Tag Archives: animated film

The Aristocats “The Aristocats” (1970)

I often feel like the animated Disney films made during the 1970s get overlooked far too often as they’re made after the passing of Walt Disney and before the Disney Renaissance began. However, there were several animated gems made during this era and The Aristocats is one of them (it also has the distinction of being the last film project approved by Disney himself before his death in 1966). Set in Paris in the year 1910, The Aristocats follows a family of high-class felines that live with Madame, a retired opera singer. When Edgar, the family butler, learns that the cats will inherit the estate before he does, the disgruntled servant kidnaps the cats and abandons them in the French countryside, leading the cats into an adventure to get back to Paris and their home.

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The Aristocats “The Aristocats” (1970)

The titular song was performed by Maurice Chevalier, a legendary French singer and performer, who was actually talked out of retirement to do the song (his final contribution to the film industry as he died in 1972). The song describes all the advantages “aristocats” possess (‘aristocat’ being an obvious play on aristocrat) over ‘common’ cats and ends with the cats out with Madame on a carriage ride.

Which pet’s address
Is the finest in Paris?
Which pets possess
The longest pedigree?
Which pets get
To sleep on velvet mats?
Naturellement! The aristocats!

Which pets are blessed
With the fairest forms and faces?
Which pets know best
All the gentle social graces?
Which pets live
On cream and loving fats?
Naturellement! The aristocats!

The song plays out while we’re treated to the opening credits, as well as animations of the cats that will appear later in the film.

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They show aristocratic bearing
When they’re seen
Upon an airing
And aristocratic flair
In what they do
And what they say!
Aristocats are never found
In alleyways or hanging around
The garbage cans where
Common kitties play, oh no!
Which pets are known
To never show their claws?
Which pets are prone
To hardly any flaws?
To which pets
Do the others tip their hats?
Naturellement! The aristocats!

I’ve always found it interesting that the film points out the year as 1910, as there aren’t many Disney films that specify a year. Perhaps I’m being morbid, but every time I see that date, I always remember that it was only a few years before the start of World War I, when the glitz and glamour of the 19th century disappeared. The year is also a reminder that this is a time of great change (even before the war began). For instance, while Madame is riding in a carriage, her lawyer drives up in a car (albeit a primitive one).

Also, fun piece of trivia: Hermione Baddeley, the voice of Madame, is also the voice of Auntie Shrew in The Secret of NIMH (1982) (another Disney credit includes Ellen in Mary Poppins (1964)).

I like “The Aristocats,” it’s a fun little song that provides a good opening to the film and I hope you enjoy listening to it. Let me know what you think of this song in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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Disturbing Bluth #6: Meeting Brutus in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

I couldn’t leave The Secret of NIMH without talking about this one moment in particular. To this day it never fails to make me jump in surprise (though thankfully not in fear like it used to), and that is the moment when Mrs. Brisby encounters Brutus the rat.

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The Secret of NIMH (1982)- Into the Rosebush/Brutus

Up until this point, Brisby’s journey through the rose bush has only been mildly scary, but nothing close to disturbing (no mouse eating spiders this time). I’m still surprised that she got as far as she did without encountering any rats, but given we later learn that the rats are in a special meeting, it makes sense.

What makes the run-in with Brutus even more disturbing is, right before it happens, Mrs. Brisby discovers a beautiful garden (with awestruck music to highlight the moment). There are flowers everywhere and what looks like a jeweled brooch leading into the next part of the bush. But here is where Mrs. Brisby’s luck finally runs out. Just as she’s leaving this area, all the flowers around her close up and I’ve always taken this as a clue that something is about to happen because out of nowhere (literally, it’s a textbook jump scare) comes Brutus, a huge rat with a scary looking pike (that emits electricity when banged against the ground).

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It doesn’t help any that the moment Brutus appears the background turns dark and red. Even worse, Brutus doesn’t say a word to the terrified mouse, even when she plainly states her purpose is to see Nicodemus and that the Great Owl sent her. If anything, the words seem to provoke Brutus into striking out with the pike again. It’s terrifying, disturbing, and for many years I did not watch this film because of this moment. The house sinking couldn’t keep me away, Jenner or the Great Owl couldn’t either, but Brutus? Oh yes, he scared me plenty, even though a closer examination of the scene reveals that the rat is only chasing her away and not actually trying to kill her.

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The one thing about this scene that has always bothered me (besides its disturbing nature) is, why did Brutus stop chasing Mrs. Brisby? If he really wanted to make sure she was leaving, he should have chased her all the way back to the entrance. Instead he just…stopped. It just feels weird to me, especially since on the way back in with Mr. Ages, the pair of mice don’t encounter Brutus again (or if they do it’s not shown, but you’d think there’d be a scene where the older mouse would tell the rat “She’s with me.”)

That issue aside, what do you think of the scene where Mrs. Brisby encounters Brutus? Did it disturb you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

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Disturbing Bluth #1: The Secret of NIMH (Overview and Trivia)

Disturbing Bluth #2: The Secret of NIMH: Dragon the (Demon) Cat

Disturbing Bluth #3: The Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Disturbing Bluth #4: Jenner in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Disturbing Bluth #5: The House is Sinking in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Disturbing Bluth #5: The House is Sinking in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

*If you know anything about The Secret of NIMH then you KNEW this scene was going to be talked about eventually*

By far the most disturbing moment in The Secret of NIMH comes at the end of the film, though you don’t see it coming at first. This is because it appears that the big climax of the film has already happened: Jenner and Justin have just fought a huge duel that ended with Jenner dead (along with his associate Sullivan). With the rats now warned that NIMH is coming, Mrs. Brisby naturally heads back to the fallen house (which smacked into the ground rather hard when the machinery collapsed). The children are alright (WHY the rats didn’t take them out of the house before they started moving it I don’t know) and it seems like we’ve dodged a massive bullet….and then the music starts. This scene is a grade A example of why I study film music: even before the house starts sinking into the mud, the ominous suspenseful tone should tell you that something very bad is about to happen. Jerry Goldsmith, the composer for this film, put all his talents to work here and he did not disappoint.

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The Secret of NIMH (1982): The House Sinking Scene

I should note, this was actually foreshadowed earlier in the film. When the rats and Mrs. Brisby are traveling on the boat, it’s revealed that much of the ground under the farm is hollow, with Justin muttering that it’s all going to collapse someday. The implication then, is that the force of the Brisby home smacking into the ground caused a partial collapse underground which is why the house is now sinking.

As the realization dawns that the house (with the children inside!!!) is sinking into the mud, the music rises quickly into a turmoil that reflects the panic of Mrs. Brisby and the surviving rats. After all, given the esteem they have for Jonathan Brisby, they couldn’t live with themselves if they let his children die. There’s a frantic race on to attach the house (built into a cement block) to any number of lines and stop it from sinking completely. Meanwhile, we actually get a look inside the house as it’s filling up with mud. There’s no sign of Timothy (who, I remind you, is bedridden) and the other children are shrieking “Get us out of here!!” This in itself is disturbing as you don’t normally see children (in animation or live-action) put into such direct peril. Oh it’s been implied before (such as the huntsman nearly stabbing Snow White) but it’s never been so immediate a danger as what we see now.

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The worst moment of the scene comes when the final line keeping the block up snaps and the home is pulled down into a whirlpool of mud while Mrs. Brisby is hauled to safety by Justin. The implications are downright macabre: according to what we just saw, all the children (and Auntie Shrew she’s still inside remember) are dead and Mrs. Brisby has now lost her entire family. It’s heart-wrenching, disturbing and once I fully grasped what was going on, this scene screwed me up in the head for years. Now, even though this is set right less than a minute later (in a spectacular piece of animation I might add), that doesn’t change the fact that we the audience had to go through this first.

This scene is the perfect example of Bluth’s belief that children can take just about anything so long as there is a happy ending afterward. Given my experience however, I don’t think this is true. But what do you think? Is the scene any less disturbing with the happy ending that follows? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disturbing Bluth #1: The Secret of NIMH (Overview and Trivia)

Disturbing Bluth #2: The Secret of NIMH: Dragon the (Demon) Cat

Disturbing Bluth #3: The Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Disturbing Bluth #4: Jenner in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

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Disturbing Bluth #4: Jenner in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Given that The Secret of NIMH is 36 years old, I sometimes get the feeling that people have forgotten just how disturbing Jenner (the primary rat antagonist) really is. From the moment Mrs. Brisby arrives in the rats’ secret home under the rose bush, she hears about Jenner and how he keeps challenging Nicodemus for leadership of the rats. But there’s so much more to the villain that makes him deeply and truly disturbing.

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The Secret of NIMH (1982): Jenner before the Council

For starters, look at the picture above: this is when Jenner is putting on his ‘nice’ facade for Mrs. Brisby. Even when he’s trying to appear good he looks terrifying. Second, Paul Shenar, Jenner’s voice actor, gives the character a rich, deep voice. This makes Jenner a good speaker and also serves to partially hide how savage he can be. Part of what makes Jenner so disturbing is that he genuinely has no sense of long term consequences and his empathy is non-existent (making him something of a sociopath).

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Even when confronted with the news that NIMH is coming to the rose bush in the morning (and deep down Jenner has to know there’s no reason for Mrs. Brisby to lie), Jenner decries her news as lies simply because it ruins his plans to stay in the rose bush. Third, Jenner is a master manipulator as can be seen in his interactions with Sullivan, a not-so-smart rat who finds himself roped into Jenner’s plans. Jenner openly mocks Sullivan, which is in itself cruel but not disturbing. He convinces the weak-willed rat to go along with him and that everything will be better once Nicodemus and Justin are dead (it’s implied that Jenner will kill the latter as well).

The Secret of NIMH (1982): Jenner’s Plan

Jenner: With Nicodemus out of the way, what’s to stop us from taking over?

Sullivan: Jenner, you can’t kill Nicodemus.

Jenner: No taste for blood, eh? They’ve taken the animal out of you.

The disturbing part comes at the climax of the film when the Brisby home is being relocated by the rats using complex machinery. Jenner wants to sabotage the equipment so that Nicodemus will be killed in the ensuing collapse but Sullivan doesn’t want to do it. This prompts Jenner to hold Sullivan at sword point, implying that if he doesn’t go through with it, he’ll kill him.

Jenner: [Holding a sword to Sullivan’s throat] Don’t get any ideas, my friend. You’re in this up to your neck.

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The Secret of NIMH (1982): Jenner vs Justin

Despite this threat, it’s genuinely shocking when Jenner actually goes through with it in brutal fashion, slicing Sullivan’s throat with his sword when he throws Justin (Jenner’s rival) a weapon to defend himself. It’s one of the most graphic things I’ve ever seen happen to an animated character, but the best is saved for Jenner himself. After a lengthy sword fight, Jenner is wounded in the stomach by Justin, but not fatally. As Justin mobilizes the rats to get ready to leave, Jenner sneaks up from behind to deliver a killing blow…only to be literally stabbed in the back by a dying Sullivan, falling to his death in the mud.

Jenner is a character that gave me nightmares for years and he still remains one of the more disturbing aspects of The Secret of NIMH. What do you think of Jenner? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disturbing Bluth #1: The Secret of NIMH (Overview and Trivia)

Disturbing Bluth #2: The Secret of NIMH: Dragon the (Demon) Cat

Disturbing Bluth #3: The Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

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Disturbing Bluth #3: The Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Early on in the story, the plot centers on Mrs. Brisby’s quest to speak to the Great Owl about how to keep her family safe from the farmer’s plow. Normally the family simply relocates, but the youngest son Timmy is sick with pneumonia and can’t go outside. Mrs. Brisby eventually agrees to be flown to the Great Owl’s tree by Jeremy (the talkative crow that she saved from Dragon).

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The Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

From the outset there’s already a minor level of disturbing to this scene. Even though the music is happy (as Jeremy is flying), the sky is bright red behind them (that’s not ominous at all). And the forest they approach doesn’t exactly look friendly either. Then there’s the matter of the owl’s tree itself. Go to the video of this scene and check out the entrance: it’s a dark, spooky tunnel filled with cobwebs (that image alone gave me nightmares) and then it gets worse! Just as Jeremy assumes there’s nobody home, you hear this unearthly sound come from inside, a loud rustling and then the deepest, most ominous voice intones “Step inside my house.” (I should mention the Great Owl was voiced by the legendary John Carradine). All of this is disturbing enough, the Great Owl doesn’t sound at all welcoming and, as Mrs. Brisby has pointed out several times, “owls EAT mice!”

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Regardless of her fear, Mrs. Brisby enters the tree and we swiftly come to the second most disturbing portion of this scene. As she unwittingly approaches the Great Owl (whom you can see on the right hand side if you look closely at a long shot of the inside of the tree), a terrifying spider descends behind her. As a lifelong arachnophobe, this moment has traumatized me for years (the ominous music doesn’t help in the slightest). But just as Mrs. Brisby notices the spider, out of nowhere a clawed foot reaches out and crushes it into a pile of goo. And that’s when you realize the owl is right there and he is TERRIFYING. His eyes are two glowing orbs and there’s a sickening moment when you realize his head is crooked upside down and he slowly wrenches it upright. Also he’s covered in cobwebs, which always spooked me for some reason.

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Thankfully, as the scene progresses from here the level of disturbing falls dramatically as it comes out that the owl, for all his scariness, isn’t that bad (and he does give the best advice he can). That doesn’t change the fact that this scene with The Great Owl is highly disturbing (and there are worse examples to come in this film!)

What do you think of the Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disturbing Bluth #1: The Secret of NIMH (Overview and Trivia)

Disturbing Bluth #2: The Secret of NIMH: Dragon the (Demon) Cat

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My thoughts on: Watership Down (1978)

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For a long time the only thing I knew about Watership Down was the book written by Richard Adams in 1972. I did my best to read my mom’s battered copy, but it was a very long story and I quickly lost interest. Fast forward a number of years and I was delighted to discover a movie version of the story existed! The film simplified the story considerably and it’s remained a favorite of mine for many years.

Watership Down, to put it simply, is a story about rabbits. Author Richard Adams created an entire rabbit language and culture and it’s so thoroughly put together that by the end of the story you kind of believe that these things about rabbits are really true, but I digress…in the story, we primarily follow a group of rabbits led by Hazel and his runt brother Fiver. The latter has this gift of seeing things before they happen, and one evening he has a vision that something terrible will happen to their warren. While most of the rabbits don’t believe a word Fiver says, Hazel believes his brother and convinces a small group to leave the warren and find a new home.

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Finding a new home (the titular Watership Down as it becomes known in the book) takes up most of the story and it’s far from easy. The rabbits travel across the countryside, evading dogs, busy roads, a weird warren of rabbits led by Cowslip and most importantly, the overcrowded warren of Efrafa led by General Woundwort. The film, though animated, does not shy away from revealing how graphically dangerous the journey is. For example, one female rabbit is snatched by a hawk; Bigwig is nearly strangled to death in bloody fashion by a snare; and in Efrafa, we see numerous examples of how rabbits are punished for breaking the rules (getting scratched up and having their ears torn up). Watership Down is one of those films that on the outside looks like an ordinary children’s film but it really deals with some extremely adult topics (lucky for me I didn’t see the film until I was in my teens).

The story isn’t ALL dark, some wonderful comic relief is provided by the seagull Kehaar (Zero Mostel in his final role). The rabbits befriend him when they discover him by their new warren with a damaged wing. He helps them rescue a lot of rabbits from Efrafa in the climax of the story before returning to his “big water” (the ocean).

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Another character I must talk about is the fearsome General Woundwort. He’s the biggest rabbit you’ll ever see (in fact the book implies he’s more hare than rabbit, and yes there is a difference). Woundwort rules Efrafa with an iron paw and won’t allow any rabbits to leave, despite legitimate complaints that there is simply no room for kittens (baby rabbits) to be born. When the Watership Down rabbits successfully rescue a large group of Efrafans, Woundwort goes on the warpath and leads his rabbit soldiers to take ‘his’ rabbits back. The depths of Woundwort’s madness can be seen in his final moments: Hazel has contrived to lead a dog to the down, knowing that it will hunt down or chase away all the Efrafans (his people are safely underground in the burrows where the dog can’t get to them). As the Efrafans run for their lives, Woundwort appears and shouts “Come back you fools, come back and fight, dogs aren’t dangerous!” Any rabbit with common sense would know that dogs are very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Not only does Woundwort claim this ISN’T the case but his last act is to charge straight at the dog!

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While I wouldn’t recommend showing this film to children under the age of 10, it is a good film to watch if you like stories about adventure with a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. There’s a wonderful song, “Bright Eyes” sung by Art Garfunkel halfway through the story while Fiver searches for Hazel after an expedition to add female rabbits to the warren goes wrong. It’s a great interlude in the action.

All in all, Watership Down is a great film and one that everyone should see at least once. What did you think of Watership Down? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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Disturbing Bluth: An Introduction

So for the past number of months I have been regaling you with tales of ‘Disturbing Disney’, finding the most disturbing Disney film moments I can remember and breaking them down in minute detail. Rest assured I have no plans of ending that series anytime soon (in fact I’m making plans to turn that series into a book, though that won’t come to pass for a while), but given how I still feel under the weather today, I thought I would take some time to introduce the subject of Disturbing Disney’s sister series: Don Bluth.

If you found any part of Disturbing Disney remotely disturbing or messed up, believe me when I say, you’ve seen NOTHING yet. It dawned on me somewhere around entry #10 that Don Bluth would require a series all his own to highlight the psychological torture he unwittingly put me through as a child.

For those who may not have seen the..imaginative…works of Don Bluth, allow me to make introductions. Don Bluth is, to be fair, a talented animator who originally worked for Disney, his first job as an assistant on Sleeping Beauty (1959). He returned to Disney full time in the 1970s and worked on Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, The Rescuers and he directed the animation for Pete’s Dragon. Not long after this, Bluth took 9 fellow Disney animators and set off to start his own animation studio, one that he hoped would rival Disney itself. Bluth was frustrated with how Disney was run at the time, and he wanted to revive the traditional animation that originally made Disney films famous.

Starting with The Secret of NIMH in 1982, Bluth directed a series of films that, though spectacularly animated, became the stuff of nightmares for children all over the world. And the biggest reason for this is due to Bluth’s philosophy on film: Bluth believed that children were capable of witnessing just about anything onscreen so long as the story had a happy ending that (in theory) cancelled out the previous trauma. In other words, Bluth wanted to go in directions that the Disney studio would not, considering that way ‘too dark.’

Disturbing Don Bluth will break down each of Bluth’s major films, all of which are full to the brim of Disturbing moments that, I assure you, will make Disturbing Disney look TAME by comparison. This series will look at films such as:

The Secret of NIMH (1982)

An American Tail (1986)

The Land Before Time (1988)

All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)

Thumbelina (1994)

That may seem like a short list, but in those films is contained more disturbing moments then I can count. For example, you’ll hear about how a young dinosaur nearly drowns in tar, a mouse is terrorized by a sea monster, a dog has a vivid nightmare of Hell (demons included) and one of the most traumatizing “death of a mother” scenes that I can remember (with one heck of a secret behind it).

I hope to be starting on this series very soon, and Disturbing Disney will also continue. I’m already feeling much better, so hopefully by Monday I will be able to resume a regular blogging schedule.

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