1980’s – Who framed Roger Rabbit
The 1980’s was the decade of some of the greatest and most popular movies of all time. Back to the Future, Star Wars episodes V and VI, Indiana Jones and The Breakfast Club to name but a few. Not only that, but Disney had not yet reached its ‘renaissance’ period, and seemed to be slowly losing the interest of the public, with films that had been released after Walt Disney’s death in 1966 not performing as well as those released prior to it. As a result, Disney decided to team up with the one and only Steven Spielberg in 1988 to produce the live action/animation hybrid ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, set in 1940’s Hollywood, where cartoons and humans co-exist. I have to admit, although I had seen the film ‘Who framed Roger Rabbit’ on various occasions before, I was not actually aware that it was a Disney production until very recently! This is likely due to the fact that it was released through their Touchstone Pictures division. With direction from Robert Zemeckis, the brains behind Back to the Future, one of the greatest movies of all time, alongside Christopher Llyod in one of the leading roles, it is no wonder that ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ is up there with my favourite live action Disney films. Although it is not an obvious Disney films, with its animation style and slapstick comedy reminding me much more of a Looney Tunes production, the movie kicked off what would be a number of incredibly successful years for Disney. The film is a fun twist on a typical murder mystery, featuring a plethora of famous toons, including Betty Boop, Bambi, Dumbo, Bugs Bunny (aswell as other members of the Looney Tunes gang) and the main man himself Mickey Mouse, alongside his Mrs. Basically, it is an incredible film and one that provided Disney with a huge amount of success, going on to bag three Academy awards and renewing the world’s interest in the Golden Age of American Animation.
1990’s – Hocus Pocus
Disney’s 1993 feature ‘Hocus Pocus’ has become a Halloween necessity. Directed by the fabulous Kenny Ortega, who has recently become recognised for other Disney masterpieces (not an exaggeration) such as High School Musical and Descendants, it is no surprise that his earlier work was just as impressive. The movie stars a young Sarah Jessica Parker, legendary Bette Midler and comedian Kathy Najimy as the spooky Sanderson Sisters, a threesome of witches who are out to wreak havoc on Salem on Halloween night, hundreds of years after their ‘death’. For me, the star of this film is Thora Birch in the role of 8-year old Dani, who along with her brother Max and his love interest Allison, attempt to destroy the evil witches before they can do any further damage. She is a prime example of a wonderful little child actress who as of yet has not gone off the rails! (Although watching the film American Beauty did slightly ruin my childhood, as we see Dani in a slightly different light). The movie itself carries the perfect balance of comedy, spookiness and downright craziness, which has over the years attracted its cult following. As Halloween movies go, this is easily my favourite and the only one that I would agree to watch on an annual basis.
2000’s – Pirates of the Caribbean
The early noughties saw the beginning of what has become one of Disney’s biggest franchises, Pirates of the Caribbean. These movies feature some of the best actors in the business, with Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush all performing brilliantly. There is certainly no one else that could ever come close to Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. ‘The Curse of the Black Pearl’, the first in the franchise, is a fantastic film, and was originally developed from the Pirates of the Caribbean Disney theme park ride. The film apparently performed much greater than anticipated, winning numerous prestigious awards, resulting in the planning of back-to-back sequels. However, the first instalment in the series is quite easily the best, and it seems that as each sequel film is released, the quality decreases (only ever so slightly), with neither of them living up to the incredibly high standard of The Curse of the Black Pearl or Dead Man’s Chest. None the less, this has not stopped Disney dishing out five (so far) films, seemingly wanting to squeeze as much money as possible from the franchise before it dies out completely. Don’t get me wrong, I would gladly watch either of the first four movies, but I am sceptical about the fifth. I have yet to see Salazar’s Revenge (or Dead Men Tell No Tale’s in the US), but I have not heard a single positive review about it, which is a shame, as this was once one of my favourite movie series’. Without Knightley and Bloom in the main cast of the film, the film just doesn’t have the same appeal to me at all, and I don’t understand how it could possibly work anywhere near as well. Nevertheless, despite the bad reception the fifth instalment has received, it seems Disney may still have plans to release a sixth, with an end-credit scene in Salazar’s Revenge implying Will and Elizabeth will return as main characters. Personally, I think Disney should probably stopped after ‘On Stranger Tides’ but I will keep an open mind!
2010’s – Into the Woods
The latest decade of live action Disney has supplied us with the likes of ‘Into the Woods’. This film was a genius amalgamation of various traditional fairytales, such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel and was adapted from the Broadway production of the same name. With a star-studded cast ranging from Meryl Streep to Chris Pine to Johnny Depp, it was inevitable that it would be a box office hit. The movie is effectively one giant sing-a-long, which I must admit, at times does get ever so slightly annoying, mainly because in parts of the film it is none stop (and Little Red Riding Hood has a very high-pitched voice that should only have to be endured in small doses!). Then again, that is what makes the film what it is and I can guarantee it would lose its charm without it. James Corden and Emily Blunt are perfect as the baker and his wife and are slowly becoming one of my favourite Disney couples (the ending broke my heart!). They are joined by Anna Kendrick, one of my favourite actresses, in the role of Cinderella, reminding us all that not only is she an incredible actress, but she also has the voice of an angel. Chris Pine is hilariously brilliant as Cinderella’s unnamed Prince, a satirical, over the top character who simply seems to mock everything that Disney stands for. The ‘sing off’ between him and Rapunzel’s Prince is absolutely wonderful as the pair splash around in a river, competing for who’s heartache is the strongest and who can most dramatically rip open their shirt, and is probably my favourite scene from the whole film. I think he may be my new favourite Disney Prince. The movie also features plenty of brutality, which isn’t something often associated with Disney, from a Prince being blinded by thorns, the Baker’s wife’s infidelity and, later, her ruthless death, Disney do not hold back with this one.
So, there we have it, some of the most iconic and recognised live action films Disney have released over the past 8 decades. In my opinion, most of them have been excellent and have lived up to the high standards Disney have set themselves over the years, however, there are a few duds in there that have left me disappointed and wondering what the hell went wrong. We can only hope that Disney continue to bring us fresh, original live action movies, and calm down their current obsessions with remakes!
Here’s a hilarious gif of a distressed Chris Pine, because why not..