Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Song of the South

I was super excited about seeing this movie for two reasons: one, because it has actually never been released in the US on DVD or video, so I'd never seen it, and two, because my favorite ride in all of Disney World is based on this movie.  Since many of you may not be familiar with the movie, here's what happens: a young boy named Johnny goes with his mom to live with his grandmother, though they never explain why exactly the father is leaving them.  Johnny is very upset about dad being gone, and only really finds solace in Uncle Remus's stories about Brer Rabbit.  Unfortunately, due to some misunderstandings, Johnny's mother forbids him to visit Uncle Remus anymore.

*Ending spoiler*  Uncle Remus decides to leave because he can no longer tell stories to Johnny.  When Johnny sees him packing up and leaving, he tries to chase after his wagon.  He can't catch up, so Johnny tries to take a short cut through the meadow where he isn't supposed to go, and ends up basically being gored by a bull.  Okay, not gored because they don't really show anything, but injured enough so that he is between life and death.  Uncle Remus comes back, and when dad hears he comes back, and Johnny lives and everyone is happy and reunited.

First off, here are my thoughts on the fact that this movie is not made available: it's stupid.  There is nothing offensive about it, unless you count that everyone is too darn happy when they're slaves.  I don't think it's a bad thing to make a movie - even a kid's movie - that acknowledges that the Civil War era and slavery once existed. It certainly doesn't go into details, and you can hardly tell that they're slaves.  It's a bit old fashioned, but no different than a movie like, say, Gone with the Wind, where there are slaves involved in the story.  It's just a lot of hype over nothing.

The Brer Rabbit stories are definitely the best part.  The rest of the movie was all right, but nothing really special.  A bit predictable at times (though I did not see him getting gored by a bull) and old fashioned, but I thought it was a really cute movie overall.  There are three Brer Rabbit stories in the whole thing, but they could make a movie just of that and it would be really good.  The stories are about him outsmarting Brer Bear and Brer Fox, who are trying to catch him, and they actually come out of folklore so they're not Disney original and you can look them up and read these three ("The Tar Baby," "Brer Rabbit Runs Away," and "Brer Rabbit's Laughing Place) plus many more.

After all the hype around this movie in the Disney community, it was kind of a let down only because it wasn't amazingly spectacular and it also wasn't really horrible.  It was just a pretty good movie.

The Music
There are some really catchy tunes in this one, including the famous "Zip-a-dee-do-dah."  Another fun one that you'll know if you've been on Splash Mountain is "How Do You Do?"  Be careful, because this one can get stuck in your head for awhile!  Those are the highlights, though there are a few other songs, including "Song of the South" and "Everybody's Got a Laughing Place."

The Villain
Within the Brer Rabbit stories, the "villains" are Brer Bear and Brer Fox.  Brer Bear is your typical dumb sidekick, who instantly calls for all of Brer Rabbit's tricks.  Brer Fox is a bit smarter but not by much, and if often frustrated by what Brer Bear does.  They're much more comical than evil.  Within the frame story there is no real villain per se, just obstacles to overcome.  And that darn bull.

The WDW Connection
My all time favorite ride ever is themed after this movie, and that's Splash Mountain.  You start the ride by going through and seeing various animatronics of the Brer Rabbit stories throughout the movie.  And then, when Brer Rabbit tricks them into throwing him into the Briar Patch, you go down a log flume of 52 feet.  Wee!

Becky's rating:  7.5 out of 10
Jason's rating:  6.5 out of 10

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