For those who are children at heart, and wear their heart on their sleeve, Disney will never grow old. The Walt Disney Company “specialises in entertainment with heart, driven by storytelling” and in addition to “innovation…and quality” one of their biggest aspirations has always been “optimism. Disney is about happy endings and we are not embarrassed to admit that”. Having said that, Disney is still different from what many of us may remember and this change is sparked mostly by the onset of new technology, as familiar stories are laden with CG graphics and extra dimensions. Nevertheless, they still aim to keep story at the forefront, returning to timeless classics every now and again. Frozen, a theatrical Christmas release, is one such example. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, its story and background give Disney a lot to play with, while infusing it with their celebrated humour and charm.
The broad spectrum that Walt Disney covers is mind-boggling. From film and television to games and gadgets, they wave their wands over many areas of entertainment. One with which we are all familiar is the world of the Avengers. After Iron Man’s success with his third instalment, Thor and Captain America are up next with their respective sequels, Dark World and Winter Soldier. Even Phineas and Ferb find time to host the Avengers in Mission Marvel. One the features with a little less clamour around it, is Saving Mr. Banks, a film based on Walt Disney’s (as in the man Walt Disney) effort to bring Mary Poppins to the screen. Chronicling the background of one of his most remarkable films, Saving Mr. Banks has further appeal by being the first film to portray Walt Disney (the person). However, before all of this lands on our screens, there is The Lone Ranger to look forward to, which reunites Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp. The showcase presented a special screening of the film and if you enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean because it was fun and entertaining, then you will enjoy this.
Maleficent is another highly anticipated release. It started production last month and is set for release next year. This is the live-action story-behind-the-story of Sleeping Beauty’s deadly enemy, Maleficent. Her dark beauty is vividly and eerily brought to life in the form of Angelina Jolie and I, for one, really hope to see her transformed into a fire-breathing dragon. From what we saw, it sticks quite closely to the 1959 version and its characters, so the dragon bit is plausible. Besides the intrigue of one of Disney’s most captivating villains coming to life, the behind-the-scenes footage and facts revealed excellent make-up (done by none other than expert make-up artist Rick Baker), spectacular costumes, a haunting performance by Jolie and a supporting cast which includes the brilliant Miranda Richardson and South Africa’s own Sharlto Copley.
If you are inclined to be a purist then stay away from the heathen Teen Beach Movie, which lays waste to the work of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim with its annihilated recounting of West Side Story. Told with rays of sunshine and Colgate smiles, it is aimed at the tween TV market, so it’s unlikely you’ll come across it. Planes seems a little tiresome and pitted against DreamWorks’ Turbo, which features a very similar storyline, it will be interesting to see who wins that race.
The sheer volume of content is testament to Disney’s bottomless treasure chest and to unpack all of it here would render this nothing more than a long list. However, the absolute gem was certainly the screening of a new Mickey Mouse short, Croissant de Triomphe. Created in the style of the 1930s Mickey cartoons, it is one of several 2-D shorts that Disney is releasing. They have a true vintage feel, once again showcasing Disney’s adroit intuition to tap into current market trends. Disney’s magic and ingenuity cannot be denied and nowhere is this more evident than in this simple, charming story of Mickey and his friends that employs a guaranteed formula for success: back to basics.