Here’s an in-depth look at a truly underrated movie. What makes Robin Hood defy the odds?
My video essay and review breaking down the storytelling potential in Disney’s Tron Legacy.
They should have called it “Scoundrels: A Star Wars Story”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed this movie; I just don’t think it should have been called “Solo”. I didn’t love it, but I liked it and felt it was a good way to spend a lazy afternoon. However, I feel like it does better without the Solo name attached to it. I purposefully went into the theater trying to forget the Han Solo I knew and the original trilogy. I did not want my opinions of Han Solo as a character to color the movie. Nobody can replace Harrison Ford as Han Solo, so I made a point of separating Alden Ehrenreich’s Character from Solo entirely in my mind. On that level, it really works.
As a science fiction heist film it plays fairly well, but check your expectations of a Star Wars film at the door. There are several moments of heavy fan-service, but other than that, the film works best when you let yourself forget that it’s Han Solo or the Star Wars universe. After a few minutes or so of trying not to compare it to the Star Wars characters I know and love, it was easy to slip into the story at hand.
On that point, the story is pretty solid. It’s nothing special, but it’s still enjoyable. A couple heists, a raving villain, some double-crossing shenanigans… you get the picture. It may be what people expect, no more and no less, but that’s part of the fun. Sometimes you just want some crowd-pleasing simplistic entertainment; the same viewer mentality of Saturday morning Kung Fu movies. As long as you go into it knowing what you’re in for, you might actually find yourself enjoying it!
There was a lot of fan service, even more so than Rogue One. But, besides from a few hammy and forced moments (The Imperial March playing in-universe, weird droid crushes, and Han’s gurgling linguistics as a few examples), these didn’t interrupt the flow of the movie very much. In my opinion, casual fans will have no problem getting into this movie as it doesn’t alienate them, and yet there are enough inside-jokes for the super-fans to feel special. A previous knowledge of the Star Wars canon isn’t really needed to jump in and enjoy the story. It truly is a standalone movie, with very little impact on the larger Star Wars Universe, and with very little interference from it in return. In fact, it’s actually a little crazy when you remember that there is no mention of The Force at all in this movie (something that has never happened before in a Star Wars film); an impressive feat when you realize how iconic the Force is to the Star Wars mythos.
The movie has good design and special effects, something that you can always expect from Star Wars, and the cinematography is solid. The writing is competent, even if it’s nothing particularly memorable. The score is average, as is always the case when John Williams is not the composer for Star Wars, but it performs well for it’s purpose. The performances are actually surprisingly good for what the actors have been given, and as long as you separate Alden Ehrenreich from Harrison Ford in your mind, his performance is just fine. The real standout performance for me was Donald Glover as Lando (you probably saw that one coming); he really nails the charisma and confidence of Billy Dee Williams and does the character justice. A more surprising performance was the eccentric and creepy Dryden Voss (Paul Bettany) who really leaves a slimy impression with comparatively little screen time.
Of course, some of the characters are little bit…extreme…for my taste, with some being unique in a good way, and others not so much. There was one character that I felt was a little bit preachy. I felt like the droid, L3-37, monologued about her political ideals a little too much. she could have gotten the same message across with little more subtlety, but that’s just my personal opinion. I freely admit that I’m very picky when it comes to subtlety in characters; preferring actions to speak louder than words when it comes to motivation.
However, even with this personal preference, I wasn’t bothered by the character and still enjoyed her antics. So no harm done in the end I guess. In the end, all of the characters fit well with the tone of the story.
That’s another thing; the story could be better, but It’s a miracle that it’s not awful. Let me explain! Now, I’m just speculating, and I could be completely wrong, but I believe that we almost got a very bad movie! In my opinion, Lucasfilm seemed to abandon hope over Solo as soon as they fired Christopher Miller and Phil Lord. They released Solo a mere month after Infinity War, and had Incredibles 2 come out not long after, which bespeaks a fear that Solo wouldn’t do so well at the Box Office. Usually a company will only plan releases so close to each other if they expect one of them to be a failure. It’s no secret that Ron Howard is a ‘safe’ replacement and reshot 60-75% of the movie not long before its release.
In my opinion, this was because the previous directors’ work was so bad that Lucasfilm was in emergency mode and made last-minute changes to try and salvage the situation; not even expecting someone as competent as Ron Howard to fix it. Now this is all speculation of course, but there are enough irreverent “21-Jump Street style” Jokes in the movie (They are awful and my least favorite part of Solo) which feel too much like Lord and Miller’s style for us to ignore this idea. Imagine a whole Star Wars movie of cringey wink-at-the-audience and fourth-wall-breaking jokes. I believe this sophomoric humor was the direction the film was going, and that’s why the directors were fired so disgracefully. If this was true, it’s a miracle that Ron Howard managed to make anything decent out of it.
But all that speculation aside, what we got wasn’t that bad at all! Solo is a solid film and not the complete disaster everyone was expecting it to be.
Everyone seems to be sharing their thoughts on Infinity War. At first, I thought writing a review of my own would just be creating white noise. But then I gave it some more thought and realized that I had to write a review; because if I don’t, I might go crazy from all the thoughts swirling around in my head! I need to get them out of my mind before I’m driven mad, so without further ado, here’s my Infinity War review and analysis!
Infinity War is different from any other Marvel movie in history. It opens different. It ends different. It even plays out different. Right from the cold open, to the end credits, this movie takes you through a unique journey. And when I say cold open, I mean a cold open out in the middle of space, where in the first five minutes of the movie, two of the longest running characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe die. Both Loki and Heimdall, fan favorites, die relatively harsh deaths before the actual story even starts. The directors want to make it very clear to the audience that this movie will be unlike any other Avengers movie ever made. In one genius stroke, they let the audience know that no one is safe. For once, a Marvel movie has very real stakes.
It’s totally ambitious, not just because it is the culmination of 10 years and 18 movies in one shared universe, but also because it risks alienating the very fans that have made the franchise so popular. They took risks with the themes of the film and even with the lives of characters, raising the death toll with the possibility of making some viewers upset that favorite characters had been axed. The fans of the comics, including myself, may have been mentally prepared for it (even if they didn’t know the exact details), but the average viewer was not. With one wrong move, the makers of this film could have alienated a large portion of the fan base.
But with a brilliance that is often overlooked, the directors (the Russo Brothers) managed to pull off these calculated risks, all whilst honoring what had come before, juggling dozens of A-list stars, and even…dare I say it…telling a fairly engaging story. It’s interesting how many people take this feat for granted. If you looked at the facts, you’d see how nearly impossible this film should have been to pull off; at least on a technical level. And yet they did it.
The theme is sacrifice. We don’t have time to cover all the instances of this theme here, but there are quite a few (especially from Gamorra and Vision). Even with the villain, the Russos didn’t shy away from playing with this theme. Even if I still hate Thanos, and his backstory only makes me hate him even more, at least they managed to make him believable. The character, even through heavy CGI manages to convey weighty emotion, and really makes you believe he’s a real person with real motivations (whether we sympathize with those emotions as an audience or not).
Thanos is not some forgettable Dark Elf that wants revenge. He’s a deeply disturbed individual who believes that killing half the universe will curb overpopulation. He watched his home world die because of that, and he wants to prevent it from happening anywhere else. It may be insane and morally wrong, but it’s also a unique and plausible motivation for this ‘Mad Titan’. He really believes himself to be the hero. Most of the audience is pulled into this slightly different perspective. In Thanos’ mind, he is the hero who is sacrificing everything that he has, and the Avengers are the villains arrayed against him; attempting to stop him from obtaining universal peace.
This uncomfortable perspective makes the audience, at least in my opinion, hate him even more, as one-by-one my favorite heroes are swatted away like mere insects. It’s a bit depressing to see our heroes not have much of a chance. Thanos managed to dispatch Hulk with a single Infinity Stone. What can our heroes possibly do when he has more? The answer is nothing. Even the strongest Avenger is no match for Thanos and for the first time in Marvel cinematic history, the heroes have lost before the movie even begins. They can do absolutely nothing about it.
Well, almost nothing. My last point is the theme of failure and mistakes. The heroes have several opportunities to beat Thanos, and every small glimmer of hope is snatched away by a single character’s mistake. It’s not just Star-Lord and his sentiments for Gamorra that you should be mad at…everyone had a chance to mess things up. Of course, there were several of these chances that I’m glad they avoided (like Star-Lord killing Gamorra so Thanos didn’t get the Sould stone, or Scarlet Witch killing Vision so that he didn’t get the Mind Stone), but there are also several that would have been fine. Iron Man went to Titan to fight Thanos on his own turf, even when Strange said it was a stupid idea. Scarlet Witch went out to battle in Wakanda when she should have been protecting Vision. Even Thor failed to land a killing blow, or at least cut the gauntlet off Thanos’ hand, with Stormbreaker. There were so many moments when the good guys could have won, but they did not and that is the true art of this movie; to show that, even in the world of superheroes, mistakes have real consequences.
For the first time, several real heroes died in battle; not just token characters. They did not shy away from killing off popular heroes that we love, and they even managed to surprise the audience with who died; leaving alive the older heroes that everyone thought were going to die, and instead killing the newer ones that we expected to live. Not only was it emotional for the audience, but it was also emotional for the characters. The filmmakers have, by killing off the Avengers’ closest friends and family, brought the original heroes of this universe to the lowest place that they have ever been; raising the stakes to the absolute maximum to bring them to the point of desperation for the coming battle in Part 2…and that is feat to be reckoned with!
Why Fans Hate Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo: A Star Wars Story is coming to theaters this week, and it’s safe to say that not that many people want to see it. Expectations for the next Star Wars movie are at an all time low. But what is the reason for this? There are quite a few reasons, but there is one that seems to get a lot of attention. It’s a question that seems to pop up a lot on the internet; are fans upset with this film because they don’t want to know Han’s origin?
Well, you might be surprised by the answer…It’s quite the opposite really! Most hard-core fans have low expectations for this film because they already have what they consider to be a perfectly good origin story for Han Solo. Some people think this film is cheapening their childhood memories by not only wiping 40 years of Solo continuity from existence, but also replacing it with something that they expect to be inferior. These fans are perfectly justified for having those feelings, but that doesn’t mean that they will come true! So, let’s find this out, shall we?
We’re going to cover the fan-accepted origin story of Han Solo as established in the original Extended Universe, so that when you go see Solo: A Star Wars Story, you can judge for yourself which version is better! That way, the decision of who is right is up to you! Ready? Let’s begin!
The Surprising Origin of Han Solo
The abbreviated story, which was once canon under the Star Wars Expanded Universe, goes something like this…
Han Solo was born on a highly civilized and well-respected planet called Corellia, seven years before the Clone Wars began. The specifics of his birth and early years of life are unknown, due to him suffering memory loss. However, it was known that he was orphaned at a very early age. Living on the streets, Han Solo was soon discovered by ex-bounty hunter Garris Shrike. Shrike immediately put Han Solo to work as a pickpocket and thief, discovering that the boy had great skill. Han’s natural wit and charm allowed him to pull of heists that many others couldn’t. During that time, Han Solo met the Wookiee Dewlanna who was serving under Shrike as ship’s cook. She took the boy under her wing and practically raised him; teaching him to be a good person and various life skills; including her language, Shyriiwook.
Due to several scams executed under Shrike’s leadership, Han also quickly learned how to fend for himself, and even discovered that he had an uncanny ability for piloting.
Not too long after joining Shrike, Han surprisingly learned that he was descended from Corellian royalty! His ancestor was a benevolent king who had introduced democracy to the planet. Ecstatic for the possibility of meeting his family, Solo ran away from Shrike to track down his surviving relatives. Unfortunately, this went horribly wrong when Han learned that his aunt and cousin were sadistic and mad. They quickly betrayed Solo back to Shrike.
Solo’s remaining career under Shrike was quite legendary; his first indirect encounter with Boba Fett was probably the standout of these formative years, as it hinted a famous rivalry lasting their entire lives. But eventually, tiring of Shrike’s villainy, Solo once more tried to leave him. Sadly, Shrike attempted kill Solo instead of letting him leave in peace, and it was only the sacrifice of Dewlanna that allowed Solo to escape. As a result, Han Solo swore that he would always show kindness to Wookiees, no matter the cost.
A few years, and a couple of shady undertakings later, Han Solo entered to most interesting and surprising part of his life: service in the Imperial Navy! Believe it or not, Han had always dreamed of becoming an Imperial pilot, and thanks to some connections he made earlier (which take place in ‘The Paradise Snare’ by A.C. Crispin if you want to learn about them), Han Solo was accepted into the highly prestigious Imperial Academy. Solo quickly gained a reputation as the best pilot in the Navy; pulling off maneuvers that others thought impossible. He graduated the academy with top honors and immediately became a Lieutenant in the Imperial Navy. As an Imperial Officer, something would happen to him that would change his life forever.
Han Solo was assigned to a duty related to slaving. It was here that he saw the atrocity and evil of the Empire by witnessing the slavery of Wookiee children. He watched in horror as Wookiee adults and children were forced to build monuments to Imperial dictators. When one of the slaves, named Chewbacca, revolted against his captors, Han Solo could not stand idly by and let the Wookiee be killed. So, Solo turned on his commanding officer and fled with Chewbacca into space. The Wookiee swore a life-debt to Han, serving him forever in return for his life.
After that, Han became involved with many crime-lords (including his fateful employment under Jabba The Hutt) and various schemes as he ran from the empire. He gained infamy wherever he went, and bad luck seemed to follow him everywhere. It seemed as if everyone wanted to kill him! During these years of living in danger, Han met a gambler named Lando Calrissian and won two very important things; a valuable friendship with the charismatic Lando and a gambling victory against him which gained Solo the legendary Millennium Falcon. Unfortunately, Solo’s friendship with Lando turned sour when Solo was tricked into losing money that he owed Lando during a job they pulled together. It would be years before the legendary scoundrels forgave each other.
The rest is history, as the remainder of Solo’s unlucky smuggling career, and his ill-luck with Jabba, is already summed-up in A New Hope! No matter which origin you prefer, Han Solo will still always be regarded as ‘the best pilot in the galaxy’, and one of the greatest anti-heroes in cinema history.
So, what do you think of these origins? If you see Solo, please let us know what you thought and how you think it compares to this version!
Who Are the Knights of Ren?
Last Jedi Spoilers Ahead!
Some people were not happy with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film seems to have split the fans down the middle. There are those that love it and those that hate it. There are people who don’t fit into either of those two groups of course, but those two viewpoints have received the most attention. What if I told you that there’s a way that might satisfy both viewpoints in the future? What if I told you that the key to respecting both groups of people (as much as much as possible, you can never please everyone) can be found with one simple question.
This question, if answered correctly, could save the Star Wars storyline from some serious problems in the future, and it might even help them improve the plot. Well, it’s a possible solution. What’s this question, you might ask?
“Who are the Knights of Ren?”
It can’t be that simple, right? ‘The answer to a single question can’t do that much for a story’, you might think. And you’d be right, if we took the question at face value. But if we dig deeper and look at how the answer affects other points in the plot, we might find the question is deeper than it might seem.
Let me start at the beginning. What do we know for sure about the Knights of Ren so far? Practically nothing, except for the fact that Kylo Ren leads them and that they’re the origin of his ominous name. They’re supposed to be elite warriors based on what the filmmakers have said. That’s not a lot to go on, is it? Maybe there’s something more to this group than meets the eye, especially since Kylo Ren thinks they’re important enough to name himself after! Why would Ben Solo change his name to Kylo Ren instead of something like ‘Kylo, Master of Ren’ or some other fancy Dark Side title. I might be thinking too hard about it, and it could be as simple as it sounds. But, I believe that he chose to name himself after the group he led because they were crucial to what he would become.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Kylo is very close to the Knights on a personal level and he’s not just their leader. What would make the Knights so special to him? What if the Knights were always with him? What if the Knights of Ren were there since Kylo’s days in Jedi training?
What if the Knights of Ren are the other Jedi apprentices…
Can we assume that Snoke would be able to manipulate more of Luke Skywalker’s students than just Kylo Ren? In both episode VII and VIII it was stated Snoke had twisted Kylo’s mind from a distance, without Luke even realizing it was happening until it was too late. I don’t think it’s too much to say Snoke could have done this with the other students as well. Snoke showed that he could read every thought of someone as powerful as Kylo and connect the minds of Rey and Kylo over vast distances, so it’s not a stretch to say that he could’ve twisted the minds of less powerful Jedi.
If that’s true, why not take it a step further? Why couldn’t Luke be manipulated by Snoke as well? What if, when Luke went to attack Kylo in his sleep in The Last Jedi, it wasn’t the Luke we know. What if his mind was being poisoned by Snoke against his will? ‘But he’s too powerful for that!’, you might think, and you’re right. Luke doesn’t follow through with what his poisoned mind tried to do, he snaps out of it at the last second. Instead of hesitation or second thoughts, I think it’s plausible that his change of heart might have been him breaking free from the Dark Side Influence and going back to his right mind.
This would also explain why Luke felt so guilty and tried to hide when Rey came looking for him. Not only did he lose most of his students to the Dark Side, with his own nephew as their leader no less, but he was also manipulated himself into doing something against his own beliefs… Something he swore he would never do, but he did and he’s afraid that he might do it again, so he hid away from the galaxy. That way Snoke could never control him again.
After that, nothing could stop Snoke from pitting his new apprentices against one another as a test for Kylo. They could’ve fought until Kylo was the only one left; a brutal way to ensure Kylo would walk down the path to the Dark Side, and an explanation for why he doubts the Dark Side in Episode VII. It certainly shows why Kylo would want to kill Snoke so badly.
And so, when Snoke finally dies Luke decides to face his nephew and leave his exile. The threat of his mind being manipulated by Snoke’s power would finally be over! This might also be why Luke ultimately sacrifices himself. Snoke’s power could have prevented Luke from manifesting as a Force Ghost. Luke would be far more powerful than Rey and Kylo as a Force Ghost, just like Obi-Wan and Yoda. So, it’s possible that when he was freed from Snoke, he could have let himself be killed to ascend to an even greater power. Maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch even for me, but it might be possible.
This solution isn’t perfect, and it won’t please everyone but it’s a start! And think about the implications this could have on the plot moving forward! Not only would it help fix some of the problems that fans had with the movie, but it would open amazing new possibilities for telling stories… maybe we can even see more of Snoke and his origins in the future…
What do you think? Do you have any other ideas to help the story of Star Wars in the future? We’d love to hear them!
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Alice in Wonderland (1951)
#1: It Was the Origins of the Disney Studio
Walt Disney started his career in animation at a rather young age by working at the Laugh-O-Grams Studio in 1921. But that job was doomed to fail, because the Kansas City based studio went bankrupt in 1223, leaving Walt Disney without a job. The last film he made for that company, Alice’s Wonderland, never saw a release. The film, loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, followed a live-action girl that ventured into a cartoon world. Walt was very fond of his film, as he had always dreamed of making a full-length film based on Alice and he believed this short to be the first step towards that goal. He used it as a pilot to engage potential distributors into signing him on for a contract and a steady job. Eventually one did; Margaret J. Winkler (distributor of Felix the Cat), contracted Walt for an entire series based on the film. Through this deal, Walt founded his own studio in late 1923 titled Disney Bros. Studios (the ‘Bros.’ part referring to Walt’s lifelong partner and brother, Roy Disney), and today we know this company under its more familiar title…Walt Disney Productions! The studio was literally founded on Alice! And it would have been the subject of Disney’s first Feature-length film, if it hadn’t run into a bit of a problem!
#2: One of the Longest Projects in Disney Animation
As we mentioned above, Alice in Wonderland was considered as the primary candidate for Walt’s first feature-length film. In fact, Walt went so far as to purchase the rights to Sir John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations of Alice. However, the concept was dropped in favor of Snow White for several reasons. The main reason was Walt’s discouragement when Paramount Pictures beat him to the punch in 1933 with their live-action version of Alice. However, Walt never forgot his dream of making his own version of Alice. He revisited the idea in 1938 after Snow White proved to be an enormous success. He even registered the title with the Motion Picture Association of America. But due to creative issues and story problems, especially with adapting the unorthodox ‘nonsense’ of the books into a script, the project slowed down significantly. Then the devastation of WW2 hit, putting both of Disney’s biggest projects at the time (Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan) on hold. Even after the war, Disney had so much trouble adapting the books into a workable plot structure, that production became a virtual nightmare. This led the film to be delayed for another 6 years, until it finally made its big screen debut in 1951.
#3: It Went Through A Lot of Crazy Changes
As you can imagine, 15 years in production caused a lot of changes to the Alice in Wonderland story. An early version, with concepts and story treatments by David Hall and Al Perkins respectively, explored a more surreal approach. However, Walt, despite praising Hall’s brilliant artwork, deemed these concepts as too close to Tenniel’s drawings and called them ‘difficult to animate’. He also thought the tone of Perkins’ treatment was too ‘grotesque and dark’. The next iteration of the story, for which Disney hired the British writer Aldous Huxley, was also a bit off the mark. This version was reportedly very academic in its approach. Apparently, it was too academic, and risked alienating the children who watched. However, a background artist by the name of Mary Blair finally arrived at the tone and look that Walt was searching for; a world full of vibrant colors and unforgettable characters!
(Below are side-by-side comparisons of David Hall’s concepts and Tenniel’s original illustrations for the novels)
#4: The Characters were Just as Fascinating Behind the Scenes
Speaking of characters, Alice has some of the most memorable characters in any Disney film. This was largely due to the voice talent, which was considered the first real all-star cast for a Disney film. In fact, it was the first ever Disney film to include the names of it’s actors as a major part of its marketing, something that wouldn’t happen again until The Jungle Book. The cast included huge stars like comedian Jerry Colonna as the March Hare, British actor Richard Haydn as the Caterpillar, radio veteran Sterling Holloway as the Cheshire Cat, and the famous vaudevillian actor Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter.
Ed Wynn, a stage master, did most of his best work improvising during the live-action reference filming; so much so, that Walt decided to use the primitive audio of those shoots instead of his pre-recorded work. The result was a brilliant impromptu performance, but with slightly odd-sounding audio. You can even hear a sound technician’s voice during one scene at the 45:50 mark! These voice talents, coupled with genius and unorthodox animation by Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men (with Ward Kimball’s madcap animation being of note in the most famous scenes), created iconic versions of the characters that have become as famous, if not more so, than John Tenniel’s designs.
#5: Its Music Broke Records
Last, but not least, was the fact that Alice in Wonderland still holds the record for the most songs in any Disney film EVER! Not only that, but the film’s memorable songs won the Academy Award for best original score. Due to Walt’s desire to including Carroll’s famous poems and rhymes in the film, without interrupting the story, he opted to turn most of them into songs. Originally, around 30 songs were created for the film, but due to run-time, it was cut to a total of 14 songs in the 75 minutes of the film; that means there was a song almost every 5 minutes!
What’s your favorite Alice fact?
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Peter Pan (1953)
Walt Disney (born 1901) predated the creation of Peter Pan’s play by 3 years. Therefore, he was the perfect age to grow up with the popular play. He was an even better age to be influenced by the subsequent novel which revived the popularity of the show in 1911; being among the thousands of young children who fell in love with story. After seeing it live, he could never forget it, and it even prompted him to play the title character in school.
So, to honor this classic’s 65th Anniversary, and Walt’s love of the story, here’s a list of 5 things you may not know about Peter Pan!
#1: It Was Almost Abandoned
It was no surprise that Walt had always wanted to make a Peter Pan film. In fact, after making Snow White, Walt had originally intended for Peter Pan to be one of his earliest features. He procured the rights as soon as he could afford them and made plans to move into pre-production not long after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was first released.
But fate was not so kind. The rights of Peter Pan were very difficult to obtain because J.M. Barrie had donated them to The Great Ormond Street Hospital in Britain; an act of astounding charity that unknowingly made the rights difficult to license. Eventually, Walt did gain the rights, but it was too late. The U.S. had already been drawn into WW2. The U.S. Government took control of various studios, including Disney, to produce propaganda for the war effort. This brought Peter Pan to a screeching halt. In fact, the project seemed abandoned for good, until Walt managed to get the studio back on track after the war with Cinderella (1950). With the returns from Cinderella, Walt managed to fuel dream projects like Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Sleeping Beauty (1959), and Peter Pan finally made it to the screen after a hectic 15 years in production!
#2: Peter Pan Changed Everything
Peter Pan marked the end of two eras at the Disney Studio. The first was that Peter Pan was the last Disney film in which all of the ‘Nine Old Men’ worked together. The “Nine Old Men’ were the most influential, skilled, and loyal animators at the studio. All of the Nine stayed with the company after Peter Pan, but split up into different projects such as developing Disneyland, or working on live-action films. The second era that Peter Pan ended was that of the ‘third-party distributor’. Peter Pan was the last Disney film to be distributed by a third-party distribution company. In fact, Walt has been working most of his career to accomplish this. He was proud to unveil a brand-new company, Buena Vista Distribution, to the public later that same year! Now he would distribute his own films. This meant that he could finally have 100% control over his product from start to finish. In the past, companies like RKO Radio Productions (the distributor of Peter Pan) would control Disney’s product after it was finished. With Buena Vista, Disney finally had the ability to do what he wanted with his films whether he was finished with them or not.
#3: The Story Was Almost Completely Different
Over the 15 years of its production, the story of the film changed drastically. In one early version of the film, Peter Pan thought that John was too grown-up for Neverland and abandoned him. This would have made one of the main characters of the original Peter Pan story nonexistent in early drafts! In addition to possibly dropping certain characters, there were also dramatic changes to the overall tone of the film. There was an especially dark and more serious version of the film that was storyboarded, targeted more towards teenagers, that Walt promptly shut down for being too scary. And in a final possibility, Nana, the nursemaid dog, was going to accompany the children to Neverland. In fact, the narrative of the story was going to be told from her point of view!
Of course, any one of these possibilities would have made the story completely different from the beloved tale we know! But it’s fascinating to see what direction the Disney artists went before they settled on the right course. It’s always interesting to see what could have been.
There is an popular rumor going about Tinker Bell which has gained quite a bit of notoriety. Legend has it that Tinker Bell was modeled after the famous film star Marilyn Monroe. While this is a very interesting, and naturally compelling theory, it is unfortunately NOT TRUE! The idea of Marilyn being popular enough to influence the design of a Disney character has become so popular that Marc Davis himself (Tinker Bell’s designer and animator) went on record to say that he actually directly based Tinker Bell’s design on model Margaret Kerry. Margaret provided live-action reference for the character and the influence of her distinctive features can be clearly seen in Tinker Bell. Tinker Bell may bear a passing resemblance to Marilyn, but it’s impossible for her to be based on the starlet, since Marilyn didn’t really become famous until AFTER Peter Pan!
Peter Pan has one of the most fascinating voice casts in all of Disney’s history. A star-studded cast, including a few familiar Disney veterans, filled out the ranks. The title role was filled by Bobby Driscoll, a veteran of five Disney films, and a popular teen heartthrob. Surprisingly, he was the first male to play Peter Pan on film ever! In addition to Driscoll, another Disney child star, Kathryn Beaumont, played Wendy Darling a mere two years after appearing as Alice in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Finally, to everyone’s excitement, long-time character actor Bill Thompson (White Rabbit, The Dodo, Scrooge McDuck, etc.) played the lovable Mr. Smee.
But it wasn’t only Disney Luminaries who made up the cast. The great Golden Age starlet Heather Angel (Bulldog Drummond) provided the voice of Mrs. Darling, Television superstar Tom Conway (The Falcon) voiced the narrator, and last but not least, unparalleled Radio King and stage veteran Hans Conried (Orson Welle’s Mercury Theatre Company) turned in the distinctive performance of the hilarious Captain Hook; a fan favorite villain. In fact, Hans’s voice is so comparatively unique, that it’s hard not to notice that he also plays Mr. Darling; continuing a peculiar tradition of the stage performance where the same actor always played both characters!
Enjoy these facts? Let us know in the comments! We want to know; what’s your favorite thing about Peter Pan?
Pixar Saved Disney!
Disney has become synonymous with the art of animation and it’s no wonder as to why. Since 1923, the Walt Disney Company has led the industry in terms of story, art, and technical innovation. In fact, without Disney’s achievements in animation, most historians agree that Disney would not be the successful corporation that it is today. However, that’s not to say that the company hasn’t had their rough patches. In fact, there was a struggle in Disney history that relatively few people are aware of; a struggle that was resolved when Pixar saved Disney!
To explain how this happened, we must go way back to Disney’s Dark Age for context. During Disney’s self-proclaimed ‘Dark Age’ (the 70’s and early 80’s; the years following Walt’s passing), the animation division of the company was going through an artistic rough patch. Disney leadership focused less and less on animation; pushing out films that were cheaper and less artistic than Walt Disney’s original standards. Many animators were dissatisfied with the results of the era. As a result, some of those same animators, under the leadership of a veteran artist named Don Bluth, left and formed their own company; Don Bluth Productions. This was the first time in history that Disney had a real rival for animation; a serious threat that might have ended Disney Animation for good.
Thankfully, many of Disney’s best animators stayed through the tough times and eventually pushed through the Dark Age and into the Renaissance; returning Disney to the days of innovation and art! With the advent of the Renaissance, and Disney’s return to quality over cost, Disney rocketed past Don Bluth Productions and once more secured itself as the top company in animation. However, the success of Don Bluth Productions had unforeseen consequences; it taught film executives that other companies could succeed in the field of animation. Soon, an art form that was almost exclusively dominated by Disney met with many more rivals than it ever had faced before.
From the mid 80’s through the early 2000’s, various other companies rose up to challenge Disney’s dominance in animation, and Disney had to work extra hard to stay ahead of the shifting professional landscape. For the most part, this wasn’t really a problem. Disney’s films were usually far more successful than their rivals, and Disney had their long and storied past to rely upon for support and experience. No one could really contend with Disney on an artistic level in the 80’s or 90’s due to Disney’s acclaimed Renaissance. When they stuck to their roots of quality and innovation, Disney was at the top of their game.
However, it was not to last. After the release of Tarzan in 1999, Disney leadership once more reverted to the strange and dangerous decisions that were made in the Dark Age; effectively ending the Renaissance and beginning a new age called the Experimental Era. While many in the animation department at Disney strove for excellence, they were undermined by corporate leadership. As a result, even though most of the films in this era used bold new techniques and attempted to approach new types of stories, most of the films met with mixed results regarding critics and audiences. With Disney seemingly struggling to stay ahead, rivals swooped in with a vengeance; trying to rise to the top using Disney’s lack of success.
But luckily, Disney would not be beaten so easily. Roy E. Disney (Walt’s nephew) strove to keep Disney animation at the top and managed to overturn the leadership of the company in 2005/2006 and replace it with a new one that would respect animation and make sure that it was always striving to be the best that it could be. This new leadership was…Pixar?
Yes, indeed; Pixar save Disney Animation! Disney had already been partnering with Pixar since the release of Toy Story in 1995, and the company had realized that Pixar had become what Disney Animation wanted to be; a company full of innovation, artistic exploration, and high-quality production. While Disney struggled with their films in the early 2000’s, Pixar had excelled at every single one that they released; appealing to newer audiences and smashing records with their unique stories. Disney started to see that a Pixar partnership was not enough, and that they needed Pixar more than they thought. So, they ended up purchasing the company in 2006. The lesser-known result of this purchase was the leadership shift that accompanied it. With Pixar becoming part of the Disney family, the founders of the young CGI animation studio were unexpectedly co-opted into running Walt Disney Animation; breathing new life into the struggling Disney animation division and filling its offices with younger and fresher artists!
This ensured that the people behind Pixar’s success would also contribute to Walt Disney Animation’s success; giving Disney Animation strong artistic leadership that would respect animation as an art form and secure the historic company in the new millennium. The decision certainly paid off, because as soon as Pixar leadership took the reins of Disney Animation, the company saw a revival…The ‘Disney Revival’ era that we are currently living in today! With the success of Princess and the Frog in 2009, Disney entered a Second Golden Age.
Finally, after the release of 2011’s Winnie the Pooh (the last Disney hand-drawn film) Disney’s started its permanent transition to the more commercially stable format of Computer Animation that was pioneered by Pixar! Without these changes, Disney might have lost its animation division to younger rivals and would have been a very different company than the one we know today. Pixar led Disney animation into an era of financial stability for the company spearheaded by commercially and critically successful films like Zootopia, Frozen, and Tangled; making Pixar the inadvertent savior of the Disney company as we know it today!
What’s your favorite Pixar or Disney animated film since the Revival?