Category: Disney


TheIncredibles1

(A quick aside before I start my actual review. I am on a comically absurd amount of cold medicine at the moment and “high as a kite” is the best description of my state of mind. So, this review may be bad. My apologies.)

Occasionally, I will tell people that I think The Incredibles is the greatest superhero film of all time; they think I’m crazy. And when I say that the film adaptation of Watchmen is the only one that comes even close, they start looking for mental institutions to house me in. But, I also believe those two statements whole-heartedly, but having not seen The Incredibles since high school, I was worried that the film wouldn’t have aged as well as my exceptionally fond memories. Thankfully, it’s like fine wine. It’s only gotten better. With a dark and mature thematic complexity that manages to exceed even director Brad Bird’s earlier masterpiece, The Iron Giant. Though the film doesn’t reduce me to a sobbing, blubbering mess like Up and Toy Story 3, this earlier Pixar entry marked the beginning of the peak of Pixar’s new Golden Age and represents one of the finest children’s films of the 2000s.

More than any traditional comic book superhero film (even the best ones like The Avengers or Spiderman 2), The Incredibles not only captures the spirit of modern heroic storytelling and the grandiose mythology inherent therein, it becomes a meta-commentary on superheroes in general and both deconstructs and then reconstructs society’s need for heroes and those who are truly exceptional. With an explicit as well as implied body count that rivals Titan A.E., Brad Bird doesn’t shy away from examining the consequences of one of the most sadistic and evil villains in the Disney or Pixar canon. It creates a thrilling story that offers a lesson on the nature of truly being special without talking down to the audience or offering artificial, feel-good plaudits. The Incredibles succeeds as a spectacle-fueled children’s adventure tale as well as a philosophical examination of family and potential for the older members of the audience.

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In a situation not entirely dissimilar to Watchmen, The Incredibles takes place in a world where all superheroes have been forced to retire by a government and public distrustful of their powers and their place above them in society. Before he was forced into retirement, Bob Parr (Poltergeist‘s Craig T. Nelson) was the super-strong Mr. Incredible but now his job entails him being the opposite of hero, working as an insurance claims adjuster where he’s yelled at by his boss (My Dinner with Andre‘s Wally Shawn) for not screwing over their customers as much as humanly possible. Before Bob retired, he married fellow super, Helen/Elastigirl (Raising Arizona‘s Holly Hunter), and post-retirement the pair are not-so-happily married with three children, the ultra-fast Dash, the shy Violet (with Sue Storm’s powers from the Incredibles), and the seemingly non-super-powered infant Jack.

Bob does not adjust well to civilian life and whether he hates himself for his job or is simply bored sitting in his cramped car on his commute to work. And though Helen has come to terms with her new life, it’s clear that the life of a stay at home mom isn’t for her either and forcing her children to hide their superpowers is causing tensions at home as Dash acts out in class cause he has no way to vent his energy. Bob has even taken to, in a story meant to parallel marital infidelity, sneaking out with an old friend from his superhero days, Frozone (Django Unchained‘s Samuel L. Jackson), to fight crime while telling his wife he’s out bowling. But, when Bob gets an offer to break out of the doldrums of retirement, it’s not long til he discovers it’s a trap from a mistake from his past that has now put him and his entire family in danger.

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The voice performances from all of the principal leads are all (lame pun incoming) incredible. Craig T. Nelson’s career has been, to put it gently, non-existent since Coach got off television with only some small bit parts here and there, and it’s probably not much of a stretch to call Mr. Incredible the role of his career. He captures the frustration and ennui of an exceptional man forced into a life of mediocrity. Holly Hunter is an excellent and accomplished actress in her own right so clearly Elastigirl isn’t The Piano or Raising Arizona but she too finds herself railing against her domesticated lifestyle. And there are great supporting turns from Jason Lee as the villain of the piece and Sam Jackson as Frozone. Though, let’s face it, is it ever possible to hear Sam Jackson’s voice and not get excited?

Alright, you know what. I’m too buzzed on cold medicine to do this review justice right now. I thnk I’ve been working on it for like two and a half hours now and I’ve only written 800 words. I would usually have written two reviews of comparable length in that time. Needless to say, The Incredibles is not just one of the best children’s films of the last ten years but arguably of all time and few superhero movies get superhero storytelling as well as it does (if any). The movie is unremittingly dark for a Disney film and when many of its sugar-coated peers will start to fade into the mist of memory, The Incredibles will be around for a long, long time. I just wish I’d had the chance to review it when I was capable of stringing more than two coherent sentences together without subsequently staring at the ceiling for about five minutes in a medicinally-induced haze.

Final Score: A

 

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SnowWhiteAndTheSevenDwarfs1

The day that I get too old to enjoy children’s movies will be the day that my heart stops being capable of having simple, innocent fun. Anyone who’s read my reviews of Toy Story 3, The Iron Giant, or Howl’s Moving Castle know the fondness I hold in my heart for great children’s film-making, and when Pixar or Studio Ghibli are involved, we’re living through a family film renaissance. But, the mark of a great children’s movie is how much the adults in the audience can appreciate it, and though 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a remarkable technical achievement as the world’s first full-length animated film, sitting through it’s actual story was an absolute, almost unbearable bore.

When I was watching the Blu-Ray re-release of Snow White (which impressively decided to not futz with the original film’s 4:3 aspect ratio by not awkwardly forcing a 16:9 schematic into the film), I was bowled over by the film’s artist attention to detail and the sheer scope and gamble that movie surely represented for the Disney studios. No one else had done anything like it before. Cartoons were meant for shorts, not movies, but Walt Disney wrung 90 minutes out of an animated story. And, the backgrounds and characters (except for the hideously drawn Snow White herself) are exquisite and well-crafted in a way that Disney rarely does anymore. Sadly, that didn’t make the actual plot of the film itself any more enjoyable.

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If you are somehow unfamiliar with the plot of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, you’re either an amnesia just waking from a decades long coma or you’re an alien intent on infiltrating the human race. But, here goes. Snow White is a beautiful princess whose evil stepmother, the Queen, fears her stepdaughter’s beauty. With a magic mirror constantly telling her that she’s the most fairest woman in the land, the Queen is content to make her daughter’s life hell and to dress her as a hideous maid until one day the mirror changes its tune and tells the Queen that Snow White is now the fairest of them all.

The Queen, being the psychotic narcissist that she is, doesn’t take the news well. She orders the royal huntsman to escort the young Snow White off to the woods and then to kill her and remove her heart as a trophy. But, when the time comes, the huntsman can not do it and shows mercy on the young Snow White. Snow White is forced to flee into the woods away from the watchful eyes of her evil Stepmother, and in those woods, she stumbles upon the company of seven strange but lovable dwarfs who vow to keep her safe. But, the Queen’s vengeance knows no limits and she devises a plan with a poisoned apple to end Snow White’s life once and for all.

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Words can not properly describe how irritating Adriana Caselotti’s voice is. That’s the woman who voiced Snow White, and it’s like if they took everything that made Judy Garland’s voice so iconic and wonderful and then made it grating like Jean Hagen in Singin’ in the Rain. She thankfully doesn’t talk all that much, but by the end of the film, I was cheering for the Evil Queen to feed her the poisoned apple because I didn’t want to hear her treacly sweet voice ever again. Her singing voice is alright, but most of the enjoyable musical numbers from the film were performed by the dwarfs anyway, but more on them in a second.

The movie’s story is so broad, the characterizations so thin, and the innocence of it so frustrating that it’s difficult for anyone bred on the Disney films of the 90s (like me) to be able to sit through the simplicity of this film’s tale. Until the dwarfs arrive, it lacks much of the trademark humor of a Disney film, and it’s painfully obvious that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was made for young girls and absolutely no one else was likely intended to enjoy it. Alongside the film’s artistic craftsmanship, the dwarfs are the only consistently enjoyable part of the film, and they add a much needed levity to the whole affair. There’s a reason why “Hi Ho” is still a classic of the children’s genre.

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As dull and uninteresting as I found most of the film, I was able to sit through this thankfully brief film because of how gorgeous the artwork is. For what was the very first full-length animated feature, Disney already knew what they were doing, and their dedication to getting things right in an age before computers is incredible. I can’t even imagine the man hours that went into making this movie. So, although I have no intention of watching this film ever again (unless I have a daughter someday who forces me to), I can appreciate the momentous undertaking that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs represented for Disney. And it’s that ambition that keeps this score from being even lower than it alraedy is.

Final Score: B-

 

MonstersUniversity1

After the somewhat disappointing Brave and (though I haven’t seen it) the considerable critical displeasure directed towards Cars 2, many had begun to worry that perhaps Pixar had lost its way. The same magical company that gave us the heartwrenching tale of lost love and a squandered life in Up or the tale of maturation and leaving behind childhood in Toy Story 3 or the brilliant modern superhero story of The Incredibles had seemingly lost its inspiration and ability to tell character-driven stories that appeal to both the young and old. Thankfully, I can report that Pixar has found its magic touch again with the highly enjoyable Monsters University, the long-awaited sequel to 2001’s Monsters Inc.

Though Monsters University may not reach the same emotional heights of Up, the Toy Story franchise, or The Incredibles, it makes up for it by being arguably one of the funniest films that Pixar has done in years and years. Continuing Pixar’s trend (one that I’m perfectly fine with) of making their sequels a meta-commentary for the children who grew up with these films in the first place, the team at Pixar turns Monsters University into a spoof of classic college films like Revenge of the Nerds, Animal House, and others in such a way that I legitimately wonder if kids will even be able to get many of the jokes. But as one of the kids who can remember watching the first film in theaters 12 years ago (when I was myself 12), it’s great to return to this world.

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After visiting the Monsters Inc. scare factory (where the screams of human children are converted into the energy that powers Monstropolis) as a child, Mike Lazowski (Billy Crystal) makes it his life-long dream to become a professional scarer. Considering that he’s a tiny circular green ball with a massive eye, that’s easier said than done since Mike can be better described as “cute” or “cuddly” than “horrific.” But Mike refuses to let that stop him, and thanks to the inspiration given to him by one of the scarers he meets as a child, Mike knows that there’s no better place to learn how to scare than at the prestigious Monsters University.

But, arriving at Monsters University is an immediate reminder to Mike that he’s going to have to work harder than anyone else if he wants to earn his place in the ranks of Scare Majors. Led by the stern and imposing Dean Hardscrabble (The Queen‘s Helen Mirren), the candidates to be scarers face a rigorous curriculum that only the toughest can hope to survive. And early on, the studious but ultimately unscary Mike bumps head with the ferocious but lazy Sully (The Big Lebowski‘s John Goodman) as the two compete to be the best in their class. But when the Greek Scare games arrive, the two must find a way to work together in order to stay in the Scare program.

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One of the biggest compliments that I could give Brave (when I wasn’t thinking about the many things I felt the film was missing) was that it was undeniably a beautiful looking film. Pixar had completely redesigned their graphics engine for that film, and the level of detail and artistry showed. That same absurdly high caliber of detail continues over to Monsters University. Just click on the pixar above of Mike and Scully for the full-size image and see just how insanely detailed the texture work on Sully is. It’s like they individually modeled almost every single hair on his super fuzzy body. And, though Monsters University may be more cartoonishly stylized than Brave, that almost allows the directors to go even more wild with their imagination in crafting fantastic creatures. Monsters University is a visual delight.

Though neither of them have played the part in over ten years now, Billy Crystal and John Goodman slipped comfortably back into these roles that brought so much joy to children so long ago now. I’m sort of sad that Billy Crystal has dropped off the pop culture radar over the last decade (other than the odd Oscars hosting gig here and there) because he picked up the slack of neurotic, nebbish leading men that Woody Allen left off when Woody primarily disappeared behind the camera. And I firmly believe that John Goodman is the best supporting comedic talent of the last twenty-five to thirty years.

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Though the film starts off just a wee bit slow, it allows the film to fill in some of the emotional blanks that make the rest of the film pay off. But, once the laughs come, they hit hard and often til the final credits roll. Of course, I’m 24 and was watching this film in an audience full of little kids (I worry that my 19 year old sister and I were the only non-parent adults in the theater), and I was laughing at all of the moments that the kids weren’t. There’s a scene before their finals where a multiple-limbed monstrosity is downing coffee and twitching like a crackhead that had me laughing hysterically and it was just a little sight gag. But, the film is overflowing with jokes that will more likely appeal to the older people in the crowd than the kids watching with their parents.

I’ve reviewed two movies today. I want to watch the season 1 finale of Twin Peaks as well as an episode of Game of Thrones (which I have to catch up on because I didn’t get to watch this season when it aired) and I want to watch a movie on my Netflix Instant queue before it disappears in two days so I’ll draw this review to a close. Monsters University may not have made me bawl like a baby like Toy Story 3 or Up, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in an emotional pay-off. The film may not be the height of children’s entertainment, but as a nostalgic throwback to the heroes of my youth, Monsters University was a great way to spend an evening.

Final Score: B+

 

AliceInWonderland1951-1

It is one of the great tragedies of the modern age that an entire generation of children will grow up with their primary knowledge of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass coming from the abysmal Tim Burton adaptation from 2010. That film fails to capture, even for a second, the wit, magic, and surrealism that has made Alice in Wonderland one of the most enduring children’s tales of all time. And while nothing will ever quite compare to the original source novel, Disney’s 1951 musical adaptation of the two books remains one of the most simply enjoyable films of Disney’s Golden age, and even as a 24 year old man, slipping back into this magical world and it’s colorful cast of characters was an undeniable delight.

I find it almost astounding that this film predates the psychedelic movement and isn’t, instead, a product of a bunch of completely stoned animators. The hippie movement, and especially the acid-fueled subset of that group, took so many of the symbols and motifs of the book and film and incorporated them into the hippie iconography, and it’s not difficult to see why. There’s a moment early in the film where Alice is falling down the proverbial rabbit-hole where, for no discernible reason, the screen swiftly changes tints and hues in total disorientation. Grace Slick directly quotes the film in “White Rabbit” which is one of the most beloved songs of the psychedelic era. Though it makes sense within the context of the film, Alice in Wonderland‘s dedication to absurdity and constantly surreal overtones is present in every scene, and it’s easy to see why the “heads” of the 60s and 70s loved this movie so much.

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For those who have somehow never seen the film or read the book, Alice in Wonderland is the story of the adventures of young Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) and her journey into the insane, magical, incomprehensible Wonderland. After growing bored with her studies, Alice spies a talking White Rabbit muttering about being late and follows him into a rabbit hole where she falls down to Wonderland. And there, she stumbles upon an increasingly bizarre cast of characters ranging from the homicidal Queen of Hearts, the positively insane Mad Hatter and March Hare, and the obfuscating Cheshire Cat. And, she finds herself in one misadventure after another usually involving food that makes her grow or shrink depending on the side she eats, and before long, it’s clear that all Alice wants to do is get home.

The animation in Alice in Wonderland is truly superb, and although I love pretty much the entirety of the Pixar canon (there are one or two exceptions), I do find myself missing the type of hand-drawn cartoons that I grew up on, and part of me thinks that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy anime so much. Alice in Wonderland is just stunning to look at from beginning to end, and it’s sad that movies that look like this are almost never made anymore. From the way that the film regularly plays with perspective to the imaginative creatures that inhabit Wonderland (such as a rocking horse fly and a dandelion that is half lion and many others) to constant kinetic action and animations, Alice in Wonderland is one of the Golden age animated films that should set the standard for what hand-drawn animation should look like .

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Not only is this film the introduction many kids my age (and for the thirty eight years before I was born) had to post-modernism, it was also likely our first introduction to weird, antiquated political satire that we were too young to understand (and are now too far removed from the people and figures being satirized to comprehend as adults either). It pokes fun at the comedy of manners and class snobbery (the scenes with the flowers) but it also pokes fun at the political establishment and the futility of certain promises of political elites (the moments with the Dodo where they all run in circles) and also how the rich exploit the poor (the Walrus and the Carpenter). Those aren’t the types of things that kids watching the movie would notice (or even enjoy) but it adds another layer to what was already one of Disney’s best films.

If there’s any legitimate complaint to make about Alice in Wonderland, it’s that the musical numbers aren’t up to the par set by the Tim Rice era of the late 80s and early 90s, but let’s face it, Tim Rice is in a class all his own as a songwriter for children’s movies. The songs aren’t bad (and a couple are memorable enough), but as a musical, it lacks a stand-out hit tune. It’s a minor flaw in an otherwise timeless Disney classic. If I ever have children some day (which seems unlikely cause I don’t like kids), it is a certainty that this will be one of the films from my childhood that I foist upon them, and it is my sincerest hope that there’s never a day where this movie isn’t considered a wonderful delight.

Final Score: A

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(A quick aside before I begin my review proper. It’s been a relatively busy weekend for me. After having essentially all of last week off, I actually worked Friday and Sunday, more or less the whole day. And on Saturday, I went to the movies with my little sister and her roommate [there will be two movie reviews in quick succession since I allowed myself to get backed up like  a dumbass]. We went to go see the new Evil Dead movie. More on that in it’s review. Anyways, I watched 2012’s Best Animated Feature Oscar winner, Brave, in the wee hours of Friday morning so forgive me if this review is shorter/hazier than what you usually expect from me).

When Don Bluth’s films disappeared from the public eye by the end of the 90s, Pixar was there to pick up the slack with increasingly thematically complex and mature children’s entertainment. If films like All Dogs Go to Heaven and An American Tail were the definitive children’s movies of the 1980s, Disney had a brief resurgence in the 1990s with Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King before Pixar arose from their umbrella to define modern American animation. Toy Story 3, Up, and The Incredibles aren’t just the best children movies of the last decade; they’re some of the best movies period of the last ten years. The first 15 minutes of Up is arguably the most emotionally powerful sequence in the last five years of cinema. One almost has to pity Pixar at this point because they have set the bar so impossibly high for themselves. Any thing short of making me curl up in a ball and making me sob uncontrollably becomes a disappointment. 2012’s Brave is a good film, but it’s high on the adventure and low on the emotional impact that has grown to define the best of the Pixar experience.

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Following the well-trod path of rebellious princesses unhappy with the arranged marriages set up by their parents, Brave forges its own identity with a cast over-flowing with memorable characters and a stunning visual sensibility. Merida (Choke‘s Kelly MacDonald) is the bushy-haired tomboy daughter of the boisterous Scottish King Fergus and the strict but loving Queen Elinor (Stranger than Fiction‘s Emma Thompson). Merida would rather be in the woods with her horse Angus shooting her bow and arrow and exploring the wilderness than learning how to be a proper princess. And when she learns that her mother and father have arranged suitors from the three most powerful clans in the kingdom to seek her hand in marriage, she quickly runs away where she encounters a witch in the forest which grants her a wish to change her fate. And clearly, that wish comes with a price.

Let me get my biggest compliment towards the film out of the way because it is a massive reason why this score isn’t lower (that and Kelly MacDonald’s performance and the movie’s consistent sense of humor but I’m getting ahead of myself). Brave is one of the most beautifully animated films that I’ve ever watched. Apparently, Pixar had to completely remake their animation software (which they had never done before; it had simply been upgrades not a complete overhaul) for Brave and it shows. While the character animations are par for the course for Pixar (though the hair, obviously, is exceptional in this film), the consistent scenic panoramas of the Scottish countryside are just stunning. I could watch this movie with the sound off at times because it was just that gorgeous. The film never stopped stunning me with its sheer beauty.

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And Kelly MacDonald remains a criminally under-appreciated talent (though her recent turn on Boardwalk Empire seems to be raising her level of American pop culture infiltration). Still, for anyone who’s seen Trainspotting, Choke, or The Girl in the Cafe (an indie film that my dad weirdly really enjoys), you know she’s a supremely talented actress. You only hear her voice in this film, but she does a wonderful job of bringing Merida to life (although she sounds very grown-up in her opening narration though I forgot about that as the film progressed). Emma Thompson is just one of the greatest actresses of her peer group, and she brought a wonderfully subtle interpretation to Queen Elinor. And there was a whole host of great performances although another shout out would be for Harry Potter‘s Julie Walters as the Witch whose powers have a higher price than Merida could have expected.

The film could also be very funny. Merida has triplet little brothers, and they are perpetual comic motion machines. There was barely a second where they were on screen where they didn’t have me laughing my ass off (and the film used them for some surprisingly dirty jokes for a kids’ movie). There’s a brilliant set piece halfway through the film where Merida has to sneak something out of the castle (I can’t say what for fear of spoiling some of the major twists in the film) and the triplets serve as the distraction. It could have came out of a classic Benny Hill routine for sheer slapstick value. And it’s a shame that the Witch had such small time on screen because she was without question the liveliest and most hysterical part of the whole film.

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Sadly, the the film’s plot has been done to death. How many Disney princesses (of which Merida is certainly one although she may be the first Disney/Pixar princess) have been upset about being forced to marry someone they don’t want to? Way too god damn many is the correct answer, and there’s not much that Brave does differently (well, there’s one big thing at the end but I can’t say for fear of spoilers, yet again). Merida just seems like the cliche tomboy fantasy princess, and it’s only her mother, Elinor, that seems to break the major genre conventions. Up until the film’s final climactic encounters, Brave failed to elicit even the most remote emotional reaction/sympathy, although the final moments did wind up bringing a tear to my eye. Ultimately, Brave is a film about the relationship between mothers and daughters, and perhaps that is why I failed to connect to it. That would be a fair argument.

I’ll draw this to a close since I have to review Evil Dead tonight (it’s now one of a handful of remakes I’ve reviewed where I’ve also reviewed the original but I’ll talk about that in my Evil Dead review). Let me simply say that it isn’t that I didn’t enjoy Brave. It is a passable and highly enjoyable kid’s movie. However, Pixar has trained me to expect more from their movies. They have trained me to expect films that are as enjoyable for the kids in the audience as they are for the grown-ups. Brave fails to meet that standard. However, as far as children’s adventure movies go, Brave is an exciting and often frighteningly dark tale. One only wishes that the emotional stakes had been higher.

Final Score: B

 

I have a million little questions that I tend to ask people that are, in fact, secret tests of their character, taste, and intelligence. Who is your favorite character on Seinfeld (any answer is fine except for Kramer)? Who is your favorite Beatle (George or John)? The Red Sox or the Yankees (Boston)? Sony or Nintendo (Sony)? Well, one of my key ways to determine if you have good taste in children’s movie is your opinion of the original Fantasia film. It is easily one of my favorite films from my child hood and if someone doesn’t like Fantasia, I have to question their entire taste in cinema. Well, I finally got around (11 years later) to watching its long-awaited sequel Fantasia 2000 and while it isn’t quite as magical as the original, it’s still quite a gamble in high-brow children’s animation.

Fantasia 2000 follows the same basic set-up of the original film by setting different animated “stories” against a back drop of classical music (although this one also includes a wonderful jazz number). The film has many new vignettes as well as bringing back the classic “The Sorceror’s Apprentice”. However, unlike the original, where the conductor managed most of the transitions between scenes, this one brings in a large cast of familiar faces to add humor to the transition scenes, like Steve Martin, Penn and Teller, Angela Lansbury, and James Earl Jones.

There were two numbers in this film that I would put as being on par with some of the stuff from the original film, and while the others were good, they weren’t as great as the two I’m about to mention. Obviously, “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” isn’t counted in all this since it was in the original as well. They do an absolutely A+ stellar job with George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” both through the perfect choice of song and then through the beautiful art deco animation and Great Depression era storytelling that follows. “Rhapsody in Blue” was my favorite part of the whole film. Also, much like “Night on Bald Mountain/ Ave Maria” from the first film, “Firebird Suite” beautifully mixes an earthly sense of wonder, beauty, and creation with  a sense of danger and death. “Night on Bald Mountain” gave me terrible nightmares as a child because of Chernobog and I could see “Firebird Suite” doing something similar for children today.

This film isn’t as groundbreaking or innovative as the original Fantasia was nearly 70 years ago, but that’s ok. It’s still the kind of big gamble that you’d think Disney had stopped making a long time ago. I would give the original Fantasia one of my very rare A+’s for it’s total score, and while I can’t do that for Fantasia 2000, that doesn’t stop it from still being a great fun, family film. When I get older and if I ever have any kids of my own, I know that the Fantasia films will play a very special role in their cinematic lives.

Final Score: A-

While the actual first film that I can remember seeing in theaters was A Muppets Christmas Carol, one of the other earliest pictures that I can remember seeing at the movies was Pixar’s debut feature, Toy Story. The first full-length film to be made using computer-generated graphics, Toy Story has stood the test of the time and has always held an incredibly special place in my heart. When I heard a couple of years ago that they were finally making the long talked about Toy Story 3, I was justifiably concerned, since Disney’s record of releasing sequels to its classic films is less than stellar. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Toy Story 3 ranks alongside Up and the original Toy Story as being one of the greatest animated films that Pixar has produced, and I’m absolutely positive that if you were a child that grew up with the original films but is a grown up now, then the emotional strength of this film can hardly be under-stated.

Toy Story 3 picks up pretty much in universe with the number of years that had passed since the release of Toy Story 2, which was about 11 years or so years before. Andy, the owner of cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) and space ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), is all grown up and about to head off to college. The few remaining toys that haven’t been sent off in yard sales or thrown away haven’t been played with in years, and they concoct elaborate schemes just to have the opportunity to see or hear Andy. Due to some confusion, the toys are accidentally sent to a daycare center instead of being placed in the attic. The daycare is run by an autocratic stuffed bear who uses new arrivals as cannon fodder for toddlers who don’t know how to properly take care of toys. What follows through the film is a very powerful meditation on abandonment, growing up, and continuing the cycle of love, play, and imagination. And it is guaranteed to bring grown men into inconsolable tears.

I’m probably not saying anything too controversial when I say that with The Incredibles, Up, and Toy Story 3, Pixar took the opportunity to place really mature and deep themes in what are other wise children’s movies. You place the site gags, the animated look, and some of the more childish aspects of plot and pacing to keep the children interested and appeased, but then you throw in some deep and moving moments and messages for the parents, and right now, no one does that better than Pixar. The beginning sequence of Up is one of the most powerful 10 minutes or so of any movie I’ve ever seen, animated or live action. The last scene of Toy Story 3 had me just convulsing with tears. It was embarrassing. I’m glad there wasn’t any women around to see me weeping like I was at a funeral for a loved one. And they weren’t even sad tears. It was tears of recognition of such a fantastic celebration of childhood and the transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s heavy shit. I’ve talked to so many of my friends who agree whole-heartedly when we feel like this movie wasn’t even made for the kid audience but it was made as a celebration of growing up for all the millions of kids who grew up with these films and are now finally grown-ups ourselves.

Besides the emotional weight of the film, it’s fantastic for a myriad of other reasons, particularly the endless jokes and tight plotting that keep you laughing as well as crying. Any scene with Ken and Barbie is hilarious. The sight gags where Mr. Potato Head looks like something out of a Dali painting are great fun for the adults. The film’s last act is structured like The Great Escape. It has some genuinely dark and terrifying moments that I’m sure scared the piss out of the kids in the audience. It has a pretty fantastic use of a Deus Ex Machina at the end of the film. The film’s opening sequence is a brilliant bit of ridiculous anachronism in how it combines the old west with science fiction with just the beautiful imagination of a hyper-active child who hasn’t had life sucked out of him yet by growing up.

This is one of only three animated films to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and that should hopefully speak volumes towards the quality of the picture (the other two being Beauty and the Beast and Up). While I probably still believe that Up and The Incredibles are better movies, it’s a damn close race and Toy Story 3 is still one of the best animated pictures ever made. If you were ever a child and especially if you were a child when the original Toy Story films were released, then you owe it to yourself to watch this movie. If you finish it and haven’t spent the majority of the film in tears, then you are probably a heartless automaton. To infinity and beyond!

Final Score: A