Saturday, March 9, 2013

Disney Animated Countdown #13: Treasure Planet

I know that Aaron Wallace felt it was underrated, and since I respect his opinion, I decided to go back and watch Treasure Planet again to re-evaluate its merits.  I originally had it at #47, but after watching it again I bumped it up to #36
Treasure Planet (2002)

The Story: A young boy is given a hi-tech treasure map that leads to “the gold of a thousand worlds” hidden on the legendary Treasure Planet. He helps arrange an expedition to journey to the planet, but his plans are soon hijacked by a mutinous crew.

The Hero:
 Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt); a fatherless boy with an adventurous spirit who looks like he would be more comfortable as a the sixth member of N’Sync than as a treasure hunting space adventurer.

The Villain: Long John Silver (Brian Murray); a cyborg who for some reason was given an amazing arm that can help him do anything, but his mechanical leg is nearly useless. Why would the technology exist to have such a highly functional arm, but he’s still stuck with a peg leg?

Sidekicks: Morph, a floating glob who can change into anything he wants. He’s originally Silver’s “parrot,” but eventually ends up tagging along with Jim. There’s also an incredibly obnoxious robot name B.E.N. (Martin Short) who grinds the movie to a halt for 10 minutes with his over the top schtick.

Music: “I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)” A completely out of place rock ballad written and performed by John Rzeznik…Yes, THE John Rzeznik!! It is used over one of my least favorite film devices, the dreaded “montage” sequence.

Do We Hear or See the Phrase "Happily Ever After?" – No.

Does Someone Die Or Seem To Die Before Coming Back To Life? - No.  

Miscellaneous Tidbits:

 It made $38 million at the box office….that’s about $100 million less than its budget.

 The first feature film ever simultaneously released to both regular and IMAX theatres.

My Final Thoughts:
Sometime in the mid to late 1990’s, Disney got it in their heads that they didn’t want to keep making Musical Fairy Tales. In other words “Movies People Like and that Make A Lot of Money.” So they started branching off into adventure films like “Atlantis” and cutesy comedies like “Lilo and Stitch.” trying to get away from “being repetitive” and trying to be “more relevant” I suppose.

Another product of that move was Treasure Planet. Ron Clements and John Musker had an idea, a “dream project” to make “Treasure Island” in space. One of the major drawbacks to the film is that they chose to cross 19th century nautical life and styles with futuristic space life, styles, and gadgetry. So the film, at least early on, is a mess of jarring “gimmicks” that tend to bog the movie down; There are old leather bound that have no printed words, but project 3D images and tell the story out loud with pictures, sound effects, and narration; instead of different humans there are strange alien creatures with strange names that speak strange languages (“Flatula” for one; a “farting” sounding language. Har de har har!)

We’ve also got sailing ships that fly in outer space using sails powered by solar winds…Space pirates who dress like sea pirates…laser guns that look like flintlock pistols and blunderbusses…Space “whales” that fly alongside spaceships….planets that stand in for islands….Black holes and space storms that endanger the ships with their energy “waves”….Robots and bizarre aliens who stand in for what were human characters…Strange morphing creatures that stand in for parrots. These things often become a distraction to what is going on in the story and with the characters. It would have been better to be focused less on the gimmicky “mash up” of the two eras. It would have been better to pick one time frame and stick with it. Are we in the 19th century or are we in the future? And then let us get to know our characters a little.

It takes a while to wade out from under the weight of the film’s initial flaws, but once the viewer settles in the original source material breaks through. The middle section of the movie is more effective and entertaining. Particularly engaging is the convincing portrayal of the complicated relationship between Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins.

Eventually the cast reaches their destination of Treasure Planet. Then we are introduced to B.E.N., the stranded robot who is unbearably over-the-top and obnoxious. His presence grinds the film to a halt.  Finally the film reaches a contrived sci-fi finale where our heroes must escape the impending and obligatory “Giant Space Explosion!!!” that we have all seen a several dozen times before.

Animation wise I think it is a mixed bag. Everything looks pretty good, but often the mixture of digital imagery and traditional animation does not blend well.

Ultimately, I was left feeling that Treasure Planet was a missed opportunity. Treasure Island is a great story that would make a great animated feature. I think the filmmakers’ outsmarted themselves a little and let their imaginations get the best of them. If they had focused more on the story and less on the “gimmicks” I think they might have made a much better movie.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Disney Animated Countdown #14: Hercules

Aaron Wallace puts Hercules high on the list, but I found it middle of the road and only slightly better  than Alice in Wonderland. So I have placed it at 
 Hercules (1997)

The Story: The God Zeus (Rip Torn) fathers the baby Hercules who is kidnapped by Hades in a plot to kill him. Hercules survives, but is raised as a human. Eventually he must find out who he really is and where he really belongs.

The Hero: Hercules (Tate Donovan), son of Zeus who goes on a quest to go from “Zero To Hero.”

The Villain: Hades (James Woods), Lord of the Underworld, who wants to take over Mount Olympus.

Sidekicks: Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwait & Matt Frewer), two…whatevers who bumble through the tasks given them by Hades. Pain is voiced by Bobcat Goldthwait who miraculously avoids being annoying; Pegasus, the famed winged horse and Phil (Danny Devito), a satyr who trains heroes are Hercules’ sidekicks

Love Interest: Megara (Susan Egan), a human female who sold her soul to Hades to rescue her boyfriend. The boyfriend repaid her by running off with another woman. Now Hades uses her in his plot to destroy Hercules and Zeus.

Music: (Songs written by Alan Menken and David Zippel) “Go The Distance,” “The Gospel Truth I, II, and III,” “One Last Hope,” “Zero to Hero,” “I Won’t Say I’m In Love,” “A Star Is Born.”   Most of these songs are sung by “The Muses” a gospel quintet who serve as the narrators for the story. “Go The Distance” is the standard “showstopper,” but it, like every other song, isn’t very memorable.

My Favorite Exchange of Dialogue

Burnt Man:   Hey, isn't that the goat-man who trained Achilles?
Phil:      Watch it, pal.
Tall Thebian:       Yeah, you're right. Hey, uh, nice job on those heels. Ya missed a spot!

Favorite Character:
Hades. James Woods is effectively menacing and funny.

Do We Hear or See the Phrase “Happily Ever After?” - No

Does Someone Die or Appear To Die Before Coming Back To Life?
Meg is injured by a falling pillar while trying to save Hercules. Eventually she dies and her soul is banished to the underworld. Hercules goes there to rescue her and cuts a deal with Hades; he’ll trade his life for hers. But after rescuing Meg’s soul it turns out that Hercules has become a God and cannot die. He returns to Earth and places Meg’s soul back in her body. And they lived happily ever after.

Reasons For Southern Baptists To Boycott – Well, the whole thing is nothing but a story about Pagan gods!

Lessons I Learned:

It’s not the size of a hero’s strength that matters, but the size of his heart.

Miscellaneous Tidbits:
The movie is loaded with in jokes and cultural references. My favorite “Disney” references are the lion skin Hercules wears that looks like Scar from the Lion King and the Muses portrayed as singing busts that match the singing busts from the “Haunted Mansion” attractions.

The second straight film to mention Achilles’ Heel.

John Musker and Ron Clements made this film as part of a deal with Jeffery Katzenberg. They had to make a “bankable” film before he would let them work on their “dream project”, Treasure Planet.

My Final Thoughts:
            A surprisingly amusing movie, though not all that memorable even after a couple of viewings. The movie steps away from the standard template of Disney films; it is less serious than most and spends a great deal of time just trying to be funny. It also takes liberties with the real Greek myths and moves forward crisply without much distraction.
            Megara is a little too sassy, “hip”, and modern for my tastes. She’s supposed to be tough and gritty, but she is really just a bit obnoxious.
Most of the voice talents are very good. There’s even a nice “voice cameo” by Charlton Heston in the opening narration.
Overall it is entertaining enough, but it still has a few too many holes.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Disney Animated Countdown #15: Alice In Wonderland

The countdown is back, but we're heading backwards. Aaron Wallace has Alice way up at #15, but I am less impressed with the overall product and place it at...


Alice In Wonderland (1951)

The Story: A little girl becomes bored during an outdoor history lesson and proclaims that if she had her own world it would be full of nonsense. She suddenly sees a rabbit with a waistcoat and chases him into a hole. It isn’t long before she discovers herself in a land full of nonsense.

The Hero: Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) A bored little girl who goes on a visually stunning, but ultimately boring adventure.

The Villain(s): The Queen of Hearts who only shows up near the very end.

Sidekicks: Alice doesn’t have any, but the March Hare is essentially the sidekick for the Mad Hatter.

Cute Animals: They’re everywhere.

Talking Animals: They’re everywhere.

  • "Alice in Wonderland" - The Jud Conlon Chorus
  • "In A World of My Own" - Alice
  • "I'm Late" - The White Rabbit
  • "The Sailor's Hornpipe" - The Dodo
  • "The Caucus Race" - The Dodo and Animals
  • "How Do You Do and Shake Hands" - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
  • "The Walrus and the Carpenter" - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
  • "Old Father William" - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
  • "Smoke the Blighter Out" - The Dodo and The White Rabbit
  • "All in the Golden Afternoon" - The Flowers and Alice
  • "AEIOU" - The Caterpillar
  • "Twas Brillig" - The Cheshire Cat
  • "The Unbirthday Song" - The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, and Alice
  • "Very Good Advice" - Alice
  • "Painting the Roses Red" - The Playing Cards and Alice
  • "Who's Been Painting My Roses Red?" - The Queen of Hearts and The Playing Cards
  • "The Unbirthday Song" (Reprise) - The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, The Queen of Hearts, and The Playing Cards
  • "The Caucus Race" (Reprise) - The Entire Cast Minus Alice
  • "Alice in Wonderland" (Reprise) - The Jud Conlon Chorus

My Favorite Exchange of Dialogue: There wasn’t one moment of memorable dialogue in the entire movie.

Favorite Character:
Hmm…The Cheshire Cat?

Most Memorable Visual Moment: The letter shaped smoke rings from the Caterpillar.

Miscellaneous Tidbits: Walt Disney later confessed to “despising” the movie and said it failed to capture the spirit of the original story. Ward Kimball, one of Walt’s key animators also called the film a failure.

My Final Thoughts:
Alice in Wonderland is one of Walt Disney’s best films in terms of animation and style. It is easily one of his most enjoyable films visually and is arguably the studios best animation work.

However, story and character wise it is possibly the weakest effort of the “classic” era besides the studios “package” films. One major problem is the episodic nature of the story. Other than the character of Alice and her quest to catch up with the White Rabbit, most of the scenes have nothing to do with each other. They are merely a series of strange events that Alice encounters as she moves through Wonderland.
Another problem is the development of Alice’s character. We don’t ever really get to know her that well as much of the time she is merely an observer of what the strange characters of Wonderland are doing. The moment when she decides she wants to go back home and is tired of nonsense is ineffective, because we don’t really know anything about her other than that she was bored and likes to yell, “Oh Mr. Rabbit! Please wait!” . Up to that point her quest has been merely to catch the White Rabbit, but Lord knows why?. It isn’t like the Wizard of Oz where we know right away the Dorothy wants to go home and her entire quest through the strange land of Oz is leading her to her goal. Alice has not goal until that moment so it is difficult to sympathize with her.
I have watched this movie four times and I was never able to watch it in one sitting any of the four times. Ultimately, despite the wonderful look of the film, I end up not caring about Alice or what happens to her.
I know Walt Disney loved the story of Alice In Wonderland so I think he kept the iconic characters around his theme parks and television programs to honor that, even though his version of the tale didn’t really work in the end.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Disney Animated Countdown #16: Lady and the Tramp

Well, we're getting closer to the top. Aaron Wallace places it at #16, but I have it cracking the Top 10 at....
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
The Story:  Jim Dear gives his wife, Darling, a Cocker Spaniel puppy as a Christmas gift and she becomes their pride and joy…until the stork pays them a visit and the once prized pooch is forced to play second fiddle. She hooks up (LITERALLY!) with a street wise mutt who tries to show her the joys of a life free of collars and dog houses.

The Heroes: Lady, the Cocker Spaniel, and the Tramp, a stray mutt. They make an unlikely romantic pair which makes for good drama.

The Villains: There isn’t really a bona fide, straight up villain. There’s a rat who rears his ugly head briefly, there are some stray dogs, and there is Aunt Sara, the baby’s caretaker who views Lady as some sort of hideous beast and is directly responsible for Lady running away from home. Aunt Sara also brings with her Si and Am, her beloved pair of mischievous and deceitful Siamese cats.

Sidekicks: Joe, the chef is sidekick to Tony, the Italian restaurant owner; I’m not sure if Jock and Trusty are Lady’s sidekicks or if they are sidekicks to each other.

Music: The Showstopper, "Bella Notte", "Peace on Earth", "What Is a Baby?", "La La Lu", "Siamese Cat Song", "He's a Tramp"

Scary Stuff: Lady is chased by a pack of large stray dogs and a fight ensues when the Tramp comes to her rescue; a rat threatens the baby during a fierce thunderstorm; the climactic chase of the Dog Catcher’s wagon is pretty intense.

My Favorite Exchange of Dialogue

Thoughy:     Well, wow, look youse guys, Miss Park Avenue herself.
Bulldog in Pound:    Blimey, a regular bloomin' debutante.
Toughy:     Yeah, and pipe the crown jewel she's wearin'.
Bulldog in Pound:     Hey, whatcha in for, sweetheart? Putting fleas on the butler?

Favorite Character: -
The Beaver at the Zoo.

Most Memorable Visual Moment: The kiss over a plate of spaghetti.

Do We Hear or See the Phrase “Happily Ever After?” - No

Does Someone Die or Appear To Die Before Coming Back To Life? – During the chase of the Dog Catcher’s cart, Trusty is struck by the cart and lies motionless. Jock stands over him and lets loose a mournful howl. We can only assume that poor Trusty is dead! But alas, as the dogs all gather at Jim Dear and Darling’s for a Christmas celebration, Trusty, alive and well, limps into the living room with his leg in a cast.

Miscellaneous Tidbits:

Peggy Lee was originally hired as the voice of Lady, but when she started giving Walt Disney all those great ideas for songs and sequences he instead put her in charge of the music and gave her the roles of Darling, Peg, Si and Am.;

 The movie features the only “hook up” in Disney animated movies. After their romantic dinner and walk in the moonlight Lady and the Tramp are seen waking up cuddled together in the park. This was verified by Walt himself as an implied “sex scene.”

My Final Thoughts: 

 Family legend is that Lady and the Tramp was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater. That doesn’t lend any sentimental value to my thoughts about it. It’s just a nice little personal “first.”
            You may find it surprising that this has always been one of my favorites since this is a bona fide chick flick. Leonard Maltin described it as Disney’s “most endearing” animated feature. I didn’t think it could be possible to make a romance between two dogs seem believable and enjoyable. 
             I agree with Leonard Maltin. The movie is indeed endearing, sentimental, funny, touching, and an all around great movie.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Disney Animated Features Countdown: #17 - The Jungle Book

Well, the countdown returns. Aaron Wallace and I agreed on "Tangled" which we both placed at 18. Now we are up to #17. I have this one rated a little higher at...


  The Jungle Book (1967)

The Story:  A panther named Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot) discovers the orphaned “Man Cub” Mowgli and turns him over to be raised by a pack of wolves. As Mowgli grows older Bagheera realizes he needs to go live with his own kind and tries to take him to the “Man Village.” Zaniness ensues.

The Hero: Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) the “Man Cub” who resists Bagheera’s attempts to move him back to the “Man Village” for his safety and the safety of the animals who protect him.

The Villain: Shere Khan (George Sanders), the menacing Bengal Tiger who wants to kill Mowgli to prevent him from becoming a man; Kaa, a snake who thinks Mowgli will make a delicious meal.

Sidekicks: It’s hard to figure out the sidekick order in this movie. Is Mowgli the sidekick to Bagheera? Or is it the other way around? Same with Mowgli and Baloo (Phil Harris). Are any of them sidekicks at all?

Music: Jungle Book Overture" - (instrumental) "Colonel Hathi's March", "Bare Necessities", "I Wanna Be Like You", "Colonel Hathi's March (reprise)", "Trust in Me", That's What Friends Are For", "My Own Home”

This is the Sherman Brothers second animated feature, but amazingly they didn’t write the movie’s biggest song, “Bare Necessities.” (Terry Gilkyson is the answer to that trivia question. He was the original composer for the whole movie, but Walt Disney pulled him from the picture because his songs were “too Kipling.”)
“Trust In Me” was written by the Sherman Brothers for Mary Poppins under the title “Land of Sand.” When the song was cut from Poppins they rewrote the lyrics for The Jungle Book.

Scary Stuff: Nothing very scary happens until the final fight with Shere Khan, but Kaa the snake is a little unnerving.

Favorite Exchange of Dialogue

Baloo: What do they call you?
Bagheera: His name is Mowgli, and I'm taking him back to the man village.
Baloo: Man village? They'll ruin him. They'll make a man out of him.

Favorite Characters: They’re all great, but I’ll go with Kaa the snake.

Most Memorable Visual Moment: Baloo dancing around disguised as an ape.

Do We Hear or See the Phrase “Happily Ever After?” - No

Does Someone Die or Appear To Die Before Coming Back To Life? – Baloo appears to be killed in the final confrontation with Shere Khan. After a suitable few moments of mourning and a moving speech about sacrifice and heroism from Bagheera, Baloo comes to and tells him not to stop because it was just getting good.

Christians Rejoice! – After it appears Baloo has been killed, Bagheera quotes John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Miscellaneous Tidbits:

This was the last animated feature for which Walt Disney oversaw production. It was released to theaters two months after he died.

This was the last movie for another Disney staple, Verna Felton. She had done voices in many Disney animated features including the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, Aunt Sarah in Lady and the Tramp, and the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. She died one day before Walt Disney.

Ron Howard’s younger brother Clint is the voice of Junior the Elephant.

UNVERIFIED: Apparently The Beatles themselves were going to be the voices of the vultures in the final scene, but had to back out because of scheduling.

The incomparable Thurl Ravenscoft provides the brief singing moment for Shere Khan.

My Final Thoughts: 

The Jungle Book is one of Disney’s most popular animated features and rightly so. While the material may not be faithful to the Kipling stories (How often are the Disney films faithful to the source?) and is very episodic it is still one of Disney’s most entertaining and likeable animated films. The episodic nature of the movie is not a big hindrance as the film never really loses its flow.

What really pushes the movie forward is the music and vivid characterizations. They are complemented well by some very good animation, more detailed backgrounds, and great choices for voice talents. Phil Harris as Baloo steals the show!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Disney Animated Countdown #19: Meet The Robinsons

We're at #19 on Aaron Wallace's list, but on my list we stumble back to 

  Meet the Robinsons (2007) 

The Story: A baby is left on the doorstep of the 6th Street Orphanage. He turns out to be a whiz kid who scares off prospective adoptive parents. He is suddenly tossed into time travel when a young boy named Wilbur Robinson arrives to help him save his future from a vindictive villain from the future.

The Hero: Lewis (Jordan Fry, Daniel Hansen as Younger Lewis), the nerdy boy whose inventions and life never seem to work out for him.

The Villain: The villain situation is a little complicated, but without spoiling things I’ll say there are two villains; The Bowler Hat Man (Steve Anderson), a ghoulish, lanky, and bumbling man who sets out to ruin the future of Lewis. Doris, the Bowler Hat Man’s hat who seems to be assisting him…or is “she?”

Talking Animals: There are frogs that not only talk; They sing! And a Tyrannosaurus Rex who talks, but needs subtitles.

Music:  The instrumental score was written by Danny Elfman, but the film contains a handful of pops songs also
   "Another Believer" - Rufus Wainwright
·  "Little Wonders" - Rob Thomas
·  "The Future Has Arrived" - The All-American Rejects
·  "Where is Your Heart At?" - Jamie Cullum (written by Wainwright)
·  "The Motion Waltz (Emotional Commotion)" - Rufus Wainwright
·  "Give Me the Simple Life" - Jamie Cullum

The soundtrack has a couple of extra songs also; including They Might Be Giants cover of the Sherman Brothers’ song from Carousel of Progress “There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” and “Kids of the Future” by Jonas Brothers

Favorite Character: Bowler Hat Man. Though I didn’t really like his voice that much.

Do We Hear or See the Phrase "Happily Ever After?" – No

Does Someone Die Or Seem To Die Before Coming Back To Life?SPOILER ALERT!!!
As the space time continuum begins to collapse Wilbur Robinson appears to be wiped from existence, but Lewis uses the time machine to correct mistakes and brings Wilbur back.

Favorite Dialogue:

Bowler Hat Guy has taken control of a frog named Frankie and is trying to get him to kidnap Lewis.

Bowler Hat Guy: Ha ha ha! There he is--that repulsive, half-witted fool! Now, my slave, seize the boy! Bring him to me.
[Frankie gulps]
Bowler Hat Guy: Did you not hear what I said, you idiot? Grab the boy and bring him!
Frankie: [monotone] Well, it's just that there's a million people over there, and I have little arms. I'm just not so sure how well this plan was thought through.

My Final Thoughts: 

It gets off to a good start, gets sidetracked a little by a gimmicky middle section, but recovers nicely near the end. There are a few predictable plot twists and the songs are (again) largely forgettable within the context of the film, but there are some good jokes, funny characters, and a little bit of a nice sentimental punch at the end.

It’s a big improvement over the previous four or five outings, but its still a middle of the road offering.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Disney Animated Features Countdown #20: The Emperor's New Groove

I skipped last week's movie Winnie the Pooh, which Aaron Wallace placed at #21. I have it at #25 on my list, but it came out last year and I never wrote up an official review for it so I skipped it. This week we are up to #20 and for the first time I believe Aaron and I have the movie at the exact same spot on the countdown!


The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

The Story: A young self centered emperor (in Peru) is accidentally turned into Llama in a botched attempt to poison him. He escapes, but must find his way back to his kingdom in order to get himself turned back into human.

The Hero: Kuzco (David Spade), the egomaniacal emperor whose motto is “it’s all about me.” He wants to turn the mountain home of a peasant named Pacha (John Goodman) into a summer get away called “Kuzcotopia.” But Pacha still helps him return to his palace. Along the way he learns how to be more selfless.

The Villain: Yzma (EEE-zma) (Ertha Kitt) The old, wrinkled advisor to Kuzco. She plots to poison him and take over the kingdom, but her potion accidentally turns Kuzco into a llama.

Sidekicks: Kronk (Patrick Warburton) Yzma’s loyal henchman whose conscience always gets the best of him. Pacha (John Goodman) is more of a co-lead in the film than a sidekick.

Music: There were originally about a half a dozen songs composed for the film by Sting. But the storyline and tone of the film were changed during production and Sting was told to take a hike. One song (“My Funny Friend and Me”) survives over the final credits.

The only song that appears as part of the film is “Perfect World” which is performed by Tom Jones as the voice of Kuzco’s “Theme Song Guy.”

My Favorite Dialogue:

(Pacha’s wife, Chaca, has trapped Yzma and Kronk in a dark room)
Yzma: All right, I've had enough of this. Tell us where the talking llama is and we'll burn your house to the ground.
Kronk: Er, don't you mean “or”?
Yzma: [even more angrily] Err, tell us where the talking llama is *or* we'll burn your house to the ground.
Chaca: Well, which is it? That sounds like a pretty crucial conjunction
Yzma: That's it! Kronk! Break the door down!
Kronk: Break it down? Are ya kidding me? This is hand-carved mahogany.

Favorite Character: Kronk. He gets all the big laughs.

Do We Hear The Phrase Happily Ever After? – No

Does Someone Die Or Appear To Die Before Coming Back To Life?
Not really. Pacha and Kuzco (already a llama) go over a water fall and there’s a gag involving Pacha trying to decide whether to give CPR. But there’s never a doubt that Kuzco is alright.

Miscellaneous Tidbits:

The movie was originally a traditional, heavy, dramatic Disney musical called Kingdom of the Sun. It was an Incan version of Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper” with Owen Wilson as the voice of Kuzco’s “twin,” a peasant named Pacha. The film was 50% complete and had undergone test screenings when it was decided that it wasn’t working and the whole film was reworked.

The end of the film was changed when Sting objected to the “anti-environment” nature of “Kuzcotopia” being built on razed forest land.


I went into this one pretty sure I was going to hate it. The title led me to believe it was going to be some “hip” movie about “getting your groove” back or some other misguided attempt to be relevant.

I’m pleased to tell you that I was wrong. The film has a good storyline and the characters are sympathetic enough, but what really carries this movie is the humor. It is laugh out loud funny most of the time. At one point I was laughing so hard I had to pause the movie so I didn’t miss anything, which I’ve never had to do during a Disney movie.

So, yes, a pleasant surprise. I have it bumped up a little higher on the list mainly because of its humor, but overall the movie works really well enough to earn a pretty high spot on the list.