Till We Find Our Place: Celebrating The Lion King #1: Simba

There is a very good reason why the period of the late 1980s to the mid 1990s are best referred to in the world of cinema as the Disney Renaissance. Like the age itself, it marked a new birth of creativity, imagination, and innovation for the company that brought it back from its nadir following the death of Walt Disney in the late 1960s. The films released in this period received critical and commercial acclaim that matched the output of Walt himself as audiences went under the sea with The Little Mermaid, discovered a whole new world with Aladdin, and discovered the importance of inner character in Beauty and the Beast. Disney even took big risks and partnered with other innovators to release such ground breaking classics as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and Pixar’s Toy Story.

More importantly these moves not only had great stories, but memorable characters with rich, dynamic personalities. Looking back at the early Disney films and one common criticism that is noted is that characters like Snow White, Cinderella, and Prince Charming were very flat characters. Not so with the Disney characters of the 80s and 90s like Ariel, Eric, Belle, Beast, Jasmine, and Aladdin. However right near the very top of this pantheon of memorable characters was the once and future king of beasts himself, Simba from The Lion King.

Simba

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Welcome to 2019!

Well, here we are dear readers, a New Year is upon us. As usual I’d like to thank you, my dear readers for hanging with me.

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Coming Soon to this Blog

From Jonathon D. Svendsen, the mind behind  Countdown to Avengers, Road to Rises, An Unexpected Blog Series, The Saga Continues, These are the Voyages, Good Grief, I’ll Be Right Here, Life Finds a Way,  and What’s This? Comes an exciting new series, one that is sure to give you chills…
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Prince of Egypt 20th Anniversary Retrospective

Nowadays, Dreamworks Animation is best known for their films like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and How To Train Your Dragon. With the exception of Dragon, these films often tend to be animated comedies with a generous helping of adult humor. However, there is one animated film in their catalogue that has none of those traits. To this day it frequently makes the list of underrated animated films alongside the equally ignored The Iron Giant, and up until The Simpsons Movie, was the highest grossing traditionally animated movie.

In 1998 between their twin power houses of Walt Disney Animation and Pixar, Disney was the reigning champion of animated films. Nothing, not even an animated Batman movie could usurp their position. Even movies they were once apprehensive of could be welcomed with open arms once they became hits like Nightmare Before Christmas. It became a trend during that time for studios to try and ape Disney. Dreamworks was no stranger to the trend, with their first film being Antz, which was released close to Disney and Pixar’s A Bugs Life.It was their second animated film, The Prince of Egypt, however that dared to do something a bit different.

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What’s This? Celebrating 25 Years of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas #4: Sandy Claws

For a movie called “The Nightmare Before Christmas” the story spends very little time developing Christmas town and the jolly old elf in the red suit. Santa first appears as merely a shadow when he opened the door of his workshop in Christmastown after Jack discovers this wonderland. From then on, he is shrouded in mystery, appropriate for a Halloween themed Christmas movie, or depending on to whom one is discussing the film, a Christmas themed Halloween movie. The audience doesn’t even get to see him until over half way through the film.

The first mention of him is during Jack’s town meeting where he shares Christmastown with his friends. Realizing quickly that his audience isn’t paying any attention to what he’s saying, the skeleton admits that he may as well just give them what they want and spins his own tale of Santa. As he tells them,

“And the best I must confess, I have saved for the last, for the ruler of this Christmas land is a fearsome kind with a deep mighty voice least that’s what I’ve come to understand. And I’ve also heard it told, that’s he’s something to behold, like a lobster, huge and red, and sets out to slay with his rain gear on, carting bulging sacks with his big great arms that is, so I’ve heard it said. And on a dark, cold night under full moonlight, he flies into a fog, like a vulture in the sky…and they call him Sandy Claws.”

Sandy Claws

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I Still Believe That a Man Can Fly: A 40th Anniversary Retrospect of Superman: The Movie

It has been said that we are living in the Golden Age of comic book films. What was once seen as a geeks domain has proven to become a box office juggernaut as icons like Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Wolverine are proven hits, while elevating lesser known characters like Iron Man,  Captain America, Thor,  Ant-Man, Black Panther, Groot,and Doctor Strange into household names. Even Deadpool has become part of the cultural conversation with some ( myself included) want him to host the Oscars.

None of this however, would have been possible without one important film: Superman: The Movie. He has been called the first superhero, and thus it is perhaps fortuitous that he be the one to kick of the superhero film genre. At the time, not only was the character turning 40, but the groundbreaking work done on Star Wars had shown that a good

Superman: The Movie

Superman movie could be made.  To this day, the likes of Bryan Singer, Sam Raimi, Christopher Nolan, Jon Favreau, and Patty Jenkins site it as an influence in bringing  X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman Begins, Iron Man, and Wonder Woman to the big screen by staying true to the strip of the book, while grounding the characters in real and believable relationships, while the DC TV shows The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl will frequently pay homage to this film and Tim Burton’s Batman universe.     Continue reading

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What’s This?: Celebrating 25 Years of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas #3: Sally

Like  everything else in the Nightmare Before Christmas, Burton and Selick’s take on the classic Frankenstein myth has its own twist. The creature is not a big lumbering hulk, but rather a lithe female, leading her not to look like a monster, but a well loved rag-doll that has been put back together a few times.  Like the monster on whom she is based, she longs for something much more, a trait she shares with Jack Skellington as she sits among the tombstones listening to his lament and dreams of a life with him.

In fact, she owes much of her existence to Burton’s work on Batman Returns and the design for Catwoman in the film. In his sequel to Batman, Burton’s take on Selina Kyle begins not unlike her: a shy, demure woman, disregarded by everyone. That changes for Ms. Kyle when nearly murdered by her boss, Max Shrek, when he pushes her out of the window of his office building. When cats imbue her with new life, she stitches a new look for herself, making the Catwoman costume.

Tim Burton noted in Burton on Burton,

“I remember drawing Jack and really getting into these black holes for eyes and

Sally

thinking that to be expressive, but not having any eyes, would be really incredible. Sally was a relatively new character; I was into stitching from the Catwoman thing. I was into the whole psychological thing of being pieced together. Again, these are all symbols for the way you feel. The feeling of not being together and being loosely stitched together and constantly trying to pull yourself together, so to speak, is just a strong feeling for me.”

Known to fans as Sally the Rag Doll, it might sound strange now considering how much of the Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise she appears on, but like the villainous Oogie-Boogie, Sally was actually not a major character in Tim Burton’s original  poem. In fact, she only appeared in one single page amongst the crowd of monsters during Jack’s town hall meeting. Without her, the story would have been lacking something crucial as  she serves as a perfect mirror for Jack’s inner struggle. Jack feels like he’s not all together and missing pieces, Sally can literally detach herself. He’s a skeleton, she still has flesh to cover herself. Further, just as much as skeletons are an enduring symbol of Halloween, so is Sally. Continue reading

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