The Million Dollar Duck (1971) Written by Ted Key & Roswell Rogers Directed by Vincent McEveety
This was the first film that critic Gene Siskel walked out on. He would only do that with two subsequent movies (1980’s Maniac and 1996’s Black Sheep). The story is a stock Disney script for the time, one of the gimmick comedies, not rising much above a Disney Channel original movie. The production quality is at the television level as well. By the midway mark of the film, I was checking out, despite trying to stay engaged from the outset. There are only so many gags you can do with this plot before it wears out its welcome.
The Barefoot Executive (1971) Written by Lila Garrett, Bernie Kahn, Stewart C. Billett, and Joseph L. McEveety Directed by Robert Butler
At some point in the late 1960s, Disney shifted from more fantasy-oriented live-action films like Mary Poppins or Bedknobs & Broomsticks to what is referred to as “gimmick comedies,” spurred on by the phenomenal success of The Love Bug. These movies were intended to be silly for kids and more “mature” and contemporary so that the parents would enjoy them as well. Roy Disney, Walt’s older brother, took over after Walt took ill and eventually passed away in 1966. The company actually created a cinematic universe with some of these movies, starting with The Absent-Minded Professor and leading into a trilogy of films starring Kurt Russell as college student Dexter Riley. A total of five films were set at the fictional Medfield College. The legacy of these movies can be seen on the Disney Channel with its original sitcoms. They are the spiritual successors to the cheap television-style plots of these movies.
Old Dogs (2009) Written by David Diamond & David Weissman Directed by Walt Becker
How does one end a year and a film series about forgotten terrible movies? Well, the best way, in my opinion, is by subjecting yourself to one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Yes, this is the second time I’ve watched Old Dogs. Do you see what I do for you people? Old Dogs came out a decade ago, a film that marked the movie duo we’ve always wanted to see, John Travolta & Robin Williams…? This is a film with so many strange things happening on the screen, and I have some theories about what the picture was originally going to be. Let’s not waste a single moment more.
Disney’s The Kid (2000) Written by Audrey Wells Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Why am I doing this? I perfectly reasonable question to ask. As someone who watches lots of movies, reads up on actors, directors, writers, genres, etc., I will eventually come across movies I half-remember or never even knew got made. These are not low budget, indie picture but films with considerable financial backing, starring well-known performers, and distributed by major studios. Yet, they have been forgotten, very intentionally. There are approximately 700 English-language films released in the United States annually. With all of the quality control mechanisms and studio notes, we still get complete stinkers put on the big screen. Or the studio realizes in the wake of filming that they have just financed a disaster and try to cobble together something palatable in the editing room. Regardless, these movies are released and then systematically ignored by the people who made them, hoping general audiences allow them to fade into obscurity. Well, I’m here to watch them and write about them for this “We’d Rather You Forgot’ film series.
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.