Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Aristocats (1970)

“You’re not a lady. You’re nothing but a sister.”

The Aristocats is the first movie that was made entirely without Walt’s oversight. And it shows.

Without Walt, five of the famed “Nine Old Men” helped shape the film, which took four years and $4-million to make. On its release, it was both a critical and box office success, though time has treated it less well than others in the Disney canon.

The storytelling is slow, the language haughty and the characterizations exaggerated. It has not aged well and today it remains one of the more easily forgotten titles.

But, in 1970 film critics hailed it as evidence that the Disney company had not only survived Walt’s death, it had learned to thrive.

The New York Times called it “amusing, smoothly machined and beautifully coloured,” while noting “the animal characters with their human nuances are the main dish and delight, ranging from cute to hilarious, thanks to animation wizardry and flavoursome voice-matching.”

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Walter Elias Disney, 1901-1966

“I’d rather entertain and hope that people learn, than teach and hope that people are entertained.”

Walter Elias Disney died on Dec. 15, 1966 during the production of The Jungle Book. He was a chain smoker, suffered from a chronic cough that alerted others to the fact that he was in the room, and eventually died from complications from lung cancer.

Little more than a month before his death, he checked into hospital to undergo surgery related to what he thought was an old polo injury. But x-rays revealed a large lesion on his left lung, which turned out to be a tumour. Doctors performed a pneumonectomy — removing the entire lung — and estimated that Walt would return to work four-to-six weeks later.

“There is no reason to predict any recurrence of the problem or curtailment of his future,” doctors told United Press International. That article was printed on Nov. 23, 1966. Within two weeks, he died of acute circulatory failure.

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The Jungle Book (1967)

Sad Mowgli

The next classic from the Disney canon is none other than a retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s tales of Mowgli, the orphan boy who grew up in the jungle. But maybe calling it re-imagining is more accurate. While The Jungle Book is based on Rudyard Kipling’s novel of the same name, the source material was largely discarded for the film. Walt even reportedly told his animators and storytellers to ignore Kipling’s tale when developing Disney’s version of Mowgli’s story.

While the story is a fun, heartwarming tale of a boy urged to find where he belongs in the world (namely the Man Village with the other humans), and introduces us to charming characters like Baloo the Bear and Kaa the Snake, it is the behind-the-scenes drama that makes this film so interesting. The making of this movie was filled with arguments, clashes over creativity, key personnel leaving the company and, of course, tragedy. Yes, The Jungle Book was the last film Walt personally oversaw; he died in December, 1966, due to complications from lung cancer.

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