Decades Blogathon – Lady And The Tramp (1955)

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1955

Here we go! Welcome to the first entry in the Decades Blogathon, being hosted by myself and the legendary Tom from Digital Shortbread. The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the fifth year of the decade. Tom and I will run a different entry each day; and the first of my entries comes from Kim via the excellent Tranquil Dreams. Make sure to check out Kim’s site – it’s full of fun and informative reviews.

Lady’s always been a loved pet from when she was a little puppy for her masters, Jim Dear and Darling. When they are expecting a baby, everything starts to change.

They treat Lady differently and when the baby arrives and they go away for a few days, leaving her in the care of Aunt Sara, things get even worse. Aunt Sara brings her two Siamese cats who wreak havoc and put the blame on Lady, causing her to finally feel that she isn’t wanted anymore. That’s when she finds Tramp, a dog living on the streets who teaches her about the owner-free life.

Lady And The Tramp - "A family classic"

Lady And The Tramp – “A family classic”

While I was researching this, I learned that Lady And The Tramp was the pioneer in two things for Disney: one was that it was the studio’s first CinemaScope animated feature and second, it also was the first full-length film from an original story instead of a fable/classic.

Now that’s pretty awesome, right? I didn’t even know that when I was watching this again. Lady And The Tramp is one of my favorite Disney features. One, it’s because the main characters are all sorts of adorable dogs and really the life of them when they are brought into a family and what they go through with change.

A classic scene from Dsiney's Lady And The Tramp

A classic scene from Disney’s Lady And The Tramp

Lady And The Tramp is a great movie because of its colorful animation. The colours add to the scenes and atmosphere of the story each time. Along with that, the story itself is simple with a lot of pretty memorable songs. If you’ve seen Lady And The Tramp, and maybe if you haven’t, you still have seen the scene with the spaghetti and meatballs or heard the song Bella Notte.

That’s just the first example here. This time I watched, I realised how the background music really added to what was going on. It was fun and bubbly when Lady was a puppy and changed from there. Not to mention, the little love story between Lady And The Tramp was really cute and they are both really awesome characters, from Lady’s sweet and caring nature to Tramp’s sense of responsibility and braveness.

"We are Siamese if you please" - Lady And The Tramp

“We are Siamese if you please” – Lady And The Tramp

There’s a certain level of contrast here from the beautiful houses where Lady lives to the streets where Tramp lives and how it shows the change between the two; even a contrast between the temper of dogs and cats as pets and their sense of responsibility.

Lady gets a surprise in Lady And The Tramp

Lady gets a surprise in Lady And The Tramp

It’s also a difference between cat and dog lovers. All this stuff is easily relatable to both adults while the simpler story and cute doggies running around is fun. Although, I have to admit, heading to the dog pound was a little scary and that rat looked more evil than the Siamese.

There’s a lot to love about Lady And The Tramp. It’s not only a few Disney firsts for me, but rather a massive love for the characters in Lady And The Tramp. The rich colors here add to the simple story along with some nice background music and memorable songs – all this makes Lady And The Tramp a family classic.

Review – Frozen

Winter may be coming, but the Mouse House is on fire in this enchanting reworking of Hans Christian Anderson’s timeless fairy tale The Snow Queen.

Far from leaving me cold, Frozen once again proved that when Disney gets it right, no-one else comes close

Far from leaving me cold, Frozen once again proved that when Disney gets it right, no-one else comes close

Disney’s affiliation with Anderson’s work is a long one; from its Silly Symphony short of The Ugly Duckling in the 1930s through to its hugely successful version of The Little Mermaid in 1989, which spawned a renaissance in animated features by the studio.

Although not a straight adaptation, Frozen fulfills the dream long-held by Uncle Walt to bring The Snow Queen to the big screen and does so in a way that would have made Disney extremely proud.

The sumptuous visuals in Frozen

The sumptuous visuals in Frozen

A chunk of the credit for the Mouse House’s creative and critical upturn should go to Pixar head honcho John Lasseter,  who was appointed Disney’s Chief Creative Officer back in 2006 and since then has overseen a fresh resurgence in the studio’s output.

It’s also notable that of Disney’s last four animated movies, three have featured strong female leads, with Frozen‘s Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) among the most tenacious yet.

Snow Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) in Frozen

Snow Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) in Frozen

Elsa has the ability to create ice and snow and locks herself away to maintain her secret, even from Anna. When her powers are unintentionally revealed Elsa, in the process of escaping, unwittingly unleashes an eternal winter on the kingdom. Anna goes after her sister to save the kingdom from her icy spell and on her quest is joined by mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his faithful reindeer Sven and a funny little snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad).

The dashing Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) sweeps Anna (Kristen Bell) off her feet in Frozen

The dashing Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) sweeps Anna (Kristen Bell) off her feet in Frozen

This wouldn’t be a Disney film without the musical numbers and Frozen upholds this fine tradition right from the off with the catchy men-at-work Frozen Heart that brings to mind Snow White And The Seven DwarfsHeigh-Ho.

The plaintive Do You Want To Build A Snowman? does what Disney does best – a heartfelt tune matched by swirling visuals that progresses the story and sticks in the mind, while a group of diminutive trolls are oddly reminiscent of the Fraggles (remember Fraggle Rock? No? Just me then) when they sing Fixer Upper.

Olaf (Josh Gad) just wants a hug in Frozen

Olaf (Josh Gad) just wants a hug in Frozen

The relationship between Anna and Elsa is both simple and complex; they clearly love each other deeply, but time and Anna’s secret has driven a wedge between them, as evidenced by their awkward exchanges during Anna’s coronation as Queen. Disney has been guilty many times of drowning its films in saccharine sweetness, but it’s also the studio that respected its young audience enough to make them deal with death in Bambi and The Lion King.

Heroic mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) aboard his trusty reindeer Sven in Frozen

Heroic mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) aboard his trusty reindeer Sven in Frozen

It pretty much goes without saying that the animation is stunning, but it’s always worth drinking it in regardless, especially the rendering of ice and snow which is simply beautiful. Likewise, the film rattles along at such a pace that you forgive its rather lacklustre plot.

Strong female characters aside, Frozen‘s most memorable character is the loveable Olaf, a figment of Anna’s childhood imagination brought magically and amusingly to life by Elsa’s magic. A lover of “warm hugs”, Olaf is well written and acts just as you’d imagine an imaginary friend brought to life would. Gad’s lively performance elevates Olaf into the premier division of Disney sidekicks next to Pinocchio‘s Jiminy Cricket, the Genie from Aladdin and The Jungle Book‘s Baloo.

Far from leaving me cold, Frozen once again proved that when Disney gets it right, no-one else comes close.

Review – Saving Mr Banks

The story behind one of cinema’s most magical family classics is told in a shamelessly self-congratulatory, but ever-so  supercalifragilisticexpialidocious way in Disney’s warm-spirited love letter.

Saving Mr Banks may be a giant spoonful of sugar, but it's charm and outstanding performances certainly help the medicine to go down

Saving Mr Banks may be a giant spoonful of sugar, but it’s charm and outstanding performances certainly help the medicine to go down

From the moment Julie Andrews flew in to the lives of the Banks family courtesy of her magic umbrella, generations of moviegoers young and old were swept away by Walt Disney’s beloved 1964 adaptation of P.L Travers’ iconic Mary Poppins.

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) promises he won't let Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) down in Saving Mr Banks

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) promises he won’t let Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) down in Saving Mr Banks

Saving Mr Banks chronicles the tireless efforts of Mr Disney (Tom Hanks) to persuade Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) to relinquish the rights to her hugely popular children’s novel. Flown over to LA at the Mouse House’s expense, she attends a two-week workshop with co-writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and composer/lyricists Richard M Sherman (Jason Schwartzman) and Robert B Sherman (BJ Novak) to determine whether she’s happy (or not) with the direction the studio wants to take with the picture.

Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) seems unimpressed with LA when picked up by her chauffeur Ralph (Paul Giamatti) in Saving Mr Banks

Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) seems unimpressed with LA when picked up by her chauffeur Ralph (Paul Giamatti) in Saving Mr Banks

As Walt and co work on winning over Mrs Travers, the experience stirs up memories to her childhood spent in Australia at the turn of the century with her mother Margaret (Ruth Wilson) and alcoholic, but deeply loving bank manager father Robert (Colin Farrell).

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) himself at Disneyland in Saving Mr Banks

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) himself at Disneyland in Saving Mr Banks

Disney has wallowed in the syrup of sentiment and schmaltz more than once, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to learn a film in which the Mouse House raises a glass of milk to itself and celebrates the genius of its founder is unadulterated whimsy. But it’s whimsy with a heart and an old-fashioned charm that’s irresistible to resist.

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) promises he won't let Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) down in Saving Mr Banks

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) promises he won’t let Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) down in Saving Mr Banks

The cast is truly splendid. Thompson, who’s seen too rarely on our screens, is terrific as the prim and proper sourpuss Mrs Travers, who must learn to let go of her painful past and trust in Mr Disney in order to finally move forwards. It’s a masterfully restrained performance, one that thaws authentically as she gets taken in by the genuine love and respect Disney and the gang have for the material.

Mrs Travers remembers her youth with her father (played by Colin Farrell) in Saving Mr Banks

Mrs Travers remembers her youth with her father (played by Colin Farrell) in Saving Mr Banks

She’s matched by Hanks’ charming turn as ol’ Walt, a character that’s far removed from his recent turn as Captain Phillips. Hanks is perfect and brings a charismatic authority to the role that hints at the steely businessman who’s built an empire out of the vision of a friendly little mouse. The scene he shares with Mrs Travers late in the film when he talks about his difficult childhood and the significance her story has had both to his family and countless others is a textbook example of great acting by both Hanks and Thompson.

"Gawd bless Mary Poppins!"

“Gawd bless Mary Poppins!”

Paul Giamatti also gets a great cameo as Mrs Travers’ kind-hearted chauffeur Ralph. It’s the sort of turn that could drip with saccharine, but Giamatti gives it just enough bite.

The recurring flashbacks to Oz are perhaps the film’s weakest point and the parallel narratives between 1907 Queensland and 1961 LA are a little too neat and tidy, but John Lee Hancock’s thoughtful direction is both moving and genuinely funny.

Saving Mr Banks may be a giant spoonful of sugar, but it’s charm and outstanding performances certainly help the medicine to go down.