Welcome back to Road To Disney. After spending most of the 40s making package films, the Walt Disney Company went back to doing feature-length animated films. At the time, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy, so this was a risky move. And thus, we enter the Restoration Age or the Silver Age. This is the era where the animation is defined by gorgeous backgrounds and a softer color palette. Fairy tales and adaptations of beloved books have returned to bring the magic back to the House of Mouse. With the Restoration period from the 50s all the way to the 60s, Disney was back in full effect. So let’s take a look at these films, starting with…
Release Date: February 15, 1950
A young girl lives as a servant to her stepmother and two stepsisters, doing all the chores and being a literal slave. When she was unable to go to the royal ball, she meets the Fairy Godmother, who gives her a pretty outfit that would last till midnight and a chance to meet the Prince. This is a classic fairy tale that everyone knows and with its success, it helped Disney rise to greatness. And while isn’t in my Top 10 favorite Disney, it’s still a good movie. The animation is a huge step-up from the previous films. You can tell effort was put into this movie. If you look at the backgrounds, everything looks huge and it’s nice to look at. For someone who was treated like a house servant and had to put up with a lot of abuse, Cinderella has a lot of patience and kindness. She doesn’t have the best personality compared to other Disney princesses, but she’s fine enough. The stepmother, Lady Tremaine, is a great villain. No magic, no powers, she’s just scary and intimidating. The fact that she has control over one person’s life makes her one of Disney’s best villains. The stepsisters are annoying and so are the mice. The least interesting character in this movie is the Prince. Seriously, no time went into developing this character. The King and Grand Duke have more personality than this guy. I think that’s why, in my opinion, the ball scene where Cinderella and the Prince isn’t as strong as it should be. A good chunk of the film is spent on Cinderella’s animal friends, which feels unnecessary. There are debates about the message of this film, which some interpret as if you wait and wish, your dreams will come true. While that kind of message is questionable, I think Cinderella deserves a break after all of the crap she went through. Seeing her get married to the prince was satisfying. This film does work on a lot of coincidences like Cinderella being the only one who can fit the glass slipper throughout the entire kingdom. This is another one of those films where you have to not question everything. While Cinderella isn’t one of my favorite movies and a lot of it feels like a product of its time, it’s still a good enough film. For little girls, it’s a nice wish fulfillment fantasy and for everyone else, there is some artistic things to appreciate. I give it an 8/10.
Alice In Wonderland
Release Date: July 28, 1951
Based on the Alice books by Lewis Carroll, a young girl named Alice comes across the White Rabbit and follows him all the way to a world unlike ours. Feeling lost in this strange new world, Alice tries to find her way out of Wonderland. With Alice In Wonderland, the focus isn’t entirely on the narrative, but the journey. It’s basically a road trip movie, but on acid. Speaking of acid, the visuals. There is a lot of surreal imagery and the colors pop out a lot against the black backgrounds. This Wonderland is a unique look that makes it stand out. Alice herself plays the role of the straight man reacting to all of the madness of Wonderland the way any of us would. And her voice actress, Kathryn Beaumont, does a damn good job playing this character. There is a lot of memorable characters in this movie: the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, etc. They’re insane, energetic, and they’re very hard to read. There are several adaptations to the original book and this is one of the best ones. The less said about the 2010 Tim Burton version, the better. I give it an 8/10.
Release Date: February 5, 1953
Peter Pan tells the story of three London children, Wendy, John, and Michael Darling who meets Peter Pan and go along with him to Neverland, where they come across pirates and mermaids and all sorts of adventures. If Cinderella was a film made for girls, then Peter Pan was a film made for boys. And it’s one of my favorite older Disney films. It’s one hell of an adventure. The titular character is cocky and arrogant, but he’s a boy who never grows up, so it makes sense for him to act the way he is. Wendy is voiced by the same actress who voiced Alice in Alice In Wonderland and she does a great job portraying the older sister of John and Michael, who are the smart kid and innocent cute kid retrospectively. The Lost Boys are typical delinquents and we also have Tinker Bell, who has become the unofficial mascot for Disney, appearing in nearly every advertisement for the company. She doesn’t have a line of dialogue, but she displays so much personality through her expressions and body language. She’s a sassy little pixie who’s really jealous of Wendy, so much that she went as far as to get her nearly killed and was tricked into revealing where Peter’s lair is. Captain Hook is a great villain. He can be hilarious and intimidating at the same time. His scenes with Smee and the crocodile makes for some great comedy. Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room.
I understand this was a product of its time and people didn’t have much knowledge or understanding of Native Americans, but wow, this does not hold up. The fact that the Natives look and act stereotypical and there’s a song called What Made The Red Man Red is just uncomfortable. Without this, Peter Pan would’ve been a perfect 10. Still, the rest of the movie is great. It’s a good adaptation to the original story and it’s a fun adventure with enough magic, swash-buckling, and wonder that’ll satisfy the kids. I give it a 9/10.
Lady And The Tramp
Release Date: June 22, 1955
A cocker spaniel named Lady lives with a upper-class family and meets a stray mongrel named Tramp. They don’t get along initially, but, through a series of situations, they start liking each other more and even form a romance. This is a plot that you’ve seen in a lot of rom-coms, only in this movie, the characters are dogs. I like how they show the world through a dog’s perspective. Like how Lady thinks that her owners’ names are Jim Dear and Darling. Even though the film is shot in widescreen, it doesn’t go for spectacle nor does it follow some of the cliches you’d expect from Disney films. No magic, no villains. It’s just a series of moments that’s anchored in a romance story between two dogs. There are some memorable moments like the one with the Siamese cats, which may or may not be racist, and of course, the dinner scene. You know what I’m talking about.
It’s one of the most iconic scenes in film history. The music, the atmosphere, the accidental kiss. It’s one of those scenes that’s been parodied, spoofed, and recreated by many. Not one of my favorite films, but it’s decent. Dog lovers will enjoy this the most. I give it a 7/10.
Release Date: January 29, 1959
A young princess named Aurora is cursed by the evil Maleficent to prick her finger on the swindle of a spinning wheel and die before the sun sets on her 16th birthday. So the king orders three fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Mayweather, to look after Aurora until her 16th birthday and prevent the curse from happening. This film is fascinating to me. It has some really good parts and parts I don’t really care for. Aurora and Prince Phillip are boring as tar. I don’t think they have that many lines of dialogue, or any line of dialogue worth remembering. The middle part of the film feels a lot like filler until the third act. The best characters are the fairies and Maleficent. The fairies are great, they have personality and character. Maleficent is one of Disney’s best villains. She has a cool design, she has kick ass powers, and even though her motivation is flimsy at best, the lengths she goes to accomplish her goals are astounding. Plus, she’s voiced by the same actress who did Lady Tremaine from Cinderella. The final third is worth sitting through the boring parts as we see Prince Phillip (with assistance from the fairies) face off against Maleficent, who turns into a dragon and it is FUCKING AWESOME!!
Also, we got some pretty animation and some nice music. If it wasn’t for the boring leads and the filler in the middle, Sleeping Beauty would’ve been a great film. But it’s getting a 7/10.
One Hundred And One Dalmatians
Release Date: January 25, 1961
A couple’s two Dalmatians have a litter of 15 puppies and those puppies have been kidnapped by Curella De Vil, who wants to make fur coats out of them. The two Damatians go on a journey to save their their puppies with some assistance from other animal friends. I’m going to be completely honest, I’m not a fan of this film. It’s not bad, it’s just okay. I didn’t care about the characters nor the story. The best character is the villain, Curella De Vil. She has a cool design which combines fashionably chic with devilishly dangerous. Just like with Maleficent, the lengths she would go to accomplish her goals is very interesting. The climax is the most exciting part of the film. It’s a car chase where Curella is going after the Dalmatian puppies and it slowly turns her and her car into something from Hell. The animation is a bit of a step down from Sleeping Beauty, but it’s not bad, either. They’ve utilized rotoscoping and xerography, which makes the animation look rough and sketchy. If you’re a dog lover and you just want to see dogs do dog things, you might like this film. But if you want more, you might be disappointed. I give it a 5/10.
The Sword In The Stone
Release Date: December 25, 1963
Young Arthur is learning how to be a proper king under the mentorship of the wizard Merlin. The Sword In The Stone is another film that I didn’t care about much. Most of the film is spent on Merlin teaching Arthur the ways of a king and while I see what it’s trying to do, it’s kinda boring to watch. Even when they turn into animals, I didn’t care. Arthur is the innocent young boy and Merlin is the kooky, eccentric old wizard. Very standard characters. The most exciting the film gets is the wizard duel between Merlin and Madam Mim, which involves a lot of transforming and magic. Aside from that, I don’t have much love for this movie. The animation is standard, the characters are okay, there’s not much to it. I give it a 5/10.
The Jungle Book
Release Date: October 18, 1967
A young man-cub named Mowgli is raised by wolves in the jungle. When the ferocious tiger Shere Khan returns, the wolves trust the panther Bagheera to return Mowgli to the man-vilage where he belongs (much to his disinterest) before Shere Khan gets a hold of him. This is one of those Disney films that I’ve watched so many times in my life that I can recite the whole thing. Like a lot of Disney films, this one is vastly different from the source material, which was really dark and more dramatic, and I’m perfectly fine with this. Like the previous two films, the animation has a rougher, more sketchy style. Mowgli is an okay kid character. I actually like the animals more. Bagheera, Baloo, Kaa, the elephants, King Louie, the vultures (who were modeled off of the Beatles), and Shere Khan, who’s a great villain. He’s just filled with so much confidence in his badassery that you can’t help but be intimidated. The songs are really catchy and memorable, especially I Wan’na Be Like You and my personal favorite Bare Necessities. It’s not a completely faithful adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling book, but as a standalone film, it’s good enough. I give it an 8/10.
The Jungle Book ended up being the last film that Walt Disney himself produced. After this film, the company he founded would change forever. What caused this change? Walt Disney’s death.