The Disney 52 Animated Challenge: Year-Long Activity NOW PLAYING Chicken Little & Meet the Robinsons

Discussion in 'DPF Game Room' started by MerlinEmrys, Dec 15, 2017.

  1. MerlinEmrys

    MerlinEmrys Hicitus Pinicus!

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    [​IMG]
    The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

    Monday is our "wrap-up" discussion on The Black Cauldron. So you're welcome to respond to other analyses throughout the day.

    However, you may not post any more full analyses for The Black Cauldron to count for completion toward the 52 Challenge. No late homework. ;P

    ~Merlin
     
  2. LittleBird

    LittleBird Well-Known Member

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    I should rewatch The Black Cauldron. I first saw it as a kid at a drive-in theater.

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  3. unibear

    unibear DPF Charter Member DPF Charter Member

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    Well, two can play the professor game...

    Regarding "The Black Cauldron" and "The Lord of the Rings". Tolkien published "The Lord of the Rings" in 1954-1955; Alexander published "The Chronicles of Pyrdain" from 1964-1968; the "Black Cauldron" movie came out in 1985; the "Lord of the Rings" movies came out 2001-2003. So who has stolen from whom? Clearly, the LotR books existed in 1964 when CoP were written. Did Alexander read them and use them as "source material"? I haven't a clue, as I wasn't born then. Did Disney writers use LotR as "source material" for BC, consciously or subconsciously using Smeagel as a model for Gurgi? Again, I haven't a clue. Did the LotR films use Gurgi as a model for movie-Smeagle? Still don't know...

    I'm not pointing fingers of blame (theft) at any of these authors/writers. I'm simply pointing out connections I see. I did say about BC: "This movie FEELS LIKE a cheap rip-off of the “Lord of the Rings” books (and movies)" because IT DID. LotR books came out first, so this is not unjustified, but BC came out BEFORE the movies so perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned the movies at all (even though I DID see a connection). Point taken.

    I never intended to say that Taran was a RIP-OFF of Luke, regarding his views of "great warriors"; I simply intended to point out that they were similar. Not being hard on BC to say that; simply pointing out similarities (often done in critiques).

    Regarding my analysis of the witches, I said "This scene is very reminiscent of many other movies" because IT WAS. Then, I provided examples of two movies of which I was reminded: "Clash of the Titans" (1981) and "The Little Mermaid" (1989). Note, while both of these movies remind me of BC, they don't evoke the same sense of connections between each other! That's why I will mention CotT here, but NOT in my LM analysis (I think). Note also that I did not say that BC stole from CotT (although the animators/writers may have seen it in 1981 before BC came out, it's unlikely they rewrote BC just to steal this little scene) and I did not mean to imply that LM stole this scene from BC (although the writers/animators on the movie could include several overlapping people, and the similarities in the visual imagery used in the two movies is striking).

    I would also point out to you question #8, which I did NOT write, but I HAVE been answering: "What connections or progressions do you see in this film to past films?" You can't ask a question and then get upset that I've answered your question. I have been pointing out connections and progressions (both forward and backward) from the movie being analyzed to other Disney and non-Disney movies, just like we were asked to do. I have NOT been making attributions of "theft" (for the most part), but merely pointing out connections as I see them; that is (in part) what a critique should do.

    Finally, I will say that in this analysis I DID make one claim of "theft": If you watch "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) and the "Black Cauldron" (1985), the similarities of the 'opening the Ark of the Covenant' scene and the 'Black Cauldron being activated' scene are real—(1) The good guys, having had the relic but losing it to the bad guys, are tied up by the bad guys, (2) the bad guys activate the relic, and (3) the relic emitting an ethereal mist in near proximity to the aforementioned tied-up good guys. The visual images of these two scenes are VERY similar, and yes I guess I am accusing the BC animators of capturing/borrowing/stealing the pretty iconic visual imagery from a movie released four years before their movie was released. Am I right in this assertion? I don't know... But I have made this assertion and I stick by it, given the data I have supplied.

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    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  4. timeerkat

    timeerkat Your Friend Who Likes To Play

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    Yes, this is a very un-Disney Disney movie. When watching it seemed a lot closer to a Don Bluth film (Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go to Heaven, etc.), which is ironic considering this is one of the first movies done after Don left to go make his own studio.
     
  5. coblj003

    coblj003 DPF Charter Member DPF Correspondent

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    I almost want to say the 80's inspiration was very evident on the film but I wonder what was lost forever on the cutting room floor when Jeffery Katzenberg infamously edited the film himself after being disgusted by how dark the film was. Keep in mind that while Peter Jackson's trilogy is the most well known and successful version of The lord of the rings series, there are three animated Tolkien films that came out in the late 70's/early 80's. In fact, Rankin-Bass, the company behind the Hobbit and the Return of the king and the last Unicorn, was also behind a lot of other famous 80's cartoons including the Thundercats(Gee, I wonder...)
     
  6. MerlinEmrys

    MerlinEmrys Hicitus Pinicus!

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    Oh, I think you've taken then as me being upset at you. :( I am not at all! Many of your points are right on the money.

    What I'm saying now is to consider what use there is in seeing these connections. Take your claims one step further. How does seeing these connections help us better understand or think about the film. They DO, certainly! So (all of us should) try and think about that as well.

    Moreover, I am not mad at you for answering question 8 and I'm sorry if I came across that way.

    Perhaps I just shouldn't have said anything at all. I was just trying to get us to think more and push our ideas more. That was the whole point of this. :(

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    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
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  7. MerlinEmrys

    MerlinEmrys Hicitus Pinicus!

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    Also, I have added something to Question 8 so that it's more in line with how I originally thought of the question.

    Sorry for not being clear. :(

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  8. MerlinEmrys

    MerlinEmrys Hicitus Pinicus!

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    On a different note,

    How weird was it to have the credits at the END of the movie!? If I'm not mistaken, this was the first animated one to do that so far.

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  9. timeerkat

    timeerkat Your Friend Who Likes To Play

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    Pretty much. According to this website, Alice in Wonderland has a small end credits segment, but Black Cauldron was the first to do full end credits.
     
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  10. MerlinEmrys

    MerlinEmrys Hicitus Pinicus!

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    It looks like this might also be a point when we get the modern version of Walt's signature as a logo.

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  11. timeerkat

    timeerkat Your Friend Who Likes To Play

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    On a somewhat related note (firsts in Disney movies), Black Cauldron is also the first one to show the protagonist bleed, and one of the first to show any blood at all (Sleeping Beauty takes that prize when Phillip stabs dragon Maleficent).
     
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  12. MerlinEmrys

    MerlinEmrys Hicitus Pinicus!

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    Oh yeah! I made a note of that. It was almost startling!

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  13. pincrazy

    pincrazy Active Member

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    Just reading the story on the making of Black Cauldron sounded as frustrating/dark as the movie itself and explains why it probably didn't have the benefit it should have. Now I undetstand why this wasn't the typical Disney child friendly film, as this became Disney's effort to branch out to the teen audience of the time, while the effort bankrupt the animation division, the change of animators and leads....including CEOs, and the books were being condensed down to 80 minutes-that in itself would be insane.
    Learning the background of BC was more entertaining than the film itself, but without it the history would just be backroom talk and forgotten, so I now appreciate there's a movie.
    After thought: so there's Saving
    Mr. Banks for Mary Poppins, they should make one for Black Cauldron, possibly The Horned King vs the Mouse? :stitch:
     
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  14. MerlinEmrys

    MerlinEmrys Hicitus Pinicus!

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    I think it would be really fascinating for Disney to go back, with a modern eye, and figure out what happened with this movie. XD it could be pretty neat!

    (also reboot it...)

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  15. pretty Omi

    pretty Omi Resident Smol Wolf

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    I was waiting to see if anyone would touch on all of this! This movie was plagued with a lot of problems indeed! It suffered because they tried to condense those books down so much, but they were also REALLY banking on this being a new breakout hit, with them creating movies for more of the books to have thus flushed out more of the story to make sense! Instead... all of the issues in the studio compounded for a really disjointed film that really bombed the box office and so potentially sequels were erased from possibility. I agree with Merlin, this would be a good one to remake, really pour some resources into making a good story, and possibly making it a couple movies.
    (Casual and random side note, I was always disappointed they didn't get to further the John Carter series either...)
     
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  16. NutMeg

    NutMeg The Nefarious N.M.G.

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    Finally, we're getting onto the movies I love! :D Although I'm not sure how much more I'll have to say about The Great Mouse Detective other than that I love it, haha. It's one of those films that I simply enjoy without thinking too much about it in technical or aesthetic terms (as opposed to something like Hunchback, which I could write a dissertation about, lol.) It should prove interesting to watch it through an academic lens this time!
     
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  17. pincrazy

    pincrazy Active Member

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    With all the remakes, even into live action, it would give an opportunity to right the wrong. One article mentioned Disney still owns all the rights, and also suggested to remake it properly.
    I hardly look into the history of any of the films, but as in your comment regarding the question of what the goal was, and you weren't sure, I had the same feeling. I needed an explanation of Why, and I guess mystery solved?
     
  18. pincrazy

    pincrazy Active Member

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    Thanks for your confirmation! I always worry if I'm getting the info right. This story behind the movie was worth knowing. Then to hear the animators lost their status and ended up in a warehouse in Glendale, Katzenberg hatcheting cause no one else would as coblj003 mentioned, ugh......but this did bring in John Lassiter and Tim Burton as graduates from CalArts, (just trivia to throw in). : p
     
  19. timeerkat

    timeerkat Your Friend Who Likes To Play

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    I would love to see what Disney would do with Black Cauldron now, especially if it's expanded for the entire Chronicles. Eilonwy would fit in wonderfully now, with the current crop of heroines.
     
  20. coblj003

    coblj003 DPF Charter Member DPF Correspondent

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    If anyone is interested, there is the documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty" which touches upon this era.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
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  21. NutMeg

    NutMeg The Nefarious N.M.G.

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    Love that film!!! Especially its emphasis on Howard Ashman, who is supremely underrated for his talent and contribution to the birth of the Disney renaissance, imo. Even Linda Woolverton, who penned the screenplay for BatB, credits him as essentially being her co-writer, especially when it came to shaping Belle into a more feminist kind of Disney Princess. (This obviously completely changed the status quo from then on when it came to Disney heroines. But more on that when we actually get to BatB, haha.) Anyway, I'm glad the filmmakers devoted such a significant portion to his (tragically short) life, but I would LOVE to see a doc just about him, like Floyd Norman's "An Animated Life" (another recommendation.) Maybe I'll do it for my documentary short assignment next semester... :p (Jk, I could never get the rights lol.)

    Oh, and has anyone else watched the Oscar-nominated "Life, Animated?" Definitely a must-see!! But grab some tissues first...
     
  22. NutMeg

    NutMeg The Nefarious N.M.G.

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    So yeah I'm definitely NOT procrastinating on my own game (and a ton of other stuff) in lieu of this. :D Anywaaaaay...

    [​IMG]

    1.) Overall Impression:

    Again, this is a personal favorite of mine - one of those fun movies that brings me simple pleasure, like comfort food. I haven't actually seen it in a few years, but it's one of those films that I watched SO many times when I was younger that it's pretty much ingrained in my memory, and as soon as the first scene started up, it all came flooding back to me. I enjoyed it just as much as I did as a kid, and my appreciation for it only deepened.

    Despite being a simple story with simple pleasures, having now re-watched it as an adult/student of cinema, I was quite impressed by the film's highly skilled technical and artistic technique (which is perhaps partly hidden behind that deceptive simplicity.) This is definitely a very well-crafted film that deserves much more credit for its brilliantly subtle and deft approach, and for the risks it took.

    First of all, while the plot is indeed quite elementary (HAR HAR HAR), the film still plays its limited cards close to the vest. Up until the big reveal at the Queen's jubilee, we're never actually told what Ratigan's scheme is. We know it involves the Queen, toy soldier uniforms, and some kind of mechanical device being built by Flaversham, but they don't explicitly connect the dots for us. It's an extremely wise decision, because the whole idea is pretty silly. (Considering how easy it was to take out the guards and slip into the Queen's chambers, the whole obviously-a-robot robot seems pretty superfluous - why not just stage an outright coup instead of concocting such an elaborate, long-term charade?) But the silliness works, precisely because we don't have enough time to overthink it (until you're analyzing it later for a post on a Disney forum. xD)

    This withholding of information also aligns us with the protagonists (Basil, Dawson and Olivia), helping us better identify with them as we follow along at their pace, gathering clues in tandem. What's more, this keeps with the spirit of Sherlock Holmes and his brand of mystery-solving. He doesn't have fancy gadgets, a CSI lab, or psychic superpowers; he's a sleuth who relies on basic deduction and the piecing together of "elementary" clues, all of which are exposed to his readers/viewers as he himself discovers them. The allure is in having all the puzzle pieces available to us, and then marveling when we see him put them together - that "Aha! Of course!" moment when he figures out what was in front of us all along. (This is also what makes for an effective twist in a movie; you can't just spring something on the audience out of nowhere. A great twist is like a magic trick - you use sleight of hand to distract the audience from hints that were there all along.) It's kind of ironic that an animated children's film, wherein the eponymouse (GET IT???) detective is a talking rodent, does a better job of capturing the essence and appeal of Sherlock than a lot of more "serious" adaptations... (like a certain BBC series, where he just solves the case using information we never even learned.)

    Anyway, I was kind of worried going in that I would end up hating Olivia; a lot of characters in children's movies are perfectly tolerable when you're young, but then you grow up and realize how freaking annoying they actually are (especially the kid sidekicks.) But I actually found her completely adorable. THEN I was worried I was going to hate Basil, due to his snarky treatment of Olivia. But I think the film found the right balance to make this dynamic work and still be humorous/non-mean spirited, and also managed to create some pretty endearing character development in Basil along the way (maybe another member will explore his character arc more in their own analysis.) It was touching to see him go from viewing Olivia as irritating baggage in his obsessive quest to defeat Ratigan, to actually putting Olivia's welfare before his long sought-after victory by abandoning battle and rushing to save her in the end.

    Finally, speaking of balancing acts and humor, I thought the film did an exceptional job of walking that delicate tightrope between goofiness and sincerity. The occasional silly jokes don't detract from the more "serious" or heartfelt scenes, or vice versa, a feat that Disney does not always accomplish successfully (lookin' at you, Hunchback. YOU KNOW WHY.) The overall tone of the film was 100% consistent. I also liked how every scene took place during night (one single night? The timeline is sort of unclear.) The hazy blue backgrounds of foggy, soggy London streets really helped capture the dark yet cozy mood you expect from a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

    2.) Character Analysis:

    There's definitely a debate to be had over Ratigan's potential inclusion as one of Disney's infamous "sissy villain" stereotypes, and the homophobia implicit in this trend. But personally, he's one of my all-time favorite villains. I find his flamboyance delightful - I'm a big fan of camp - and I think he manages to be less offensive than other Disney "sissies" (like Ratcliffe or Hook) because he's also creepy as hell. (The song says he freaking DROWNED WIDOWS AND ORPHANS. He has his own henchmen EATEN ALIVE WHILE THEIR FRIENDS WATCH. Then he makes the traumatized, grieving survivors SING AND DANCE AND ACT HAPPY.)

    Again, there's an effective balance at play here - he's fabulous and charming, but he's also a cutthroat homicidal maniac who strikes fear into the hearts of all mice (and Bill the Lizard, who evidently escaped from Wonderland and fell in with the wrong crowd.) His flamboyance isn't a punchline. In fact, throughout the film we come to realize that his well-mannered sophistication is actually a front - a carefully cultivated disguise he wears to mask the crippling insecurity and self-loathing he feels over his true nature as a sewer rat (apparently considered extremely low-class in mouse society.) Like Basil, he's actually a rather nuanced character who evolves over the course of the film (or in his case, devolves.) His elegant, refined camouflage is literally stripped away in the end, when he finally snaps and submits to his violent true character.

    There is perhaps a problematic tinge of classism here, but I'm not sure I would go that far. I think it's more of a condemnation of ostentatious pretension rather than a pro-caste system commentary, but I'm open to hearing other interpretations. I would definitely love to hear more opinions on Ratigan, especially from other LGBTQ+ members.

    5.) Symbolism:

    Ok, so there are two symbols I'd like to explore here, mostly as a set-up to my next answer. The first is the recurring visual motif of clockwork gears, which are seen scattered throughout Flaversham's toy shop, his work space in Ratigan's lair, and of course, in the grand finale inside Big Ben (more on that later!)

    [​IMG]

    Gears/mechanisms obviously factor into the plot in a very straightforward way, but there's some definite subtext there as well. I would love to perhaps hear from some science nerds or English history nerds about what other potential meanings could possibly be inferred from this motif; wasn't 1849 right in between the first and second Industrial Revolutions? So was this type of machinery still significant, either scientifically or culturally? Idk, I might be totally off-base trying to go down the historical relevance avenue, but regardless, a little context on the era would certainly be interesting!

    Anyway, as a mere film nerd, I personally viewed the gears in abstract, thematic terms; I think they serve as an apt visual metaphor for the type of Sherlockian mystery-solving I described above. The gears are akin to the clues: individual components that are seemingly meaningless alone, but when pieced together correctly, they function to create a striking result.

    The other symbol I'd like to discuss is Ratigan's ominous bell, which he repeatedly rings to summon his ferocious cat, Felicia, who devours anyone who displeases him. He also will occasionally brandish it to simply intimidate, with the tacit threat of death.

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    (If I may briefly veer away from the current point I'm trying to make, I just have to say that this is another great example of the film knowing when to play its cards right! We first see the bell when Ratigan toys with it in front of Flaversham, creating a vaguely menacing tension, but we have no idea what purpose it serves until Bartholomew is killed later on. Best of all, there's no explanation or backstory to ruin the suspense leading up to his death; the henchmen already know what's coming. What's more, their reaction also informs us that this is a regular occurrence, AND that it's common knowledge that Ratigan is sensitive about being called a rat... THAT'S how you deliver information to the audience - show, don't tell!!!)

    Back to the symbolism: Ratigan's bell is quite literally a harbinger of death. If you're unlucky enough to actually hear the chime, you know lethal danger is looming. Which brings me to...

    (CONTINUED BELOW BECAUSE I WRITE WAY TOO DAMN MUCH OK)
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2018
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  23. NutMeg

    NutMeg The Nefarious N.M.G.

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    (CONTINUED FROM ABOVE)

    3.) Scene Analysis:

    ...the epic Big Ben scene! Definitely one of the greatest Disney finales, imo. Not only is it just plain exciting and suspenseful, as well as a wonderfully poetic marriage of the two symbols I described above (more on that in a bit), but it also boasts some incredible camerawork, editing, and directing. It's an excellent example of the importance of the director even in animated films; we tend to think of animation as pretty pictures simply flashing across a screen, and forget that a camera is involved at all, much less that there are filmmakers directing the camera.

    I feel like I've said this before on here (maybe on every analysis, lol), but film is a visual medium, and visual storytelling is the hallmark of great cinema. Not to downplay the role of the screenwriter and the immense power of well-written dialogue, but you know you've got a talented director when you can watch a scene on mute and still follow along, which is definitely the case here. (Although to give credit where it's due, the echo of the ticking clock certainly adds a ton of dimension to the scene & amps up the danger by creating the illusion of vast space, even in tight shots. And the dramatic instrumental score is extremely effective at punctuating the suspense.)

    Exhibit A: That amazing establishing shot of Basil awakening after the hot air balloon crashes right into the face of the clock...

    [​IMG]

    First we fade in from black, and the blurry frame sharpens into focus on a tight close-up of Basil gaining consciousness. The camera slowly begins to pull back as Basil stands up and looks around, getting his bearings. Realization floods his face, and as he quickly bolts upright, so too does the camera quickly pull out to reveal the entire frame (there is actually a nearly imperceptible cut here; clearly just a few frames were removed, but it works to great effect to emphasis the abrupt "shock factor" moment. Again, wonderful editing in this sequence!) The camera then pans slowly to the right, passing several large, rotating gears, and finally tilts upward to display the face of the clock through which they entered. We've now effectively established the location and potential peril in a single glorious shot (the one "hidden" cut notwithstanding.)

    Oh, and the shot that follows? Only one of the COOLEST SHOTS IN ALL OF DISNEYDOM.

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    Basil's back is turned to the camera, and as the gear he is standing on slowly rotates, Ratigan's looming figure creeps into the frame. The beauty of this shot is that both characters are standing still - Ratigan doesn't even have to move to freak us out!! This whole scene makes such clever use of its location by letting the moving gears do much of the work. (This is the point in most horror movies where you scream "TURN AROUND!!!" to the scantily clad co-ed with an ax murderer right behind her.)

    Anyway, I could honestly do a complete shot-by-shot analysis of this entire scene and just gush about it for paragraphs and paragraphs, but that would be incredibly tedious and boring, and I'm already enough of a long-winded gasbag. So I'll just stick to a few highlights...

    First of all, again, just brilliant use of location. You can really tell that the filmmakers didn't just choose to stage the climax in/on Big Ben simply because it's a London landmark that's easily recognizable to general audiences; the setting actually carries symbolic weight, and feels like an entirely organic culmination of the already established motifs. And again, the top-notch directing exploits so many of the creative possibilities available at this location. The scene does a fantastic job of conveying a sense of space that both tightens the action between characters while also reminding us of their scale compared to the real world, and the extreme dangers they face at such great heights. Through the use of varied framing and camera angles (which, again, are edited together sublimely), the main focus remains on the combat between Basil and Ratigan while still affording us downward glimpses to the perilous London streets miles below.

    The most obvious example of this is when Basil first falls out of the inner tower and lands on the outer hand of the clock. Here we get another establishing shot of sorts, as the location now shifts to the face of the clock. We see Basil look down, followed by a POV shot, and then a close-up of his horrified reaction. A very simple paint-by-numbers shot sequence, yet very effective and necessary.

    [​IMG]

    I'm also quite partial to this particular shot of Basil struggling to keep hold of the slippery clock hand; the camera is tilted ever so slightly, allowing for another vertigo-inducing peek at the London streets below. Because it is both a high-angle shot and a wide shot, we get the distinct impression that this is the POV of Ratigan himself, and the tension mounts as we realize his distance is closing in.

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    But my favorite would definitely have to be this grand, sweeping shot... I love everything about it. The mighty cliff of the clock hand in proportion to Basil's tiny dangling body, as well as Ratigan's larger, hunched frame looming overhead; the way the glow of the clock's face shadows them into silhouette; the balloon carrying Dawson and the Flavershams, so close yet so far away, visibly *straining* to inch nearer; and the pelting rain, the icing on top of any dramatic outdoor showdown. The composition is just incredible. Did this perhaps inspire a certain other Disney movie...? JUST SAYIN'.

    [​IMG]

    Ok, so I suppose this is where we return to the subject of the aforementioned symbolism; the battle amidst the inner gears of the clock tower should be fairly self-explanatory, so I won't touch too much on that, but I would be remiss not to point out this fantastic bit of set-up and pay-off:

    [​IMG]

    After Basil seemingly falls to his death, Ratigan begins his victory dance, but is suddenly interrupted by the sound of Basil's voice below. Cut from a close-up of Ratigan's shocked face to a wide shot of him looking down, then pan downward to the original crash site of Ratigan's balloon - which Basil has managed to catch onto!

    As he hangs there, he reveals that not only has he grasped onto the balloon apparatus, he's also managed to snag Ratigan's bell! (It can be surmised that this must have happened sometime during their close-proximity battle. There's actually a quick shot of Ratigan checking his pocket in between the two bells, but I didn't include it, because reasons.) Basil gives the little bell a jingle, and as if summoned at will, the clock strikes midnight, prompting the huge bells inside the tower to ring in response.

    [​IMG]

    The thunderous reverberations from the ringing cause the hands of the clock to shake violently, and Ratigan quickly loses balance, plummeting to his death. (Of course, our plucky hero manages to cleverly survive.)

    Needless to say, this is pretty much poetic justice at its finest. Just as Ratigan used his bell to herald the deaths of his victims (again, WIDOWS. AND. CHILDREN, y'all), Basil turns the tables on him and uses it to herald Ratigan's own demise. In fact, you could actually say that he was literally killed *by* a bell - and perhaps the most iconic bell of all time, "Big Ben" himself.

    4.) Song(s) Analysis:

    K, I'm saving this section for tomorrow because it's getting late and I have way too much snore-inducing stuff to say on the subject.

    9.) Most Memorable Shot(s):

    Very quickly, I would just like to touch upon the brilliant use of shadows and silhouettes in this film. Not only do they add to the overall brooding aesthetic of the film, they're used quite cleverly as cinematic devices. Some of my favorite examples:

    #1: Is there ever a cooler way to introduce your villain than to have him/her emerge from the shadows? Answer: no.

    [​IMG]

    #2: Bartholomew's shadowy death. Sometimes what we don't see can be much, much creepier than what we do see... (and probably helps seal a G rating, too. But for reals tho, how is this movie not PG????)

    [​IMG]

    #3: Oh, the symbolism. Ratigan casts darkness (both literally and figuratively) over all mousedom. The terrified citizens cower under the oppressive reach of his long, looming shadow.

    [​IMG]

    #3: Practical reasons, too! These are tiny mice, after all; when Basil and Olivia make their escape from the clock tower, their minuscule figures dashing across a ledge are hard to spot from Ratigan's low-angle POV shot (as he's still trapped on the gear down below. NO CAPES!) But a sudden flash of lightning casts large shadows behind the protagonists, allowing us (and therefore Ratigan) to identify their exact whereabouts. I would honestly love to do a shot-by-shot for this moment as well (the editing in these few seconds alone is so superb), but it's after midnight and I'm out y'all. See you tomorrow!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2018
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  24. NutMeg

    NutMeg The Nefarious N.M.G.

    Rating - 100%
    9   0   0

    Ok, I seriously have a problem and someone really needs to rein me in. xD My postponed answer to #4 can't fit into the above post so I now have to create a THIRD one. Please, feel free to just ignore my novels. But still, come on guys, get your heads in the game!!! Don't let me hog the conversation! I want to talk about this awesome movie! :p

    4.) Song Analysis:

    As far as the instrumental score goes, I love that bouncy theme from the opening titles (which becomes the main musical refrain throughout the movie.) I've found it popping up in my head randomly over the past few days (there it is again!) The score is exceptional, and fits the mood of the film perfectly.

    And as for the songs, this is definitely a pretty unique situation as far as Disney movies go. At a grand total of 3, is this the fewest amount of songs in any Disney “musical?” Should we even call it a musical? Do the songs take you out of the movie, or are they integrated well enough to seem natural?

    Before we explore this any further, we should probably go over the difference between diegetic and non-diegetic sound. (I apologize if you're a fellow film geek and are already acquainted with this terminology; just consider it a refresher course. I also apologize for how pretentious I'm almost definitely going to sound as I explain this, but it's pretty much impossible not to sound pretentious when you're a film student. It's a disease. We're the worst, I know. :()

    In cinema, any and all audio (including sound effects, dialogue, and music), is divided into two distinct categories: diegetic and non-diegetic. Diegetic sound occurs within the internal world of the film, while non-diegetic sound does not. Examples of diegetic sound include the honks of cars as a character sits in traffic, or music being played after a character turns on the radio. Conversely, sounds such as voice-over narration or instrumental scores are clearly external and inorganic to the world of the film, and therefore non-diegetic. These sounds are for the benefit of the audience; obviously, that sweeping, romantic orchestra isn’t actually being heard by the character rushing to the airport to stop his ex from getting on that plane, nor do slasher-movie victims hear that sudden, screeching violin announcing the presence of the killer behind them (otherwise, they’d all be alerted to his arrival and be able to make an escape.)

    So when it comes to musicals (both in film AND theatre), are the songs diegetic or non-diegetic? Tbh, the answer varies, and there are a lot of gray areas. Generally speaking, those big musical numbers where everyone just knows the lyrics and dances along to perfectly synchronized choreography are considered non-diegetic; sure, they're being performed by the characters, and the lyrics often advance the plot, but they're not to be taken literally. They’re metaphorical. They're rooted in emotion, not logic. Music is an incredibly powerful tool for the expression of emotion, which (like music) can be incredibly abstract - sometimes there are just no words to communicate our more complex, nuanced feelings. Some people just can't get into musicals for this very reason; they’re more concrete, analytical thinkers, as opposed to abstract thinkers. Which is perfectly fine - everyone’s mind works differently, and it takes all kinds. But if you enjoy animated Disney movies, chances are you're more of an abstract thinker, and probably have some insights into discussions like this. (Which I certainly hope you'll offer.)

    Having said all that, on face value alone, Disney musicals may seem to fall into that non-literal, non-diegetic category. However, Disney is actually no exception to the aforementioned “gray area” conundrum. Some of their films are pretty clear-cut, like Beauty and the Beast, which is basically an animated Broadway show in many respects. The musical numbers are quite obviously non-diegetic; the townspeople didn’t actually rehearse that elaborate opening song about Belle being an outcast (and it's made clear that Belle can't hear them), and the tavern patrons didn’t actually improvise a whole song just to placate Gaston’s fragile ego. Other films, such as The Little Mermaid, are more of a mixed bag, with plenty of room for debate. “Daughters of Triton” is patently diegetic; it’s an actual concert being performed for the King and his subjects. “Part of Your World” definitely feels like a non-diegetic expression of Ariel’s emotions, but the reprise on the beach must be diegetic, since Eric hears her singing and describes falling in love with her voice - this is in fact a big part of the plot. And just how diegetic is “Kiss The Girl?” Sebastian does whisper Ariel's name into Eric's ear, and Eric apparently does hear it. But can the actual music be heard by anyone other than the audience? Sebastian is singing it for the express purpose of persuading Eric to make a move, and it kind of seems like he's responding to it at times on some level. (Or is it the reverse, and the song is reflecting his state of mind?) If Eric could hear the whole thing, it’s fair to say he’d probably be a little freaked out. So it's definitely mostly non-diegetic, but with an interesting splash of surrealism. (GET IT??? SPLASH????)

    Anyway, sorry to stray so far off topic! That whole tangent probably should've been saved until we actually got to The Little Mermaid. xD I just find the whole aspect of Disney’s music incredibly fascinating and ripe for discussion! And timeline-wise, this is certainly a great place to start delving into the topic, because like I said, Great Mouse Detective has such an unusual musical template for Disney.

    The first number, "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind" (aka Ratigan's villain song), is surely non-diegetic. I mean yeah, to be fair, I probably could see Ratigan staging a lavish musical number all about himself and forcing his henchmen to perform it on demand, lol. But in terms of actual artistic intent, the filmmakers were clearly going for a grand, non-diegetic, musical theatre feel. Compared to the rest of the Disney canon, it probably most resembles the aforementioned “Gaston,” wherein the secretly fragile baddie who pretends to be suave gets his ego stroked by his admiring lackeys. And again, BatB is non-diegetic to the core.

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    This extravagant opening number would seem to indicate that the rest of the film would follow suit, but interestingly enough, the remaining two songs are both unquestionably diegetic. The next comes when Basil and Dawson go incognito at the seedy dockside pub. We see that the venue provides live entertainment, and after a couple of poorly received non-musical performances, a sultry, Jessica Rabbit-esque mouse takes the spotlight to sing and striptease her way through "Let Me Be Good To You," while rowdy patrons howl and paw at the stage. This is a literal, in-universe performance that affects the plot directly. After being drugged by the waitress and barkeep, Dawson jumps on stage to join the dancers, falls off in a clumsy stupor, and sets in motion a huge brawl, prompting himself and Basil to flee right into the hands of Ratigan. (And btw, what was up with those drugged drinks anyway?? Did the pub mice work for Ratigan? Why did they only slip them this temporary, relatively mild drug instead of one that would knock them unconscious, or poison them outright? Was this somehow part of Ratigan's trap? It seemed pretty irrelevant. The whole thing felt more like an excuse just to have Dawson make a fool of himself on stage for a cheap gag... and then quickly snap out of it seconds later. This was probably my main qualm with the movie. It felt like a total plot cul-de-sac, and I'm just not a fan of "men are dogs" humor - like those old Looney Tunes cartoons with lolling tongues, bugging eyes, heavy panting and wolf whistles at the sight of an attractive woman. That's kind of what this felt like to me.)

    [​IMG]

    The third and final song, "Goodbye So Soon," is also plainly diegetic. Ratigan explains that he wrote and pre-recorded the song as a taunting farewell anthem for Basil (and in fact incorporates the spinning of the album into the elaborate death trap.)

    [​IMG]

    If I were to venture a guess to explain this odd and uneven musical collage, it would probably be that perhaps Disney originally intended for this to be more of a traditional musical, but changed their minds mid-production for whatever reason. Yet perhaps they still wanted to include the songs they had so far - they are definitely pretty catchy, although "Criminal Mind" is by far the stand-out. That said, it’s just not a song that can be stitched into the fabric of the plot in a diegetic manner, like the others were. Regardless of how this unusual mix came to be, I actually do think it works. Cutting “Criminal Mind” would have been a huge loss, but I also don’t think the film would work as a full-out musical in the vein of other Disney Renaissance films (and yes, I do include this film as part of the Renaissance period!! At the very least, it’s inarguably the film that started it; its critical reception and box office success is what made Disney realize their animation department was still commercially viable.)

    What do you guys think? Was it too jarring to have just one big non-diegetic number in the film? Would you have preferred that they cut the songs altogether? Did you even notice the irregularity, or did the film successfully sell you on it?
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2018
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  25. caw caw rawr

    caw caw rawr Squirrel!

    Rating - 100%
    49   0   0

    @NutMeg - That was a fun read! Thank you for your insight and enthusiasm. I didn't know anything about diegetic and non-diegetic sound and I learned something tonight. Thanks!
     
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