(Clips from Disney live-action movies play as "The Egg Travels" from Dinosaur plays in the background)
Doug (vo): So after reviewing the 2D animated films and the 3D animated films, I was trying to think what would be the next logical step for Disneycember, and everyone seemed to voice their opinion that they wanted to see the live-action films. Well, the problem with that is, there's, like, a bajillion of them. I have one month to get through these and, it's just way too much. But at the same time, I was thinking to myself, "These movies have left a big impact. Just as much if not bigger than the animated ones." So it did seem kind of a shame not to talk about them in more detail. So, here's what I decided to do: I'm gonna go through the live-action movies, but only the ones that are the best known; the ones that left an impact, the ones that whether for better or worse, we remember. The Mary Poppins, the Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the Pirates of the Caribbean. The films we remember from childhood just as much as Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and so forth. Now the other catch to that is because, hey, being Disney, they like to do a lot of sequels, and keep in mind this wasn't just a newer thing, they did this a lot in the past, too. So, what I'm gonna do for that is, if one of the movies I'm reviewing does have a sequel or even a remake, I'll do another video just quickly summing them up, quickly talking about it, but I won't go into as much detail as the main movie, because like I said, there's a lot of these, and we gotta get through them. And why shouldn't we? A lot of these films are like live-action versions of the animated films. It was so cool to see a woman actually fly, it was so cool to actually see the pirates come out and swordfight with skeletons and all the stuff that we saw in the ride. And, of course, we love our animated magic. But at the same time, there was something really cool about seeing that magic come to real life, or at least, a little closer to real life. It made the illusion just seem a bit more believable, and that's what we're gonna look over. We're gonna look over which ones worked, which ones didn't, and which ones left the biggest impact and why. So, get ready, everybody. This is the return of Disneycember: The Live-Action Films.
(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing the poster and clips of The Reluctant Dragon, as well as a poster of Treasure Island)
Doug (vo): Believe it or not, there's some debate over what was actually the first live-action film. Technically, the first one they did was The Reluctant Dragon, but the majority of that is just showing how they made an animated film, that being The Reluctant Dragon, which is cute and okay but, not much of a narrative. Some argue that the first live-action film is Treasure Island, because it was the first one not to have any animated characters in it.
(The poster of Song of the South is shown, before showing clips from the film. The song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" plays throughout)
Doug (vo): But, I'm gonna go for the one that I declare the first actual live-action Disney film, and that's Song of the South. Yeah, I can just feel all the asses around the world clench up just when I say that title. This film has so much controversy about it that it was never released to video or DVD*. In fact, I'm probably among the last generation to see this in the theater. Yeah, remember those Nostalgia Critic commercial specials where we had Song of the South being advertised? I remember actually seeing those ads. And, of course, I wanted to see it on the big screen. So, is it as offensive as people say it is, or is it really just harmless? Is it memorable? Is it bad? Well, let's take a look.
- Actually, it was released on home video, just not in the US.
Doug (vo): The film centers around a white boy and a white mother who are being dropped off at a plantation. The father looks like he has to go back to work, as he seems to do a job with some sort of controversial journalism; it's never quite explained. I think it's hinted that it's some sort of race relation thing, but we don't really know if he's pro or con, at least, I never picked up on it. The boy starts to journey around the plantation and comes across a group of slaves*, all gathered around one guy named Uncle Remus, who's told more famous folklore than can be counted. Uncle Remus is a nice, likable guy who befriends the boy very quickly, telling him stories all about Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear. These scenes, of course, are animated. And need we forget he sings that unbelievably catchy song.
Uncle Remus: Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-a-Dee-Ay...
Doug (vo): But a couple of misunderstandings start to happen, and the mother doesn't like her son hanging out with Uncle Remus anymore. But once the dumb little white kid acts like a dumb little white kid and accidentally gets himself in a bullpen, a tragic accident occurs, and, of course, they have to see what's the best way to bring him back, and I'm just guessing that Uncle Remus might play a big part in it.
- Actually, this takes place after the Civil War, so they're in fact free, though the film doesn't bother to establish that.
Doug (vo): I guess the first thing to talk about is the elephant in the room and that's how this is racially portrayed. This does take place in a time of slavery and it's definitely addressed...sort of. The only major clue to kids would be that at the beginning at the day, they all sort of go over this hill, and then at the end of the day, they all kind of come back. Hm? I wonder where they went? Everything else in the movie is pretty much just them being laid back and telling stories and having a good time. So I guess for a lot of kids, I don't know if they would catch on; I didn't when I was younger. The dialogue, of course, is trying to capture how we thought black people talked back then, and, I'm just gonna take a wild guess and say they got some things wrong. But their heart is still in the right place it seems. In the end, it's pretty obvious that the moral of the story is don't be prejudiced, people come together, listen to one another, so the lesson certainly isn't bad. But at the same time, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little uncomfortable every time they say the term "tar baby". And, yeah, I know the term comes from these stories, but, eh...I still feel a little weird. For my money, again, as a 30-something white person, I don't see anything horribly offensive, but if I was a little black kid watching this, I don't know how I would react to it. Regardless, how does the film itself actually hold up? Well, I have a theory that, maybe the reason they never pushed so hard for a DVD release is that the film actually is just kind of, meh. That is to say, there are still some very strong elements in it.
[Many scenes showing Uncle Remus is shown]
Doug (vo): For example, the guy playing Uncle Remus is unbelievable. I mean, this guy has the biggest heart, the biggest smile, the nicest voice, you just wanna, oh, eat him up. He's just the nicest guy. He's what makes this movie. And, of course, having the Academy Award-winning song isn't too bad either. It's still catchy, it's still upbeat, and it's a Disney classic.
[The film's animated sequences are shown]
Doug (vo): The cartoons are also a lot of fun. They're really funny, they teach some basic life lessons, they're colorful, they're bright, they have really good comedic timing.
[The film's live-action scenes are shown]
Doug (vo): But honestly, it all kind of goes downhill whenever it's with the white family. Talk about frigging Wonder Bread. These guys are so boring! It's one of those movies where I thought when I was younger, that when I grow up, I would understand the depth and drama more, like there's other stuff going on that I didn't understand, and, yeah, that's kinda true. I didn't really understand the slavery stuff and now I do, but there's not really too much else going on. I thought maybe the father's controversial job would play a bigger part, but it really doesn't. And the moral is just about as basic a moral as you can get. And without going into too many spoilers here, when the father does manage to come back at the end, there's kind of a choice made that, well, sort of the mother and even in a sense the boy kind of makes in terms of who he wants to see, and, while it's a happy moment, it still kind of puts the father in a bad spot. I don't know, it seems to rush up to happy at the end. Wouldn't there be more stuff discussed? Wouldn't there be more conversations? Or, eh, I don't know, it just feels like there should be something more.
[The film's blend of live-action and animation are shown]
Doug (vo): Also, the blending of live action and animation in this is really freaking good. I mean, this is along Roger Rabbit territory. When something goes in the shadow, they darken it so that looks like it's in the shadow. When it's further away, they blur the lines. They really did their homework on this and it's really effective. But there aren't too many scenes like that. Most of it is focusing on the family, which, like I said, is pretty boring.
Doug (vo): So, I'm really torn on it. There's some really good stuff with some good songs and good acting and good performances and good animation, but what it all really adds up to is not really that fascinating, not really that important, and, yeah, could be taken the wrong way with racial sensitivities. I don't think it's nearly as offensive as a lot of other stuff that's come out in the past, but, again, I'm not sure what people's take on this could be. I guess it depends what you're looking for. If you're interested in some good positive scenes, then, yeah, you'll find them here and just have to sit through a bunch of boring moments, too. But if you're looking for a complete film, something that can really take you back and forth through emotions and an incredible journey, this one probably won't do it as much. For me, I'm still glad I saw that great performance, I'm glad I heard that great song, and I'm glad I saw some very funny animation. Do I wish there could have been a lot more depth to it? Yeah, but I think for the one or two elements in it that are good, it is kind of worth talking about, and worth looking over. I don't know, in my opinion, if they release it with one of those Leonard Maltin openings or Whoopi Goldberg openings, where they talk about the racial and sensitivities and how it wasn't right then, it's not right now; all that stuff, I still think they can release it. (Images of Splash Mountain are shown) I mean, hell, if they made a Disney World ride out of it, I think they can release it on DVD. I think the few elements that are memorable are worth remembering. Take it for what it's worth, see if you can find a copy yourself, and draw your own Zippity conclusion.
[The film's final scene is shown]
Chorus: Singing a song, a Song of the South!