When it comes to historical accuracy, our next stop on the Disney Odyssey is definitely near the top of the list… that is, the list of films which took TONS of liberties with historical fact and real culture. Even so, it’s arguably one of the best portrayals of Native Americans in Disney canon, let alone in film history at large. Let that sink in for a second. Bottom line? We need more representation of cultures written and enacted by members of those cultures themselves. Representation matters.
That being said… it’s near and dear to our hearts for various reasons and we knew we needed to bring in an expert on historical weaponry… since we don’t have an expert on indigenous peoples of the Virginias circa 1600. That expert happens to be Katie Kowbel, a historical reenactor and a drama teacher that we know through the ren faire. She was thrilled to join us, and offer her truthbombs about musketry and How Reloading Works.
The next installment of the Disney Odyssey is an animal-centric movie, which means only one thing: the return of famed big game hunter and animal rights activist…. Professor Gordon! For this momentous occasion, we also invited comedic genius Andy Huttel to join us – and thus the meeting of the bearded gingers was begun.
An actual photo of Professor Gordon (left) and Andy Huttel (right) in the wild.
Both Bill and Andy had a lot of personal connections with The Lion King so it seemed only right to have them both weigh in on this highly formative film from the mid-1990s.
The excitement to finally get to watch one of the best Disney movies of all time was immense – and the Fella and I were happy to share this milestone moment with our dear friend Alexis.
photo by T.Katz
photo by Allen Castillo
photo by Denise Bennorth
A fortune-teller, a comedienne, and a witch at different turns in her life, Alexis is talented performer and creator in her own right. She definitely brought her a-game to the table when it came to our next stop on the Disney Odyssey… Aladdin!
Welcome to Australia! The landscapes are diverse and breathtaking, the animals strange and beautiful, only some of the people have funny accents, and everything is poisonous!
Yes, that’s right… we’re on to our next film in the Disney Renaissance, and it’s a sequel! The very first sequel to make the list!
The Film:The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor returned to voice Bernard and Miss Bianca – but this would be Eva Gabor’s last film before her death in 1995. A third Rescuers film had been planned for 1996, but was scrapped after she passed away – and all future Rescuers films likewise were wiped off the drawing board. Additionally, the character of Orville was removed from this movie because his voice actor Jim Jordan had passed away. He was replaced with John Candy playing his brother, Wilbur. (Hashtag, Wright Brothers joke.)
This is the first animated sequel for a Disney movie – all following sequels would be straight-to-video (except for Fantasia 2000).
Use of the CAPS production system for this digital wonder of the modern animation world cut production time down by six whole months.
The flight scenes with Marahute (the great golden eagle) were heavily inspired by the work of Japanese animation maestro, Hayao Miyazaki.
The movie’s villain, Percival C. MacLeach, would inspire later Disney villains of a certain “masculine hunter” type, including Gaston (Beauty and the Beast), Clayton (Tarzan), Governor Ratcliffe (Pocahontas), and Commander Rourke (Atlantis: The Lost Empire).
Interestingly, it was released in the same weekend as one of the highest grossing films of the 90s – Home Alone. This was the primary factor which led to The Rescuers Down Under being the least (financially) successful film of the Disney Renaissance, and ultimately discouraged Disney from releasing other sequels in cinemas. Direct-to-video, however, was another story…
It is the only Disney Renaissance film to not be a musical.
The voice actress of Minnie Mouse – Russi Taylor – has a cameo line as one of the nurse mice in the hospital when Wilbur is about to be operated on.
The only actual Australians in the film are Tristan Rogers (the voice of Jake, the cool outback kangaroo mouse) and Peter Firth (the voice of Red, the male kangaroo in the MacLeach compound).
Disney master animator Glen Keane is responsible for the exquisite animation work on Marahute.
This is it, folks. The moment we’ve all been waiting for… well, most of us, anyway. The first Disney princess movie in thirty years (since Sleeping Beauty). The first movie of the Disney Renaissance, heralding the utopian years of the 1990s when every film was a musical, every film was made of gold, and the very fabric of our childhoods was wrought with exquisite hand-drawn art painstakingly and carefully integrated brand new CGI techniques. The movie that made a generation of little girls long for perfect flowing hair, tiny waists, beautiful voices and powerful fish tails.
It’s time for The Little Mermaid.
The Film:The Little Mermaid (1989)
Once upon a time… the story for this movie was drawn from the utterly disappointing and depressing fairy tale of the same name written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1837. In that version, the prince falls in love with another girl, and the mermaid vows to kill them both – but she cannot, and, brokenhearted, she dissolves into seafoam. Then she is transformed into a spirit of the air, bound to do good deeds for three hundred years in order to ascend into heaven. So there’s that.
It made $211.3 million at the box office.
Ariel is the first redheaded princess, and she is also the first princess to bare her midriff. She was made to be a redhead in order to differentiate her from Daryl Hannah’s character in the movie “Splash” which came out a few years before this. Ariel is the first princess to have siblings, as well, and all of her sisters’ names also begin with the letter A. Ariel’s physicality was based on actress Alyssa Milano, and she was voiced by the incomparable Jodi Benson. Jodi was so into the role that she recorded “Part of Your World” in the dark – to get that underwater, isolated feeling. Ariel was fully animated by Disney legend Glen Keane, who demanded the right to animate her himself after seeing Jodi Benson recording the song.
The role of Ursula almost went to Bea Arthur, Roseanne Barr, Jennifer Saunders, and Elaine Stritch, among others who auditioned for the role. Stritch was cast but left the project after she and Howard Ashman did not mesh well. Ultimately the role was filled by Pat Carroll, who based most of her performance off of Ashman’s renditions (and ad-libs!) of the song in rehearsal.
Did you know that all of the bubbles in this film are hand-drawn? None of the bubbles were Xeroxed. They even had to outsource some of the bubble-drawing to China, but this was interrupted by the student riots in Beijing. Watch this movie again and try not to think about the poor animators painstakingly drawing each and every single bubble… it’s madness!
Prior to this movie, songs for the animated features were written beforehand and then integrated into the story later. This marked the first time they changed that process: the songs were written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman alongside the storyboard creation for the film, to make the songs more organically integrated.
There are plenty of nods to other Disney films and characters in this movie, although they may be more subtle than in some of the other movies.
In the concert crowd, Mickey, Goofy, and Donald can be spotted if you look fast.
At Prince Eric’s palace, a portrait on the wall in the dining room looks a bit like Aurora and Philip…
Ariel’s pink dress is a combination of Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora’s gowns in their respective movies.
the housekeeper in the palace is wearing the same clothes as Cinderella wears when doing chores, just in different colors
Scuttle’s ‘romantic’ vocals before “Kiss The Girl” are actually the melody from Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo & Juliet.”