Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Mouse Under Glass

There seem to be two kinds of books about Disney: those produced by the Disney company to promote their image and sell their products, and those by outsiders who set out to "expose" Disney to be a misogynist, racist, money-making villain who carefully created a false image for the public. David Koenig is a refreshing read, because he's not affiliated with Disney but is still a fan who manages to take an honest look at the movies.

Just look at the table of contents and tell me you don't love this guy:

I. The Disney Cookbook (Introduction)
II. Disney Developed (Salad Days)
1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
2. Pinocchio
3. Fantasia
4. Dumbo
5. Bambi
III. Disney Discouraged (Potluck)
6. Song of the South
IV. Disney Delighted (Classic Cuisine)
7. Cinderella
8. Alice in Wonderland
9. Peter Pan
10. Lady and the Tramp
11. Sleeping Beauty
V. Disney Distracted (Microwave Magic)
12. 101 Dalmations
13. The Sword in the Stone
14. Mary Poppins
15. The Jungle Book
VI. Disney Duplicated (Reheated Leftovers)
16. The Aristocats
17. Bedknobs and Broomsticks
18. Robin Hood
19. The Rescuers
20. Pete's Dragon
21. The Fox and the Hound
VII. Disney Disassembled (Cleansing the Palette)
22. The Great Mouse Detective
23. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
24. Oliver & Co.
VIII. Disney Distinguished (Icing on the Cake)
25. The Little Mermaid
26. Beauty and the Beast
27. Aladdin
28. The Lion King
IX. Disney Diluted (Chef's Surprise)
29. Pocahontas
30. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
X. Disney's Destiny (Conclusion)
For each movie, Koenig gives the "recipe" that went into making the movie: The Original Tale, then the Disney Version. He describes the different phases the script went through-why certain elements were altered from the original version. He also describes Plot Holes he sees that don't quite make sense, and the Bloopers. The scenes the animators planned but got left out of the movie are in the Cutting Room Floor section. Hidden Images describe secret little jokes (some of them not-so-secret) the animators put in frames of the movies, from hidden Mickeys to phallic images in a tower of Triton's castle.
This is it, btw.

In Strange Reactions, Koenig reports how the audience responded to the movie when it came out. You'd be surprised at how powerful cencorship boards were, back in the day (especially in Europe). Lastly, Koenig traces those movies that inspired Attraction Offspring at one of the Disney theme parks, and why or why not they succeeded.

There was too much fascinating trivia to share here, other than telling you to go read the book yourself. But one thing that I found interesting that relates to issues previously discussed on the blog: some of Disney's harshest criticisms are against the passive female heroines of the earliest Princess movies. Also pretty damning is the racism in Song of the South. Aware of the racial controversy surrounding Song of the South, Disney hired Maurice Rapf to work with writer Dalton Reymond because of his progressive views. Rapf's version of the script would have appeased many a modern fan, as he made the African Americans more independant. However, Reymond and Rapf didn't get along, and Reymond was assigned a new partner. Rapf's positive story changes went out the window.

Rapf was then assigned to Cinderella. He didn't like the idea of Cinderella being passively bossed around all day, either. He suggested a scene in which one day, "they're ordering her around and she throws the stuff back at them. She revolts, so they lock her up in the attic. I don't think anyone took (my idea) very seriously." Ahead of his time.

One more thing-remember how I secretly think Peter Pan is the villain and Captain Hook a victim of circumstances? Well Rapf didn't like Peter Pan either! He says, "I made Peter Pan a villain. He doesn't want anybody to grow up and that's dangerous, the temptation not to grow up. So I had Wendy tell him off." I like this Rapf guy, too bad he had so little influence.

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