Full disclosure: while I’m posting this mid-June, I technically finished watching this era a month ago. Between some mental health struggles and current events, I didn’t have the energy or heart to write nor did it feel appropriate to publish something I try to keep upbeat. But now it’s up, and I hope this post and its predecessors bring a smile to your face during these crazy times!
So ah, remember how I said I wanted to keep this Disney binge primarily to movies I’ve actually seen before? Yeah, it wasn’t until I got to the Bronze Age that I realized I had only seen one movie from this era. Whoops….
Well, let’s call this a happy little accident because I got to enjoy some classic Disney for the first time since I was a tiny tot!
The Bronze Age: 1970-1988
Fun fact: these movies (and part of the Silver Age) were also known as “the scratchy films” because of the animation style. Starting with “One Hundred and One Dalmatians,” Disney Studios switched from hand-drawn animation to xerography. Honestly, I liked this different style — it allowed for the creation of some seriously beautiful backgrounds, and the movies feel almost more homey with a rougher drawing style.
Now for a not-so-fun fact: this era is also known as the Dark Age of Disney, as Walt Disney died midway through production of “The Jungle Book.” Without his creative lead, the first few movies post-mortem were almost all box office flops.
I also recently discovered that Disney Studios had a regular crew of voice actors in the 1960s-70s, like Phil Harris (Little John, “Robin Hood;” Baloo, “Jungle Book;” Thomas, “The Aristocats”) and Pat Buttram (Sheriff of Nottingham, “Robin Hood;” Chief, “The Fox and the Hound”). Hearing familiar voices throughout these movies added another level of comfort and nostalgia to the films.
The Aristocats, 1970
I remember watching “The Aristocats” quite often on childhood visits to my grandpa’s because it was the only VHS tape (yes, VHS tape) he had…and it didn’t strike me until now that of course my cat-lover grandfather had a Disney movie about cats.
“Aristocats” has decent characters, but our favorite alley cat Thomas O’Malley is the best. Proof:
He doesn’t say “later” upon discovering Duchess has kittens, risks his life to save Marie when she falls off the bridge, makes sure they’re safe and fed until they get home, AND comes to their rescue when Edgar tries to ship the cats off. Thomas is one of the best male Disney characters ever.
Edgar the butler, meanwhile, was a total caricature of a bad guy. I understand Edgar’s upset over the cats inheriting the widow’s wealth — it’s just stupid when people leave all their possessions to an animal over people in their lives or even donate them to various good causes. But…they’re cats: short-lived animals that can’t actually use the assets left to them or take care of the house, thus requiring Edgar to act as the handler of their expenses…so everything would technically be his, just not in name yet. Logic, man.
And oh, this movie did so well for early Disney until the Asian cat in “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat”…and to add salt to the wound, he was voiced by a white dude. *facepalm*
Robin Hood, 1973
I always love a good Robin Hood retelling, and Disney’s is now one of my favorites! The folksy-Western-campfire-story style of storytelling, complete with a guitar-playing rooster as the narrator, suited the story perfectly
My favorite character was immediately Lady Kluck. A feisty, hilarious badass who refuses to put up with King John’s crap and encourages Lady Marian to be with her beloved, Lady Kluck is one of my new favorite Disney characters ever.
I caught some more reused animation. Most obvious were the character animations of Little John and Sir Hiss, both taken from “The Jungle Book” as Baloo and Kaa the snake, respectively. Funnily enough, Phil Harris voiced both bears! I also noticed “The Phony King of England” sequence reused dancing animation from “Aristocats” and “Snow White,” which was kind of cool to see.
Speaking of “The Phony King,” that song was one savage burn!!
The Rescuers, 1977
I remember reading this story in my big book o’ Disney stories, but I hadn’t seen the movie until now.
For such a cute, sweet movie, “The Rescuers” was also really heart-wrenching! My heart kept breaking for poor Penny — the sweet girl just wanted a family to love her, and instead she got snatched and used by Medusa. Thank god Penny got her happy family ending!
Speaking of Medusa, it was not lost on me that the villain was named after the monster of Greek mythology. I absolutely hated her — she is one of the worst villains in Disney history, because people like her actually exist in reality. People who use politeness and kindness as manipulation, who use and abuse others just to get what they want. Disgusting.
Also, how does Medusa just casually have two crocodiles for pets?? She treats them like they were a couple of dogs, not dangerous animals. But ironically, Medusa is then scared of the mice. Yes, the women with two crocs for pets is scared by a mouse. (Also, another moment of reused animation – Medusa has the same car as Cruella de Vil.)
Side note: I’m convinced the hillbilly mouse with the intense alcohol had made some kind of Fireball.
The Fox and the Hound, 1981
I knew exactly what direction this movie was going to take since I get how nature and predator-versus-prey work. But OH, did the first act get me in the heart, watching two sweet, innocent baby animals happily play together with no idea of the world’s expectations for the two to be enemies (racial commentary, anyone?). Also, because cute animated baby animals.
Did anyone else know that the grown-up Tod (the fox) and Copper (the hound) were voiced by Mickey Rooney and Kurt Russell respectively? I had no clue. And speaking of voice actors, one of the birds was voiced by Paul Winchell, aka the original voice actor of Tigger. I heard the distinctive Tigger “hoo hoo hoo” noise and knew it had to be him!
Oooh, did the ending get me in the feels. Tod finding love, Copper saving Tod from being shot even though he, too, was mad at Tod – just So. Many. Emotions.
When the concept art looks so much better than the actual movie….You’d think the animation would be good after what Disney accomplished with “Mary Poppins” but OH NO. My eyes HURT watching this.
I get that the movie world simulates the inside of a computer — and it was at the start of Disney’s foray into computer animation. But holy rough, clunky graphics and painfully neon and/or heavily contrasted colors. It felt like I was watching a rough version of the movie, not the final cut.
To top the interesting visuals, everything about this movie screamed “cheesy 80s movie about future technology,” emphasis on the “cheese.” You have your stereotypical “technology gets too smart and tries to replace humans” plotline; meh dialogue that is then paired with terrible, over-the-top delivery; and a super underwhelming resolution to the movie’s big problem.
Honestly, this movie was only saved by having Jeff Bridges as Flynn. Because Jeff Bridges, man. Also, I hadn’t seen anything Bridges was in before “The Big Lebowski” before this and dang did he look young.
Do I see why this was such a groundbreaking move in animation? Sure – it certainly showed what could start to be done with computer animation. I mean, even Pixar’s co-founder John Lasseter said that “Without Tron, there would be no Toy Story.” (Can you imagine such a world??) Is it actually good? Uh…not so much.
The Black Cauldron, 1985
Yep, I see why this movie flopped in theaters and is forgotten practically to the point of erasure from the Disney lineup. It was…cute, but meh, but nothing really special.
Cool fact: “The Black Cauldron” was the first Disney movie with the familiar blue and white castle logo animation and “When You Wish Upon a Star” riff. Also, no more scratchy animation!
I felt the romance between Taran and Eilonwy was really forced. The two could have just been friends but nope, Disney needed a romantic happy ending in every movie then. Also, Eilonwy’s voice was incredibly annoying.
Dang, the Horned King was creepy — I wasn’t expecting him to look like a skeleton come alive plus horns (ironically, since he plans to resurrect his dead soldiers which are nothing but skeletons). He also looks like a ripoff of Skeletor from He-Man.
His defeat also made no sense: getting sucked into the cauldron as it implodes because…? No one else is pulled. I would assume it’s something like “because the cauldron is a source of evil, destroying it destroys anything evil near it,” but like almost everything else in this movie, important plot stuff is just left out.
Oliver & Company, 1988
A dogs-and-kitten retelling of “Oliver Twist” with songs by Billy Joel?? Co-starring Bette Midler as Georgette the diva dog?? I was in. (And nope, I had no clue Billy Joel also voiced Dodger until I watched the movie.)
Thankfully there were only a couple of songs in this and mostly at the beginning, otherwise this definitely would have felt like a Disney vehicle for new Billy Joel songs. “Why Should I Worry” was an absolute bop!
I loved the unique personalities of each dog, from the theatric Francis the bulldog to momma bear (er, dog) Rita. Tito was my favorite, just absolutely hilarious — he reminded me of Luis from Ant-Man.
Movies from this era I will most likely rewatch: Robin Hood, Oliver & Company
Movies I might watch again: The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, The Aristocats
Movies I most likely/definitely won’t watch again: The Black Cauldron, TRON
Leave a comment with your favorite and least favorite movie from this era!
And now, onto my favorite era: 1990s Disney!!
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