So we’ve once again hit a point where I wasn’t watching much Disney (I was away at college and mostly renting older stuff at this point). And most of these reviewed HORRIBLY, so I made no attempt to go see them.
HOME ON THE RANGE (2004):
Written by: Will Finn, John Sanford, Michael LaBash, Sam Levine, Mark Kennedy & Robert Lence
-One of the most forgotten Disney Canon films of all time, this one nearly led to the death of an art form. Seriously, it’s Roseanne playing a cow (in the movie, too!) who leads other cows in attempting to save their farm by… capturing a bad guy who has a reward on his head. THIS IDEA CAME FROM THE SAME STUDIO THAT MADE SLEEPING BEAUTY. This is like an idea that would pop into the third-tier story of an Archie Comic (“let’s save the Chock’lit Shoppe by winning the reward money!”), not a multi-million dollar animated film. The ugly-ass art style and the country music were just icing on the cake- the country music that’s popular THESE days is virtually indistinguishable from Pop Rock and features scrawny young blondes singing about break-ups, not cows singing about Western crap. Okay, so I’m judging the movie without seeing it… so did everyone else, which is why it bombed.
The movie has one of those fabulously stupid origin stories that consists of changing the entire theme of the movie numerous times (it started out as a movie about an Undead Cattle Hustler versus a timid cowboy, then featured a little bull named “Bullets”)- in 1999, when the project had fallen apart, Michael LaBash came up with the “bounty hunters” idea to make sure all the character design didn’t go to waste. Because, you know, THAT’S why you create a movie. To not waste all the drawings.
The movie is actually mostly staffed by has-beens. Roseanne was WAY out of her Roseanne peak at the time when she played the main character. Judi Dench has credibility of course, but is no box-office all-star. Jennifer Tilly & Cuba Gooding Jr. were both more known for 1990s performances, and were both done as stars by this point, too. Randy Quaid, the yodeling bad guy, wasn’t terribly huge, either.
Reception & Cultural Impact:
-This one almost NOBODY saw, and it’s seen as the film that nearly killed all of Traditionally Animated Films PERIOD, such was its death at the box office. It was a dramatic box office failure, not making back its budget (a nearly-unthinkable situation following the Renaissance). The critics’ reviews were basically 50/50 as well- a big failing for Disney. It was mostly seen as “funny enough, but childish”, though some liked that they didn’t bother to put in any big lessons (you know… EMOTIONS) into the thing.
CHICKEN LITTLE (2005):
Written by: Steve Bencich, Ron J. Friedman, Ron Anderson, Mark Dindal (director) & Mark Kennedy
-One of the most universally-reviled Animated Canon pictures of all time, this one was named after a propaganda cartoon made during World War II. It’s about Chicken Little, who becomes a laughing stock after telling everyone “The sky is falling!”, but only really wants to make his father proud of him. And it turns out the “sky” is actually a UFO, and now he and his friends have to fight off an alien invasion, because of course they do. But then it turns out the aliens are only “vaporizing” people because they’re looking for their lost child, and Chicken Little saves the day, being hailed as a hero while his father learns to appreciate him. That’s it- that’s the whole story.
The movie featured COUNTLESS re-writes, as various executives popped in to give advice. Almost every character switched genders during the production phase, resulting in re-casting out the wazoo (Holly Hunter, Sean Hayes and others were replaced), in a film that more or less openly mimics the then-popular “DreamWorks Style”, making Disney look like a bunch of wannabes attempting the edgy, mean, “Random Humor” so popular at the rival studio. As you might imagine, the “Development Hell” phase was not conducive to a great movie, nor was aping a studio that was falling into a backlash of its own. A subplot of Foxy Loxy- an arrogant, athletic tomboy bully- getting “mind raped” into being a docile Southern Belle, which all the other characters see as an improvement, is also controversial as you might expect.
I refused to see this during my first set of Disney Builds. It looked like a piece of crap, and I didn’t really have time to watch literally EVERYTHING. It just seemed really dumb. It features Zach Braff of Scrubs as the main character (post-Garden State and before people got sick of anything featuring him that wasn’t Scrubs), Joan Cusack, and a few others.
Reception & Cultural Impact:
-Surprisingly, the movie actually did pretty well ($314 million worldwide), though was FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR below Disney’s ’90s output and what would come in the future- it was notable that this was during the time when Pixar was humiliating Disney at every turn, creating outstanding critical and box office successes. This was a CGI film in an era where they were GUARANTEED to earn a profit- it made about the same amount that Bolt did four years later, despite one being MUCH more well-received amongst critics and audiences). Despite that, however, the movie was despised by pretty much everybody, with the “DreamWorks Style” now falling into disuse (DW ended up mimicking Disney’s more family-friendly, less-cruel take on comedy as well). Read one review here. It is the lowest-rated of the entire Animated Canon, sitting at below 50% on most review aggregator sites.
It is perhaps most notable for being the final Disney film released before Disney officially merged with Pixar, and John Lasseter took over the entirety of the animation wing. A sequel was planned due to its box office success, but Lasseter axed all sequels immediately upon his ascension, realizing that they were damaging the Disney Brand. The movie’s status as the bridge between eras means that Chicken Little is basically the bastard child of the franchise, and is effectively ignored completely in retrospectives, and has no impact on the merchandise or Parks as a whole.
MEET THE ROBINSONS (2007):
Written by: William Joyce (original book), Jon A. Bernstein, Michelle Spritz, Don Hall, Nathan Greno, Aurion Redson, Joe Mateo & Stephen Anderson
This looked like YET ANOTHER CGI FAMILY COMEDY in a decade filled to the freaking BRIM with them, so I never got around to seeing it. Seriously, once Pixar made its money, there was a never-ending stream of movies with the same general design (super-exaggerated characters) and same approach to advertising and audiences (throw some pop culture humour for the adults and make it a kewl-looking CGI cartoon for the kids). It seemed to do okay, but like I said, the sheer GLUT of these films in the exact same era basically ensured that this film would be forgotten to history forever- who could possibly remember ONE CGI film out of the dozens that came around it?
This feature is based off of A Day With Wilbur Robinson, a 1990 picture-book by William Joyce, which is definitely an odd choice. It’s about a boy who visits a friend and discovers his bizarre, oddball family. In the movie, the orphaned boy Lewis gets Wilbur Robinson to take him to the future, along with a robotic bowler hat. Some Time Travel shenanigans are afoot, involving people discovering familial relations, and the hat turns out to be evil.
The movie was the first one produced under John Lasseter’s run as head of Disney Animation, but he didn’t have as much to do with it, given the timing. He did declare that the villain wasn’t scary enough, and had 60% of the movie scrapped and started over, though.
Reception & Cultural Impact:
-The movie only did okay with reviewers, and wasn’t very successful, making only $170 million worldwide (about half of Chicken Little‘s take). Given that Lasseter was only partway involved, it was basically dumped and ignored forever, as Disney Animation took a whole new tack from then on.