DISNEY DEEP DIVE vol 7: 1970s pt2

Welcome to my ongoing journey through the theatrical Disney catalog! I took a brief break after finishing the 1970s, but here are my mini-reviews from the back half of that decade. Enjoy these and, if you haven’t already, go back and catch all the others that came before!

119 – The Strongest Man in the World (1975) – There did NOT need to be a third movie in this Dexter Riley (Kurt Russell) series. Also, it’s the weakest one by far, despite the title.

120 – Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) – This film was released four days before I was. 🙂 I loved it as a kid and still enjoyed it as an adult. Up to this point in their output, the tension, mystery, and sci-fi elements are rare for Disney. But I cringed at the lazy storytelling in the last half hour or so, as the kids start to just convenient remember more and more things about their past. 

121 – The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) – I remember very little about this from childhood, other than the hilarity of Don Knotts and Tim Conway (and the little girl who always has to go pee). This charming Western is a tale of orphaned children and the small town that has to figure out what to do with them. Of course, there’s some danger, humor, romance, troublemaking, and plenty of physical comedy. But we all know it’s really about putting two of the all-time funniest actors together and seeing what happens.

122 – *One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975) – This goofy slapstick comedy might have been bearable except for the fact that all the Asian characters are played by English people (including Peter Ustinov). I would think that by the year of my birth, that would have been frowned upon. But apparently not. It’s grossly offensive to sit through.

123 – *The Best of Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures (1975) – The best moments from the 13 True-Life productions (feature-length films and shorts), mostly made in the 1950s, are stitched together as a tribute to Walt’s love of animals. These are great nature documentaries and the highlights reel is a great way to be introduced to them.

124 – *Ride a Wild Pony (1975) – Filmed beautifully in Australia, this is a tale of a poor farm boy and a paralyzed rich girl who both claim ownership of a particular pony and who both tug at our heart strings. Which one should get the horse? Who do we, as the audience, pull for? How can there be a happy Disney ending? This is a particularly solid effort at providing further nuance and grey area than most Disney offerings.

125 – *No Deposit, No Return (1975) – Well-off but neglected siblings (he from Apple Dumpling Gang, she from Witch Mountain) meet-cute with a pair of bungling criminals (Don Knotts and the dad from A Christmas Story). It’s mostly good stuff but the token physical humor (Don Knotts chases a pet skunk into dangerous places) and silly car chase go on far too long. The heart of the film is the budding father-daughter relationship between Tracy and Duke.

126 – Treasure of Matecumbe (1976) – This was an entertaining adventure about a boy, his friend, and the adults they gather along the way. They are after a buried family treasure. But so are some wicked guys. And they are shooting to kill (as is evident when they do kill someone who seems to be a major character within the first ten minutes or so of the film). Highlights include: Peter Ustinov as a snake-oil salesman, a dock full of mean dudes breaking into a big dance number, and a young black boy hurling Molotov cocktails at a bunch of Klansmen.

127 – Gus (1976) – It’s World’s Greatest Athlete, if Nanu was a mule (and the only sport featured was football). They even recycled the interrupting announcer bit. I was looking forward to this one but wasn’t fully satisfied. Don Knotts didn’t have nearly enough to do. Tom Bosley and Tim Conway had the funniest moments, chasing the mule through a grocery store.

128 – The Shaggy D.A. (1976) – I had fun with this one, but much of that was likely because of nostalgia. It didn’t necessarily come together any better than the other gimmick-comedies of this era (or of the Shaggy Dog for that matter). Dean Jones, Suzanne Pleshette, and Shane Sinutko had good chemistry as the lead family. I kept wanting to tell Vic Tayback (who plays a criminal boss) to kiss my grits.

129 – Freaky Friday (1976) – I think my memories were more of the premise than the execution. Because yes, this film launched so many imitators and remakes. But it’s actually a mixed bag and maybe the Freakiest of all the Fridays. When his daughter (in his wife’s body) calls him Daddy and he gets this kinky look on his face, I think I threw up a little in my mouth. Also the token wacky car chase seemed like it was from a completely different (read: far sillier) Disney film.

130 – *The Littlest Horse Thieves (1977) – What a truly rewarding find this turned out to be! This story of a British coal mining colliery and its inhabitants pulled me in on every front: the characters, the dialogue, the setting, the tension. Pit ponies, who live and work down in the mines, are to be replaced with machinery and sent to the slaughterhouse. Those who care most about them (especially the three child leads) aren’t about to let that happen. The mine itself was the star of the show – dark, filthy, labyrinthine, and claustrophobic.

131 – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) – This was originally released as three short films over several years. But it works together as a feature just fine. It maintains the charm I would expect when presenting these characters. And the surreal way in which they interact with the pages of the book is incredibly creative. My only critique is that the scary dream sequence seemed out of place.

132 – A Tale of Two Critters (1977) – A short nature film that partnered with The Rescuers for a theatrical two-fer. It definitely didn’t cover any new ground and was fairly dull.

133 – The Rescuers (1977) – A fairly simple but straightforward story packs loads of charm and warmth, thanks in part to the adorable little girl and the two mice that vow to help her. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor are great in the lead voice roles. This is a great reminder that a little heart goes a long way in animated features.

134 – Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) – Did we need a third Herbie movie? Well, of course! Dean Jones returns and brings Don Knotts with him this time! And it’s back to being a movie about a big race! There are some bumbling jewel thieves to add some tension. And Herbie falls in love… in Paris!

135 – Pete’s Dragon (1977) – I don’t remember having seen this before, but I LOVE now knowing the context of that sweet song, “Candle in the Water.” The other songs were okay, I guess. This seems like the kind of film that would have a strong cult following that watches it sing-along style with props.

136 – Candleshoe (1977) – This was a charming little redemption story featuring a teenage Jodi Foster. Relationships were front and center with this one: between the girl, her might-be grandmother, the butler, and the other kids. Also, there’s a treasure hunt and clues to discover, if relationships aren’t your thing. The wacky scuffle with the bad guys seemed tonally off compared to the rest of the film, but otherwise this was time well spent.

137 – Return From Witch Mountain (1978) – Sure, Christopher Lee and Bette Davis are great villains. Whatever. Let’s talk instead about how ridiculous it is that neither film features the actual Witch Mountain. Why leave the coolest stuff offscreen?! This was an okay sequel, I guess. The stakes were high and our heroes had much to overcome. But, seriously. Beef up your effects budget and give us Witch Mountain.

138 – The Cat From Outer Space (1978) – This was an absolutely average film. It checked off most all the boxes of the Disney screwball comedy formula: supernatural things happened, an animal was involved, and there was a big chase at the end. Some of the humor was funny. Most of it was not. There was some cool stunt work toward the end, but most of the special effects were, again, just… average.

139 – *Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978) – I mostly remember this western comedy as a Don Knotts film, but he’s hardly the best part. That would be Jim Dale playing three of the lead characters – an old man and his two estranged sons competing for a large inheritance. It’s an impressive feat in a relatively entertaining film.

140 – *The North Avenue Irregulars (1979) – I LOVED this movie! A new pastor and the church ladies attempt to rid their town of organized crime. The ensemble does a great job – and features some familiar faces from previous Disney films (Barbara Harris from Freaky Friday, Susan Clark from Apple Dumpling Gang, and more). As a preacher’s kid and youth leader myself, I was loving all the church-related humor.

141 – The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979) – It was great to see more Don Knotts and Tim Conway, but the movie is very busy. Too many different things are going on and though the storylines eventually come together, it’s not particularly satisfying. But hey, it features the most impressive explosion so far. I’m talking HUGE! So that’s cool.

142 – Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979) – Disney takes on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. A NASA employee and an android that looks just like him travel through time to the days of Lancelot and Merlin. It’s kind of entertaining, I guess, but laughably low budget (like when you can clearly see the cables in a ‘flying’ scene). I would not really recommend it.

143 – The Black Hole (1979) – This movie is bonkers! But I love it! It is clearly Disney’s response to Star Wars’ popularity, but is far more similar to 2001 or Doctor Who. In Disney terms, I’m calling it 20,000 Leagues in Space because, like Captain Nemo, this Dr. Reinhardt dude is crazy. It’s dark and ‘adult’ enough to earn the first PG rating for the company. There are plenty of things wrong with it, but I appreciate Disney’s ambition, big budget, and willingness to think outside the box. The ambiguous ending made me VERY excited as well.

144 – *The London Connection (1979) – So this is a first… I’ve finally met my match. I haven’t been able to track down this movie (that also goes by “The Omega Connection”). It’s technically not a U.S. theatrical release, but rather a made-for-TV film that was released theatrically overseas. So I’m not gonna sweat it.

DISNEY DEEP DIVE vol 6: 1970s pt1

My chronological journey through the entire catalog of Disney theatrical releases brings us now to the first half of the 1970s. An asterisk indicates you can NOT find it on Disney Plus.

97 – *King of the Grizzlies (1970) – This is another nature/scripted hybrid (like Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar, et al above) in which the animals are much better actors than the humans. An Indian man is struggling between his old life and his new role as a cattle rancher. To kill the grizzlies or to not kill the grizzlies? That is the question.

98 – *The Boatniks (1970) – Here’s what happens when the Coast Guard, three jewel thieves, and general coastal California boating culture collide. There is an overwhelming amount of physical comedy, often involving beautiful women in bikinis. The majority of the lead actors are unmemorable. The pacing is erratic, with even the climactic chase scene dragging in spots. But it does feels a lot like the silly Disney adventures I enjoyed as a kid. And did I mention the bikinis?

99 – *The Wild Country (1970) – Disney takes some bold departures with this one, presenting the difficulties of pioneer life in a far less idyllic way than usual. There’s a dangerous tornado, a nasty neighbor, a horse giving birth, a wicked fist fight, and plenty of blood, sweat, and tears. The lead kids are played by real-life brothers, Ron and Clint Howard. And in a rare moment for the Mouse House, a lead character (spoiler alert) kills the villain!

100 – The Aristocats (1970) – There’s nothing particularly bad about this animated feature. But there aren’t that many memorable parts or characters either (for the record, the hound dogs steal the show, voiced by The Andy Griffith Show’s Goober and that funny-voiced guy from Green Acres!). It just seems like they took 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, and The Jungle Book and put them all in a blender. Voila! The Aristocats!

101 – *The Barefoot Executive (1971) – This one features Kurt Russell and a monkey who can tell you what television shows will get the highest ratings. If this sounds like the kind of movie you will love, there’s probably nothing I can do to talk you out of it. So, let’s move on. I won’t even mention that it’s also John Ritter’s film debut.

102 – *Scandalous John (1971) – This is essentially a western version of Don Quixote, where Brian Keith (the dad from Parent Trap) gets to overact for a few hours. It’s a quirky departure for Disney and it took a little while for me to warm up to it. But by the end, I was glad I had invested my time.

103 – The Million Dollar Duck (1971) – Dean Jones and Sandy Duncan show off their comedic skills in this take on ‘the goose that laid the golden egg.’ It’s one of only three movies Gene Siskel walked out on. But since when were Disney comedies made for critics? I thought it was fun, especially Duncan’s ditzy housewife and the bold colors and prints of her late-sixties-early-seventies wardrobe and furniture!

104 – Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) – So many people I know love this movie. I enjoyed the performances (especially Angela Lansbury!) and a few of the biggest moments (like the animated soccer match!) but was disappointed overall. I tried. I really did. I think this is one of those films I should have seen as a child. “The Age of Not Believing” is one of my new favorite songs in a Disney film though. So there’s that.

105 – The Biscuit Eater (1972) – I have conflicting feelings about this film. It’s sweet and well-paced but kind of boring. The acting seems effortless though maybe also bad. There’s African American representation but kind of stereotypically so. It’s about a pair of boys and their dog. That much I can say with confidence.

106 – *Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972) – This is a sequel to 1969’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. Kurt Russell is college scientist Dexter and this time he stumbles upon invisibility! Wacky hijinks ensue! I’ll say the same thing I said last time: “It’s not terribly original and many sequences fall flat. The best stuff comes toward the end.” In this case, the big finish is a car chase involving an invisible vehicle. The special effects (throughout) are incredible for 1972.

107 – *Napoleon and Samantha (1972) – Oh man. I want to tell you everything about this movie but I also want to tell you nothing. This is so unlike most of what I’ve been watching that it’s jarring. A very young Jodie Foster and devilishly handsome Michael Douglas are the highlights. There’s also a secondhand (circus) lion and kids who conspire to hide a family members’ death (then talk an adult into helping them bury it on property without telling anyone!). Speaking of the death, the scene where Bambi’s mom died is nothing compared to how they presented this one. Also, Jodie Foster was literally mauled by the lion during production. She still has scars and an enormous fear of cats. I just pray it was during the last scene they had to film. Yeesh! But you totally want to watch this now, don’t you?

108 – *Run, Cougar, Run (1972) – Did we need another nature/scripted hybrid about a cougar? This was only five years after Disney released Charlie the Lonesome Cougar. Other than a very sweet relationship between a singing Mexican shepherd and the lead cougar’s family, there is not much to like about this film. The narrator has a terribly dull voice. The plot is thin to nonexistent. By this point, Disney had more than worn out this formula.

109 – Snowball Express (1972) – I loved this movie as a kid. It’s likely one of the reasons I got into snow skiing. The scene when Dean Jones is out of control on the slopes is easily the highlight for me. There are highs and lows here – things I definitely wanted more (or less) of – but its ultimately pretty fun and charming.

110 – *The World’s Greatest Athlete (1973) – I cannot be objective with this one. It was a childhood favorite of mine, so I practically have it memorized. I watched it again for the sake of this project though… and it’s still awesome. Tim Conway steals the show. The pacing and visual gags are perfect. The sports (and marching band!) sequence at the beginning is one of my favorites in ANY Disney film.

111 – *Charley and the Angel (1973) – Fred MacMurray’s character is a dud of a dad (and husband). But a visit from an angel (Harry Morgan, M*A*S*H) helps him ‘live like he was dying.’ It’s a Wonderful Life does it better, but this is not too shabby. Gangsters and their bootlegged hooch add some drama and danger to the mix. A chase involving 1930s cars is pretty amazing too. Cloris Leachman and Kurt Russell round out the familiar faces.

112 – *One Little Indian (1973) – I enjoyed this one quite a bit. James Garner, a young white boy raised by Native Americans, and two camels (why not?) are on the run in Utah and bonding all the while. There needed to be more Vera Miles and Jodi Foster, but they make a strong impression during their limited screen time. The pacing is perfect and the charm of James Garner carries the film.

113 – Robin Hood (1973) – I don’t know why, but this one really didn’t connect with me. I know a ton of people love it. It was sweet. The voice acting was good (especially all the little kids!). I was just never really feeling it. I guess the jailbreak was pretty cool. So that’s something.

114 – *Superdad (1973) – This film had a brief moment or two of okayness, but was otherwise horrible. The lead dad is the opposite of super – he is dull, judgmental, and interferes with his daughter’s life in ways that lead to some rough consequences. Kurt Russell is the fun, loyal boyfriend who somehow makes it through the whole film without slugging the guy.

115 – Herbie Rides Again (1974) – The Love Bug is back! It’s a totally new cast and a crossover Disney villain (from Absent-Minded Professor). There is far less going on in the story this time (and it’s not even about car racing!) but the charm and hijinks remain.

116 – The Bears and I (1974) – The screenplay was by Joss Whedon’s grandfather! The lead actor was John Wayne’s son! The theme song was John Denver’s “Sweet Surrender”! Plus, you can play a drinking game with it! Take a sip every time a white man says “you people” in a frustrated, condescending tone to a group of Native Americans! The three bear cubs are the highlight (and the best actors by far!).

117 – The Castaway Cowboy (1974) – James Garner and Vera Miles are back! He plays a Texan who washes up on the shore of a Hawaiian island and teaches a bunch of locals to be cattle ranchers for Miles’ character. These two leads are fine but the film spends way too much time on actual horse riding and roping skills.

118 – *The Island at the Top of the World (1974) – This was an ambitious adventure tale in the style of H.G. Wells or Jules Verne. It didn’t quite live up to that standard, but it wasn’t a waste of time by any means. The father-son interactions were especially moving. The ancient Viking culture hiding in the Arctic was pretty cool too. The big blimp was the star of the show though.

DISNEY DEEP DIVE vol 5: 1960s pt2

Continuing our journey through the theatrical Disney catalog, I present to you the second half of the 1960s. An asterisk means it’s not on Disney Plus.

76 – Those Calloways (1965) – This was a beautiful tale of a 1920’s small-town family a bit off the beaten path (literally and socially), told through several different mostly-connecting chapters. The teenage son struggles with bullies and young love. The fur-trapping dad struggles with supporting the family while injured. The mom struggles with loving a drunk, impulsive, and financially unstable man. The main plot is about their desire to create a sanctuary for migrating geese. But the story is secondary to the rich character development, even among the memorable bit-part townspeople.

77 – *The Monkey’s Uncle (1965) – This is the sequel to Merlin Jones (see above) and my thoughts are pretty much the same as before. However, the opening sequence features Annette singing the famous theme song with the ACTUAL BEACH BOYS!! I was thrilled to see their cameo, which is easily the coolest scene in the film.

78 – That Darn Cat! (1965) – Disney specialized in wacky comedies involving animals. This is one of those films, for better or worse. There’s a cat, criminals, the FBI, silly characters both major and minor. The key thing that makes this worth it? It was Hayley Mills’ final film (of six) in her Disney contract and Dean Jones’ first (of seven, if I counted right) in his. It’s great to know I’ve finally seen the only overlap in their Venn diagram.

79 – The Ugly Dachshund (1966) – Oh look, another one of those animal comedies! This one was a bit tedious and the constant bickering between the husband and wife are a bit off-putting (they should really see a counselor). Anyway, there’s a Great Dane puppy who is raised with dachshund puppies, so he thinks he can do little dog things. But he can’t. He’s a big dog. Comedy gold, folks! No, but for real, the puppies tear up a bunch of stuff. A bunch. It’s so silly. I wish I were 8 again because I would have laughed instead of getting uncomfortable when everything got destroyed.

80 – *Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (1966) – Who would think that a movie centered around Dick Van Dyke could be dull? This film was like a bad version of Swiss Family Robinson. Man gets stranded on an island. Man finds space-chimp. Man and space-chimp find native woman. Man, space-chimp and woman try to stand up for native women’s rights. Gaggle of giggly native women chase man around until he abandons them during his rescue. A very very confusing message that ultimately makes women look foolish.

81 – *The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966) – Here’s another period drama from England (a la Sword and the Rose, Rob Roy, Kidnapped). I really enjoyed this one, though. There’s plenty of action and a story you can easily follow (of a prophesied prince who would unite all the Irish clans to fight English occupation).

82 – *Follow Me, Boys! (1966) – I loved this story of a big city fella (Fred MacMurray) who settles down in a small town and starts up a Scout Troop for all the area boys. A young Kurt Russell is a real standout as a troubled kid with an alcoholic father. I was truly moved by this film, especially the big celebration at the end (Mr. Holland’s Opus style!). To a youth leader like me, a movie about being a positive role model to young people for decades of your life is certainly gonna tug on these heart strings!

83 – *Monkeys, Go Home! (1967) – This simple little story had charm and good chemistry among the leads (Dean Jones et al). An American inherits an olive garden in a French village and hires four chimps to help him pick the olives. Not bad but not great. Fun fact: the actor who plays the priest also sings the theme song to The Aristocats!

84 – The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967) – A boy and his butler go on a wacky journey from Boston to San Francisco in the historic Gold Rush days. There are victories (they find gold!) and defeats (the bad guy tricks them out of their treasure!) and a climactic, but terribly silly, fist fight. The various adventures are presented by way of clever title cards and transitional songs, which keep the mood fun.

85 – *The Gnome-Mobile (1967) – This started out fine but lost its way about a third of the way in. The kids who played the Banks children in Mary Poppins are back. With their grandfather, they are trying to help some gnomes they discover in the forest. The gnomes are few and far between for most of the middle and by the time they are back, it gets really weird. A gaggle of newly discovered girl gnomes fight to get the young guy gnome. It’s about as empowering to women as Lt. Robin Crusoe (above).

86 – The Jungle Book (1967) – It’s fun to rewatch the animated films that I’m more familiar with. This is such a simple but effective story with charming characters and good songs. It’s one of my favorites from what I feel is Disney’s animated slump of the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, mostly because it’s fun, it’s suspenseful, and it features such a charming finale.

87 – *Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar (1967) – Like Lobo and Incredible Journey before it, this is another Rex Hamilton narrated nature adventure. The incredibly wooden acting from the humans does little to distract from the beautiful landscape, charming animals, and surprisingly informative and entertaining glimpse into the logging industry. It’s not the best of the bunch but it was still a valuable addition.

88 – *The Happiest Millionaire (1967) – I had so much fun with this musical. It’s way too long (about 3 hours), has too many forgettable songs among the good ones, and suffers from existing in the shadow of Mary Poppins. However, when I finished it, I immediately wanted to watch it a second time. The romance between John Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren’s characters is the highlight for me, in the midst of too many other plot lines.  This is known as the last film Walt Disney was involved in before his death in 1966.

89 – Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968) – This was mostly charming and funny, and an example of how Disney had nearly locked in on the right formula for the fantasy-comedy situations previously seen in Shaggy Dog, Absent-Minded Professor, Merlin Jones, et al. The timing is getting better and there are far fewer wasted scenes than usual.  The wacky sports effects remind me of what’s to come in World’s Greatest Athlete (my childhood favorite!). As for the performances, the ghost character was kind of hit or miss, but Dean Jones is definitely finding his groove. And this was definitely the best I’ve seen so far from Suzanne Pleshette.

90 – *The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968) – Ah, just what I needed: an escape from our current tense, ugly presidential election! So let’s see what this movie is! Ah, it’s a musical about… a tense, ugly presidential election… in 1888. D’oh! With the exception of a few songs and Walter Brennan’s performance, I didn’t like much about this film. As much as I loved John Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren as romantic leads just two films ago, here their relationship seems forced, underwritten, and just odd.

91 – *Never a Dull Moment (1968) – In this crime comedy (crimedy?), Dick Van Dyke plays an actor mistaken for a killer hired to help a group of criminals pull off a big heist. It’s tons of fun and even in the slow parts, there’s enough to tension to carry you through to the stronger moments. There’s plenty of Van Dyke’s signature physical comedy and charm. I had a good time with this one.

92 – *The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968) – An advertising exec needs a gimmick for a product and his talented daughter ‘needs’ a horse. So he talks the company into buying the horse for good publicity. Bam! Two birds. One stone. Dean Jones is great at playing characters who REALLY need to learn a thing or two about being a decent person… and do by the end of the film. There are major pacing issues and way too much time spent in horse competitions, but overall it was a sweet movie.

93 – The Love Bug (1969) – HERBIE! I’m so excited about the first appearance of this iconic car! This fairly lengthy film features great human performances – Buddy Hackett is his typically silly and outstanding self, and Dean Jones’ character is, of course (see above), a real jerk until about the halfway point… so, hooray for character development! – but the car obviously steals the show.

94 – *Smith! (1969) – It’s a new Disney drinking game! Take a sip every time someone calls him Smith! Is it his first name? His last name? Why do his wife and son call him that? Is it maybe his step-son? But even then, that’s weird, right? Oh yeah, and the movie is a contemporary Western about a noble rancher who helps an innocent Indian accused of murder. The filmmakers do a pretty decent job of addressing the ongoing problem of racism toward Native Americans.

95 – *Rascal (1969) – Here’s a standard boy-and-animal coming of age tale, with the animal being a raccoon. The boy narrates from the perspective of adulthood (think A Christmas Story or The Wonder Years).  The nostalgia is laid on thick but the story certainly has some warm moments, especially when the raccoon’s journey parallels that of the boy’s father.

96 – The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) – Kurt Russell is Dexter, a college student who gets super smart when he is electrocuted during a storm while hooking up a new computer. It’s not terribly original and many sequences fall flat. The best stuff comes toward the end when his friends attempt to outwit the local criminals who have kidnapped Dexter.

DISNEY DEEP DIVE vol 4: 1960s pt1

Let’s keep going! Here’s the next chapter of my thoughts from watching all the theatrical Disney films, covering the first half of the 1960s. An asterisk indicates that it is not available on Disney Plus.

45 – *Toby Tyler (1960) – This was a decent little tale of a boy who runs away to join the circus. I’m never terribly impressed with the acting of Disney regular Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran, but I enjoyed the various adult actors. The circus scenes were the most fun to watch. And the rest of the film was charming I suppose.

46 – *Kidnapped (1960) – This was a real dud. Either the Robert Louis Stevenson book is lousy or this adaptation of it is. Either way, this one can definitely be skipped. I won’t even bother summarizing the plot other than the part implied by the title. Someone is kidnapped. There you go.

47 – Polyanna (1960) – This story of a little girl who brings hope and gladness to a stuffy little town is one of the greatest Disney films of all time. I wanted to watch it again even though I had seen it fairly recently. Not only does this movie introduce us to Disney darling Hayley Mills, but it puts together one of the best casts and stories so far.

48 – The Sign of Zorro (1960) – As bits and pieces of episodes from the popular TV show, this is great fun! But it doesn’t flow very well as a feature-length narrative. Apparently, they repeated this effort overseas with a follow-up film called “Zorro the Avenger” which I can’t track down or verify if it was even released in U.S. theaters.

49 – Jungle Cat (1960) – This was the final entry in the True-Life Adventures series, focusing on the jaguar and its multitude of neighbors. The South American landscapes are breathtaking but the majority of animal behaviors are things the other films already covered sufficiently. Highlights include watching a jaguar (or two) take down a wild pig, an alligator, and a boa constrictor, yet be outsmarted by a sloth!

50 – *Ten Who Dared (1960) – I enjoyed this one, even though it’s critically panned as the worst of the bunch. It’s a true story of the first Americans who explored the area in and around the Grand Canyon. The bulk of the action involved rowing through the rapids and mapping everything along the way. But the real story was in the character development and relationships of the titular ten men. And the scenery was spectacular!

51 – Swiss Family Robinson (1960) – I remembered bits of pieces of this from watching it as a kid. Beautifully shot and packed with a good blend of character development, action, and Disney-ness, this one’s a winner. And according to the record-breaking box office haul, I’m not the only one who felt that way. Now I want a tree house like theirs!

52 – One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) – It has never been one of my favorites, but it definitely has its share of charm. I think the animation looks a bit dated at times. But the dogs and humans are all great characters, especially Cruella’s bumbling henchmen and the puppies.

53 – The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) – Much like with The Shaggy Dog, they were still working out some of their comic timing. But overall, this was well done, particularly due to the flying and bouncing special effects and Fred MacMurray’s great performance.

54 – The Parent Trap (1961) – I have watched this film so many times, but of course I watched it again for this project! And it’s still amazing. This is one of the greats! The highlight, of course, is the dual roles (and special effects) for Hayley Mills. But all the acting is on point, really. And I like that the movie is long enough to let the story develop at just the right pace.

55 – *Nikki, Wild Dog of the North (1961) – This is a wonderful story combining nature footage and narrative (much like the ‘True Fantasy’ of Perri before it or Lobo and Incredible Journey after, but better than all of these). The scenes of Nikki with a friendly bear cub are the highlight of the film, but a human villain intent on trapping and training Nikki for dog fighting adds much to the experience as well.

56 – Greyfriars Bobby (1961) – A sweet, loyal terrier transforms some Grumpy Old (Scottish) Men in this slow but powerful true story. Lifting the spirits of a small town, Polyanna-style, the “wee dog” mourns the loss of his human friend Old Jock by sleeping loyally on his grave each night. If that doesn’t warm your heart… well, you might just be a cat person.

57 – Babes in Toyland (1961) – Whaaaaaaat was that?! Seriously. It’s like Disney was trying really hard to make a terrible musical. I can’t tell if it’s so bad it’s good (a cult classic?) or if it’s just really bad. But, like a traffic accident, I couldn’t look away. Somehow they got from this to Mary Poppins in just three years! But the two guys from Zorro were pretty good at being bumbling idiots. So there’s that.

58 – *Moon Pilot (1962) – In this comedy, the Air Force attempts to put a chimp and then a man in orbit around the moon. There’s a bunch of grown men screaming a lot and a pretty alien lady. My favorite part was when someone says “Good Luck, Charlie” (the name of a much much later Disney Channel favorite in my household). The movie was cute at times, but the overacting was embarrassing.

59 – *Bon Voyage! (1962) – This was horrible. And it shouldn’t have been, considering the all-star cast of Disney regulars (Fred MacMurray, Jane Wyman, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran). An American family’s travel abroad has never been more unfulfilling (to them and the audience). And the film is waaaay too long.

60 – *Big Red (1962) – A French-Canadian tale of a boy and a dog who teach a stuffy grown-up about love, loyalty, and usefulness. The acting and character development could have been better but the story was good and the scenery was even better.

61 – Almost Angels (1962) – I’m fascinated by the existence of this movie. I had no idea there was a Disney film about the Vienna Boys Choir – a film that places the majority of its screen time prioritizing the performance of some beautiful classical music. And those scenes are amazing. It’s just that the parts without singing are fairly bland. The acting is wooden (especially the lead boy) and the story could have been written much better.

62 – *The Legend of Lobo (1962) – Like Perri and Nikki before, this was a nature-film-turned-narrative about a wolf. You see Lobo transition from childhood to adulthood, and eventually become Public Enemy #1 to the area cattle herders who no longer wish to provide free meals to Lobo and his pack. I enjoyed this one quite a bit, especially due to the warm Western narration (by Rex Allen) and music (sung by the Sons of the Pioneers).

63 – *In Search of the Castaways (1962) – Other than the jarring disconnect between the realistic scenes and the fantasy sequences, this was a pretty fun film. I enjoyed the characters, the Sherman Brothers songs, and the Jules Verne adventure. It’s nowhere near the best of the best, but I liked it.

64 – *Son of Flubber (1963) – This sequel to The Absent-Minded Professor starts off strong with satirical moments involving government deception, an extreme IRS agent, and a horde of hucksters attempting to capitalize on flubber’s fame. But the rest of the movie is a mess, with an unnecessarily long sub-plot about marital jealousy and a redo of the wacky-invention-helps-our-sports-team scenes from the first film (football instead of basketball, this time).

65 – *Miracle of the White Stallions (1963) – This was an interesting story about a Vienna horse riding school during World War II. It seemed strange that, in this midst of such a horrible war, the entire story centered around the care and safety of horses. But it is a Disney film after all. Side note: Eddie Albert is in this one!

66 – *Savage Sam (1963) – A sequel to Old Yeller that has much less to do with the dog or strong character development. There are plenty of Disney regulars here, but at this point Jeff York and Kevin Corcoran have overstayed their welcome. The tone is off on this one and Disney seems to be devolving in their fair treatment of Indian characters. Even the cool action sequences don’t prevent this one from being a real dud for me.

67 – *Summer Magic (1963) – This was a sweet and charming experience – light on story but heavy on nostalgia, singing, and overall warmth. Hayley Mills continues to carry every movie she’s in. This is one of my wife’s favorites so I enjoyed getting to watch it with the whole family (the first time anyone has joined me in this film journey).

68 – The Incredible Journey (1963) – Three pets (two dogs and a cat) walk 250 miles across Canada to return home because they erroneous conclude that their pet-sitter has abandoned them. Disney would later give the characters voices (in the 1993 remake, Homeward Bound), but this one prefers the realism of narration with footage of the real animals. It’s fascinating how much life and personality is found in the animals and how little is found in the human actors. They are the film’s low point for sure.

69 – The Sword in the Stone (1963) – I was looking forward to a break from the animated princesses and pets. But honestly, even though this story tackles what should be an awesome subject (the early relationship between pre-King Arthur and Merlin), it did absolutely nothing for me. I didn’t like anything about it.

70 – *The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964) – This plays like two episodes of a TV show, even though it was made for the big screen. There’s basically one plot line that resolves at the halfway mark and another that takes over after that. This broad Disney fantasy-comedy is about a college guy whose science experiments lead to wacky high jinks (Think: Absent Minded Professor Junior). The movie gets a ‘meh’ but Annette Funicello gets a ‘yay!’

71 – *A Tiger Walks (1964) – Essentially, this is a film about a circus tiger that gets loose in a small town. But what it quickly becomes is a commentary about the evils of profiting off of the chaos (local business owners AND politicians, especially), sensationalizing it (members of the press), or abusing power for the sake of showing off (the mean circus driver who causes the problem in the first place and the governor who uses it as a chance to hog the spotlight). If these sound like big bold statements for a Disney movie, I haven’t even mentioned the children across the nation who unite on behalf of capturing, NOT killing, the tiger. It is certainly a fascinating and entertaining entry in the catalog. Also of note: The woman running the hotel sings “Zip a Dee Doo Dah” to herself several times. Apparently Disney films exist in the world of this, well, Disney film.

72 – *The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964) – This is a story about a cat. And other stuff too. Scottish stuff. Like a grumpy veterinarian and a sweet lady that might be a witch. But, the most exciting thing is that it features BOTH actors who will go on to be Jane and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins! In what is otherwise a straightforward story, the cat provides occasional narration and also goes to cat heaven in a bizarre fantasy sequence that comes out of left field. So that tonal dissonance didn’t exactly work for me.

73 – *The Moon-Spinners (1964) – This movie is what I imagine a Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock collaboration would look like. It’s got mystery and suspense and action… but with Hayley Mills being cutesy the whole time. It’s a bit long, too. But the exterior shots of Greece are beautiful.

74 – Mary Poppins (1964) – What can I say about Mary Poppins that hasn’t been said before? The Disney team was doing absolutely everything right in this true classic. Even after sitting through 11 previous movies with songs by the Sherman Brothers, nothing holds a candle to the stuff they wrote for Mary Poppins. Likewise, after watching 8 previous Disney films directed by Robert Stevenson, this is far better than anything else he did. This, for me, is the best of the best. Period.

75 – Emil and the Detectives (1964) – This was a fairly basic but cute film about a bunch of boys outsmarting a group of adult criminals (with little to no help from the actual police). The style and tone shifted at times for apparently no reason. But the appeal of the young cast made me feel like it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

DISNEY DEEP DIVE vol 3: 1950s pt2

I am attempting to get through every theatrical Disney release chronologically. Here is my third post, which covers the back half of the 1950s. An asterisk indicates that the film is not available on Disney Plus.

27 – Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955) – A repackaging of three episodes from the TV miniseries, this was a fairly entertaining look at these chapters of American history and folklore. Fess Parker (Davy) is a bit restrained in his performance but it grew on me eventually. Ending with the Alamo added a certain gravitas to Davy’s heroism.

28 – Lady and the Tramp (1955) – I didn’t think I was going to like this, but it won me over by the end. Compared to the previous animated films, Disney’s character development and storytelling is showing signs of improvement.

29 – The African Lion (1955) – Another True-Life Adventure, but with the cast of The Lion King! The footage is captivating and made me somehow forget to fear for the lives of those filming it. There are more predator/prey relationships here than in the previous films, but it is always described as the necessary means by which one feeds their family. Also, I feel better now after reading an article about the particularly traumatic scene of a rhinoceros stuck in mud. After filming, the usually passive human observers decided compassion was more important and helped dislodge the animal. Yay!

30 – *The Littlest Outlaw (1955) – This is a charming little tale of a Mexican boy and a horse – filmed in Mexico with real Mexicans (which I suspect was a big deal in 1955). Scenes of equestrian jumping, bullfighting, and the fireworks-filled fiesta bringing beauty and authenticity. But overall, there was something lacking in the storytelling.

31 – *The Great Locomotive Chase (1956) – This true story from the Civil War is one of my favorite films of this round. The chase itself is tense and action-packed. The ending is unexpected and deeply moving. I’m surprised this one is not among Disney’s most popular.

32 – Davy Crockett and the River Pirates (1956) – They dipped back into this series once they saw how popular it was. These episodes are a little sillier but still mostly enjoyable. Jeff York’s ‘Mike Fink’ is the hammiest mess of a character but what the heck. It’s fun.

33 – Secrets of Life (1956) – This True-Life Adventure sets up a great theme of how life is created and sustained by loosely connecting the lives of plants, animals, and microorganisms. There is a great time-lapse sequence of budding flowers and growing plants set to beautiful music.

34 – *Westward Ho the Wagons! (1956) – This is more of Fess Parker and Jeff York, basically repeating the same characters they play in all their other films. But this time, Fess sings, so that’s pretty cool. Disney has such a fetish for early American frontier living in his films (So many chores! So many Injuns!) that by this point, an actual plot is apparently unnecessary. This would have worked great as the first few episodes of a TV show though.

35 – *Johnny Tremain (1957) – Here is an excellent exploration of the events that led to the American Revolution. There’s the Boston Tea Party, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, and more! It can be slow at times but it’s a valuable viewing experience overall. Of course, now I want to go back to Disney World and pay closer attention to the Liberty Tree (featured prominently in this film).

36 – Perri (1957) – This nature documentary is classified as “true fantasy.” The documentary footage is manipulated to form a story around young Perri the squirrel. There are beautiful scenes detailing how various animal mothers struggle to keep their babies safe from predators and teach them necessary life skills. But then there’s a weird dream sequence that throws off the whole tone of the film. And the original love song “Together Time” (about mating season… get it?) is a bit of a head scratcher as well.

37 – Old Yeller (1957) – I was a bit worried that this classic wouldn’t live up to the hype. But it was a great experience and the best example so far of how Disney’s infatuation with the daily grind of frontier living could be partnered with a heartwarming coming-of-age story.

38 – *The Light in the Forest (1958) – Here’s yet another film where wise Fess Parker reminds us that there are good and bad folks on both sides.  The oldest brother on Swiss Family Robinson (sorry, I know we aren’t there yet) gets his Disney start here as a young man torn between his white skin and his Indian upbringing. There’s a young Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) as his birth mother plus my favorite line of dialogue yet: “Fight’s over! Prayer meeting at seven o’clock!”

39 – *White Wilderness (1958) – The Arctic regions are explored in this True-Life Adventure – featuring avalanches, glaciers, tundra and a variety of inhabitants like caribou, lemmings (jumping off a cliff even!), beluga whales, and more! The highlights include anytime the cute polar bears and walruses or the vicious wolverines are on screen. I really felt they needed some underwater footage though. Maybe cameras couldn’t do that in the 1950s?

40 – *Tonka (1958) – Featuring Sal Mineo as a young Sioux brave named White Bull, this is a tale of a horse (Tonka/Comanche) whose journey eventually leads to the battle of Little Big Horn (Custer’s Last Stand). As the relationship develops between the horse and the boy, this movie knows to slow down long enough to make the audience truly connect with them both. And much like The Light in the Forest, here is another great story of how good and bad people existed on both sides.

41 – Sleeping Beauty (1959) – I’ve always considered this the least interesting of the early princess tales. But viewed in its chronological context (and after soaking in all the commentary from the behind the scenes documentary), I will say it has its moments: namely, the beautiful background animation, the lovely song “Once Upon a Dream,” and anytime Maleficent is on the screen.

42 – The Shaggy Dog (1959) – Now I am getting to the fun stuff! Disney’s long reign of wacky comedies started here. It’s a bit slow at the start, plagued by too much exposition. But once the dog starts doing his thing, it’s worth the wait.

43 – Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) – This is a bit of a mixed bag for me. While small-town Irish life is fun to observe, there is far too little time spent with the little people. Those scenes shine the brightest, but the rest of the film didn’t really do it for me (even with a handsome young Sean Connery… singing, even!). The effects are amazing, however, especially for the 1950s.

44 – *Third Man on the Mountain (1959) – It’s the movie that inspired the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland! The mountain climbing scenes are breathtaking and the themes of self-sacrifice and following your dreams are played out through great writing and acting. This was one of the best of the mostly-forgotten treasures I had to go digging for.

DISNEY DEEP DIVE vol 2: 1950s pt1

So, when the Disney+ streaming service was released, I started a wacky project – attempting to get through every theatrical Disney release chronologically. Here is my second post, which covers the first half of the 1950s. One of the most notable observations is that a ton of these are not available on Disney+. When that is the case, an asterisk will precede the film’s title.

17 – Cinderella (1950) – The only one here that I didn’t bother rewatching, as Addie’s younger years gave my PLENTY of viewings. It’s a good solid return to form after all the post-Bambi floundering. As princess entries are concerned, I definitely prefer it to Snow White.

18 – Treasure Island (1950) – Disney’s first fully live-action feature was quite fun. I somehow have had very little exposure to the story in any form, so watching this was well overdue. Robert Newton’s Long John Silver is the highlight by far.

19 – Alice in Wonderland (1951) – I loved this one! It’s a perfect dose of Disney-fied absurdism. Alice is a great (non-princess!) lead and every character is tons of fun. I had avoided this one as a kid because the story always kind of freaked me out a little (I blame Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” music video).

20 – The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) – A little less fun than Treasure Island but a decent treatment of the story. I enjoyed it. It’s a bit melodramatic like most live action films from this era. But it was charming just the same.

21 – Peter Pan (1953) – This was far more slapstick goofiness than I expected. And girls being jealous of each other over Peter Pan, who isn’t that particularly endearing as a protagonist. And lots of “culturally outdated depictions” of Indians.  My favorite moments were at the home with Nana and the parents. And the flying.

22 – *The Sword and the Rose (1953) – I am usually not excited about English costume dramas, but this is still a Disney film after all. It remained entertaining due especially to the leads – a young Glynis Johns (Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins) as Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor, and the commoner she falls for (Richard Todd who played Robin Hood before this and Rob Roy after).

23 – The Living Desert (1953) – This is the first in a series of Academy Award winning nature documentaries called True-Life Adventures. Though the footage is fascinating and the wordplay clever (“diminutive dinosaurs who dine on daisies”), the ‘Disney touch’ gives us a few sequences in which the silly narration and score turn things a bit too silly (like when a typical scorpion mating ritual becomes a square dance hoedown).

24 – *Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1954) – This was a ‘should have skipped’ – not particularly good for much other than the big battle sequence toward the beginning. But the Scottish culture, pride, and bravery were great themes. And the actors were doing their best, I suppose.

25 – The Vanishing Prairie (1954) – The second True-Life Adventure turns to the land of Indians and settlers (which Disney will visit ad nauseam in this decade’s fictionalized films to follow). The whimsical parts are less irritating this time, even when the prairie dogs seem to be whistling along to “Home on the Range.” The birth of a buffalo calf is a great example of how the filmmakers somehow capture beautiful and intimate moments despite being, well, humans with cameras.

26 – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) – This was the longest film so far, I believe. But it was a fascinating journey. Kirk Douglas’ cocky harpooner steals the show, as does the prototypical steampunk gear aboard Nemo’s Nautilus submarine. The philosophies behind Nemo’s dissociation with humanity were incorporated well into the film, but I assume the book handles it all much better.

DISNEY DEEP DIVE vol 1: 1930s-1940s

To christen the new streaming service Disney+ in November of 2019, I decided to start at the very beginning and watch everything I could get my hands on. This was partly because I now had access to so many of the early short films and partly because I had somehow missed out on all but two of the films from these early years (yes, even the classics that EVERYONE ELSE has seen multiple times). After plowing through tons of the shorts (starting with 1928’s Steamboat Willie, of course, and including at least 30 others), I hit the point in which feature-length films began to enter the theaters. A handful of titles are not available on Disney+ but I managed to acquire the DVDs through the local public library. When that is the case, I’ve placed an asterisk before the film’s title. Here are my reactions to the films put out by Walt Disney Productions in the first decade (plus)…

1 – *Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons (1937) – According to Wikipedia, this was a packaging of 5 award-winning Silly Symphony shorts. I had watched 3 of the 5 individually on Disney+ by the time I saw that this entry existed (and tracked the other two down on YouTube). The best is the classic Three Little Pigs. The others are fine, but not necessarily my favorites (for the record, my absolute favorite is Mickey’s Trailer from 1938)

2 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) – I can’t remember watching this all the way through at any point in my life. And now that I have, it’s kind of meh. As a technical achievement, it’s great. As far as storytelling is concerned, Disney would get much better in the years to come. To me, there are a few critical scenes (and songs) and a bunch of filler. But, yes, the dwarfs are adorable.

3 – Pinocchio (1940) – I saw this as a vast improvement over Snow White. The characters are more interesting (especially Jiminy Cricket!) and the story kept my attention from start to finish. I would have preferred “When You Wish Upon a Star” to be tied in more to the story, rather than just the bookends. But that’s a minor complaint.

4 – Fantasia (1940) – This will not be a popular opinion, but I didn’t care for Fantasia very much. It’s great as a work of art and a classy departure into the world of classical music. But many of the animated features seem long and uninteresting. And the live-action narration scenes are dull and mostly unnecessary.

5 – The Reluctant Dragon (1941) – This was something I never knew existed. The live-action tours through Disney’s animation studios are entertaining and enlightening. And the animated sections are tons of fun too, particularly the titular Reluctant Dragon.

6 – Dumbo (1941) – This was fine. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. It seemed too short. The story is powerful I guess. Picking on big-eared elephants is mean and stuff.

7 – Bambi (1942) – As with Dumbo, I expected to love this one more than I did. But I did like it more than Dumbo and Snow White. I think I assumed there would be far more scenes with Thumper and Flower. They were the highlight for sure.

8 – Saludos Amigos (1943) – This is a bizarre detour into travelogue territory. It’s cool that they wanted to give audiences some informative trips to South America. But it’s hardly entertaining in the way that a Disney film should be. My favorite sequence is the introduction of cigar-smoking parrot Jose Carioca.

9 – *Victory Through Air Power (1943) – This is easily the most bizarre entry on the list. It is a informational film designed to persuade the U.S. government to change its strategies for World War II combat. There is a section on the history of aviation along with interviews with the author whose book it is based on. I found it on the Disney Treasures: Walt Disney on the Front Lines DVD set. The film was a bit long and dull, but I highly recommend some of the short anti-Nazi propaganda films on the other disc like Der Fuehrer’s Face, Education for Death, and Reason and Emotion.

10 – The Three Caballeros (1945) – This was far better than Saludos Amigos. It’s still mostly a travelogue but the individual segments (and connecting theme of Donald Duck opening presents) are far more entertaining. Donald, Jose, and the rooster Panchito Pistoles steal the show.

11 – *Make Mine Music (1946) – This is my favorite of the anthology films. It plays like the Fantasia of pop music and is way more playful.  All The Cats Join In (featuring Benny Goodman) is a blast and should be required viewing. But there are so many other classic ones here like Casey at the Bat and Peter and the Wolf. And you just can’t top the one about the hats that fall in love or the one about the opera-singing whale. Yep. That’s the kind of stuff we’re dealing with here. (The Martins and The Coys section was removed but is available to stream for free online.)

12 – *Song of the South (1946) – Not even Disney+’s new disclaimer “May contain outdated cultural depictions” could cover all the sins of this movie. I could write paragraphs about the race-related things they should have done differently (and many people have elsewhere). However, I have a warm spot for this tale (much like many of my fellow southerners do for Gone With the Wind). At its heart is a sweet story of a wise old mentor who skillfully uses entertaining folk tales to help children with their problems. (This one is also not available on Disney+ or on any official Disney release. But I found a bootleg DVD through the public library. It is also available to stream for free online.)

13 – Fun and Fancy Free (1947) – This one seemed neither fun nor fancy free. The first story (of two) was about bears who slap each other to show their love. The second was promising – Mickey and the Beanstalk – but filled with surprisingly unfunny sequences of narrator Edger Bergen and his ventriloquist dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd.

14 – Melody Time (1948) – This one is another packaging of shorts, around the theme of music (again). Highlights are Little Toot (with the Andrews Sisters!), Johnny Appleseed, and Pecos Bill (with Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers!). It’s not quite as good as Make Mine Music, but it’s better than the rest of the bunch.

15 – *So Dear to My Heart (1948) – This was an interesting find. It has all the ingredients of a Disney classic: country living (basically a recreation of Walt’s own childhood), kids (the boy and girl from Song of the South), animals (particularly an ornery black sheep), trains (the prototype for Disneyland’s Frontierland Station), songs (including Burl Ives’ classic “Lavender Blue, Dilly Dilly”), and animation (three fun but awkwardly inserted sequences). I enjoyed it, I guess, and wondered why it isn’t as popular as any of the other early live-action films.

16 – The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) – Neither of these two half-movies, strung together under the theme of famous literature, did much for me. They were okay but probably would have benefitted from having their own separate films with more time to flesh out the story and characters.

Revisiting. Revamping.

I have dusted off this long-dormant blog site and plan on doing a few renovations. Last night I was recorded for an upcoming podcast episode about a project I’ve been working on. I took on the task of watching all the theatrically released Disney films chronologically. I am currently at the start of the 1980s, 143 films in. The mini-reviews I have generated along the way will be posted here for the ease of folks who may want to read them. I will likely add additional thoughts as well based on some of the things we talked about on the podcast. I look forward to transforming this site into a place to discuss this and several other of my pop culture projects. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

12 – God’s Politics (part 4)

Here are some of the highlights, in written form:

1)      Feel free to disagree with others, but don’t take cheap shots, don’t label, don’t demonize, don’t besmirch anyone’s good name, don’t assume the worst of others and model that same behavior for those who might be influenced by you.

2)     Rather, assume that you may have something to learn from others, that you may be wrong on some things, and perhaps that one need not be right 100% of the time to be a true follower of Jesus. 

3)     Don’t be quick to take offense when you feel provoked. Ask, rather, the good and wise God to gift you with patience, and to see that reasoned discussion with other Christians is not “compromising the gospel” but a way of living the gospel.

4)     Work to preserve the good name of your opponents, even as you disagree. Be charitable, avoid slander, and promote the good name of others. 



Teach them about the political process.  (branches of government, the checks and balances put into place by our founding fathers, what it means to be a democracy, what it takes to run a campaign, the popular vote and the electoral vote, and the role that exaggerations, half-truths, and potentially empty promises play in political races.  Learning about politics is essential but it should not be a chore.

Teach kindness and fairness about the opposing side.  Model good Christian behavior, being careful not to belittle or demonize those you disagree with.  It’s okay to disagree — this is a founding principle of our country’s freedom.  But teach them how to disagree well, how to disagree fairly and compassionately.

Have healthy discussions about the issues.  Talk about what constitutes an important issue and why.  Talk about what we as the common folk can do to get involved.  Let the political discussion lead to a talk about how we can actively carry out the things we feel strongly about, rather than just expecting our politicians to do something about it.

Teach young people about the separation of church and state.  Not only that religion should stay out of the political discourse, but that the church may have a different goal than that of politicians.  God has called the church to be the light of the world, to care for the least of these, to build up communities and honor the image of God found in every human being on this planet.


P.S.  Why do I always botch my joke delivery?!  That should be “don’t blame me, I voted for the other guy”


11 – God’s Politics (part 3)

Enjoy the third political post and/or a glimpse of the fun that is my office shelves!  How many of my toys can you successfully identify?  (Bonus points if you can tell me which action figure was REMOVED from the display for the sake of today’s filming session!)

Here’s one of the big quotes from Jim Wallis’ “God’s Politics” used in the video:

“We believe all candidates should be examined by measuring their policies against the complete range of Christian ethics and values.

We will measure the candidates by whether they enhance human life, human dignity, and human rights; whether they strengthen family life and protect children; whether they promote racial reconciliation and support gender equality; whether they serve peace and social justice; and whether they advance the common good rather than only individual, national, and special interests.

We believe that poverty – caring for the poor and vulnerable – is a religious issue.  Do the candidates’ budget and tax policies reward the rich or show compassion for poor families?  Do their foreign policies include fair trade and debt cancellation for the poorest countries?

We believe that the environment – caring for God’s earth – is a religious issue.  Do the candidates’ policies protect the creation or serve corporate interests that damage it?

We believe that war – and our call to be peacemakers – is a religious issue.  Do the candidates’ policies pursue “wars of choice” or respect international law and cooperation in responding to real global threats?

We believe that truth-telling is a religious issue.  Do the candidates tell the truth in their campaigns, debates, and policies?

We believe that human rights – respecting the image of God in every person – is a religious issue.  How do the candidates propose to change the attitudes and policies that led to abuse and torture of prisoners?

We believe that our response to terrorism is a religious issue.  Do the candidates adopt the dangerous language of righteous empire in the war on terrorism and confuse the roles of God, church, and nation?  Do the candidates see evil only in our enemies but never in our own policies?

We believe that a consistent ethic of human life is a religious issue.  Do the candidates’ positions on abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, weapons of mass destruction, HIV/AIDS and other pandemics, and genocide around the world obey the biblical injunction to choose life?

This is a call to Christians and other people of faith to a more thoughtful involvement in this and every election.”