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Dinosaur was Disney's first foray into a computer-animated movie that opens with a fantastic sequence that sees a dinosaur egg get separated from its nest and go on a silent (except for the score) journey across a beautiful prehistoric Earth. It's quite stunning. And then characters start talking and it all goes to hell. While Dinosaur's animation is clearly dated, it holds up acceptably. What doesn't is the story, which is essentially The Land Before Time, but with less interesting characters.
49. The Sword in the Stone
The Sword in the Stone is a strange film because one wonders why they bothered to make it a King Arthur story in the first place. The titular object only appears at the tail end of the story and instead, the film focuses on a teenage Arthur and Merlin running around as different animals in some sort of bizarre attempt at educating the future king. Outside of the final moments, this could have been a different story, and probably should have been. It's more like a collection of shorts than a cohesive story, the actor playing Arthur apparently went through puberty during recording as the character's voice changes from high pitched to low and back again throughout the film. Clearly, nobody was paying much attention to this movie.
48. Melody Time
During World War II, the Disney Studios stopped producing the fairy tale films they were known for and instead focused on "package films" collections of shorter animations that were cheaper to produce during what was a lean time in America overall. Melody Time was one of the final films produced like this. While there's nothing wrong with any of the shorts, they're all fine, there aren't any that are of particular note either, which makes Melody Time really the least interesting of the package films. There's no cohesive narrative between the shorts and it feels even more thrown together than the rest of the collections.
47. Meet the Robinsons
A story that nobody was looking for based on a book that few were familiar with. Meet the Robinsons takes a simple idea from a children's picture book and expands on it to reach a theatrical length. The story we end up with, dealing with time travel, alternate timelines, and other such sci-fi elements -- but in only the simplest possible way -- feels utterly contrived and it's not nearly as creative as we know Disney can be. The entire movie feels like a set-up for a big reveal that is telegraphed from the beginning.
46. Brother Bear
Brother Bear features one of the most irritating Disney sidekicks in history, which is saying something. The heartfelt message at the center of the story is a worthy one, but every time the film gets close to building some real emotion, the Phil Collins soundtrack jumps in to steal all the thunder and kill any feeling that might have been building in the audience. If the music was particularly good that would be one thing, but when it plays over one of the most heartbreaking conversations ever in an animated film, hearing what the characters say could have made Brother Bear one of the all-time greats.
45. Make Mine Music
Make Mine Music was the first short collection released by Disney as a feature film. It's essentially Fantasia. One of the segments, Blue Bayou, was actually originally created for that film, but with all different sorts of music, not simply classical. There's no connective tissue between the shorts, which Fantasia has, which makes some of the jumps between the shorts feel really disjointed. Shifting from the calm and peaceful Blue Bayou into All the Cats Join In with music by the Benny Goodman Orchestra could give you whiplash. Still, it does contain a couple of classics in Disney's version of Peter and the Wolf and Casey at the Bat.
44. Fun and Fancy Free
Fun and Fancy Free is another package film, only this one contains a pair of longer stories, rather than multiple shorts. First is Little Bear Bongo, about a circus bear that escapes to the wild and falls in love, and Mickey and the Beanstalk, about Mickey Mouse...and a beanstalk. It's one you've more than likely seen, though it's less likely you've seen the feature film version that includes narration from ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy. If their style of humor works for you (and it does for this writer), it's actually pretty great.
43. The Rescuers
The Rescuers was one of those 1970s Disney films where it was clear the studio wasn't quite sure what to do with itself. The film sees a collection of mice who have made it their job to help out humans, including, in this case, a little orphan girl who has been kidnapped because she's small enough to fit down a hole where the remains of a treasure from a sunken ship can be found. Yeah, the plot is rough. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor voice Bernard and Miss Bianca, our two rodent leads, and they work well together. Still, they must have done something right, they got a sequel.
This movie is a beautiful mess. Hercules is a movie about finding your place in the world. Or perhaps it's a movie about the problems with celebrity culture? A classic chosen one hero's journey? Hercules doesn't know what it wants to be. Still, there is something oddly charming about everything in the film that isn't Danny DeVito. Amongst the film's issues, there are a couple of standout performances, including an all-time great villain in James Woods' Hades and a female lead in Susan Egan's Megara who will be forever criminally overlooked because she was in a movie that wasn't a smash.
Once upon a time, Disney believed Pocahontas was the movie that would win the Animation Studio the coveted Best Picture Oscar. Needless to say, that didn't happen. It's clear from the beginning that Pocahontas wants to be something grand and important, but the execution of the idea never quite works. It's false equivalency of both Native Americans and European settlers as "savages" tries desperately to be insightful but it's not. The music is also off-key, as there's almost nothing memorable about the soundtrack. It's a visually stunning film, but that's about all that makes Pocahontas special.
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