Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Top Ten Songs in Disney Animation.

If the animation, voice overs, and the unique storytelling of a Disney movie are its meat and bones, then the music of a Disney movie is most assuredly its nutrients. While the studio is often applauded for its revolutionary leaps and bounds in art-direction and character animation, one other area that has always seen Disney towering over other creative forces is in their music department.

Even when making their feature length entrance onto the scene amidst the gigantic early musical hits, at a time when Fred Astaire and Busby Berkeley dominated the market, Disney's unique musical talents were instantly distinguishable from their more established competitors. Even with Snow White having already laid the groundwork with its own lovely songs, I doubt anyone saw the studio becoming the powerhouse it is today, churning out film after film decade after decade of iconic and instantly catchy earworms. "From the Sherman Brothers to Kristen and Bobby Lopez, writing 'Let it Go', all these perfect musical moments." Just as their films have done, the music of Disney Animation has journeyed through endless and diverse styles of music, big and sweeping, fast-paced and vibrant, sinister and haunting, with the studio also trekking through various different genres, and enlisting an eclectic batch of musicians for every film. Whether it be Alan Menken, Elton John, Terry Gylkison, or more left-field like Sting, there's no denying that their songwriting branch and library of tunes is nothing short of untouchable. So, in celebration of my retrospective's closing, I'll be counting down my picks for The Top Ten Songs in Disney Animation.

I only have two rules for this list:
1) The song must have originated strictly from Disney's own Classics banner, so Pixar films such as Toy Story, or other Disney films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, do not count.
2) I will be limiting each selection to only one song per film. The reason I'm doing this is because if I didn't, 1 or 2 films would dominate 8 or 9 spots, so I've done this in order to diversify my choices. 

And before we begin, some honorable mentions:
15. "I See the Light" - Tangled
The standout moment of a gentle and heartfelt piece of comfort food viewing, and while Glenn Slater's lyricism still needs work, the accompaniment of Menken's music more than makes up for it.
14. "Bella Notte" - Lady and the Tramp
For one of the less musical-ly Silver Age Disney films, this elegant love song is beautiful both as a flawless piece of storytelling, but just as lovely a standalone listen.
13. "I'm Still Here" - Treasure Planet
Such an atypical trip into new musical roots for the studio, the risk definitely pays off with John Rzeznik's deeply felt and grungy character piece, standing out during the film's best sequence.
12. "My Funny Friend & Me" - The Emperor's New Groove
A late composition from Sting after his original songs were scrapped, this end credits tune is a fantastic and beautiful summation of the friendship between its lead characters. I especially love the epic Gospel choir that comes in near the end.
11. "Colors of the Wind" - Pocahontas
Some would criticize the song for its air of preachiness, but there's still just a powerful and affecting subtext and subtlety hidden beneath its lyrics, terrifically laid out by new Menken collaborator Stephen Schwartz.

So with those out of the way, let's get into the real top ten...

Monday, November 28, 2016

Brief thoughts on Arrival.

What would first contact be like for us? If aliens exist, what would they think of us? How would they react? Would they invade us, or seek to co-exist with us? Would we even want them? Would we learn from them? Would we fear them? We never really know how humanity would react to a situation like that unless we were actually facing it, but along comes Denis Villeneuve, with his fourth English language film Arrival, to try his hands at addressing all of these issues posed before us, and much more. Taking great influences from films such as Close Encounters and Contact, as well as being Villeneuve's answer to Spielberg, Arrival is not just a fantastic film, but I dare say a film that we absolutely needed at this moment.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Moana movie review.

56 movies and eight decades in, Disney Animation Studios continues to remain the world's most famous and beloved animation powerhouse. But once upon a time, their future looked bleak. With the disastrous Black Cauldron having nearly cratered them, the studio needed a new mega-hit to bring them back to life. Four years later, their salvation came in The Little Mermaid, a movie that rejuvenated and remodified the company back to its former glory, perfecting the now tried and true Disney Renaissance formula.

Since then, the film's directors, John Musker and Ron Clements, have remained active contributors within the mouse house's walls, having later helmed zany comedy hits Aladdin and Hercules, and even attempting to recreate their Mermaid success with The Princess and the Frog. In the second of Disney's two big animated releases this year after Zootopia, the duo make their grand entrance into the realm of computer animation with the Polynesian themed Moana. But can it be their CG answer to their original trend-setter?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"The Magic of Disney Animation" Retrospective - #54-55: BH6, Zootopia.

And now to finish off my marathon of the Disney Animation Studios filmography, let's revisit the latest two Disney Revival entries, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie review.

It only feels like yesterday when we discovered the enchanting mysticism of the Wizarding World, when we first joined young Harry Potter and his yearly adventures and lessons within Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Originally brought to life by author J.K. Rowling, herself the figure of a rags to riches tale creating a defining series of modern literature, the enchanting whimsy and epic fantasy of the universe at hand kept us engaged and enthralled all the way up to its bittersweet finale.

And yet at the same time, one thing that was very clear was that Rowling's fantastical world was bigger than her British homeland. There was surely some untapped potential to expand on the universe in more ways, perhaps even create origin tales and move to more culturally different settings. In her first screenwriting venture, that's exactly what she does with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and while she has a long way to go in the jump between mediums, her magical and enchanting touch is still felt all throughout her new spin-off.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Doctor Strange movie review.

Doctor Steven Strange, The Sorcerer Supreme, is one of the most out there comic book creations in Marvel's storied history. Often very much a psychedelic product of his 60's creation, the character's mastery of the metaphysical and mystic manipulation has always made for a tricky transition from the panels to the screen, which is really saying something when that same universe was occupied by men with spider powers and vampire hunters.

Yet in the midst of the now ongoing and wildly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, wherein the studio had managed to craft an interconnected continuity where intergalactic mercenaries and the Norse god of thunder now co-exist alongside Iron Man, it seemed as appropriate a time as any to finally reintroduce the Master of the Mystic to the silver screen. At once trippy, philosophical, and entertaining (if somewhat predictable), Doctor Strange is another rock solid entry within the MCU.