Tag Archives: cartoons

Propaganda & Animation #1: Chicken Little

22 Dec

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Anyone remember Disney’s classic adaption of Chicken Little? You know, the one with the adorable little chicken and a recitation of Mein Kampf?

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Not as good as Pinocchio quoting Joseph Stalin.

No, I am not talking about the 2005 feature animated film. Although there’s some devious sub messages in that film, I’m sure. Instead, we’ll be looking at the 1943 short film directed by Clyde Geronimi.

This is my first installment of Propaganda & Animation, which looks into odd and fascinating union of (surprise, surprise) Propaganda and Animation. One of the main reasons I created this blog was to explore animation’s role in the exciting and disturbing world of Propaganda. Most people don’t realize this, but beloved characters such as Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and others were masters at Propaganda. And perhaps nobody in Hollywood was as great a Propagandist than Walt Disney. Heck, the US Government even commissioned Walt Disney to make films to convince Latin Americans to not become Nazis. But that’s a tale for another day. Aside from creating propaganda for potential international allies, Disney also created propaganda pieces to be used here on the Home front.

The reason I’m starting with Chicken Little is that it is incredibly blunt in its propagandist nature (which makes it easy to write about), and I automatically adore anything that has a farm animals in it (which makes it even easier to write about).

Let’s first take a look at the film, which you can watch right here. Now this particular video begins with a disclosure from Leonard Maltin, so you know some serious shit is about to go down.

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Thank you for gracing our presence Lenny!

Maltin doesn’t just spew out his usual “Beware of racism and violence” bit. He goes as far as to state that, “Chicken Little is one Disney cartoon that parents might want to see for themselves before deciding if it’s appropriate for their kids”. Yikes.

The film begins as your run of the mill Disney fairy tale. You have a nice little barnyard overfilling with cutsie little animals. We then meet Chicken Little, who is described as a “Playboy and Yo-Yo Champ”

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And manages to be nerdier than the 2005 Chicken Little.

 

The narrator explains that the farm animals feel safe and secure because they are surrounded by a big, strong fence (like some Americans felt safe because a big, strong ocean separated them from Hitler). Speaking of which, the villain then makes his entrance.

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Quick little side note, Foxy Loxy was animated by my all time favorite animator Ward Kimball, who readers of the blog know I’m a huge fan of. Instead of using physical force, Foxy Loxy decides to use cunning and Psychology to destroy the farmyard. Originally, the title of the book he reads from was Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Deciding to be a bit more subtle, Disney changed to the title to Psychology, but the passages that Foxy Loxy reads are still from Mein Kampf. Some choice quotations include; “If you tell a lie, don’t tell a little one. Tell them a big one” and “Undermine the faith of the masses and their leaders”.

After reading, “To influence the masses, aim first at the least intelligent”. He asks, “Who looks nice and stupid?” and settles on Chicken Little.

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Yeah…. that’s about right.

Foxy Loxy, using theatricals that would make Liberace proud, convinces Chicken Little that a piece of the sky hit him on the head. In a panic, Chicken Little tells the farmyard that the sky is falling and the farm animals proceeds to lose their shit. Cockey Lockey succeeds in quelling the future fox fodder’s fears, by pointing out that the piece of the sky is nothing more than a hunk of wood with a star painted on it.

Undeterred, Foxy Loxy employs drag and impersonation to make the farm animals loose their faith in Cockey Lockey’s reason. He then puppets Chicken Little to be the new leader, who evangelizes everyone to the way of the Falling Sky. Chicken Little encourages everyone to run hide in a cave, per Foxy Loxey’s suggestion.

As Foxy Loxey follows them into the cave, the narrator reassures us that “everything will turn out alright”. Very Disney. But then we are shown-

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Why isn’t this a ride at Disneyland?

In shock, the narrator proclaims, “Hey wait a minute, this isn’t right! This isn’t the way it ends in my book!” To which Foxy Loxey, holding his book responds, “Oh yeah? Don’t believe everything you read brother!”

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Why isn’t there a ride based off of this at Disneyland?

With a dark ending like that, I’m not surprised that Maltin recommends parents to view this short first. I don’t really need to analysis this short too much, the film is incredibly blunt in its message. Chicken Little is a wartime parable warning the American public to keep a calm head in tumultuous times. For Americans today, the end of WWII seems inevitable. Of course Fascism in Germany, Italy, and Japan would fall. Good always triumphs over that sort of evil! But in the 1940s, it didn’t always look that way. The intentions of this short were to, in a very macabre fashion, tell Americans to keep calm and be controlled by reason. Fear, irrationality, and panic is what the enemy wanted. Keep Calm and Carry On.

Interestingly enough, the original ending featured a gravestones with swastikas representing the dead farm animals (is that a sentence you expected to read on a cartoon blog?). But Disney changed it, along with the Mein Kampf reference, to make the film less dated and more lasting. Which I suppose is a smart move. Because this parable is applicable to our world today. Don’t panic, that’s what they want.

All in all, I like this short. The characters are fun, it’s not condescending, and it doesn’t sugarcoat what is at stake here. There is no happy ending for irrational behaviour. The writing is slick and the animation decent. And successfully gets the point across.

I hope you enjoyed my first post in THREE YEARS. How criminal is that? In addition to Propaganda & Animation, I have a couple of other projects in mind that will generate posts. So here’s to me staying around! Happy Holidays.

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A Nostalgic Look at Monsters University

24 Jun

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For most of us, Monsters University was a very nostalgic experience. Because of this, I’m going to be a bit nostalgic and go down memory lane (Stay with me, it’s relevant).

When I was but a small inkling, I was crazy for one movie. Monsters, Inc. I remember having it on VHS. For a month after getting it, I watched it every single day. I had the Monsters Inc video game, and I religiously played it when not watching Monsters, Inc. Heck, I even watched the bonus features from it. Who watches the bonus features on video games?

The Nepal level pissed me off to no end.

The Nepal level pissed me off to no end.

To this day I am an avid Disney pin trader, and guess what my first pin was?  Boo from Monsters, Inc. I also want to take a moment and say that most kids who saw Monsters, Inc. found a connection with Boo because she was cute, Mike because he was funny, or Sully because he was brave. Oh no, not me. I had a weird fascination with Randall Boggs, the villain. I seriously thought he was the coolest. I’m sure that says something about me, that as a child I was fascinated with such a villainous and despicable creature. But that’s between me and my psychiatrist.

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Basically the reason why I like Steve Buscemi so much

I loved all Disney movies at that age, but I’m going to have to give credit to Monsters, Inc. for being the catalyst in my admiration of animation. It’s not surprising that I would eventually become a moderator on a Pixar fan site and write for an animation blog.

I actually remember seeing Monsters, Inc in theaters. I went with my neighbors on opening night. And 12 years later, I went to that exact same movie theater to see Monsters University on its opening day. So yes, I’m pretty nostalgic about that matter, which is perfect because this movie is a pretty nostalgic thing unto itself.

FLASHBACK, FLASHFORWARD

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If you are a Monsters, Inc fan then this film is especially a treat. There were a lot of great references to its predecessor. The first of which I noticed was the score. Pixar staple Randy Newman returns as the composer for this film. Several pieces of the music can be traced to Monsters, Inc. Especially the scenes involving the factory itself. The soundtrack also has amazing new pieces of music, and the end credits song is the headliner on my tumblr playlist at the moment.

In addition, some lines and dialogue were taken directly from Monsters, Inc. Word for word.  Pixar cameo staples such as AII3 and the Pizza Planet Truck make appearances as well. I was especially happy to see that Mike brought Little Mikey to college, but my favorite nod to the first film is easily Randall’s “Winds of Change” poster.

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If you don’t know the reference, then I am disapoint.

 And of course, there are a lot of familiar faces. It was a real treat to see the likes of George Sanderson, Waternoose, Roz, and the Abominable Snowman.  This film is fun on its own, but being familiar with Monsters, Inc will make this film much more enjoyable.

SOCIAL MEDIA AT ITS FINEST

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I would definitely fit in with Oozma Kappa

I would just like to take a moment and applaud Pixar’s marketing department. Because they outdid it with social media. Any old movie studio can create some funny trailers and appealing posters. But oh no, Pixar won’t settle for that. They created a fully functional University Website. Because I spent the past year working on transferring to a University, I have seen my fair share of University websites. And Monsters University’s is completely accurate. They list the schools, the majors, the classes, even the fricken’ textbooks required. There’s a store where you can buy MU gear. The Greek Life gets a section, the faculty gets a section, the parents get a section.  You can read up on how MU’s football team is doing. Heck, there’s even a map and directions page.

And if that’s not enough. Pixar pranked its own website. On April Fools, the Monsters University website was ‘hacked’ by its rival school- Fear Tech.

Oh, and Pixar also created a tumblr account for a student at Monsters University- Grumblr. Grumblr is a “Monstropolis transplant, MU sophomore, and self-diagnosed coffee addict”. Grumblr posts about frustration when MU looses a sports game to what certain students are up to on campus. So kudos to Pixar, they definitely did a fantastic job drumming up interest for this movie (as if it wasn’t needed already!)

AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE

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I enjoyed Monsters University way more than Pixar’s last two endeavors (Cars 2 and Brave). I thought that Brave was a sub par film, to be honest. There are a lot of reasons, but for this articles purpose I will focus on one. One reason why Pixar movies work so well is that they create entire new universes. In most Pixar films, we get to see the second lives of toys, cities and colonies for bugs, an alternate universe for Cars, or the Monster universe. And they don’t half ass it either. These universes have rules on what can and can’t work within them, and there is continuity. This is sort of Pixar’s niche- glimpses into new worlds is the basis of most of their films. There are exceptions, and Brave is the most notable. It was in world with a precise location and time. I applaud Pixar for going outside its niche, but it isn’t that Pixar ‘flair’ that most of us know and love. Creating new worlds is, and they have fun doing it.

Monsters University works so well because the studio expanded on the idea of the Monster Universe. We get to see a bit more of the factory itself, but we also get to see a previously unexplored idea- how Monsters get to Monsters Inc.  We see how doors to the human world are made, how great scarers are made, and even what birds in that world look like. This film is remarkably creative, and that in itself makes it incredibly enjoyable.

THE UNIVERSITY LIFE

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Poor Mike can never catch a break

This movie is especially fun if you’re a college student. I graduated last month from my community college, and I’m transferring to a University this fall. I actually had my orientation the day before I saw Monsters University. Don’t you love how the pieces fall together like that sometimes? So the film’s setting especially appealed to me, and peers who grew up with Monsters Inc, and are now college students themselves. There was defintely a lot of familiar sites. From the overly excited Orientation Leaders to the pre-finals coffee addicted students.   We also see a student who is incredibly anxious and optimistic to see his dreams come true, and we also see the overpowering pressure sense of fear should failure happen. This film is remarkably east to connect with if you’re a student.

A POWERFUL MESSAGE

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~Alright, this next part has no outright spoilers. However, I will be talking about the overall theme of the movie, what the message was. I won’t be talking about plot points, but you might still want to avoid this part if you want to keep a blank slate before seeing the film~

Monsters University is unique in its message. Basically it’s, “Guess what, just because you put a lot of effort into something doesn’t mean you’ll succeed. There are some things you just can’t do. Not everyone’s dreams come true”. And I loved that. Too many films (notably from the House of Mouse) have messages along the lines of “If you believe in yourself, your dreams will come true”. While it’s good to believe in yourself and have a dream, in the real world things don’t work out the way you want them to. The fact is that there are some things we can’t change about ourselves. No matter how much we try. And that’s alright. Because everyone has their purpose, their place. Not everything in life will go according to your plan. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be happy or find new dreams. So thank you Pixar, for this very unique and realistic advice.

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I don’t know what else to say. Just go see Monsters University. I know that I will be seeing it again, and I can’t wait to see what details I notice the second time around.

P.S. Terri and Terry Perry were awesome.

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Dead Disney #1- Dumbo II

23 Apr

So I thought that this would be an interesting series to do. There are plenty of blogs out there dedicated to reviewing movies or character that already exist. And those are great! But why not doing a tour of the Disney graveyard, and see the films and characters that weren’t fortunate enough to make it to the Big Screen.

There are A LOT of these. And I was trying to decide which dead Disney film to examine first. Most of the Disney films that were shelved are ones that I would love to see more of, and wish would of made it. So for my first post, we’ll examine one that I thank the Animation Gods for making sure it never saw the light of day.

The subject for my first post in this series is- Dumbo II

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You all aren’t aware of this, but Dumbo is one of my favorite Disney movies, favorite animated movies, movies of all time. It is very short, it doesn’t have Disney’s best animation, it’s simple, and it’s controversial. But none the less, I think it’s a brilliant film. I believe that it has the most underrated Disney soundtrack, and Timothy is one of my favorite characters in the whole Disney canon.

I’m not the only one who appreciates Dumbo so much. It’s actually John Lasseter’s (Director of Toy Story and chief creative officer at both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios) favorite movie of all time, and is a huge inspiration to all his films. I agree with Lasseter that Dumbo is a funny, moving, and entertaining film. Lasseter points out that it definitely lives to Walt Disney’s saying that ‘For every laugh, there should be a tear”.

What? No I’m not crying. I just have something in my eye.

There’s only one other Disney movie I like more than Dumbo, and if you’ve read some of my other posts you already know what it is (for those of you who are new, it involves a cricket).

So let’s take a look into Dumbo II. There’s actually a trailer of some persuasion out for this thing. It was included in the bonus features of the 2001 60th Anniversary DVD of Dumbo. It was to be a direct-to-video sequel. So we have a good grasp on the characters and story of what this film would of been. You can watch it right here. It’s narrated by the standard Disney voice over guy.

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The trailer is basically a behind the scenes look at the production of the film. It starts off with the artists talking about the legacy of Dumbo, and how sad the movie is, and how everyone can learn from it that we’re all different bladablhadablha.

The producer says that the challenge was to make a sequel that brings the same feelings that the original did. I try to be optimistic,  but I really know that that challenge would of failed. You can never recapture the magic of an original Disney film, isn’t that right Cinderella III and Peter Pan II?

I’ll be honest though, the only good part about Cinderella III was the Prince. He’s such a sassmaster.

Here’s the story of Dumbo II. It would of taken place a day or so after Dumbo ended. Now that Dumbo isn’t considered a freak (as he’s bringing in major bank for the circus) he’s made a group of super cool and hip friends. The major theme for this movie is friendship, and how friends are there for you and all that stuff we already learned in Kindergarten.

So who are these friends? Well Timothy for sure was slated to return, as he was Dumbo’s first friend when Dumbo had no friends. Timothy works on another level, as Dumbo is silent and Timothy can understand Dumbo and act has his surrogate voice.

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As for the new friends, each is based off of a different stage of development children go through.

There’s Claude and Lolly, the twin bear who rush to get every done, leaving a string of chaos behind them.

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Dot the Zebra the curious Zebra who always asks “whywhywhywhywhy”

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Godfey the ‘I can do it all by myself” Hippo.

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and Penny the adventurous Ostrich. She likes being in the spotlight and looks just like Daisy Duck.

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I’m not crazy for any of the characters  But I actually like Penny the Ostrich. The filmmakers point out that she’s a bit jealous. Dumbo is an elephant, who can fly. She’s a bird, who can’t fly. I think that would of led to an interesting conflict actually.

And the plot of the story is that the gang manage to get separated from the circus. Too hard to grasp? Not really. In Dumbo, the only boundary between the mother elephant and the spectators was a puny rope, allowing for that one bastard kid to enter the elephant arena and tease Dumbo. Security is not tight, so I’m guessing that it’d be fairly easy for a group of baby animals to escape.

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So now the animals are lost in the big city, and the major conflict is the baby animals dealing with their new freedom, but still trying to find the circus.

Isn’t that what this was about?

My main question about Dumbo II is this. How were they going to deal with the Crows? I’m not going to get too much into the Crows themselves in this post. I already addressed them a little bit in a previous post, and I’m currently writing a whole article about the controversy surrounding them. I won’t defend or condemn them in this post.

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But it is a fact  that they have a good deal of controversy about them. They have their fans, but they also have their criticizers. For those of you who haven’t seen Dumbo (who are you people, go see it!), Dumbo gets assistance from a murder of Crows. They are funny and helpful, and are basically the heroes of the film.

That’s right.  Heroes. Dumbo is cute, but is a baby and didn’t do much. Timothy tried to help Dumbo, but he actually made things worse. It was the Crows who suggested using psychology to get Dumbo to fly. So if they’re the heroes what’s the problem?

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They’re a group of jive talking Black stereotypes who are led by a crow who (although not called this in the film) was referred to Jim Crow in story production. While controversial now, they were in super strange way, progressive for their time (Show me a film from the 1940s where African Americans are the heroes, and are  shown as self confident and not dependent, intelligent and not stupid). These days Disney gets cited for being racist for having these characters in this films. So when it comes to Dumbo II, we run into a few problems.

The first option is to just ignore the existence of the Crows. Completely. Which I don’t like. They were such a big part of the first film, and Dumbo wouldn’t of gotten a happy ending without them.

The second option is to have the Crows in Dumbo II. But then it gets iffy, because while having jive-talking hipster crow was acceptable in the 1940s, it definitely isn’t savvy with our standards now.  South Park or Family Guy could get away with having characters like this, but I assure you people would get upset if Disney tried to pull this again. Generally, I find that people are forgiving of the Crows because they were products of the 1940s. But it wouldn’t fly now.

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Remember Princess and the Frog? People got all upset because the heroine was to be Maddie, an African American housemaid. Maddie was seen too close to “Mammy”, and her occupation was offensive as well. So Maddie the housemaid became Tiana the waitress. They made the film more PC because of criticism  which I’m not complaining about. I liked Tiana, and having her as a waitress/cook contributed to the story. Disney is very sensitive to how they portray race and gender in films these days. So it’s no question that if the Crows were in the film, they would of been made politically correct. And I’m very interested to see what that would of been like.

Although we don’t know for sure, I think (and hope) that the crows would of been in this film. They made cameo appearance on The House of Mouse. They also appear sometimes in merchandising, such as children books and pins. (I’m a Disney pin trader, and I actually have a Crow pin).

Remember what I said earlier about Disney being more PC? The crows’ grammar certainly improved.

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So what happened to Dumbo II? This happened:

John Lasseter!

When John Lasseter became the Creative Director for Disney, he put a stop to all Disney sequels. Because instead of introducing children to the classics like intended, the sequels often tarnished the spirit of the original films. And it’s not surprising that Lasseter wouldn’t want the same thing to happen to his favorite film.

So my final consensus on Dumbo II? I’m intrigued, very intrigued. I wish that we would know more information about this film, that’s for sure. But I’m a “purist” when it comes to Disney films. And I’ve never been impressed by a Disney sequel that wasn’t canon. And I’m a huge fan of the original Dumbo, and I’m certain it could never come close to the original. Also I think this sequel specifically appealed to small children and parents. The getting separated from parents is an archetypal fear for children, and  each of the new animal friends was based of a phase of child development. So it’s very relatable for children, and I’m sure parents would think that is interesting as well. But besides that, I don’t see this film reaching out to other demographics.

I want to know what you think! Feel free to make a comment on what you think of the plot, the new characters, and the crow situation. Thank you for reading!

Little Disney Things #1

9 Apr

One thing I love about animation is the details. You know, those things you don’t notice the first, second, maybe even third viewing. Now, this is an experience that is found in all art forms. But for me personally, there’s something about discovering something in a Disney film, even though you’ve seen gazillions of times Eureka!

I’m a big fan of The Princess and the Frog. I was so excited to see it, and my friends and I went opening night. We were in high school, and we took up a whole row! I was happy to go to New Orleans a few months later. Great city, and Disney captured part of its charm. I also love the Jazz Age, so that’s another reason why I feel connected to that film.

Anyway, Dr. Facilier (The Shadow Man) is one of the coolest Disney villains, In my opinion.

So today I was on tumblr, and I learned something about Dr. Facilier that I didn’t know before. As he is a Witch Doctor, he can do all sorts of supernatural things (like interact with his shadow).

I wasn’t observant enough to figure this out on my own, so I’m totally going to source you who was observant enough: get-fabulous shared this little factoid about Dr. Facilier.

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Notice the wallpaper behind him. The designs change to skull and crossbones wherever his shadow hits! Very spooky and sinister (fitting for someone who practices Voodoo). I never noticed that before!

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. I have two essays and a presentation due in the next week at school. Plus taxes. Plus choosing what University I’m going to next fall. So I won’t have anything posted in the next couple of weeks. But I have some thoughts on articles to post once I’m finished, so look forward to that! Remember that presentation I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph? Well, it’s about Disney. So I’ll abridge that here, as well as my List of Favorite Disney films. Have a great week everybody!

Disney’s 9 Old Men: My Favorite Ward Kimball Scenes

3 Apr

I’ve been in the difficult process of writing an article about my top 10 Disney movies. And after a few entries I noticed that I kept mentioning one person, over, and over, and over. And talking about how influential he was to Disney Studios. And how much I admired his work. Was I talking about the big cheese himself, Walt Disney? Nope! Actually the subject of my fangirling was the greatest of Disney’s legendary 9 Old Men – Sir Ward Kimball.

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Alright, he’s not actually Sir Ward Kimball. But if there was a knighthood for animators, I assure you he’d get it. Kimball was at Disney from 1934 to 1972. He won an Oscar in 1953 for directing Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom and again in 1970 for It’s Tough to Be a Bird. Kimball’s area of expertise was wild and manic characters. Walt Disney knew he had true talent on his hands, and once remarked that “Ward Kimball is one man who works for me that I’m willing to call a genius.”

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This is my exact expression when I’m watching Ward’s work

What I’m trying to impress on you is that I am a huuuuge fan of his. There’s only one animator I admire more, and that’s Sir Chuck Jones.

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Sorry Chuck, I’ll fangirl over you at a later date!

So I after gushing, and gushing, about how much I enjoyed his work, I decided to create a post just in honor of Ward. Ward has such an EXTENSIVE portfolio, I can’t possible go in depth about all of of his work. But I’ll look at six of my personal favorite Ward Kimball moments. And this is not a ‘countdown’ list. So number 1 isn’t my absolute favorite moment, I don’t know if I could accurately rank that.

(Before I do, I want to give a shout out to 365 Days of Ward Kimball, where I got a lot of this information and some pictures from. Also this well researched biography, where I got the Pecos Bill information from)

1. Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio (1940)

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Pinocchio was the second Disney feature. Snow White came first. Ward animated the vultures, as well as the scene where the dwarfs put their noses over the bed. You probably don’t remember the vultures, and don’t feel bad about that. As cool as they are, they’re very insignificant. So how did Ward go from animating those minor scenes, to Jiminy Cricket- one of the most important characters in Pinocchio?

Ward actually had animated a couple other scenes for Snow White– but were cut from the film. Ward was devastated by this, as it took him at least 8 months to animate them (some sources say over a year). He was about to leave the studio, but Walt offered him the role of the Cricket character for the upcoming Pinocchio film to make up for it. Walt felt that Pinocchio was missing something. Ward created that missing something in Jiminy Cricket- an extremely minor and forgettable character in the book, but under Ward’s direction he became one of the most recognizable cartoon characters of all time.

Ward in his later years with sketches of Jiminy

Ward in his later years with sketches of Jiminy

Ward designed the cricket, who became more human-like over time, and animated the bulk of his scenes (including the scene where Jiminy scolds Pinocchio at the Pool Hall). Jiminy is a great example of how versatile Ward could be. The cricket isn’t bouncing off the walls like what we usually expect from a Kimball character. Jiminy’s movements are more reserved and sincere, but still incredibly appealing. Jiminy is easily one of the best characters in Pinocchio. He has some of the most entertaining lines in the film (“You’ve buttered your bread, now you got to sleep in it!” or “What does an actor want with a conscience anyway?”)

Anyways, here some Jiminy Cricket for ya (starting at 3:38). The character that is most associated with Ward, and one of his best creations.

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Pointless trivia! Pinocchio is my favorite Disney film.

2. Ward and Fred in The Nifty Nineties (1938)

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I actually first saw this charming and nostalgic short a couple weeks ago (I’m currently on a quest to watch all 583 of Disney’s short films, but that’s another story). This short has a great score and the animation on the whole is incredibly fluid. It’s easily one of my favorite Mickey Mouse cartoons.

So where does Ward play into all of this? During the short, Mickey takes Minnie to a Vaudeville show. And one of the performances is titled “Fred and Ward: Two Clever Boys from Illinois”. Two small and cartoony men then dance onto the scene. And I recognized instantly that “Fred and Ward” are caricatures of two of Disney’s 9 Old Men: Fred Moore (animator of Timothy from Dumbo) and then of course, Ward Kimball.

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Ward in cartoon form.

Here’s the thing: Animators. Love. Caricatures. The more you study animation, the more you’ll see hidden easter eggs and caricatures, and that sort of thing. Ward and Fred both voiced their respective caricatures as well. That on its own is a great Ward moment, but according to these animation drafts, Kimball also animated himself and Moore.

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Animation drawing by Ward

You can see Ward’s work on this film here: (Click it!) The scene I’m referring to begins at 4:23 and ends at 5:39. It’s a short segment, and Ward animated the whole thing (besides Mickey and Minnie). Like the rest of the short, it’s very fluid. It’s bouncy, and Fred and Ward’s character designs are appealing. I especially like the near constant movement- even their hats seem to dance along with them.

3. The Title Song of The Three Caballeros (1944)

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Here’s the thing about The Three Caballeros. As a whole, the animation is very weak. The reason for this is there wasn’t one supervising animator for each character. According to South of the Border With Disney, six different animators drew José Carioca in the Bahia segment alone. And that’s just seven minutes of the film. This means that there is a lot of inconsistency, and it’s very noticeable.

However, one of my favorite pieces of character animation ever is in this movie. While researching for this article, I’ve seen this sequence referred to as “Kimball’s Masterpiece” and “Kimball’s most Kimball-esque sequence”. When Warner Brothers legend Chuck Jones visited Disney Studios while Aladdin was in production, and saw Eric Goldberg’s animation for Friend Like Me, he said that it reminded him of “the song from The Three Caballeros”.

So what sequence am I referring to? Ward animated Panchito Pistoles’ wild introduction, and animated the follwoing dance to the Three Caballeros song (Ay! Jalisco No Te Rajes). The only part not animated by Ward in this four minute sequence are Joe Carioca’s closeups, which were done by Fred Moore.

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Ward animating Panchito

So you can watch most of the sequence I mentioned above right here (aquí). Every time I watch this scene, I’m impressed. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m sure Ward had a blast doing it. Props appear and disappear, the characters are in constant movement and are all over the place, the they’ll will walk out of the scene in the left, and then appear on the opposite side. It’s schizophrenic, it’s exuberant and it’s reckless. The pacing is marvelous. The whole thing goes against logic, and Ward took full advantage of the fact that these were animated characters.

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A piece of Kimball’s animation for The Three Caballeros

During this period in Disney history, we often think of the advances in animating characters realistically. Think of the animation of Snow White, and the animal characters in Bambi. While the animation in those films are incredible, it’s nice I think to see Disney do a short break from that, something unorthodox. This scene is easily the best part of The Three Caballeros.

Animated by Kimball

Animated by Kimball

4. The Crows from Dumbo (1941)

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Oh boy, should I even go here?

Alright, before I go further let me explain a couple things. I’ve read my fair share of reviews regarding racism in Disney movies. I’m actually a History student, and I believe that studying films involving racism are better than just pretending it didn’t happen. How else can you learn from it? And the thing about the Crows is that they’re totally taken out of context. This was the 1940s. Cracked points out that this film came out couple years after a ban against Lynching was voted down by congress.

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In a strange way, the crows portrayal is almost progressive, when you compare it to most other African American roles in film at the time. Roles for African Americans were usually stock characters. The Crows transcend being mere stereotypes, and are actually complex and intelligent. If you were actually paying attention during the movie, you would of noticed that the crows were some of the only positive characters, and helped out Dumbo instead of treating him like shit like everyone else did. They were sympathetic to Dumbo.

Ward and the leader crow. (Who's actually never called "Jim Crow" in the film. Only on the model sheets)

Ward and the leader crow. (Who’s actually never called “Jim Crow” in the film. Only on the model sheets)

Think what you will about the Crows. They’re actually my favorite characters in Dumbo, and I love the song ‘When I see an Elephant Fly”. Friends of mine won’t be surprised by that choice, because I love word play and puns. And that’s what that entire song is (I heard a fireside chat, I saw a baseball bat, I’ve seen a peanut stand). Ward Kimball animated the crows, and again like the Three Caballeros, the song they sing is choreographed wonderfully. Dumbo stands out because compared to its other Disney contemporaries Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi, it’s more colorful and cartooony. The crows are probably the most exuberant part of the film (except for those unsettling Pink Elephants).

Piece of the animation, signed by Kimball.

Piece of the animation, signed by Kimball.

As I mentioned before, the Crows are surprisingly complex for their short screen time and for being African American characters during their time. Despite their poking fun at Timothy, they’re very likable. And I attribute Ward’s candid animation to this. Even when not singing the crows movements are both classy and zany at the same time. An interesting mix. For some reason, I like those few seconds of animation when the crows watch Dumbo fall, shown here at 2:10 to 2:20.

5. Pecos Bill from Melody Time (1948)

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Pecos Bill was quite a cowboy down in Texas!

I think it’s sad that people aren’t familiar with the Disney Package films. Sure, they’re not the best films. Not by far. But they do have some great stories in them- Peter and the Wolf, Mickey and the Beanstalk, and my personal favorite, Pecos Bill. This story is fifteen minutes long, and every second of it is enjoyable. The narration, the song, the animation, the backgrounds. Disney takes full advantage of the storytelling style of tall tales, and it translates well onto the screen.

Seriously though, Ward is adorable

Seriously though, Ward is adorable.

You can see Pecos Bill in its entirety right here cowpolk. Ward did the the majority of the animation for the character Pecos Bill, and from what I gather his horse Widowmaker as well. I did not know this before I wrote this article, but it’s one of a limited number of times that Ward collaborated with his rival Milt Kahl. They had different opinions and opposing personalities Milt was mainly responsible for the animation of Slu-Foot Sue, the better half of Ward’s Pecos Bill. Kudos to both of them, because they did a great job animating their respective characters.

Despite what this sketch tells you, Pecos Bill does not have a happy ending.

Despite what this sketch tells you, Pecos Bill does not have a happy ending.

As for Ward’s animation. To the surprise of no one it’s very cartoony. Pecos is actually pretty elastic in his movements. I wish that there was more information of what exactly Ward did and didn’t animate, as well as more of his sketches from this as well. You can definitely see a Ward Kimball impression on Pecos throughout the whole thing.

6. The Un-Birthday Party in Alice in Wonderland (1951)

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Ward’s style made him a perfect fit for a movie as zany as Alice in Wonderland. Ward was a directing animator on this film. Ward animated a whole lot of characters in this film- Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum, The White Rabbit, The Carpenter, and the Cheshire Cat. But the scene that he worked on that sticks out the most is of course, The Un-Birthday Scene.

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Walt watches Ward draw the Mad Hatter

That is one of the best scenes in any Disney film, and one of the most iconic. Between Jerry Colonna and Ed Wynn’s voice work, the Mary Blair-esque backgrounds, the dialogue, the animation, even the framing, makes it an incredibly enduring and entertaining sequence. Now, Ward Kimball wasn’t the only animator who worked on this scene. There was actually quite a lot, including Cliff Nordberg, Marc Davis, Woolie Reitherman, Marvin Woodward, John Lounsbery, among others. If you’re interested to see who animated what, check out these animation drafts. And here’s the UnBirthday Scene. Ward animated the introduction of the Mad Hatter and March Hare (0:32- 0:51), Scolding Alice for being rude (1:01-1:11), The Mad Hatter pouring tea on himself (1:39-1:45), and the Mad Hatter during most of the scene where he is “fixing” The White Rabbit’s watch. There’s some other smaller segments too, but you can check the animation drafts for that.

Ward's animation for Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum

Ward’s animation for Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum

My favorite part of the Unbirthday Party that Ward animates is The Mad Hatter unmercifully destroying the poor White Rabbit’s watch. The whole thing is great, but I especially like The Mad Hatter’s reaction to The March Hare’s suggestion of using Mustard. “Mustard! Don’t let’s not be silly!” The Hatter reacts with great alarm, he tilts his head up and does a weird shrug thing with his shoulders and hips. That was animated by Ward, and it is definitely a nice touch. (Not to mention his follow up response is hilarious. “Lemon, now that’s different”)

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So that’s juts six of the many great Ward Kimball moments. There’s so much more though! He animated the mice and Lucifer the Cat from Cinderella. There’s also scenes in Mary Poppins, Adventures of Icahbod and Mr. Toad, Peter Pan, Saludos Amigos that he animated. Not to mention countless shorts as well. One I’d like to point out, is Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood. I always liked the scene with The Marx Brothers (at 1:19) . Just how they walk is so fun to watch. Imagine how happy I was to find out that it was animated by Ward!

I am a big fan of caricatures and the Marx Brothers

I am a big fan of caricatures and the Marx Brothers

I also will take this opportunity to mention that last year a biography on Ward was suppose to be published. Sadly, due to pressure from the Walt Disney Company, the book has been killed. This is the thing that bothers me about Disney as a company. They like to keep their artists under a constant mythological state, and this book has been killed because it doesn’t conform with Disney’s fairy tale like narrative. Needless to say, I’m disappointed.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. Thank for reading!