Monday, 10 December 2012

I Love The 90s: Disney

When Disney made 'The Little Mermaid' back in 1989, they began what would become their second golden age, known as the Disney Renaissance. After a few decades of films that weren't up to their usual standards of excellence, 'The Little Mermaid' changed Disneys fortunes around, making animated musicals more popular than ever before, both critically and commercially. What followed was a string of some of the best animated films that have ever been made,  that would help to define a generation of children. And I'm happy to say I'm one of them, I love Disney. 

Some times when you watch old films you remember from your childhood, they're never really as good as you remember, and more often than not, they've dated terribly and lost a lot of what made your young eyes fall in love with. But not with Disney. It holds up well against the test of time and has an ageless magic that makes repeat viewing in later life fill you with youthful nostalgia that you thought long since dead.
I'm just gonna get this out the way, I know that 'The Little Mermaid' came out in 1989 and isn't technically 90s, but it was in the 90s that the VHS came out and I watched it for the first time and many, many, many, many more times after that. I watched it so much that I wore out the video. Remember those grey lines that came up on the screen ruining that moment, which was always a musical number? Thank god for DVD and Bluray.
I bloody love 'The Little Mermaid', which tells the story of a young kleptomaniac princess. It was all about the songs for me, while the popularity of musicals had died out decades earlier, the genre lived on in the guise of animation, because It's absolutely fine to burst into song if it's a crab doing it. That hugely successful critical and box office hit was just the start. The follow up was yet another timeless classic, 'Beauty and the Beast' the tale of a beautiful young woman suffering from Stockholm syndrome. '

In terms of success, this became the most successful animated film ever up to that point, as well as the most critically well received ever. 'Beauty and The Beast' was the first animated film to win the Golden Globe and even earn an nomination for best picture at the Oscars, a feat it would probably still hold had the academy not extended its best picture category from five to ten in 2009, allowing Pixars 'Up' and 'Toy Story 3' to also gain nominations in this prestigious category. It's just a friggin amazing film, and for me, it's a toss up between this and 'The Little Mermaid' as to which is my favourite. Once again, it was the music that was the real star of the film, with such classics as 'Be Our Guest' and 'Gaston', which inspired a stage musical.
Although it didn't win the Oscar for Best Picture, 'Beauty and The Beast' was robbed quite frankly. It did however win the Oscars for Best Score and Best Song for the title theme 'Beaty and the Beast', an award that Disney would claim nearly ever time they released a film throughout the 90s, just like they did in 1992 for their next animated film 'Aladdin'
It's the story of a poor boy who falls in love with a princess. Oh and did I mention that he has a pet monkey, a magic genie and flying carpet? As you do. 'Aladdin' was even more successful in terms of box office then 'Beauty and the Beast' and was the most successful film worldwide that year. Robbin Williams Genie steals the show with a wonderfully funny performance which was practically improvised by the man himself. His talents were best seen in the musical numbers that were some of Disney's best yet.
Sadly, this was the last film that the brilliant song writing duo of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman worked together. Howard Ashman died of Aids before production was complete, so Tim Rice was brought in to finish the remaining songs. He past away on the 14th of March  1991, only a few weeks before the release of 'Beaty and the Beast', which is dedicated to him:
"To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991."
It's always tragic when such a talented artist dies at such a young age, Ashman was only 40. It always leaves the question of what else could they have contributed to the world and what Disney classic has gone unmade. After all, it was Ashman who chose 'The Little Mermaid' and pitched 'Aladdin'. Here is Jodie Benson singing my favourite Disney song ever at his memorial service and is perhaps in my opinion the most beautiful and heartfelt version ever recorded, 'Part of Your World'
I love her voice and I love that version. I would have loved them to have worked together more but we can't keep asking what if? Disney sure as hell didn't. With their dream team sadly gone, they took a brave step with their next animated film, as it was a completely original story with songs written by some guy called Elton John, whoever the hell that is.
'The Lion King' continued the incredible run of success for Disney, becoming the highest grossing hand drawn animated film of all time, a record that is still holds to this very day, and it also won the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy. It also inspired a kick ass musical that has gone on to become one of the longest running in Broadway history. 'The Lion King' is one of Disney's most beloved films ever and it has everything that made a Disney film great; amazing musical numbers, funny moments, scary moments and moments that made you cry with both sadness and happiness, now how many films can do that?
After 'The Lion King', Disney followed it up with their first film to be based on a real life historical figure, but completely fictionalised her story and added in musical numbers. 'Pocahontas' arrived to much excitement in 1995.
While still a box office hit for Disney, their constant critical acclaim began to slide. Although the story and characters in 'Pocahontas' may not have been as up to the standard of the last four films, it was still a very good movie, which also brought some much needed diversity to the Disney Princesses. The songs however still continued to shine, and what do children care about a believable plot when people burst into song, like this Oscar winner.
You know what? I didn't like 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'. I don't know what it was about it but it just didn't work for me. I'll admit there were some good songs in it, but I felt that it tried to go too far to musical theatre and so lost some of the Disney magic. It also taught me that the good looking guy always gets the girl, poor Quasimodo, ugly bastard. In the late 90s, Disney were churning out films every year as opposed to every other year and while some like 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' weren't as good, others still were. Like 'Hercules' which was released in 1997.
I bloody loved 'Hercules', who would have thought that Gospel music would have worked so well in ancient Greece? The clever people at Disney, that's who. James Woods is fantastic as Hades and almost steals the show but not quite. That has to be the Muses, who act as singing narrators throughout the film, I like the sassy fat one.
As the decade came to close, so did Disney's run of success. 1998s 'Mulan' was enjoyable enough and still had some great songs, like 'Reflection' and 'Be a Man', but it just felt like there was something missing. 1999s 'Tarzan' saw the Disney Renaissance come to an end, with the arrival of Pixar and the growing popularity of CGI films, audiences seem to have lost their interest in traditional hand drawn animation. I personally never will.
For me, the 90s was Disney at it's very best, and while they will continue to have great success with Pixar and live action films, I hope they continue to keep the magic of the loving and painstaking art of traditional hand drawn animation like 'The Princess and the Frog' alive. And while I'm sure they will have future hits, Disney will never have a run like they did in that decade.
Oh, and here's 'A Whole New World' just for the hell of it.
What do you think? Do you love 90s Disney as much I do? Whats your favourite film and  songs? Let me know; feel free to comment, follow, like, share and plus.

1 comment:

  1. Hunchback wasnt the best but the rest of 90s disney was incredible! I loved Megs song in Hercules and Beauty and the Beast is amazing. Lion King has to be best though! And Genie is a legend! So much I love!!!