Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Disney's The Princess and the Frog

For Disney's 49th animated film, The Princess and the Frog , Disney went back to their roots. Fooling around with Computer Animation for several years, John Lasseter decided since Disney owned Pixar, it was time to bring back the classic look of hand-drawn animation for it's new fairy tale. This was a dream come true, especially for all the traditional animators that were laid off in 2003 after the switch over to CGI. They were all sought out and rehired to do their magic. Now when I say that Disney was going back to its roots, I wasn't kidding. Here we have a classically animated movie, a fairy-tale adaptation, and a Broadway style musical. There is something else that is special about this movie, however. It happens to be the first Disney animated film featuring an African-American princess and the first to have an African-American as a main character. Don't get me wrong, there have been black characters in Disney movies, though all have been in the last fifteen years. I'm not counting animal representations of black people such as the crows in Dumbo or Sebastian in The Little Mermaid. Does it seem a little odd that it took Disney so long to have a black main character? Seems weird to me too. If you look at all the Disney princesses, you have a white black-haired character, two white blonde-haired characters, one white brunette character, one Asian, one Middle-Eastern, one Ginger, and one Native-American. Now, for a race that is so connected with our history, and with so many stories involving African-Americans, I just don't see why Disney never got around to having black main characters. Perhaps Disney was too afraid in the early days and all the way through the Civil Rights movement, and maybe even in the last few decades they were afraid of causing controversy. Apparently Disney got over whatever was keeping them from it, and now we finally have an African-American Princess in Tiana.

OK, so enough about the race issue. Actually we'll have to touch on it again in a little bit, so I just completely lied. Anyway, this movie is sort of an amalgamation of two fairy-tales, The Frog Prince, and The Frog Princess. The Frog Prince is written by those fun-loving Grimm Brothers, so you can expect something crazy is going to happen to someone. In the tale, a spoiled princess reluctantly befriends a frog that she meets at a well. She accidentally drops a golden ball into the well and weeps because of it. A frog comes up from the well and offers to get the ball for the princess, but will only do it if she lets him be her companion. She agrees, thinking he won't be able to follow her, and waits as the frog gets the ball for her. Once he brought the ball up, she snatched it away and ran as fast as she could. The frog begged her to wait up, but she only ran faster. Back at her castle, the princess was constantly bothered by the frog who continually knocked on the door and asked to be let in. It was only after her father demanded that she follow her obligation that she let the frog in and let him sit at the table with her and eat. This did not make her happy at all. The frog then asked to go up to her room with her and lay in her silk bed. Again she protested, but the king made her follow her obligation. She then went about setting him in a corner in her room and tried to go to sleep. It was not to be, as the frog jumped onto the bed and demanded that he sleep there with her, or he would tell her father. This was too much. She picked up the frog and threw him against the wall. It was at that moment that the frog transformed into a handsome prince. Then they got married with the king's blessings. The end. Yep, no real lesson to that one. Or if there is one, it's that you should take your problems and promptly throw them against a wall. If he left her at the end, it would have been that you should always keep your promises, but that didn't happen. Ugh. I'm so confused! There have been many different versions of this tale however, with the most popular that a kiss would make the frog turn into a prince.

The second tale that The Princess and the Frog takes its story from is The Frog Princess. In this story, written by E.D. Baker in 2002, a princess of a fake country is told that she must marry her most hated enemy, thus she runs away and meets a prince that has been turned into a frog. The prince explains that a witch has turned him into a frog and that if she kisses him, he'll be turned back. She does, and she ends up turning into a frog instead. Whodauthunkit! Together, they attempt to find the witch and turn themselves back into humans again. Now, this version sounds a lot like The Princess and the Frog, so it's obvious that most of the subject matter has been taken from the Baker novel. However, the Baker novel is undoubtedly inspired by The Frog Prince, so it's hard to say that The Princess and the Frog is only based off the Baker novel.

The Princess and the Frog is another film directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. Musker and Clements had directed such Disney classics as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Hercules, but had left the company in 2005 after the CGI wave hit. Lasseter personally went and asked them to please direct this film, saying they could do it in any animation style they wished (CGI or hand-drawn). Luckily for us, they agreed and took on the film. The funny thing is that the idea for a Frog Prince style story was being knocked around by both Disney and Pixar in the mid 2000's, and when Disney bought Pixar, it made sense that they would combine their ideas into one big story. It was as early as 2006 that Disney had a name for the film, The Frog Princess, but the name wouldn't stick.

The name, along with some songs and early concepts were presented to the public in early 2007 and to Disney surprise, caused a minor controversy. African-Americans called foul on some of the characters, the location, and concepts
of the film. The original name for the main character was going to be "Maddy," but African-Americans felt it was too close to the derogatory term "mammy." They also found the occupation of the main character, that of a chambermaid, as being stereotypical and belittling. The fact that "Maddy's" love interest was not African-American also caused a minor stir. People didn't like that New Orleans was the setting, considering Hurricane Katrina had just happened, they didn't like that an African-American Witch Doctor was the villain, and even the French found the title to be a slur against them. OK, so a lot of people had problems with the film. Disney isn't exactly new to controversy, as they've seen it with most films they've done that involve minorities. So maybe this is why they put off a film with African-Americans. I'm not sure, as I couldn't find any article that shed any light on the reasons why Disney waited so long. All I can say is that sometimes Disney can be a teensy bit stereotypical in their representations. To address these complaints, Disney changed the name of the film to The Princess and the Frog, "Maddy" was changed to Tiana, her occupation became a waitress, and Oprah Winfrey was hired on as a consultant.
The animation of the film is a little bit different from previous hand-drawn films, as the CAPS system was too outdated and couldn't be realistically used for the film. Disney turned to Toon Boom Animation for a new system and what they got was Harmony. Think of Harmony as CAPS but a bigger, better version. Harmony is in use for the whole film, save Tiana's dream sequence. That takes on an art-deco graphic style based on the art of Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas. The character animation was done on paper, then was scanned directly into Photoshop. It was then enhanced to affect the appearance of painted strokes and fills, and combined with backgrounds, using Adobe After Effects. Musker and Clements had decided from the beginning that they wanted to go with a style like Lady and the the Tramp. Lasseter himself declared that the film was the pinnacle of Disney's style. The city look of Lady and the Tramp would also be the inspiration for the look of the city of New Orleans in the film, while the landscape of Bambi inspired the bayou scenes.

The main character, Tiana, ended up being the hardest voice to find for the crew. Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and Tyra Banks were all considered for the part at one time or another. Keys even went as far as calling the studio herself about the role. Ultimately, the role went to Jennifer Hudson's co-star from Dreamgirls, Anika Rose. Tiana is a waitress that longs to own her own restaurant, and because of her aspirations, doesn't have time for romance. That in itself is not very typical of a Disney princess (though she isn't a princess quite yet). Bruno Campos (Nip/Tuck) voices the ne'er-do-well and playboy turned frog Prince Naveen. Naveen is basically the complete opposite of Tiana. Tiana is all responsibility, and Naveen is cast out from his rich kingdom because he wants to have no responsibility. That's why he is more than happy to run around in New Or leans and just have a good time. That is, until he is turned into a frog for being...well...himself. Naveen is of an ambiguous ethnicity, because the country he hails from is make believe! Yes, Maldonia is not a real country, please don't consult your globe to try and prove me wrong. So, the prince is neither white or black, instead putting him in the Eurasian area, but sounding awfully French. I think Disney did this on purpose, and I can see why. Making him an ambiguous ethnicity is the only way to keep people from griping about the male lead.

Michael-Leon Wooley (Dreamgirls) voices Louis, the trumpet-playing, jazz-loving gator. Louis is named after the famous jazz trumpet player Louis Armstrong, and wants nothing more than to be in a band like humans. The band that Louis ultimately plays in, Firefly Five plus Lou, is a reference to the Dixieland band Firehouse Five plus Two which consisted of Disney animators. Jim Cummings (Winnie-the-Pooh) voices the Cajun firefly Ray. Ray is an interesting character due to his infatuation with the evening star, which he calls Evangeline. This is a reference the the Longfellow poem, "Evangeline, a Tale of Acadie," which tells the story of a girl trying to find her lost love. The poem is held dear by Louisiana descendants of the Acadians, or Cajuns. The "star" that Ray calls Evangeline is not a star at all, but the planet Venus. Venus is the Roman goddess of love. Keith David (The
Chronicles of Riddick) voices Dr. Facilier, aka The Shadow Man, who acts as the silver-tongued villain of the film. Bruce W. Smith, the supervising animator of Dr. Facilier, referred to the character as a "lovechild" of Cruella de Vil and Captain Hook. Gross! Facilier incidentally looks an awful lot like the Voodoo god of magic, ancestor worship, and death, Baron Samedi. Baron Samedi is often described as being very thin, wearing a top hat and tuxedo, and having a skull face. People still have a problem with the character, but for different reasons. Christians were upset by the Voodoo aspects of the film, while non-Christians didn't like that Voodoo was portrayed as a type of magic and not a religion. Oh well. You can't please everyone. Other voices in the film include John Goodman as "Big Daddy," Terrence Howard as Tiana's father that dies in WWI, and Oprah Winfrey as Tiana's mother.

The movie went up for a bunch of awards, including best animated feature and best song at The Academy Awards, but lost to Up and Crazy Heart, respectively. Speaking of best song, this movie had some pretty good music. Randy Newman, who had done the music for most of the Pixar films but not any Disney animated ones, created the score for The Princess and the Frog, giving it a dixieland and jazz feel. With Newman tackling the score, and Alan Menken doing the songwriting, the movie has a pretty good soundtrack. And that's what Disney really needs is a animated film with a memorable soundtrack. Everybody remembers the songs from The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and countless other films that used songs in their movies. What the movies in the 2000's and scattered others from the 70's and 80's are missing is the music. The music helps people keep fond memories of the film and adds a fun flair to the movie. Animation is more accepting of the Broadway style of music, as it seems kind of campy to see people randomly break into songs in live action movies. Sure, there are some, but showtunes are meant for the part of the populace that like going to musicals. Most live action musicals aren't as highly regarded as animated ones. There are exceptions, don't get me wrong, but not too many. Anyway, one last note is that this is one of the few Disney movies (Beauty and the Beast being one of the more recent ones) that the people who are voicing the characters are also the ones that are singing for them too. What does this prove? Well, apparently a lot of voice actors can't sing!

The film first premiered in a limited capacity in New York and L.A. in late November of 2009. That was followed shortly after by a wide release on December 11th, a date that was chosen instead of Christmas, since Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (*shudder*) came out the same day and Disney didn't want to compete with it. The film ended up grossing a worldwide total of over $267 million and definitively making a profit from its $105 million budget. While it was much more successful than the more recent hand-drawn movies, it was not even close to such films as The Lion King or Aladdin from the heyday of the Disney Renaissance. Critics welcomed the return of the hand-drawn Disney animation and for the most part gave the movie glowing reviews. Many critics pointed towards the old format as what made the film so good, namely, good old-fashioned animation, good story, and good songs. Any negativity was directed towards the subject matter, mainly the voodoo parts and various concepts in the movie. Thanks to the success of the film, Disney decided to green-light a hand-drawn film every two years, which so far they've done. Anne and I consider this to be the new era of Disney, since it seems like they are finally finding their way back to what Walt Disney wanted for the animation studio. Will this last? Well, we really don't know since we are hardly into this new decade, but there are plenty of stories out there, and we're pretty confident that Disney will be making films for a very long time. So, now that they've done a film about African-Americans, how about one about the Latino population? Saludos Amigos! and The Three Caballeros don't count!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Disney's Bolt

Disney had a hit with Chicken Little, and a subdued one with Meet the Robinsons. It was time for them to hit it out of the park, and that meant carrying a good gross and a good critical reception. The last time they were able to do that was Lilo & Stitch. So, who better to step up to the plate than Lilo & Stitch director, Chris Sanders. Sanders came up with a original story called American Dog about a TV dog named Henry who gets lost in the Nevada desert and has to team up with an one-eyed cat and a radioactive rabbit, both of whom want a home, to get back to his owners, all while thinking that he is still on television. John Lasseter is creative manager now for Disney and unlike with Meet the Robinsons, he is there from the beginning of this film. Sanders presented the film to him in the form of early cuts and Lasseter, like with the early cut of Meet the Robinsons, was not impressed. Lasseter, along with other directors from Disney and Pixar gave him a few points to work on. Sanders resisted the changes being made to his film and was subsequently replaced by Chris Williams and Byron Howard. The team tackling the film was then given eighteen months to complete the film instead of the customary four years. That's a ton of pressure on the team, and we'll see if it worked out for Disney later in the post.

The name of the movie was changed to Bolt, as was the main characters name, and a few tweaks were made to Sanders' story. The main character dog would still be a TV star, but would think it had super powers for most of the film. Bolt thinks that the girl in the show, his actual owner Penny, is being kidnapped, so he tries to rescue her, only to be accidentally sent to New York City in a box. He meets not a one-eyed cat, but a two-eyed one, although this cat is probably much more narcissistic than the original one, and instead of a radioactive rabbit, he meets a star-struck hamster in a rolling ball. It's just a little bit different from Sanders' story, but I can see how these changes were a little better than the original. At least for the general public. I would have loved to see a radioactive rabbit as a main character in a Disney film.

Bolt tackles a few different issues. Bolt kind of represents the naivety in all of us. Bolt believes that he has special powers, and that all of life is this dramatic and magical place. It's only when he meets Mittens the cat that he begins to be clued into the fact that he is in fact normal, and life is not as magical as he thought it is. Mittens the cat represents the pessimistic and more realistic side of humanity. She never for a second believes that Bolt is anything special and goes out of her way to try and convince Bolt of that fact. She even tries to convince Bolt that his owner, Penny, no longer loves him and has replaced him. We come to find out that Mittens was abandoned by her owner, leading her to become bitter and prone to raining on others parade. Rhino the hamster is the TV obsessed portion of our population. The funny thing is that even though he is pretty diluted himself, he provides the most worth in the trio and is the voice of reason and optimism. I cannot help but draw many comparisons between this movie and all three of the Toy Story movies. In the first movie you have Buzz Lightyear who is completely convinced that he is a Space Ranger. It takes failure for him to realize that he is in fact just a toy, but the pessimistic Woody doesn't exactly help matters out for him. I find Woody and Buzz's relationship to be eerily similar to Bolt's and Mitten's. In Toy Story 2, Jessie is abandoned by her owner which leads to trust issues, and in Toy Story 3, Lots- O'-Huggin' Bear is also abandoned by his owner and realizes that he has been replaced. He spends the rest of the movie seeking to convince others that they are not wanted by their past owners. So a lot of funny similarities between Bolt and the Toy Story series.

Unlike the last two films in the Disney canon, Bolt was made in 3-D in the first place, and didn't have it added after the fact. CGI films just seem simpler to make. I just always assumed that they didn't need hand-drawn pictures to guide their work since they had computers, but in fact, the crew for the movie depended heavily on the hand-drawn storyboards for inspiration and guidance. A lot of work went into making certain aspects look believable. One such aspect is the look of Rhino moving in his plastic ball. The animators bought a real life hamster named Doink and filmed it fro m beneath as it walked on a sheet o f Plexiglas. To make the scenery seem more realistic, the crew went out to the different spots in the film, just like in the olden days! The scenes in the trailer park in Ohio, the San Francisco docks, the New York street s, and the building of Las Vegas are all based off of real locations and structures. The animators were further influenced by the paintings of Edward Hooper and early seventies movies when they tackled the film's visual look. Anne and I don't really see it, but apparently it's there.

Bolt has another one of those "All-Star Casts." Playing the main character we have John Travolta (Pulp Fiction), who I honestly just can't get used to hearing as Bolt. It just seems weird! But it still works, apparently! Chloe Grace Moretz (Dark Shadows) voiced the younger version of Penny, though she had done all the voice work for the character before Disney replaced her with Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana and other stuff I don't care about). I feel a little bad for Moretz, but she's seems to be doing OK for herself now. I'm sure Disney completely flipped their gourd when they realized they could get Miley Cyrus to voice one of the main characters. Like, seriously, their eyes turned into dollar signs and everything. Playing the "villain," Dr. Calico, is none other than Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange). I like this casting, as McDowell has the right voice for a menacing character. Other famous actors voicing in the film include comedian Nick Swardson (Reno 911), James Lipton (Inside the Actor's Studio) as the Director, Randy Savage ("OOOOHHH YEAAAAAHHH! SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM!") as a Thug, and John DiMaggio (Futurama) as Saul.

Anne and I have both seen this movie and at least I thought it was decent. Anne apparently hates it. She just hates Miley Cyrus' smokers voice. I can't really blame her. Apparently though, a lot of people found it to be more than decent. Critics raved about this one. It has a 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, placing it above most of Disney's canon. That has caused a bit of a stir, but apparently Disney got the ingredients right for a critical and high grossing hit. Most critics found it to be a return to Disney's standard and a film both kids and parents can enjoy. It debuted in theaters in Winter 2008 and though it ranked third on its opening weekend, it climbed up to second in the next and more than made up for what Disney had put into the film. Worldwide the film made $309 million. Nothing to sneeze at. One last interesting note about this movie is the name of it in other countries. It is called Lighting in Croatia, Thunder in Bulgaria, and Volt in France, Hungary, and Russia. But there is a specific reason that it's named that in Russia. It turns out that the word bolt is a vulgar word for a man' can probably guess what it is.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Disney's Chicken Little

In 2005 Disney declared, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!" with it's adaptation of Chicken Little. This wasn't the first time Disney shouted these words though. Back in 1943 during WWII, they animated the fable into a short on the request of the U.S. government. In this version, Chicken Little is tricked by the mischievous Foxy Loxy, who does this by reading from a psychology book. The interesting thing about the psychology book that Foxy Loxy is reading is that it is actually passages from Hitler's Mein Kampf. Through these readings Chicken Little and all his friends end up in the belly of Foxy Loxy. The end scene is a little disturbing with wishbones used as grave stones mimicking a war cemetery.

So the bad guy wins for once? What!? The purpose of this short was to discredit totalitarianism and Nazism. It was an allegory for the idea that fear-mongering weakens the war effort and cost lives. Well I didn't get that out of the short when I was a child, but I actually prefer this version over the 2005 one. Sure the animation is not as vibrant and detailed as computer animation, but I'm old school. Plus, I'm tired of seeing Disney turn Spielberg. What do I mean by this, well for 2005's Chicken Little aliens were thrown into the mix. There are even a few scenes that are very similar to Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

I'd rather have a movie close to the original story. Kids nowadays will probably have no clue how the story really goes, instead they will talk about aliens. What a shame.
Though like most fairytales and folklores, the originals are quite darker and end up being changed into ones with happy endings. Disney is the major credit to this act of changing fairy tales. Without Disney's help, Chicken Little saw many changes throughout the years. One of its major changes is the name of which the main character is known by. In England this tale has been known to be called Henny Penny or Chicken Lickin. While America has used these names too it has favored the name of Chicken Little. I don't know if each different name came with different endings to the story, but there are about three. The first one being like the 1943 Disney short where all of Chicken Little friends and himself get eaten by Foxy Loxy. Then there is one where Chicken Little is saved by the warning of Cocky Lockey but all his friends get eaten, and the last being a happy ending of everyone surviving. Of course if I was Chicken Little, I would perfer everyone surviving instead of being eaten or being haunted the rest of my life by knowing that I was the cause of my friends' deaths. So what is the moral to this story? Well that depends on the ending. Some say when Chicken Little and his friends survive it is all about having courage. While the not so happy endings are meant to be a warning of not believing everything you hear. Disney's 2005 Chicken Little's moral of the story fell into the categories of both trust and courage.

The production of Chicken Little brought new software and hardware tools to aid animators in their creativity in Disney's first fully computer animated film."Chicken Wire", made it possible for designers to stretch and squeeze the characters in anyway that they wanted to. " Shelf Control", made it possible to see the whole model on the screen while having a direct access to any chosen area of the character. And new electronic tablet screens were introduced to allow the artist to draw digital sketches of the characters to rough out their movements, which then were transferred to the 3D characters.

The cast of Chicken Little was star-filled with Zach Braff squaking out the lead role. Not sure what Braff is up to now, but he starred in the humorous tv show Scrubs. Joan Cusack voiced Abbagail Ducktail Mallard aka the Ugly Duckling. Her character kind of reminded me of a combination of roles Joan has played in the past, including Sixteen Candles and her later work in Toy Story 2 and 3.
Other stars in the mix were Catherine O'Hara with pal Fred Willard, Garry Marshall, and Don Knotts. This was one of the last roles Don Knotts would take on before his sad passing. We love you Barney Fife!

As said in the last post, Disney needed Chicken Little to not only save the world but save their company. Wow that's a lot of pressure! At this time there was major negotiations between Disney and Pixar Animation Studios on whether they would be a team or go their seperate ways. If Chicken Little was successful, it would have give Disney leverage in its negotiations for a new contract to distribute Pixar's films. A failure would have allowed Pixar to argue that Disney could not produce CGI films without the aid from Pixar. I bet everyone at Disney was feeling like the "sky was falling". Chicken Little came through and preformed very well at the box office, debuting at #1 in it's opening weekend. Something that hasn't happened for Disney since Tarzan. It also tied with the Lion King for earnings, taking in $40 million smackaroos. With the high profit that Chicken Little netted, Disney and Pixar decided to stay friends and work together. Disney, however, decided to purchase Pixar in an all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion. So now Disney is a animation behemoth. That works, right? While the story was good on the financial end, it was not on the critical end. Chicken Little received a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the worst reviewed Disney movie ever. This is followed closely by Brother Bear. Critics lambasted the story by saying, "Disney expends more effort in the technical presentation than in crafting an original story-line." It received thumbs down from Ebert and Roeper, and the New York Times declared that the movie was "a hectic, uninspired pastiche of catchphrases and cliches, with very little wit, inspiration or originality to bring its frantically moving images to genuine life." Ouch. Well, as long as Disney doesn't care that their movie sucks. They made tons of money and hopefully that let them feel it was all OK. So, next time you think the sky if falling, don't worry, it's just aliens.

Disney's Meet the Robinsons

Disney apparently needed a break, and for the first time since 1993, they didn't release an animated movie for the year. Yep, nothing happening in 2006. I think they made up for in 2000 when they released three movies, though. Disney had just bought Pixar, which meant that John Lasseter was back in town. It also meant that Disney's animation studio had to do something to set themselves apart from Pixar. What did they do? They changed their name to "Walt Disney Animation Studios." That ought to show Pixar! It does sound better than "Walt Disney Feature Animation," though. Meet the Robinsons would be the first film to have the new name. Something interesting about this film is that it is actually based on a book, much to my surprise. The book, released in 1990 as a picture book and written by William Joyce, was called A Day with Wilbur Robinson. The book is about a boy named Lewis who visits his friend Wilbur Robinson. OK, now I get the title! Wilbur's grandpa has lost his teeth and he recruits Lewis to help him find them. Along the way, Lewis meets all of Wilbur's crazy relatives. That's it. What'd you expect? It's a picture book! The film retains only the meeting of the strange family members and a few character models and names, but that's basically it. The film was going to have the same name as the book, but that idea was scrapped, along with a few other things apparently.

John Lasseter was now the chief creative officer for both Pixar and Walt Disney studios. Meet the Robinsons had been in production for a while now and director Stephen J. Anderson, who had wanted to direct the movie due to it's subject matter on orphans (he being an orphan himself), had to meet with Lasseter to show him how the film was going. Lasseter saw an early screening of the film and was not exactly thrilled about what he saw. He apparently didn't think the villain was threatening enough and didn't much care for the ending. Ten months later, about sixty percent of the movie had been re-shot or re-rendered. Anderson had made a completely new villain, given him a dinosaur sidekick, put a dinosaur chase scene in the movie, and even changed the ending to the film. Yeah! Dinosaurs make everything better! Just like in Dinosaur!...oh wait.

I only saw this movie for the first time last year, but I'm glad I did see it, as I thoroughly enjoyed it. Is it as good as some of the classics? No, but it stands on its own legs. The story has a lot of little quirks, such as the family itself and all its zaniness, and the whole time travel aspects. Time travel movies are always unique because of the explorations of ramifications of one's actions. This movie doesn't step into Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder, but it still delves into what can happen when you don't have your head in the right place. Lewis is so concerned with finding out why his mother abandoned him, that it not only negatively effects his life, but others around him. It's only through going into the future (2037 to be exact. The same year that the world ended in The Time Machine due to the moon falling apart) and meeting a unique family that he learns what is truly important, and that perhaps the what-ifs don't matter as much. It's a touching film and more so than some of the past couple of entries in the Disney canon. The movie doesn't depend on a star cast either, as the director ended up voicing the villain of the film. In fact, the only recognizable names I could find in the large voice cast was Nicole Sullivan (MAD TV), Harland Williams (Rocketman), Adam West (Batman), Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants), and Tom Selleck (Magnum P.I.). Most of those people don't even have large parts in the film! They are more like cameos!

Meet the Robinson debuted in March of 2007. Apparently Disney didn't learn their lesson from Home on the Range because this movie only netted them a $19 million dollar profit. It cost them $150 million to make, and combined grosses it made $169 million. Not a loss like Treasure Planet or Home on the Range, but not Chicken Little or Lilo & Stitch territory either. Critics were torn when it came to this movie. Some loved it, calling it charming and thought it a fantastic tribute to Walt Disney and his memory, while others described it as a "bumpy ride" and "surely one of the worst theatrical releases Disney has come out with in some time." Yikes. I don't know about that last review.