March to Disney: Trips to Treasure Island

This is a series of posts this month wherein I will focus on Disney films. For more on my background with Disney films and about the timing of this focus please read the introductory post here.

When one looks at a studio and all the films they’ve made in a given subgenre, it could be easy to forget what the first incarnation of a particular type of character is. As I revisited Disney’s 1950 version of Treasure Island I realized that this was the Studios first treatment of pirate lore in a feature film, seeing as how it was the first entirely live-action film Disney made.

In fact, once I got the pirate notion in my head I watched with an eye for that and I found that many of the men that Long John Silver recruited, as cast in this film, seemed to be models for the Pirates of the Caribbean animatronics that would follow soon thereafter.

Disney, as it was widely reported, had been seeking to enter the live-action film world. The desire was, in part, to produce cheaper films that were easier to turn a profit on. Aside from being a first it’s interesting to note that, based on what the average production timeline on an animated feature, Peter Pan was likely already in the works. So Disney’s hand at working with a seafaring tale and representing pirates was being tested.

Another interesting correlation between those two projects is the involvement of Bobby Driscoll. Driscoll was literally the first actor to be a contract player for Disney. In fact, his loan to RKO, which earned him an the Juvenile Award at the Oscars for The Window, was thanked in the credits of that film. He voiced the prior incarnation of Goofy’s son, Junior, and also appeared in So Dear to My Heart and Song of the South. After working on Treasure Island he served not only as voice actor but also as the model for Peter Pan, which proved to be his last involvement with Disney and one of his final roles in film. The end of Driscoll’s career and later on life are progressively sadder stories. You can easily find those on the IMDb if your day is going too well and you need a depressing interlude. However, the fact remains that in participating in some of Disney’s classics and being the pioneer of actors signing with Disney, Driscoll and his films serve as milestones. In the studio era if you had no contract players you had no chance, he was the linchpin to the early parts of that plan, and certainly this film.

The film preserves Hawkins’ perspective and tells itself through his eyes such that some things are learned after the fact through dialogue. The difficulties this film faces are due to some slight pacing issues, some over-the-top performances and a few overly-simple characters, but it is and enjoyable version of the tale.

Another interesting historic note is that The Muppets, after Jim Henson Productions were acquired by Disney, did their own Treasure Island, which I just recently saw as well. It’s true to form for the Muppets down to the musical treatment, the involvement of Tim Curry and the casting choice among their stable of characters.

Disney has also put a sci-fi twist to the tale via the animation in Treasure Planet, which I need to see and is currently streaming on Netflix (US). However, currently the most well known Disney pirate property is the one one based on the ride that was, in part, inspired by this tale, The Pirates of the Caribbean. I’ve seen all those films and they go up and down quality-wise.

So here you have another Disney table-setter in more ways than one that is worth checking out for cinematic purposes as well such as the production design and cinematography.

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A Recap of Super Bowl Film Commercials

The Super Bowl this year, as it is many years was replete with ads that either advertise films or referenced them. Here’s a quick recap.

Captain America: The First Avenger

This is the first look I’ve really gotten at Captain America. At least in terms of a trailer, this seems like a rather good glimpse at at least some of the highlights of the origin of the character. Playing the tale as a period piece is also likely to work to this film’s benefit.

Fast Five

A continuation of The Fast and the Furious series. This installment takes place in Rio de Janeiro, there will be a Brazilian theme. What is most humorous about this one is that our heroes will drive through favelas and mess up hardened criminals and likely walk out unscathed. Very realistic.

Super 8

This was, hands down, the best trailer of the night. Oddly enough, esteemed publications like The Hollywood Gossip ran a headline which reads “Super 8 Movie Trailer: What the… ?!?” Now granted the article does admit it’s somewhat excited for the release but why complain about being confused. Super 8 first released an even more arcane teaser months ago and now about four months prior to its release we see a little more. This is how trailers used to work. You see just enough of a film to be intrigued into watching it, instead now sometimes you feel like you watched a whole movie. I finish seeing many and say to myself “That movie sucked.” because I feel like I saw the whole thing. This gives us just enough to want more and I’m even more amped for it than I was before. Bring it on Abrams and Spielberg.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Another example of why less is more. The original trailer while it was a little annoying when you found out what it was for was a little more mysterious.Now you see more than before and it gets silly from the get go and that’s just annoying.

Thor

While this ad made me giggle because I randomly thought of re-writing the song “War” and inserting “Thor,” it is decent. Not nearly as effective as the theatrical trailer as this one shows some possible chinks in the armor but not bad.

Rango

This is literally a film that has been overexposed and again reiterates the brilliance of the Super 8 strategy. I have been seeing trailers and commercials for this for so long I am fatigued of it and the worst part is the concept was only borderline in my estimation to begin with.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Nothing could be less appealing to me than another Pirates film considering that they have fallen off precipitously and I literally fell asleep during the last one, which was fine by me save for the fact that I needed to be woken up because I was snoring. This ad actually presents the film in a better light than does the full-length trailer.

Cowboys & Aliens

This is the kind of film most people already have an opinion on based on the concept. You either think the combination of two disparate entities such as these is ridiculous or inspired. The fact that the director of this film is also responsible for Elf, Zathura, and Iron Man won’t sway you. Aside from the much hyped ‘seeing more of the alien craft’ not much to be gleaned here or to change one’s mind.

Limitless

Not much to see here. a condensed version of the trailer. The concept has potential but it seems like it gets pushed to extremes. Interesting to note that it’s one of the few films coming out in fairly short order that shelled out the big bucks for a Super Bowl ad. It will be interesting to see what it does.

Rio

It’s a short 0:15 spot but even here you get to see some of the unfortunate aspects of the film: Hispanic actors subbing in as Brazilian and inaccuracies of beach life in Brazil such as the overly-large bikini cuts. While there is some promise in the concept of a film about the birds of Brazil it seems like it might not quite hit in this rendition.

Now some websites are mentioning The Adjustment Bureau, Just Go With It, Priest and Battle: Los Angeles, the last one I saw pre-kick-off. Others I didn’t see in-game. Maybe I was on a health break but I only count kick-off to final whistle and those were the ones I counted. Did I miss them?

There were also a few ads inspired by or referencing films such as the Bud Light Product Placement ad, Budweiser Cowboy singing “Tiny Dancer” reminiscent of Almost Famous, Volkswagen Mini-Darth Vader and Hyundai Sonata a bit callously referencing silent films.

To see all the ads go here.

What was Your Favorite Film Commercial During the Super Bowl?
(polls)