Revisiting Older Disney Animated Movies

Denisa and Daniela have been gone at Young Women’s Camp this week, meaning it’s been me and MC holding the fort down at home. (Well, Ferris has been there too. Mustn’t forget the puppers.) I think MC was kind of less-than enthused about the idea of having three solid days of Dad. Of course, some of that was off set by the fact that she went over to friends’ houses yesterday and the day before, so it was really more like three afternoons of Dad, but still.

Why would she be less than enthused? Well, for one thing, she’s a girl of routines. She likes to have Denisa braid her hair every evening, and it has to be just so. She likes knowing what to expect, and being able to do just that. (I have no idea where she gets any of that, of course. I’m nothing if not the pure soul of spontaneity.) For another, I just have more stuff to do a lot of the time. Those books don’t write themselves, after all, so each day I’ve got to devote a good chunk of time to writing once I get home.

In any case, I wanted to do what I could to make the few days memorable, and I discovered after picking her up from a friend’s on Tuesday that (gasp!) MC hadn’t seen all the classic Disney movies. I mean, I could see (theoretically) having missed out on The Great Mouse Detective. But what about The Jungle Book? The Rescuers? Alice in Wonderland?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

These are movies I just assume everyone has seen, though clearly I hadn’t been doing a good enough job as a dad, ensuring my kids were exposed to all the Disney movies. So I decided to rectify that at least in part, starting with the three movies mentioned above. It’s been interesting rewatching them.

It was only now that I realized just how recent some of those movies are. As a kid, all Disney movies had come out at basically the same time: “before I was born.” Anything before I was born was equal, more or less. But looking at it now, Snow White came out in 1937. Alice in Wonderland was 1951. The Jungle Book was 1967. Rescuers was 1977. To put that in today’s terms, if the Rescuers had just been released, Jungle Book came out in 2013, and Alice in Wonderland was in 1997.

I hadn’t realized there was such a huge gap between the movies.

Now, the important question: how well did they stand up? I’d say Alice did the best job, mainly because it’s just so flat out bizarre. It defies basic storytelling tropes by focusing on being curiouser and curiouser. The Rescuers was intense. Medusa is a seriously scary villain, and you’ve got her abducting orphans and threatening to drown them while they’re doing child labor? Disney movies played for keeps.

The Jungle Book wasn’t as good as I expected it to be. The pacing was much slower compared to modern movies, and Shere Khan just really isn’t present for most of the movie, making it so the villain is generally absent. This leaves the film without a real driving force for much of it. Of course, the songs are still fantastic, and the animation was great, but the story? MC kept losing interest.

That said, she still enjoyed all three of them, and she looked forward to watching them each evening. I’m now also wondering if I let Tomas and Daniela get through childhood without seeing those movies. It’s somewhat frustrating that Disney+ makes them a bit hard to find. If it were up to me, I’d have a specific landing page on the app, where all the animated movies are listed chronologically. Having such a huge back catalog of films should be a real asset, and I wish they weren’t always shoving the same recent shows and movies in my face. (I recognize, of course, that I might be in the minority with this opinion.)

Oh well. Until Disney+ comes out with something like that, there’s always Wikipedia. (There are 131 officially listed right now. I haven’t seen all of those, either. But come on. Planes: Fire and Rescue is listed there? Now let’s don’t be silly.

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