Moana

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Re: Moana

Postby Vernadyn » November 30th, 2016, 5:33 am

I guess it was more the character of Tamatoa himself who seemed more disconnected from the main story.

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That doesn't mean that I would have preferred the filmmakers tie the story into a pretzel by making him some Grand Villainous Puppetmaster, though. In fact, I appreciated that there wasn't some surprise Scooby Doo villain like there was in Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia. Some of those films did it well, and most of them were strong enough on other aspects to overcome that trope, but it was becoming a little predictable.


Zootopia had some episodic sequences as well. By contrast, the Hero's Duty sequence in Wreck-It Ralph was an episode, but it felt much more organic because the Cybugs and Calhoun continued to play an important role in the story.

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Re: Moana

Postby Vernadyn » November 30th, 2016, 6:15 am

EricJ wrote:I used my weekly blog to remind civilians that the "Directors of Little Mermaid and Aladdin" are, ahem, ALSO the directors of Great Mouse Detective, Hercules, Treasure Planet, and Princess & the Frog, if they need a quick fix after seeing Moana... :)
Yes, it's preaching to the choir here, but a good timely excuse to get the historical-revisionist word out to the masses.


The issue of directorial authorship in recent Disney animated films is an intriguing one (though yes, films are a collaborative medium, and animated films even more so). I've enjoyed all the WDAS films from Tangled on, but I wouldn't be able to tell you what differentiates Nathan Greno from Byron Howard from Don Hall from Jennifer Lee from Chris Williams from Stephen Anderson from Chris Buck. (Rich Moore, who joins Anderson, Mark Dindal, and George Scribner as one of the select few solo directors of a Disney animated film since the Wolfgang Reitherman days, might have a distinct style--but it's too early to tell.)

Musker and Clements had a recognizable style to their films (muted a bit in Treasure Planet and Princess and the Frog), and yet I wouldn't be surprised if you told me that Moana was directed by, say, Don Hall and Chris Williams. But hold on--Moana was, in fact, co-directed by Messrs. Hall and Williams!

To be fair, Pixar is really the only major American animation studio to have a stable of directors with unique styles--and even then, it's limited to the big hitters--Lasseter, Stanton, Docter, and Bird. And as I said, I have been enjoying WDAS's recent films. They're the mainstream animation studio to beat, especially since Pixar's been treading water post-Toy Story 3 (with the glorious exception of Inside Out). But even though what they're doing is working well, I don't think I'd call their films truly director-driven.

Not many people who aren't animation buffs know who David Hand, Ben Sharpsteen, Wilfred Jackson, and Clyde Geronimi were--the directors of the classic Disney films. And Hamilton Luske, John Lounsbery, and Reitherman are more known and celebrated for being animators than directors. But most of those films had Walt Disney as the guiding hand. I doubt WDAS today has a similar singular creative force.

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Re: Moana

Postby Ben » November 30th, 2016, 6:41 am

I would say Woolie Reitherman was better known as a director than animator, even outside animation circles (though not by many, granted!).

But remember that on the big five at least, Walt was the nominal director, though he chose to go uncredited. Sharpsteen, Hand and the rest are all credited as Supervising Directors, meaning that they supervised the progress of the various sequences under the direction of someone else...Walt. Later, as his attention diverted, you see these names and others becoming the true directors of the pictures, but make no mistake that those early features were all directed by Walt himself.

He did the same thing as a producer, too. It was always Walt Disney Presents, but he never gave himself a Produced By Walt Disney credit. Instead, you'd see Bill Walsh or someone like that credited simply as Co-Producer, hinting that there was a main producer but never actually making it a thing. So, yeah, Walt had co-producers and supervising directors, but he was always the main producer or director on those films and just brilliantly went uncredited.

In many ways, I was impressed that Jeffrey Katzenberg never took an executive producer credit on any of his films, either at Disney or at DreamWorks, when he would have been especially enabled to do so...unlike some of the animation execs today who plaster their names all over other work. I know the likes of Lasseter et al do contribute to all the films they have their name on, and in many ways it was a demonstrative mark of quality when Disney was getting back on their feet to have Lasseter attached visually to Robinsons, Bolt and the like...but I must say I was always more impressed with Walt's less showy approach.

Contrary to popular belief, he gave his colleagues' name room to shine and, as the presenter of whichever title it was, took the blame for when a film didn't work (no-one ever takes Norman Tokar to task, for instance). He didn't feel the need to hog the limelight. It was his name on the studio and on the front of the films, and that was enough. Quality guy.

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Re: Moana

Postby Vernadyn » November 30th, 2016, 5:13 pm

Ben wrote:I would say Woolie Reitherman was better known as a director than animator, even outside animation circles (though not by many, granted!).


I do have to admit that, 101 Dalmatians aside, I'm not the biggest fan of Reitherman as a director--at least when compared to other Disney classics. His films have some superb sequences, but they're not quite the same as the films made when Walt was more involved in things.

But yes, needless to say, Walt Disney was one-of-a-kind.

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Re: Moana

Postby Ben » November 30th, 2016, 7:41 pm

I do think Woolie gets some stick for some of those films, but let's face it: Walt wasn't around anymore, not just figuratively because he was involved with theme parks or television, but because he was just not around anymore.

That's a tough situation to be in, and Walt picked Woolie out of all his guys to head up animation because he knew he had the chops to manage the crowd. Reitherman was actually a very, very good animation director, but he just wasn't always served by the best material and a bunch of competing guys (from the established old guard and the fresh new Turks) all fighting amongst themselves.

For those films to feel as "Disney" as they do is down to Woolie, made both at times under Walt when he himself was bemoaning how long an animated feature would take to produce, and then after his passing, when the execs started to complain about how much they cost to make. And the guys to come after Woolie didn't fare any better...it wasn't until Ron 'n' John came back with Mouse Detective that the films got back on track, and even then I would argue that it was Katzenberg who really became the driving force of those films (from Roger Rabbit and Mermaid onwards).

And, no, I'm not comparing Jeffrey Katzenberg to Walt Disney! :)

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Re: Moana

Postby EricJ » November 30th, 2016, 8:46 pm

Vernadyn wrote:Musker and Clements had a recognizable style to their films (muted a bit in Treasure Planet and Princess and the Frog), and yet I wouldn't be surprised if you told me that Moana was directed by, say, Don Hall and Chris Williams. But hold on--Moana was, in fact, co-directed by Messrs. Hall and Williams!


It looks a little co-directed, but seeing Disney put out the viral clip of Maui singing "You're Welcome"--for the official M&C Stylized Musical Number--I was reminded of Princess & Frog putting the Official Stylized "Almost There" out on the web early, to give us the impression that P&TF would be more in the Aladdin spirit of a stylized M&C musical.
(And I'm worried that it'll be just as much of a bait-and-switch, but I'll keep an open mind until February.)

And again, first thing I associate with M&C as distinctive directors is that while other directors (ahemjenniferlee) get wrapped up in "Positive role models for the female characters", no one else ever seems to get a good story-neutral flair for establishing the male heroes, just as good appealing story-heroes, without agenda. To have a good hero, you have to have a good sense of story as Job One, to know where you want them to be by the end of the film.
Ask "What are the great memorable male human characters of 90's+ Disney films?", or Disney films in general, and fans immediately say "Oh, Aladdin, Hercules, Prince Eric..." And you're lucky if you find one that still remembers Jim Hawkins.

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Re: Moana

Postby Dan » December 1st, 2016, 9:37 pm

I was finally able to watch Waking Sleeping Beauty recently and the film really illustrates a lot of Ben's points (particularly Katzenberg being a driving force).

Any way, one of things I personally liked about Moana was how it surprised me. Granted I went in trying to know as little about the plot as possible (even though I already saw the first three minutes as Comic Con), the execution and delivery of the storytelling wowed me at times because it was something I wasn't expecting and it made the film all the more fun for me.

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Re: Moana

Postby Vernadyn » December 2nd, 2016, 1:09 am

Ben wrote:For those films to feel as "Disney" as they do is down to Woolie, made both at times under Walt when he himself was bemoaning how long an animated feature would take to produce, and then after his passing, when the execs started to complain about how much they cost to make.


That's a good point about Reitherman keeping the films feeling "Disney"; I didn't really consider that. The first animated Disney film that didn't feel "Disney" to me was The Black Cauldron (which I didn't see until about a year ago. For the longest time, it was the one WDAS film I hadn't seen.)

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Re: Moana

Postby droosan » December 4th, 2016, 8:55 am

Inner Workings is fun .. kinda 'thematically-serendipitous' though, that it was paired with Moana .. while last year's Lava short was attached to Inside Out. 8)

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Re: Moana

Postby ShyViolet » December 4th, 2016, 11:49 am

Dan wrote:I was finally able to watch Waking Sleeping Beauty recently and the film really illustrates a lot of Ben's points (particularly Katzenberg being a driving force).




It sure does! :). Don Hahn is awesome!! That's an extremely well made doc plus I really liked how they didn't cast Eisner as the all-evil monarch. Kudos!!!! They understood that Eisner's reign was very complex. (Well I guess what happened years later is for another doc to explore lol.).

The only thing that bothered me about WSB is how at the very end of the film, following an extremely touching goodbye speech by JK, Hahn narrates that: "After the opening of the Lion King, he resigned." No he didn't! If you are forced to resign against your wishes, that means you've been fired! The doc is never clear about this. Plus it also seems like the conflict was only between him and Eisner when it involved so much of the Disney board, most of whom hated JK and also wanted him out of the company. :?

But don't worry I generally love WSB and could watch it many times; I'm not going to elaborate on these points since I've made them often enough here. Lol. :) The only other couple of things I wish the documentary had done was have more footage and insight into Frank Wells, who has always fascinated me since there's always been so little on him. Oh, and more video footage of Eisner and Katzenberg actually interacting. There has to be at least some since they were together so much during those 10 years at Disney. And yes, funnily enough, early portraits of Eisner/Disney almost always referred to "his good friend, Jeffrey Katzenberg."

One more thing about this period in Disney history: Despite what certain journalists might have written, Eisner never once called himself "Walt Disney." But early portraits of him did. In fact, it was often written that Eisner "out-Walts Walt." And Eisner's response? "I'm not Walt by half." Kind of wish WSB had included this too. But I guess that's for another day. Lol. :)
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Re: Moana

Postby Ben » December 4th, 2016, 4:24 pm

Although in Eisner's book, he makes a VERY tenuous connection between his and Walt's last names from its French origins (d'Isigny), going as far to say that only the first and last letters are different. But it's a pretty bizarre angle to take and gets embarrassingly close to him proclaiming that they share a name.

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Re: Moana

Postby Ben » December 7th, 2016, 6:35 pm

Awesome, brilliant, huge fun!

Yeah, I just saw Moana. Just when you think Disney might even be thinking of sitting back and resting on their laurels, along comes a movie to shake up the whole studio while being grounded in its legacy.

Beautiful animation, especially the dances at the top of the film, and lovely little touches (Moana's barge planks of wood moving under the weight of the characters, never missed if it wasn't there, but a wonderful thing to see thought out), this just reminds again why Disney is the tip-top of the tree in what they do.

The audience I was in was exclusively adults, which was nice, with only one lady with a child who never made a sound and a couple of teenage girls who also sat rapt at what they were seeing. All the jokes and drama played well and hit their marks.

As for the songs, well, they're catchy! How Far I'll Go and You're Welcome are the obvious showstoppers, naturally, but I was also taken by the intro and the voyagers' songs, all of which were real story songs and not diversions just to introduce an idea or a new character. Here, both backstory and motivation were well set up, in songs that felt fresh but recalled the glory days of Rodgers & Hanmerstein.

In many ways, Moana felt like a throwback musical, but done with today's sounds. I was reminded throughout by Hercules (as has been widely spoken about) but also Tarzan, Atlantis and even the Firebird sprite from the end of Fantasia 2000, and also found it to be a good companion, albeit more broad and commercially attractive, to Kubo And The Two Strings.

What a year Disney has had, boookended by two surprisingly terrific animated features. It would be hard to pick, and I think Zootopia will take the Oscar because it's a message film in a year we really needed a message, but I would personally say Moana just pips it, still with a message, if much softer and less pointed, but delivered effortlessly and on a pure entertainment level.

Great to see Ron 'n' John back on top, with a fun reference to one of their past movies in the post credit sting which, sadly, I was the only one left to see by the time the credits ended their roll. I might go see again, but I can't wait for the Blu-ray.

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Re: Moana

Postby Vernadyn » December 7th, 2016, 9:01 pm

Ben wrote:As for the songs, well, they're catchy! How Far I'll Go and You're Welcome are the obvious showstoppers, naturally, but I was also taken by the intro and the voyagers' songs, all of which were real story songs and not diversions just to introduce an idea or a new character. Here, both backstory and motivation were well set up, in songs that felt fresh but recalled the glory days of Rodgers & Hanmerstein.


You're Welcome was fun. I liked How Far I'll Go, but both the full song and the reprise feel like they end right as they really start to take off. In fact, I thought that the most potent use of the melody was at the end of I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors).

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Re: Moana

Postby Ben » December 8th, 2016, 5:39 am

Yes, agreed. I felt the same way about it ending just as it could have gone to another middle eight or something else before a final chorus, but that soaring melody...!

The only song that fell flat for me was the Shiny one, because it never really found itself until almost the end. He was a bizarre character anyway, so even that fit, but tonally it was a little removed from all the other songs.

And I forgot to add that I was amazed at any Disney film referencing, so directly and knowingly, Mad Max: Fury Road in such an awesome way that gave a big nod to that film but never felt like it was just in there for a joke or lifting an idea. Just so well organically placed in there as a big action scene for those that didn't get it, but even more fun and continuously winking at all those that do. Just perfect.

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Re: Moana

Postby Randall » December 27th, 2016, 9:36 pm

What a weekend for watching animated films! Two nights ago, we saw Finding Dory. OK, not the greatest film, but fun nonetheless, easily meeting my expectations (I was never a Finding Nemo fan, really).

Last night, we viewed Kubo and the Two Strings, which we all loved. Such an original work, compared to all the other mainstream animated films this year. Its animation and SpFX were amazing, and my Asian wife enjoyed the Japanese-inspired story (as did my Ghibli-obsessed daughter). My intellectual little boy was also appreciative of the unique design and story. For us (especially me and my daughter), Kubo is our Best Animated Feature pic for 2017.

Interestingly, after Kubo, my wife and I watched the 1960s would-be epic Hawaii, with Julie Andrews, Max Von Sydow, and Richard Harris. This was not done in anticipation of viewing Moana the following day, but it proved fortuitous, because Moana was such a mix of Kubo, Hawaii, and... Pocahontas, with a bit of Mulan (and a touch of Fantasia 2000 at the end, as Ben noted).

Yes, we loved Moana too. It was a little too conventional to sway Jade and me from our BAF pic, but it WAS a great Disney picture. I especially loved the songs. How Far I'll Go was particularly stirring, though mostly (as Vernadyn and Ben noted) when it was essentially picked up again in I'm Moana. And You're Welcome---- Seriously, Duane Johnson sung that himself? He was GREAT!! I've been streaming the soundtrack through Spotify ever since we got home. I've preordered the Zavvi 3D Steelbook edition already, and I look forward to seeing Moana again.