The next bunch of films see a return to the classical format of animated offerings based on 19th and early 20th century classics (with the exception of Cinderella). This blog also looks at some of the most controversial films in the catalogue for its racist depictions of Native American Indians (Peter Pan) and Asian stereotypes (Lady and the Tramp) as well as misogynistic qualities that will sadly become even more so prevalent in Disney animations. The films, however, have stood the test of time and remain among the most loved classics in the Disney repertoire.
As ever, here are the links to previous installments:
Here we go with films 11-15:
11) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
I don’t know if there is a darker tone in the Disney catalogue than the “Ichabod Crane” segment in this collection. Consisting of two segments inspired by The Wind in the Willows and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, this is the last of the segmented features found in the Disney collection. I would watch this on repeat when I was younger and “Ichabod Crane” certainly made an impression in terms of how I see films today and approach them. It taught me that you don’t always need the happy ending that is usually given in family films and can be dark without being overtly scary. I am not as fond of The Wind in the Willows segment as much but I still find it a joyful treat to watch. Telling the story of Mr. Toad, an eccentric proprietor and his friends, Ratty and Moley, who are tasked with finding him before he gets himself in serious trouble, The Wind in the Willows follows Mr. Toad as he finds himself eventually jailed for car theft despite being framed. This differs greatly to the following segment of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” where Ichabod Crane moves to the lazy town of Sleepy Hollow where he tries to woo Katrina von Tassel in a bid to take her family inheritance while also being bullied by Brom, the village hero who also loves Katrina. It’s a film littered with flawed characters but this adds to the suspense as the audience doesn’t know who to trust.
12) Cinderella (1950)
Probably the most iconic Disney princess, Cinderella is the classic fairy-tale about a young girl subjected to servitude at the hands of her Evil Stepmother and Ugly Stepsisters. With the help of her Fairy Godmother, Cinderella attends a ball where she meets a prince before leaving her glass slipper. The palace search for the mysterious woman who captured the prince’s heart and the glass slipper is tried on by every woman claiming to be the woman. However, Cinderella puts the slipper on and they live happily ever after. There is no doubt that this film is a classic and for good reason. It is a simple film with likable animal sidekicks and a strong moral purpose; however, I believe that there are a lot of better films that captured my imagination as a child. I always enjoy watching Cinderella but it has never been among my top favourite Disney films simply because I find that there is more development given to secondary characters than primary characters. Ultimately, we learn more about Jacques and Gus more than Cinderella herself. Her character is supremely passive with events simply happening to her rather than her actually doing anything herself. Whereas Snow White shows an achievement in the animation field as a whole, I completely appreciate that she too is a passive character but what separates it for me is that there are fantastic sequences throughout the film such as when she flees the huntsman whereas Cinderella doesn’t do anything spectacular in the animation that we haven’t seen before.
13) Alice in Wonderland (1951)
The most famous adaptation of the classic Lewis Carroll novel, Alice in Wonderland follows the titular character as she delves in an absurd world filled with the unlikeliest of characters from the White Rabbit to the evil Queen of Hearts. Filled with lots of songs that have stood the test of time such as “Golden Afternoon” and “Painting the Roses Red”, it is a film filled with colour and nonsense and knows it. Disney makes the most of the bonkers plot by allowing the animators to create the most unimaginable creatures such as those found in the forest. Characters such as the Cheshire Cat and the Madhatter are also designed brilliantly with the former being among the most recognisible of Disney characters.
14) Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan tells the story of Wendy Darling and her brothers, John and Michael, as they venture to Neverland with Peter Pan, a young boy who never grows up. It is probably the trickiest Disney film to write about because it spawned some of the most iconic characters including Tinkerbell and the film itself is loved around the world; however, its damaging representation of Native American Indians and misogyny throughout the film make it an uncomfortable film to watch. The infamous scene I am talking about in particular is when Peter and co are celebrating the return of the Chief’s daughter, Tiger Lily in what is a highly racist collection of stereotypes with every aspect of Native American Indian culture being ridiculed. I thoroughly enjoy every other part of the film, particularly the baddies Captain Hook and Mr. Smee and a special mention to the Crocodile who I am convinced spawned my fear of alligators and crocodiles. It’s a film that I remember watching frequently and I think it sparked my imagination and writing. I love the scene when we see Captain Hook’s reaction to the Crocodile for the first time. It’s comical and terrifying at the same time but it’s the fear that keeps me going back to watch it, very much like Snow White.
15) Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Now for a film that is simultaneously classic but always understated and quite forgotten a lot of the time compared to other offerings. Lady and the Tramp is about an upper class spaniel called Lady who falls for a stray dog, Tramp and the two fall in love despite their different backgrounds. It’s a clever take on classicism during a time in which society was very much torn in the aftermath of the war. As Lady begins to venture out of her comfort zone, her character becomes three dimensional as she becomes fearless and most importantly flawed in a world that expects her to be perfect. Again, much like Peter Pan, we see another racist trope in the form of the infamous Siamese cats who are the epitome of Asian stereotypes. Their appearance and song is frowned upon in modern times and again is uncomfortable to watch. Thankfully, their appearance doesn’t last long and we are served with famous songs like “Bella Notte” and “He’s a Tramp”. With a remake in the works to be released this year, this is a love story that has stood the test of time and can melt the hardest of hearts.
So that’s films 11-15 reviewed with some of the most famous Disney films covered. As you can see, Disney appear to have fully recovered financially and critically from the segmented offerings made during and after the war.
Here is my ranking:
1) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2) Fantasia (1940)
3) Bambi (1942)
4) Alice in Wonderland (1951)
5) Peter Pan (1953)
6) The Three Caballeros (1945)
7) Pinocchio (1940)
8) Dumbo (1941)
9) Cinderella (1950)
10) Lady and the Tramp (1955)
11) Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
12) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
13) Saludos Amigos (1943)
14) Melody Time (1948)
15) Make Mine Music (1946)
The next blog looks at the last bunch of films made and approve before Disney died including classic favourites, Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book. Check it out and see where the films rank!
Do you agree with the ranking so far? What are your favourites from this blog? Let me know in the comments below!