Ultimate Disney Tournament: The Aristocats vs. George of the Jungle

Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Movie Tournament. Sorry I haven’t posted one of these in a bit. This one took a tad more research than the others. I think it’ll pay off though. Our match-up today is between the #64 seed The Aristocats and the #193 seeded George of the Jungle. And, I feel like I might take some heat for this one. Why? You’ll just have to read on to find out…

#64 – The Aristocats (1970)

Director: Wolfgang Reitherman

Writers: Ken Anderson, Larry Clemmons, Eric Cleworth, Vance Gerry, Julius Svendsen, Frank Thomas, and Ralph Wright

Starring: Phil Harris, Eva Gabor, Hermione Baddeley, Gary Dubin, Dean Clark, Sterling Holloway, Roddy Maude-Roxby, and Liz English

Plot: A family of cats must find their way home, after a butler tries to get rid of them when he learns they are ahead of him for his boss’ inheritance.

Mini-Review: I’m not quite sure how I feel about The Aristocats. I loved it when I was a kid. However, now that I’m older, I can definitely see why this isn’t ranked super high on anyone’s list. It’s not bad. It’s just not particularly interesting either. Walt Disney died shortly after green lighting this movie and it was rewritten almost completely. There was a conscious effort to make everything cheaper and less risky. Unfortunately, it shows… like a lot. 

Even though he never really animated anything, Walt Disney was still very much the leader of the Walt Disney company. Every single interview with someone from those days I’ve seen reaffirms that he was the story guy. Walt could take pretty much any pitch and turn it into something special. So, as you can imagine, his death had a major impact on the story department. They weren’t even sure whether or not to carry on at that point. However, the director of The Aristocats, Wolfgang Reitherman, decided they had to continue. He knew though that, if the first movie to be released post-Disney were a major bomb, it would be catastrophic for the company. (No pun intended.) So, he took Walt’s original plan and trimmed it down quite a bit. Originally, the kittens were supposed to be given away to perfect homes throughout the course of the adventure back. The butler (and, at the time, maid) hunting them down was supposed to be a fun backstory. Essentially, the movie would’ve had a lot more heart to it. But, emotions are risky, so Reitherman set out to make a movie in the vein of 101 Dalmatians instead.

I don’t think Reitherman meant for it to be quite this close though. Seriously, this movie feels so much like 101 Dalmatians that I even caught on as a kid. That’s how I referred to it. It was the cat version of one of my favorite Disney movies. Two adult pets lead a group of their children back home in a major European city, with the aid of local animals of differing species, all while trying to escape the clutches of an insane person who wants the animals dead for financial reasons? If this wasn’t made by the same company as those others, someone would sue. Not to mention the similarities shared between the romances of Duchess and O’Malley and Lady and the Tramp. Then, there’s the fact that Thomas O’Malley feels very much like Baloo, even sharing a voice actor. And, Roquefort, the mouse, could’ve easily fit in with those from Cinderella. I mean, come on, guys!  I know you wanted to play it safe but Walt himself was always a risk taker. Some of his best movies were also his biggest gambles. I wish they’d have followed his lead a little more here. 

Also, I really don’t like this style of animation. The sketchbook-y, “you can still see the lines where we started drawing” look just doesn’t work for me. Famously, Walt Disney himself wasn’t a fan either. He was opposed to the idea when they used it for 101 Dalmatians. I will admit that I think it works slightly better there though. While it occasionally made me wince, I don’t remember it being as distracting as it was here. This just felt like they were trying too hard to save a buck. 

After all of that, though, I ultimately still can’t bring myself to say that I dislike The Aristocats. It’s still a lot of fun. True, there’s nothing super original here, but at least they’re reusing some of their best stuff. The plot was entertaining enough, if a little simple. I liked all of the characters. Does it really matter if Thomas O’Malley is just Baloo and Tramp mashed together if I still enjoy him? No! Or yes! I don’t know. I guess I’ll say kinda. Overall, it’s a fine movie. I enjoy watching it. It’s a simple enough treat. And, ultimately, it achieved its goal of keeping the Disney company afloat. So, that’s definitely something.

#193 – George of the Jungle (1997)

Director: Sam Weisman

Writers: Dana Olsen and Audrey Wells

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Leslie Mann, Thomas Haden Church, Holland Taylor, Richard Roundtree, and John Cleese

Plot: George, a man raised by apes, falls in love with an American woman and travels to San Francisco with her. 

Review: Well, I guess it was only a matter of time until we got to a movie I just flat out don’t like. In fact, I’m almost having a hard time coming up with things to say about Disney’s George of the Jungle. I’ll try my darndest to get my opinions out clearly though. 

While I understand that the movie was based on a cartoon and, therefore, this might be a weird complaint to have, I absolutely could not stand the manic energy this movie was feeding me. Throughout the first act, I almost thought there was no way I was going to make it through. It was nothing but a constant barrage on jokes, quick cuts, and visual gags. It makes Jim Carrey’s The Mask look subtle by comparison. And almost none of the jokes landed either. In fact, many of them were groan-inducing. It honestly felt like I was babysitting a room full of kindergarteners who had just eaten a whole carton of ice cream each and were now bouncing off the walls. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten that big of a headache from a movie. When I looked up other reviews though, they praised the sense of humor for being on par with the show. I’m not super familiar with the original cartoon, so I thought it’d only be fair to watch a few episodes. It’s great, btw. They do share similar senses of humor, but the difference is that the show lets the jokes breathe for a bit. In fact, compared to the movie, it almost feels like it’s moving along at a snail’s pace. As they say though, timing is everything in comedy. Luckily, after the movie leaves the jungle, the jokes become more spread out. They still aren’t good but at least it’s not rapid-fire anymore.

I’m also not 100% sure that George of the Jungle ever really had a fair shot with me, because, to be honest, I’m not a Brendan Fraser fan. In fact, I’d probably say that I just don’t like him as a performer. To be fair, I haven’t seen all of his movies, but I think I’ve seen enough to form an opinion. I don’t find him funny. I don’t think he’s charming. He doesn’t really fit the action guy mold for me. I don’t understand everyone’s fascination with him in the 90s. I’ve just never, ever walked away from a movie thinking he was perfect for that role. From what I’ve seen, he seems like a nice guy and, obviously, he loves classic cartoons. I’m just not a fan. I thought his performance here as George was especially bad. None of his physical comedy made me laugh. His facial expressions seemed way over the top. And his delivery never really saved any of the bad jokes. Also, why were there so many jokes about his dick? I mean… that’s not really on him per se. I’m just asking. I don’t know if anyone could’ve pulled off the part of George, but casting Fraser really didn’t work for me.

The only thing I consistently enjoyed in this movie was the breaking of the fourth wall. It’s an element that was pulled directly from the cartoon and holds up really well. Whether it’s a guide falls hundreds of feet only to walk away with a bandage on his head or the narrator arguing with the villains, it always got a chuckle out of me. This is the kind of energy I wish the whole movie had. Play it straight, except for George and the narrator. Make it almost like a Deadpool-esque Tarzan parody. I’d be down for that. Or, at least, I’d like it better than what we actually received.

Lastly, why did Disney even make this movie? They don’t own the IP. They obviously didn’t have any grand ideas for it. It doesn’t sound like a sure-fire hit. And, weirdly enough, they made a legitimate version of Tarzan TWO YEARS later. I can’t find when George of the Jungle went into production but Disney has to have been underway with Tarzan at that point. Either that or they were greenlit around the same time. Either way, why? It just doesn’t make sense to me.  But, I digress.

Overall, George of the Jungle is simply not a good movie. It’s pretty bad actually. The jokes don’t land. The story isn’t all that original. The lead character wasn’t likable. It feels dated as heck. In my opinion, this is definitely one to skip.

The Disney Smackdown

This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.

Our Heroes: In The Aristocats, it’s kind of hard to tell who the leads are. Do you give it to just the two adult cats or do you count the kittens as well? To keep things simple, I’m going to give our hero spot to both Duchess and Thomas O’Malley. Duchess is prim and proper. She loves her kids and her owner. She falls deeply for O’Malley the first time she sees him, but prioritizes getting back to her home instead. Thomas O’Malley, the alley cat, is a super cool swinger. Though, you have to give him credit. He’s a pretty great role model to the kittens as well. He could’ve easily taken off when he saw them, but he didn’t. He stuck around and even saved their tails on more than one occasion. 

In George of the Jungle, our protagonist is, well, George… of the Jungle. He’s a human but was raised by apes. So, he doesn’t understand human culture all that well. It’s funny. Also, he doesn’t really have the concept of cynicism. He constantly wants to do the right thing and assumes that everyone else does too. It’s sweet. The movie would also like me to point out that he is quite fit. That seems to be important. So, he’s funny, sweet, and has a rocking bod. Wait… is this 50 Shades all of a sudden? This movie is weird, man. 

I’ve got to give it to The Aristocats here. I don’t even really like George all that much.

Our Beloved Side Characters: The three kittens are the highlight of The Aristocats. Toulouse is adventurous and looks up to Thomas O’Malley. Marie is probably the most popular character in the movie. She tries to be prim and proper like her mom, but also likes to tumble and be rough with the boys. And, Berlioz is a quieter, more sensitive type. There’s really not a whole lot to the kittens but they are a lot of fun. Just watching them be a group of rambunctious siblings was delightful. Then, of course, there’s Scat Cat and his band of racial stereotypes. The least said about their personalities the better to be honest. Roquefort is cute with his timidness but doesn’t really have much more than that. Like I said, he’s basically a Cinderella mouse but with less personality. Napoleon and Lafayette are just there for laughs. They aren’t even really all that funny though. Apparently, the story people disagreed because there are TWO very similar scenes that take up about 25% of the runtime of this movie. The geese, Abigail, Amelia, and Uncle Waldo, were fun, though we didn’t get to spend enough time with them. And, I’ve never shipped any two Disney characters harder than I do Madame Adelaide Bonfamille and Georges Hautecourt. They are both just absolutely adorable. I could’ve used more time with them as well.

I guess the first one we’d have to talk about in George of the Jungle is the love interest, Ursula Stanhope. Throughout the movie, she learns to stand up for herself by taking what she wants, no matter what anyone else thinks. It’s weird, because, to me, she seemed pretty independent from the start. Still, that’s the arc the movie wants you to take away from her. She’s fairly likable but I think that’s due to the comedic chops of Leslie Mann more than anything else. Then, there’s Ape, the super-intelligent, talking primate who raised George. He’s honestly probably my favorite character in the whole movie. The ongoing gag where he pretends to be just a normal ape whenever Ursula is around legitimately made me smile every time. I’ve already complimented the narrator, who is the only other consistently funny character in the movie.  Then, there’s Kwame and the other tour guides. I enjoyed their banter and their willingness to take advantage of the arrogant American. So, overall, the side characters aren’t really all that bad.

Oh, and I can’t let this whole review go by without mentioning that the little monkey George has a friendship with is Annie’s Boobs from Community. I don’t know where else to put that though.

Still, I’ve got to give the win to The Aristocats. There’s a reason those kittens are featured on so much merchandise.

Villainous Villains: Edgar, of The Aristocats, simply isn’t that good of a villain to be honest. As is a theme here, he doesn’t really have much characterization. He’s not scary. He’s not funny. His plan isn’t relatable. He’s just the stupider version of Jasper and Horace with twice the screen time and half the personality. And, seriously dude, you couldn’t just watch over some cats (whom you already seem to enjoy) for a couple million dollars? Really? Super disappointing villain.

The main villain in George of the Jungle is Thomas Haden Church’s Lyle van de Groot. He plays him like he does most of his characters: arrogant, pompous, and just an all-around big jerk. He’s also kind of a wimp. You’ve seen this character before. The guy who acts all tough but isn’t prepared for what the jungle is going to throw at him? Yeah. It’s not really that clever. Likewise, we get two poachers named Max and Thor. They aren’t really that fun either, as they are just your typical buffoons. I wish we got to spend more time with Ursula’s mom, Beatrice, though. There’s nothing about her that stands out all that much except that she’s played by Holland Taylor, who also plays Lucille on Arrested Development. I always enjoy seeing her as she brings the same witchy attitude to everything she does and it makes me happy. Unfortunately, she plays a kind of big role in the middle but disappears for most of the third act. 

Honestly, I’m not too impressed with either main villain here. I guess I’ll give it to George of the Jungle though for at least featuring Lucille Bluth in a role.

Quotable Quotes: From The Aristocats: “Ladies do not start fights, but they can finish them.”

From George of the Jungle: “Madame, I knew Jane Goodall and you are no Jane Goodall.” “Poor George was really shot, but he can’t die because let’s face it, he’s the hero.” After George was told that Ursula’s mother would rather have her tongue nailed to the table every morning: “That hurt.”

While George of the Jungle had more pull worthy quotes, I think that one from The Aristocats is just too iconic. I’ve seen that on tee-shirts!

Songs to Add to Your Playlist: The Aristocats has one classic song, “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat,” and it’s an absolute banger. Of course, the one you’ll find on Spotify and the likes is severely edited in an attempt to cover up the racism. That’s fine though. It’s still an awesome song. It just might be a little short. If you’re looking for B-sides, “Scales and Arpeggios” is cute enough. Likewise, you’ll probably catch yourself humming “Thomas O’Malley Cat” when the movie is over. But neither song really compares to the song so iconic it more or less defined the movie.

You can listen to the cool, 90s version of the George of the Jungle theme song sung by The Presidents of the United States of America. And, there’s a pretty decent jungle song in the middle titled “Dela” by Johnny Clegg. And “Bombastic” by Shaggy starts playing randomly in the middle of a scene, but I don’t think that counts. What I’m trying to say is that the George of the Jungle soundtrack is very of its time. 

This point easily goes to The Aristocats as I’ve had “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” stuck in my head for days now.

Most Magical Disney Moment: The dance scene for “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” in The Aristocats is so much fun. It’s got that swinging song and killer dance moves. There’s this cool, 1960s groovy feel to the visuals as they rapidly strobe between different colors. If you ignore the fact that some of them are wildly offensive, the characters are the type you’d want to party with. And, it’s led by Scat Cat, who I just realized on this rewatch is voiced by the guy from The Shining. So, that’s fun.

I had to really stretch to find something for George of the Jungle. Ultimately, I’m going with the last thing you see on screen, Ape singing Frank Sinatra in a Las Vegas casino. It’s ridiculous, but so is the rest of the movie. Plus, it features my favorite character and shows off the rather impressive puppetry Henson Studios came up with. It’s a fun stinger on an otherwise not so fun movie.

And, apparently, a big chunk of the sequel takes place in Vegas, so I maaaaaaay just have to check that out. (Someone send help.)

Ultimately, it’s gotta be The Aristocats. I mean… I couldn’t honestly give it to a primate singing Sinatra, could I? (I totally would have.)

Legacies: Overall, the legacy for The Aristocats isn’t bad. It currently has a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes and a comparable 7.1 on IMDB. It finished it’s theatrical run at #5 in the 1970 box office. There was a sequel, but it was scrapped when John Lasseter took over as head creative officer for Disney. Around the same time, plans for a tv show were also scrapped. The three kittens can be met at some of the international Disney Parks but are super rare to non-existent in the U.S. Likewise, the film is represented in only Hong Kong and Tokyo’s versions of It’s a Small World with Marie making an appearance in the French section. But, perhaps most importantly, The Aristocats kept Disney animation alive after Walt’s passing. It’s financial and critical success renewed faith and confidence in the company going forward. Without The Aristocats, who knows where Disney would be today. So, even if I’m not the biggest fan, I have to give it props.

Ultimately, I would say that George of the Jungle didn’t leave much of a mark on Disney. It received a way too high 57% on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 5.4 on IMDB. It was the tenth highest-grossing movie of 1997, beating out Disney’s Hercules. There was a direct-to-video sequel made in 2003 that featured Thomas Haden Church, John Cleese, and no other original cast members. The movie is not currently represented in the Disney Parks or, honestly, talked about by the company at all. So, it’s more or less a movie that came out, made a lot of money, then disappeared forever.

Is it really a surprise that I’m giving the legacy point to The Aristocats? I would hope not.

AND THE WINNER IS…

THE ARISTOCATS

To point this one in sports terms, it was a low scoring match, but the favorite still ultimately won out. In order to beat a Disney Animated Classic, you have to really bring the heat. George of the Jungle definitely didn’t.

So, congratulations, Duchess, Thomas O’Malley, and the kittens! We will see you in the next round.

Thank you all for joining me for this match-up. It was cool to revisit two films I haven’t seen in at least a decade. Sorry it took so long. I really dug deep into the history of The Aristocats and watched a few episodes of George of the Jungle for comparison. The next one shouldn’t take as much research. Speaking of which, it’ll be another wartime, animated feature, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, vs. one of the earliest live action pictures, Johnny Tremain. So, lots of good old fashioned Americana. Who will win? You’ll have to check back here in a couple of days!

See you then!

Ultimate Disney Tournament: Escape to Witch Mountain vs. Make Mine Music

Hiya folks. We’re chugging right along here into the second match of Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament. I’m figuring out that this is going to be a very, very long process as it requires a decent amount of work, but I’m enjoying myself and I hope you guys are too. Our matchup today is the #128 seed Escape to Witch Mountain vs. the #129 seed Make Mine Music. Boy, is this a weird one! Both of these movies are unique in the Disney canon, that’s for sure. They’re also two firsts to this bracket. We’ve got our first live action movie and our first from the actual Disney Disney Disney canon. And, yes, I did said Disney three times on purpose. Once for the company as a whole. Once for the actual Disney movies. And then once more for the animated classics most people think of when the name comes up. So, it’s a Disney cubed movie. Heck. I’d even make the argument that it’s Disney squared having been actually produced by Walt himself. Sorry. I’m getting off topic. Anyways, who will win out? Which one’s weirdness shines brighter?

#128 – Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

Director: John Hough

Writer: Robert M. Young

Starring: Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasence, Kim Richards, and Ike Eisenmann

Plot: Two siblings with strange powers run away from a millionaire who is trying to exploit them.

Mini-Review: This one is strange, man. I casually brought up the fact that I’d watched Escape to Witch Mountain to a couple of family members and their reactions were very telling. They all did a weird chuckle, then reminisced about how “creepy” it was. It’s hard to argue with them. Compared to most Disney movies, there is a weird horror film feel to this. Of course, the content itself isn’t really all that frightening, but it’s hard not to think of Carrie when you see adolescent kids in the 1970s performing telekinesis. I’m sure the fact that one of them constantly has flashbacks to a tragic accident in their past where a family member may or may not have died didn’t help either. As an adult, I just saw this as a fun family flick that was unintentionally a bit on the scary side. I’m sure children, especially those at just the right age in the 1970s, took it as a much more frightening venture.

Even without the creep factor, this is still waaaaaay darker than anything Disney would do today. There’s just a ton of “almost violence.” We see a town of hillbillies convinced that the children are witches that they need to hunt down. Like, literally, they are chasing the kids around with guns. The kids also hold a villain up at gunpoint, even cocking it as it’s pointed at his head. They turn a pack of attack dogs on people. Heck, there’s even a scene where they mind control a bear to scare off the hunters. And all of this in a G-Rated Disney film. The 70s were a different time, y’all.

So, other than the creepiness, is there anything worth checking out here? It really depends. If you readjust your expectations and put yourself into the mindset of a young kid in the 70s, the plot can be interesting. By today’s standards though, they really don’t explain enough until the twist at the very end. You kind of just have to go along for the ride. I’m not even sure how well known the twist is. That’s why I’m not talking about it much. Though, I do feel like the movie would be improved by putting it more towards the beginning. We’d feel for the characters on a deeper level. Also, I kinda felt like the movie ran out of steam a bit in the end. The plot is more or less just one long chase. I felt my patience being tested as we watched the kids get captured, then escape, then captured again, over and over and over. From my experience though, that’s just the science fiction genre pre-Star Wars. It was a lot of slow paced, but still interesting, adventure movies. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad. Like I said, you just have to adjust your standards.

Lastly, I was going to compliment how well the special effects held up here, because the first couple of instances of the kids using their powers were super impressive. However, that statement doesn’t really ring true when you get to the second half of the movie. The kids make a couple of thing, including their RV, fly and let’s just say that it looks laughably bad by today’s standards. Though, again, I’d argue in a cool retro kind of way. It’s hard to believe this was only a few short years before Star Wars and Superman. 

Overall, I’d say that the entertainment value of Escape to Witch Mountain is going to vary greatly from person to person. If you’re into the idea of a relatively slow paced, cheesy kids science fiction movie from the 1970s that has just a pinch of creepiness, I think you’ll enjoy it. If that doesn’t sound like it’s, I can promise you that it’s not going to win you over. Personally, I was into it. I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it for what it is.

#129 – Make Mine Music (1946)

Directors: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Joshua Meador, and Robert Cormack

Writers: James Bordrero, Homer Brightman, Erwin Graham, Eric Gurney, T. Hee, Slyvia Holland, Dick Huemer, Dick Kelsey, Dick Kinney, Jesse Marsh, Tom Oreb, Cap Palmer, Erdman Penner, Harry Reeves, Dick Shaw, John Wallbridge, and Roy Williams

Starring: Nelson Eddy, Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, The Andrews Sisters, Jerry Colonna, Sterling Holloway, Andy Russell, David Lichine, Tania Riabouchinskaya, The Pied Pipers, The King’s Men, and The Ken Darby Chorus

Plot: A collection of short films based around the concept of music. 

Mini-Review: During World War II, the once booming Walt Disney Studios was brought to a bit of a halt. Most of their animators left to go fight in the war, while the government recruited the rest of their talent to make propaganda and training films. So, the resources to make full length feature films just weren’t there. Disney’s solution was to make package films made of several unrealised concepts that the studio had floating around that probably wouldn’t have been dense enough to support a whole feature anyways. Make Mine Music was the first of these. I mean… kind of. Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros came out first, but those were due to an agreement with Walt and the tourism board of South America and something that came about before the war started. In my experience, the WWII package films have been kind of a mixed bag. There’s always some really good stuff in there, but it’s usually surrounded by a bunch of filler. Watching them is never a bad experience. It just doesn’t quite feel up to par with the other movies in Disney’s animated canon. It’s definitely not their fault and I’m glad that Disney did what they needed to in order to survive. But, with so many Disney classics to choose from, I rarely ever find myself gravitating back to these.

As I did with Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas, I think it’s only fair to break this movie down and judge each short on its own merits. Of course, some of these aren’t super long or plot heavy so they may just get a sentence or two, but, still, fair is fair.

The first short we encounter is The Martins and the Coys and… wait a minute! That’s not how my viewing started. What the heck? How did I miss a whole segment of this movie? Well, as it turns out, this short was edited out of the home video release because of the excessive gunplay being inappropriate for children. Luckily, the whole thing is on YouTube so I got the chance to give it a view. As it turns out, this is a Disneyfied version of the Hatfields and the McCoys. And, yeah, it’s pretty dang violent, especially for a Disney film. While it’s obviously not gory at all, everyone still shoots at each other every single one of them is dead. Then, we get a happy ending, where the two surviving members get married and live happily ever after… beating the crap out of each other! What?!? Seriously? I mean… It’s a fun cartoon and Walt always did say that his films weren’t just for children, but come on. It’s very strange to see all of this in the Disney animation style. I’m not surprised at all that they’ve since pulled it. I’m against the concept of censoring offensive stuff out of older movies and even I kind of agree with this one. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’re curious though and how could you not be?

Then, we’ve got Blue Bayou. After watching, I figured out that it was originally a Fantasia segment that was cut, redubbed with new music, and thrown into Make Mine Music. That makes a ton of sense because it’s beautiful. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I could use this video as a sleep aid. It’s gorgeous and super peaceful. However, I kind of appreciated this one more than I enjoyed it. I definitely think it would’ve been more at home in the “artsier” Fantasia. It’s all about tone and your mindset going into these things.

Next up, we have All the Cats Join In, which is really fun. It feels very similar to something like Archie Comics or Grease, featuring kids getting together and going to dance at the town hall. Disney rarely captures the time period in which the movies are made, so this is kind of a special treat. I really have a soft spot for this style of music and dance, so I had a lot of fun with this one. The fact that it was being drawn as they went along was a cool stylistic choice too. Plotwise, this one is pretty straight forward. It’s just a whole lot of dancing. And underwear. And partial nudity? You know, typical Disney stuff. Seriously though, this short features some serious “eye candy.” I’ve noticed that’s a bit of a theme that’s unique to this specific era of Disney films. There’s even one in The Martins and the Coys. For whatever reason, the cartoons of this time period all featured Jessica Rabbit type characters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s another strange thing to see coming from Disney though. Also, when they released Make Mine Music on home video, they apparently edited out some nudity. Which… again, very weird. Was this originally the least Disney movie Disney ever made? (Especially Disney squared) Is that why it’s not streaming anywhere? I mean… they edited it but are they secretly too ashamed to release it. Release the unedited cut, you cowards! I kid, of course. Kids don’t need to see that stuff.

The next short is called Without You. It’s pretty. It’s artful. Like Blue Bayou, it doesn’t really fit all that well here. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. 

Casey at Bat is about an overconfident baseball playing coming in to save the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. It’s an interesting short for Disney, because it almost feels more like a Looney Tunes cartoon. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen Bugs Bunny almost this exact same act. I don’t know. I enjoyed it. I laughed out loud a couple of times. I really liked the twist ending, though I didn’t care for the execution. It kind of just felt like it ended abruptly. I’d theorize that they ran out of money and just wrapped it up real quick. Overall, good short though. Not my favorite, but not awful.

Then, we’ve got another slow down in Two Silhouettes. It features two rotoscoped dancers doing ballet. Honestly, I’m not a fan of this style of animation. I’m not dissing the art form. It’s just not for me. Like, if I’m going to watch animation, I want to watch animation. If you want to do live action, do live action. Again, just a personal choice. Also, I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but the slow pretty stuff really doesn’t help with the pacing of this movie. The tone feels very all over the place.

Peter and the Wolf is probably the most iconic short from Make Mine Music. Or, at least, it’s the one that I’d seen before. It’s pretty good. I really enjoyed the darker tone it has. The wolf was legitimately scary at times. I think it’s because we see a character get eaten fairly early on. That really creates tension throughout the rest of the short. You don’t honestly know if these characters are going to be ok. I also really liked the designs of the characters. The heroes were soft, inviting and a little dopey, while the wolf was janky and creepier looking than the more recognizable Three Little Pigs’ Big Bad Wolf. Though, my favorite part had to be the narration from Sterling Holloway. He, of course, would later go on to voice Winnie the Pooh, which makes the whole segment seem like a weird, dark story time session in the Hundred Acre Wood. That definitely wasn’t the intention, but it’s what I got out of it. So, I definitely did enjoy this short.. Again though, I didn’t really care for how this one wrapped. The conflict just sort of resolved itself in a way that felt unsatisfying. It’s a really unfortunate consensus I keep coming to with these shorts. I like them. I’m just not quite loving them.

My least favorite short of the whole thing is probably After You’ve Gone. There’s nothing super offensive here. It’s just boring. It’s like a less fun version of the “Pink Elephants on Parade” song from Dumbo. Just a bunch of instruments changing shapes and morphing into different objects. It’s another plotless one, so there’s not a whole lot to talk about. It’s one long gag that came too late in the movie for me to even want to pay that much attention to.

So, overall, I’ve been kinda meh on Make Mine Music up to the point. I’m not having a bad time. It’s just that I’m not having the best time either. However, that changed dramatically in the last two shorts. They are fantastic. The second to last one is called Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet and is about two hats that fall in love. I don’t want to oversell it, but this is like a proto-Pixar short. It takes something we normally don’t think about all that often. Puts a face on it. Then proceeds to put them through an emotional journey of hardships and triumphs. Now tell me that isn’t Pixar. I really, really enjoyed this one. The animation is good. The story is actually engaging. It doesn’t feel rushed. And, the song is the only one featured that I can hum off of the top of my head. It’s very good.

And, finally, we have The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met. Oh. My. God. I freaking love this short. I’m sure you can use context clues to guess the plot. It’s about a whale who can sing opera. He attracts a lot of attention. However, the rumor soon becomes that he’s swallowed an opera singer and is hunted for it. Ultimately, it’s a tragic tale but it’s such a fun one. First of all, that concept is just so original and fun to explore. Second, Willie the Whale is a really likeable character. He’s just got an adorable look and a great voice. The sequence where he fantasizes about actually performing at the opera is one of my favorites in all of Disney. I do wish that they hadn’t focused so much on his uvalae though. That was slightly disturbing to look at to be honest. Also, the short was definitely the funniest. I was smiling the entire time, even with the more tragic ending. This is easily my favorite short of the movie. It’s probably my favorite thing to come out of the wartime era Disney flicks.It’s just really, really, really good.

So, overall, how would I rate Make Mine Music? I’d definitely say it’s worth checking out. While not every short is a homerun, (Casey is up to bat after all. Sorry, I had to.) they’re all at least watchable. And, as I said, I really, really enjoyed the final two. At the very least, I would check those out on YouTube and, if you’re intrigued, check out the edited out segments too while you’re at it. Like I’ve said, the wartime Disney flicks were kind of uneven and not all that great. Make Mine Music, unfortunately, isn’t an exception. I think it’s my favorite of them though, if that tells you anything. I mean… it has to be with the weirdness of the first half and the greatness of the second. Plus, man, Willie the Whale is the best.

The Disney Smackdown

This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.

Our Heroes: In Escape to Witch Mountain, we have two main heroes, Tia and Tony Malone. They are brother and sister. They both have mysterious powers. Tia can read thoughts and take control of animals. While Tony can telepathically move things with the help of his harmonica. And, boy, are they creepy. I’m sorry, but they are. They’ve got some Children of the Corn stuff going on with their blank stares and monotone voices. Again, maybe it’s because I’m only used to seeing this topic explored in horror films. I mean… they’re not awful. It’s not like you can’t root for them. They’re likable. They both seem pleasant enough. She likes animals and helps them out a couple times. That’s cool. But, I also don’t really feel like I got to know these two all that well. I know their powers, but not really their personalities. That’s kind of the flaw with having the twist come at the end. They have to keep the kids mysterious. Or, at least, they chose to. We got to know Eleven in Stranger Things pretty well without completely understanding her backstory. Again, I guess you have to adjust your thinking and remember that this was a kids’ movie released in the 70s. 

Honestly, despite consisting of ten shorts, there are only a handful of protagonists in Make Mine Music. A lot of the segments either are plotless or don’t really feature characters long enough for us to get to know them. I guess there’s Casey. I think he’s our hero, even though he mostly comes across as unlikable. He’s too cocky and, ultimately, that’s his downfall. I’m not sure if he learned anything from the experience though, so it’s kind of hard to feel bad for him. There’s Peter, who hunts the wolf. We don’t really get to know him all that well. We just root for him because he’s got a cute design and the wolf is scary. Then, we get to my two favorite characters coming from unsurprisingly my favorite shorts. We’ve got Johnny Fedora, the hat who fell in love. His determination to get back in touch with the love he lost is admirable. He’s a determined little hat. And, finally, we’ve got Willie the Whale who I can’t stop going on and on about. He’s just the best. He makes me smile. He’s got big dreams and he’s not going to let the fact that he was born the wrong species slow him down. Plus, just look at him, freaking adorable. And that voice. I’m so glad I finally have this character in my life. I wish he was bigger (popularity wise, not physically), so I could get even more of him. I want toys. I want more shorts. I want to meet him at the parks. Guys, I think I’ve become a bit of a Willie the Whale stan.

Willie easily swings this point to Make Mine Music.

Our Beloved Side Characters: Escape to Witch Mountain features Jason O’Day. He’s kind of your typical adult character in kids’ flicks. In the beginning, he doesn’t like kids at all and refuses to help. Then, we see him slowly breakdown his barriers when he realizes how innocent they are. By the end, he’s straight up a big ol’ softie with a heart of gold. And, of course, we get to dive into his tragic backstory a little bit. While it’s not super original, the character is still a fun one thanks mostly to the performance of Eddie Albert. I’m not sure he deserves a spot in the pantheon of great Disney characters, but he’s definitely worth a mention. Then, there’s a cat named Winkie. He winks. It’s adorable. I’m pretty sure we only get to see him do it once though. That is all.

Make Mine Music has a couple of cute side characters. Unfortunately, they don’t really have a whole lot to do or really much personality. Peter and the Wolf features the most of these. We have Sasha, a little bird with quite the fighting spirit. There’s Sonia, the goofy duck character who we think we’ve lost too soon. He’s more or less the character that gives the short heart. And, then, there’s Ivan the Cat and the three hunters Misha, Yasha, and Vladimir, who seem to be there just for quick sight gags. Willie the Whale has a little buddy named Whitey, who is super supportive of his dream. And, of course, there’s Alice Blue Bonnet, but she doesn’t really have a whole lot to do either. She’s more of a generic love interest. So, yeah, not a lot from Make Mine Music. That’s excusable though. It’s hard enough to develop one character over that short of time, let alone multiple.

Since Jason is the only one I really felt a connection to, I think Escape to Witch Mountain gets the relatively easy win here.

Villainous Villains: While there are a couple of side villains, Escape to Witch Mountain primarily features two of them. Personally, I would argue that Lucas Deranian is the more memorable one, but he’s technically only a henchman for Aristotle Bolt. As is the case with the kids, we never really learn all that much about these villains. We know they’re rich. We know they have nefarious intentions. And we know they look scary. That’s about it. We don’t really know what they’re planning to do with the kids. We don’t know what evil things they’ve done in the past. We just know they’re the bad guys because the kids and the movie tell us they are. However, I will say the fact that Deranian is played by Donald Pleasence actually helps a lot. I don’t think he can turn off his creepiness. He’s essentially bringing the same energy he did in the James Bond franchise into a kids flick and I am here for it. And the fact that he was in a handful of the Halloween movies probably helped cement this movie as a quasi-horror in my mind. He’s just chasing down creepy children instead of Michael Myers this time. Bolt is just your typical grumpy, old, evil, rich dude we see in a lot of kids’ movies.

By my count, Make Mine Music has two pretty decent villains. I am legitimately impressed by how scary Disney made the Wolf Peter fights. He just pops out of nowhere. He’s gnarly looking. And, he’s one of the few Disney villains who creates actual suspense by making us think he ate someone. It’s really cool to see. He’s definitely an underrated villain. Then, we have Tetti-Tatti, an impresario who wants to kill Willie in order to save the opera singers he’s convinced the whale swallowed. Sure, one could argue that he’s not necessarily a bad guy. He was misguided and thought he was doing the right thing. However, he killed Willie and that’s unforgivable. Boo this man. Booooooo.

While this is extremely close, I think I’ve got to give this win to Make Mine Music. I enjoy the look and feel of that wolf too much.

Quotable Quotes: From Escape to Witch Mountain: When the villain tells the kids that he owns everything they see: “Well, I can see the sky.” “They’re not upside down, we are!” After the bully mentions he’ll fight Tony with only one hand: “I’ll fight you with none.”

From Make Mine Music: “You see, Willie’s singing was a miracle, and people aren’t used to miracles. And you, faithful little friend, don’t be too sad, because miracles never really die.”

I really, really enjoy that Make Mine Music quote and can see it being applied to other things. But, there are a lot of decent one liners in Escape to Witch Mountain. So, do I go with the one great quote or the handful of decent ones? Uhmmmmm….. Make Mine Music.

Songs to Add to Your Playlist: Nothing from Escape to Witch Mountain

All of Make Mine Music is set to music. So, I guess… all of it. I wouldn’t call them memorable songs either though, so… maybe none of it. I don’t know. It’s somewhere in that gray area. All I know is that I’d definitely stream me some Willie the Whale if I could find it.

A ton of not so memorable music is better than no music. Make Mine Music gets the musical point. Who would’ve guessed?

Most Magical Disney Moment: In Escape to Witch Mountain, I’d have to give it to the dancing marionette scene. On their first night in the mansion, Tony cheers his sister up by performing a puppet show with his telekinetic powers. What follows is a Mary Poppins-esque scene where she dances with the various characters. It’s both adorable and still a little frightening. More or less summing up the whole movie.

In Make Mine Music, I feel like I have absolutely no choice but to give it to the scene where Willie the Whale daydreams about performing for humans at the Met. It’s imaginative. It’s fun. It’s different. It’s heartwarming. Like I said, I was smiling the whole time. Please, if you take nothing else from this review, please know that I love Willie the Whale. He’s the best. You should watch the movie just for him. And watching his dreams come true, even if only for a minute, was fantastic. 

I’m sure it’s no surprise that Make Mine Music takes this point too.

Legacies: Escape to Witch Mountain left a pretty decent legacy on the Disney brand. It has a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.4 on IMBD. It also did fairly well at the box office, finishing in the Top 20 highest grossing movies of 1975. There were two sequels. One was theatrical while the other premiered on tv. They’ve also remade the original twice.They did a version for tv in the 90s and a theatrical version featuring Dwayne Johnson in the 2000s. I’d say that overall it’s one of the more recognizable live action Disney movies from their “dark age.” Even if they haven’t seen it, most people have at least heard of the Witch Mountain franchise. I mean… that’s why they keep remaking it, right? Something in Disney’s research has to show that there’s a soft spot. And it all started with this one. I’d say that, overall, not a bad legacy for a semi-creepy kids movie from the 70s.

Like most of the wartime films, there’s not really much of a legacy for Make Mine Music. It has a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.3 on IMDB. It’s one of the harder Disney films to access. It’s not on Disney+ and can’t be streamed anywhere else. I think that’s because of the edits they had to make. I mean… people have almost made it a hobby to spot the Disney+ edits. I can’t imagine what people would do with a whole segment missing. However, the edited version is available to purchase on DVD. (Though not Bluray.) Most of the shorts were repurposed to be shown before other features or on television. Casey at Bat got a followup short called Casey Bats Again in 1954. And, while there are no attractions or characters based on the film, Make Mine Music can still be found in the Disney parks if you know where to look. A scene from Peter and the Wolf is represented in Disneyland Paris’s canal boats. Casey’s Corner, a hotdog stand on Main Street, is based on Casey at Bat. And, Willie has a poster on display at Mickey’s PhilharMagic, which good for him. He deserves it. So, not the biggest legacy, but the film did have an impact. 

Just from the sequel and remake angle alone, I’d have to say Escape to Witch Mountain has the better legacy.

AND THE WINNER IS…

MAKE MINE MUSIC

This one was tough right until the very end. Ultimately, it was the one-two punch of Johnny Fedora and Willie the Whale that knocked Witch Mountain out of contention. I still think that both of these movies are worth a watch though. Plus, the Witch Mountain movies still have a shot. They’re sequel is coming up. But, it’s hard to beat a Disney squared original.

Congratulations to Willie the Whale, Johnny Fedora, Peter, Casey and the rest of the Make Mine Music crew! You all live to fight another day.

Thanks for coming along on this part of the journey with me. It’s been fun. Like I said, these were two strange ones in the Disney canon. Be sure to check in next time when we compare two movies I have not seen in a very long time. We’ve got the Disney classic The Aristocats vs. the Brendan Fraser classic (?) George of the Jungle. Who will win? Will we both be surprised? I don’t know. You’ll have to come back.

See you then!

Ultimate Disney Tournament: Toy Story vs. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas

Hiya folks. Welcome to the first match-up of Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament. Today we have the #1 seeded Toy Story facing off against the #256 seed, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. Both have a special place in my millennial Disney loving heart. Who will win out? Woody or Mickey? Buzz or Goofy? Let’s find out, shall we?

#1 – Toy Story (1995)

Director: John Lasseter

Writers: Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow, John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and Joe Ranft

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris, and Erik von Detten

Plot: In a world where toys are living creatures, an old favorite becomes jealous when replaced by a newer, better action figure.

Mini-Review: I don’t think I’m breaking any ground when I state that Toy Story is one of the best movies Disney ever made. Not only was it groundbreaking visually for its time, it featured one of the best screenplays the company ever produced. 

So, as everyone knows, Toy Story was the first ever full length, completely computer generated animated movies. It was made in 1995 with computers that are borderline useless by today’s standards. Yet, the visuals somehow hold up remarkably well. Sure, Andy and his sister are a bit scary and poor Scud looks absolutely nothing like a dog should, but Pixar knew their limits. They didn’t focus on them. They focused on plastic playthings and those characters still look great. I honestly think you could show this to a kid raised on Frozen and Tangled and they wouldn’t even question it. Again, except for Scud… Poor, poor Scud.

But, even without the groundbreaking effects, I’m positive Toy Story would’ve become an instant Disney classic. Because the writing is freaking amazing. First of all, the concept itself is genius. Toys with consciousness whose main goal in life is to be played with and want what’s best for their kid. That’s gold already. Throw in there the idea that one of them doesn’t think he’s a toy at all? Now you’re cooking with fire. Then, give that concept to some of the most creative and funny people in the world, like Joss Whedon, the freaking Cohen brothers, and the rest of the brilliant Pixar staff who all later became big names on their own. Have them balance the emotions with a healthy dose of jokes for both the kids and the adults in the audience. Yeah. It’s impossible for this movie not to be an instant classic. 

And I haven’t even touched on the voice acting talents yet. Almost each and every character in this movie has become iconic in their own right. And, on top of the writing, that’s due to the amazing cast Pixar put together. There are legends all over this thing. Tom Hanks is easily one of my favorite actors of all time and absolutely brings the heart to Woody. Tim Allen does his best work as Buzz Lightyear. And, the cast of “minor” characters is stacked with comedic legends like Wallace Shawn and Don Rickles. 

If you can’t tell, I absolutely love Toy Story. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s not irregular to see me sporting a tee shirt or shoes featuring these characters. Woody is my profile picture on Disney Plus. It’s going to be very difficult for anything to beat it. 

#256 – Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)

Directors: Alex Mann, Bradley Raymond, Jun Falkenstein, Bill Speers, and Toby Shelton

Writers: Charlie Cohen, Thomas Hart, Scott Gorden, Tom Nance, Carter Crocker, Richard Cray, Temple Matthews, and Eddie Guzelian

Starring: Wayne Allwine, Russi Taylor, Tony Anselmo, Diane Michelle, Tress MacNeille, Alan Young, Bill Farmer, Corey Burton, Shaun Fleming, Jim Cummings, Jeff Bennett, Gregg Berger, Kylie Dempsey, Taylor Dempsey, Andrew McDonaugh, Pat Musick, Frank Welker, Mae Whitman, April Winchell, and Kelsey Grammer

Plot: A series of shorts revolving around Mickey, Donald, Goofy and their families set during Christmas.

Mini-Review: As I stated, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is split into three (and a half) sequences. So, I think it’s only fair to review each of them on their own merits and then kind of talk about the general thoughts afterwards. 

The first sequence, titled Donald Duck Stuck on Christmas, is, unfortunately, the worst. I mean… it’s still good. It’s entertaining. It’s just too short and has too little substance to really pack much of a punch. In what is essentially Groundhog Day but with ducks, we see Huey, Dewey and Louie wish that it was Christmas everyday. Of course, they eventually learn that the magic kind of wears off after a bit. Unfortunately, we don’t see them suffer really all that much and the recurring gags aren’t really worth more than a chuckle. The ending, where we learn that the triplets really do care for their uncle Donald, is actually quite sweet though. Overall, storywise, it’s non-offensive and entertaining enough. However, it’s also the weakest one on the production front too. There’s really not a lot to be found online about the making of this movie (it’s a direct to video movie from the 90s, so, like, duh), but I have to assume that this one was made last when their budget was kind of tight. All of the character movements seem a bit off and there are a couple of reaction shots where the background just disappears. It doesn’t really ruin the story. I’m sure most people (especially kids) wouldn’t even notice. Just as someone with a lot of respect for the art of animation, it caught me off guard to see Disney taking shortcuts. (Again, it’s a direct to video release from the 90s. What did I expect?)

The second short is A Very Goofy Christmas. While I never noticed it as a kid, I couldn’t help but think about how well this rounded out the Goofy Movie trilogy on my rewatch. Those movies are about Goofy trying to prevent his son, Max, growing up too quick. This short is very much in the same vein, but, of course, with a Christmas twist. Taking place before the events of the other two, this deals with Max starting to doubt his belief in Santa Claus. Goofy wants none of that and tries his hardest to have his son keep the faith. It starts off with some Goofy slapsticky hijinks. Then, they take you through the good, old fashioned family drama. And, finally, they hit you right in the feels by having Max eventually be the one trying to cheer Goofy up. It’s a tried and true formula. They made two feature length movies and a whole tv show about it. So, you’ve definitely seen it before. Of course, it’s a formula that works really, really well and I couldn’t help but get a bit emotional watching it. So, yeah, I quite enjoyed this one. Also, I didn’t have the same animation quality qualms as I did during the first sketch but also wouldn’t put it on the same level as the third. So, I’m pretty sure my theory is correct. 

Finally, we get to the last and the best segment of the movie, Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi (also known as that Mickey short with the cutest freaking ending). And, man, while the other two shorts are good by their own right, this segment is what makes the movie work. It’s sooooooo freaking cute.  I mean… that ending. Come on. There’s no beating that. For those of you who don’t know, this short is relatively simple. (Spoilers. I guess.) Mickey and Minnie want to buy each other Christmas presents. They work super hard at their respective jobs to earn enough money. However, at the end of Christmas Eve, they still can’t afford the gifts they feel the other deserves. So, Mickey sells his beloved harmonica to buy Minnie a gold necklace for her pocket watch, while she sells her watch to buy Mickey a case for his harmonica. They open each other’s gifts and get sad for a moment, only to realize that it was the thought and the sacrifice that counts. They wish each other a Merry Christmas and snuggle by the fire. It’s. Freaking. Adorable. And, I was afraid that in rewatching it that would be the only moment that stood out. Not the case. I was tearing up throughout this entire short. Mickey does a couple other sacrifices that are just the coolest. It really displays how he’s endured 90 years of popularity. And, the animation quality is high. The characters all line up with who you expect them to be. It’s a very good short. Part of me thinks it had to have been made to be shown before another movie (probably Tarzan), but they realized what they had and worked up the other two shorts so they could sell it separately (again, just a theory). 

Then, we wrap everything up with a nice melody of all of our main characters coming together to sing Christmas carols. It’s really sweet. 

Overall, that’s kind of how I feel about the whole movie. There’s nothing really all that groundbreaking here, but it’s cute. The Mickey and Minnie short in particular is worth a once a year visit. And the others are good. Not great. It’s kind of just fun to be around these characters, especially at Christmas. To a lot of people like me, these guys are almost family. I think that’s what I love about Christmas specials. You get to spend a little bit of Christmas with your fictional character families too. And from what I’ve seen: this is one of the best. 

The Disney Smackdown

This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.

Our Heroes: It’s hard to decide who to consider the main character or “hero” of Toy Story. It’s a buddy picture. To simplify and not play favorites, I’m going to give this role to both Woody and Buzz. Woody is one of my personal favorite characters of all time. I relate to him a lot. He’s a leader. He has the whole bedroom organized and optimized to give Andy the best playtime possible. He just wants what’s best for him. Sure, in the beginning, he gets a bit jealous of Buzz. But, when they start to get into trouble, he’s always protective of him and eventually admits that he was being selfish, even offering to sacrifice himself if it means Andy would be happier. He’s a noble character. He loves his kid and learns to love those who make his kid happy, even if it means he’s not the favorite anymore. Seriously, Woody is the best. But, that’s not saying that Buzz Lightyear isn’t great in his own right. He was “born” with a mission in mind. He thought he was a space ranger sent to save the galaxy. But, he was quickly hit with a cold dose of reality. He hit a bit of a rough patch when he learned that he was just a piece of plastic. However, with a bit of encouragement by Woody, Buzz learned that being a toy has its own fantastic benefits and is just as important of a mission. By the end of the movie, we see him fully embracing that and being just as dedicated as Woody. There’s a reason these are two of the most iconic characters in the Disney canon. While they are both flawed, they also have enormous hearts, really funny dialogue, and an admirable commitment to their life’s purpose and that’s all just in the first movie.

There’s a lot here of potential heroes in Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. But, let’s narrow it down to Donald’s nephews, Max, and Mickey Mouse, who are arguably the stars of their respective shorts. This is not the first time we’ve seen any of these characters, but I’ll try to break it down into just the versions featured in this movie. First, we have Hewey, Dewey, and Louie, who are the real stars despite the short being named after Donald. They start off as a bit selfish, but we get to watch them grow. While they originally think that Christmas is just a fun time for toys and turkey dinners (don’t think too hard about the fact that they are ducks who eat turkeys), they eventually learn that it’s more about the ones you love and spending time with them. It’s unquestionably sweet to see them being nice to their Uncle Donald in the end. Then, again despite the name, I’d argue that Max Goof is the main character of the second short. He’s the one with the character growth. We see him start to doubt his faith in Santa, then kind of get angry about the whole ordeal. That is until he sees how much it matters to his dad. It’s another instance where we see a younger character really show that they care for and try to take care of their parental figure. It’s kind of a theme in this movie and for Max’s overall journey as a character. He’s easily one of my favorites and supremely underrated. Then, lastly, we have Mickey Mouse himself. In my opinion, this is one of the best interpretations of his character. He’s constantly making sacrifices to give everyone else the best Christmas possible. He risks his job by selling a family a smaller, cheaper tree. He almost misses the opportunity to buy a gift at all because he’s performing in a charity concert. And, he sells his harmonica so he can afford to buy Minnie the perfect present. If you’re one of those people that says Mickey has no personality, I’d like to kindly direct you to this movie. I feel its next to impossible not to love the dude after watching it. 

Despite both featuring super iconic characters, I have to give this win to Toy Story. They had more time to develop each character within their movie and didn’t have to rely on decades worth of nostalgia to get you invested.

Our Beloved Side Characters: Just about every character in Toy Story is iconic. First of all, there’s Andy Davis. We don’t really get to know Andy all that well, but still grow to love him through the toys’ affection for him. I almost left him off the list, but something about that just felt wrong. Then, there’s all of Andy’s other toys that make his playtime fun. There’s Mr. Potato Head and Hamm who are maybe the most sarcastic characters in Disney’s lineup. Every line they say is hilarious and you root for them even though they’re the first two to turn on Woody. Then there’s Slinky Dog, who is probably the most loyal and, therefore, lovable character in the franchise. He’s the kind of sidekick you just want to snuggle with… which is strange because he’s a Slinky. There’s Rex. He’s just a ball of contradiction, as a T-Rex with severe anxiety. Every time he’s on screen, he makes me laugh. He’s easily one of my favorites in the whole series. Bo Peep becomes more developed in the fourth entry, but is a fun, love interest/sexual innuendo dropping kind of character that’s mostly in there for the adults. She works fine for what she’s given, enough that I missed her in Toy Story 3. (Not until like my fourth rewatch but, still, I eventually missed her.) The Little Green Men from the claw machine were ahead of their time and should’ve blown up like the Minions did. That’s just a fact. And, I could even make the case for smaller characters like Sarge, RC, Mr. Spell, and Lenny the Binoculars being worth mentioning, but we only have so much time and someone has to cut me off before I ramble on and on and on about how much I love this world and the characters in it. But, yeah, Rex is my favorite.

While the heroes of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas have clear character arcs, everyone else kind of just fits into their one defining (but still good) character trait. Donald Duck is grumpy, because he’s trying to have the perfect Christmas and the boys keep ruining it. Daisy Duck is her typical loving self, trying to remain positive and calm. Pluto is, well, Pluto. And Minnie Mouse shares that really sweet moment with Mickey at the end of their short, but we just don’t get to spend enough time with her throughout for her to really stand out. It’s mostly Mickey’s show. I mean, it almost always is, but still. That’s more or less how all of the side characters in this movie are. You know them and love them from other things. However, if this was you’re first time watching these characters, you probably wouldn’t have too much affinity for them. Well, except for with Goofy. He’s a great dad. Probably the best in Disney canon. He’s trying very hard to stop Max from growing up too fast. He puts himself in harm’s way to save Max’s letter to Santa. He donates to the poorer family next door. He gives them gifts. He stays up all night to prove to his son that Santa exists. Yeah. Goofy is the best. It’s impossible not to like Goofy.

Again, I have to give this win to Toy Story. While neither movie really gives their side characters too much development, Toy Story gives you just enough to fall in love with these characters. Don’t get me wrong. I love the classic Disney group too. My affection doesn’t come from just this movie though. The toys became instant super stars within a 90 minute runtime.

Villainous Villains: The villain of Toy Story is a boy named Sid Phillips. We all knew a kid like Sid. He was a bit of a brat. Sure. His obsession with disfiguring toys is concerning and he likes to make his sister cry. But, did he really deserve what happened to him? I mean… that’s years of therapy. If he knew that toys came to life, I’m sure he would’ve acted differently. Am I alone here? I always feel like I am. Destroying toys is not cool, but did he really have to go through his own personal horror film to learn that lesson. Of course, this is also my adult brain feeling empathy for the dude. Kid me absolutely hated and was terrified of him. So, that’s something. 

As has been the case since 1928, Pete is the bad guy in Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. We don’t really get to spend a whole lot of time with him, yet, he still manages to be the jerk in two of the three shorts. In the Goofy one, he’s the guy who tries to convince Max there is no Santa Claus, which is just so not cool. Like, that’s kind of the biggest douchebag move possible. Especially for an adult. Then, in the Mickey short, he tries to upsell a poor family into getting a more expensive tree than they need or can afford. And, when Mickey puts a stop to him, he takes his money as compensation. What’s really sad is that I know people like Pete are out there. They exist in the real world. There are always people who want to ruin Christmas or make an insane profit off of it at the expense of others. In a sad way, he’s probably the most realistic of the Mickey universe characters. Luckily, we get to see him get punished in humiliating ways both times. 

In a surprise move, I have to give this win to Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. I ended up in a weird spot where I kind of felt bad for Sid. Pete is just a real scumbag.

Quotable Quotes: From Toy Story: “To Infinity and Beyond” “This isn’t flying, this is falling with style.” “You see the hat? I am Mrs. Nes-bitt!” “YOU. ARE. A. TOY.” “The word I’m searching for – I can’t say, because there’s preschool toys present.”

From Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas: “You’re all the music I’ll ever need.” “Of course there’s a Santy. Otherwise, we’d have a lot of jobless elves running around.” “Pardon me, ma’am! Didn’t mean to get fresh!”

The easy win goes to Toy Story in which I had to narrow down a massive list, while I had to do a bit of digging for the other.

Songs to Add to Your Playlist: I mean… “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story is one of the absolute best Disney songs of all time. Even if it weren’t attached to one of the biggest franchises ever, I still think it’d be a classic. The other two Randy Newman songs are really good at portraying emotions in the film, but I wouldn’t listen to them out of context.

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas features no original songs, unfortunately. But, listening to classic Disney characters sing Christmas carols would probably brighten your holiday season.

Toy Story wins hands down. There literally isn’t much competition here.

Most Magical Disney Moment: For Toy Story, it’s gotta be that moment in the climax when Buzz detaches himself from the rocket and starts gliding towards Andy’s van. Then, they have that exchange where they callback to each other’s lines from earlier in the movie which is just extremely heartwarming. It’s probably the most iconic shot of the movie and for good reason. 25 years and countless rewatches later, I still get chills from it. 

To the surprise of literally no one, it’s the end of the Mickey short for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. When they exchange presents and realize the sacrifices they made to get each other the perfect presents. It’s absolutely perfect. Like I said earlier, that one moment makes the whole movie. It’s what people remember and for good reason.

While this one is extremely tough, I have to give the slight advantage to Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. That scene makes me emotional every time someone even mentions it.

Legacies: Toy Story’s legacy is, frankly, huge. I’m almost afraid that I’m going to undersell it here even though the list I came up with is super impressive. Toy Story has a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and an impressive 8.3 on IMBD, making it the 81st best ranked movie on the site. It was the highest grossing movie of 1995. It was later nominated for three Academy Awards and was given a special achievement Oscar. In 2005, it was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being culturally significant in the first year of eligibility which is extremely rare. There are three theatrical sequels, a direct to video spinoff, a television series and a collection of shorts. Rides based on Toy Story are present in 10 of the 12 Disney theme parks with four of them sporting whole Toy Story Lands. It launched Pixar, one of the most financially and commercially successful movie studios in history. It jump started the career of John Lasseter, a major force in bringing Disney animation back from the hard times of the 2000s. And, most importantly, it forever changed the animation industry by introducing a new style. I mean… Yeah. This movie mattered, like a lot.

Meanwhile, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas’ legacy is not too much. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas has a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is way too low, and a more responsible 7.2 on IMDB. It was a direct to video release, so it didn’t have any box office results. It didn’t win any major awards outside of one film festival. It did, however, have a sequel that was also released straight to video. It’s also extremely hard to judge the impact this had on the characters’ legacies since they were all already huge decades before this was made. 

This one is too easy. Toy Story has the better legacy.

AND THE WINNER IS…

TOY STORY

I mean. It wasn’t really all that close. As I explained, I really love the Mickey Mouse section of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. However, the rest of it is just good. It doesn’t hold a candle to Toy Story. In fact, even the best parts of Mickey’s pales in comparison. This wasn’t really fair. But, it’s a #1 seed vs. a #256 seed so it is what it is. The writing in Toy Story is better. It’s funnier. The story is more original. The characters don’t have to lean on previous material for you to care about them. The impact on the company and the industry as a whole is massive. I just wish Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas was higher ranked so it would’ve had a better shot. Unfortunately, that’s just the way the cards landed. 

Congratulations, Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Andy’s toys! You move on to fight another day.

Be sure to check in next time for two well-known, yet underrated Disney flicks. I’ll be comparing Escape to Witch Mountain and Make Mine Music. I’m excited as both of these movies have somehow escaped me.

See you then!

Introducing Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament

Hiya folks. 

For those of you who don’t know, I am kind of obsessed with Disney. As much as I love all movies, there’s just something about Disney that’ll always have a special place in my heart. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, the characters, or the simplicity of the storytelling, but I often run back to my favorite Disney flicks. And, with the world being kind of a nightmare, me having a bunch of time on my hands, and some personal issues I’m dealing with, I kind of needed a light hearted distraction. That’s why I dreamed up this challenge. 

I am going to go on a quest. I’ve done some research and made a list of the 256 best Disney movies of all time. I then entered those into a bracket and will be making my way through it tournament style. Through this process, there will be a lot of movies I have loved for decades and a couple that have eluded me. I will be visiting each movie and giving my honest takes on it. Yes, that means the final two movies will have been watched AT LEAST seven times. I will know the winning movie inside and out by the time we reach the conclusion of this tournament. So, even if you disagree, know that I didn’t make any of my decisions lightly. More than the bracket though, I’m just excited to watch and talk about a ton of Disney stuff. Like I said, I’m super passionate about the topic and need a fun outlet right now. But, yeah, overall I’m just excited to go on this journey and I hope that you’re excited to come along with me. 

But, first, a couple of things that need to be said:

  1. I did not choose which movies would make the bracket. I used Flickchart.com (which I love) to narrow the list down to 256. Some movies that I consider supremely underrated did not make the cut. I’m sorry, An Extremely Goofy Movie!
  2. These are Disney Disney movies. If it doesn’t have the Disney name on it front and center, it doesn’t count. Those who know me know that I LOVE my Marvel and Star Wars, but they would’ve just taken up too many spots. Maybe I’ll do another bracket with them some day, but this is for the true Disney movies. 
  3. That having been said, everything Disney in movie form was eligible. I went through the complete list of theatrical, home video, television, and streaming movies. 
  4. Though I will try to keep it going at a regular pace, I cannot realistically commit to how often I will post updates to this challenge. I want to say it’ll be a couple times a week, but don’t really want to commit to three plus hours of movie watching a night. 
  5. I kind of already know who I think is going to win. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. Heck, I could probably guess the Sweet Sixteen if I went through the bracket. However, that’s not the point. It’s about the journey. Not the destination. Plus, who knows, there might be an underrated Cinderella story in the cards. Pun definitely intended. 
  6. I’d like to post the bracket, but cannot find an easy way to do that with one this big. Maybe after the first round of eliminations, I’ll have one made up. Trust me. The bracket exists and is as fair as I could make it. 
  7. I’m going to try to keep it objective. I will be talking about things like story structure, characters, songs, magical moments, and the overall legacy of the movie. However, at the end of the day, this will be opinion based. I would love to hear from everyone who disagrees, but let’s keep it civil please. These are fun movies and I’m just looking to have some fun talking about them. 

Alrighty. I’m glad we got all of that out of the way early on. Now we can just focus on the movies themselves. This is going to be a looooooong journey. It’s my quarantine project, but, theoretically, could and probably will last a lot longer. So, let’s buckle up and jump into the Disney movie magic. 

Match One will be posted soon and is Toy Story vs. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. Both are childhood favorites of mine and movies I’ve seen over and over, but only one can win out. Who will it be? Be sure to check in soon!

Review: Stargirl

Stargirl (2020)

Director: Julia Hart

Writers: Kristin Hahn, Julia Hart, and Jordon Horowitz

Starring: Grace VanderWaal, Graham Verchere, Giancarlo Esposito, and Karan Brar

Plot: A quirky girl starts going to a boy’s school, instantly bringing a spark to him and the entire town.

Review: I read Stargirl about sixteen years ago when I was in middle school. I remember almost nothing about it except that I was really drawn to the titular character. I liked her a lot. I liked how she wasn’t afraid to be herself and that she brought this infectious joy to people. When I heard that Disney+ was going to make a movie version, my first thought was “why now?”. This is an older book. I don’t even know if kids still read it. Why did they decide now was a good time to dust it off the shelf? Well, after seeing it. I think I have my answer: Grace VanderWaal.

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Review: Lost Girls

Lost Girls (2020)

Director: Liz Garbus

Writer: Michael Werwie

Starring: Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, Lola Kirke, Oona Laurence, Dean Winters, Miriam Shor, Reed Birney, Kevin Corrigan, and Gabriel Bryne

Plot: A grieving mother has to basically harass the police into investigating the case of her missing daughter.

Review: I feel a bit for Lost Girls. It’s gotta be hard to make a movie based on an unsolved crime. Even the great David Fincher, in my personal opinion, suffered a bit with Zodiac. By definition, you just don’t have the full story. You have to tell a satisfying tale when you don’t have one in real life. I think that’s why Lost Girls decided to shrink down the scope a bit. Instead of following the whole situation, we are just following one mother’s plea for help. On that front, I do think it works. It’s just unfortunate, because it does make the movie end up appearing smaller than it should’ve.

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Review: Bloodshot

Bloodshot (2020)

Director: David S.F. Wilson

Writers: Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer

Starring: Vin Diesel, Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, and Guy Pearce

Plot: A recently deceased solider is brought back to life after an experimentally government operation to fight crime.

Review: We are in a weird stage when it comes to superhero movies. Marvel Studios has wrapped up the storylines of most of their bigger characters and is approaching an unknown realm of their C-list. DC is struggling to find their footing with everyone but Wonder Woman. The Fox X-Men are dead. And, Sony is apparently going to keep making B-movies about all of the Spider-Man villains. What I’m basically trying to say is that by this point every big superhero is taken and now studios are starting to look for the lesser known characters to bring to the big screen. Mix that fact in with Vin Diesel’s seemingly huge ego and you get Bloodshot. It’s a weird one. I feel like it could’ve been good. Unfortunately, there’s just not really any stand out things to sink your teeth into here.

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Review: I Still Believe

I Still Believe (2020)

Directors: Erwin Brothers

Writers: Jon Erwin, Jon Gunn, and Madeline Carrol

Starring: KJ Apa, Britt Robertson, Melissa Roxburgh, Nathan Dean, Shania Twain, and Gary Sinise

Plot: Two Christian college kids fall in love then one of them gets cancer.

Review: I don’t have a whole lot to say about I Still Believe. It’s pretty much exactly as advertised. If you saw the trailer and thought “Yes! I need to see that” you’ll probably enjoy it. I advise you to see it. If not, just don’t. There’s nothing unexpected. It’s all there in pretty much the way you could imagine. I’m not the target audience so I didn’t have a good time with this one. I do have some nits to pick though.

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Review: The Hunt

The Hunt (2020)

Director: Craig Zobel

Writers: Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof

Starring: Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, and Hilary Swank

Plot: A group of “deplorables” is hunted by rich “liberal elites” for sport.

Review: *Sigh*

I had high-ish hopes for The Hunt. Fresh off the success of Watchmen, I was intrigued by the idea of a political satire from Damon Lindelof. He can be such a master of intricate, subtle, impactful storytelling that gets the message across without bashing you over the head with it. Plus, with President Trump adamantly opposed to the very concept of this movie to the point that it got cancelled, I felt that it was my patriotic duty to support this flick.

Well, I gotta say… I’m super disappointed. It’s just not very good. It feels like it was written by that “edgy” kid everyone knew in eighth grade who had a “hot take” on politics. That major revelation? Politics suck. Everyone sucks. It’s awful. Wow. Cool. Thanks for that. What I thought would be a sharp political satire instead feels like it exists purely to piss everyone off.

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Review: Spenser Confidential

Spenser Confidential (2020)

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Sean O’Keefe and Brian Helgeland

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Bokeem Woodbine, Marc Maron, and Austin Post

Plot: A former, just released from prison cop decides to investigate a crime involving his dirty former co-workers.

Review: Have you ever heard of the 1980’s television series Spenser: For Hire? Me neither. But apparently it was based on a book series with a whopping 48 (!) entries. Now, I’m not saying that you need to know this going into Spenser Confidential, but learning this fact afterwards made everything make sense. See? This movie is a half-assed mess. And, I was trying to figure out why. Apparently, the creators must think that there’s already a fanbase that’ll see this no matter what. Either that or they have too much admiration for what came before. I’m not sure what the case is here. I just know that it felt very familiar and now I recognize the scent from other movies like Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch. It’s very much in the same vein as those movies. I thought we’d moved past this stuff…

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