Tag Archive: Tangled

Zootropolis-1Arguably, the output from Disney Animation Studios of late has been better than that of Pixar Animation Studios, not that the two are competing. Since 2010, Disney Animation (with John Lasseter as its head of production) has released Tangled, Wreck it Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and now Zootropolis, all of which were graced with strong to exceptional box-office numbers and equal critical acclaim. Pixar, while capable of still producing both critical and box-office darlings like Toy Story 3 and Inside Out, have seemed to lack a certain spark or depended upon hits of yesteryear (continuing to do so this year with Finding Dory). Disney themselves are once again leading the pack when it comes to mainstream animation, and in Zootropolis they have cemented what we were already beginning to suspect; Disney are in something of a resurgence period, one to match the second Golden Age of the 90’s. And this time, it’s political.

In  a world populated by animals of an anthropomorphic nature, whom all co-exist peacefully, young rabbit Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has just become Zootropolis’ first rabbit police officer. While often being faced with a certain degree of prejudice due to her size Zootropolis-2and species, Judy none the less is keen to make an impression and prove she’s more than capable to tackle the serious cases often handed out to her colleagues. The opportunity soon arises when she is tasked with a missing animal case, one of many in the city. Teaming up with street-wise con-fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), Judy soon uncovers a conspiracy that could upset the peaceful balance held in the city of Zootropolis

Zootropolis is the type of animation that offers plenty for more adult viewers, despite the fact that it is a feature populated by talking animals walking on their hind legs. It is an incredibly timely tale that deals with various degrees of prejudice, holding a mirror up to American society, both its past and unfortunately its present. It tackles these mature themes through sophisticated allegory, all the while remaining a cute and engaging caper allowing for plenty of fun to be had throughout. Disney has often been very deft at such a balance, but rarely has it felt this timely.

Zootropolis-3Along with this potent allegory, Zootropolis also has a team of animators working at the top of their game. The level of detail in the design of the numerous districts of the city of Zootropolis and its suburbs is phenomenal, with many scenes littered with intrinsic features and visual gags. This is the sort of film which will appreciate home viewing experience so one can pause a frame and pick out all the wonderfully imaginative details that can be found within a chosen scene. The character designs as well hark back to Disney of old, with the 1973 Robin Hood particularly coming to mind through numerous characters.

The general plotting of Zootropolis is perhaps the weakest point of the film. While it does have some smartly applied allegory, it does take a while to get to the truly meatier aspects of its politically tinged plot developments. For the most part, the proceedings take on a noir-ish element, and it is not always all that successful, particularly when it feels the need to reference both films within that genre and popular culture which don’t particularly share any DNA with the proceedings. It means a few of the gags do fall flat, but for the most part the script remains largely witty, if a touch too obviously self-referential in regards to Disney’s history (and future).

Zootropolis does a great deal beneath the surface of being a seemingly traditional Disney animation. It has an incredibly well written central female role, as well as populating the rest of the cast with characters who feel well crafted and well defined, even if this still suffers from the prevalent issue of Disney movies of Zootropolis-4late struggling to deliver a truly memorable antagonist. The voice-cast across all the characters, no matter how small their part, all do excellent work, particularly Goodwin and Bateman, who strike a strong chord as the two leads whose dynamic is incredibly refreshing, proving to be excellent company across the neatly paced run-time.

It shall be interesting to see how long this strong streak lasts for Disney, as they will more than likely succumb to the call of sequelizing their recently popular titles (Frozen 2 is happening, a decision which is surely more financially motivated than it is creative). For now, though, they can revel in what is proving to be a resurgence in which both the studio and the audience benefit, providing films that offer excellent entertainment and important moral lessons for all ages. A shining new era is tip-toeing nearer.

4/5- Textured, progressive and incredibly timely, Zootropolis can easily class itself as an instant Disney classic. 



Review: Frozen- Let it Snow!

Frozen-1I am always skeptical of movies which receive praise along the lines of: ‘Disney’s best since The Lion King.‘ For a film to have such a label attached to it is not fair to the film itself, or to the other Disney films in-between. Yet, this is something that Frozen has been stuck with. It is a big ask for a film to reach that benchmark, as The Lion King is a film that quite rightly stands out as one of (if not) the best of Disney’s Renaissance Era (from 1989 to 1999). So I tried to put that comparison out of my mind, and I suggest you do the same. It would not be fair to the film that is Frozen. However, it must be said, Frozen is one of the most impressive Disney movies to come out in recent years, following hot on the heels of Tangled; delivering a spirited, exciting, and down right beautiful experience.

A re-telling of Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen tale, the film focuses on the relationship between two sisters, the Princesses of Arendelle; Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell). Elsa was born with the ability to create snow and ice, and is scared by the possibilities of her abilities. During her coronation, Elsa loses control of her abilities and throws the kingdom of Arendelle into an eternal winter. With Elsa hiding somewhere in the forest, the free-spirited Anna takes it upon herself to find her sister and bring summer back to Arendelle. She soon finds assistance in the form of ice-carver mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer companion Sven, and an enchanted snowman by the name of Olaf (Josh Gad).Frozen-2

Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen tale has been in the hands of the Mouse House since the 1950’s, and ever since it has had difficulty trying to find how to successful adapt the character to the big screen. Ironically enough, they found the character a bit too cold and hard to relate to. The answer to this conundrum seems to have been to introduce a sister, which works a treat. The two characters of Elsa and Anna mark a refreshing change for the model of the Disney Princess. They are both much more independent characters, with individual personalities. Elsa is a tortured soul who wants nothing but to show how much she loves her younger sister, while Anna is an energetic and highly excitable, if somewhat naive, optimist. They both feel like fully-fledged characters and are given an abundance of personality from the fine vocals of the hugely talented Menzel and Bell.

The narrative progression of Frozen does not hold many surprises in regards to how one expects a Disney movie to unfold. After a highly emotional opening ten minutes (there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the house), the film takes its footing on a well trodden path, hitting the beats we’d expect it to. However, while it may seem very traditional, there are some surprises along the way which truly make this stand out as one of Disney’s stronger efforts of recent years. We know how this story will ultimately end, but we may not be quite so sure on how the film will get there, leading to a thoroughly refreshing spin on the quest for love. It is clever, relevant, and shows true growth in the company as a Studio responding to the modern age.

Frozen-3Where the film strives to be a more traditional Disney movie is where the film struggles at times. Its desire to have an antagonist within the tale leads to some rather rushed and predictable plot developments that do not feel convincing or particularly well conceived. The film does not have many action set-pieces to speak of, with the film struggling on the bridge between the second and third act, never quite knowing what direction it wants to take the story in; does it make Elsa the antagonist, or does it try to find that conflict elsewhere? Eventually it settles on its footing, but it slips on the ice trying to get there. However, the film’s strengths far out weigh its weaknesses, and its strengths lie exactly where an animated Disney movies strengths should; in its artistry and musical numbers.

The animation within Frozen is simply beautiful. You feel the passion behind each animated pixel, as the animators do their utmost to tap the artistic potential out of the story of the Snow Queen. The way the snow glistens, the way the snow falls, the way the ice forms; everything is so stunningly realized that it is just a joy to behold (particularly in 3-D). The musical numbers, courtesy of Tony Award-Winning husband-wife pair Roberto and Kristen Anderson Lopez, are highly memorable and lyrically energetic and touching. The highlight has to be the main number ‘Let It Go’. With powerful thematically relevant lyrics being blasted out with gusto by Idina Menzel, the number soars above the rest and can quite easily stand shoulder to shoulder with some of Disney’s best numbers (expect to see it in many a Best Song category come February time). It is also focused around Elsa constructing her ice palace, which just so happens to also be the highlight in regards to the animation. A stunning sequence and song that demonstrate the loving craft and devotion that has obviously been given to this film. Frozen-4

Frozen will be a film that will come to characterize what I think is almost a second renaissance period for Disney. The last three movies from Disney Animation Studio’s (pretending Planes does not exist) have all been hailed as some of the studio’s best; Frozen, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Tangled. While Frozen may not seem to be as original as either of those two films, which it is not, it is by far my favourite of the three. It manages to withhold much of what defines an animation as a Disney film, while adapting itself to more modern sensibilities and attitudes, a blend which was completely void in Ralph, and something which was done with less aplomb in Tangled. Frozen is a heart-warming tale that is perfect viewing in this winter season, and is a film that will most certainly join the ranks of Disney’s best animated classics.

4/5- A traditional Disney movie with some surprising tweaks along the way, Frozen is enough to warm even the coldest of hearts this Christmas. Simply a joy.