The Princess and the Frog (2009) – 6/10 Animated Supernatural Fantasy Disney movie review

Cast / crew
Director: John Musker
Director: Ron Clements
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
Executive Producer: John Lasseter
Writer (Story): Ron Clements
Writer (Story): John Musker
Writer (Story): Greg Erb
Writer (Story): Jason Oremland
Writer (Screenplay): Ron Clements
Writer (Screenplay): John Musker
Writer (Screenplay): Rob Edwards
Writer (Story Inspiration) "The Frog Princess": E.D. Baker
Anika Noni Rose: Tiana
Bruno Campos: Prince Naveen
Keith David: Dr. Facilier
Michael-Leon Wooley: Louis
Jennifer Cody: Charlotte
Don Hall: Darnell

Princess and The Frog, The (2009)

Tiana, a New Orleans waitress with dreams of owning a jazz club / restaurant, finds herself face-to-face with a frog who asks her to kiss him in order to turn him back into a Prince. Realising that making out with animals is an occupational hazard for animated heroines, she kisses the frog then discovers that it’s going to take more than breath mints and feigned drunken ignorance to sort out the aftermath of this one.

6/10

If you can take the songs out of the movie without it being jarring, then it tells you that the structure of your movie is all wrong. Randy Newman’s songs are pretty good; they’re just not needed and they usually tell us something after it’s already happened. Compared to the genius of the Menken / Ashman movies, you wonder whether directors Ron Clements and John Musker learned anything from working with them. The animation is great though it does fall into the contemporary trap of making characters move unnaturally quickly. The Prince, Tiana and Charlotte all work well but the side characters intrude and don’t convince and feel like toy-making opportunities and you might want to kill yourself before the horrific closing credits song kicks in. Still, respect for making the blond bimbo princess unexpectedly generous and unselfish and let’s welcome the return of physically-produced animation at Disney.

This movie contains supernatural horror scenes.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998, Disney DVD Movie) – 5/10 review

Director: Darrell Rooney
Co-Director: Rob LaDuca

Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, The (1998)

Now king of Pride Rock, Simba has to deal with the exiled Scar supporters who still threaten Simba’s personal circle of life.

5/10

If the original Lion King was Hamlet, this direct-to-video sequel is Romeo and Juliet. In a break from musical sequel tradition the new original songs are generally rather good with the best being the brilliant He Lives In You (the only one from the original film composer Hans Zimmer). Sadly these are wasted because the rest of the movie is often as average as expected and more often completely mistaken in concept. The main single problem is the script which replays lines and scenes from the original with no interpretation, imagination, wit or style and only succeeds in weakening this movie.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

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The Lion King (1994) – 8/10 Disney movie review

Director: Roger Allers
Director: Rob Minkoff
Producer: Don Hahn
Writer (Screenplay): Irene Mecchi
Writer (Screenplay): Jonathan Roberts
Writer (Screenplay): Linda Woolverton
Composer (Songs): Tim Rice
Composer (Songs): Elton John
Music Composer: Hans Zimmer
Executive Producer: Thomas Schumacher
Executive Producer: Sarah McArthur
Jonathan Taylor Thomas: Voice: Young Simba
Supervising Animator Young Simba: Mark Henn
Matthew Broderick: Voice: Adult Simba
Supervising Animator Adult Simba: Ruben A. Aquino
James Earl Jones: Voice: Mufasa
Supervising Animator Mufasa: Tony Fucile
Jeremy Irons: Voice: Scar
Supervising Animator Scar: Andreas Dejá

Lion King, The (1994)

When Simba, the future lion king, causes his father’s death he, full of remorse and guilt, flees the scene leaving evil Uncle Scar to assume the throne. Little does he know that Scar actually planned his father’s death and that his lands have now become desolate and wasted. Urged by a collection of friends, Simba recollects his pride (pun not intended!) and remembers his responsibility to take his place in the circle of life.

Note: re-released in 2003, remastered in IMAX format with the song “Morning Report” added.

8/10

Disney film which suffers from some bland characters but benefits from a number of standout animated sequences and some memorable songs from Elton John. It starts great, has great bits in it and ends great.

This movie contains violence (some graphic), unpleasant and distressing scenes.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

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The film starts perfectly with one of cinemas most professional and impressive openings. The lack of character is noticeable for a short period thereafter thanks to some poor one-liners but the film makes up for this with some tremendous sequences. The most memorable is probably the wildebeest stampede which brilliantly uses top computer animation. The ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ sequence is also brilliant though the animation suffers a little from being photographed too close. The ‘Remember’ sequence manages to do the impossible, make James Earl Jones voice even deeper, more booming and more resounding. The final fight sequence is superbly animated, skilfully choreographed and the visual effects are very neat. The poor characters are, sadly, the main characters. Simba and Nala are both very bland and very weak and it is left to a menagerie of supporting characters to take the weight of interest. Timon and Pumbaa are superb, the three hyenas are pretty good and the monkey is great but it should be a criminal offence not to exploit the sensational comic genius of Rowan Atkinson. He is given a whole number of weak lines punctuated by one or two good ones and it is to his credit that his character, Zazu, is not truly unfunny.

The music is outstanding, Elton John’s songs are very catchy and used brilliantly. The best used is ‘Circle of Life’ which opens and closes the film to stunning effect. Elton John was, apparently, a little unhappy with how Disney proposed to use ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ but upon seeing the final version in the film he changed his mind. Musically, it is one of the film’s best momemts. Hans Zimmer complements and uses John’s tunes very well indeed and, while I do not feel he supplies a particularly unique score, it works really well throughout and is probably the single biggest contributor to the emotional impact of the movie.

The animation is generally good, much better than anything from any other studio at the time, but still not up to the standard of Disney’s efforts up to and including 1959’s Sleeping Beauty. Also, despite extensive live-action study, the animals do not always move convincingly, the character animation in the earlier classic The Jungle Book is far better (and it’s rather obvious to animation fans where it was traced for Scar). Moving the lions faces in three dimensions also clearly posed a challenge as facial features (Mufasa’s especially) some distort when they turn their head. As an amusing aside and as noted on the television sitcom Third Rock from the Sun the plot is very similar to Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

All these points, however, do not detract from the sheer entertainment value on offer. This film is a masterful manipulator of emotion with several tear-welling scenes, several funny bits and, unusually for an animated movie, several genuinely exciting sequences. As far as entertainment goes, this is one of Disney’s finest ever efforts and was rewarded by taking over 101 Dalmations (!) crown as the most successful Disney movie ever. It also became one of the most successful movies released ever and, for several years, resided in the top five all-time highest grossing films. In 2003 it was replaced by Finding Nemo as the highest grossing animated film in history.

Pinocchio (1940, Commentary) – 7/10 review

Leonard Maltin
Eric Goldberg
J.G. Kaufman

Pinocchio (1940)

Blu-ray: a three-person commentary with interview, archive and concept materials overlaid on screen.

7/10

The biggest problem with doing a commentary for Pinocchio is that the film is too good; you simply can’t pay attention to the commentary because the movie, even when it’s being spoken over and hidden behind information windows, keeps dragging you into it and enveloping you. There’s enough information and insight for the commentary to be consistently interesting – especially from Eric Goldberg – and the concept art and overlaid interview footage is the best way of seeing. Perhaps the most amazing reveal was that the movie was done in just over two years, as opposed to four years for Snow White and most modern animations.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Pinocchio (1940, Animated Disney) – 10/10 movie review

Producer (Presents credit): Walt Disney
Writer (Original Story): Collodi
Supervising Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Supervising Director: Hamilton Luske
Composer: Leigh Harline
Composer: Ned Washington
Composer: Paul Smith

Pinocchio (1940)

When toy maker Gepetto ‘wishes upon a star’ for a real boy, he is delighted when the Blue Fairy comes down and grants his wish making his latest creation Pinocchio come alive. Appointed Jiminy Cricket as his conscience, the live puppet is informed that he needs to prove himself brave, true & unselfish in order to become a real boy. Of course, events conspire against him resulting in him being sent to Pleasure Isle to make a jackass out of himself while Gepetto is swallowed by Monstro, a huge whale, in his fruitless search for his lost Pinocchio . Will Pinocchio ever be able to become a real boy?

10/10

This is the greatest animated film ever made and one of the all-time classic motion pictures. Pinocchio is an amazingly animated film with every sequence worthy of the endless lauding and studying since. Story telling through animation has never been done better and the plot is interesting, valuable, surprising and even frightening. Memorable music, classic characters, breath-taking animation and crisp direction make this film one of the greatest ever made. Always moving, this film rubber stamps memorable images on your mind. For example, the nose growing when Pinnochio tells a lie (remarkably, it only happens once) or the bad boys turning into jack-asses. Endlessly stunning.

This movie contains some scary scenes and extreme violence.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Brother Bear (2003, Commentary) – 9/10 review

Rick Moranis: Rutt
Dave Thomas: Tuke

Brother Bear (2003)

DVD: Rutt and Tuke provide commentary for the Brother Bear movie discussing their roles and techniques and giving insight into the production.

9/10

Besting the movie (6/10) by some considerable distance, this is one of the best home video commentaries available. It’s also highly unusual as it’s performed in character by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as the comic relief moose Rutt and Tuke. It’s always fun, surprisingly educational regarding filmmaking technique and highlights the key story beats and the nature of their presentation. A bit of a treat.

This movie contains violence, unpleasant scenes and the bears aren’t wearing any clothes.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Brother Bear (2003, Disney Movie) – 6/10 review

Director: Aaron Blaise
Director: Robert Walker
Writer (Screenplay): Tab Murphy
Writer (Screenplay): Lorne Cameron
Writer (Screenplay): David Hoselton
Writer (Screenplay): Steve Bencich
Writer (Screenplay): Ron Friedman
Composer (Songs): Phil Collins
Supervising Animator Kenai – Bear: Byron Howard
Joaquin Phoenix: Kenai – Bear
Supervising Animator Koda: Alexander S. Kupershmidt
Jeremy Suarez: Koda
Supervising Animator Denahi: Ruben A. Aquino
Jason Raize: Denahi
Supervising Animator Kenai – Human: James Young Jackson
Joaquin Phoenix: Kenai – Human

Brother Bear (2003)

Kenai seeks to avenge the death of his older brother by killing the bear responsible. However, his older brother, now a spirit, seeks to teach his impetuous and selfish younger brother a lesson and, obviously, changes him into a bear.

6/10

Tedious talking sections undermine what should have been a largely ‘silent’ / song-based film; the same mistake they made with the rather more ambitious Dinosaur. That said, the comedy bits generally work and, in the end, it produces the requisite emotions. Phil Collins’ songs and score (co-written with Mark Mancina as with the outstanding Tarzan) are fine but the animation is distinctly below par for a premium Disney release. The CG and backgrounds are animated fluidly but the main characters appear to be done at rather less than the full 24-frames-per-second. So, almost despite itself, an above-average six. Especially, if you listen to the highly entertaining audio commentary by the moose brothers. Yep.

This movie contains violence, unpleasant scenes and the bears aren’t wearing any clothes.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.