Chicken Little (2005)
Oh… my… god. What did I just watch? I don’t even know where to begin…
This is not a Disney animated feature; this is a Disney parody. Just watch the beginning. They make fun of “once upon a time,” The Lion King, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Then, they give us one of the worst introductions I have ever seen—the animation looks like a parody of Disney’s, or equivalently, Disney’s first try at computer animation. It lacks detail and color and it’s just so bland! How’s the music you ask? Just a bunch of references to other songs, like We Are the Champion, Staying Alive, and I Will Survive.
The jokes are as stupid as the characters. In fact, the jokes aren’t even jokes. They are just, once again, movie references. Whether that is Indiana Jones, King Kong, or Star Wars, you will be just as confused trying to follow the plot as you are trying to keep track of the number of movie references they make. Hell, they even reference themselves!
The plot is beyond repair. It focuses on a chicken who claims the sky has fallen, but no one believes him, including his dad. Thus, he tries to make his dad proud by playing baseball. And, the most generic baseball scenario and outcome arises. Then, the sky falls again, which makes chicken little the laughing stock of the town… again! But wait, he had witnesses this time guys. You know, the pig, the duck, and the fish-who-can’t-talk. They saw it too! Are they now the laughing stock of the town too? No? Just chicken little? Okay, if you say so. But wait a second, didn’t the aliens leave obvious markings on the corn stalks? Is chicken little, the only character with a bit of intelligence, going to show the town these markings? No? Not anybody is going to bring this up? Well, I guess if chicken little just let it slip his mi… never mind.
And you know, after the hairball guy finds chicken little, is he going to use him as evidence for the existence of aliens? No? Is chicken little really that stupid? Okay, if you say so. And then, we get possibly the stupidest resolution to this father-son dilemma. His father admits that he was wrong… AFTER THE ALIEN INVASION. WELL OF COURSE YOU WERE WRONG! WHY DIDN’T THIS HAPPEN BEFORE THE ALIEN INVASION SO THAT YOU COULD DEMONSTRATE HOW YOU GREW AS A FATHER?!? So there’s the story. Chicken little says something, that something is proven correct, and his father acknowledges it. The end.
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
After Disney’s first and pathetic 3D animated outing with Chicken Little, it would have been an understatement to say that I went into this film with much skepticism. But you know what; this movie actually did manage to surpass my low expectations.
I mean, literally everything is done better in this movie. The story is actually coherent; well, as coherent as a time-travel movie can get. Although it is told to us by the villain who really had no reason to tell us, I like how the story actually allows our protagonist’s experience to change him for the better. The characters are not all babbling idiots. I mean, besides the villain, everyone is more silly than stupid. And, although I didn’t particularly like the villain, there is this one moment involving him that made me laugh… hard.
The jokes are actually jokes. Yeah, there was only one that made me laugh out loud, but they’ll probably deliver a few more giggles from its child audience. The songs are actually songs. Yeah, they weren’t very good or memorable, but at least they didn’t freely rip off other artists. The animation is much improved. Yeah, there are still moments when it looks like Disney slacked on its computer graphics, but for the most part, it looked satisfactory.
Although this movie is leaps and bounds better than its computer animated predecessor, it is still leaps and bounds away from Disney magic. This movie suffers from two main problems. First, it has low ambitions. Two, it deviates from Disney’s comfort zone and tries to go for substance instead of style. Unfortunately, it shows.
When I say this film has low ambitions, I mean that it is targeted really for the kids. Everything is either predictable or so chaotically unpredictable. Like the future world they try to immerse their audience in? It almost felt Alice in Wonderland weird at times. The message is explicit and not open to personal interpretation. While Beauty and the Beast let you come to your own conclusions on what is true love, and like how The Little Mermaid let you come to your own conclusions on what it means to dream, Meet the Robinsons does not let you come to your own conclusions on how to deal with failure and the past: always move forward.
The fact that this movie went more for substance than style could not be clearer by the end when they reveal a quote from Walt Disney. Obviously, the studio had a message they wanted to focus this movie around, and yeah, they get it across in a kid-friendly manner. However, I think they forgot that Disney always focused on capturing the audience’s heart via magic, and that magic is sorely missing.
Honestly, this movie is on par with Walt Disney’s average type of films. I’m not saying it has Walt Disney magic, I’m just saying it’s a relatively unknown title that deserves a little more recognition.
Although it doesn’t have an ounce of Walt Disney magic, in my opinion, it has a little Pixar in it. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning: what a unique way to open the film. No, I’m not talking about the little girl adopting the cute little dog—no, that’s generic. I’m talking about starting a Disney movie with, quite frankly, an impressively animated spy-themed action sequence. This was the first time I was impressed by a technical aspect in Disney’s computer animated films, and there are a few other backgrounds that impressed me too.
And I like how this action sequence is not only uncharacteristic of Disney, it’s actually a Hollywood studio production in the movie. Kind of cool that a real movie studio is animating another (fictional) movie studio producing a (fictional) TV show… but anyhow, the TV show features a dog named Bolt, and he is led to believe he actually has superpowers for the sake of his acting career. Things go badly when he accidently gets packaged to New York and must travel across the country to reunite with his owner, Penny. What ensues is a pretty funny journey, a plain bad country song, and a thrilling action sequence involving a train.
The reason why the journey works is because he slowly has to accept that he has no superpowers. And now that I think about it, this could have been a really good movie had they focused more on Bolt rather than the cat. I honestly thought the cat was there to make it a romance, and there is one pretty misleading scene that must’ve confused children.
Really, the cat was just there to make this a soppier movie, and she really dragged the journey down for me. She’s just so pessimistic. And even when she’s not putting Bolt down, she’s just plain bossy. Not a pleasant character, really. However, she is redeemed by one of Disney’s best comic relief character: the hamster. Now that is a character to balance out the cat. He’s always optimistic, energized, and ready for adventure. I guess the trio of them didn’t do so badly as a group, even as the journey felt a tad too long.
I say this movie has some Pixar in it because Pixar always has that moment when it makes you realize you care about its characters. This happens in Bolt when he actually has to save Penny—without his superpowers. As one may not expect, he is unable to, and when given the choice to save himself or potentially die with Penny, he chooses the latter. This concludes the super adventure of Bolt not because he has superpowers, but because he is a super dog. Definitely on my list of underrated Disney movies.
Kid entertainment: 10/10
Will satisfy the kids via cute animal sidekicks and memorable musical numbers.
Teenager entertainment: 7/10
Teenager boys will enjoy Flynn Rider, his lines, and the action he provides, while teenager girls will buy the romance between him and the very relatable Rapunzel.
Adult entertainment: 9/10
Adults will enjoy Disney’s best computer animation to date and the elements it brings back from Disney’s best fairytales.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Cool! A movie about video games! I’m totally going to… wait, what? The two video games we are going to spend the most time in are Wreck-it Ralph and Sugar Rush? Has anyone ever heard of these games? Are these games made up?
Yeah, it’s not like we don’t ever meet some of the big names, such as Bowser and Pac-Man, but Ralph can go to any video game he wants! And we go to Hero’s Duty and Mario-Candy-Kart-Land? Huh? The premise was set up perfectly for a lot of jokes, and while Wreck-it Ralph does manage some laughs, it takes itself too seriously.
It’s rare that I’ll complain a kid’s movie takes itself too seriously, but why waste a perfectly good comedic set-up just to try to make a touching movie? Why not go to more video games? Why not introduce more characters? Save the more serious stuff for another movie. With that said, if Wreck-it Ralph was all fun and games, it wouldn’t receive anything higher than a B, so I appreciate that it’s trying to make a good quality movie. Unfortunately, it is plagued by a major problem.
While the cat in Bolt stopped the movie from moving into a more enjoyable range, the glitch in Wreck-it Ralph stops the movie from moving into the B range, the discrepancy a result of which movie utilized its unique premise better. Sure, Vanellope doesn’t put Ralph down, but she is equally as bossy, not to mention unnecessarily mean. Why does she feel entitled to insult Ralph as often as she does? She hardly knows the guy! I think this error resulted from the fact that Disney thought this was a story about Ralph learning how to be a hero. No, that’s not what this movie is about Disney. This movie is about everyone else realizing that Ralph was always a hero. With that said, this movie does distinguish what makes a hero and what makes a villain, so I’m not too upset by this mistake.
Besides Vanellope, this is a solid, well-made movie. The pacing is pretty good, always balancing the jokes with some of the soppier stuff. Although the jokes weren’t as funny and plentiful as they could’ve been, well, except for this one scene, they make do with what they got to work with. For once, there is a Disney romance just for the sake of humor, and it’s done quite nicely.
But just when you start enjoying where Disney is heading with its story, Vanellope shows up and ruins the show. While Disney does a good job focusing on how Ralph’s journey makes him realize that sometimes being the villain is the same thing as being the hero, Disney forgot that Vanellope needed a journey as well. Vanellope saw what was wrong with Ralph without seeing what was wrong with her, opting to put her dreams in front of his, which was the exact same crime Ralph committed in his respective video game. If Vanellope could have learned the lesson Ralph learned, then this movie would have been an enjoyable experience.
Why did I follow the development of Frozen so closely? Well, I had essentially finished my Disney project, and more importantly, finished watching every Disney princess movie. I love the Disney princess movies. Strong female characters are hard to come across in a male dominated Hollywood, and I think the Disney princesses are some of the most interesting, real, and best role models out there for little girls. Better than that Katniss, archer crap.
Moreover, I love the movie musical, and I find Disney movies to have some of the best music in cinema. At least the ones you can sing along with. And look no further than the Disney princess movies to have the best of the best. Why did I follow the development of Frozen so closely? Because I was super excited.
As to avoid rehashing my arguments in the exact same manner I’ve done in the past, I’m going to do this review a little differently. I am going to go through the movie in storyboard fashion, providing my initial reactions and what I think about those scenes now, if they’ve changed since then. I hope this allows my readers to understand what sorts of things catch my attention when I watch movies.
I remember turning over to my friend, who is also a big Disney guy, and we looked at each other. I think I said something like, “Is the sound coming from the right movie?” And I think he said something like, “The Lion King?” In any case, this song totally caught us both off guard. We thought it was African music. Then I learned it is composed by a Norwegian composer, the very culture Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson based the setting of Frozen (actually titled Snow Queen). I guess I was not cultured enough to appreciate the beginning music. Now I think it’s beautiful.
Wow, what a terrible song. How did this make it into the movie?
What? That boy is an orphan? Since when?
You give us the queen from Snow White. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. Ursula from The Little Mermaid. And now troll magic? Lame.
Okay, this song is awesome. I like how we are getting to know these princesses as kids.
Elsa’s mom looks too similar to Elsa… On a side note, look at her dad’s nose…
Wow! That animation! Why am I not surprised that the parents died?
Oh my gosh! I can’t believe Disney just did that. Talk about not caring how your princesses look like.
Love the song. Love Anna. Love Kristen Bell’s singing and voice acting. I love this room full of paintings. You really feel like Anna learned everything she knows about love by growing up in this room.
Ha! I know people are going to think this scene is cheesy, but I thought it worked. I love how For the First Time in Forever totally sets up our expectations for this “couple,” and the dialogue is funny. Also, am I the only one who thinks Anna is incredibly attractive in this scene? Love the dress.
LOVE the choir. Can we have more of this music, please?
You can tell Elsa’s hands are shaking! Look at the texture on her glove! The animation is great so far. Wish the backgrounds could be more interesting.
I love how awkward this conversation is. It feels real, genuine. These girls aren’t talking about a man. Why can’t we have more of this in cinema?
Upon my first viewing, I really didn’t like this song. I mean, just compare this to romantic songs the likes of Kiss the Girl, Once Upon a Dream, and A Whole New World. But in hindsight, I think it was a good move that they didn’t have such a good song for Anna and Hans to sing. In this context, the song is a lot of fun. It has been covered on YouTube quite a bit, and for good reason.
Finally! Elsa’s ice magic. I like how it reflects how she’s feeling.
Wait, who was ruling the kingdom BEFORE Elsa was queen? Is this person okay with Anna’s decision? Does Anna even have the authority to make these decisions? By virtue of Anna being Elsa’s younger sister, she is under 18.
Dang. Why does Disney always make me question my sexuality towards cartoons? Oh, the song she’s singing? Eh. Kind of disappointed me, to be honest. This comparison is probably not going to convince many people, but I think it is well shy of Part of Your World, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, and even Reflection.
What an entrance. Look at the snow on him!
Am I supposed to think this is funny?
Now that’s funny. I guess Kristoff isn’t the fierce ice man he was made out to be. Definitely should be paired up with Elsa.
NOO!!! The green dress is gone 😦 Not sure if I dig the pig tails.
I guess this conversation is a little funny, but now your taking me out of the fairytale Disney. Don’t take the parody too far. And… booger jokes are never funny.
So the whole point of this scene is to get Kristoff’s sled destroyed so Anna can replace it in the ending. Couldn’t this plot point been accomplished without ripping off Beauty and the Beast?
Now this is one heck of a background.
I like how footprints are created in the snow their characters walk on.
Who cares if this character doesn’t add anything to the story. He is one of Disney’s best sidekicks! Hilarous!
Wait, name me one Disney princess who just trusted their prince to catch them. Is Disney trying to parody something that doesn’t exist? Give your princesses more credit!
What an incredibly dull castle. A total wasted opportunity to display creativity.
Yes. Idina Menzel is rocking this reprise.
Okay, Elsa’s powers are seriously confusing. I can kind of go along with talking snowman, but changing the color of ice? Dress making? If you want dramatic effect, then have Elsa sew together a superhero suit or something. For this scene, just have the ice crack to show she’s stressed.
These trolls absolutely suck the Disney magic right out of this Frozen world. Is this song really going to be the last one you give us? Really, Disney?
WHAT! You have to be kidding me. True love’s first kiss? You’re condemning marriage in a day but sticking to true love’s first kiss?!?
Am I the only one who thought we needed more of Elsa doing her thing? I like how Elsa initially runs away from the guards, and only gradually begins to understand how to use her powers for combat. It’s almost dark how Elsa borders villain here.
Okay, so let’s try to piece this thing together. The filmmakers clearly want us to root for a Kristoff + Anna union, so what does that make Hans? Is he going to be paired up with Elsa? I like this uncertainty.
Man, Anna had her eyes closed and everything. Even today, I’m not sure how I feel about Hans becoming the villain. On one hand, it’s an immense surprise, but not all surprises are necessarily good. Wouldn’t there have been more drama if the kiss didn’t work? But then I guess the only way to keep the audience from feeling sorry for Hans is by pairing him up with Elsa. Then again, I actually like how Elsa doesn’t end up with a man. I blame bad construction of the plot here.
I know this is a weird shot to include, but I would be surprised if you guys forgot about it. It’s when Anna is walking to Kristoff, and it’s a shot of her trying to stay on her feet. I love this shot because of its execution, artistry, and it conveys how fragile Anna is right now.
Holy crap, it’s freezing!
:O We’ve had Disney princesses sacrifice themselves for their family (Belle, Mulan), but this completely rules out true love’s first kiss. It was so unexpected. Where is the story going now?
Aww, okay, I like this movie 🙂
So those are my scene-by-scene thoughts on the movie. It wasn’t quite as impactful as I wanted it to be (maybe a Do You Wanna Build a Snowman reprise would have helped), but it made an impression on me nonetheless, indicating progression for the Disney studio. Disney princess movies have always been about finding romantic love, and here, it is about finding sisterly love (among other things), a message I can definitely get behind. Good job Disney. I had a lot of fun.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
I will continue to assert that Aladdin should have been named Genie. It felt like you were watching Robin Williams doing stand-up comedy as a shape-shifting genie in the middle of a legitimately good Broadway musical. Genie is what makes Aladdin from a good movie into a great movie, providing much needed energy to an otherwise serious children’s film while remaining crucial to the story, making the romance both possible and complicated, as their friendship forces Aladdin to find out what is important to him. Meet Baymax.
Baymax, as adequately called “balloon man” by a police officer, is what makes Big Hero 6 just an average kiddie affair to a very satisfying and enjoyable picture. He is the heartbeat of Big Hero 6, winning over more of the audience with each and every scene he’s in with his naive programming and dedication to his job as a nurse. It’s strange to see this huggable, inflatable figure transform into an Iron Man-like superhero, but the movie knows it, and it makes for some hilarious humor.
The other characters were alright, Hiro being my second favorite of the six. He’s initially made out to be a nervous, timid nerdy kid, but then turns out to be more of a rebellious, edgy nerdy kid, which is more in line with the recent social acceptance of nerds and geeks. With the entire cast being composed of nerds, the film showcases a real love for robotics and technology, something I always love to see in cinema.
Visually, the movie is glorious. I still think Tangled is the best textured computer animated film to date, but the flight scenes are How to Train Your Dragon good. I also don’t think I’ve seen as many moving pieces in an computer animated film besides maybe The Lego Movie and Up’s balloon sequence, as the villain’s technology requires impeccable animation. What really sets Big Hero 6 apart from any other animated movie I’ve seen is the size of its setting, a fictional fusion of San Fransisco and Tokyo. It’s gigantic. And it’s probably the largest playground an animated action film has had to work with since the jungle chase scene in The Incredibles. Also, the lighting is quite remarkable, made more obviously by the short that precedes Big Hero 6, Feast. My enthusiasm for the eye-candy, however, was off-set by some really bad soundtrack choices.
Comparisons will inevitably be made to The Incredibles, and even as I think The Incredibles is overrated, I would take The Incredibles over Big Hero 6. While Big Hero 6 is more fun and upbeat, a winning trend of Disney’s newest batch of movies, at least The Incredibles was original. Big Hero 6 is a standard, rather predictable superhero origin story, with the exception of maybe one twist. Like almost all superhero movies these days, it seems a sequel is destined, but I can’t say I’m too upset by this. I’m actually sort of excited to see where Disney can go with this set up.
People may be wondering, “Why follow the success of Frozen with this superhero flick?” I mean, Disney didn’t. It takes at least 2 years to produce an animated film (of Disney and Pixar’s caliber), so Big Hero 6 was already well underway as Frozen premiered to great success. Disney had already bought Marvel, so they now had access to Marvel characters. It makes sense that Disney do something besides the Broadway musical, because the Disney Renaissance proved its fallibility. Many fellow bloggers have compared Frozen to the likes of The Lion King and predicted Big Hero 6 to falter just like Pocahontas did. The difference here is that Disney learned their lesson, and as a result, Disney animation has had their longest stretch of diverse and fresh films in its new computer medium: Bolt, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and now, Big Hero 6. It goes to show that the musical format is not a necessity for Disney, as the studio is consistently nailing its comic relief characters, pacing, and jokes.
While I would have liked to have cared more for the main human characters, this movie is more about the connections between its characters than liking the characters themselves. Baymax constantly asks, “Are you satisfied with your care?” But with the last few times he says it, it’s more like he’s saying, “Are you satisfied with this movie?” I can’t imagine anybody saying no at that moment when Baymax asks those questions. As long as you have your expectations straight, I guarantee that you will have a good time.
Let’s paint the picture here:
I’m a senior at Case Western Reserve University. I thought I had fufilled all the requirements I needed to graduate, but then I check online and find out that I actually haven’t fulfilled my “breadth” requirements, which basically means I have to sign up for more humanities classes. So I drop astronomy (sad face) and take… Introduction to Gender Studies.
A strange place to start a review–I agree–but you know, I thought about that class as I watched Zootopia. A college level class in a kid’s movie. I love that. I love when movies can surprise me, especially if it’s intellectually.
Despite the movie’s friendly colors, funny trailers, and upbeat music, Zootopia is a movie that has bite. It’s a film that explores not just feminism, but what I like to call “holistic” feminism. I think there’s a real term for it, but it escapes me at the moment. Holistic feminism recognizes that a white women’s experience of sexism is different than, let’s say, a black women’s experience. In other words, what I’m trying to say is that Zootopia explores why Zootopia isn’t utopian along two intertwined dimensions: gender and race.
Sexism is explored primarily through Judy Hopps.
The introduction stuff felt fairly routine but it gets the job done. Judy is established as someone with a dream–to become a police officer–but struggles because she is a rabbit (because she is female). Her new police boss discriminates against her and gives her parking duty despite her qualifications to do more.
Racism is explored primarily through Nick Wilde.
Although the movie’s commentary on racism was very well done, I do think Nick is another one of Disney’s flat male characters, at least in comparison to their female lead. He gets a quick flashback which explains why he lives out his life as a sly, deceptive con artist but I felt his character was rushed for plot.
You see, racism isn’t as black and white as the Holocaust and slavery. Those–I would hope–are obviously bad things. But something like Nick not being able to be a boy scout because he is a fox happens everyday under the radar. We make assumptions about the people we meet before we even get to know them on the basis of the color of their skin, their hair, the way they dress, etc. And whether we would like to admit it or not, those assumptions can influence the people who we befriend, trust, and hire. It’s not fair that Nick wasn’t accepted as a boy scout by his peers because he was a fox. And as he says, “If the world’s only going to see a fox as shifty and untrustworthy, there’s no point in being anything else.” This is the struggle for many people stuck by their class, gender, or race.
Zootopia, at the heart of it, is a relevant piece of social commentary disguised by its animal cuteness and police drama adventure. Director of Wreck-It Ralph, Rich Moore, again creates a wonderfully imaginative and detailed world in Zootopia. Lending his creative skills, this animal world has elephant-sized ice cream shops, giraffe-accommodating smoothie places, and separate miniatures and elevator shoots for its rodent inhabitants. While these instances often flash by in the background, these little details sum into a world that induces wonder and awe.
The police drama adventure, while it had perhaps a few too many plot points, is genuinely funny and suspenseful. There are many references to Disney and other famous movies like the Godfather that should provoke laughter, though I didn’t care much for the prolonged nudist scene thrown in there. The pairing of Judy and Nick had a strong Pixar feel, inevitably furthered by the presence of co-director Byron Howard who also co-directed a similar pairing in Rapunzel and Eugene in Tangled. While there are elements of Zootopia which can be traced back to the history of its creators, all these parts combine into something that is ultimately new and fresh.
This isn’t to imply that Zootopia is revolutionary for animation or an unprecedented example of storytelling in cinema. While it holds an impressive 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating and 8.3 rating on IMDb, it isn’t quite the game-changer as Toy Story or as pristine as some of Pixar’s other beloved works. Judy Hopps is clearly the central character and Nick–often on a whim–progresses through his character arc as the plot requires him to. The romance felt unnecessary despite being secondary to the story and sweetly developed. The segmentation of Zootopia’s outskirts into different ecozones felt a lot like the island personalities of Inside Out and while I did enjoy not knowing who the villain was for some time, it often came at the expense of the story. For example, I felt the climax of the movie with Judy apologizing to Nick should have evoked more emotions than it did.
Nevertheless, I would dare not call this movie overrated or undeserving of its acclaim. I am so excited and thrilled that a movie like this has had the reception it did, because it means the issues that are being explored in Zootopia are resonating with people across the globe. While certain aspects of Zootopia may feel superfluous, the important aspects feel essential. I sincerely believe the police cop element was very intentional, serving to humanize police officers rather than as an excuse for action in the plot. And the prey sheep coming out as the real villain played with our own internalized biases, showing when social justice work can go too far. In this way, Zootopia does not preach as much as it enlightens. And how enlightening, Zootopia is.
Life’s a little bit messy. We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you.