Hercules (1997, Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements) English 7

Voices Tate Donovan, James Woods, Danny DeVito, Rip Torn, Susan Egan

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(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Vibrant. Unique.

After a plot by the scheming Hades (Woods) goes astray, Hercules (Donovan), son of Zeus (Torn), winds up mortal and raised by adoptive parents. Not fitting in due to his immense strength, Hercules sets out on a quest and learns of his true lineage, but in order to reclaim his position as a god, he’ll have to prove himself worthy. Working from a diverse array of Greek and Roman mythology, Hercules is a fast-paced, funny, surprisingly light (despite its dark humor at times) animated comedy with great characters and music. The gospel choir as the Greek chorus was an inspired idea, as was DeVito as the Satyr/coach, and James Woods as the bad guy. Not as substantial as some of the other films Disney released during their Renaissance, but a fantastic film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Rescuers (1977, Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman) English 7

Voices of Eva Gabor, Bob Newhart, Geraldine Page, Joe Flynn, Bernard Fox, Pat Buttram

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(7-Very Good Film)

Charming. Picturesque. Adventurous.

When the elegant mouse, Ms. Bianca (Gabor), volunteers for a rescue mission, she chooses bashful janitor, Bernard (Newhart), as her partner. The mission: to save a little orphan girl who’s been kidnapped by an evil treasure hunter, Madame Medusa (Page). Medusa uses the girl to crawl into a dangerous cave where a priceless treasure is hidden. The lone hit for Disney during their 1970s, post-Walt Disney’s death period, The Rescuers makes for a wonderful adventure. Lays on the pathos rather thick, but it works, and Madame Medusa is a fantastically vile villain. Bernard and Ms. Bianca are a suitably romantic and heroic pair, thanks to the voice work of Newhart and Gabor. It’s a fast-paced, efficient film, not as substantial as Disney’s early classics or their ’90s output, but a very good film nonetheless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Luck of the Irish (1948, Directed by Henry Koster) English 6

Starring Tyrone Power, Anne Baxter, Cecil Kellaway, Lee J. Cobb, Jayne Meadows

Image result for the luck of the irish 1948(6-Good Film)

Light. Whimsical. Enjoyable.

Stephen Fitzgerald (Power), an uptight newspaper journalist, takes a trip with a friend to Ireland and meets a leprechaun named Horace (Kellaway). Rather than take all the creature’s gold as he’s entitled to do, he continues on his merry way, and Horace, out of gratitude sets about repaying him, though his form of help is often more trouble than it’s worth. Anne Baxter stars as a local beauty Fitzgerald meets while in Ireland. A whimsical romantic comedy that’s very well-written and acted. I can’t tell if the Irish accents done by both the American Baxter and the South African Kellaway are done right or not so that never factored in for me.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Mulan (1998, Directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook) English 9

Voices of Ming-Na Wen, B.D Wong, Eddie Murphy, Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Fierstein, Gedde Watanabe, Pat Morita, James Hong, George Takei

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(9-Great Film)

Grand. Rousing. Unique.

Spectacular animated adventure derived from an ancient Chinese legend, Mulan makes an excellent addition to Disney’s tradition of female protagonists. She impersonates a male warrior fighting against the Huns in order to spare her crippled father. Themes of identity, self-empowerment, and feminism give the film its weight, and Eddie Murphy as the underwhelming dragon Mushu makes sure there is always enough comic relief, also a number of fantastic songs.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Sleeping Beauty (1959, Directed by Clyde Geronimi) English 5

Voices of Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Taylor Holmes

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Slight. Uninspired. Mediocre.

Cursed by the bitter fairy, Maleficent, Princess Aurora is destined to die at the age of sixteen from being pricked by a spindle. Her fairy godmothers alter the curse as best they can so that instead of death she will be put in eternal sleep. That’s where a prince comes in. Oddly blasé work from pretty good source material by the Disney people, this classic is not especially thrilling, funny, romantic, musical, or scary. Perfectly mediocre.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1994, Directed by Stephen Sommers) English 8

Starring Jason Scott Lee, Lena Headey, John Cleese, Cary Elwes, Sam Neill

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Thrilling. Old-Fashioned. Well-crafted.

Loosely inspired by Kipling’s stories of India, here, a grown Mowgli, raised by wolves, reunites with a childhood friend and attempts to find his way in human society (one formed by an imperialist culture). Superb action adventure fantasy featuring several exciting and terrifying sequences like runs from tigers and baddies being buried alive. Lee does a credible job of selling the fish out of water aspect to his Mowgli character. There have been several excellent adaptations of The Jungle Book, and this is definitely one of them.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-

Jungle Book (1942, Directed by Zoltan Korda) English 9

Starring Sabu, Rosemary DeCamp, Joseph Calleia, John Qualen

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(9-Great Film)

Stunning. Classic. Exciting.

Though made in Hollywood during the war years, this production of Rudyard Kipling’s classic feels very British. Former servant turned star, Sabu, gives his greatest star turn as Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves and coerced into leading a group of greedy men to a lost treasure. This version was filmed in a studio, but the incredible set design and live animals more than make up for the artificial surroundings. It’s a fantasy, but also a strong morality play. Among the best works produced under the Korda brothers.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-