Session 2 of the Epic Disney Watchfest is f-i-n-i-s-h-e-d. Brazle, Hayley and I all gathered at my place last night to take in two 1980’s Disney classics, The Fox and the Hound and The Great Mouse Detective. I would rate them equally, both at a 7/10.
The Fox and the Hound
The word that comes to mind regarding this film is “heart-warming”. Yes, the plot is simplistic and the story progresses extremely quickly, but still, Disney nailed it – this flick is freaking heart-warming. I mean, there is something almost spiritual about how the young pups Tod and Copper become fast friends, only to lose their innocence with age. Really, haven’t we all experienced something like that? Not that we have become enemies with old friends, but perhaps we have all lost some of our childhood sense of wonder and purity in the process of maturity. Those are growing pains.
So that I’m not misunderstood, maturity is incredibly important – without it, we cannot grow and function effectively. I don’t think we should try to be Peter Pan and never grow up. Further, we can never stop growing and think we are perfect, lest we get into a squabble at a game preserve against our best friend, some traps, and a hunter with a shotgun. But seriously, I believe as one reaches a fuller maturity, one can choose to return to places of purity and wonder per one’s own free choice and at the appropriate times. That is what I love about this movie – it serves as a reminder of both sides of the equation. It allows me to remember just how wonderful life can be, and it also takes me back to those times of fire in which I was molded and shaped (and am still being molded and shaped).
Aside from the message of the show, I really enjoy the artwork and set design. The Widow’s farmstead is idyllic and quaint whereas the Hunter’s place is a rawhide outfit; they both look great and are believable. Another thing I liked is the animation. It is smooth and appealing which allows for a nice amount of character expression, especially when the pups are exploring and getting to know one another. Additionally, much has been made of the bear fight. That part is pretty cool, as is the train scene. I also liked Big Mama – she was an effective and enjoyable voice of reason throughout.
Before wrapping FatH, I have to point out something absolutely and completely and without-reservation-ly crucial: Kurt Russell is the voice of the grown up Copper. If you’re keeping score at home, this movie was released in 1981, and John Carpenter’s The Thing dropped in 1982. So, in the span of one year, Kurt Russell played a dog and then lost all his buddies because of a Thing shaped like a dog. And you thought the JFK assassination was a conspiracy…..
All in all, for a children’s movie, this film is very well-done. It tugs at your heartstrings and also brings a powerful message about growing up and choosing the right path. Highly recommended. 7/10.
The Great Mouse Detective
After the box office debacle that was The Black Cauldron, Disney wasn’t even sure if their animated division was still viable. After spending 12 years on the film and wasting millions of dollars, the Mouse Guys needed something good to happen and fast. What they ended up with was a film that took a year to produce and which yielded a nice, tidy return, all while garnering favorable reviews from critics and audiences alike. Basically, The Great Mouse Detective saved the Disney animation department. And it’s easy to see why.
The film is essentially Sherlock Holmes but with mice, and who doesn’t love both Sherlock Holmes and mice? Mice are so sweet and cuddly! For crying out loud, 1986 might as well be the year of the animated mouse, with The Great Mouse Detective and An American Tail dropping within months of each other. The only thing we needed to complete the trifecta was for Mickey Mouse to be elected President. I’m not totally sure that couldn’t have happened, but I’m pretty sure that would’ve broken down plenty of barriers – first mouse to be elected president, first animated president, and first Jewish president. Oops, just kidding – Walt Disney was a Christian (or so says Wikipedia), albeit a Congregationalist. Imagine a Congregationalist trying to make it in politics today, much less a MOUSE congregationalist. There would probably be a better chance for the actual Black Cauldron to be elected president than a Congregationalist mouse. Like, the actual Cauldron. I digress.
So, The Great Mouse Detective is Sherlock Holmes but with mice. It works wonderfully. The story is crisp, the Sherlock character (“Basil” in this case) is fun, the Watson character (“Dawson” here) is likable and the villain is incredible. His name is “Ratigan”, and he hates being called a rat. Apparently he’s based on Moriarty, but I wouldn’t know since I never read any of the classic Moriarty stories. All I know is that Vincent Price voiced him, and that raised the entire proceeding at least 20%.
Technically, the animation is solid. It doesn’t feel quite as effective in this setting as in The Fox and the Hound, but it’s still very serviceable. Artistically, the film as a whole works well, though some of the art design comes across as too garish or murky for my taste. Speaking of animation and art design and whatnot, it must be noted that this film contains the first major application of CGI in a Disney animated movie. You may remember from my review of The Black Cauldron that that movie contained the first use of CGI; well, in that film, the effect wasn’t even noticeable. In TGMD, however, the effect is very noticeable and very good. Basically, there is a big fight scene inside the Big Ben clock tower, and the entire interior of the tower is CGI. After the sometimes-garish-or-murky hand-drawn visuals, the CGI components really stand out; they’re very clean and add a lot of depth. It’s amazing how good they looked all the way back in 1986.
Okay, well, let’s wrap this thing up. In summary, The Great Mouse Detective is good because it has a good story and fun, likable characters. It also has mice, which makes it even more awesome. I would recommend it for children of all ages. 7/10.
Next Up: The Rescuers (another mouse movie) and Oliver & Company. Until then….
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Grant Stevens isn’t sure what a Congregationalist is, but he’s pretty sure that Uncle Walt could probably still have succeeded in getting Mickey Mouse elected President. In addition to writing awesome movie reviews, Grant also writes awesome songs. Check out his musical stuff here.