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Breanna - a lifelong Disney fan - is a writer who lives on a cattle ranch in Alabama. She wants a t-shirt that says, "Where Were You When Mufasa Died?"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

“Bambi… Yep, I Guess That’ll Do All Right”

         In a sense of really morbid irony, I’m watching Bambi around the same time as the start of hunting season.  On a personal note, I live on a working cattle ranch that’s surrounded by a twenty thousand acre hunting plantation.  I’ve been taking early morning walks for a while and it’s not unusual to come across deer, mostly does and their fawns.  If Bambi is the closest you have ever come to seeing a deer, let me just say that they are gorgeous creatures and the film was very successful in animating them realistically.  Bambi’s mother is especially beautiful to watch, especially during those establishing shots of her and a sleeping Bambi.
The first thing that needs to be said about the animation in this film was how much improvement happened between the time of Snow White and Bambi, as far as the animation of animals go.  This is only the second time that the story revolves around talking humanized animals (Dumbo being the first), and their movements are accurately animal like, yet the emotions on their faces are unmistakably human.  The animation of Thumper and Bambi as babies is especially convincing.  The animators famously studied the facial expressions of a baby in order to give Bambi that look of innocence, but the way he walks is practically textbook for a baby deer.  For Thumper, it’s clear that they studied his voice actor, Peter Behn, for his facial expressions, but the little twitch of his nose that he does and the way he hops is so distinctly rabbit. The mouse that washes its face with a dewdrop in the opening is so incredibly realistic and yet manages to be cute.  That multi-plane opening shot might just be the finest example of that piece of technology in the entire Disney canon.  The whole shot was gorgeous and evocative from start to finish and really showed what the technology could do in the right hands.
While Bambi’s animation and backgrounds are the obvious strengths of this film, it also boasts a number of achievements for its vocal cast.  The main characters are not voiced by established character actors, as had been the standard for the films prior, but almost entirely by children.  A lot of people thought that Walt was crazy (but I think Walt was used to being called crazy, i.e. “Disney’s Folly”) for insisting that they voice the characters using real children as opposed to adults imitating children.  But once again establishing what a visionary and a genius Walt Disney was, children not only voiced the characters but also inspired the animators in the creation of the characters.  Behn almost single handedly invented the character of Thumper just by being himself.  The result: a baby rabbit who is the most believable representation of a little human boy to ever grace the silver screen.
Also a scene-stealer was the young Faline, who was voiced by Cammie King.  Now I happened to watch the making of Bambi documentary one time with my mother, whose all time favorite film happens to be Gone With the Wind.  She was amazed to see that the young Miss King’s other famous role was playing Rhett and Scarlet’s daughter in that particular film.  Her performance as Faline was spot on.  She made Faline a giggling little girl who thought little boys were funny and it was dead on.  The animation for the scene where she and Bambi meet for the first time is great.  I don’t know if there has ever been a scene that captures the awkward interaction between children of different sexes done as well as this one.  I think there are plenty of guys watching this movie who can relate to Bambi when he suddenly ducks behind his mother’s legs, looking utterly terrified.
Speaking of striking terror into the hearts of its audience, Bambi is a suspenseful film.  The meadow scene when the great prince of the forest suddenly rushes back to warn the other deer is a great example of this.  The music that accompanies the moment is a very low register strings piece (almost evocative of the all strings score of Psycho) that is incredibly successful at building the tension.  For a few frames, the colors go from photo realistic to bright blasts of color on the deer, while the backgrounds become almost colorless.  This sudden change is meant to indicate the fevered panic the deer are feeling.
 As the scene ends, Bambi, his mother, and the great prince become colorless as they rush back into the fully rendered forest just as the music ends with a punctuating gunshot.  I’m not kidding when I say this, but this scene made the hairs on my arms stand on end.  The documentary available on the Platinum release of Bambi pointed out that there are only two instances in the film when there is no music in the background, and the first instance happens after this intense scene: when Bambi’s mother looks back at the meadow rather ominously and says “Man was in the forest.”
I mentioned in the blog for Fantasia rather briefly that the seasons have always had literary symbolism attached to them, and no other Disney film relies on them as much as Bambi does (except maybe Beauty and the Beast, but that comes later).  Brenda Chapman once said that when they were making The Lion King, they thought of the film as a combination of Shakespeare and Bambi in Africa, directly making Bambi the precursor to The Lion King.  It makes sense as both films are thematically about “the circle of life.” Except here in Bambi this cycle is reflected in the change of the seasons. 
The film begins in summertime when Bambi is born; this is the season of living and vitality.  After all, this is the time when the best plants are at their peak.  Here we see Bambi’s life beginning from his interactions with Thumper and Flower, to learning from his mother.  Fall is a season of change and transition; the leaves are turning and preparing for winter.  This is around the time Bambi learns about man, and we see a major turn in the story; we learn that behind this beautiful paradise is a veiled threat that all of the animals fear but the audience never sees.  Fall fades to winter and winter has always been the symbolic season of death.
Oh, sure it starts out all sweet and pretty with Thumper teaching Bambi to ice skate.  But then you see the reality of their exposure to the elements and their constant search for food.  Not only have they resorted to eating the bark off of trees, Bambi’s mother foregoes eating so that her son has food.  Just when things begin to look up for the pair again and the first grass of spring appears before their hungry eyes, that ominous string music starts again.  And before we know it, we’ve entered into the most gut wrenching, innocence shattering, and heart breaking scene in cinema history.

Who can say how many children’s innocence and naïveté has been brutally gunned down and left for dead by this one simple question:  “Is Bambi’s mom okay?”  On Entertainment Weekly’s list of the fifty greatest tearjerkers of all time, this moment was in the number two spot, just behind Terms of Endearment.  The other instance of no music happens in the scene after Bambi helplessly searches through the snow repeatedly calling for his mother.  He stumbles across the great prince of the forest, who turns out to be his father.  There is no other sound audible except for the prince’s line: “Your mother cannot be with you anymore.”  Bambi closes his eyes, opens them, and sheds a single tear.  He and his father walk off together until the scene fades to black, Bambi only stopping to look back once.  Without a single line of dialogue spoken, the audience knows that his childhood is over.
Predictably, I was crying.  Heck, I started crying when his mother was yelling for him to keep running.  Originally, the scene was meant to be much more graphic (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034492/trivia) with either Bambi finding his mother in a pool of blood or a shot of the hunter dragging off the mother’s carcass.  I, for one, am thankful that they changed their minds about that.  Not only because the scene is traumatic enough for young kids (I’m pretty sure that seeing Bambi’s mom in a pool of blood would land quite a few children in therapy), but because so much of this scene’s power is derived from what the audience doesn’t see.
It’s a classic horror film technique: what you create in your mind is ten times more horrifying than what you actually see on screen.  Disney had planned for the hunter to be a fully realized character early on, but decided against it at the idea that it might offend hunters.  But just like Jaws was made a scarier film because we don’t see the shark until the end (due to the animatronic shark’s inability to work properly), “Man” becomes one of the most hated villains in the history of film (number twenty on AFI’s list of the one hundred greatest heroes and villains) because he is never seen.  Man’s presence is announced by nothing more than the heightened tension among the forest animals and a gunshot.  It’s that deafening gunshot that announces the demise of Bambi’s beautiful, caring mother and the end of childhood innocence for Bambi and any man, woman, or child watching it.
On the subject of Bambi’s mother’s murder, if you’re a fan of Who Framed Roger Rabbit like I am, then you’ve checked out that film’s trivia page on IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096438/trivia).  There was meant to be a connection to Bambi in that film (SPOILER WARNING if you haven’t seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit) in one of the early versions of the script, in which it was revealed that Judge Doom was the toon that shot Bambi’s mother.  I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I’m kind of sad they cut that out.  It would have been a great way to add even more deviousness to the character.  What villain can top the man who committed the single most loathsome act in the history of animation?  Plus, it would have tied the film even more to the golden age at the Disney studios (END SPOILERS).
But winter fades to spring, symbolically a time of rebirth, life starting over, and… love.  For me, besides Bambi’s mother’s death scene, the “twitterpated” sequence is the most memorable scene out of Bambi.  There has been several instances of romance throughout the Disney animated films, but I’m not sure if any of them captured how it feels to be in love as well as Bambi did.  Just take a look at Friend Owl’s speech about states of twitterpated: “Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. For example: You're walking along, minding your own business. You're looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. Woo-woo! You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head's in a whirl. And then you feel light as a feather, and before you know it, you're walking on air. And then you know what? You're knocked for a loop, and you completely lose your head!”  Our boys walk away thinking that they’re immune, but my, how quickly they all fall.  

Of course Thumper becoming twitterpated steals the show.  And who can resist a lovely gold rabbit with such luscious, rosy cheeks?  His agape, shocked expression as she coyly waves at him with the tip of her ear is only the beginning.  The way his eyes bug out when she saunters over to say hello is exactly how I imagine young men look while discovering girls for the first time.  But the moment that always causes me to laugh at the top of my lungs is when she leans in for a nose kiss: Thumper’s ears are twisting and untwisting with each other and his big old foot starts thumping rapidly.  We are parted with the image of a Thumper looking positively blissful as his newfound ladylove, inadvertently thumping his foot in sheer delight, plays with his ears.
What’s priceless about Bambi’s reintroduction to Faline is that it mimics his first meeting with her, the only differences being that he doesn’t have his mother there to hide behind and that now he very much likes Faline’s kisses.  Of course this is all interrupted when the film decides to veer into nature documentary territory.  I didn’t fully understand the meaning of the scene between Bambi and his fellow buck as a kid.  My sister, conveniently a vet, explained it to me when we watched it together a few years ago.  Apparently these two bucks are fighting over who gets to mate with Faline.
Pretty adult concept for a movie geared towards children, huh?  This also marks the second time in the film when the colors in the scene reflect more of the emotions within the scene as opposed to the setting of the scene itself.  Hearkening back to The Lion King comparisons, the scene between Bambi and Faline that follows his big fight scene reminds me of the “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” scene.  Maybe it’s the nighttime coloring that both scenes possess.  Maybe it’s the frolicking that Bambi and Faline engage in.  Either way, the following scene opens with both characters suggestively sleeping next to each other.
The scene where not one but several hunters come into the forest is the closest the film comes to an actual showdown between Bambi and those responsible for killing his mother.  That foreboding string score appears again, birds scatter, and multiple gunshots ring out. The most eerie part of this scene is the quail that freaks out and flies up only to be shot.  It’s interesting that this scene ends with a forest fire that had begun in the hunters’ camp.  Fire and springtime actually go together, in that they are both symbols for rebirth.  In a way, the fire is cleansing the forest of past tragedy for life to begin anew.
And begin anew it does.  Thumper has his own troupe of thumping bunnies., Flower has a son named Bambi, and Bambi and Faline are now parents to twins.  The film ends with Bambi watching his family alongside his father, a mirror image of the film’s open. Bambi is left alone atop of the rock, not a fawn but a proud buck.  The leaves change around him, symbolizing the change in both Bambi and the great prince of the forest, suggesting that Bambi takes over the position of guarding the forest now.  In a way, it’s fitting that the film ends on the season of change since this was the last traditional feature length animated film for Disney in the forties.
I have to say one thing about the early days of Walt Disney Animation and that is that they were most definitely not formulaic.  Their first five fully animated features had very little in common with each other: Snow White was an old fairy tale, Pinocchio was based off of an Italian children’s book, Fantasia was an experimental film more in line with impressionist art, Dumbo was an original story, and Bambi was based off of an Austrian children’s book.  All of these films were made before World War II began to affect the studio and all five of them are considered classics.  Three of them comprise the top three of the American Film Institute’s greatest animated films list: Bambi was number three, Pinocchio was number two, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was number one. 
            What does this say about the studio?  It could be interpreted that they were trying to find their niche, but I think it’s a testament to the studio’s skills as storytellers and innovators.  All five of these films were compelling to a broad audience and all five of them never failed to move their viewers emotionally.  It also says that this was the time when the animators, artists, and Walt himself were truly fearless.  They did not settle for sticking to what they knew worked; they experimented and challenged themselves to see how far this medium could take them.  They knew that they were inventing a new art form, but they probably did not know that they were setting the standard for which all animated films are still measured to this day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

“What’s De Matter Wid His Ears?”

         Welcome to what I like to call the age of the tearjerkers.  In 1941 and 1942, Disney released two films called Dumbo and Bambi upon an unsuspecting public.  The world would never know the feeling of dry eyes ever again.  Of course I felt myself getting misty during Snow White’s wake in Snow White, as well during the title character’s apparent death in Pinocchio.  I even teared up a bit when the stegosaurus bought it in Fantasia.
            … what?  You really expect me to believe that no one else cried for that?
… Moving on.  There were definitely some tearjerkers released after 1942 (like Lady and the Tramp and The Lion King), but no other film in the Disney canon can touch these two films for tugging at the heartstrings and the tear ducts.  But the tears that we shed for Dumbo are not always tears of sadness; they are a lot of the time tears of sheer elation for a character that I think most of us can relate to.
I mentioned for Pinocchio that two of the big themes for Disney are that of transformation and the underdog.  While there is a sense of transformation in Dumbo (he transforms his ears into tools of flight), Dumbo is Disney’s ultimate underdog story.  Dumbo is an innocent little elephant child who is ostracized for his larger than average ears.  At some point, all of us have been teased, picked on, and/or bullied for a feature that we can’t change.  As we grow up though, we come to realize it is our flaws that become our most defining and special characteristics.  It was Dumbo who taught us this first. 
His ability to relate to his audience increases a thousand fold because of one defining characteristic that he possesses: he never speaks.  He’s the only title character in the history of Disney that never utters a single phrase of dialogue.  In this sense, he becomes almost like a blank canvas for the audience to project themselves onto.  When Dumbo is hurting, we feel hurt too.  When Dumbo smiles, the audience smiles with him.  He’s a veritable Jimmy Stewart, just in the form of an elephant.

             Just because Dumbo himself doesn’t talk, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a talented voice cast at work in this film.  This was the first Disney film for Sterling Holloway and Verna Felton (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033563/trivia), two of the most prolific Disney voices in the history of the company.  Holloway, who voiced the Stork, would go on to lend his voice as a stork once again for Lambert the Sheepish Lion, as well as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, Kaa in The Jungle Book, and, most famously of all, as Winnie the Pooh in… well, you know.  Speaking of the Stork, you all noticed that bit where his bundle of Dumbo almost fell through the cloud, right?  Well, next time you watch Mary Poppins, watch for a similar tribute at the start of that film with the practically perfect nanny’s carpetbag.  Felton, who was the snobbish matriarch elephant, proved what a gifted voice she had, as her list of character credits were arguably the most diverse in the company: the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, and the good pink fairy, Flora, in Sleeping Beauty
To go even further with the connection between Dumbo and Bambi, both are stories about mothers and sons.  The stories revolve around both boys coping with the loss of their mothers in different ways.  I have to say that Mrs. Jumbo is one helluva mother.  She’s so sweet in the beginning with such an obvious yearning for a baby of her own and when she finally gets one, it’s clear that she loves him from the word go.  She has one speaking line in the whole film (“Jumbo Junior”), but the strength of her character doesn’t require any dialogue.  From the way she defends her son from the cackling crew of elephant ladies’ taunting to the way she tries to keep him safe from all the unkind words directed his way.  She’s a true mother who loves her son just the way he is and thinks his flaws are cute (just watch the way she tenderly swaddles him using his oversized ears).  She is his only defender and friend, which makes her imprisonment and separation from him a heartbreak that the entire audience feels.
Just when Dumbo (and his audience) feels that there’s no one else in the world on his side, enter Timothy Q. Mouse, who is easily my favorite character of the film.  Actor Edward Blophy supplied his wonderful vocal performance; Dumbo would turn out to be his first and only dalliance into doing voice work for animation.  Timothy becomes the kind of friend we all wish for when we’re down on ourselves and he essentially becomes a surrogate family to Dumbo.  The way in which he stood up to that clique of gossiping elephants was (because I can’t think of a more appropriate word for it) awesome.  What I loved about his character was that he had no ulterior motives for wanting to stick up for Dumbo; he decided to become his friend because he didn’t like seeing someone so small and sweet be pushed around by a bunch of bigots.
In a way, Timothy makes Dumbo a classic cinematic buddy flick.  The two of them complement each other almost perfectly.  Timothy’s enthusiastic when Dumbo needs him to be and motivated to do something about their predicament when Dumbo isn’t.  Timothy is a go-getter, while Dumbo is the shy silent type.  When Dumbo is down, Timothy takes him to see his mother.  In a classic buddy move, they even get drunk together, though that was not exactly intentional.
But there’s no replacing Dumbo’s mother, and Timothy knows that.  So when Dumbo is at his very lowest, they seek out Mrs. Jumbo together and what begins is the water soaked scene, “Baby Mine.”  It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen this movie.  All it took was that little face looking up at his mother with tears streaming down his face and those first verses (“Baby mine, don’t you cry, Baby mine, dry your eyes, Rest your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine”).  The song is so simple and lullaby like, but that’s what makes it so effective and powerful. 
The song was actually sung by Betty Noyes, who you film buffs out there will know was the same singer who dubbed in Debbie Reynolds’ vocals for a few of the songs in Singin’ in the Rain.  The soft quality of her voice makes it easy for the audience to imagine a mother singing to her sleeping child as she rubs circles on his/her back.  It takes most of us back to hard times when all we wanted was for our mothers to wrap us up in her arms and tell us that everything was going to be all right.  The shots of the other animal babies sleeping with their mothers assist the song as well (my personal favorite moments are the hyenas laughing in their sleep and the ostriches sleeping with their heads in the ground).  Not even the force that is Timothy Q. Mouse can keep from shedding a tear.  If you find yourself at all dry eyed during this scene, then I’m sorry but you must have made some kind of pact with the devil, because clearly you have no soul.
The emotional impact this film has on its audience is extremely powerful and extremely memorable.  Dumbo has become one of those films that people automatically think of when they think about the word “Disney.”  There have been several commercials advertising the Disney theme parks displaying a certain flying elephant; without even saying the word, people automatically associate flying elephants with Disney.  Easily the most popular, iconic Disney attraction in all of the theme parks all over the planet is Dumbo the Flying Elephant.  I can’t even remember the last time I was able to ride the thing because it is an attraction that stays busy constantly.  Dumbo’s success is even more tremendous when it’s taken into consideration what conditions the film was made under.
It’s no secret that this movie was made on the cheap by Disney because he needed to make back some of the money that he lost in Pinocchio and Fantasia.  Besides the much shorter running time (sixty four minutes total), the lack of money is present in other ways.  For instance, there are practically no detailed human characters in this film, at least not on the level that there were in Snow White and Pinocchio.  The ringmaster and the clowns all feel very Silly Symphonies in their round design and simple impressionist faces.  For the scene when they set up the circus, the only detailed character animation comes from the animals assisting in the tent construction; the humans almost resemble gumby-like black blobs in the rain.  They also reverted back to watercolor backgrounds for this picture, since they weren’t as expensive as the gouache and oils used for Pinocchio.  Thankfully, their cost cutting worked as the film grossed over $2.5 million.
That isn’t to say the animation is bad.  The scene where the elephants pile on top of each other is a masterful example of technical animation at its best.  The animation where they are tumbling around the circus tent (a pile of elephants on a little red ball, keep in mind) could not have been an easy task for the animators.  Particularly special is the animation of Dumbo himself when he learns how to take flight.  I’m not sure how that conversation with the supervising animators went, but somehow they managed to conceive the logistics of a flying elephant.  Amazingly, it’s some of the most effective animation in the whole film.  The animators achieved giving Dumbo a lightness and ease, which I imagine was not a simple task at the time.  And no discussion about Dumbo would be complete without talking about arguably the most psychedelic piece of animation in Disney history: “Pink Elephants on Parade.”

          I don’t know if they decided to add this scene because they wanted to increase the running time.  I don’t know if the animators looked at doing a lower budget flick like Dumbo as open invitation to see what they were capable of doing as far as artsy, trippy animation goes.  I don’t know if the animators got stoned and then animated a scene before they sobered up.  All I know is that this sweet story of a baby elephant trying to find his place in the world is suddenly interrupted with this sequence of what is quite literally “pink elephants on parade.”
Now I’m a pretty artsy person, and I can usually find meaning and symbolism within a story fairly quick.  No matter how many times I’ve seen Dumbo, I cannot explain the logic of this scene, its purpose in how it moves along the story, or if it was just an excuse for the animators to go crazy with a bunch of pink elephants.  It did provide a filler segue way into Dumbo learning how to fly: Dumbo and Timothy get drunk, suffer hallucinations of shape bending pink elephants, and then wake up in a tree with a bunch of crows.
Okay, we need to talk about the crows.  There’s a fair bit of controversy surrounding this scene, regarding the subject of racism.  A couple of Disney films have come under fire for including what could be interpreted as racist elements: in Fantasia, there was the black centaur that aided the lady centaurs (but she has been edited out of most home releases), here in Dumbo there are the crows, pretty much all of Song of the South (which has never even seen a home video release in the U.S.), even recent films like The Princess and the Frog came under fire while it was in production.  The discussion of possible racism in Disney films is something that I feel could take up a whole blog entry, but that will have to wait for another time because I really want to keep this discussion on the films themselves.  For the time being, just bear in mind that any piece of artwork is a product of the time it was made, and this goes double for Disney films.
The crows were obviously directed by Ward Kimball, who detested realism in animation.  The crows are a testament to that idea, as they are not anatomically correct crows in any way.  The moment when Timothy preaches to the crows is great; the facial expressions from each of the crows are so real and human like.  The song is also the one of the most memorable songs out of the film (besides “Baby Mine”) though I prefer the reprisal that comes about at the end.  The best piece of animation comes when Dumbo lands on the telephone wires and bounces up and down on them like a trampoline; his smile is so genuine that you almost feel like you’re smiling with him.
The most amazing thing about Dumbo is that one of its most memorable and distinctive plot points (the magic feather) is not introduced until three-quarters of the film is over.  The plot progression goes exactly like this: Dumbo gets feather, Dumbo flies with feather, Dumbo goes to the big city, Dumbo loses feather, Dumbo flies regardless.  My God, when Dumbo takes flight…  I don’t think there’s ever been a more satisfying moment in the history of Disney film. 
In one fell swoop, Dumbo shows up all of the characters that doubted or wronged him: the clowns, the ringmaster, and especially those snooty elephants.  All they can do is look with mouths agape at this unassuming little elephant that they dubbed nothing more than a freak.  For the first time in his life, he’s met with thunderous applause, not cruel laughter.  When the crows break into the final chorus of “When I See an Elephant Fly” and the audience sees Mrs. Jumbo waving proudly from their private cart, it’s impossible to keep the smiles away.  The tears come again when Dumbo, in his cute little aviator goggles, flies down into his mother’s arms and they embrace once more.  The audience is right there, feeling just as triumphant as Dumbo.  It’s like a wise mouse once said, “The very things that held ya down are gonna carry ya up, and up, and up!”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"We Have Here a Picture of the Struggle Between the Profane and the Sacred."

            “Yeah, Bre?”
            “I think I have a problem.”
            “What is it?”
            “Amazon says that Fantasia isn’t supposed to come out until November 30th.”
            “Oh no.  What are you going to do?”
            “Well, I found the old VHS copy of it the other day.  I thought I might just watch that.”
            “Well, that should be fun.  Vintage and classic.”
            “By vintage and classic, you mean obsolete and annoying?”
            “… Yeah, that too.”
            That was the phone conversation my sister and I had a few days ago.  It seems Disney did a bit of a miss print for their Beauty and the Beast release and it has left me in a bit of a lurch.  But I still want to go on with my marathon, so this has become one of those occasions where you do what you have to do with what you’ve got.  Though I would have loved to experience Fantasia in glorious blu-ray for this marathon, I’m more interested in getting all fifty flicks done in a timely manner.  I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but I’m really, really glad that my folks never got rid of the VCR.
            Hee, I had forgotten about that classic Disney VHS logo.  It brings me back to our basement in Virginia when I used to line up all of our Disney movies in chronological order… yes, I was a dork for Disney back then too.  It’s been a long time since I’ve watched Fantasia, at least all the way through, and I know that I have yet to watch the full thing as an adult.  So it’s almost as though I’m watching this film for the first time.
            First impressions: I can kind of understand why this film did not do so hot during its first pass in movie theatres back in 1940.  I know that seems like blasphemy to say considering what a landmark film it would go on to be.  But think about what had come before it: Snow White and Pinocchio.  Animated fairy tales.  Fantasia opens with a live action conductor and orchestra, and though it is visually compelling to see silhouettes of the musicians performing music with only impressions of color behind them, it must have left many a mass market 1940 movie go-er quite confused.
            “This is by the same guy that made that Snow White and Mickey Mouse picture show?”
            But I have to say as someone who has studied film, the transition from the live action orchestra to the animation during the first piece was seamless and a very appropriate way to marry the two worlds for the film.  It is here in the opening where the audience realizes that they are not watching a film, but watching animators work in tandem with an orchestra.  Instead of listening to a symphony, we are watching the emotions that music can evoke.  It was a concept that was, needless to say, ahead of its time and still something you don’t see in this day and age.
            But the animation most certainly is top notch.  “The Nutcracker Suite” sequence is a study in effects animation, from the sparkles the fairies emit to the drops of water that run down the web of a spider.  I have a feeling many a young animator looked at Fantasia as an opportunity to show their stuff.  The sequence of the flowers “dancing” on water was so lifelike and yet still managed to evoke the imagery of ballerinas.  Considering that this was only the third feature film put out by the studio, it’s amazing to see how far the animators had come as artists in only three years.  The stark contrast between the lines of the fishes tails to the black background was gorgeous.  The way their tails flowed was like watching belly dancers taunt their audience with the swaying of their veils.  Where the sequence hits it stride is most definitely the final bit of animation with the winter fairies creating ice on the water and wearing snowflakes like tutus.
            Oh wow.  I didn’t remember that “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was only the third segment of the film.  It’s not just the most famous scene from the film; it’s also one of the most iconic scenes from any Disney film.  It’s featured heavily in the parks.  If you watch Philharmagic in Fantasyland, you will shocked to discover that there are only two Golden Age animated films that earned a spot in the attraction: Peter Pan is one and this scene from Fantasia is the other. 
Over in Hollywood Studios, Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat is the symbol of not only the park, but of the entirety of Walt Disney Imagineering itself.  This scene also has the honor of being the only Disney Animated film to have a show scene in The Great Movie Ride.  Finally, Mickey in his Sorcerer form plays a large role in the story of Fantasmic!.  And for better or for worse, the sequence inspired the Nicholas Cage summer blockbuster vehicle of the same name.  I’m sure most Disney fans worth their salt know how the sorcerer Yen Sid (Disney spelled backwards) was based off of the man himself.  But did you know that for the famous, iconic Partners statue of Walt and Mickey in the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers actually looked to Fantasia when they were designing it?  Why would they do that?  Well, they needed reference for how tall to make Mickey in comparison to Walt Disney, so they watched the scene after “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” where Mickey rushes out to congratulate Mr. Stokowski to see how the famous mouse measures up in scale to an actual human being.  Those Imagineers don’t overlook a single detail.
There are only two sequences from Fantasia that I remember vividly as a child, and the dinosaurs featured in “The Rites of Spring” sequence is one of them.  As a kid, I was both terrified and fascinated by dinosaurs (I only managed to bring myself to watch Jurassic Park when I was nineteen).  Am I the only one that feels really sad when the stegosaurus loses against the tyrannosaurus?  The stegosaurus has always been my favorite dinosaur and it seems like when a fight against a t-rex is called for, they pick the stegosaurus.  I think it’s because the stegosaurus lends itself to epic fight potential.  Why?  Because its tail has spikes on it.  Spikes people!  That’s so ridiculously badass.  Sorry, tangent.  Back to Fantasia.
It’s an interesting sequence to say the least, about the birth and eventual end of life.  But the piece was entitled “The Rites of Spring,” and spring time has always been used as a literary symbol of rebirth and life beginning so it’s a fitting choice to tell the story of dinosaurs.  If you take a gander over at IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032455/trivia), you will learn that the sequence of the dinosaurs here inspired the beginning of their usage in the parks.  So if you’ve ever been on Ellen’s Energy Adventure a.k.a. The Universe of Energy in Epcot or made a stop in Dinoland U.S.A. over in Animal Kingdom, you have this film to thank for the inspiration behind the animatronic dinosaur.
The other sequence I remember most vividly was definitely the Fantasia take on Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony.”  I’m also a dork for Greek mythology, and I remember thinking how beautiful the adult pegasi were animated.  They weren’t so much animated like horses, but like ballet dancers evoking the movements of horses.  Their multi colored babies were also especially cute; they were not animated to resemble foals either, but to look like actual children.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but were the nipple-less centaur ladies the first time we see animated nudity out of Disney?  I know we’ve seen a number of baby butts (the one that forms a heart evoked a giggle out of me), but I don’t think those count.  Anyway, again from the IMDB trivia page, this was the first time Walt Disney told his animators they could color their scenes however they wanted (a first) and there isn’t a scene where this is more prevalent than the scene with the centaurs.  Instead of having a bunch of blonde, redhead, and brunette centaurs, there are blue, orange, purple, yellow, and red centaurs that form matching pairs from both genders.
It’s an interesting take on the Greek gods.  I’m not sure how Rick Riordan would feel about it, as it’s very much the gods Disney-fied.  Probably more so than Hercules down the line.  Making appearances are Dionysus, Zeus, Hephaestus, the wind gods (I’m no sure which ones they are exactly), Iris looking especially gorgeous, and Apollo and his sister, Artemis. I read on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasia_(film)) that Ward Kimball was one of the supervising animators on this and without even having to look it up, I can tell you he had a hand in Dionysus’ design.  The character just evokes that Kimball style that he did so well. From a stylistic, musical, and story standpoint, for me, this is my favorite sequence out of Fantasia.
Ah, the “Dance of the Hours.”  Another one of the more iconic scenes out of this movie.  Who else but Disney could conceive one of the most famous ballets as a chance for elephants and ostriches to show how graceful they can be?  Who can forget watching hippos dance in tutus with rakish alligators?  If you’ve ever spent any time playing the mini golf circuit of Walt Disney World, then you’ve been out to Fantasia Gardens, where this film heavily inspired the look of the course, drawing from this scene in particular.  If you’ve caught the SpectroMagic parade over in Magic Kingdom, then you’ve seen the ostrich characters dance around the float of the alligator spinning his hippo lady friend.  I have to say the idea of an alligator and a hippo experiencing a torrid romance did not initially come to mind, but here in Fantasia, it’s really sweet.  This might not be my very favorite scene of Fantasia, but it’s easily a close second.
And for the finale we have a mash-up of “Night on Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria.”  Man, what a way to end a film.  This piece of music has always struck me as sinister and dark, and here the animators expand on it with a full-fledged story featuring the dead rising, fiery demonic minions, and towering demon gods.  Besides Sorcerer Mickey, Chernabog is probably the most iconic character to emerge from Fantasia.  Also featured in the SpectroMagic parade, his float is one of the most memorable.  He too plays a part in Fantasmic! and is also featured in the motif of the candy shop, Villains in Vogue.  By the way, parts of animation from this sequence were later used for The Black Cauldron (but we’ll talk about that later).
It goes from dark and evil, to hopeful and lovely for the “Ave Maria” portion.  In comparison to the detailed demons and Chernabog rendered only a few frames earlier, the religious procession shown is much more impressionistic, little more than box shapes and little circles of light.  The final shot of the segment is the sun rising.  Before viewing Fantasia, I remembered that the film concluded with “Night on Bald Mountain.”  As I waited for the tape to rewind, I could not help but think what an odd note to end the film on. 
“Night on Bald Mountain,” as I remembered from childhood, was dark, foreboding, and sinister (Bela Lugosi himself posed for live action reference for Chernabog after all).  Hardly the kind of ending Walt Disney was famous for.  But watching it now as an adult, in conjunction with “Ave Maria,” I see now what Disney was trying to say.  "We have here a picture of the struggle between the profane and the sacred" is how “Night on Bald Mountain” is introduced.  That struggle, if you think about it, is the very heart of Disney films. 
There usually are always villains and heroes in all Disney films, thus there has been a struggle between “the profane” and “the sacred” in practically every animated classic.  Within “Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria,” we don’t have the nuanced characters, the comic relief, and the romance that every other Disney film tends to have.  In this segment of Fantasia, we have a frightening representation of “the profane” and a beautiful processional of “the sacred.”  Mr. Disney chose to end his masterwork with the ideals of his films fully visualized.  He was quite the sorcerer.

“A Very Lovely Thought, but Not at All Practical”

“Get ready to wish big.”  That was the phrase that advertised Pinocchio’s Platinum release.  If I had to say one phrase that summed up the experience of Pinocchio, I could not come up with something better than “wish big.”  If Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the quintessential Disney movie as far as an emotional experience goes, Pinocchio is the film that established several long running Disney images, traditions, and themes.
Wishing and dreaming had been thematically a part of Snow White, but it was here in Pinocchio that they took front and center as being the crux of the story.  “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which originated out of this film, became Disney’s anthem and one of the greatest songs of cinema of all time (AFI ranked it number seven, the highest of any Disney film).  It also introduced two themes that would occur in Disney films time and again: the underdog story and transformation.  Though Snow White also dabbled in these two themes (Snow White being the underdog, and the Queen’s transformation into the old peddler woman), it is here in Pinocchio that the themes are established fully and become the signature Disney touch. 
Pinocchio is little more than a block of wood who gets the good fortune of having the opportunity to become real if he can prove that he is capable of being more than just a blockhead.  He is transformed into a walking, talking puppet but he can’t seem to stop making blockheaded decisions.  The audience begins to wonder if he is even capable of becoming a real boy, making him an underdog.  This talk will come up in later films as well.
Pinocchio has touched almost all of Disney since it came out in 1940.  Like I mentioned earlier, “When You Wish Upon a Star” is Disney’s anthem; it’s impossible to listen to that song and not automatically (or should I say, auto-magically) think Disney.  During the nighttime performance of Wishes at Magic Kingdom, this is the song that accompanies the show as it lights up the sky and it is Jiminy Cricket who narrates the proceedings.  Pinocchio, Geppetto, and Jiminy Cricket are parade staples, and have even earned their own quick service dining establishment (Pinocchio’s Village Haus) in Fantasyland.  By the way, if you’re craving pizza on the cheap while you’re in the Magic Kingdom, this is a very good way to go.  But the Fantasyland over in Disneyland did one better: Pinocchio has his own dark ride on the west coast called Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, recreating the story from the film.
Figaro acting like a kitten...
... And Figaro acting like a jealous brother.
The animation was definitely sharper and more refined than what it had been only a few years prior in Snow White.   Standouts include the animation of the title character himself.  Milt Kahl beautifully renders Pinocchio’s physical limitations that come from being made of wood, and yet his expressions are so vividly real.  I believe that the animators watched Dickie Jones as he was performing because the two look a lot alike.  Figaro was also amazing to watch; he’s very much a kitten from the way he bats his little paws, but his facial expressions are very much that of a jealous sibling. 
If I had to pick one character that was perfect on both halves of his performance, it was Jiminy Cricket.  Cliff Edwards was an amazing voice matched to some amazing character animation, done by none other than the inimitable Ward Kimball (Jiminy Cricket was his compensation for having his big soup eating scene in Snow White cut from the final film).  Edwards’ rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star” is a classic for a reason.  The comedic moments - that I suspect Edwards improvise many of - are some of the highlights of the film.  My favorite is Jiminy dancing with a music box lady and saying, “how about you and I sit out the next dance?” or something to that effect.  Yet when the time comes for Jiminy to be serious, Edwards delivers in strides making Jiminy the heart (and yes, the conscience) of the film.  Kimball did not animate a cricket admittedly, but he animated an expressive little creature in a top hat that could serve as the voice of reason in an otherwise corrupt world that our innocent little hero has to navigate through.
And what a corrupt world it is.  There are more villains in Pinocchio than in any other Disney film.  Stromboli, Honest John, Gideon, the Coachman, and Monstro all present a different kind of villainy.  Honest John and Gideon are the slimy, cowardly sort, conmen that will do anything for a few gold coins.  Stromboli is big and loud and doesn’t see Pinocchio as a living creature but as something to be owned and controlled.  Monstro is an imposing creature whose name has the power to strike fear into the hearts of common sea animals.  For my money, the most chilling villain of Pinocchio was the Coachman.  He did not have as much dialogue or screen time as the other villains, but what we knew about him was enough to assume that he was a sadistic bastard who preyed on boys behaving in a way that many boys do.  Even Honest John knew enough to be scared of the guy.
What’s truly dark about Pinocchio is that no villain received comeuppance by film’s end.  Here the audience is left to assume that Honest John and Gideon lived to con another day, that Stromboli continued to put on his puppet shows, Monstro still roams the seas, and that the Coachman went on to sell all of the jackasses he collected to the salt mines.  We have to talk about the jackasses.  Though you could say that the boys had it coming to them for the way they were acting (smoking, drinking, causing destruction), you can’t help but feel bad for them upon seeing what becomes of bad boys on Pleasure Island.  It’s hard not to feel a pit of sympathy in your abdomen when you hear these boys - who were so destructive and bigheaded only a few scenes ago - suddenly sound scratchy and childlike as they call for their mothers. 
Watching the transformation of Lampwick, who really is an obnoxious punk for the brief time that we know him, actually gave me chills.  We hear that really annoying laugh seamlessly go to the familiar call of a donkey.  We see his hands held in a pleading motion suddenly transform into hooves and his last words are cries for his “mama.”  Like I said for Snow White, Disney was Hitchcock before Hitchcock.  It’s a very classic fairy tale move of having the characters learn their lessons in the most harsh, unforgivable manner, but the fact that this fate befalls children (not innocent children, but children nonetheless) is especially troubling.  Knowing what kind of man the Coachman is, I get scared for the boys who couldn’t be passed off as donkeys.  The film never tells us what happens to them, but I doubt that it’s happy. 
But I think this is what elevates Pinocchio above mere family entertainment.  It’s a very realistic fairy tale, if that makes sense.  No the bad guys don’t receive justice in the end and the main character makes several mistakes along the way and the moral lessons are taught to him in a harsh and permanent manner.  But all of this makes Pinocchio a better person in the end and makes the ending more resonant and satisfying for the audience. When he runs into the ocean after Geppetto without the slightest hesitation, you can’t help but smile and say, “Pinocchio, you’ve grown up.”  This is, after all, the same kid who earlier ditched school to become an actor.  And it’s Pinocchio who devises a way of escaping Monstro when Geppetto has lost all hope, showing that he’s become smarter over the course of the film.  And despite Geppetto’s wishes that Pinocchio saves himself, Pinocchio risks his life to save his father. 
And yes, I am crying right with Geppetto, Figaro, Jiminy, and Cleo over Pinocchio.  When you watch this scene, watch the shot where Jiminy is leaning on the candle as he cries.  I didn’t notice it until I watched Snow White and Pinocchio so close together, but for sad scenes they often do close ups of lit candles that have wax dripping down their sides.  The drops of wax look a lot like tears, almost implying that even the candles are sad.  But the tears transform into tearful smiles when Pinocchio wakes up, not a carving of wood, but flesh and blood.  Say what you will about the kid, but if you ask me, he’s more than earned that real boy status.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Magic Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Fairest One of All?"

I was severely tempted to start this blog out with: “Now to start it all, the one that started it all.”  I was also tempted to have the introductory paragraph be about how big a role the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs played to the success of the studios, which is so tremendous that it could be said that the Disney Company is the house that Snow White built.  Tempting also was to talk about the dozens of tributes to the film found throughout Disney, especially on the West Coast, where the Disney Studios are literally supported by massive statue replicas of the seven dwarfs, and at Disneyland, where Snow White’s Wishing Well is the most popular place in the theme park for marriage proposals.  Especially tempting was discussing the importance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the history of cinema, as the first full color, full length animated feature film.  So why did I not start out the paragraph that way?  Because all of these pale in comparison to the veritable impact Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has had on me.
            It should be fairly obvious that I have an incalculable amount of affection for this film, considering the title of the blog as well as the lovely icon that serves as the site’s symbol.  Not only is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs my absolute favorite Disney film of all time, it’s also one of my favorite films in general.  The love I have for this movie and these characters goes back as far as I can remember.  When I was four years old, I had dark brown hair that barely skimmed my chin, pale skin, and dark eyes.  So when my mom went out to the local Disney store to buy my sister and I Disney dresses, she naturally gravitated towards the dress that belonged to the character that I looked the most like at the time.  My sister wound up with an Alice dress and I had a Snow White dress.  Many adorable pictures were taken of us in these dresses.  To this day, my sister has a substantial obsession with all things Alice, just as I have a substantial obsession with all things Snow White (my Snow White purse collection and my “Someday My Prince Will Come” ringtone both being prime examples).
            Now for those of you thinking that I have an unfair bias when it comes to Snow White, you’d be absolutely right.  I feel a need to defend her and her film when I hear people bash her and her film (and there are those that bash it).  That said I am able to recognize that Snow White is not a perfect film.  Despite the great lengths Walt Disney himself took to editing this film to perfection, there are two scenes in particular that I feel drag on too long: first is the scene before the Dwarfs come across Snow White in their house and the second one is the scene where the Dwarfs wash their hands before mealtime.  After hearing Ward Kimball talk about the “five dollars a gag” incentive that Disney had in place during the production of this film (which you can find if you check out the Nine Old Men documentary on the Platinum Edition DVD of Cinderella), I think the reason those scenes remained untouched is because there were a lot of great visual gags in those scenes (I would love to know the animator who came up with the gag of Grumpy hiding in the sack of potatoes and his nose looking like a potato initially).  There are also critics who would criticize the animation, but this is something I strongly contest against. 
When viewing this film, you have to keep in mind that this film was literally the first of its kind.  There had been feature length animated films before (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0029583/trivia if you want to read more about that) but none had been attempted on this scale before.  With that in mind, the animation becomes a marvel.  No characters are taken for granted.  When Snow White sings “With A Smile and A Song,” no animals are standing still.  Each is doing an independent movement, granting each rabbit, fawn, chipmunk, bird, raccoon, and squirrel its own personality.  When Snow White moves, she never just walks she practically dances from one place to the next. When the animals are attempting to get the Dwarfs to return to the cottage, notice Sleepy in the background half-heartedly swatting at the birds pecking at him but never bothering to leave the mine cart where he naps.  Even though it is fevered, intense scene, Sleepy never breaks character.
Even though the film moves at a quick pace for the most part, the audience very much becomes emotionally invested in this story.  Even though I know I’ve seen this movie at least twenty times, I still find myself in tears this time around when the Dwarfs are crying at Snow White’s wake.  I think about how sweet and totally innocent Snow White was and even though she had done nothing intentionally to spite the Queen, there were still forces that wanted her dead.  If Ward Kimball’s account of the Snow White premiere is correct, some of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time can relate to what I’m talking about. 
It is here on my tear-streaked face that we find what makes this film the pinnacle of the Disney experience.  This film was released to the public back in 1937.  A little math reveals that as of 2010 this film is seventy-three years old.  Over seventy years later, this film still moves audiences to tears.  Over seventy years later, we still laugh at the Dwarfs’ antics.  Over seventy years later, we still misquote the lyrics to “Heigh Ho.” Now you might be saying right about now that Snow White is not the only Disney movie that inspires its to laugh and cry (and I am positive that the days to come will be full of both Disney inspired laughter and tears).  What makes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the most unique, quintessential Disney experience?  Well, how many Disney films do you remember scaring the pants off of you as a kid?
Now I know, the Disney animated films of your childhood are looked back upon as the stuff of dreams, not nightmares.  But if you think about it, Disney animated films are childhood’s first horror films (something that will be further explored as we go on).  One of the aspects I find the most striking about Snow White is how dark it’s willing to go for a film made during this time period.  Just take a look at the Queen in both of her incarnations.  Both are chilling in different ways.  The Queen herself is beautiful but stoic and most of the time emotionless.  The only times she expresses any sort of emotion is when she gets this murderous glint in her green eyes.  They go from being hooded and alluring to wide and psychotic.  The scene where she delivers the order to her Huntsman is a good illustration: she’s very casual and composed at first, telling the Huntsman to take Snow White to pick wild flowers.  Her whole demeanor changes when she suddenly drops a bomb that she expects him to kill this innocent young girl: her whole body becomes alert and she rises to her feet emphatically when faced with disobedience.  If your skin doesn’t crawl when the Queen orders the Huntsman to bring back Snow White’s heart in that ornate box (which has a whole back-story explained in the Disney Press book Fairest of All by Serena Valentino), it’s on too tight.
But the Queen has another persona in this film that is possibly more terrifying.  The Hag she becomes is the stuff of fairytale nightmares, the old crone that took delight in luring children to their deaths.  Her most horrifying moment comes from her discovery of the antidote to the poisoned apple.  Convinced that the Dwarfs will mistake Snow White for dead, she cackles and gleefully delights in the idea that Snow White will be buried alive.  Those are her exact words by the way.  A lot of properties geared towards children try to avoid words that are threatening like dead or kill.  Here is a villain openly expressing a desire to watch an innocent child suffer and die.  Intense stuff, huh?  Even Walt Disney himself recognized that the Queen went a little too far: “Both the wicked Queen and the Peddler Woman turned out to be more frightening than Walt Disney anticipated: He never made another villain that scary, that real, that menacing” (Disney Dossiers, Jeff Kurtti, page 130).
This film also features one of the most gruesome fates to ever befall a Disney villain: Queen falls off cliff, boulder falls on Queen, and vultures swoop down to eat what is left of Queen.  Gruesome, isn’t it folks? What makes the scene even more chilling is that the audience does not see any of it.  It’s all implied through the visuals of the boulder falling right after the Queen’s tumble off the cliff (who can forget the gut wrenching scream the Queen emits?), the dwarfs peeking over the ledge, and then finally those vicious vultures smiling gleefully before flying in a circular formation over where the Queen fell.  This whole scene was Hitchcock before there even was a Hitchcock.
To go even further, Dario Argento, esteemed Italian horror film director, has said that his film, Suspiria, was his attempt to make a horror film in the style of Walt Disney (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076786/trivia).  He told his cinematographer to study Snow White to get a sense of the color palette that he wanted.  If you watch Suspiria, or at the very least look at stills from it, you will notice strong similarities in imagery between the two films.  Both films feature young female protagonists with dark hair, fair skin, and huge expressive brown eyes.  Both of these characters find themselves being threatened by older women who practice witchcraft. 
            But the moment that I realized the full emotional scope Snow White possessed did not come from watching the film, but came from a recent visit to Snow White’s Scary Adventures in Fantasyland in Disney World.  It should come as no surprise that it’s one of my favorite dark rides (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh being the other) now, but that was not the case when I was five years old.  When I rode it for the first time all those years ago, I was enchanted to see Snow White singing to a pretty white dove but scared for her when I saw the Queen watching her from a window.  But within the next scene came a moment that scared me to the brink of insanity… okay, maybe not to the brink of insanity, but it scared me into ducking my head into my mom’s lap.  If you’ve been on the ride, then you know exactly what moment I’m talking about. 
            Now that I’m a twenty five year old, I don’t feel the need (as much) to duck my head into my mom’s lap when I ride this classic dark ride.  But during a recent excursion to Disney World, my sister and I sat in the second row of the mine cart (Sleepy, I think) behind a mother and her three or four year old daughter.  Out of curiosity, I watched the little girl’s reactions to certain scenes.  She was enchanted when we passed by Snow White singing to the doves, but when we turned the corner into a much darker, familiar scene, she immediately clung to her mother’s arm and pushed as far away from the Queen as possible.
            It was in this moment that I realized not only the power of Snow White, but the power of Disney as well.  Here was a little girl terrified of the exact same scene that I was terrified of twenty years ago.  And if you spend some time on the Snow White IMDB page, you will discover that when Snow White was first released, Radio City Music Hall had to replace all of their velvet seat upholstery.  Why?  Because young children were so frightened by the Queen and the forest scene, they wet their pants.  This was back in 1937.  Here is what’s amazing about Snow White and Disney himself.  Seventy years ago, this film made its audience laugh, cry, and wet their pants.  In 2010, the film is still causing that exact same emotional response in its audience: we still laugh, we still cry, and the Queen still makes us wet our pants.