Epic Disney Watchfest Recap: The Most Comprehensively Comprehensive Recap Ever

So, the Epic Disney Watchfest has come to an end. It’s so sad!!! I’m not gonna cry! I’m not gonna cry! I’m not gonna cry!! Mmmmmm-mmmmmmmmmm-WAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!! *SNIFF* Ok, glad I got that out. But seriously, it was completely amazing reconnecting with so many timeless movies, and I hope you enjoyed reading my reviews. Of course, my opinion is just that: my opinion. You might love some of the films I blasted; if so, that’s great. Conversely, you might find my favorite flicks to be deplorable. Again, that’s awesome. The magic of movies and other creative endeavors is that EVERY work will find someone who’ll love it. Except for Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skulls – no one loves that completely horrendous monstrosity. But the point is, I would encourage you to keep an open mind. If one of my reviews piques your interest, watch the film and form your own opinion. You might agree with my thoughts, you might completely disagree. At least it’s your opinion.

As for my opinions, here are my top 10 favorite traditionally-animated Disney movies. NOTE: this list isn’t based on my scores.

  1. The Emperor’s New Groove
  2. Aladdin
  3. Dumbo
  4. The Princess and the Frog
  5. Cinderella
  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Pinocchio
  8. The Lion King
  9. Peter Pan
  10. Lilo & Stitch

As you can see, I lean heavily toward the funnier movies. I also lean heavily toward movies with great music. And, being a guy, I lean toward movies with more boyish stories. What can I say? By the way, I’d love to hear what your top 10 favorite traditionally-animated Disney movies are. Click here to email me your list.

As a way of closing out this project, I wanted to share three observations/thoughts I’ve gleaned from watching, researching and writing all these movies/reviews.

ONE  1  UNO  I

First, apparently, Tarzan is super popular. I can tell which of my reviews have been viewed most, and Tarzan has a big lead over second place Aladdin. I have no idea why it’s so popular. Are kids from 1999 trying to recapture their youth? Do girls consider Tarzan a heartthrob so they look him up all the time? Are people super into the Phil Collins soundtrack? Is it the fascination with ‘man raised by wild animals’ stories? I have NO idea, but it is easily the most popular review I’ve written. Interestingly, “Aladdin” is the single search term most responsible for driving people to my site, followed very closely by “Tarzan”, but overall, Tarzan is the most viewed.

TWO  2  DOS  II

The second point has to do with why I undertook this project in the first place. Around the first week of March, I got really sick – my friend Chris picked up a bug which he passed to his wife and later to me. I was sick for about five days, and I finally had to take one day of complete rest to get well. I laid in my recliner for an entire Monday and decided to catch up on all the recent animated movies I hadn’t seen, shows like Brave, Tangled, and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (I used to not make a huge habit of watching animated films in the theater). It was wonderful, and after watching all those movies, I realized that I’d long been disconnected from the wholesome side of the movie industry. I needed more.

So, a week later, I was hanging with Brazle, playing some Halo 4, and I threw out “Hey dude, you know what we should do? Watch every single animated Disney movie!” He agreed because he’s a boss, and thus was the Watchfest kindled; the reconnection with wholesomeness was going to happen. Now, in the course of watching all these Disney movies, I couldn’t help but compare them with Pixar films – I mean, they’re kinda the two big names in animation. Halfway through the Watchfest, I began to get a “vibe” that Disney’s stuff, while MUCH cleaner and MUCH more wholesome than the average Hollywood material, seemed much less wholesome than Pixar’s. IMPORTANT NOTE: Being a Christian, I subconsciously filter wholesomeness through that worldview. It’s an important note because, though I didn’t know how to define the “vibe”, I definitely had an intuition that Pixar’s stuff felt more “Christian” than Disney. I just didn’t know why.

Consequently, I started to research Pixar’s top five guys (John Lasseter, Pete Doctor, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird and Lee Unkrich) and was surprised to learn that Lasseter, Doctor and Stanton are influenced by Christianity; in some cases they’re heavily influenced. Heck, Stanton is quoted as saying this about his direction in Wall-E: “The greatest commandment Christ gives us is to love, but that’s not always our priority. So I came up with this premise that could demonstrate what I was trying to say—that irrational love defeats the world’s programming.” What?? He based one of the best animated films ever on Christ’s teaching of love?? I never came across anything like that in researching these Disney films (doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just saying I didn’t encounter anything like that in researching 35 movies).

Then that “vibe” started to make sense. Of course a bunch of people influenced by Christianity would turn out movies that feel Christian; I just couldn’t believe there was a tangible correlation between the wholesome Christian “vibe” I perceived and the worldview of the Pixar guys. It gives credence to John 13:35. Of course, Pixar has never made an overtly Christian film (and I doubt they will despite the commercial success of Biblical projects like The Prince of EgyptThe Passion of the Christ and The Bible), but their stuff still has that “vibe” which is cool. And guess what? I feel that, since Pixar and Disney merged, Disney’s films have begun to exhibit some of the “vibe” too. I like it.

Now, lest anyone misunderstand my point – I am not saying Disney movies are unwholesome. I’m not saying that. Heck, the point isn’t even to say that Pixar is way more wholesome. No, the big point of section Two  2  Dos  II is my surprise over discovering my intuition to be backed up by something concrete. When I unearthed the info about Lasseter, Doctor and Stanton being influenced by Christianity, my jaw just about hit the floor. I guess I don’t have many intuitions that get backed up by facts, so it felt really meaningful in this case. That’s the whole point.

Oh, and I guess you can thank Chris for the Epic Disney Watchfest. Without his getting me sick, it probably never would’ve happened.

THREE  3  TRES  III

My third thought is an editorial on the state of hand-drawn traditional animation. News recently broke that Disney has officially laid off the majority of its hand-drawn staff, including many of their best, most experienced people. Obviously this means NO MORE TRADITIONALLY ANIMATED DISNEY MOVIES. Alas. The studio seems to think that audiences have moved away from hand-drawn fare to CG flicks, but what did they expect? I mean, in the early 2000’s when CG was just taking off, Disney was cranking out some their worst films ever. Atlantis: The Lost EmpireBrother BearTreasure Planet and Home on the Range were all very flawed in some way or another, so I would hesitate to say the audience for hand-drawn movies shrank. I would instead say the supply of good hand-drawn films shrank, and unsurpisingly the audience left too.

In fairness, I must say that Lilo & Stitch was released in the early 2000’s and is very good, but it was the last good traditionally animated film until SEVEN YEARS LATER when the studio finally displayed a film up to modern animation standards in 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, one of the Mouse Guys’ best features of their entire hand-drawn canon. But, at that point it was too little too late. The studio hadn’t made a traditionally animated movie since Home on the Range in 2004, and in the FIVE YEARS between hand-drawn films and SEVEN YEARS between good hand-drawn films, traditional animation had lost the battle with CG. And when The House that Mickey Built trotted out Winnie-the-Pooh in 2011, it was a commercial disappointment, again for very apparent reasons (the film is too short and it wasn’t set-up to compete with other animated films that year including Kung Fu Panda 2Cars 2, The Smurfs and the like). 

So, it seems that due to a series of follies including poor films and poor timing, we have seen the doors close on the last major bastion of American traditional animation. It’s unfortunate, for The Princess and the Frog really was great, and I think that Disney really could keep the format alive as a special presentation, something they only roll out every couple of years. And when they do, it’s could be a HUGE event. They should build the films around Broadway-like musical numbers again, and they should include at least one major comedic character. And it should be an EPIC film. I love Winnie-the-Pooh, but none of that stuff. Stick with the grand visions that brought forth The Lion KingBeauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.

Of course, I am not privy to Disney’s books, so I have no idea what kind of pressures they’re under financially. I admit it’s irresponsible to profligately make hand-drawn films if they’re going to perform more poorly than anything CG. But, it seems there’s probably a way for Disney to keep the band together to make films every couple of years. I mean, Studio Ghibli in Japan makes 100% hand-drawn films and they seem to be doing alright – why couldn’t Disney manage to produce a single hand-drawn film every so often? Maybe it has to do with why they ever found themselves in this position to begin with. It is hard to expect people who got you into a mess to successfully get you back out.

In closing, I hope you enjoyed the Epic Disney Watchfest. It was certainly a lot of fun for me. I have a new appreciation for traditional animation, and I’m glad to have reconnected with wholesomeness. Now, I’m looking forward to new projects. I think I’ll watch some of the aforementioned Studio Ghibli films to see what they’re all about. Perhaps I’ll make another watchfest out of that. I’m excited to get back to theaters for live-action releases like Star Trek Into DarknessEnder’s GameIron Man 3 and Man of Steel, and I’m planning to check out lots of animated movies too including FrozenMonsters University and Planes. So keep checking back – lots of good stuff to come.

Next Up: Jurassic Park 3D 

Please comment below, and feel free to email me your thoughts at grant@grantstevensgroup.com.

Grant Stevens is a freelance writer just waiting for the call from the Pulitzer committee. His exhaustive work will soon be immortalized in a time capsule specially designed to withstand the thermodynamic heat death of the universe in addition to being waterproof. The capsule is also being fitted with special armor to ward of magic spells. When he isn’t writing down his thoughts, Grant enjoys writing and playing music. Check out his music endeavors at www.grantstevensgroup.com and www.soundcloud.com/grant-stevens-amazing.

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