Archive for Walt Disney

On the Trail of the Loathsome Lupine

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , on May 13, 2022 by dcairns

Since we’re all so full of affection for Mother Russia right now —

No, what happened is, I sourced some Disney movies in a charity shop — the original FREAKY FRIDAY, and forties compendia THE THREE CABALLEROS, MELODY TIME and MAKE MINE MUSIC, and remembered that as a kid I had always wanted to see certain cartoons I saw pics of in various Disney-affliliated books and comics — the adventures of José Carioca, that tropical troubador who seemed to flourish, bright-feathered for a time, then vanish mysteriously like the Judge Crater of cel animation; and PETER AND THE WOLF, which looked like fun.

I have since then been able to feast my eyes upon the perky parrot’s perigrinations, but had never actually experienced PETER AND THE WOLF, an episode of MAKE MINE MUSIC, in its entirety. This was my opportunity.

MMM is like a (more) middlebrow FANTASIA, with acts such as Nelson Eddy, Dinah Shore and the Benny Goodman Quartet accompanying modestly amusing skits or stories or abstract imagery. Prokofiev’s Peter suite, having a narrator and a narrative, was a natural fit for the programme, except that watching it I could help sense that some liberties had been taken with the text.

Perusing a plot synopsis, I see that they’re not very efficient liberties. But all curiously redolent of the times (1946 release date).

It would I suppose be possible to de-Russianise this story, and Disney have gone some way in this direction by hiring Sterling Holloway to narrate (which he does wittily), crediting one “Serge Prokofiev”, and omitting any reference to Peter being a soviet pioneer. But the names and smocks remain recognizably Russian and a few of the loose-limbed extras in the final celebration have surely been hitting what can only have been vodka. The film appearing in ’46 means they were working on it in wartime and apparently Disney’s government contacts didn’t tell him cold war was scheduled to start as soon as the hot one was extinguished. So, the Russians, like cigar-smoking Brazilian parrots, are our friends.

Prokofiev’s Peter is in lockdown, enforced by his grandfather the bassoon, when he sees animal friends the cat and bird besieged in a tree by the wolf. Disney’s Peter is more proactive, like Poochy, and sneaks from the house to HUNT the wolf — but with a pop gun. This may be proactive but it is also stupid. The drawing style makes Peter a very American-looking kid, whose name ought to be Butch, with maybe Bobby Driscoll or Tommy Rettig playing him.

I have mixed emotions about the rewrite. Wherever I saw images or clips of P&TW (Disney Time or The Wonderful World of Disney must have shown excerpts at some point), it was the hunt that was shown, the characters in lock-step creepalong in the atmospheric wintry wood (I have only once walked in a snowy wood — I can highly recommend the experience). So this part of the film I loved, it lived up to childhood expectations, but the adult brain was undermining it, asking WTF is Peter going to do when he finds the walluff or it finds him? Cork it?

The duck is my favourite, although the cat is also tops. The animators had to create a duck character distinct from Donald, and they do it inventively, concentrating on the WALK rather than the bodily proportions. Sonya (odd name for a duck, somehow) uses his webbed feet practically as wheels, rotating them 360 with every step. He’s also a lurid chlorophyll green unknown to ornithology. The dark, metallic green of a mallard being too tricky for the paint & trace dept, or for most illustrators.

In both Sergei and Walt’s versions of the story, the duck is an apparent fatality, but with differences. Dinsey pull a mercy shot, revealing Sonya alive and uneaten at story’s end, but this is mistimed I think, undercutting Peter’s triumph and also making him seem a bit callous. But the original ending is way weirder: the duck, swallowed whole, can still be heard, a quacking oboe, in the wolf’s innards. That would have freaked me out.

The wolf in Prokofiev survives the tale: Peter’s intention all along was to catch him for the zoo. Despite his anthropomorphism, Disney seems unmoved by ecological concerns here and the wolf is hoisted into town, tongue lolling, alive or dead? Well, the Blitz Wolf had been an animators’ emblem for the spectre of Nazism all through the war, and what’s being portrayed here COULD be a tribute to the heroic Soviet war effort… (in reality, the brave Russian soldier was meat for the grinder, victory achieved by throwing an overwhelming number of bodies in the path of bullets, but they DID win the war…)

The inside-a-mouth shot: see also CITY OF PIRATES, JAWS III and THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

What a weird piece. Both versions. As time marches one, Disney’s classics, once staples of western entertainment, feel more and more antique and peculiar in their attitudes, and therefore more and more appealing to me for their dark corners of unease and confusion…


Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , on May 5, 2022 by dcairns

Bob Clampett’s OTHER Disney parody, A CORNY CONCERTO (story by Tashlin) isn’t as offensive (for all the right AND wrong reasons) as his COAL BLACK AND DE SEBBEN DWARFS, but it has one marvellously horrid joke right at the start, where the dignified silhouette morphs into a seedy and off-model Elmer Fudd. Subbing in a ludicrous cartoon dweeb instead of Disney’s cultural effigy is funny, but making him such a dissipated wreck is purely obnoxious, and therefore even funnier.

The rest is just OK — Bugs appears in drag, under far more peculiar circumstances than usual. Daffy is a sweet little duckling… who turns into a fighter plane when riled. Evidently this film is separated from FANTASIA not only by a chasm of variant sensibilities, but by Pearl Harbor.

Thanks to Veikko.

Ellenshaw on Frisco Bay

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2019 by dcairns

I’m hopeful that a bunch of you won’t be able to identify the images here, thus creating INTRIGUE.

Which I will then SHATTER by telling you they’re from Disney’s THE LOVE BUG. Matte artist/ genius Harrison Ellenshaw was responsible.

His art adds a whole layer of melancholic, nostalgic beauty to MARY POPPINS and it kind of does the same, or tries to. The plotline doesn’t really sustain such emotions, especially in the final third, which is just one big car race, with gags more notable for their difficulty/expensiveness that for being particularly clever or funny.

But the first two-thirds… a lot of peculiar stuff in this movie (spiritual ancestor to CHRISTINE).

As a movie-besotted child, Fiona fantasised that Herbie, the sentient Volkswagon, must be possessed by a poltergeist, or else the reincarnation of a human in machine form. (Weird kid.) In the movie, there is actually an explanation offered, though it’s more in the form of speculation/bullshit than actual canonical backstory (kind of like how various characters in Romero’s zombie films suggest their own theories of zombie apocalypse causation). Buddy Hackett’s Tennessee Steinmetz, who has studied in Tibet, puts forth an animist view, proposing that man has invested so much emotion into his mechanical creations that they have become alive.

Amazingly, Buddy manages to put this theory over with some conviction. The ultimate version of HERBIE would be like A.I., with the machines reigning supreme after humanity’s extinction. HERBIE INHERITS THE EARTH, anyone?

As David Wingrove pointed out to me, there’s a weird irony/perversity to the fact that director Robert Stevenson was a conchie who went to America to get away from the war, and ended up working almost exclusively for the two biggest right-wingers in Hollywood, Uncle Walt and Howard Hughes.

Also watched: HERBIE RIDES AGAIN, which is the one I remember seeing on first release (not really any cool new paintings), and THE BLACK HOLE, for which Ellenshaw came out of retirement and created some amazing imagery.


THE LOVE BUG stars Zeke Kelso; Rosemary Pilkington; Lord Fellamar; the singing bone; Mr. Snoops; Tommy Chan; Officer Gunther Toody.

HERBIE RIDES AGAIN stars Madelon Claudet; April Dancer; Sheriff Al Chambers; Col ‘Bat’ Guano; Horace Debussy “Sach” Jones; Mr. Hilltop; Captain Flash; and Baron Samedi.

THE BLACK HOLE stars Hauptmann (Capt.) Stransky; Norman Bates; Max Cherry; Robin Lee Graham; Weena; Dirty Lyle; and the voices of Cornelius and Maj. ‘King’ Kong.