Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Movies from my childhood (part 2): The Great Mouse Detective and Cats Don't Dance

In all my life, I've probably seen around 700 movies (this is just a rough estimate, so bear with me here). Out of these, I'd guess that somewhere around 100 of them are animated. And out of those, only about 15 have helped shape my outlook on cinema and life. These few films, no matter how amazingly terrible or terribly amazing they may be, are some of my favorites. There is no denying it. I suppose these posts are my way of "thanking" them. Click here for part 1 and here for part 1.5.

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)When I set out to write these two (well, three) posts, I specifically told myself that I would not include any Disney movies. I am sick and tired of people talking about how flawless their track record has been, and figured I'd give them a break from the stardom by boycotting their movies (at least, for a few blog posts). But while I was writing this, I was reminded of a Disney movie that shaped my childhood like no other Disney movie could have: The Great Mouse Detective.
Loosely based around Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character and derived from a children's book called Basil of Baker's Street, it follows a mouse detective (shocking), Basil, and his sidekick Dr. Dawson who are trying to figure out why a villain named Ratigan kidnapped a famous robot/toy maker. The toy maker, named Hiram Flaversham, is the father of Olivia Flaversham, who hired Basil to find him.
Sound interesting? It is. Especially for a young child. This movie stands out from the rest of the Disney back catalogue, especially when you are referring to movies made before the 90's. It was...dare I say it?-somewhat adult. Of course you had your children's humor, but something tells me that this movie essentially created the made-for-kids-but-adults-will-enjoy-it-too genre of animated movies that have been especially popular in the last few years. The use of guns, a serious crime (kidnapping a single father, leaving his daughter alone), and killing off characters (not on screen, but still heavily implied) made it feel like Disney was really reaching out. I'm glad they did.
But what's even better, legendary b-movie actor Vincent Price was the voice of Ratigan.

Cats Don't Dance (1997)Though this was released in '97, it wasn't one of my favorites until around 2000, when I was ten. The story follows a young aspiring actor feline named Danny who travels to Hollywood from his small town to try to make it big in the movie business. But after upstaging world-famous actress Darla Dimple (a clear shot at Shirley Temple) while playing a bit part in one of her films, he is told that he'll never be able to work in Hollywood again. His best friend, a short ice delivery penguin named Pudge, convinces him to try again. And so the story begins...
All this, and a love story with a female cat named Sawyer make this a film to be remembered. The musical numbers are amazing, and the animation style still remains fresh and original, even after 11 years. This movie was in the same vein as Rock-A-Doodle, in the sense that I was always humming or singing the songs as an adolescent. I suppose you could even go so far as to say that these two movies (along with a few others, Aladdin and Hercules being included) are the ones that got me into music. I remember having a tape of one of the songs from this movie, with an alternate version on the b-side. I'd put it in my tape deck and switch it around every four minutes, just so I could hear two versions of the same song over and over again. My parents hated it.
Wikipedia tells me that this was one of the last movies to use traditional animation cels. This makes me sad, for some reason.

I decided to save We're Back! for another time. For some reason, I didn't feel like writing about it at all. It'll be in part 3, which should be written before the end of 2008, and include 3 or more movies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

cats don't dance is an amaaaazing movie!