Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Brave Little Tailor

Employing Mickey Mouse in the title role of the Brave Little Tailor (1938) was a natural, as both characters share a good deal in common. Both are small but plucky, solving problems through wit and guile rather than brute strength or political power. In the original fairy tale transcribed by the Brothers Grimm in their 1812 anthology, the valiant tailor suppresses seven flies in one strike and sets off to brag about it. Responding to his unwarranted pride, a giant takes him for more powerful than he actually is, and the tailor is not about to correct him. Eventually the tailor is taken before the king and is charged with several missions designed to get rid of him, but which the tailor succeeds at tremendously. Everybody seems to want to be rid of the little braggart who seems to have no sense of his own insignificance, and at every stage he outsmarts them.

In many ways, The Valiant Little Tailor reads like a farce… A comedy of errors in which the hero is not too shrewd to be conquered, but too daft to know that he ought to be. Unlike in Disney's cartoon short, where Mickey is frightened and reluctant but overcomes out of desperation, this tailor is totally unflappable because he just doesn't know any better. That said, we may derive a good lesson about self-confidence here. Cunning can take you far, and as the saying goes, it's not bragging if you can back it up.

Disney's Brave Little Tailor was voted the 26th greatest cartoon of all time by the animation industry and nominated for an Academy Award (which it lost to another Disney film, Ferdinand the Bull). Today, references to the short can be seen in the Sir Mickey's shoppes in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris Park. The following translation of the original German story was by Margaret Hunt, for the two-volume publication Grimm’s Household Tales in 1884.

The tailor confronts a giant. Illustration by Arthur Rackham.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Château de la Chatonnière

Not far from Azay-le-Rideau and its famous château in the Loire Valley is the Château de la Chatonnière. No castle, this is a charming country estate that brings to mind the humble home of Cinderella. The current owner Béatrice de Andia has employed the services of master gardener Ahmed Azéroual to surround the château with stunning thematic gardens on the ideas of science, romance, and fragrance. Unfortunately during our visit in May of 2013 we were too early to appreciate the gardens in full bloom. The trade-off was made with having virtually the entire estate to ourselves. Much like the Château d'Ussé that we visited on the same day, this charming villa is off the beaten path and decidedly worth the visit.


Saturday, 10 June 2017

Walt's Era - Part 14: Clear Sailing Through the Early Sixties, Part 1 (1962)

1962 is another landmark year in this series, in a certain way. This is the first year that not only lacks an animated classic, but lacks any kind of classic to speak of. There isn't even anything that might be called a minor, cult classic among Disney fans "in the know". The films are not bad, but not a one of them is on most people's top 10, or top 20, or maybe even a top 30 list. In Search of the Castaways, Moon Pilot, The Legend of Lobo, Big Red, etc. are pretty okay films and on the balance, 1962 was a pretty okay year. There are no truly awful films - even Bon Voyage has its merits -  at the expense of nothing truly outstanding. Luckily the company also re-released Pinocchio and Lady and the Tramp to offset things.

Behind the scenes, WED moved from the Disney studios to Glendale as construction began on New Orleans Square in Disneyland. The Swiss Family Treehouse also opened this year, adding the second actual attraction to Adventureland and its first expansion since opening day. Walt Disney Productions renewed its contract with Walt and WED Enterprises. Walt received some $3500 per week plus another $1666 in deferred payments and a percentage of profits from the films, with an additional $1500 going to WED.  

Swiss Family Treehouse, circa 1962.