it’s 20 degrees and snowy, and I just realized it’s not even february yet.
so to keep myself warm, I’m watching Buffy (of the vampire-slaying sort) and listening to relevant 90s hits on spotify. if only this wasn’t a cartoon blog, I’d make it a Buffy blog, because that’s where I’m at right now. too bad every other person was where I’m at right now 5-15 years ago.
I recently watched Disney’s The Black Cauldron (1985) because I had never seen it before. I was confused as to how a Disney feature film made it under my radar in the 80′s; I was that kid who watched the little mermaid multiple times a day, so I was serious and vigilant about that kind of stuff. but having watched the movie, it is obvious to me why my parents would not have even bothered to tell me it existed. according to wikipedia, this movie has a cult following, but I call bullshit. have you ever known anyone who was a member of this cult? are you? probably not.
you know how disney (back in the days of hand-drawn cels) used to recycle its animation?
I’m not sure why it was shitty. but they obviously went back to xerography, because look at the lines on these guys:
that girl, Princess Whatever, wears the standard-issue Disney Princess dress and a hairband that doesn’t seem to be achieving much of anything. and that horrible little dude, whatever his name is, whatever he is, dog or monkey or what, the one that capers around self-effacingly and sounds like Gollum, was the worst. and when he (spoiler alert) sacrifices himself at the end, and the main kid is all sad, it’s total bullshit, like when Dobbie dies in Harry Potter (SHIT SPOILER ALERT), you know HP feels at least a little relieved because Dobbie was weirdly fixated on him and always screwed things up and watched him while he slept and stuff. yet when he dies, he clutches his tiny body and sheds a few newly mature tears and swears revenge on the V-Word.
it’s easy to love someone when they’re dead, HP. but this is real life. and Gurgi (the monkeydog) should have died in real life.
anyway, I was convinced at first that Gurgi was voiced by the same actor who played Abu, the monkey sidekick in Aladdin. I usually have a pretty good ear for voice actors, but I was wrong. but I could swear there are whole sequences of this character’s animation that I’ve seen recycled, if not in Abu then some other Disney monkey . I felt deja-vu throughout the entire movie, partly due to the scrapheap thing, partly because it was weird to watch a Disney feature from the 80s that I hadn’t seen before. I saw all the rest of them so many times when I was a kid, and it was like listening to a recording of my own voice that I don’t remember recording. a familiar thing.
I can already tell I’m going to have a problem finding enough synonyms of the word “uncanny” for this blog.
so enough about the things that sucked. there was at least one thing I enjoyed, and that was the Horned King, voiced by the one and only John Hurt.
pretty scary. now here’s the Horned King: j/k! here’s John Hurt.
see what I did there?
you might remember the voice of John Hurt from such animated classics as The Plague Dogs (which I have yet to watch), Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, and Watership Down (he was in both the trippy 70s version and the far crappier 90s TV mini-series). also he was once a murderous android in Aliens and the storyteller in Jim Henson’s Storyteller, which is one of my favorite things in the history of things. if only this wasn’t a cartoon/Buffy blog, it would be a Storyteller blog. anyway, John Hurt rules, as a voice actor and a body actor. But this ain’t a John Hurt blog, so I’ll move on.
MOVING ON. when you combine the mathematically saccharine pig, the love-child between an ewok and jar jar binks that is Gurgi, and those horrible, cringe-inducing fairy people, the schmaltz in this movie is too much to handle. I knew what I was getting into, I guess.
now to wash the taste out of your mouth, here’s a surrealist Tex Avery retrospective:
*this is one of those annoying factoids you’ll probably hear about Disney a million times, but I like to write for normal folk so let me lay the knowledge down: Disney’s animation has a distinctively smoother style than most other hand-drawn animation of its time because they used significantly more cels per second. I can’t find the exact numbers right now –besides which I’m sure they got higher as the technology got better and the studio got bigger– but here is an explanation of how a large studio like Disney functioned in the hand-drawn heyday, along with some interesting diagrams of equipment (interesting to you, lesley, only interesting to you). I think this guy took a tour of a studio or something, and got to color in some cels, which I’m not going to lie sounds kind of fun (only for you lesley). and the dragon from Mulan provides comic relief! brilliant.
fuck it, here’s that diagram: