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So you may have noticed that I’ve been doing a little housekeeping around here.
Anything to avoid doing a little housekeeping around here.
Since we’re now pushing fifty reviews I’ve finally organised the reviews by era and decade so you can more easily browse them. Longtime readers of the blog will know that I’ve got my own idiosyncratic way of organising the canon Disney movies; The Tar and Sugar Movies of the late thirties and early forties, the Never Heard of ‘Ems of the war years, the fifties Restoration, the sixties and seventies Scratchy Era, the Mourning Era of the eighties and the Renaissance of the nineties. I then had to come up with a name for this weird post-millenial chunk of movies between Fantasia 2000
and The Frog Princess
and this had me stumped for a good while. I hear “The Dark Age” trotted out a lot as a description for this era but that just doesn’t sit well with me for two reasons; firstly I try to use a name that suits the overall style and tone of the movies and the movies of this period are not particularly “dark”. Then of course, “The Dark Age” implies that all these films are somehow inferior and you can tell me that The Emperor’s New Groove
and Lilo and Stitch
are bad movies or you can keep your limbs intact but you cannot do both. Finally, I settled on “The Lost Era” because this era, like the Mourning Era, was an experimental time where Disney was trying to answer the question “What kind of movies do we make?” The most sustained periods of success in Disney’s history have always been times when the company found a formula that worked. When they knew what they were about. In the fifties, it was fairytales and adaptations of classic children’s literature. In the sixties, it was jazzy Sherman Brothers musicals, in the nineties it was all about Broadway. The origins of Atlantis: The Lost Empire
began in a Mexican restaurant when directors Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise and producer Don Hahn sat down to a big bowl of nachos and tried to figure out the future of Disney. These three men were the creative heads behind my personal favorite Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
and this meeting was born largely out of a desire to keep the band together, so to speak. Trousdale, Wise and Hahn realised that they had put together an absolutely phenomenal team for Hunchback
and were anxious not to see this incredibly talented group of people separated and put on other projects. The solution was obvious: Make another movie. But what kind of movie? It was clear by now that the Broadway Disney musical had been done. And done again. And then, why not, done a couple more times. And while those movies had been hugely (HUGELY) successful, it was clear that enough was enough. When you’ve got a formula that’s familiar enough for this kind of parody to work…
…it’s time to try something new. This was the paradox Disney faced in the early 21st century. They knew what worked, but they couldn’t do it anymore. For a while, Tarzan
had seemed to offer a way forward, a pseudo-musical with all the songs sung by a big name musical talent instead of the characters. But then that had come a rather massive cropper with the Kingdom of the Sun/Emperor’s New Groove
Yeah, yeah, I know. You love the movie, I love the movie. That’s because it didn’t cost us
$100 Million. More importantly perhaps, Trousdale, Wise and Hahn did not want
to make another animated musical. As the nacho cheese flowed like wine, the three men began talking about the movies they had loved growing up, and specifically, the Disney
movies they had loved growing up. Now, hold onto your hats people because I am about to blow your freaking minds. Did you know that Disney also made live action, non-animated, human-acted with actual human beings movies?