Saturday, June 10, 2006

Two Crocs And An Ex-Wife

I recently watched a classic Disney feature film and I was reminded about what made those earlier movies great. The particular movie I watched was “The Rescuers” which was released in 1977. Now much has been said and written about the demise of classical 2D animation and the emergence of 3D as its replacement in feature films, but “The Rescuers” is a wonderful example of how there is no validity in thinking that the older style of animation was inferior. Being a great entertaining film is all in the story, the characterizations, the emotions and the humor and has nothing to do with the technique used.

The Rescuers is a really great movie and it is as entertaining today as it was 30 years ago. It was a well told story with great characters and a perfect mixture of adventure, mystery and humor. Truly a classic example of what worked when Disney studios was on the right track. If you have not seen The Rescuers or if you haven’t seen it recently, please do yourself a favor and watch this wonderful film.

Now as to classic well done villains, Madam Medusa in The Rescuers could easily have been the sister of Cruella DeVil from 101 Dalmatians. She was just dripping with meanness. “Famous film actress Geraldine Page voiced the slimy Madame Medusa, but the live-action reference was based on animator Milt Kahl's ex-wife -- whom he didn't particularly care for. Kahl was so exacting a perfectionist during his animation of Medusa that his assistants had a hard time living up to his standards. As a consequence, Kahl ended up doing almost all the animation for his evil creation himself." Madame Medusa was Mr. Kahl's last great character for Disney before he retired.

The story follows the adventures of two mice (totally Disney) Bianca and Bernard who attempt to rescue a missing orphan girl named Penny. The film was four years in the making, with the combined talents of 250 people, including 40 animators who produced approximately 330,000 drawings; there were 14 sequences with 1,039 separate scenes and 750 backgrounds. The film was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, and Art Stevens.

My favorite characters are Evinrude, a dragon fly that works as an outboard motor (that’s implied humor) for a swamp boat made from a leaf and the two villainous crocs, Brutus and Nero. Those crocs are amazingly good characters as Medusa’s beloved "petsy-poos".

I don’t want to give away the story in case you have never seen The Rescuers, but this film mixes humor, both visual and implied, with adventure and mystery and it was sure to be entertaining across a broad spectrum of viewers. The folks at Disney need to re-watch this film themselves because they lost the magic in most of their later feature attempts.

The animation is outstanding and each major character is worth individual study to learn the different styles of characterization used. This is masterful animation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my favorite disney movie. As you said it has all the needed elements. The ex-wife info was new to me. I wonder if she was equally obsessed with jewels?Cheers, Tony

10:46 AM  
Blogger JK said...

It is hard for me to pick a favorite Disney movie, although this is certainly high on my list too. I also really like The Great Mouse Detective.

3:56 PM  

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