Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Cory's Disney in Review 2013

If one wishes to, it's easy to look on the past year of Disney's performance with a growing sense of disappointment. One almost begins to approach each new press release about what is being mangled, removed, or forced upon us with a sense of impending dread. What are the highlights though? The stuff that keeps me coming back to the Mouse? The best things Disney has produced this year? Here are my votes for the Fab Five of 2013:
  1. Mickey Mouse. Hands down, the frenetic new Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts produced by Paul Rudish are the best thing Disney has produced all year. I eagerly await each new one that pops up online (and find a way around the exclusive American regional coding to watch them). Mickey sheds the "aw shucks" banality of a harmless corporate icon and rediscovers the inner s**t-disturbing smart-ass he was in the black-and-white era, but with a wonderful vintage-moderne aesthetic sensibility and great slapstick humour. It's so good to see Disney taking risks with the Mouse and having them pay off so well.

  2. Disney Dreams! Technically, this evening show at Disneyland Paris debuted last year. However, the version we saw was new for 2013, featuring two new segments with The Lion King and Brave, so I'm counting it anyways. I'm sentimentally attached to it because it was immediately after watching it that I proposed to Ashley. More objectively though, it is my second favourite Disney show after Fantasmic. Like Fantasmic, it perfectly captures the essence of a Disney park as a place to leave behind the real world and enter the Neverland where Disney films come to life. In this show, projection effects and fireworks set us on an adventure to track Peter Pan's shadow through a montage of classic musical numbers like "Be Our Guest" and "Friend Like Me" as we try to restore the pixie dust to the Second Star to the Right. Pure magic! 

  3. Mystic Manor. Since having a Haunted Mansion would be grossly inappropriate in China, Hong Kong Disneyland got this instead, and in the process made Disney fans in North America froth with envy. An imaginative attraction with great effects, gags and characters, Mystic Manor is the sort of fresh and original ride that recalls the glory days of WED Enterprises. The only problem is that it's all the way in Hong Kong. Mystic Manor would fit so perfectly in Animal Kingdom or Adventureland. Instead we're stuck with "Soarin' over Pandora." Even find a way to shoehorn it into California Adventure, I don't care! Just bring it over here!  

  4. The Lone Ranger. Unfairly maligned in ways I can't even figure out, The Lone Ranger was, for me, the surprise cinematic hit of the year. I suspect it's lack of success had something to do with the fact that you need to have a working understanding of both the history of Western settlement and the Western film genre to fully appreciate what it was trying to do, which is hard to find when audiences just want to see things punching other things really hard. Funny, intelligent and thought-provoking, with some great action scenes and fantastic pay-offs, I must agree with Quentin Tarantino that The Lone Ranger was one of the best films of 2013. 

  5. It's a Small World: The Animated Series. It's a Small World, the ride, is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned of Disney attractions, even as it is one of the most beloved. Looking at it as a massive piece of kinetic artwork that you float through rather than standing in front of in a gallery, I like it quite a lot. Perfectly fitting its theme. Disney Interactive has teamed with Rosetta Stone to produce an online animated series that is delightful, stylish, and educational. Rather than work directly from Mary Blair's art, the series' look derives more from Joey Chou's illustrations for the Small World book and iPhone app, which does lend the new franchise a nicely coherent brand. With additional music by Richard Sherman, co-writer of the original song, it's just really neat to watch.

Anything to add? Anything you felt we missed? What were your highlights of the past year in Disney? 

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