A Celluloid-y oracle.

Fantasia (1940)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 10

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 8

Characters/Characterization/Voice-Acting: 9

Art Direction/Design: 10

Themes/Archetypes/ Artistic Interpretation: 10

From Wiry:

Fantasia is the magical story of a young princess, Melodia, who finds herself gifted with a talent for song. As luck would have it, the dashing prince of the nearby kingdom is having a singing competition, which he aptly has named "Thrills, Trills, and Girls, Girls, Girls!" Melodia journeys to the neighboring kingdom, but is beset by many trials. To the tunes of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, she becomes lost in the shadowy forest that separates the two kingdoms. Abstract shapes fly by in the darkness, some bearing an uncanny resemblance to musicians (from Hades!!!). Thankfully, she soon comes upon a more tranquil area of the wood, where she encounters a group of cute fairies frolicking to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Melodia laughs with delight as they perform for her, and is thrilled as various plant forms that bear a strong resemblance to certain ethnic groups join in the fun. Melodia flees, though, as things begin to get hairy and the fairies run amok with climate manipulation. Horrors!

Melodia, nearly out of breath, soon finds herself at a large stone tower in the middle of the wood. She thinks back to tales she heard long ago of an ancient and powerful sorcerer who lived therein. As she peeks inside, she is hit full-on with a bucket of water. Melodia starts to yell at the offender, only to see that it is in fact a broom with two grotesque arms, marching to the beat of Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Melodia looks inside, only to see dozens upon dozens of brooms dumping cascades of water into the overflowing room. A torrent of water bursts out the window, sending Melodia spiraling down a path and into an open crevice. Melodia tumbles down, down, down, until some wild-looking trees slow her fall. Melodia slides down the branches of the tree and looks around. What an interesting place... and with a song titled The Rite of Spring playing, what could possibly go wrong? Is this merely an underground forest? No! It is the LAND OF THE LOST! Melodia turns and lets out the most beautifully pitched scream as a lumbering, famished Tyrannosaurus Rex stretches its razored maw to...

Intermission, intermission, intermission...

Melodia wakes up. Was it all a dream? Around her, chubby-buttoxed cherubs splash her with wine. What fun! Melodia stretches and is helped upright by a jaunty centaur (much to the irritation of his color-corresponding centaurette mate). It is a veritable Pastoral Symphony as adorable mythological mutants frolic in barrels of wine and crystal-clear lakes. At last, thinks Melodia, I have arrived at the idyllic land for which I set out! And look, ostriches performing the Dance of the Hours on point as alligators attempt to rape a hippo in a tutu!

But here was Melodia's terrible mistake. She stood by watching, and did nothing. As punishment for her sinful inactivity, the Bald Mountain cracks open and Satan devours her. The end.

So, that's basically how Fantasia goes down, except without the princess, thank God. I'd first like to direct you to the Wikipedia article on this film to provide some context - I could do it here but mostly I'd just be copying and pasting. And you have the time, right? Right?

Fantasia's a bit of a sticky wicket in terms of the films we've watched up to this point, and it really is more the Disney exception than the Disney rule. Certainly, there are things here that are Disney staples - Mickey Mouse and other anthropomorphized animals, jaunts through disturbing and surreal imagery, racial profiling, and bare-chested women. But, in the live-action opening of the film, clear goals and parameters are defined. For one, this is a project of animators responding directly to a musical piece, as opposed to music scholars working in conjunction with animators to create a concept. Some of the shorts will tell a story, some will present striking imagery, and others will dabble chiefly in the abstract.

If the Disney goal is to create art for mass consumption (and, I think that is certainly part of it), Fantasia must be perceived as a time when art and education succeeded in wresting control from pandering to public taste. Let me be clear: this is not about to go down the road of "If it's popular and people enjoy it, it must suck. Only things the masses dislike are worth experiencing." But I do think this is Disney stretching as far as it can into the territory that's working hard to enrich the audience and elevate animation itself to a more respected plane. It is not meant to be, say, an entertaining diversion.

I know it may sound as though I am speaking in an overly grand way about the film, but you really should do yourself a favor and sit down with it if you haven't watched it in a while. The animation is simply enchanting, as artists have been given free reign to play within the confines of a flexible music piece as opposed to a hard, dialogue-driven narrative. Even having seen computer-animated features and startling later pieces of animation, I was still struck by the sheer beauty of the animation here.

While there's no weak number in the bunch, I will admit that certain pieces are likely to appeal to some over others. In my case, I can appreciate the abstract lines and phallic clouds of gold in Toccata and Fugue, but it's not to my taste. I actually enjoy the final two most of all - Dance of the Hours still cracks me up, and Night on Bald Mountain manages to still be scary even as other things I found scary as a child are now (at best) novel or amusing. And I have to hand it to Fantasia - I remember watching it several times as a child, and while there were certain drag areas, it managed to hold my attention for two hours without narrative propelled by dialogue. It's just so damn clever. One complaint I have, however, is that the audio hasn't really stood the test of time. Perhaps there is a mega-specialer DVD out there I need to get my hands on, but the tinniness of these great works sometimes held back from the majestic factor. Hey, you know what'd be awesome? Seeing Fantasia done with a live orchestra. Oh, delicious...

From RM:

What to do about Fantasia. My esteemed colleague, has already espoused its genius, and I must say, it is among the finest five or so pieces of theoretical animation I've ever seen. Disney had a vision, and it was that they could do a rotating series of these things, with 20-30 of these classical shorts that would be switched in and out, like guest stars. Which, as it turns out, didn't work out. But the seven or so pieces of art (which is what they really are) that are in here are truly sublime. If Snow White showed us that feature-length animation was possible, Fantasia showed us that animation itself can be more than Bugs Bunny in drag (though, why would you ever want it to be?)

So why do I feel weird watching Fantasia?

Not in that "Oooh, those centaurettes ain't got no tops on" (I shit you not, in Fantasia, female centaurs are centaurettes) way, or in that "Wow, I'm never going to sleep now that I've seen Chernabog in all his mountainy glory" way.

It's different.

It's the part of me that is a philistine. I watch this, and I appreciate it's art. More is done in this ONE FILM, in exploring what can and can't be done with ink and brush than in any other Disney film. Texture, color, motion are all pushed beyond what you could expect now, much less what must have been feasible then. But something feels weird, and I think I know what it is.


As fun or funny The Pastoral Symphony is or Dance of the Hours is, and as enjoyable as the rest are, I spend at most twenty minutes with any one character, and though those twenty minutes are well crafted, and done better than most of the feature lengths, when you spend 80 minutes following Belle, or Ariel, or Aladdin, you feel for them. You care about them. You're invested in them.

In short, this movie could have used Melodia.

I wasn't invested in Fantasia. Its parts are more glorious than many other Disney films. But to me, it is no more than the sum of those parts. Which is why, though technically amazing, I won't be reaching for it when I have that "Disney Itch," which, coincidentally, is transmittable through fluids, so, be safe everyone.

Final Grade: A+

Current Rankings:
1.) Fantasia
2.) The Lion King

3.) Sleeping Beauty
4.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
5.) Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
6.) Peter Pan
7.) Cinderella
8.) The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad
9.) Lady and The Tramp
10.) The Great Mouse Detective
11.) Pinocchio
12.) The Jungle Book
13.) The Black Cauldron
14.) Mulan
15.) The Three Caballeros
16.) Treasure Planet
17.) Saludos Amigos
18.) Fun and Fancy Free

I say. It must be near All Hallow's Eve if we be watching...

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 6.5

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 8

Characters/Characterization/Voice-Acting: 8.5

Art Direction/Design: 7

Themes/Archetypes/ Artistic Interpretation: 6.5

Mr. Toad:

From RM:

Tally-ho! The Best of the package films by far starts of with Basil (I was Sherlock Holmes) Rathbone narrating the tale of that well known amphibian libertine J. Thaddeus Toad, of the Pembrokeshire Toads. His tragic story is one of addiction, to gypsy carts, talking horse companions named Cyril, and, worst of all, motor cars. His insatiable urge and disregard has all but bankrupted him, and his inability to not not have a car leads him to, in a fit of poor judgment, trade his ancestral manse, Toad Hall, for a motor car which had been stolen by a pack of weasels. Toad takes the fall, despite the brave efforts of his friends MacBadger, Ratty and Moley. For it was Mr. Winkie, the proprietor of the tavern where this shady deal had gone down, who lied and said that Toad tried to sell him the motor car, knowing it was stolen. Well, Toad gets locked up, busts out, recovers the Deed from Winkie and the Weasels, and somehow that makes all his legal troubles go away. Until he becomes addicted to airplanes. That marvelous bastard.

While this film may have some plot holes (see above, deed = exoneration?), it cannot be accused of not being enthusiastic, bright cheerful, upbeat, and full of colorful characters, it runs head on through any opinions you or I might have of the dreary folderol one expects of a package film. The horse Cyril and diabetically sweet Moley are real highlights, as is the particularly vacuous character design of Mr. Winkey.

The credit must be given here to the Disney team, for both this and the subsequent piece, Ichabod Crane, for someone to have stood up and said: "We can't make this 80 minutes. Let's make it well in 35." This is a particular boon in that the source material they have is...you'll love this... actual fiction! Not three page parables! So they don't NEED a chipmunk that can soft-shoe or a scatting dolphin, they can just rely on source material. How refreshing. The music in this is bright but forgettable, which is better than the rancid back of your mouth taste that most of the package films numbers leave you with.

From Wiry:

I actually don't have much to say about Mr. Toad other than it's one wild ride.


But, okay. So, irksome plot point noted above aside, this is one of the unique situations in Disney in which there's MORE source material than one finds in the film itself. They didn't need to fill out the bare bones with animal subplots, they just needed to select what they wanted from the many tales already hangin' out in The Wind and the Willows (which, incidentally, always sounded so much more dramatic to me than one would believe with regards to a tale of frogs and badgers). Toad is indeed, as posited by the narrator, a superb character. With his manias. Tee hee. I'm still having trouble wrapping my brain around this world, though, with animals who live as humans do but in human-sized spaces occasionally frequented by homo sapiens. It's sorta weird. Kinda like a car thief being locked in the Tower of London. Just sayin'. But we've got a good story of friendship going on here, which is a nice break from the Disney romantic tradition. What-ho, I say.


From Wiry:

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is the great American ghost story. No, that's not really hyperbole. For real. I'm not really big on a lot of the American folklore - Paul Bunyan, that other guy, and Johnny "Biodiversity Terrorist" Appleseed. But I'd say the tale is quite comparable to A Christmas Carol in that it's a comparatively contemporary (1820 feels like yesterday) work of fiction that has entered the cultural mind as legend.

Let's do some refreshing. The story begins with the arrival of the gangly, scarecrow-esque schoolmaster, the singular Ichabod Crane. In a fashion that smacks a bit of the later Beauty and the Beast, the town marvels at this oddball intellectual. And then there's the Gaston of this piece, Brom Bones, the town rowdy who wants less to marry Ichabod than dent his face. Ichabod soon becomes the town lothario, though, charming the young women and the mothers of his students into numerous social engagements. But his agenda shifts from random acts of feasting to sex and money once he meets the charmingly Dutch Katrina Van Tassel. With a bit of dumb luck and several years of intensive yoga training, he manages to thwart Brom Bones's efforts to court Katrina for himself. Katrina delights in playing the gents against each other, Brom Bones having been up till now monopolizing her time (and really, isn't it more fun to have two gents fighting for your affection?). Katrina then invites both to her father's Halloween party, at which it seems Ichabod nearly seals the deal. Brom, however, noticing Ichabod's superstitious nature (salt over shoulder), recounts the legend of the Headless Horseman. While riding home from the party that night, the spooked Ichabod has various run-ins with nature rendered scary by his overactive imagination. Then, of course, the Headless Horseman appears and begins a grand chase toward the bridge. Just as Ichabod reaches the other side, he gets a flaming pumpkin to the face. And now we're in ambiguous epilogue. Katrina and Brom marry, but what became of Ichabod? Was the Horseman merely Brom in disguise? Is Ichabod dead, or did he flee Sleepy Hollow with his tail between his legs?

You have to admire the writing and character work in this short - it's true the source material has some excellent and strong characters and agendas, but they're all distilled here in a way that maintains a consistency and clarity rarely found in even the full-length features. We've got an old-fashioned love triangle in which, oddly enough, the gangly loser seems to be ahead by a nose (ha!). And we've got a coquettish female love interest who is more than some dumb blonde - I mean, she's no Ariel or Belle, but she's wise on playing her beaus off one another. It's also refreshing how far they go to make Ichabod unlikeable - in addition to bordering on the grotesque (yes, he's supposed to be gangly and geeky, but he looks like an apple with a carrot shoved in it atop a twig), his affection for Katrina is explicitly tied to her ... tracts of land. While Ichabod introduces culture to the town, he also poaches (mostly food) here and there, feeding the same ego that makes him feel entitled to Katrina and her estate.

So, in a sense, the Horseman-as-prank is well deserved. The ending, of course, leaves it open as to Crane's ultimate fate. In other versions of the tale, one might play up the supernatural elements earlier on or make more mention of the legend. This variation, though, is really a romantic comedy for 90% of the time. So, I'm inclined to lean toward Brom as the culprit in this version, in spite of the notably otherworldly design of the Horseman. It fits the story being told up to that point, and I don't really see the Horseman coming in as some spirit of the town exploited by the big city boy. It's really just a competition that ends once Brom resolves to take things two steps too far. But, he wins. So let that be a lesson to you intrepid riders in the night.

From RM:

How terrific is this? Seriously. In this version of "Sleepy Hollow" (I'll get to the, ugh, other one in a moment) the headless horseman is a TACTIC, not Christopher Walken acting nuttier-than-all-git-out. This Disney films has TACTICS, and OBSTACLES, and other things that you are told (or at least I was) make for dramatic tension and conflict! Praise Jesus! And the characters make sense! And are like how they are in the book! And there's no witches or Police Constables or Christina Ricci or.....

Let me back up. And say that I do enjoy Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. My problem with it mostly is that this version, which has been burned into my skull, and is actually close to the source material, is much better and more logical than Tim's version which takes his legendary ability to deviate from source material to new highs and lows, in some ways succeeding, in some, not so much.

How nice is it to have two shorts that feature utterly unlikable protagonists? Maybe this is the weirdo in me talking, but we have an addict and a sexually and fiscally charged rake and pie-thief as our two heroes. They're both effete, silly, compulsive and at times, dangerous fools as characters, and yet we root for them as we laugh at them. It's wonderful to see these kind of layered characters, which seems to thrive more coming from fiction than from fable. Yes, it leaves less room for Disney interpretation, but that's not always a bad thing. In fact, most often it's a good thing.

Also, Brom Bones, the arguable third protagonist, is basically Gaston's American cousin. It's bizarre. Take a look sometime. He's got biceps to spare, not a bit of him is scraggly or scrawny, and all the womenfolk take a right shine to him.

This was the last of the "package films" that dominated the 1940s, and it makes an effective bridge. Leaving behind much of the glorified music video shorts, these are really two "short films" with a narrative and music that clearly bridge to Disney's next film, Cinderella, which brings back Disney to the single narrative form. I don't believe that it is a coincidence that this last one was the best. If they had so desired, I feel the package film as a form could have been perfected had they gone down this road further, but perhaps it is for the best that they did not.

Final Grade: B

Current Rankings:

1.) The Lion King
2.) Sleeping Beauty
3.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
4.) Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
5.) Peter Pan
6.) Cinderella
7.) The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad
8.) Lady and The Tramp
9.) The Great Mouse Detective
10.) Pinocchio
11.) The Jungle Book
12.) The Black Cauldron
13.) Mulan
14.) The Three Caballeros
15.) Treasure Planet
16.) Saludos Amigos
17.) Fun and Fancy Free

***Revised, 10/26/08***: Check out our new link, under groundwork, called Spreadsheet! It's a direct download link for an excel file that itemizes all the info we've processed so far! Letter grades, how each generation of films average out score wise, highest to lowest rankings for each category, it's the most efficient way to waste your time with us!

Bippidi. Boppidi. Booyah.

Cinderella (1950)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 7

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 8

Characters/Characterization/Voice-Acting: 6

Art Direction/Design: 7.5

Themes/Archetypes/ Artistic Interpretation: 8.5

From Wiry:

Do we really even need to do a summary for this one? The Cinderella story is up there in an elite crowd of fairy tale well-knowedness with the likes of "Red Riding Hood" and "The Lambkin and the Little Fish." Well, maybe not the latter. The Disney version is especially notable because it has entered the cultural mindset as a definitive version of the tale, and yet it's easy enough to find alternate takes. There's the Rodgers and Hammerstein telemusical, not to mention the (oh) thousands of variations throughout pretty much every culture.

It's really the details that vary. In this version, Cinderella's father is not around. She instead has the company of various household rodents and birds. She goes about her daily chores, abused by her stepmother and stepsisters. On this particular day, a ball is announced for all eligible maidens. The stepmother tries to prevent Cinderella from going by imposing heavy chores and a dress code, but Cinderella's faunic friends form fabric discarded by the stepsisters into the necessary gown. The stepsisters, thinking Cinderella had stolen from them, rend the dress asunder and leave her crying in the garden as they head off to the ball. Then there's some bippidi action and we've got pumpkin carriages. Cinderella makes it to the ball and dances with a gent she somehow fails to realize is the prince. Yadda yadda slipper, yadda yadda stepsisters can't fit. What's interesting in this version is Lady Tremaine (that's the wicked stepmother, y'all) realizes Cinderella is the lady in question and actively blocks her. In many other versions, the stepmother just wants to hide this scuzzy maid, but here, Lady Tremaine first locks Cinderella and, when mousy plot devices fix that, she trips the footman (ha!) carrying the slipper, causing it to shatter. Fortunately, Cinderella, the coy minx, kept its brother. Suck it, Tremaine.

I think it's really impossible to argue that the Cinderella story is anything other than iconic. We can't really fauly source material here, though I've sort of always been bothered by the fact that any interpretation requires Cinderella to be a soggy blanket with no self-esteem who is too nice to ever challenge her oppressors. Ah well. The biggest Disney addition here is definitely the animal aspect. While one could make the argument that the battle between the mice and Lucifer is the Cinderella/Tremaine struggle make physical, but RM correctly pointed out that it's really just tarted-up Tom and Jerry. The mice themselves are cute, memorable, and probably some of the better annoying animal sidekicks in Disneydom, but the time spent with them really ought to have been used to flesh out the major plot players, like the neglected prince or the stepsisters.

I should disclose that I recently watched the Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella from 1997. The Brandy one. And while a lot of people have issues with this version (like colorblind casting, which, if that's your biggest beef... you're an idiot), I think there's a lot it does better than Disney. For starters, it spends more time with the actual characters instead of dallying in animal slapstick. Second, and this isn't particularly fair but oh well, the music's better. The numbers other than "Bippidi Boppidi Boo" and the micey "Work Song" have not aged particularly well, though I do enjoy them as far as vanilla ballads go. Honestly, I think what the Disney version has going for it most is that everyone knows it and likes it well enough for it to hang around on so many "top" lists. It's hard to find fault with it without sounding like a grump, but it's hard not to compare it to other versions and wonder why it's so definitive when it misses so many opportunities.

From RM:

Looking at this film artistically is a very interesting experience. Some of the character design is very beautiful, and some of it looks like it's from a Goofy cartoon (the classic "Yah-hoo-hoo-hooey!" falling sound is even in the film). However, the film's attention to artistic detail is very impressive. Architectural attention to detail is better done in later films, mostly Beauty and The Beast, which is of a similar time-frame and design, but it is still very prettily done in this film.

What I take away from this film is likability, and the lack of it that I get from this movie. We've gotten 1/3 of the way through the canon at this point, and I can't honestly say I like this movie more than The Jungle Book. I acknowledge that it is better, in the way that I acknowledge that David Byrne is better than Toni Basil, but I'd still rather hear "Hey Mickey" before "Dream Police". Perhaps that makes me a fool. Perhaps I am. Perhaps it is simply the utter dearth of human male characters under the age of fifty for me to identify with. Perhaps I'm just repressing my own sad history with wicked stepmothers. I can't tell anymore.

Final Grade: B

Current Rankings:

1.) The Lion King
2.) Sleeping Beauty
3.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
4.) Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
5.) Peter Pan
6.) Cinderella
7.) Lady and The Tramp
8.) The Great Mouse Detective
9.) Pinocchio
10.) The Jungle Book
11.) The Black Cauldron
12.) Mulan
13.) The Three Caballeros
14.) Treasure Planet
15.) Saludos Amigos
16.) Fun and Fancy Free

We know, we know. We haven't been around in a while. We're terrible, horrible naughty little boys.

Hey, what a great segue to.....

Peter Pan (1953)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 6

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 8

Characters/Characterization/Voice-Acting: 7.5

Art Direction/Design: 9

Themes, Archetypes, and Artistic Interpretation: 7

From RM:

So, Peter Pan. Hurrah for boy films! No icky girls here, just poorly crafted sexist archetypes. You know, how we all saw women when we were eleven. Or still do. Who am I to judge?

Anyhow, Peter Pan is the story of, you guessed it, Peter Pan, the mythical boy who never grew up and adventurer par excellence of Neverland, mythical land that.....never grew up, I guess. Anyhow, he has this fan club, comprised of the Darling children: Wendy, Michael and John. One evening Peter arrives to retrieve his shadow, which was taken from him by Nana, the underpaid and, we can only assume, illegal alien St. Bernard nanny and nursery maid. As Wendy helps him reattach it, our hero learns that she is moving out of the nursery and "growing up" tomorrow, as per her father's wishes. Peter, who enjoys listening to her stories every night (it was during one of these sit-ins that his shadow was taken), decided to take her back to Neverland so she can keep telling him stories. Unfortunately, this means taking along the baggage that is Michael and John as well, but Pan takes this in stride. Not so cheery about these turns of events is Tinkerbell, the pixie partner of Peter Pan, as well as the embodiment of sex in this film (trust me). She gets jealous and tries to have Pan's private platoon of pre-adolescent punks (the Lost Boys), shoot Wendy down. Pan discovers her plot, and banishes her for the weekend.

So, Captain Hook. He's hanging out in Neverland, despite the protestations of his crew and first mate, Mr. Smee, because he's out for Pan's blood for making an adult with a vast array of weaponry look like a total idiot. He schemes and plots, and manages to kidnap Tiger Lily, the princess of the Indian Tribe that resides on the isle. He tries to get her to reveal Pan's Private Pad, but to no avail. Pan procures the princess from her purloinment predicament and returns her to Big Chief Basso, and there is much rejoicing, except for a jealous Wendy.

Wendy is ready to go home, as are Michael and John, but Pan performs a perfectly portentous hissy fit, and sulks in his room while they leave. Little does he know that Hook has hoodwinked Tink, and has gotten the slighted sylph to reveal Pan's personal penthouse, which he has snuck upon, kidnapped the Lost Boys and the Darlings during their exeunt, and dropped a bomb disguised as a gift for Pan to pry open and go pow.

Thanks to some heroics by the bashful brownie, Tinkerbell, Pan is saved from a perfectly putrid pow-ing. He rushes to the ship where everyone is captured, wins the day, and returns the Darlings home, with Wendy ready to face her future unafraid. Hurrah!

So, quick out of the way, the song "What Makes the Red Man Red?" is pretty bad in terms of contemporary views of racism. But for back then, as much as I hate to justify racism historically, this was pretty common fare for how Native Americans were portrayed. The Mary Martin musical version of Peter Pan, which came out around the same time as this film, has the equally distressing song "Ugh-a Wugh-a Wigwam", so I refuse to see this as racist as say, Song of the South. I'd rather talk about sexism, because boy, do chicks take it on the chin in this film. Wait, that sounded bad.

Um, women are not portrayed as the powerful protectors of life and goddesses of beauty that they should be. No, that sounds pandering.

Look, ladies, you get burned in this film. Wendy is a wet-blanket mommy figure, Tink is a insanely possessive seductress (not that she and Peter would ever work, see below), Tiger Lily doesn't say one Goddamn word, and the Mermaids act like the Cheerleaders from Hell. And it's not pleasant. But, to be fair, this movie is seen from the world of a ten year-old boy. And ten year-old boys are both bigoted and sexist. Not that they intend to be cruel. But they like dropping everything down to a common denominator: Cowboys and Indians. Cops and Robbers. Boys and Girls. Us and them. It's just sort of how they work. So for a movie that is, essentially, a defense of the ten year-old, it's both fitting and a little disconcerting. But too bad. You get yours back when we get Eric in The Little Mermaid.

From Wiry:

You can fly! You can fly! You can fly! Just sprinkle yourself with pollen and think happy thoughts... or something...

Peter Pan was definitely among my top Disneys as a kid. Clearly I was a bit of an odd duck of a boy in that my favorite scene to re-watch was the seagull shaving scene, but I think, broadly speaking, this is a boy's film. Watching it again now, I realized how long it's been since I've checked in with the whole Peter Pan mythology. I missed Finding Neverland, and I don't know that I ever saw Hook other than in the theaters.

But the story of Peter Pan is really one of the best "growing up" mythologies we have. The shame I think of the Disney version is that it introduces much of the darker aspects of the tale without really exploring them (I know, I know, this is the infamous Disneyfication factor that rears its ugly head all over the place). For example: at the end of the tale, Peter decides to take Wendy and the Darling brothers (who, it should be noted, later appear as singing chipmunks in another franchise) back to London. But why? Earlier, he scorns the whole notion of leaving Neverland and growing up. While I don't think Peter's a bad person per se, he is a bratty boy who doesn't really grow up. In other words, he doesn't change. While that leaves the burden of interesting character development on others, I think it's sort of necessary for Peter to be fascinating but static - the cyclical nature of the tale (only barely hinted at in this version at the end by Mr. Darling, but fleshed out more fully in the Disney sequel and most other adaptations of the story) means Peter must always exist as a spirit of childhood. But, if he happily delivers anyone who wants to grow up home, one wonders why he keeps pulling kids to Neverland in the first place. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Peter wants always-present company. Without the Lost Boys, he has no one to lead. I think he enjoys the mother-factor with Wendy, but only insofar as she maintains the status quo.

Really, the only other characters who seem cut from the same cloth as Peter are Tinkerbell and Captain Hook: the former will always love him, the latter will always hate him. But neither can ever fulfill their ultimate end-goal. A romance between Tinkerbell and Peter is impossible both biologically and psychologically - while Peter may be able to admire her beauty, he can't really have an emotionally-invested relationship (or sex, even though Tink oozes sexy). And Hook will always threaten Peter, but the fact that Peter can fly, coupled with the ineptitude of Hook's crew, renders Hook relatively harmless.

On the whole, I think this adaptation does a good job up to a point with the material it's working with. It brings up some interesting ideas but it doesn't always follow through. The interpretation of Hook and mother-Smee is excellent. The tunes are catchy but not particularly substantial or emotionally engaging. The character design and voices are, as you probably are already aware, spot-on - there's a reason these interpretations of the characters come to mind first when Pan's on the table. And, even though I find the ending broadly unsatisfying from a character perspective, the visual of Tinkerbell whizzing all over Hook's ship to make it fly through the sky is most assuredly priceless.

Final Grade: B

Current Standings:
1.) The Lion King
2.) Sleeping Beauty
3.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
4.) Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
5.) Peter Pan
6.) Lady and The Tramp
7.) The Great Mouse Detective
8.) Pinocchio
9.) The Jungle Book
10.) The Black Cauldron
11.) Mulan
12.) The Three Caballeros
13.) Treasure Planet
14.) Saludos Amigos
15.) Fun and Fancy Free

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