It’s reasonable to believe the people at Disney were in something of a state of denial during the early 2000s. They knew that the formula that worked so well for them in the early 90s was losing its appeal and that they’d have to find a new way of making movies but I don’t think they realized immediately just how much trouble they were in. Over the course of the last phase I looked at you could see Disney trying to find new ways to thrive through slight adjustments before realizing that they were in such a deep hole that they’d essentially have to burn everything down and start over, this time as a CGI animation studio. In this Eighth and final installment of Disneyology we’ll look at an era that was almost certainly Disney’s lowest point, lower even than the so called “Disney Dark Age” that would eventually bring on the “Disney Renaissance.” In this era Disney would exhaust the last of its traditionally animated films before making some unsure baby steps into the world of CGI animation and slowly start to make more respectable films in that format while also taking one last look at what came before.
Brother Bear (2003)
When Treasure Planet failed spectacularly the writing was on the wall: Disney’s animation division needed to change and once again Roy Disney emerged to and started another “save Disney” campaign. That is a long story that would eventually result in the ousting of Michael Eisner from his position as CEO of Disney, but what’s most relevant is that it made it clear to all involved that the animated film division was not going to be able to keep doing traditionally animated movies for much longer. Of course major conglomerates don’t change overnight, especially not when they were working at a pace fast enough to put out multiple movies a year previously, so there were a couple of traditionally animated movies that were deep enough in production that they would still be finished and put out while the company charted out its new course. One of those movies was their 2003 release Brother Bear, which was first conceived after the success of The Lion King and was meant to be a sort of North American version of that blockbuster. Eventually it was retooled into a story not dissimilar from The Emperor’s New Groove where someone is turned into an animal in order to learn… something. This one is less comedic than that movie and is meant to be more of an earnest look at a handful of Inuit characters and their connection to the spirits and nature or whatever.
Certain elements of Brother Bear work pretty well. The animators clearly did their homework and put together some decent landscapes and made some animals that look pretty good. They also employed a trick where they had the film play out in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first half hour or so and then expand out to a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio once our hero turns into a bear and the film also takes on a brighter more storybook like color scheme when this happens. That’s an idea that displays some visual creativity, but I’m not sure this was the greatest idea given that the first half isn’t exactly a claustrophobic experience and replicating this on a TV, even in the era of big widescreen televisions is kind of tough. There’s some of the usual annoying comic relief here including a bizarre reunion of the Strange Brew guys to voice a pair of moose who talk with stereotypical Canadian accents and a little bear cub voiced by one of the kids from The Bernie Mac show who I’m pretty sure is supposed to be annoying in a funny kind of way but who is mostly just annoying. The film has also musically resorted back to getting Phil Collins songs in order to recapture the “magic” of Tarzan but it works even less here and the decision just kind of screams of laziness.
Where the movie starts to lose me is probably in its wishy washy message in which the main character is judged for having gone after the bear that sort of caused the death of his father and by becoming a bear himself he sees the animals’ side of what hunting feels like. This sort of works if you take it as a very general fable about the ways that people misunderstand each other and the problems with acting out of anger and out of the desire for revenge, but taken at face value it’s kind of silly. This is a post-ice age Inuit community, in that society sometimes you’re going to have to kill some bears and sitting back and thinking about how the bear would feel about in some fantasy environment where bears have human-like intelligence and personality is childish silliness. In general though, this movie isn’t really half bad. I get why it had a hard time competing with the likes of Finding Nemo that year but if it had come out in a time when Disney was better positioned to market it and people were more interested in movies like this it might be better remembered. As it was the thing just kind of came and went. I don’t think it lost any money and given that Disney seemed about ready to just write the thing off as a loss they probably thought they gotten away with something.
Home on the Range (2004)
I remember back in 2004 looking at an article on the internet which was laying out all the potential nominees for the then still new Best Animated Feature Category. It listed each movie like The Incredibles and Shrek 2 and included a blurb outline the pros and cons of each film earning a nomination and then way down at the bottom of the list was an entry for the movie Home on the Range with a caption that simply read something like “Disney needs to rethink its animation division.” That’s how much of a non-entity this thing was in 2004, it barely even registered and when it did it was little more than an emblem of Disney’s irrelevance. Today it has, bar none, the worst reputation of any movie that Disney ever made and in some ways it almost feels like an act of self-sabotage; an attempt to force their 2D animation division to hit rock bottom just so no one would miss it when it was gone. I’d like to think that, it certainly fits the narrative, but there’s one bit of evidence that suggests that isn’t the case: this damn thing cost $100 million dollars to make. That’s over twice the cost of Brother Bear and even a little more than the cost of The Incredibles. I don’t know how this can possibly be true, it may have been partially due to a reworking not dissimilar to what happened to The Emperor’s New Groove, but still, there’s no way a major corporation sinks that kind of cash into a movie unless they do believe in it on some level.
Going into the movie I had nearly subterranean expectations and that probably did effect the experience a little because as I was watching it I came to realize that the movie wasn’t really “bad” so much as it was wildly misbegotten. It’s really unambitious, it doesn’t feel like Disney at all really, and it also doesn’t feel like a big budget movie made in the 21st Century, but it isn’t necessarily a failure at what it set out to do. The film is trying to be a send-off of westerns but told from the perspective of the animals, specifically a trio of cows voiced by Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench, and Jennifer Tilly… because the only thing modern kids like more than westerns is Rosanne. The plot is this insane thing where cows, actual quadrupedal cows, try to hunt down an infamous bandit to collect a bounty that will save their homestead. Again, this is a movie about motherfucking cows saving the day. The film’s animation is also… I don’t want to say dated because in part I think it was intentionally retro, but it certainly didn’t have that Disney look that people are looking for from this studio. In fact, if you had told me that this was a Disney Channel special from 1995 rather than a theatrical release I probably would have believed it give or take a few celebrity voice actors and a CG show or two. But still, there are aspects of the movie that are a little… cute, I guess. It’s not a movie that overwhelms you with badness, it’s just a thing that should not be coming from who it’s coming from and when it came from. I’m sure if you showed it to a very small child they’ll enjoy it but I also don’t really know why anyone who’s not doing a Disney retrospective will have watched the damn thing in the last ten years.
Chicken Little (2005)
By 2005 Disney Animation was clearly in deep shit. They’d made three straight movies which were more or less considered embarrassments and hadn’t made a single movie that really captured the public’s interest in any kind of big ways in the 21st Century. So finally they decided their only recourse was to ditch traditional animation and begin trying to compete with the Pixars and Dreamworkses in the CGI arena and began assembling a team dedicated to that format. I’m pretty sure they knew that there would be some awkward growing pains along the way and that they didn’t want to waste their best ideas and concepts on this novice team so their first few forays into the medium were a bit… odd. It would, however, be a mistake to assume that Disney was ready and willing to just take a loss on the project. On the contrary there was actually a lot of pressure on the movie to perform at the box office because, at this point, Disney was in the middle of some rather heated negotiations with Pixar. Pixar’s distribution deal with Disney was about to run out in 2006 and it was an open question as to what the future of that relationship would be. Both Disney and Pixar wanted the two to merge but they would have to settle on terms and the success or failure of Disney’s first CGI movie would say a lot about how much they needed Pixar and give one side or the other leverage.
The first thing that jumps out about Chicken Little is how awful its animation is. Now granted, it can be a little tough in 2017 to gauge the extent to which the awfulness of this CGI is just a fuction of the era it comes from, but comparing this to the trailer for The Incredibles (a movie which reportedly cost $50 million less to make) the difference is stark. The character designs here are all really ugly and the world of the movie doesn’t cohere very well at all. Obviously this is a modernized take on the Chicken Little story but it also seems to completely misunderstand that fable as well. In the film Chicken Little gets in trouble because he thinks the sky is falling and no one believes him. Then it turns out that, while the sky isn’t actually falling, reflective pieces of alien spaceships are falling and no one is believing his warnings because his initial claims seemed to be false. That is the opposite of what happens in the original story, the whole point of the Chicken Little story is supposed to be that the title character’s warnings are ridiculous and they lead the fools who follow him to ruin: the moral is supposed to be that not everything you hear is true and that you need to exert some critical thinking lest you get caught up in a panicking mob. This initially seemed like it was replacing that with a “boy who cried wolf” scenario, but that doesn’t really fit either given that Chicken Little turned out to be right from the very beginning.
Instead the moral of this movie is some bullshit about the kid reuniting with his father, who has not been terribly supportive. I can’t say I cared all that much and the movie uses some of the most contrived silliness in order to force these people to deal with one another. The movie is constantly begging Chicken Little to talk to this shitty father to solve these problems but never seems to accept the possibility that he could maybe go to some other adult authority figure with his problems or maybe have one of his friends go to one of their parents. One could say this is just a movie for kids, but what kind of message does this thing send to that audience? That if they make one mistake the whole world including their parents will be incredibly cruel to them for the rest of their lives and that the only way out of this hell is to redeem yourself in a major way? That would just create some neurotic kids. Oh and did I mention that the comedy in this is truly awful? Basically nothing in this movie works. It might not have the awful reputation of Home on the Range simply because no one remembers it but it’s noticeably worse. In fact it’s the worst thing Disney has ever made and by a wide margin. But here’s the real kicker: despite this being a truly inept and horrid movie it still made bank. In fact it gave Disney its best opening weekend since The Lion King before making over a hundred million and becoming the fourteenth highest grossing movie of its year. I don’t know how to explain that except that sometimes family movies can make a lot more than they deserve simply by virtue of opening on the right date sometimes, especially in 2005, a year that didn’t have a Pixar movie but did see a whole lot of garbage like Robots and Hoodwinked make respectable box office.
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Disney Animation Studios didn’t release a single movie in 2006, making it the first year since 1993 to be entirely without a Disney movie but things were hardly uneventful for them. In 2005 Michael Eisner stepped down from his position and named Bob Iger as his successor and finished negotiations with Steve Jobs to acquire Pixar. As part of this merger John Lasseter was named as Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and Disney Animation and with Disney Animation being the squeaky wheel he immediately set out to fix it and bring it back to its former glory. While all this was going on Disney did have a film in production while Lasseter wasn’t there for its inception he did have some input on it apparently and gave notes to a rough cut of the movie which resulted in 60% of the movie being scrapped and re-tooled. That movie is called Meet the Robinsons and it is decidedly not Disney’s most famous movie. Seriously thing just came and went real fast and hardly generated any kind of buzz. I sort of remember there being some talk about the fact that it was released in impressiveish 3D (despite Avatar getting a lot of the credit for the 3D craze Hollywood was definitely working towards 3D before) but that was about it, prior to this viewing I didn’t even know what the movie was about outside of its blurb on the Netflix mailer I got and its characters and imagery are hardly iconic.
For all its flaws, Meet the Robinsons is definitely a huge leap forward from Chicken Little. The animation here is competent, it’s not mind blowingly great or anything but it does seem to be up to the same standards as their competitors and it has a better grasp of basic film grammar that that earlier effort lacked. I still think there are design elements here that don’t really work. They seem to have taken a lot of visual inspiration from old television cartoons like “The Jetsons” and especially “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” specifically the “Peabody and Sherman” shorts from the later and the film’s villain bears a bit of a resemblance to Snidely Whiplash. I didn’t particularly care for the look of the main character and the actual “Robinsons” also just seem like a strange assortment of weirdness without much of a rhyme or reason. Still, it’s mostly progress on the visual front. Narratively, not so much. The movie’s key flaw is that its protagonist is really annoying. This kid is completely out of control and just does the stupidest things to make things harder for all involved and a lot of the movie’s time travel logic does not hold up to scrutiny.
The movie’s other big problem is its preachiness. The message here is that you shouldn’t be discouraged by failure and should instead keep trying until you succeed at what you want to do. I know this is the film’s message because characters say exactly that out loud early in the film and repeat it often. The movie is not very subtle about this message and isn’t really confident enough to just let its story impart the message on its own and feels the need to really lay it out. That said, there could be a bit of a meta level to all this; a suggestion that Disney has failed a lot recently but that it’s going to pay off eventually. In fact I know this interpretation was intended because the movie straight up puts a title card at the end which more or less confirms this. Again, not a subtle movie. I don’t really think this movie is good enough to be the rebirth of Disney but it is a clear improvement, in fact it feels like this should have been Disney’s first CGI movie instead of the abomination that was Chicken Little (a movie that truly shouldn’t exist). Here’s the real kicker though: as much as this feels like a comeback of sorts for Disney it actually made less money than Chicken Little, which may be a function of how much that awful movie hurt their brand or may just be a quirk or when it was released and how it was marketed (that title probably didn’t help). John Lasseter still had a lot of work to do.
They say that reputations are hard won but easily lost and by 2008 Disney was getting a hard lesson in this. In the time that they were floundering Pixar had unquestionably taken their crown as the king of feature length animation while Dreamworks and arguably a couple of other studios had also lapped them. They had been making some steps to get themselves back in the game but these had widely gone ignored by the film community, who were consumed with love for Pixar, who were at the peak of their talents in the late 2000s. I certainly remember Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons being almost entirely ignored by everyone except for parents of small children, but by the time their 2008 film Bolt came out I did at least hear some rumblings that Disney were making something of a comeback. These rumblings were faint and were almost entirely overshadowed by the overwhelming critical support for Pixar’s Wall-E, but they were there. Much of this credit was applied to John Lasseter, who had just come on board after the merger and who had more extensive influence over this than he did with Meet the Robinsons. This apparent respectability certainly came as a bit of a surprise to any outside observers who wasn’t familiar with the personnel changes at Disney.
The thing certainly looked pretty lame from its concept and advertising as it looked like it was about some kind of dog superhero or something. As it turns out the movie is actually about a dog (voiced by John Travolta) that merely thinks he’s a superhero because he stars on a stange looking TV show along with his child actress owner (voiced by Miley Cyrus back when she was still a Disney employee and not someone who made a point of swinging naked on wrecking balls) and goes on a cross country adventure with a gangster cat and a wacky hamster to return to her. This is probably where the John Lasseter influence becomes a little more clear as this plot bears more than a striking resemblance to Lasseter’s breakthrough film Toy Story what with the plot revolving around an underclass of people who exist to please human children, one of whom isn’t in on this and thinks he’s an action hero like Buzz Lightyear did. There are enough difference here to keep the movie from looking like a total rip-off, but the similarities are noticeable. The plot is also a little formulaic in general, and anyone over six is probably going to be able to guess pretty early on how this is going to play out and what lessons are going to be learned by the end, but moment to moment it does play out with confidence and avoids some of those cringey moments as much as it can.
The animation in the film is quite good, a clear step up from Meet the Robinsons and a giant leap over Chicken Little. The movie is almost a decade old now and does show its age a little and it doesn’t have quite the “wow” factor of something like Wall-E but in general it’s definitely up to the standards of the competition of the time. What the movie didn’t have so much was much of a real Disney Animation feel, though one wonders what exactly that even meant in 2008. Back in the day a movie like Lady and the Tramp or The Jungle Book could be said to have a “Disney feel” because of their animation style (and the fact that they were the only ones in the game making animated features on this scale), but that style doesn’t really carry over to the CGI era and as such they kind of just felt like one more studio making movies about talking CGI animals. Without Princesses and the like there really wasn’t a lot there to make movies like this jump out and scream “Disney’s back bitches!” and get people excited again and start looking at these movies as events.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
By 2008 Disney was pretty much back in action, they’d brought in new management vis-à-vis the acquisition of Pixar and they’d built up a CGI animation department that could compete with the big boys. For all intents and purposes they were once again a modern and formidable animation studio but there’s one thing they still hadn’t gotten back: class. Meet The Robinsons and Bolt didn’t feel like Disney movies, they just felt like movies that were competing with the pack. To really officially be worthy of that “when you wish upon a star” fanfare over the Disney logo they’d need to recapture that “magic” and prove that they could once again adapt fairy tales and create a new “princess.” They did have a CGI version of this in the works, but before they could pull the trigger on that they’d have to experiment and the way they decided to do that was by going old-school and make another 2D hand drawn animated movie that would try to do everything it possibly could to replicate that Disney Renaissance feel and see if 2D really died because audiences weren’t interested anymore or if those movies from the early 2000s actually would have succeeded if they had someone like John Lasseter guiding them. The movie they decided to do this with was an adaptation of “The Frog Prince” relocated to 1920s New Orleans and with Disney’s first African-American Princess.
The Princess and the Frog is partially a “princess/fairy tale” movie but also something of a talking animal movie as much of the plot has our heroine and her prince transformed into frogs and trying to escape the bayou alongside a Cajun firefly and an alligator who resembles Louis Armstrong (in case you haven’t guessed, the movie is unapologetic in featuring a litany of Nola stereotypes which checks off everything from voodoo to Mardi Gras). On a basic storytelling level it isn’t exactly the most original movie that Disney ever made, but it isn’t really trying to be. Instead it’s like the animation equivalent of something like The Artist or The Good German which intentionally tries to reverse-engineer an earlier filmmaking style right down to the formulaic plot, but the difference is that this isn’t trying to replicate something from decades past but something that was relatively recent though perhaps not so recent to the film’s target market. The movie is not half bad in its ability to check off some of the hallmarks of Disney old. That aforementioned jazz-man/alligator is not nearly as annoying as he could have been and the movie’s cackling villain, a voodoo man called Dr. Facilier, is a lot of fun in no small part because some genius decided to cast Keith David as his voice actor. The movie is also the first true “bursting into song” musical since Mulan, and while Alan Menken was busy working on their next movie Tangled they brought in frequent Pixar composer Randy Newman to do the music here, which makes sense given his knowledge of American roots music and of composing for family movies. I don’t know that any of the songs here are stone cold classics but they work well and the movie finds some creative ways to present them.
If there’s anything wrong with The Princess and the Frog it’s that it feels a bit calculated and inorganic, which can be said about a lot of Disney and Pixar films but especially this one given how hard it’s trying to be a very particular kind of Disney movie of yore. The film also feels a bit sanitized. This is, after all, a movie about an African American woman living in the 1920s and yet there isn’t even the slightest hint of racism in the air and everyone seems to be living in perfect harmony. Granted, New Orleans has a slightly more complex relation to the rest of the South when it comes to racial mixing but the portrait the movie paints is inauthentic. I suppose I can see why the movie wouldn’t want to force the realities of segregation on children but they maybe could have solved this by cutting the white characters out altogether rather than making them in to happy people devoid of prejudice. That’s not a huge problem though, and for the most part the film is actually quite successful at recapturing what made some of those earlier movies work while adding some unique touches of their own and made a movie that fits pretty well into their overall cannon.
So why didn’t they follow this up with more new 2D animated movies? Well, it’s not that the movie bombed exactly, it made $250 million on a $100 million budget which wasn’t too far off from the profit margins of movies like Bolt, but it didn’t really generate the attention and buzz that would have dissuaded the corporate suits who were probably skeptical about John Lasseter’s little experiment in the first place. Of course the movie had certain disadvantages holding it back, for one thing it’s been speculated that having “princess” in the title scared away a lot of the boy market, which is the reason their next princess movies would be called Tangledand Frozen rather than “Rapunzel” and “The Ice Princess” respectively. The bigger problem though was probably that the damn thing came out five days before the release of James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster Avatar which proceeded to dominate the market and the conversation. Critics weren’t much help either. Most gave it respectful notes but it was largely viewed as a curio rather than the triumphant comeback Disney might have hoped for. 2009 was the year of Up, Coraline, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Where the Wild Things Are, which were all very critic friendly family movies and in that environment something like The Princess and the Frog didn’t feel like the refreshing breath of fresh air worth championing that it might have in other years. In general I think the movie might just have ironically been just a bit ahead of its time; the peak of 90s nostalgia and by extension Disney Renaissance nostalgia was still a couple of years away. That’s too bad because I do think Disney 2D animation is a tradition worth keeping alive and that they might have given up on a little too easily. That said, Lasseter did manage to use his clout to make it so Home on the Range would no longer be Disney’s final traditionally animated film, and that alone probably makes the whole endeavor worth it.
To the Present
And that brings us up to the present and to the Disney movies that I’ve already seen and analyzed either in my usual film criticism routines or in previous family movie retrospectives. However, given that Disneyology is as much a history of the Disney company as it is a look at the movies themselves I do think I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on what Disney has done since the 2010s began. Times have been good for Disney and they’re in the middle of what they’ve been calling the “Disney Revival” but which might perhaps be better dubbed the “Disney Enlightenment” given both that the historical Enlightenment came after the Renaissance and that general “wokeness” is something of a running theme in what they’ve been doing lately. Disney’s recent output can be divided into two camps: movies that continue their tradition of adapting fairy tales and more experimental movies that are trying to compete with the wider world of animated movies and which generally tend to target the interests of the young boy demographic.
In the latter camp they started with a movie called Wreck-It-Ralph (2012) which was meant to be about the inner working of a universe of videogames. That movie fell well into “nice try” territory and had some cute moments, but was neither a particularly authentic look at the world of video games (it’s slander of Zangief will not be forgotten) not a terribly original adventure unto itself and the moral at its center was rather muddled. Their next attempt at a standalone title looked at another interest of modern little boys: Superheroes. That movie, Big Hero 6 (2014), took an obscure title from the now Disney owned Marvel catalog and turned it into a big CGI extravaganza. It was a fun movie and it looked really good, but it had some weak side characters and ultimately didn’t prove to be the most memorable of movies once you got some distance from it. The most recent movie down this lineage was Zootopia (2016), which was less obviously pandering towards little boys than the aforementioned movies but it is ultimately telling a cop story. That was possibly the movie overtly political movie that Disney has ever made and more or less exists to provide an imperfect but age appropriate allegory to teach kids modern ideas about how intolerance works and how diverse people can co-exist.
Of course where Disney really makes their money is off the princesses and they’ve certainly served that crowed in abundance as of late. They first brought the princess thing into the third dimension with Tangled (2010), which adapted the Rapunzel story into almost an action story. It had the usual combo of scheming villains, musical sequences, and the like but it leaned into some rather lame comedy a bit too much and ultimately just didn’t prove to really be much of a meaningful twist on the genre otherwise. In retrospect that movie proved to be something of a warm-up (no pun intended) for what is by far their most popular movie since their Renaissance heyday: Frozen (2013). That is in many ways a movie that probably doesn’t need an introduction but in its adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Ice Princess” it added some interesting twists like having two bickering sibling princesses instead of one and is particularly notable for having some particularly strong music. I thought that Frozen was only about half of the step forward it portrayed itself as and that its first half was a lot stronger than its second half, but it nonetheless was a clear win for them and left little remaining doubt that Disney was back to being the dominant animation studio, especially given that Pixar was having kind of a rough time at this point. Disney’s most recent princess was brought to us in the film Moana (2016), which followed the usual formula pretty closely but did it with gusto and differentiated itself by being set in the world of Polynesian folklore and followed its predecessor’s lead and upped its musical credentials.
So, Disney Animation seems to be in quite a place of strength right now, but if the history I’ve gone through for the last two years has taught me anything it’s that “happily ever after” has always proved to be something of an illusion for this studio and that no matter how strong they get the pendulum always swings the other way eventually. I don’t know when that will happen for this current incarnation of Disney Animation but they need only look towards their sister studio Pixar’s recent slide into relative mediocrity to see how things can go wrong. Pixar in many ways actually seems to be something of a victim of Disney’s success, it rested on its laurels while Disney was the squeaky wheel getting all the grease and they suffered because of it. Apparently there’s only so much John Lasseter to go around. What’s more, there are some disconcerting signs on the horizon. The studio’s next two films are both sequels: Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it-Ralph 2 and Frozen 2. These will be the first theatrical sequels that Disney will have made since The Rescuers Down Under which was until now their only attempt at doing one. It’s really kind of extraordinary that this bastion of cinematic capitalism has avoided Hollywood’s obsession with sequels as long as it did, but it’s happening, and as such they won’t have another original film until their Jack and the Beanstalk adaptation Giganticcomes out. Lasseter has proven that he’s capable of guiding respectable sequels over the years, but if they’re not careful they’re going to end up making the same mistake that Pixar did.
So I’ve now more or less seen every single fully animated Disney movie since the studio’s inception in 1937. Was it worth it? Well, I’d say my thoughts are largely mixed. I saw some good movies, I saw some bad movies, I saw some ugly movies. I saw a studio go from hand drawn animation to xerography, to various forms of computer animation, to mounting fully CGI productions. I’ve seen them rise and fall, rise again, fall again, and rise yet again. In many ways I think the overall narrative of the studio’s history kind of took over the whole column in a way that I didn’t expect it to and this overshadowed a lot of the actual movies, but that may simply be a reflection of what ended up interesting me the most about the movies. I certainly appreciated their older movies simply for their animation quality, but I’ve got to say, looking back at how simple some of the narratives have historically been in these Disney movies may have had the net effect of giving me a much greater appreciation for how much Pixar did to raise the bar on storytelling in animation. I can pine for the golden age of hand drawn animation all I want but if I’m given a binary choice I’m kind of glad they don’t make them like they used to.
Beyond that the various “eras” of Disney largely played out the way most people said they did. There were certainly individual movies that I break with consensus on (like Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians) but for the most part the movies that are considered “classics” have stood the test of time for a reason. Disney really was at its best during the “golden age” and during the “Renaissance” and is on a bit of a roll right now, and when they were bad it was usually pretty apparent. I’d be lying if I said doing the last couple of eras wasn’t a bit of a chore. It’s not so much that the movies they made between 2000 and 2009 were awful movies per se, in fact I liked some of them more than most, it’s just that they put out a lot of uninspired movies that no one cares about and which I didn’t have much to say about. On the upside I feel like there are going to be a lot of pop culture references that will make more sense to me and I’ll be a lot more prepared to look at the studio going forward, especially as they make pointless live action remakes of all these movies. Could all this time have been better used? Probably, but I made my choice and I’m glad I saw it through.