Archive for Walt Disney

Under Dog

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Politics with tags , , on May 12, 2015 by dcairns

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Over at The Chiseler, I have a new piece about an interesting and peculiar thing, the Disney cartoon PLUTO’S JUDGEMENT DAY. Not the place one would normally look for twisted and incendiary racial politics, but I seem to have found them. Check it!

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Front and Centaur

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2014 by dcairns

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Marvelling all over again at FANTASIA, which occupies a key role in my cinema-going life. It must have been an early example of a movie I went to all by myself, not out of any social urge. Truth be told, once I was old enough to not require parental supervision at the movies, there wasn’t anyone around I wanted to see them with or who wanted to go with me, until my best friend Robert joined in. FANTASIA was one I had known about for years but never seen, because I don’t think it had ever turned up on re-release and of course Disney kept their movies off TV for the most part. Oh, and I was a bit of a classical music fan in my early teens — it was another reason for the assholes at school to hate me — the looks on their faces when they asked what kind of music I liked were kind of priceless. That, having long hair in the eighties, and not liking football were enough to ensure pariah status with the right people.

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I don’t think I was aesthetically developed enough to be properly repelled by the film’s most egregious artistic crimes, but I enjoyed the bits that work just as much as I do today. Who was it said, “Too much beauty is disgusting”? Attributing any sort of beauty to the film’s Olympian interlude may seem controversial, but consider: ladled over the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony are a lot of colours, variously bright and brash or even muted and sombre, but all individually pleasing to the eye. The shapes are all soft, sensuous and curving, with not a jagged or discordant angle in sight. And the movement is elegant, arcing, balletic. And the creatures are woodland animals and nymphs and flying babies and cute girls and jocks with equine underparts. And they’re all pastel pinks and purples and blues. The combination of this is enough to provoke a Technicolor yawn from anyone, turning the screen to a Jackson Pollock explosion, which would be an improvement.

In other words, unlike the Toccata and Fugue, which mingles extreme gaudiness and vulgarity with some sublime abstract imagery, or the Nutcracker Suite which features whole sections of gorgeous kitsch, this great conglomeration of beautiful components results in an eye-aching pastel inferno which would serve as an ideal hell for anyone with an iota of taste. It’s all the more shocking coming after the restraint of the Rite of Spring sequence, which has plenty of almost monochromatic shots, all sulphurous yellow or muddy brown.

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The only hints of ugliness allowed in Disney’s Olympus are some spectacularly unpleasing character designs — Bacchus ought to be a relief from all the idealised body shapes and clean living on display, but he’s an unfunny bore and I was rooting for Zeus to immolate him with a thunderbolt — and the typical, yet heightened Disney sexual weirdness. The centaurettes, with their pert breasts and no nipples — (later, in Night on Bald Mountain, the harpies are allowed nipples, so evidently nipples are a sign of evil) — are posed about the place so seductively, we can be almost certain Disney was sexually attracted to horses (and fish). And there’s the usual ass-play, about which whole monographs have been written. Disney’s anal obsession. The best one is probably the centaurette spanking her hindquarters with a twig-as-riding-crop to make herself jump a fence, which brings up all kinds of curious thoughts. It seems she’s not only a conglomeration of two animals, her lower section has a will of its own. King Lear had something to say about that, as I recall.

Still, one aspect of the film’s vulgar heroism is its capacity to do everything beyond belief — when it succeeds, it astonishes (frame grabbing these images gave me a new respect for the artistry in every image), and when it fails it doesn’t settle for falling flat, it crashes towards the earth’s core like Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff and leaving a coyote-shaped crater in the desert floor.

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If you’re revisiting it, and I recommend you do, I recommend the Blu-Ray.

UK: Fantasia [Blu-ray]

US: Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 (Two movie Collection) (Special Edition)

Hitler Saved from Drowning

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , on August 2, 2014 by dcairns

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From Richard Schickel’s The Disney Version, which offers up a fairly pungent critique of Uncle Walt’s sensibility. He’s Disney on Hitler ~

“Mr. A. Hitler, the Nazi old thing, says Mickey’s silly. Imagine that! Well, Mickey is going to save Mr. A. Hitler from drowning or something some day. Just wait and see if he doesn’t. Then won’t Mr. A. Hitler be ashamed!”

As Schickel points out, what Hitler had actually said was, Mickey was “the most miserable ideal ever revealed … mice are dirty.”

I find the statement by Disney funny and surreal, though not in an intentional way. It’s clueless. Disney was certainly a wee bit antisemitic himself, and also like most of the studio bosses he wanted to keep making money out of Germany. Warners, the most courageously anti-Nazi studio, only shut down operations in Germany when their Berlin man was viciously beaten up for being Jewish. Disney, who was one of the only producers to welcome Leni Riefenstahl when she visited Hollywood, was obviously worried that the Führer was not a Mickey fan, as this had potential commercial consequences. He felt the need to respond, but couldn’t be inflammatory about it. “The old Nazi thing” is as insulting as he can bring himself to get, and his idea of a comeuppance for Hitler is that Mickey will do him a good turn.

I’m not saying Disney was a Nazi! It’s just unfortunate, is all. The cartoon is my way of showing I have something in common with Uncle Walt: neither of us can draw Mickey Mouse.