Barnyard

Otis the cow in Barnyard

 

 

Otis, the barnyard bull, has udders. Because, kids, that’s what bulls have, isn’t it?

Voiced by Kevin James, and with a first name that is generally appended to a male, it’s clear that either Otis is a transgender animal or cowardice has taken hold somewhere at the design stage in the latest animal CG comedy off the conveyor belt.

This “me too” effort from Paramount also has a plot that seems determined to fit in, not stand out, it being a recycling of The Lion King.

Growing a pair, ironically, is what it’s about too. Otis is the young motorbiking cowlet (I’d call him a bullock but he clearly isn’t) about town who has to learn how to take over from his dad, king of the barnyard, after dad dies bravely defending the homestead. Until then, Otis has been a free spirit, living a dudeish lifestyle (Kevin James a good choice here). But suddenly he has to man up – with great udders comes great responsibility and all that.

Seemingly designed for dim rednecks and terrified of upsetting anyone at all, Barnyard comes with the sort of bright, technically accomplished animation that only a couple of years ago would have looked exceptional. Buried behind the sort of prissiness that once drove Victorians to cover up table legs. there is some fun intelligence – the underused Jersey Cows with New Jersey accents, the zippy music and the pantomime sense of knockabout. And the voice cast is pretty good too. As well as James, there’s Courteney Cox as the heifer Otis has an eye on, plus Sam Elliott and Danny Glover.

But the Udders Issue isn’t the only conceptual problem with the film. There’s the fact that all the animals walk on their hind legs – if you’re going to go that far in humanising your beasts, why not go the whole, er, hog. And not a cow, hen or pig seems destined for the table – when Otis’s dad dies, he is buried six feet under, with a headstone, not chargrilled and served with mustard.

But it’s just for fun, I hear director Steve Oedekerk cry. Yes, but whose fun? The target age here seems to veer wildly from five to nine, to 15 to 27. But no matter how young or stupid the viewer, the film’s message – if only all the different animals could band together – is likely to be seen as bogus, only outdone for sheer lameness by the regular dumps of sentimentality. Yuk.

 

Barnyard – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Feet

Mumble the penguin leaps for joy in Happy Feet

 

 

A CGI animation featuring penguins which comes along in the wake of March of the Penguins, so it’s probably pushing at an open door. And unlike a lot of animated films about animals, this one sets its stall out really quickly. Emperor penguins, it seems, all have a special song that they use in courtship. Except for one, the hero of our fable, called Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood), who has “happy feet” instead – he’s got the sort of dance moves you might expect from Sammy Davis Jr. His mum thinks it’s cute, his dad thinks it’s suspect whereas the stern community Elder, Noah (voice: Hugo Weaving), takes the view that it’s Mumble’s difference that has caused fish stocks to dwindle – and so banishes him. And off the sorry little fellow hops, eventually taking up with another band of penguins, with Mexican (surely not) accents, who see Mumble for what he is, rather than what he isn’t. He’s different, get over it – the entire thrust of the film. This message is stated, rather than insisted upon, this understatement matching the eco-message, which is simply delivered rather than hammered home. The voice talent is strong – Nicole Kidman all breath as Norma Jean, the mother of Mumble who fell for his dad, Memphis (voiced by Hugh Jackman with Elvis “uh-huh”) after he sang her Heartbreak Hotel. Robin Williams sets hyperactivity on fire in two roles, plus narrator (agnostics might find this an overload), while Brittany Murphy voices Gloria, the girl penguin too spooked by Mumble’s difference to find him attractive. But she’ll get over it, won’t she?

It’s a fast-moving package of song and dance aimed as much at the mums and dads (Earth, Wind and Fire, Beach Boys, Queen, Gypsy Kings on the soundtrack) as the kids (Pink, TLC, Gia Farrell) and at first it looks like a surprising change of direction for director George Miller, though if the Mad Max films weren’t energetic pop videos in look and choreography, then what were they? And he directed Babe too, let’s not forget.

Most of all though, amid the punchily delivered song chosen for their hooky tunefulness, and the wisecracks and pop-culture references, this is first and foremost a really well animated film, with some real standout sequences, such as one where the near-anatomically correct penguins swim underwater in what looks like ballet, synchronised swimming and Busby Berkeley all combined.

Happy Feet does have its periodic attacks of the cutes, but it’s so tightly packed and freshly executed that you might not notice.

 

Happy Feet – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

 

 

 

 

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flushed Away

Roddy the Rat holds on tight in Flushed Away

 

 

Aardman, the animation house that gave us Wallace and Gromit, announced the ending of their collaboration with DreamWorks (Shrek) just as Flushed Away was released. And watching it, you can understand why. High on sentimentality and laden with backstory, it’s a DreamWorks movie with Aardman touches, rather than what Aardman probably hoped for – an Aardman movie with DreamWorks muscle behind it. A good movie that could have been a great one, in other words, though the good stuff makes it worthwhile. The over-complicated story tells the tale of Roddy St James, a privileged London pet rat (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who gets “flushed away” down the toilet and into the sewers, where he meets Rita (Kate Winslet), an attractive scavenger rat. And before you can say “mismatched buddies” or “unlikely lovers” the pair of them are being pursued by heavies (Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy) working for subterranean gangster The Toad (Ian McKellen). It’s around this point that Roddy calls for the help of his laidback French mercenary cousin Le Frog (Jean Reno) and his team of crack ninjas to help him. Was this before or after they returned to Roddy’s gilded cage in Kensington, for some time-wasting to-and-fro between Roddy, Rita and Sid (a low-rent sewer rat voiced by Shane Richie)? I don’t remember.

As with Aardman’s Chicken Run and all their Wallace and Gromit output, film parody and film reference provide texture and a little something for adults to enjoy. And as well as an eclectic, well chosen soundtrack taking in Billy Idol, Elgar and Tom Jones, it’s got a perky script with salty highs – “I’ve got a bum like a Japanese flag” someone says at one point – which seems to have survived the rewrites that Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’s original draft went through, presumably to inject the sort of brassy heroism and “follow your dream” ethos that Clement and La Frenais have not built a career on.

The stop-motion claymation is out too, replaced by bright, clean CG, that does pay lip service to the quirkiness of the original, and doesn’t disgrace itself in its big set pieces, particularly the finale when the final of the World Cup between England and Germany (another plot strand) threatens to wipe out all life in the sewers.

Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman do what they can with characters that aren’t all that memorable, symptomatic of the film itself – it’s minor characters such as McKellen’s Toad and Reno’s Frog who delight, vocal asides that amuse, throwaway details that enthral. When the best of Aardman is allowed to come through, in other words.

 

Flushed Away – Buy it/watch it at Amazon

 

 

 

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

 

 

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

6 August

 

US drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima, 1945

On this day in 1945, about ten days after the US, UK and USSR had threatened Japan with “prompt and utter destruction”, an American B-29 bomber, Enola Gay, dropped the nuclear bomb “Little Boy” on the port of Hiroshima in Japan. The bomb killed around 80,000 people immediately and a further 10,000-60,000 in the following months, through injury and radiation sickness. It destroyed around 70% of the city’s buildings. Three days later another bomb, “Fat Man”, was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, causing an instant 22,000 to 75,000 deaths. Six days after that Japan surrendered. The Second World War was over.

 

 

 

Grave of the Fireflies (1988, dir: Isao Takahata)

Animation is for kids, right? Not in Grave of the Fireflies it isn’t. Directed by Isao Takahata, it tells the story of the dog days of the Second World War from the viewpoint of two children who live in the port city of Kobe. Their fate is not to be caught up in the nuclear blasts that brought the war to an end. Instead they’re victims of one of the carpet-bombings of cities that preceded them, which produced firestorms that turned everything to cinder. Seita is a teenager and his young sister, Setsuko, is about five years old, and in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, which they have somehow survived, their first concern is what to do with their mother, who is covered in burns and in an emergency hospital. Nothing, is the answer, they can do nothing. So they head off to the home of an aunt, who is far from happy to see them and reluctant to feed them. After some weeks, the increasingly-starving Seita and Setsuko leave her house and head for the hills. What happens next we already know much of – because one of the opening shots of the film is of Seita lying dead, the entire story being relayed by his spirit in flashback. The original novel, by Nosaka Akiyuki, was based on his own experience of the carpet-bombings, when his own sister died of starvation, so there’s a strongly autobiographical element, as well as a determination not to yield to melodrama – here, the facts are strong enough. And the decision to animate has some relevance here too, universalising the characters to a great degree; though Akiyuki’s story is his own, more or less, there must have been many many more children in towns in Japan, and in wars before and since, who have been thrown into the simple struggle for survival – find somewhere safe to sleep, water to drink, food to eat. The animation isn’t a Pixar-style struggle towards a glossy realism, it’s flat, matte and stylised, clearly Japanese, the kid’s big saucer eye owing a lot to anime.
Takahata worked alongside the legendary Hayao Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli and is as aware of the power of the very simple moment to enthral and delight. He even has time for poetry in among some of the most harrowing scenes you’re ever likely to encounter in an animated film: the fireflies of the title dancing for Setsuko and Seita one evening delivering a moment of joy and optimism that’s short-lived.
But don’t get your hopes up about the future of these two unfortunates. They’re only drawings. The film, on the other hand, is surprisingly real.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • One of the best animated films ever made
  • Deals brilliantly with the aftermath of war
  • An outstanding example of great Studio Ghibli work
  • A reminder that the end of the war in Japan was about more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Grave of the Fireflies – Watch it now at Amazon

 

 

 

 

How to Train Your Dragon

Hiccup rides Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

8 March

 

Raymonde de Laroche is first woman with a pilot’s licence, 1910

On this day in 1910, Raymonde de Laroche became the first woman in the world to receive a pilot’s licence. The Wright brothers had only invented the heavier than air machine seven years earlier, and Louis Blériot had flown the 21 miles across the English Channel, thus proving that long-distance flight was possible, only the year before. De Laroche had learnt to fly after visiting the factory of the Voisin brothers, who manufactured planes in their factory in Chalons, France, in October 1909, where by force of character and a little chicanery she persuaded them to teach her. The following March she was issued with pilot’s licence number 36 by the Aero-Club of France. In July 1910 her plane crashed at a display of flying and she was severely injured. After two years of convalescence she recovered and resumed flying. In 1912 she and Charles Voisin were involved in a car crash, which killed Voisin. Denied the chance to fly in the First World War, she spent the years in service as a military driver. She herself died in 1919 while in training to become a test pilot, after the plane she was in nose-dived into the ground. Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is held around 8 March every year, in her honour.

 

 

 

How to Train Your Dragon (2010, dir: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders)

This CG animation is about a pasty young Viking who just wants to be to be one of the guys – in spite of the fact that he patently isn’t. Our guy is called Hiccup and his life is changed, as is the film, when he finds himself in a Daniel-in-the-lion’s-den situation – finds wounded dragon, frees wounded dragon. The dragon, believe it, is just a big softie who loves having his tummy tickled, is a misunderstood beast, in other words, and Hiccup and the winged creature are soon firm friends, Hiccup feeding Toothless fish. But, guess what, Hiccup’s mother and father, all Vikings in fact, want all dragons dead. Uh oh. If this sounds like the sort of film that makes you want to spew, that’s exactly how I felt about it at the start too. It had all the signs of the “be yourself” movie that Hollywood churns out with such regularity that you can’t help feel that they’re protesting too much. It also tries to post a metrosexual 21st century character back into the Viking era, rather than present us with a film about Vikings, and how different they are from us (which would be really interesting). And in addition it features a carnivorous dragon being fed on fish when what he probably wants is a chicken or goat – no animals, not even an animated one, was harmed in the making of this film etc etc. And yet there’s a reason why it’s spawned two sequels (so far). Two reasons, in fact. The first is the awesome flying sequences, clearly storyboarded and masterminded by somebody with a sense of the aerodynamic possibilities of dragon flight. The second is the way that animation’s powers of exaggeration and caricature are used in a way that’s refreshing these days when so many animation houses slave long into the night to make hair obey the laws of physics – so, more Bug’s Bunny than Pixar. There is a third reason, actually, and it’s the voice work by a team of famous names – Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, Gerard Butler and more – who really rise to the challenge. They actually sound like they’re having fun rather than just taking the money and running.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • The great voice talent
  • The flight sequences – in 3D if you can be bothered
  • Because the great cinematographer Roger Deakins is a visual consultant
  • So you can work out why Vikings have Scottish accents

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

How to Train Your Dragon – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

Winnie the Pooh

Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

18 January

 

 

AA Milne born, 1882

On this day in 1882, Alan Alexander Milne was born in Hampstead, London, UK.

The son of a Scottish teacher, he was educated at his father’s small public school in Kilburn, London, where one of his teachers was HG Wells. After that he attended Westminster, one of the country’s leading private schools, before going to Cambridge University on a mathematics scholarship. While there he was noticed by the humorous Punch magazine, to which he started contributing. After Cambridge he got a job at Punch and became a prolific writer, producing 18 plays and three novels.

He fought in the First World War, and after it, in 1920, his son, Christopher Robin, was born. In 1924 he published When We Were Very Young, a collection of children’s poems illustrated by Punch’s EH Shepard, and started on the series of short stories that would become the Winnie the Pooh books.

Though he also wrote at least four screenplays in the 1920s, it was the books he wrote for his son that have endured. Named Winnie the Pooh after a Canadian black bear named Winnie (shortened from Winnipeg) a military mascot left to London Zoo after the First World War was over, the visual inspiration for the bear in the books actually came from illustrator EH Shepard’s son’s teddy bear, named Growler.

Most of the rest of the animals – Kanga, Tigger, Roo and Piglet – were modelled on Christopher Robin’s own stuffed animals (which still exist). A few others (Owl, Rabbit) were dreamt up by Milne himself. Pooh first appeared by name in a short story called The Wrong Sort of Bees, in the London Evening News, on Christmas Eve 1925.

A versatile writer who enjoyed turning his hand to stage work, journalism, screenplays, detective stories, AA Milne was slightly put out by the success of his children’s books (Winnie the Pooh, 1926; The House at Pooh Corner, 1928; Now We Are Six, 1927).

In later life Milne found he could barely get any interest at all in any work he wrote unless it was aimed at children. In 2011 Forbes magazine ranked Winnie the Pooh the second most valuable character in terms of merchandising – second only to Mickey Mouse. And gaining.

 

 

 

Winnie the Pooh (2011, dir: Stephen J Anderson, Don Hall)

Not the first Pooh animated feature by a long stretch, this Winnie the Pooh is distinctive because it’s the first film made by Disney since they bought out all the other rights holders to Winnie the Pooh in 2001, for $350m.

Hence, possibly, the simple “it all starts here” title.

And in spite of misgivings by Anglophiles, Milne maniacs and Pooh lovers, it’s a sweet and short adventure, much as Milne might have liked.

A conflation of several Pooh stories, it majors on the loss of Eeyore’s tail and the contest held by his friends to find him a new one. This choice must also warrant a tick from the traditionalists, because if there’s anything that can be guaranteed to dampen the helium optimism of Disney, it’s a touch of Eeyore miserablism.

Talking of voices, Jim Cummings is handling Pooh, as he has done for years, and if he’s a touch midwestern for some tastes, he’s such a likeable dimwitted Pooh, so wheezy and galumphing, that it’s doubtful any except the most autistic conservative will object.

The same holds true for the animation – yes, it shades just a touch towards Disney but it is only a touch. The opposite is true of the songs – some of them might make you pine for the uppity-tuppity-tup of Disney legends the Sherman brothers, who wrote only the theme song.

These are only niggles though, because on the whole this is a charming and intelligent tale, a reminder that Disney can still produce simple, excellent animation with a voice cast chosen for what they do, rather than their famous name, exceptions John Cleese (the narrator) and Craig Ferguson (Owl), taking their cues admirably from their more professional, less well known fellow voice artists.

With some clever interplay between the film and the book Cleese is meant to be reading from, to reassure parents who worry if their child is going to pick up the book habit, this film bounces along with a Tiggerish energy and does not outstay its welcome. If you’re five, externally or internally, it’ll probably hit the spot.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Bright, fun, kiddie-centric yet intelligent
  • Lots of awards recognition from film critics societies
  • The song So Long is written and performed by Zooey Deschanel
  • Hand animated – rare these days

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Winnie the Pooh – at Amazon

I am an Amazon affiliate

 

 

 

South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut

Saddam Hussein and Satan get cosy in South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

2 November

 

 

Lady Chatterley Trial verdict, 1960

On this day in 1960, a jury in the trial of Regina versus Penguin Books found the UK publisher not guilt of obscenity. The trial against DH Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was brought under the provision of the Obscene Publications Act, which had only come into force the previous year and was intended to more clearly mark off pornography from works of artistic and scientific merit. And so the trial hinged on whether Lawrence’s 1928 novel did indeed possess artistic merit, or whether its litany of rude words and rude acts would tend to “deprave or corrupt”. The defence called 35 witnesses, who ranged from the academic Richard Hoggart, to the cleric the Bishop of Woolwich, to the politician Roy Jenkins, the writers Cecil Day-Lewis (father of Daniel) and EM Forster and the film critic Dilys Powell. The prosecution called no witnesses, instead relying on the advocacy of Mervyn Griffith-Jones who had in his opening remarks let the cat out of the bag with his much-reported rhetorical questions to the jury – “Is it [Lady Chatterley’s Lover] a book you would have lying around your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?” In the event the jury decided that they were quite happy with their servants reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover and found the book not guilty of obscenity. A similar verdict had been reached in the USA the year before. It was another victory in the fight against state censorship and a key moment in the creation of what became known as the Permissive Society.

 

 

South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999, dir: Trey Parker)

South Park’s feature-length one-fingered salute to ultra-conservatism takes on the forces of censorship with a ridiculous story about parents so outraged that their precious children have seen a vulgar R-rated film by fart-gagsters Terrance and Phillip that they lobby the US government to declare war on Canada, the anally fixated duo’s home country. What is the correct response to violence and obscenity is clearly the debate that Trey Parker and co-writer Matt Stone are hashing out in the most profane of ways, with words to match the crudity of their animation, and 2D images that, once seen, will remain seared on the memory – Satan and Saddam Hussein’s sex scenes, anybody? Satire is the intention, and Stone and Parker deliver it as if via fire hose. But satire can be a high-fibre meal of worthiness, so Stone and Parker inject as much childish humour as they can, no holes barred. And songs, let’s not forget the songs, which chuck a grenade at Disney wholesomeness, the winsomeness of Mariah Carey at her most inspirational, the gruesomeness of tuneless Broadway songs at their most expositional. It was released in the US just as the MPAA were having one of their periodic attacks of the vapours and its R rating came with the qualifications – “for pervasive vulgar language and crude sexual humor”. You will laugh, sometimes in spite of yourself, because whatever else South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut is, it’s very very funny.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Guinness World Records holder of the most profanity in any animated film
  • Jesus in a fight with Santa Claus
  • See Kenny without his hood on
  • Guest voices include George Clooney, Eric Idle, Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran) and Stewart Copeland (The Police)

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

Renaissance

Barthélémy Karas, as voiced by Daniel Craig, in the Anglophone version of Renaissance

 

 

 

Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack and Jonathan Pryce? That’s quite a cast and it’s just for starters. And for a French anime-style sci-fi too, the “French” bit being the clue that the names are actually here to revoice Gallic product for Anglophone consumption. What they’re lending their voices to looks interesting though, a futuristic story about a kidnapped geneticist (Garai) who turns out to have the key to immortality. The USP of Renaissance is its look – the actors have all been motion-captured, then converted to the harshest black and white renditions of themselves.

This is unusual though hardly revolutionary: as a technique it can be traced back to Walt Disney’s Snow White, at least, and that was the 1930s. But whereas Disney used motion capture to render colour, nuance, shadow, movement, director Christian Volckman’s decision to go chiaroscuro robs his film of visual subtlety, background detail and even deprives the film of the expression on the actors’ faces – which is about 90 per cent of the reason for booking them in the first place, surely (this is not the place to discuss the hiring of “names” as voice talent in modern Disney productions, apart from to say it’s dubious).

I’m not denying the initial power of this visual look – for its opening sequences, up on the big screen, it is breathtaking to look at, to gaze upon, as Sin City was. But, as with Sin City, the look soon starts to feel like a gimmick. As for the screenplay – it is as flat as Tuesday in February, a collection of tough-guy clichés wrapped around a handful of scenes of gunplay, carplay, even foreplay (don’t get too excited). The idea is a graphic novel treatment of a film noir idea, Volckman and crew having made the mistake of thinking that noir – visually, morally – is all about the black and white whereas the good ones at least are really much more interested in what lies between.

 

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

Renaissance – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

Cars

Lightning McQueen in Cars

 

 

Have the wheels come off at Pixar? Mawkishness now seems to have replaced energy and invention at the studio that… no hang on, this is the studio that once gave us Toy Story. Let’s not get carried away. But if Pixar have been known for anything it’s their ability to run sentiment and energy on a twin track, the result being a film with heart and drive. The plot of Cars suggests they’ve forgotten how to do this – we’re on the case of a self-centred hotshot racing car (voice: Owen Wilson) who loses his way and gets stuck in Radiator Springs, a small town where the good locals (all of whom are cars) teach him to love others and himself. Then, spiritually refreshed, he goes off and becomes a champ. Because that’s how champs are made, right?

I can’t believe that Pixar set out to make a film with something missing, but bizarrely that’s the theme of Cars too – our champ has lost his soul, he winds up in a town that’s lost its reason for existence (since it was bypassed by Route 66), where he finds a whole bunch of vintage vehicles (old tow truck, old VW Beetle, old Jeep and so on) who are all missing their youth.

Let’s not be too gloomy. The animation in Cars is quite amazing, the racing scenes show how far Pixar have come since they started making little films purely to demo software and there’s a glorious use of colour – reds in particular seem to bounce off the screen. Kids probably won’t care that it’s Paul Newman voicing veteran race car Doc Hudson, and they probably won’t be looking out for John Ratzenberger’s bits (he’s been in all the Pixars to date, I believe) or the tiny cameos by the voices of Michael Schumacher and Mario Andretti. But these little nuggets might keep their parents from checking their watch too often in a film that has the looks, the technique but seems to prefer preaching to storytelling.

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

 

Cars – at Amazon

 

 

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White sings to the bluebird in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

 

 

David Hand? Look at the credits and you’ll see the name down as the director, one among quite a few, depending on where you’re looking. Such is the grip of the “director as auteur” notion on modern thinking that everyone – from the IMDB down – feels obliged to list the director first, as if theirs were always the guiding hand.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that Snow White is a Walt Disney film. He might not have directed any of it but he directed the people who did. And, in the days when we’re meant to marvel at the computer-generated output of Pixar and the like, how much more amazing to reflect that those people drew every one of Snow White’s 250,000 individual cels by hand. And each cel is crammed with movement. Left to right, top to bottom and even front to back (it’s all shot on a multiplane camera, which gives the illusion of depth), there are moving trees, scudding clouds, bouncing animals, dwarfs falling over each other, a dancing Snow White, a glowering queen. And it’s in slow, cumbersome but beautiful Technicolor. Snow White is a triumph of the industrial process in other words. Not only that, of course, it’s a triumph of art – Uncle Walt somehow, and this was his first attempt at making a feature-length cartoon, came up with the story-telling formula that all animations still use today, comedy sidekick animals and all. The other thing that’s notable on rewatching Snow White is how dark it is – the sequence where Snow White is running through the forest as the trees reach out to grab her is a beautifully wrought piece of nightmare expressionism. The film is one of the last hurrahs of a darker European sensibility in Disney’s work – time and again Snow White is steered away from Grimm imaginings and towards a more optimistic American look. Technically, artistically, financially, this is the film that made Disney the mega-corporation it is today. It’s never bettered it.

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – at Amazon