Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Toy Story 2

After Toy Story was so successful, it wasn't really surprising that they decided to make a sequel.  What is surprising, however, is that the sequel is almost as good as the first movie!  Apparently it was originally supposed to be a straight to DVD sequel, but after they realized it was actually a good quality film, they released it in theatres.

We're back this time with our same old friends, Woody and Buzz, but we get to meet some new characters this time too.  It turns out that Woody is actually an old toy - a collector's item, and he had a television show and a whole series of merchandise.  There's also Jessie, the cowgirl, and Bullseye, his dog. And of course, good old Stinky Pete.

The adventures that our friends have in this one is just about as exciting as what they go through in the first movie.  Poor Woody is stolen from a garage sale by a collector, who wants to ship him off to Japan. The most interesting thing to me is Woody's eventual attitude toward this.  At first he is obviously resistant and wants to go home, but he actually is on the verge of accepting his new life.  I think Jessie's story, about how her owner grew up and didn't want her anymore, really hit him hard.  Still, his attitude is surprising in this one given his absolute loyalty to Andy in the third.

Some other fun bits from this movie include the introduction of Barbie, and Buzz #2.  I'm not sure why Buzz seems to be the only toy that doesn't realize he's actually a toy, but it's hilarious in every movie.  I also like Jessie as a character, and I love that they did the little romance between her and Buzz, rather than her and Woody.

The Music
The one song that really stands out here is the one that's playing while Jessie's story is on the screen.  It's "When She Loved Me," and it's so sad.  I have it on a CD and I actually cry most of the time when it comes on.  Not surprisingly, "You've Got a Friend in Me" makes a return, but other than that there weren't really any stand out songs.

The Villain
We kinda have two villains here - the human, and the toy.  Al, from Al's Toy Barn, is quite dislikable from the beginning because he actually steals Woody.  Who takes a toy away from a child like that?  He's the more visible villain, because we know he's bad from the start.  Stinky Pete is the surprise villain.  He seems nice and normal the whole time, until the very end, when he tries to sabotage their plan to escape.  We could just say that he's a toy that's never been loved and that's why he acts that way, but he certainly turns on them pretty horribly!

The WDW Connection
See Toy Story.

Becky's rating:  9 out of 10
Jason's rating:  9.5 out of 10

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Toy Story

This was the very first Pixar movie, and boy did they nail it.  Who would have thought that a movie about toys who could walk and talk would be so popular?  But Toy Story is successful because it's very clever, and it's also quite emotional.  They may be toys, but we can certainly relate to them and the things that they are feeling.

It's funny because I always find myself tearing up at the part where Buzz comes along and Woody suddenly feels so neglected and rejected.  And while those emotions feel so real in this movie, it's hard to remember that they're just toys - and then I feel guilty because I know I did the same thing at some point when I was younger, and we have all done it!  But it feels real because we can relate those feelings to our relationships with people, and growing up and leaving other things or people behind.  This all comes together extremely well in the two follow up movies - to be discussed later!

In terms of plot for this one, it's just so good.  Everything from the birthday party and the toys with their plan to find out what the presents are, to the trip to Pizza Planet, to Sid's house, is extremely entertaining.  The characters are also highly entertaining, as each has his or her own fun personality.  Gotta love Mr. Potato Head!

I think that Jason and I will forever be engaged in the Woody vs. Buzz debate.  You see, he is a Buzz fan, and I'm a Woody fan.  He likes Buzz better because he thinks he is nicer, and a better person (or toy).  I like Woody because I think he's more relatable.  As much as I might not want to admit it, I'm probably more like Woody than Buzz.  I would certainly get jealous if someone took my place, and though I may not do the things that Woody does, I would probably be thinking them.  He may not be perfect, but he's fiercely loyal and determined.  Buzz is annoying and kinda dumb sometimes.  But that's my opinion :)  Honestly, I love them both.

The Music
Pixar movies aren't really musicals, with the characters singing and dancing, but like any movie they do have music in them.  The big song from this one is "You've got a Friend in Me," and it's absolutely perfect for this movie.  It's a great song, works well, and it's so catchy.  Everyone knows it.

The Villain
Though Woody and Buzz get into a few tiffs and are seemingly enemies at first, the real villain here is Sid.  And boy, is he evil!  I mean seriously, that is one messed up kid - I'm sure he'll turn out to be a serial killer.  He takes pleasure in destroying, mutilating, and blowing up toys.  He's just completely maniacal and insane, and he scares me.

The WDW Connection
Toy Story is huge in Disney, and it's one of the only movies to actually have two extremely popular and featured rides.  In Magic Kingdom you can try out Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, a fun arcade style shooting game.  Hollywood Studios is home to a brand new ride called Toy Story Mania.  In this ride you play arcade style games, but everything is virtual and you wear 3D glasses (I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds really cool!).  In Disney Quest in Downtown Disney there's a bumper car ride with a Toy Story theme.  They also have one restaurant - Hollywood Studios is home to Pizza Planet.

Becky's rating:  9.5 out of 10
Jason's rating:  9.5 out of 10

Monday, March 21, 2011


Bambi is a good movie.  It's a bit old fashioned, but in many ways I think it's actually a beautiful work of art.  The animation is extremely good for its time. However,though it's a good movie, I'm not sure I can say it's an extremely entertaining movie.  I liked it, but I probably wouldn't want to watch it again.  On the other hand, I'm sure there are kids out there that can watch it over and over again, so there must be something about it that draws some people in.  If anyone has any experience from their own childhood or others with loving this movie and has a guess as to why, I'd be very curious to know.

I think the reason why it's not as entertaining as other movies is because it's very slow.  There isn't a lot that happens; in fact, there's really no strong plot.  It's really just "a year in the life of Bambi."  You keep watching, waiting for that big moment that starts the story, and after about 25 minutes you realize that this is it.

But it's definitely cute.  I love all the little animals as babies, like Thumper and Flower.  And then when they grow up and start to fall in love, that's a great scene too.  It's also extremely moving, especially when Bambi's mother dies.  And when the entire forest is lit on fire, it really sort of speaks to you.  Basically, this movie made me hate humans.  And that's probably part of the message they were trying to get across - respect for nature and all.  Overall I think they do a decent job.

The Music
It's not exactly a big song and dance movie - the music is mostly underscore and subtle.  The most memorable song is "Little April Showers," which is one of the best scenes in the movie.  It's very beautiful just watching the rain falling and the seasons changing.  None of the other songs really stood out to me though.

The Villain
The only villain we really have here is humans - or, more specifically, the man that shoots Bambi's mother.  We know almost nothing about him, but he's a bad guy for killing her.  However, there are tons of people that do hunt for both food and for fun.  Personally, I can't fathom how anyone would find pleasure in shooting innocent animals.  But there are many people that do, people who are often very good people.  So the villain is very ambiguous here, especially if you start to think about it.

The WDW Connection
Bambi is almost non-existent in Disney World.  It's somewhat surprising, considering that it has become a Disney classic.  There are no rides, restaurants, or anything really.  Rumor has it that Thumper has occasionally been seen around the parks, and there's a Bambi topiary at Epcot during the May/June Flower and Garden Festival, but otherwise not much.

Becky's rating:  6.5 out of 10
Jason's rating:  6 out of 10

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Princess and the Frog

When The Princess and the Frog came out in 2009, word was that it was going to be very reminiscent of the Disney renaissance period - all of those good movies like Aladdin, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid.  Considering that (aside from Pixar) the Disney movies that had come out were along the lines of Brother Bear, Home on the Range, and Bolt, I was dying for a good Disney movie.  Going back to Disney's roots in fairy tales was a brilliant idea.

I absolutely fell in love with this movie.  It only came out in late 2009/early 2010, and I've probably watched it five or six times already.  To start with, this movie has an awesome princess who can almost rival Belle.  She's smart, hardworking, dedicated, and won't let anyone stand in her way.  Disney's come a long way since the portrayal of princesses in Snow White or Cinderella.  Tiana doesn't start out as a princess; in fact, she's almost the opposite.  I love the fact that she's a strong character while still being likable.

It also hits all of the right emotions.  There's happiness, comedy, and sadness.  There are lots of really great, funny lines in this movie, and hilarious characters, like Raymond and Louis.  We watched it with Jason's brothers and I was a little worried that they would think it was stupid, but they were laughing a lot, so I think that's a good sign.  Ray's song to Evangeline is both touching and sad at the same time.  And the ending really holds a tragedy in it - I cry every time we watch it.  However, there's still a happy ending.  To me, that's the perfect movie: there's some sad things that happen which make it realistic, but ultimately it ends happily.

The story itself is fun, and I never felt like the pace was lagging or I was checking my watch.  They go through a series of adventures, and Tiana and Prince Naveen start out disliking each other because they are so different.  But it's fun to watch the romance grow between them as they both start to realize the other one actually is caring and a good person.  It was definitely not love at first sight for these two!

The Music
I loved the music from this movie, so much so that I bought the soundtrack (the only other Disney movie I have the entire soundtrack to is The Lion King).  Since the story takes place in New Orleans, it features a lot of jazz music, which I love.  I really don't think there's a bad song in the bunch.  My favorites would be "Almost There," Tiana's big solo song, and "Dig A Little Deeper," the song that Mama Odie sings.  However, "Evangeline" is also beautiful in its own way.  The only thing noticeably missing is a duet between the two lovers.  Even a light-hearted, fun one would have been appropriate, but they don't really sing together.  The closest thing to a love song from the movie is "Evangeline."

The Villain
Dr. Facilier, more commonly known as "the Shadow Man," is a pretty evil villain.  He's a bit reminiscent of Jafar - out for power, and with the ability to control evil magic.  However, the Shadow Man is super creepy because he's actually in cahoots with the devil - his "friends from the other side."

The WDW Connection
Unfortunately, as of right now there aren't really any attractions, shows, or restaurants themed around The Princess and the Frog.  When the movie first came out they did a bit more, such as adding in a show and re-theming the Liberty Belle riverboat, but that's all gone now.  I would love to see more from this movie in the future.  I believe you can still meet Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen around the parks.

Becky's rating:  10 out of 10
Jason's rating:  9.5 out of 10

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Three Caballeros

This one was new to me, and I knew it was one of the older ones.  Different in style from Snow White or Dumbo, this has more of a feeling of the early Disney shorts than the full length animated features.   It really consists of three segments or shorts that are grouped together by a fairly weak storyline.  First there is a tale of a penguin that wants to live where it's warm, then a story about a flying donkey, and finally we have the adventures of the three caballeros.

I actually really enjoyed the first two segments.  They were short, sweet, and funny.  Everything that you'd expect from a Disney short.  However, I didn't really love the second half of the movie, which was the main focus.  Basically, Jose and Panchito take Donald Duck on a tour of Latin America, stopping in various cities and learning a few tidbits.  It's really about the music - and if you had to pick a storyline there, you could say it's about Donald's quest to find a woman.  Really, Donald Duck came off as quite... horny, really.  He was chasing down women left and right, desperate for a kiss, didn't really matter from who.

And once he gets his kiss the movie turns really freaky.  I mean, it had a storyline and for the most part made sense up until then, but all of the sudden things just go psychedelic.  Basically Donald is high from the kiss that he received, and sees singing women in flowers, in the sky, and starts dancing with some cacti.  Basically the whole time I was sitting there wondering, "What the heck is going on?"

There were two bonus shorts at the end, which I really enjoyed.  The first one was about Donald finding the fountain of use, and it was hilarious.  The other was about Pluto and it was pretty good.

The Music
It was okay.  The goal was to make it ethnic, which they did, but it's just a very old fashioned feel.  Not surprising, since it's from the 1940's, but it's not timeless like the songs from Snow White either.

The Villain
Not really applicable to this film.

The WDW Connection
The Three Caballeros have a much greater presence in Walt Disney World these days, now that the Mexican boat ride in Epcot has been rethemed as the Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros. The three can also be seen for meet and greets in the Mexican pavilion at times.  There is also topiaries of them at the Coronado Springs Resort, and a Fountain of the trio at the All Star Music Resort pool.

Becky's rating:  5.5 out of 10
Jason's rating:  6 out of 10