Big Hero 6 (2014) Written by Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird, and Dan Gerson Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams
In 2004, Pixar released The Incredibles, a superhero film ahead of the curve with Iron Man and the MCU not launching until four years later. My first thoughts after the end credits rolled were that Brad Bird and company had succeeded in making the best Fantastic Four film, which would be proven correct when Fox released the groaningly terrible FF live-action movie in 2005. Bird understood the core essence of these characters and about the fundamentals of what drives kids of all ages to lose themselves in an afternoon of comic book reading.
With the release of the CG Lion King remake, I got to thinking about which Disney movies I love that don’t get that love in return. Here are my thoughts on my favorite underrated Disney animated flicks.
The Sword in the Stone (1963, dir. Wolfgang Reitherman) While you might think this Disney version of the legend of King Arthur is just based on general stories it is, in fact, an adaptation of T.H. White which was one volume of four in The Once and Future King series, which was in turn a more modern updating of Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. Not only that, Walt Disney was inspired to approve the project as the studio’s next feature after seeing the Broadway musical Camelot in 1960. Instead of a high adventure film, The Sword in the Stone is a light comedy, focusing purely on Arthur’s adolescence and the first few months of training with the wizard Merlin. The primary arc of the film is not about Arthur becoming the king but finding strength and bravery within himself. Along the way, there’s lots of great visual comedy, especially when Merlin and his rival Madam Mim start breaking out the spells.
The Lion King (1994) Written by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton Directed by Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff
I just never saw the original Lion King. I was 13 when the film came out, and in our large family, we couldn’t afford a lot of theater trips. My siblings watched Beauty and the Beast to an absurd level so that film dominated the Disney obsession our home. With the release of the computer-animated remake this weekend, I thought it was a good time to finally watch this seminal animated movie, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary this year.
Sausage Party (2016) Written by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg Directed by Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan
Sausage Party holds the rare achievement of being the first American computer-animated film to receive an R-rating. Despite the character designs and colorful marketing materials, this is most definitely not a picture a child should ever watch, and no adult should waste their time either. Our main characters, Frank the Hot Dog and Brenda the Buns dream of finally giving in to their carnal desires and being together once one of the gods (customers) chooses to take them to the Promised Land. The grocery store products’ ideas about what happens when you are chosen are skewed and much worse than they realize. Once Frank discovers this knowledge, he wants to do everything he can to stop his friends from being devoured.
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015) Written & Directed by Alberto Vázquez & Pedro Rivero
On an island in a seemingly endless sea, where a factory in the industrial zone exploded, leaving this place a decaying hell, lives Birdboy. Birdboy is a teenager possessed by a demonic force that makes its home in the lighthouse just off the shoreline. Despite his dark nature and dependency on meds to keep this demon at bay, Birdboy is loved by Dinky, a mouse girl from a troubled family. Dinky is a runaway who, with her friends Sandra the rabbit and Little Fox, have pooled their money to try and buy a boat so they can finally escape this place. This animated Spanish-language picture is very dark and most definitely a mature adult-oriented film dealing in themes of mental illness, addiction, and abuse.
My Life as a Zucchini (2016) Written by Céline Sciamma (with contributions from Germano Zullo, Claude Barras, & Morgan Navarro) Directed by Claude Barras
Icare, nicknamed Zucchini by his mother, lives in the wake of his father’s abandonment of the family. She has taken to binge drinking to self-medicate her increasing depression. Things get bad at home and Zucchini is picked up by a police officer, Raymond, who has deep empathy for the rough situation the boy is in. He delivers him to an orphanage where Zucchini meets kids who have ended up in this place due to parents being deported, arrested, succumbing to drug addiction, and physically abusing them. Despite their hardships, they form a makeshift family and learn how to feel empathy for each other and recognize the differences and strengths of each other.
April and the Extraordinary World (2013) Written by Franck Ekinci & Benjamin Legrand Directed by Christian Desmares & Franck Ekinci
April Franklin is a woman living in a world where history took a markedly different turn than our own. During the reign of Napoleon III, a scientist is charged with creating animal-soldier hybrids. He creates two hyperintelligent beings that escape and soon after the world’s greatest scientists and engineers begin disappearing. This impediment to progress leads to a mid-20th century where energy is still based primarily in coal and steam power. April’s parents and grandfather vanished years ago during a government crackdown, and she has been fending for herself alongside her genetically altered cat friend Darwin. The two uncover a plot to destroy humanity and the secret solution for the ultimate formula, a serum that would make all life impervious to harm.