Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas

                                           My Christmas card to all of you, Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Fantasia (1940) and Fantasia 2000 (1999)

 This month of November, The Disney classic Fantasia is now 80.

                                                                  Theatrical Trailer

                                                          Fantasia 2000 Theatrical Trailer

      Conductor Leopold Stokowski, Interview On His Work On Conducting & Disney's Fantasia

    In 1982, Fantasia was reissued with a rerecorded Dolby soundtrack conducted by Irwin Kostal.

                For the 1990 reissue the Stokowski soundtrack was restored and back in the film.

                         The Film Show's segment about Fantasia and the 1990 restored version.

                               D23's The Fantasia Legacy: A Conversation with Eric Goldberg

The Disney artists reused animation of one of the ghosts from the Night on Bald Mountain segement from Fantasia for The Black Cauldron (1985). Hen Wen the oracular pig's vision of the Horned King in her drinking water.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Sunday, September 27, 2020



    (screenshot of the title card from the 1958 Walt Disney People and Places travelogue short: Wales)

from  an 2015 article from Wales Online. (back when Maleficent (2014) was in theaters there)

"Out-performing even bomb-proof comic-book blockbusters like X-Men: Days Of Future Past, it’s gifted its star Angelina Jolie with a much-needed commercial hit, while allowing Disney to capitalise on the success it enjoyed with last year’s musical-fantasy Frozen.

Once upon a time, however, the mouse-eared US film giant’s track record wasn’t quite so spellbinding.

Indeed, their 1985 take on Welsh folklore such as The Mabinogion – the little remembered and unlamented The Black Cauldron – failed badly to work its magic on an indifferent public.

Based on a series of books called The Chronicles of Prydain by Philadelphia writer Lloyd Alexander – who drew inspiration for his fantastical landscapes from the time he spent here during World War II – it told of a lowly assistant pig keeper called Taran whose dreams of becoming a brave warrior lead him into battle with John Hurt’s Grim Reaper-like Horned King and his army of skeletal zombies.

Clearly regarding it as a chance to make its epic masterpiece, Disney bought the rights to Alexander’s work in the early ‘70s – predating even the original United Artists’ cartoon version of Lord of the Rings by several years.

However, the process of adapting it into the cinematic spectacular they’d hoped for fell foul to prolonged delays, largely because studio execs didn’t feel the then animation department was quite ready for the size of the task at hand.

Eventually though, Disney – desperate to change its uncool squeaky-clean image with older children and teens – began production in 1981 and revealed it would be the very first full-length piece of animation ever to incorporate CGI."

"More pressure was then placed on the studio’s coffers by the outbreak of a three-month long animators’ strike in 1982, which set the project back still further and pushed an already dilapidated and overworked team of artists to its limits.

Furthermore, an 11th-hour sea change in Disney’s senior management line-up heaped on more woe, those drafted into replace the previous top brass having drastically different ideas about how The Black Cauldron should turn out.

As a result, the editing saw entire sequences either having to be hastily re-done or cruelly expunged altogether.

Ultimately, however, the biggest blow came from indifferent cinema-goers themselves.

Disney’s great white hope only managed to muster $21m in domestic US takings, meaning it even faced ignominious defeat at the box office to lightweight fare such as The Care Bears Movie.

But it was Wales which would come out the biggest loser, because while The Black Cauldron’s characters all have names like Hen Wen (a prophetic pig), Fflewddur Fflam (voiced by the late Nigel Hawthorne), Orwen and Eilonwy, the country itself never gets a namecheck.

“In fairness, it’s the same in Alexander’s novels, which he sets in the mythical land of Prydain,” says Cardiff-based film critic Gary Slaymaker.

“Aside from that though, there’s very little which can be said in support of The Black Cauldron. It’s an awful mess.

“For all the money thrown at it the animation looks like a rough first draft – too jerky and jarring – while tonally it’s all over the shop, with weak characterisation.”

He added that Disney’s attempt to break free from its tried and tested formula had been, although admirable, a massive misstep.

“It was the first animated film of theirs which wasn’t a musical, as well as being the first to earn a Parental Guidance only certificate - both of which probably went a long way to help kill its appeal.

“Actually, I remember it being pretty scary in places, particularly the scenes where an army of sword-wielding skeletons are conjured up from beyond the grave.

“It reminded me a bit of the final scenes in Raiders Of The Lost Ark where the Ark of the Covenant is opened and the wrath of God causes all the Nazi soldiers’ faces to melt.

“In fact, there were reports that, during the film’s initial screenings Stateside, hordes of screaming little ones had to be ushered towards the exits by their parents because it had all proved too much for them.

“It seems Disney’s efforts to appeal to an older demographic had failed, most teenagers in that post-Star Wars age being far more likely to go and watch sci-fi than sword and sorcery.”

With its 30th anniversary looming, however, Slaymaker believes The Black Cauldron might still benefit from a critical reappraisal.

“I’m sure a lot of animation fans out there want to see the complete uncut version of this film.

“And, who knows, there could be a lot of axed footage sitting undiscovered in some vault in the US.

“I hope so, because there’s the germ of a good film in The Black Cauldron somewhere – one which the kids of today, with their love of shows like Game of Thrones, would be far more predisposed to enjoy.”

Friday, July 24, 2020

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Lloyd Alexander's Unused Script

Excerpts from Didier Ghez' interview with The Black Cauldron's co Director Richard Rich
from the book Walt's People Volume 2

"DG: The Black Cauldron took 10 years to produce. What were the greatest ideas that were discarded through production?

RR: The story went in many different directions. They even had the writer, Lloyd Alexander come in and do a screenplay. They brought in another writer to do a screenplay But with Disney's animation approach at that time, the storyboard was key. It was more of a collaborative effort.
        Then Pete Young took that one and went to a room by himself. Pete died when he was still on that project. He was just a young guy in his late twenties.
He went in and brought lots of things and got people excited.

but [the challenge] was more in trying to find the approach to that film and to that story that would meet the Disney qualifications. The conflict was always about how far to push the darkness in it. in attempt to find a middle ground, it was probably too scary for kids but not too scary enough for the teenage market. I don't know that the balance was ever found, but it was an attempt to move off of the sweetness but still having the sweet qualities of Disney in there, with a love story, and Gurgi."

"DG: Why did you end up up not using the script by Lloyd Alexander?

RR: As often the case, animation is such a visual thing. The Lloyd Alexander script was extremely long, too long, Condensing the story into a seventy-five minute story was extremely difficult for him."