be able to include not just original characters, such as Roger and Jessica Rabbit, Benny the Cab and Baby Herman, but rather to be able to include several well-known and copyrighted cartoons owned by several Disney companies. 

Managing to land these characters a spot in the movie created some of the most iconic sequences in Disney history. Only in Roger Rabbit will you see Warners Bros.’ Daffy Duck duel piano with Disney’s Donald Duck, Mickey and Bugs Bunny share a memorable scene, and include other characters like Droopy, Betty Boop, Woody Woodpecker, Dumbo, and much, much more.

Overall,  Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of my favorite animated movies of all time. A true Disney classic and surprisingly, doesn't have a sequel. That’s probably a good thing anyway. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Favorite Places in Walt Disney World, Part 3

Ryan Dosier - Today we're ontinuing on our pictorial journey through my favorite Walt Disney World spots! We've already been through Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, so the next logical place is...


Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney/MGM Studios) has always been my favorite Disney World Park. For someone who loves the movies as much as I do, Hollywood Studios is heaven. It has two incredible thrill rides, Star Wars, Pixar, old Hollywood fun, and, of course, the Muppets. Here are some of my favorite spots to be in the park...

"Toy Story Mania" Queue
There are few spots more fanciful and well designed than the queue for the ultra popular "Toy Story Mania" attraction. Once you enter the building, you become the size of a toy and everything around you is to scale. Crayons are huge, board game boards line the ceilings and walls, Andy's drawings are everywhere... and a giant, living Mr. Potato-Head animatronic barks at you. It's Disney magic at its best.

Hand and Footprints Outside "The Great Movie Ride"
It's so cool to explore this area. An homage to the actual Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, this area features the hand and footprints of Disney-related celebrities, stars, and other such people. Included in the sidewalk... Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg, and many more.

"Muppet*Vision 3-D" Queue
There is probably nowhere in Hollywood Studios (and possibly Walt Disney World as a whole) as incredibly detailed and jam-packed full of jokes and references as the queue for "Muppet*Vision 3-D." Every single corner of the place has a joke or a gag or a reference to something. From the key actually under the welcome mat, to the toy soldiers from the show hiding in the rafters, to crates for the different Muppets, to the Electric Mayhem's luggage, and so much, much more, this is the place to be for the best in Imagineering.

Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame
The only place in any Disney Park where you can take a picture with Walt Disney and Bill Cosby and Bea Arthur. How can you not love it?! Plus, it's a great place to watch the parade.

50's Prime Time Cafe
I love this restaurant. No, it's not classy or fancy (like, at all) but the food is great and the service is hilarious. You want to talk about Disney Cast Members being committed to their jobs? Come here. They'll treat you like their children--in both the good and bad ways. Plus, the decor is outstanding and the atmosphere is delightful. If you go, do not miss the peanut butter and jelly milkshake. You'll thank me later.

"Star Tours" Queue
Since its update, "Star Tours" has become one of the only attractions I absolutely have to do at least three times--every time is different! So it's no wonder that I've gotten so enamored by the queue. Starting outside with the giant AT-AT walker and the Ewok village, and continuing inside with live R2-D2 and C-3PO, everything about the queue is a blast. My favorite part is the baggage scanning droid. Watch his screen and you'll see numerous Disney and Star Wars references.

Well there you have it! Check back next week when we conclude the series at Animal Kingdom!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Retro Reviews: The Fighting Prince of Donegal DVD Review

Disney today, is more known for its animation and fairy tales, and it’s branding. Such things as the ‘Disney Princess” and “Disney Fairies” franchises leave many feeling that Disney is a very girl-based company (of course there is the Pixar’s Cars and the Marvel productions, but those are acquisitions). It may surprise many of the public, that in the hey-day when Walt Disney was alive, Historical adventure pictures (especially those set in Ireland and England around the medieval period) were a common genre.

When Disney first started into live action with “Treasure Island” (1950) he decided to film many such historical pictures, using funds that were legally locked up in the UK. In the 50’s this brought us Treasure IslandRobin Hood and his Merry MenThe Sword and the Roseand Rob Roy: the Highland Rouge. Fast-forward to the 60’s, and we are brought to The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966).

When the young Hugh O’ Donnell’s father dies, he becomes the Prince of Donegal (his Irish clan), and brings seemingly all of Ireland to memory of a prophecy that the Prince of Donegal would free them from England’s grasp. Queen Elizabeth I apparently has different ideas, as she sends out for O’Donnell’s capture, out of fear that Spain would attack through the Irish coast and gain an allay there.  Once brought to Dublin, O’Donnell learns that the Queen sympathizes with him, having been held captive in the Tower of London during her youth. However, his captors do not, especially the villainous Captain Leed– whose ego will not let him be bested by the fire-headed O’Donnell. Fate would seem to be on O’Donnell’s side as the Irish prisoners are willing to help him escape. This further infuriates Captain Leed, who thanks to a traitorous Irishman captures O’Donnell again. O’Donnell seems to be in a very bad spot, but soon learns that Captain Leed’s own prisoners are his worst nightmare. Of course this leads to a very climatic end, which you’ll have to see to enjoy.

The Fighting Prince of Donegal arrived in 2007 as part of the Disney Movie Club’s exclusive “The Wonderful World of Disney” Collection. I personally ordered my copy through Disney Movie Rewards, and just in case you missed “Disney Exclusive” repeating itself in the yellow bordered background or the spine, a yellow sticker on the wrapper proudly proclaims “A DISNEY EXCLUSIVE DVD”. It’s the most amusing, being the least subtle thing I’ve seen Disney do on a DVD release. The cover image has to be one of the better ones DMC has done, apparently this is the second cover they’ve used, the first previously used the image now on the back cover (O’Donnell fighting Captain Leed, in a rather horrid looking Photoshop). The DVD is housed in an uncut white eco-case, and boasts no inserts (Some have mentioned receiving a Disney Movie Reward insert, however mine apparently is old stock or was packed without one, there is also no DMR star on the cover).  Inside the disk resides, with the now standard grey label, with the “Wonderful World of Disney”, and DMC star fighting the title for room. 
The Image:
Disney Exclusive DVDs are notorious for using the first master on the shelf, often leading to transfers that would have any other studio reconsidering a release. This being Disney, this doesn’t apply, as several of their Exclusive DVDs boast pan and scan, worn VHS masters from the 80’s. Happily, Fighting Prince skips the master from its late 80’s VHS release, and instead sources a “Buena Vista International Releasing, Inc.” print, that going by the logo must have been made for European television in the 90’s.
The print is lush, and extremely clear, and clean. Colors seem balanced, and despite the very earthy, and dull colors used in the film, the movie shines. While not without the occasional dirt, and specks, the film could have easily passed for a “Vault Disney Collection” transfer given to Disney Classics like Pollyanna. Popping it into my Blu-Ray player, it leaves a completely astonishing image. The silk behind the main titles practically glows with vibrancy, and one can literally count out the wrinkles. Colors seem much clearer and brighter here as well. With the up-conversion some stock nature footage sticks out like a sore thumb, being foggier, and dull in appearance. But that’s going back to the original source material. I’m still astonished how well this transfer picks up on my Blu-ray player, furs, leather, stone, wood grain are all present. In close-ups you can literally see the pores in everyone’s faces, and even make out the dull reflections of the studio lights and rigs in metals. It has me wishing Disney would do a proper Blu-Ray of this title in order to get the full effect.
By 1966, most films were already releasing in widescreen, per industry standard. The original release press book, gives the screen dimensions of “1:85 to 1” (or widescreen). However,Fighting Prince is given a 1:33:1 fullscreen transfer on the DVD. The titles fit perfectly, and the framing seems roomy and correct, there are a scattering of shots that look either cropped (people off on the side, not being the frame), or too roomy (too much space over the head of a character, or really empty shots). This transfer is either a very well done Pan and Scan, or an Open Matte transfer. Unlike other Disney films (Westward Ho! the Wagons I’m looking at you!) This doesn’t at all ruin the experience of the film.
Menu and Extras:
This being a Disney Exclusive, extras are pretty scarce and here, non-existent. While I have little to go on about the film’s history, a trailer most certainly existed, as well as a comic adaptation, and is likely  to have had some kind of  advertisement for its television premier on “Disney’s Wonderful Worlds of Color’.
The only thing that could possibly count as extras are the rather worn looking “The Wonderful World of Disney” intro that automatically plays before the film. I pin it around post 1978 (it includes clips from The Rescuers), and looks a little hot, as reds come out as blues and greens look very washy (It looks even worse on Blu-Ray, coming off extremely grainy in spots, though colors seem a bit better in hi-def). It makes little sense in its inclusion, as The Fighting Prince of Donegal was originally aired in 1967, under “Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”, and that was in 3 parts (thankfully presented in its original theatrical form here). It seems Disney just used a random intro to lead into each film in the series, however why not something that doesn’t look like it sat next to a heater that lasted 30 years? Why not use the rather cool 1997 intro you get the collection’s logo from?  It would make more sense, and look much better than Disney presented here.
The menu itself is an unexciting silent and frozen screen, with an image I could have made in Paint (in fact it shows up pixilated on Blu-ray), with the simple option of “Play”.
Final Conclusion:
A wonderful movie, is given an equally wonderful transfer (which should have been standard), and a rather bare-boned and bland DVD release.  I would encourage anyone with a taste in Classic Disney, history, or adventure to check this film out.
The DVD is currently out-of-stock on Disney Movie Rewards, but you can purchase it from the Disney Movie Club website here 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Contest: Win a copy of The Fifth Estate on Blu-Ray Combo Pack, courtesy of The Mickey Mindset!

Mitchell Stein- We're super excited to announce another awesome contest! This time, we're giving away one copy of the Disney distributed Touchstone Pictures' film The Fifth Estate on an awesome Blu-Ray Combo Pack. Combo Pack includes one Blu-Ray, DVD as well as a digital copy to watch whenever and wherever you are.

In case you missed it, read my review of the movie  which I absoloutley loved. This movie is not to be missed, so before you forget, do yourself a favor and enter yourself in the contest below!

No purchase is necessary. Shipping only includes the U.S. and Canada only (No PO boxes) and winner must respond within 48 hours or a new winner will be picked.

Make sure to share this info to your friends! The more entries you refer, the better chance you have!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 23, 2014

News Update: January 23rd 2014

Mitchell Stein- Disney is re-releasing the Disney masterpiece, Frozen to theaters once more as of January 31st in a special sing-along version of the movie. On-screen lyrics and a magical bouncing snowflake will appear on screen during each musical number. Otherwise, the movie will remain untouched.
At Hollywood's El Capitane Theater, the sing-along will feature appearances by Anna and Elsa plus flurries inside the theater.
Frozen sing along hits theaters January 31st.

To celebrate the international success of Frozen, Disney International released a compilation of Let It Go in 25 different languages, including English, French, Swedish, Mandarin, Japanese and more.

Seaworld responded once again to the film Blackfish, this time calling the controversial film 'propaganda'. They issued a full statement which can be read on their website as well as two videos 'showing the truth' about their dedicated trainers at the Seaworld Parks.

In addition, the family of the late Daun Brancheau also issued a statement on Blackfish which can be read on their website.

The Muppets will star in an all new Super Bowl ad this season alongside Terry Crews, the Golden Globe winning FOX show- Brooklyn Nine-Nine in an advertisement for the new Toyota Highlander.
The ad will feature a new song and appearances by Muppets including Kermit, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Beaker, Gonzo and many more.

As well as that, Toyota released a teaser of the ad which can be seen below. The Super Bowl airs on February 2nd on all major sports channels.

Universal Orlando held their special webcast for the upcoming expansion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley and released concept art and videos from the expansion, set to open in the Universal Studios park later this year. 
The new section will feature Escape from Gringotts, and all-new roller-coaster zooming through the legendary Gringotts bank as seen in the Harry Potter movies, and was primarily featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. 
It will also include King's Cross Station, The Knight Bus (with Shrunken Head included) Grimmauld Place, and shops including Weasley Wizard Wheezes, The Leaky Cauldron, another Ollivander's shop, Wiseacre's Wizards Equipment, and many more. 
And for our final bit of news this week, Disney D23 event details have been announced for this year's Destination D Fanniversary. This year's event will be named "Attraction Rewind" and will be taking a look at former attractions from the park, including favorites like If You Had Wings, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Adventure Thru Inner Space and more. This event is not to be missed. Full details and schedule and included here.

That's it for this weeks news! Keep checking our Twitter feed for up-to the minute news updates! 

The Mickey Mindset: mickeymindset@gmail.com 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Favorite Places in Walt Disney World, Part 2

Ryan Dosier - As you'll remember, last week I shared some of my favorite places in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. This week I continue with a look at some of my favorite locales at the second Walt Disney World park...


Even though it's probably my least favorite Walt Disney World park, I love Epcot. It's my favorite place to just take the time to walk around and explore without any real agenda or anything to do. Yes, I love Soarin' and Test Track, but I think the thing I enjoy most is walking through World Showcase or the other areas.

Les Chefs de France at Lunchtime
Granted, I've never been to this cozy French eatery at dinner, but I've been for lunch many times. The food is delicious, the prices reasonable, the service fantastic, and the atmosphere delightful. But best of all, Remy from Ratatouille is wheeled around on a food cart during lunch and it's delightful.

Spaceship Earth at Night
Spaceship Earth is a spectacle to behold any time of the day, but it's at its most beautiful at night. The lights reflected off it are perfect and it makes for some really stellar picture taking. During the Flower and Garden Festival or at Christmastime the Disney topiaries in front of it make this a must-see picture spot.

I think this ride is goofy and weird and wonderful. It's a dark ride and a celebration of Norway's industry and culture... at first. Then it plunges deep into Nordic mythology with trolls and other magical creatures. It never really rebounds, and for some reason the line is always long. But I just love to experience it over and over again and still be baffled by the fact that it is one of two rides in World Showcase.

The Three Caballero's Gran Fiesta Tour
I love this ride and its joyful animation more than I love both Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros  feature films.

World Showcase Lagoon
Disney World lakes and lagoons are my favorite lakes and lagoons. Stand at any point on World Showcase Lagoon and you'll see beautiful sights. That's why I love the fireworks spectacular every night so much, because no matter where you're standing, you have the best view.

Well there you have it! Not as many favorite places in Epcot as Magic Kingdom (or the other parks), but I still love all of these places. Check back next week when I share my favorite spots in Hollywood Studios!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Disney Animation Reviews #15 - Sleeping Beauty

Disney Animation Review: 16/53 - Sleeping Beauty

Ryan Dosier - Although it is one of the more widely popular Disney animated features, Sleeping Beauty is one of the weakest stories in the Disney classics family. There are some truly breathtaking aspects of the film, but the shoddy storytelling is absolutely not one of them.

The story of Princess Aurora is baffling because she is not the main character, she doesn’t change at all, and she causes nothing to happen. The true heroes of the piece are Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, the three fairies. They come up with the plan to save Aurora from Maleficent, they ruin the plan, and they are the ones who save Prince Phillip, fight all of his fights, and even give him the power to slay the dragon.

It makes one wonder why Aurora and Phillip were necessary to the story at all when the three fairies could have easily done everything by themselves. Both Aurora and Phillip are forgettable characters, sharing only one decent moment with the song “Once Upon a Dream.” Beyond that they fumble and falter and lose all characterization.

Maleficent, on the other hand, is Sleeping Beauty's strongest character by far. The mistress of evil lives up to her name and strikes with power and ferocity. She is deliciously evil, sarcastic, and cruel, which makes for the greatest Disney villain yet. Maleficent has power and inspires fear in everyone. Her demise was far too simple for such a powerful character.

The most impressive, striking, and breathtaking aspect of Sleeping Beauty is, by far, the layouts and background designs. The colors are so sharp and the details are so meticulous that each frame is worthy of a museum. There are stylistic liberties taken with trees and other background elements that make them simplistic yet detailed. It shouldn’t work but it does beautifully. I can’t say enough about the stunning artwork done for Sleeping Beauty. There is simply none better.

But again, the weak story and characters plague the movie horribly. The plot is so weak that the filmmakers had to insert random scenes of the kings drinking and the fairies cooking and cleaning. The entire first act of the movie could have been summed up in five minutes but it takes half an hour. Even the music of the film is lackluster. An unseen, operatic chorus performs most of the songs, which is distracting and bizarre. The only song that works is “Once Upon a Dream,” which makes for one of Sleeping Beauty's most perfect sequences.

Sleeping Beauty was an awkward transition from the 50s to the 60s for the Disney animation studio. The film loses the strong story elements of the 50s in favor of the strong stylistic elements of the 60s. It is unfortunate that they couldn’t come together to make a better film. Instead, Sleeping Beauty is a stylistic master class with a tremendous villain, a forgettable princess, oddly heroic fairies, a dull, pointless story, and lacks the magic and the impressiveness of Walt Disney in the 50s.

2/5 Blue Dresses

Monday, January 20, 2014

Retro Reviews: Old Yeller

Jason Schlierman- When you think of classic film or tv dogs, what names come to mind first?  Very good odds that names like Lassie or Benji will come to you.  If you are around 30 or younger, you might even come up with names like Beethoven or Marley.  However, one dog stands above the rest, and his name, is Old Yeller.

Old Yeller didn’t start out as a major Disney movie.  At first, Old Yeller was a popular children’s book by author Fred Gipson.  Gipson was born on February 7, 1908 on a farm close to Mason in the Texas Country Hill.  As a youth, Gipson worked on a number of farm and ranch jobs before he would go on to college in 1933 and become a writer, but his raising would always stay with him and very much would influence his later works. 

Old Yeller would not be written and published until 1956, but would end up Gipson’s most beloved work.  Gipson set the story in the area he grew up in, in the Texas Country Hill and very much based much of the story on his own childhood and his own love of the Texan landscape and the wildlife. 
 Old Yeller was also based on a story Gipson’s maternal grandfather once shared with him about a stray dog that would become his family’s dog, with many of the same situations found in the Old Yeller book pulled from the life of Gipson’s grandfather.  The book became an immediate success, and won over the hearts of children the World over.

It wasn’t much longer until Hollywood would come a-calling in the form of Walt Disney.  Disney, who himself was a huge lover of dogs and grew up in a similar setting to Gipson, immediately fell in love with the book himself after it was placed in his hands.  Disney felt the story would make an excellent film and it wasn’t much longer that Gipson was sent up to Hollywood to consult on the film, and that production would begin for Old Yeller.  Disney would end up casting Dorothy McGuire and Disney favorite, Fess Parker, in the roles of the Coates parents; with future Disney stars Tommy Kirk and Tim Corcoran making their film debuts.

Old Yeller himself was played by a Yellow Labrador Retriever named Spike, a dog trained by the famed Weatherwax family, who were big animal trainers.  Besides training Spike, who played the role of Old Yeller, they also trained famous dog Lassie.  The film would go on to be released on Christmas Day, 1957, and would end up to be one of the major films that would define the Disney studios, even to this day.

The Film:
Disney films have always had a good mix of comedy or light hearted moments mixed with drama, and Old Yeller is no exception.  We are right up front introduced to the Coates family, a family living in Texas Country Hill right after the Civil War in the 1860’s.  As was the case many times in that setting and time, the Coates patriarch, Jim (Fess Parker), has to leave his family to join the cattle drive.  As a result, Jim’s wife Katie (Dorothy McGuire), and two sons, Travis (Tommy Kirk) and Arliss (Tim Corcoran), and left behind until he comes back.  In the meantime, Travis is made the man of the house, and put in charge of the chores and safety of the family, which is not always easy as not too long after, Travis meets Old Yeller, a stray dog who has a nasty habit of stealing meat from smokehouses and robbing chickens from their nests.

At first, Travis hates Old Yeller and tries to chase him away, but Travis’s younger brother, Arliss, defends Old Yeller and wants to keep him.  After their mother intervenes, Travis accepts Old Yeller and soon starts forming a bond with the dog.  However, just as the Coates family starts to get used to having Old Yeller around, the dog’s original owner, Burn Sanderson (played by Chuck Connors in an early role before The Rifleman) shows up to claim his dog.  Arliss, not wanting to see Old Yeller leave, protests Old Yeller going away with Sanderson.  Mr. Sanderson, being a good man, decided to leave the dog with the Coates family in exchange for a home cooked meal, and a horned toad that Arliss had in his pocket.  Mr. Sanderson also warns Travis before he leaves that there have been cases of rabies amongst the animal life nearby, and to guard his family against it.
The real drama of the film comes in the second half, which leads up to one of the most gut retching scene in movie history.  If a bond had been growing between Old Yeller and Travis, it was fully cemented after Old Yeller saves Travis from wild boars that Travis had been tiring to capture.  Both Travis and Old Yeller end up seriously hurt from this incident, but it firmly strengthens the bond of boy and his dog.  Thankfully too, none of the boars had rabies.  Sadly, the Coates’ family cow, Old Rose, develops the disease, which leads Travis to have to kill her.  Upon burring and destroying the remains of Old Rose, the Coates family is attacked by a rabid wolf.  Bravely, Old Yeller saves the family, but at a price.

Travis’s mother insists that Old Yeller has rabies now too and that they must put him down, but Travis, who argues that Old Yeller just saved their lives and that it would be wrong to take Old Yeller’s life, just can’t pull himself together to do it.  So, after a compromise, Old Yeller is confined to a wooden shed in the hopes that maybe Old Yeller escaped from ending up with rabies.  For a few weeks, there appears no sign of the disease.  Then one night, Old Yeller finally shows signs that he didn’t escape it after all.  Travis, in pain over the idea of shooting his beloved dog, knows what he has to do.  Katie Coates, realizing how painful this situation is for her son, offers to shoot Old Yeller for him, but Travis makes it clear that Old Yeller is his dog, and that it is his responsibility.
This reviewer has had the pleasure of seeing many Disney films over the years, as well as most of the films starring Tommy Kirk, and I have to say, hands down, this role is his best performance.   It may even be the best performance in a Disney film period. The acting especially seen at the very end when Travis has to shoot Old Yeller is some of the best acting I’ve ever seen in a Disney film of any era, and Disney films are filled with a lot of great performances.  The emotional response Travis shows while doing the deed and right after, is the payoff of this film, hands down.  It is said that there were people at the studio that wanted to “sweeten” the ending of the film up.  Certainly, by the late 1950’s, Disney films had achieved the reputation of having happy endings, and there were many at the studio that worried that the ending of this story wouldn’t fit the mold.  Walt Disney however, very wisely, decided to keep the ending as is, and I think of all the various story decisions Walt would make in his career, keeping the ending of this film intact was if not his greatest choice, at least one of his better choices.

Old Yeller, while at first glance seems to be about a dog and his boy, is really about so much more.  The film is about life.  As was pointed out at the very end by Travis’ father, Jim, life is filled with good and bad moments, but you can’t let the bad ones get in the way of the good ones.  The film has gone on to be one of the most popular films of all time, and is a huge part of popular culture today.  Probably the biggest reason for that is the film’s simple message of love and loss.  Everyone who has ever lived, currently is alive, or will live has or will go through hard times in life.  That simple truth is part of the larger truth of our existence.  However, with the bitter, comes the sweet, and good times always show up after the bad.  Old Yeller, in its simple way, shows us the realities of this truth about life that somehow always, despite the tears that comes, sends us on our way back on the journey, feeling better about ourselves and about life in general.  Life it turns out is not so bad and just like Travis, we can move forward past the darker moments of our lives, and that is a message that we can all spend some time listing to. 

As one who has had his fair share of tragedies in life, this film really resonates with me on many levels, as I’m sure it will with most who watch.  It is possible that you can’t ask more of a boy then what Travis was asked to do to his dog, who despite the rabies turning him mean at the end, proved to be a true hero and a great friend.  Truly Old Yeller’s sacrifice reminds us why dogs are called “Man’s Best Friend.”  For in Old Yeller, he truly was the best friend Travis and Arliss could ever have.
Final Conclusion:
(4 1/2 out of 5 stars total)
This film has gone down in history as one of the defining films in the Disney library, and for good reason.  It’s message of loss and love, and moving on from hurt to enjoy the good life has to offer is one that should resonate on some level with everyone.  It has been beloved for over a half century, and most likely will be around for another half century.  Regardless if it is from a TV viewing, an old VHS, DVD or (hopefully one day) a Blu-ray release, everyone should take the time to see this film at least once in their life.  It really is that good.
Do have a special memory of Old Yeller you’d like to share?  Please feel free below in sharing any and all memories or comments on this landmark film below.  Be sure if you have not done so yet, to pick up a copy of this amazing film on DVD! 

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Disney Animation Review #14 - Lady and the Tramp

Disney Movie Review: 15/53 - Lady and the Tramp

One of the most delightful Disney films of the 1950s is Lady and the Tramp (1955). It is only the third Disney animated feature to primarily star animals (after Dumbo and Bambi), and it stands right up as a gem of Walt Disney’s career in animated film making. It is said that Lady and the Tramp was partially inspired by Walt Disney’s own cocker spaniel and thus the film was very special to him. It certainly shows.

The story of house-pet Lady and street-dog Tramp is timeless and original. The two dogs meet by mere chance and after a day of adventures they fall for one another. Lady is wooed by Tramp’s charm and spirit, and Tramp is swayed by Lady’s love of her human family. They are totally contradicting characters that compliment each other very well.

The most remarkable aspect of Lady and the Tramp is the impeccable animation. All of the animals and humans in the film are animated with livelihood and realism. It is some of the highest quality Disney animation to date and truly beautiful. The scenery, layouts, and artwork in the film are absolutely amazing. The colors are dark and brooding when necessary and bright and stunning in all the right places.
The story works very, very well. There are no real low-points and it keeps building and building. It is not episodic like Alice in Wonderland and it doesn’t lull like Peter Pan, making Lady and the Tramp one of Disney’s best story-efforts of this period.

Supporting characters such as Jaq the Scottish terrier and Trusty the bloodhound elevate the film. They are delightfully funny, adorable, and heroic. There are a handful of minor characters that only appear briefly but totally steal the show. These include Peg, voiced by the dynamite Peggy Lee as she sings “He’s a Tramp,” and Tony and Joe, the two Italian restaurateurs who give Lady and the Tramp that iconic bowl of spaghetti and sing the equally iconic song “Bella Notte.”

Lady and the Tramp is a true snapshot of life in this wonderful time period in small-town American life. Spouses called each other “darling” and “dear,” cameras left a cloud of smoke, horses still pulled cars, and the family dog was a crucial member of the family.
At its heart, Lady and the Tramp is a film full of warmth, love, and charm. It hits all of the right notes emotionally, comically, and musically. Like a good dog, Lady and the Tramp is always a delight to spend time with. It is an undeniably charming entry in the Disney animated feature canon and one of my favorites.

4.5/5 Meatballs