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Director: George Scribner
Release Date: November 13, 1988
Rating: ★★
Review:

Oliver and Company © Walt DisneyOliver and Company’ is the Walt Disney studio’s third film about dogs, after ‘Lady and the Tramp‘ (1955) and ‘One Hundred and One Dalmations’ (1961). Three of the first film’s characters, Peggy, Jock and Trusty, even have a cameo during Dodger’s song.

‘Oliver and Company’ contains some nice and easy looking dog animation, but it is hardly a worthy successor of the two classics. The opening scenes of ‘Oliver & Company’ introduces Oliver, a cute little orange cat to us, in a scene set to an ugly 1980s song. Oliver teams up with a cool dog called Dodger, who appears to be part of a dog gang. Only when the gang’s owner, the poor tramp Fagin (excellently voiced by Dom DeLuise) is visited by the film’s villain, Sykes, some kind of drama begins. By then the film already is 18 minutes underway.

During a totally incomprehensible framing act Oliver is taken sway by a little rich girl called Jenny, much to the dismay of her house’s star dog, poodle Georgette (voiced by Bette Midler). The gang ‘rescues’ Oliver, which leads to the only continuous and songless story part of the complete film. Surprisingly, the upper class world of Jenny and Georgette and the lower class world of Fagin and his dogs don’t seem to clash at all in this film. As soon Jenny is kidnapped, Georgette naturally teams up with the dog gang. The film ends with a wild and totally unbelievable chase, killing Sykes.

Although released five months after ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘ it’s difficult to regard ‘Oliver & Co.’ as part of the Disney renaissance. It’s not as bleak as ‘The Fox and the Hound‘ or as misguided as ‘The Black Cauldron‘, but the film still feels as a continuation of the 1960s and 1970s, instead of something new, making it part of animation’s dark ages.

There are several reasons for this: first, the use of xerox, first used in ‘One Hundred and one Dalmations’ (1961), and defining Disney’s graphic style up to this film. Second, the equally graphic backgrounds, which are uninspired, dull and ugly, as are the all too angular and unappealing cars and machines. Third, the animation, which is erratic and at times downward poor, with the animation of the little girl Jenny, a far cry from the endearing Penny from ‘The Rescuers‘ (1977), being the low point. Fourth, the human designs, which apart from the main characters, look the same as in any generic animated television series from the 1980s. And fifth, the story, which, vaguely based on Charles Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’, is ramshackle and formulaic. Moreover, the attempt to ‘modernize’ Disney by moving the setting to contemporary New York is forced, and only a change of setting. There’s no new spirit to the film. And finally, the anonymous 1980s songs have aged the film very quickly.

There are some highlights: the dogs are all good, if not particularly inspired and owing much to ‘Lady and the Tramp’, Jenny’s butler Jenkins is well animated, as is Fagin when he struggles to give Oliver back to Jenny. But overall the film fails to entertain: Oliver himself is not particularly interesting, he is just the straight man, the little girl Jenny is too bland to gain sympathy, the songs are generic and the story (penned by no less than thirteen people) is too erratic to suck the viewer in.

Luckily, ‘Oliver and Company’ was not part of a new era, but the last convulsion of an old one. With its next film, ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989) Disney would really enter its renaissance.

Watch Dodger’s song from ‘Oliver & Company’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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Director: Jack Kinney
Release date: October 15, 1954
Rating: ★★
Review:

Social Lion © Walt DisneyIn this narrated short a lion deliberately gets himself caught to scare the people in New York. Unfortunately, he’s all but unnoticed there.

‘Social Lion’ was the last of three ‘special cartoons’ Jack Kinney directed in 1954, after his own Goofy series had stopped. It is, unfortunately, not a very successful cartoon. Its narration is trite, its timing poor and its animation, by veteran Norm Ferguson, heterogeneous: the full animation of the lion is awkwardly out of contact with the highly stylized animation of the humans.

Unfortunately, ‘Social Lion’ would be the great animator’s last statement. the Disney studio fired Ferguson in July 1953. He died four years later of a heart-attack, at the premature age of 45.

The cartoon reuses the weird safari song from Kinney’s earlier, way more successful short ‘African Diary’ (1945).

Watch ‘Social Lion’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Social Lion’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: July 7, 1945
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Mouse in Manhattan © MGMTired of the country life, Jerry heads for Broadway, where he admires the big city.

Jerry’s luck is short-lived however, and after some bad experiences in the New York dumps (which involves hundreds of alley cats and scary subways), Jerry flees home, kissing a puzzled Tom in his joy.

‘Mouse in Manhattan’ is an outsider within the Tom & Jerry series, as it lacks the typical cat and mouse chase. Instead it focuses on Jerry’s journey, only. Nevertheless, it must be one of the most beautiful Tom and Jerry cartoons ever made. Jerry’s adventures in New York are accompanied by gorgeous and stunning backgrounds (most using a mouse perspective), and Scott Bradley’s particularly lush music. Bradley based his score on Louis Alter’s ‘Manhattan Serenade’ from 1928, which was also used in the MGM 1944 musical ‘Broadway Rhythm’, accompanying acrobatic stunts by the Ross Sisters. The music is so essential to the film, it almost seems the film was made for the score.

The cartoon is a sheer delight from the beginning to the end, but the highlight is Jerry’s dance with the female table figures on the roof of a very high hotel. This scene has the same class as its source of inspiration, the MGM musical.

Watch ‘Mouse in Manhattan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

https://vimeo.com/90733822

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No.19

To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Mouse Comes to Dinner
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tee for Two

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date:
 January 21, 1950
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny
Rating:
 ★★½
Review:

Hurdy-Gurdy Hare © Warner BrothersIn this cartoon Bugs Bunny apparently lives in Central Park, New York.

He buys a hurdy-gurdy with a monkey in order to become rich. But when the monkey betrays Bugs, Bugs fires him and goes fetching the money at the apartment block himself. The monkey then fetches his big brother (a gorilla) to fix Bugs. But in the end it’s the gorilla who collects money for Bugs.

‘Hurdy-gurdy Hare’ is an inconsistent and rather weak cartoon, which nevertheless contains a great ladder gag, in which Bugs quotes Groucho Marx. At the end, Bugs makes a reference to James Petrillo, leader of the American Federation of Musicians at the time.

Watch ‘Hurdy-gurdy Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.ulozto.net/live/xPiUKTr/bugs-bunny-hurdy-gurdy-hare-1950-avi

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 68
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rabbit Hood
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Mutiny on the Bunny

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: 
May 22, 1947
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

A Hare Grows in Manhattan © Warner Brothers‘A Hare Grows in Manhattan’ starts with a great premise: Bugs is a Hollywood star who has it made.

He is visited by one “Lola Beverley” (only a voice over) who asks him to tell of his humble origin. Next we watch a youthful Bugs in East-side, New York encountering a group of tough street dogs led by a rather dumb bulldog wearing a bowler hat.

Unfortunately, this section remains an ordinary chase sequence, which does not differ from an ordinary Bugs Bunny cartoon. Three years later, McKimson would reuse the idea of Bugs reminiscing his origins in ‘What’s Up Doc?‘, with much better results.

‘A Hare Grows in Manhattan’ contains a ‘little piggy’ gag which was to be repeated by Tweety in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘ (1988).

Watch ‘A Hare Grows in Manhattan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 43
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon:  Rabbit Transit
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Easter Yeggs

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