Category Archives: Direct-to-Video

DTV Wonders Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase

 

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Scooby Doo on Zombie Island was my first written DTV Wonder, and now I return to the early Scooby-Doo movies, and I have as much nostalgia for this film as most of The Land Before Time films.  Jim Stenstrum is back as the director and Davis Doi is still producing and doing the story, but the writers are different. The main cast change is Grey DeLisle takes over as the voice of Daphne, a role which she had until 2013. This film came out in 2001. This is normally considered one of the best Scooby-Doo movies, and that is accurate to me.

The opening trailers are very good when they are about movies. The Harry Potter and he Sorcerer’s Stone trailer makes me want to watch it again.  The trailer to Pokémon 3 shows some cool Cyndaquil action, and the trailer to Grandma got run over by a Reindeer… well what else could it be? Then the toy commercials seem to have nothing to work with.

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At a strange lab some scientists talk about a laser. They are professor Kaufman (coincidently the name of one of my college’s buildings where I do most of my classes), Erik, and Bill. Besides Erik’s actor voicing Bucky the squirrel in The Emperor’s new Groove, none of their actors are important, which is fine for small roles like they have.  Apparently the laser is broken, but then it just turns on after Bill presses some buttons and keeps pressing them (he is probably the villain), and then the Laser shoots the Phantom Virus into the world. While I have named him the movie does not until later giving the viewers a mysterious unknown villain.  He is also able to absorb computer data and make electronics come to life as his minions so it ends with a close up of his pointy chin, as the professor and his students are trapped.  This results in disappointment when the Mystery Machine is shown with the characters expositioning about their fried Erik making a computer game based off them instead of more of the college.

They arrive at “State University.”  I presume it is named for its founder, John State. They meet the Red Herring, Officer Wembley (there is zero chance he had access to the computers necessary), and he immediately worries they are pranksters.  The next few scenes give exposition with some comic relief mixed in to keep the kiddies entertained like Scooby and Shaggy nearly eating radioactive tomatoes.  Both Kaufman and Erik ask for help, and it is revealed they escaped the virus as the electromagnet is his kryptonite, as it hurts his pixels.  Also it is mentioned he can wreck all of Earth’s technology (sadly it will not be explored).  The laser can move objects into the computer world and apparently vice versa, as a Virus was beamed in.  They use this for making computer game instead of ending The Great Pacific Garbage island

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We then have a bad mythology gag. When Fred says to split up Scooby and Shaggy leave before he says who will go with whom.  Shaggy’s response is “Like we ever do it any other way.” In the first two seasons more often than not it was Scooby, Shaggy, and Velma in a group. Well after that Scooby and Shaggy proceed to eat the cafeteria dry, while Velma, Fred, and Daphne have a showdown with the phantom virus, and interestingly thanks to the magnet this time the gang is chasing the monster instead of the reverse.  They are then caught by Officer Wembly who points out that they are in a restricted area and Kaufman never gave them hall passes.  Maybe Kaufman is the villain.  Well in what is probably he best part of the movie’s humor the phantom virus chases Scooby and Shaggy, which includes them using a robot against him (virus forgot he can control), and electrocuting him.

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Then they electrocute him again.

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Despite being able to control technology, hide in dust, and shoot lasers from his fingers, he seems surprisingly playful and inept, since this is not his world.  They run by the rest resulting in the whole gang getting stuck trying to fin him. Then the laser is powered by a lab cat hand (further ruling Wembley out) beams them into the computer game.  It is then revealed by Erik that the only way for them to get out is for them to get past all ten levels. The problem is they could still beam in a guide to the game, a walkthrough, or supplies.

Level one is the moon level, where it is quickly established that they can still feel pain there, and presumably die.  The story gets episodic here, as it is about them being chased by moon goons and the phantom virus, as in each level this is what they have to do in order to find a box of Scooby snacks.  The story gets episodic because of it, and this is quite dull except for showing the phantom virus to now be a much larger threat, as he has allies and all of the magnets are stuck in the real world.  Why put them down?

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The second level is much improved.  They are moved to the Roman Coliseum.  To make things worse a lion has the Scooby snacks, but he for some reason puts it on the ground.  After a good chase between the gladiators and Scooby and Shaggy; Fred successfully bull fights the lion into the pen. In a chase scene that then makes no sense if you consider the timing, Shaggy and Scooby distract the gladiators by disguising themselves as…

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Assuming Caligula was emperor at the time him being a dog is actually believable.  They then get to the hardest level, three out of ten.  Apparently to pass this prehistoric level the player must wander a huge forests where everything is trying to kill you, find the scooby snacks on an erupting volcano, have no knowledge beforehand that they are there, have the only clue being a drawing in a random cave, which the player may not go into, deal with it turning dark, and do it before the volcano erupts.  This sounds insanely difficult, and I am wondering why it is level three instead of at least eight.  It is actually the best level to watch and it begins with the phantom virus on a T-Rex.

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They escape it the same way as they did in The Land Before Time VI (which came out three years before this film, so I always assumed they had just watched it for inspiration), by hiding in the thick trees where it could not go.  They eventually reach the volcano by wooly mammoth riding (apparently Erik programmed them to smell bad).  Scooby heroically goes to save a baby pterodactyl, which it turns out was on top of the Scooby snacks.

Then the film montages the next six levels, which all look considerably easier than level three until level ten.  They are in a city, and they eventually find their older counterparts.

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I have no memory of Scooby wearing a red collar anywhere else, and Velma looks identical, but this is cool to see, as they meet Erik’s programed characters, especially how different their eyes are.  In a nice reference they meet them in a malt shop, as most episodes of the first two seasons begin with the gang reading a newspaper in a malt shop.  Fortunately they also know where the scooby snacks are.  Apparently they are supposed to just wander a huge city until they get to the theme park where they are.  Why not just make the theme park the whole level, as it is clearly big enough?  Was this a plan to sell guide books, as this just sounds like boring grinding. They find the phantom virus in a batting cage, and then the creeper and many old Scooby-Doo villains that even I am unfamiliar with.

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At least the tar monster later showed up in Scooby-Doo 2 Monsters Unleashed.  To make things worse they are all real monsters in cyberspace instead of normal people in masks.  They then split up and have some surprisingly well written and good scenes with their older counterparts as they outwit the monsters to escape… twice. They then meet up at the arcade where the virus and Scooby snacks are, and it turns out Shaggy still has the magnet (that damages cyber creatures), and it affects the cyber mystery gang. How did he not feel that huge thing, and it should also affect the area and inanimate objects. In a finely done scene Fred says they should just use the magnet on the virus, and get the cyber gang to stay away outside the arcade.  Instead Fred gets cocky and slips on a ball, and the magnet falls under a game. To make things worse the virus makes the game come to life, and its wires grab Fred. Now the virus is shooting lasers everywhere and controlling the objects to fly everywhere. It is amazing how much more intimidating he has gotten throughout the movie. The cyber gang can tell something is wrong, but then the monsters from earlier chase them away except cyber Scooby who goes inside of the arcade.

Fred gives him a plan which is for Cyber Scooby to mock the virus distracting him, while real Scooby gets the Scooby snacks.  Shagy’s comment “…I’ve never seen Scooby acting so brave.” still bugs me. What about in level three? Well Scooby grabs them, and that defeats all the villains, and lets them go home.

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I cannot say the different Mystery Incs leaving is sad, but it is a nice end to the main part of the film. They arrive back to solve the mystery of… who created the virus. Frankly I would think it could be a Russian hacker, and it is hard to still care about it compared to the Cyber space story.  Fred points out all the baseball references and Erik shows signs of guilt by fleeing instead of claiming to be framed.  He is arrested and the movie ends at a malt shop as a nice call back to the original series and level 10. After that lots and lots of ads for the video game.

As an adult this film is overly episodic and lacks focus.  It makes little sense as well.  As a kid this movie is stupendous.  Everything about it is amazing, and all my siblings loved it too.  Since children are the target audience I think that weighs more, so this is a great film, but without nostalgia I doubt any adult fans will like it.

 

 

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DTV Wonders Aladdin 2 The Return of Jafar

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This is by seven months the first American Direct-to-video animated film, and this started Disney using Disney Toons, the makers of their cartoon shows to make sequels to their popular films.  This is an important film in animated history, but it is also mostly forgotten.

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This was made to be the pilot direct-to-television pilot for the animated series, and I for years thought the film was a movie adaptation of the show and the makers turned my favorite character, Iago, into a villain.  In some odd production issues Robin Williams was lied to about merchandising so he refused to come back, and he was replaced by Dan Castellaneta.

To what I can tell liking this movie is primarily based around thoughts on Iago.  Iago was my favorite character of the series due to him having flaws, So I am basically this film’s target audience, but I know many fans hate his voice, so they should not even bother with this film then.

It starts with a few thieves, as they play the demo version of “Arabian Knights.”  They then look at all of their loot and their useless leader, Abis Mal.

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He proceeds to claim 99.99% of the treasure for himself, break another 0.001%, and give his many henchmen a few pennies. How is he their leader?  The Disney DTV movies normally try for a more serious story than the Universal ones, but with unbelievable things like this it does not work.  Aladdin then robs all of their robbed goods by literally beating armed men by running on their heards where only Abis Mal even slows him down, and this is a major problem that also happened in The Lion King II, the villains are early on showed as so easy to effortlessly beat it is unbelievable when they are threats later on. At least these guys do not have important roles here.  Aladdin and Abu then proceed to give the stolen items to their rightful owners… They just throw it at people on the ground.

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I have mixed feelings about this.  For one they are giving it to the poor, but since they are all in the same area this could really damage the gold standard there, and some big heavy gold pieces are bound to hit some elders and children on the head, and he keeps the most expensive thing as a gift for Jasmine.

In the meantime Iago digs himself and Jafar out of the grpund, and I think this addresses a problem from the first movie.  Nobody else has ever told me this issue, but just throwing Genie Jafar’s new lamp in the desert sounded like a horrible idea to me, since someone will find it sooner or later.  Well Iago refuses to release Jafar not trusting him as a Genie and blaming him for their problems by going too ambitious. Iago sings “I’m Looking out for Me,” while throwing Jafar’s lamp down the well. Personaly I like Gilbert Gottfried’s voice so I am okay with the song. It ends with a merchant beating him making it ultimately pointless.

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Aladdin and Abu go to lord their new power over “the common folk,” yet they foolishly bring no weapons. Iago decides he is his new key to power by pretending that he was under Jafar’s mind control, and of course Aladdin tries to kill him until they run into Abis Mal’s gang.

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Fairly humorously Abis Mal’s gang has to remind him he is Aladdin, and al of the suddenly they are threats now, and Iago while saving himself from Abis Mal saves Aladdin as a side effect.  Aladdin then in gratitude offers him a fair hearing.  To me that is a paid debt if he then lets Iago leave Agrabah, but Aladdin too much of a pushover who tries to get Iago back into the palace permanently.  We then get to some boring Aesop amnesia where Aladin forgets no to lie, and Genie comes back to sing “Nothing in the World,” a useless song we can skip.

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Word of advice, if you know the basic plot the first twenty minutes, and one second can be skipped. Abis Mal’s men decide to kill him, but not after he finds and releases Genie Jafar who scares away the men. Abis Mal and Iago have ben carrying the film, so obviously Abis Mal decided to bring in some help for the movie’s sake what a hero. When Jafar tries to flee he is forced to say, as that is how the genie code works, which includes he cannot kill. Jafar quickly nearl kills Abis Mal wasting two wishes, as part of his new simple plan, get Abis Mal to let him torture Aladdin, then give him twenty wishes worth of objects if the third wish is for his freedom. Jafar is very calculating in this film, and I love watching it. “It is not enough that we simply destroy Aladdin… they’re are things so much worse than death.”  This part is great. Jafar turns his weakness of not being able to kill into a strength by deciding to use torture instead, and he goes all out on it.

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At the dinner meeting Sultan offers to make Aladdin Jafar’s official replacement, but they quickly start talking about Iago and their hatred o him instead, and thanks to Abu’s attempts to kill Iago, he ends up right there, where Aladdin has to stop him from being executed on the spot.  He is apparently awful with words,a s he just says there might be god in Iago without even saying that the parrot saved his life, and now Jasmine and Sultan are mad at him.  However Iago realizes Aladdin unlike Jafar did something selfless for him. To help Aladdin and Jasmine make up he uses reverse psychology on Jasmine to forget about his charm, and he also gets Genie to give them some private time. The problem is it only uses superficial love tropes like looks, but it at least explains Iago being useful.

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Jafar then decides treacherous Iago joins whoever is in power, so he decides Iago will just flip back to him out of fear, which is overall what happens. It also becomes apparent that between working with incompetent Abis Mal and IAgo’s treachery Jafar has lost any faith in loyal, good help. Jafar’s plan is great, kidnap everyone Aladdin cares about and get him sentenced to be executed. First Iago suggests to Aladdin to go on a one on one trip with Sultan to a perfect Iago knows of, which Iago gets Aladdin to do.

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With Aladdin, Sultan, and carpet gone Jafar beats Genie with the villain song “You’re only Second Rate,” as apparently Genie has no power compared to Jafar, and it ends with Genie being stuck in a crystal ball, and Abu bing chained.  One common problem of the TV show was finding a way to limit Genie’s poer, but here they cjust had someone more powerful, and his villain song is really good. While Aladdin is explaining to Sultan Iago much better this time Abis Mal shows up, and the animation gets a serious bot, as a diferent company starts doing it.  Iago is quickly blamed by Aladin and Sultan is kidnapped.  Aladdin and Carpet go to save him, but carpet is captured as well, and Aladin is heading towards a waterfall.

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He is saved by Jafar (in disguise).

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Some viewers are bothered by Jafar saving the hero, but remember, his plan is to torture him, and this is too fast. Aladdin then gets home only for Princes Jasmine to order his execution for assassinating the Sultan.  It is then revealed it was actually Jafar in disguise, and Jasmine is also captured. The way Jafar then thanks Iago makes it even more obvious he will switch back later, but I son realized he is torturing Sultan and Jasmine by reminding them that they trusted Iago, whom betrayed them previously. A further detail I like is when Aladdin explains himself to the guards instead of questioning the existence of magic like lesser fantasies do they question him surviving going down the waterfall.

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After he leaves Iago works on freeing Genie, and Jafar makes a great torture mistake. Aladdin thought his own girlfriend was having him executed, but Jafar reveals himself to Aladdin ruining a few details, but Iago frees Genie, who then frees all the good guys. Iago’s new plan is to flee from Jafar and change identities, but everyone else wants to save Agrabah. Genie reveals that destroying the lamp will kill Jafar unless he is freed. Iago flees away, as everyone else goes to kill Jafar.  At the climax Genie offers hordes of rewards to Abis Mal if his third wish is Jafar’s freedom, and it is about to work except Abis Mal keeps asking for more ad wonders if he has a guarantee everything will stay. I like this because the villain fails because of his own flaws, greed. Jafar then notices Aladdin and the battle goes outside with the lamp stuck between them Jasmine for the only time in the movie does something useful by trying to grab the lamp, but Jafar creates a lava pit.  Then Aladdin mocks Jafar for being unable to remove a street rat, so Jafar tries to squeeze the life out of him.

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It turns out it was Genie in disguise, and real Aladdin and carpet are going for the lamp. I presume Genie cannot kill the lamp due to the rules.  Well Carpet dies for the second time in two movies. With Aladdin stuck in the lava pit Iago comes to d a deus ex bird and grab the lamp, but before he can hand it to Aladdin he is struck by Jafar’s lightning. Jafar gives an evil laugh not realizing Iago has enough lie left in him to kick the lamp into the lava.  Iago is seemingly dead but he then says the move’s arc words for the third time. “you’d be amazed what you could live through.”  With Jafar defeated events are set up for the TV series.

This film starts with a slow pace and then it gets quick, its heroes are bland, and it has animation problems.  On the positive side it has a great villains, stars someone struggling with his own morality, stars Iago, and I enjoy the action in the second half.  The major divide is Iago.  some fans hate him and others, like me, view him as the best part of the franchise. It is not the movie for everyone, but I consider it to be worth a watch.

 

 

 

DTV Wonders: The Lion King 1 1/2

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I know I panned the second film hard despite its fans, yet this film got me really excited. Two of the five best characters were confirmed to have starring roles, and I really enjoyed the trailer’s fourth wall breaking humor.  I then saw it really quick after it hit stores, and I was not disappointed.

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After revealing that Timon and Pumbaa are watching by rewinding past the beginning of the main movie they show where the meerkats live in “the pit of shame.”  “Diggah Tunnah Dance” is the first song about the meerkat way of life, hiding.  In a deleted scene they also touched on them considering bravery to be stupidity despite their example, Fearless Ed, having won many battles against hyenas before they finally got him.  After everything is going well the entire tunnel comes down thanks to a skylight Timon was trying to make.  To add insult to injury the skylight then falls apart.

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Apparently this happens all the time, as Timon tries to “Shed a little light on our pathetic existence.”   His mom then tries to tell him that their job is to hide so they can dig so they can hide some more, and he must be able to fit in somewhere.  Timon wants a better home that is not from the dirt.  Then his mom gives him some wisdom.  “Look out to the horizon, past the trees, over the grasslands. Everything the light touches. Belongs to someone else.”  For those two lines this is already worth watching, and they further deconstruct the main film like when Uncle Max says they fear all, are feared by none, and they are simply food for other animals.  Timon counters that they eat grass the carnivores turn into, but Uncle Max then points out they are grass intolerant.  I just checked and that is true.  His mom then gets him put in sentry duty with the entire clan backing her up, as it keeps Timon out of the tunnels.  The problem is he breaks into song.  The song is actually quite forgettable except for three small details.

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The best three characters are back.

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To show their added threat level with these smaller protagnists they are drawn much bigger and darker.  They knock Timon back to the hole, an walk in dramatically.  From what I heard if they do that you are as good as dead. They play around with he meerkats (clearly they just ate and are jut having some fun), and they even eat of some of Uncle Max’s skin or fur.  Timon tells everyone to trust him that they will be laughing at his failure in the future, and Uncle Max replies with “I did trust you.” Timon accepts responsibility and leaves for a better home after he says goodbye to his mother.

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Rafiki then shows up after he hears Timon wondering what he is doing and crying for mommy.  Timon asks if Rafiki heard his past song and then gives a quick recap. Rafiki gives him the metaphor to look beyond what he sees instead of drawing a map and informs him that he seeks hakuna matata. Timon then literally looks beyond what he sees, and as he zooms in on Pride Rock the music greatly intensifies.  “I’s kind of hard to think with al this music.” He then continues to the giant pointy rock. Rafiki here is acting way more similar to is wise and goofy self in the first film.  He then runs into Pumba and recruits him as a bodyguard and acquaintance. Timon then to his disappointment sees hordes of animals are there, as apparently the monkey blabbed the message to everyone.  They then continue in a scene that matches nearly perfectly time wise with the original film.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDrQlssQnGc

After this they make a series of places from the first film their home only for something from the original movie to get in the way like hyenas, noisy singing neighbors, or a stampede.  These parts notably include them calling each other “acquaintances” and Timon going from demanding everything in a home to just the bare necessities.  I really enjoy these alternate points of view on the first film’s scenes despite the plot hole that apparently Simba grew from a baby to a little kid in one day.  Eventually they are stuck on a river together.

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After that they wash ashore and Timon accepts his inevitable death telling Pumbaa to go back home, and for the first time he calls him ‘buddy” instead of “acquaintance.” It also happens when Timon is thinking o Pumba instead of just himself. Pumbaa reuses, as Timon is the closest he has to family, which is something Timon actually has, but Pumbaa is his only “friend,” and they decide they will go through a rough life together.

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They find their home from the main movie, and proceed to sing “Hakuna Matata.” Unlike the Jungle Book 2, which kept singing their signature song over and over, this is the only time it is sung, and it I great, especially when Pumbaa tries to eat the sing-along grub.  After this they decide to play with the buzzards, as it “will not change their lives.”  Hence they meet Simba, but they now must face the real great danger, parenthood.  After some great scenes of young Simba playing with his meerkat dad, some red herrings about his duty, and some simple gags at Timon’s expense they foreshadow the theme. It is that to have a happy life one needs friends, so naturally they are even happier with three instead of two members.  Also Simba and Timon only once really act like father and son instead of as good friends, partly as the writers are showing them as Simba’s providers and friends when he is mostly grown, as Mufassa is his father still. Things are good for them until Nala arrives. To break them up they intend a few gags, which al backfire leading to more romance and pain on Timon.

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Simba leaves the next morning, and it takes Timon and Pumbaa many attempts to figure out what is going on.  Timon feels betrayed by Simba and refuses to go help, and probably as he is not a good choice for a fight.  When Rafiki comes to talk with him Timon just mimics him in a conversation with himself that lets him see the error of his ways without someone else really talking to him.  I really enjoy seeing that change.

At Pride Rock they reveal that they escaped the hyenas post diversion with Pumbaa’s gas (I had been wondering how they did that for years), and then Uncle Max and Timon’s mom show up.  They make the plan to separate the hyenas from Scar with a huge tunnel, but they need to stall them or Uncle Max and Ma to finish it so Timon proposes marriage to the female matriarch. Interesting fact female hyenas can not turn into males as is commonly believed, but they do have penises, and three times the testosterone.I am now wondering what their children would look like, as Timon mentioned, but thankfully Shenzi and Banzai end this conversation. Also this happens during Simba’s duel with Scar making another plot hole, as the Hyenas should be watching that. Thanks to some more heroics from Timon the hyenas get stuck in the tunnel, and Simba thanks them at his coronation. Well of course, they raised you.

The meerkat clan then moves into Timon and Pumbaa’s dream home, and it ends with…

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Timon’s mom wanting them to rewind it, and many other characters show up, even from “Song of the South.”  I cannot blame them.

Despite its lousy climax I love this movie. With the possible exception of Pooh’s Grand Adventure this is the best of the Disney sequels. This is more consistently good, but Grand Adventure is notably superior at times.  This film is simply a great comedy.

 

DTV Wonders: Balto 3 Wings of Change

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This has the same cast and director as the second film, and it is written by Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser, the writers of the first film.  This is the first sequel written by the original’s writer(s).  I have seen little discussed about this film partly because it just does not leave an impact.

It starts with a simple song and the mail dogs doing their job happily, and also foreshadowing their future turn back to the lights side.

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The plot starts with Balto getting Jenna to wait for a plane, that he loves watching and trying to outrun.  Maurice LaMarche’s voice is now practically identical to Kevin Bacon’s performance partly as the dialogue matches the original’s better. Balto really wants to fly in it due to the freedom, though I always thought the fun of it alone should do the trick.

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These two characters are Ralph and Dipsy.  They were supposed to be a couple, but the director had all sorts of unused ideas and that was most of their scenes. They are unimportant, but at least Ralph is kind of funny. They are worried about the mail being late, and it finally arrives being delivered by Kodi, Balto and Jenna’s son, and many other dogs that I can never remember the names of.   For the most part they are not important. They are always late, and only Kodi cares. The pilot, Duke, leaves to talk and Balto wants to fly off in it.  It is also mentioned a few times that the snow is soft for Spring.

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In the meantime another goose, Stella, arrives, and she and Boris are immediately attracted to each other especially after she sees Boris be a father to two polar bears. I heavily criticized Charles Fleischer’s performance last film but between the better script this feels close to the Boris of the first film.  The problem is she wants for them to fly together, and Boris then reveals to Balto that he is horrified of heights.  The plot so far is overly generic, but the dialogue and execution of the comedy is saving it.

After Boris practices by flying literally a few inches off the ground the mail dogs overhear the meeting from underneath the same floor from the first film.  Apparently the hospital was remade into a city hall within three years (this film takes place in 1928, while the first film takes place in 1925).  The city decides that the mail dogs are too slow, so they want to replace them with the plane, but they ultimately decide to race.  The mail dogs talk about who will lead them and lead dogs says “you can count on me.”  The delivery and dialogue is funny, but due to it being hard to find out their names or character the mail dogs come off really flat, yet they probably have the most interesting storyline.  Especially today in America people are focusing on their own jobs rather than being good, and that is their problem.  Obviously they pick Balto for their leader, which I presume is allowed because the newspaper backed it up to make this more newsworthy.

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Whenever these films are mentioned someone always claims the historical Balto is not a hero, and that it hurts the film.  Well, this is a movie and movie Balto is definitely a hero.  Also real Balto lead a key part of the serum run, and successfully made up for his mushers mistakes by getting them out of a blizzard he got them stuck in, and like movie Balto he overcame being the dog everyone thought would fail.

Back to this movie the mail dogs are already celebrating victory as soon as Balto agrees to lead and do not listen to his advice or pessimism about victory.  He is worried about how Kodi will see him when he loses, and Jenna then sings the best song of the film “You don’t have to be a Hero.”  Director Phil Weinstein said it was supposed to show Kodi becoming a mail dog, but the clips of Balto being a dad to him are better.  It is about Balto being a dad to him over being the town hero.  It also includes shots of Aleu being faster than her siblings to please the second film’s fans.  The problem is that the three songs are crammed into the first thirty-two minutes of film (I skipped one by Stella).  Boris also tells Balto he is faking wing injuries and if things go wrong for Balto to pretend to need his help.

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The night before the race Balto and Duke have a friendly look at the plane.  Stella falls for a story by Boris about his wing being injured in a fight with a bald eagle.  Right before the race Boris brags about its success while being unaware Stella is right there, and she chases him into the plane.  The race starts by revealing the plane is not that reliable, but when it does finally take off Duke quickly surpasses the dogs.

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Balto has also improved at keeping his teammates in control, and the map from the first one shows their progress tot heir destination.  So far this just feels too much like a less good version of the first one, but like a Balto movie at least. Duke has to take time finding a landing spot nearly letting the dogs catch up, but besides Balto trailing leaves them discouraged.  On the ground Duke has to take a lot of maintenance work giving the dogs a fine lead, but Boris just misses joining Balto back to Nome, and I think the mail dogs did not want the extra work, but the dogs take a big lead until Duke surpasses them all, and he gives them a salute.  Duke then cannot see in icy air, and between losing track of where he is, the plane’s wings filing with ice, and the engine failing the dogs surpass him.  He then crashes.

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The dogs are very happy, except for Balto who says they will lose to the plane eventually. This makes Kodi mad and Jenna disappointed.  Then Muk and Luk talk about a monster they saw in the snow, which Balto realizes is the plane, and talk with Stella makes him realize Stella is there, which horrifies Stella that she cannot keep insulting Boris, and that she could be directly responsible for his death. Balto tries to recruit the mail dogs or at least Kodi to go there, but they instead say they are mostly loyal to their jobs, an that these events show that dogs are more dependable than machines.  I guess balto’s other children live out of town now. Jenna stays behind assuming Kodi went (bad thinking) leaving the party as Stella (who has no idea where anything there is due to being on vacation, two polar bear cubs with little to no skills, and the great hero Balto who will clearly have to do all the work.

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This film then becomes a looney tune with some music to match. The characters instead of being saved by skill or strength get saved by the ice coincidently clogging itself into a convenient bridge.

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Oddly Stella supplies all of the humor in it.  They find Boris after dealing with some bull moose, and again they are saved by coincidences way to close to the other time that saved them.  After this Balto gets Muk and Luk to take Bori back, while he will bring Duke and his broken leg back to Nome.  This series has now revered the usual The Land Before Time format.  Normally they had different plots that all connected at the end.  Here they are disconnecting at the end.

Director Phil Weinstein has written that he wanted Steele to help Balto around this part instead of the mail dogs, and I do not think that would have worked.  While it could connect to Duke being a good person, the rival and obvious villain being overall good and wanting to help, that would be hard to pull off, and between the pacing issues and scenes that really go nowhere I think that is too ambitious for his skills as a director.  Instead a scene is added where Kodi and the mail dogs come to help allowing Balto and Duke to make it back.  Basic plot points are addressed like Boris confessing his fears to Stella and Duke taking Balto for a plane ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DTV Wonders Balto II Wolf Quest

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To start it off everything looks different.  Balto is chasing or running from a raven through perilous ice and some weird wolves are also there.

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Already this is just nonsense.  Unlike the tenth The Land Before Time film where the opening dream had plenty of reason in the insanity and clear excitement, this is just obvious foreshadowing of something at the end.  Boris wakes Balto up leading to a funny casting choice.  In the first film Boris was voiced by Bob Hoskins, Eddy Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  Now he is voiced by Roger Rabbit’s actor from the same film, and he does a terrible job here.  He never comes off as wise or funny, and his humor is bad.  Balto is voiced by The Brain from Pinky and the Brain, and he is doing a very good impression of Kevin Bacon, and he still has fine range like telling Boris “I hate it when you get dramatic.”

They get to a totem pole as Boris goes on and on and on about Balto’s dream being important, and a small dog takes way to long to say Jenna and Balto had puppies.  How did they not notice she was pregnant, but this is still a logical next step for the franchise, and I was happy to see this despite the trailer showing it off.  Also the historical Balto was neutered.

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Jenna now looks notably different, but I am okay with that, and she is voiced by Ariel and Thumbelina.  After a few more dreams that I can still find no real foreshadowing in Boris finally does something funny and Jenna reveal the puppies will be adopted tomorrow.  The main plot finally starts, as Boris says Aleu, a puppy, looks more wolf than Balto does.  Some have criticized this by saying she has blue eyes, which are impossible in wolves, but I doubt many people know this besides her dad.

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They are then sold in the medicine box from the first film while the song “Taking you Home” is played.  I have cried when watching it before, but other times I am indifferent to it.  The non-wolf looking dogs are adopted leaving only Aleu, so I guess the people did not love Balto as much as I thought.  I would want his kid who resembles him. Muk and Luk show up, and I know I watched this a few times just to try and remember who is who.  Also they are somehow still cubs, while Aleu is full grown.

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Pinky, this magnet will accelerate her aging process.
After some badly synchronized sound to lip movement a raven (later confirmed to be a spirit guide) distracts her leading to a hunter nearly killing her.  She runs to the hunter thinking he wants to play with a dog, which is obviously scaring him.  Balto chases him away, and apparently Aleu is unaware she looks like a wolf.  I guess The Brain did something to her brain.  For having wolf heritage he gave to her Aleu denounces her father and runs off.  I was always bored of this scene when I was younger, as it is just predictable.
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A few future spirit guides are introduced in the background. Then Balto’s next dream actually has foreshadowing and good music, but now a voice calls Balto her son and mentions many future spirit guides.  Cool it with the supernatural elements.  Supernatural has less supernatural than this and the original film had almost none.  Balto wakes up wasting time assuming Aleu is back apparently forgetting the last scene. He then goes looking for his daughter.
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    Balto’s help from spirit guides is at first very unimaginative, just following them, but things get better eventually with the fox. It is a scene that is incredibly obvious she will randomly knock him in the water, where she tries to get Balto to just let the current move him, and that is part of what parenting is about, adapting with change instead of trying to fight it, but there are still three issues. This spirit’s plan is overly complex, why not just let him keep following the raven, as it can walk or fly, and I do not watch Balto to see a fantasy.
     Also the only way to make sense of the next wolverine clan scene is that other spirits are against him, but that is never brought up again.  Even worse there are two more scenes with Boris, Muk, Luk, and Jenna that go nowhere and focus on characters who do not speak for the entire second half of the film, they just are shown looking worried.  This film could easily have gotten a small enough run time to be an hour long tv special (thirty minutes off).
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    With thirty minutes left the villains are introduced and things finally get interesting. Some newer versions of the first film’s minions show up.  They get almost no screen time or personality, but Mark Hamill voices Niju, the main villain.  He is aggressive and evil, yet he does want what is best for the clan. His flaw is the relatable one of being scared of change, and he is the film’s best character.
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 He decides Balto and Aleu are a threat, and he sends the minions to deal with them, after some useless help from the raven Balto is being triple teamed while having to save his daughter who literally just trips off the peninsula they are on.  The rest of the clan lead by Nava (same actor as the evil police chief in An American Tail 3) saves them with his supernatural powers to control killer whales.  With the same powers he knows the Caribou have migrated away and will not return. He also says they will be lead by “The one who is wolf but does not know.” This obviously means Aleu, but everyone assumes it means Balto.  Niju counters leaving based on them being lead by a non-wolf
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 Many of the clan go with Niju, and then a really simple song about balance is sung by everyone. Balto literally goes back and forth on helping or going home, but then he and Aleu have a dream about the ice forming a bridge to where they need to go, and that happening is enough of a sign in the morning.  I would have ben on board as son as my leader could turn into a tree.  They all go across except for Niju who insists they will all die away from their longtime home.  Soon Nava’s piece of ice floats away, and Aleu swims after him, Niju also swims there to kill them both.
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After an Aleu swimming scene that also goes nowhere Balto arrives to save the day.  They then realize the other wolves are drifting away, and them not having a clear leader is portrayed as a travesty that only one of those four can fix.  I hate that idea.  It is not as bad as in The Lion King, but I hate the concept of a born leader and everyone else cannot do it.  Leadership is not inherent, it has to be mastered through experience like everything else. From this group you have an old wolf about to die of old age, two half-breeds used to people that have never lead wolves, and a fighter with bad decision making skills.  No way are these the only or best options.  Balto tells Niju to swim there, but he panics, changes away from his Joker voice and looks at his own home, where he ends up due to the ice breaking.  Aleu insists on going to lead them alone, and that is what happens.   Besides some brief psychic moments she was useless, and as a domesticated dog will doubtfully survive long.  Balto and Nava go back to the mainland, and in a scene I do like Nava says he will find Niju and continue the clan with him.  I love the moral here that evil can be redeemed. The film ends with the reveal that the great spirit is Balto’s wolf mom.
     I know this movie has fans, but I am not one. I heard this film was almost in theaters, and it has many problems of a thereatical film like inconsistencies due to too many people working on it.  The supernatural elements make this feel nothing like the first film.  Many scenes I skipped because they go nowhere. Unlike the sequels to An American Tail and The Land Before Time many characters from the original were put in that contribute nothing or incredibly little to the plot.  This is worse than The Land Before Time 13. Is it as bad as The Lion King II ?   No, it has a better moral and consistent theme, that we must learn to accept change, as it is inevitable.  It was shown with Balto as a parent and Niju as a citizen of a clan.  It also has less bad connections with the original, and it least has an okay last thirty minutes.  Also the acting is considerably better than in the Lion King 2 and the average character is much better mostly thanks to Balto and Niju.
     While I hate this film, I know it has fans.  For many fans a female protagonist with no love interest is appealing, and I know some viewers love the supernatural elements.  For viewers that enjoy those this is a film to watch.
 

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The big debate from this film came from the film saying the white wolf is Balto’s mother.  Well as a kid I had always toned out by the ending and never noticed that part.  Now I can see that they look nothing alike and should just be considered different characters.

DTV Wonders An American Tail IV The Mystery of the Night Monster

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An American Tail Four was made shortly after the third one with the same cast, except for Mama’s Mousekewitz’s actor, the same writer and director.  It takes place after the third film and… Why is this an American Tail film?  Fievel is really out of character, and most of the other important things are done by a new character, Nellie Brie.  It has little to no talk of America.  I think this makes more sense as a Chipmunks movie or something new.

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Meh, too bright

 

Unlike the other films in the franchise I actually have a tad of nostalgia for this, since I saw the beginning until “Get the facts” on TV, and like Fievel’s American Tails I had no interest in more.  In fact it is why I did not borrow the first one from Blockbuter when mom asked if I wanted to see it.  My target demographic mind found this opening nightmare scene dull.  Well it begins with a not scary nightmare, with a thankfully good score from Michael Tavera.  Basically Fievel is a coward in this film, and that is one reason why being An American Tail film was a mistake.  At least Dekker is much better at this out of character Fievel than he was last film.  In the morning Papa talks about how great a reporter (Nellie Brie) is, and Fievel wonders how brave she is.  All Fievel has done after all is defeat a corrupt police chief, keep a clear head amidst booby traps in order to solve them, which these same people made a movie about.  Not to mention every thing he did in the first film.  Since Tanya works at the newspaper office Mama demands she takes Fievel to wok so Nellie Brie can convince him there is no monster.  She must do it as Tony got her the job (Tony is later established as being a nobody there), and Tony is Fievel’s friend. Did the makers pay attention to the third film where he eats with the entire family?

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The next few parts at least have some really good mouse world parts like them using a mail chute as a train, and I enjoy those.  It also has some music from the seventh The Land Before Time film, but getting to work takes up way too much of a seventy-five minute film.  Fievel briefly meets Nellie Brie due to some more out of character cowardice, which does not really affect the story anyway.  They meet Tanya’s boss whose contributions to the plot are also completely unimportant besides assigning Brie to work with Fievel, because he wants to bug her, renaming Fievel “Rembrandt,” and making headlines that make the whole town scared, since apparently everyone is seeing the night monster.  After that the boss repeatedly shows up for useless scenes that go nowhere.  This leads to Tony and Tiger trying to sell papers, Fievel is wondering why he got a new name in three out of four movies, Tanya is now always super embarrassed, and  hordes of extras working at the sweatshop in Three are now working at the newspaper, so I guess the strike did not work so well, and Brie seems to love insulting people.  Also the mice built a wall that successfully keeps the cats out.

 

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I guess he was less controversial in the mouse world

 

I plan for that to be y first and last Trump joke.  Brie sings to Fievel “Get the facts.”  She is voiced by Susan Boyd known for her singing and for acting…  She has no acting experience except for extras, and she almost always sounds the same.  Dekker is outperforming her big time.  The writer Len Uhley also wrote The Land Before Time 7 and he takes many shots at this film there, so I think that supports my theory that this was not a fun film to make.  The song keeps saying that knowing details about something makes it less scary, but based on my study of demos that is really false.  Also the song is bad, and repeats the main lyrics way too much.  This is contradicted with “Beyond the Mysterious Beyond” where they instead sang about how mystery makes life more interesting, that answers raise more questions, and we must accept not knowing many things.  The screenwriter is debunking the nonsense for me, thanks Uhley.  They interview a few people whose homes were destroyed by the monster, and many mice have been kidnapped.

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A poodle named Madame Mousey is a fortune teller who offers some sort of essence that will keep the monster away.  I guess the writers wanted their own Scooby-Doo film.  When asked why Brie does not believe in the monster she responds with, “Not unless I see it with my own eyes.”  How will Uhley counter this in Land Before Time 7?

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“If they don’t see it with their own eyes it doesn’t exist.   What limited thinking.”  I now like that film even more.  The show then cuts to one of Fievel’s nightmares about Yasha dying, but the problem is later scenes will feel like a fake nightmare instead of real.  At the next attack Fievel and Brie find a cat’s hairball.

Tail 7.pngIt is then revealed that Mousey is working with cats as a Scooby-doo scam to get rich, while the cats sell the mice to other cats with a mechanical monster (big surprise as the trailers ruined that part).   For “Mystery” everything is wrapped up less than thirty minutes into the film.  Well Mousey is a poor villain.  They repeat the same gags with her like characters pronouncing her name as “Mouse-ey,” being mistaken for a rat, or her getting very angry only to calm down before talking.  At least somewhat smart green cat comes off as competent and fairly murderous making him by far the best villain.  Mousey shows her dominance with a villain song.  fortunately Michelle Brourman and Amanda McBroom wrote the songs, but unfortunately this is just dull, and hard to understand.  She wants to remove Brie, and instead of just using the monster on her at night she leads a direct trail back to herself by telling Tony a spot, and that leads to Brie and Fievel going there.  Well Tony is mad about not being assigned to reporting it (partly as he is not a reporter), and save Fievel and Brie from the monster by dropping a chandelier on it.  They also find a jewel from Mousey’s collar.  Tony hopes they have more chandeliers in the future, as the others note a terrible smell.

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This leads them to the dog park from some sort of thing to do with contacts, and five and a half minutes of screen time later they find out that Mousey is a lost poodle, which… somehow proves she is behind it.  In the process they meet some dogs, and have a song, “Who Will.” Best of the movie, but way too basic in lyrics.  It does however, stick out as the only song of the franchise where Tony sings. The lost dog poster means nothing until they connect the dots based on Tony’s tip coming from Mousey.  The newspaper writes that she is behind it, and leaves the papers vulnerable except for the boss, Brie, and Tanya who stay late to work.  Meanwhile hordes of captured mice try to escape, as for some reason they have not been sold yet.   With machine broken green cat wants to rebel against Mousey (good idea), but she says she is needed to fix the machine, and she will then destroy the papers.  Also Brie is talked like she is super famous, when reporters are not famous.

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They first kidnap Fievel’s family, despite it doing nothing to help them.  Seriously if they did not then Fievel would have gone to bed, and the villains would have won.  Way to ruin your own plans by being pointlessly evil.  Well Tiger and Tony show up, and they decide that Tiger has to get the dogs to help, as in a surprisingly hard to follow storyline they want to catch Mousey to get her back to her owner.  Meanwhile Papa needlessly angers his captures making them want to eat him.  Tony and Fievel arrive, but Fievel insists the best thing to do is get Brie despite her showing no skill at quick thinking, while Fievel and Tony have.  Even worse there was no need to take up that much time, because Tony then just gets everyone rescued all by himself.   He does it with enough water that all of the mice should be very dead.  When Fievel gets back to the newspapers Mousey, and a few cats with the machine destroy the papers and capture the late workers, but Fievel electrifies Mousey, and then a  chase scene ensues.  Thanks to Fievel distracting it Brie is able to destroy the monster by using the mailing tube to shoot some machine parts at it.  With Fievel actually acting like Fievel he easily defeats the only serious villain, the green cat, and the dogs show up thanks to Tiger (a little late there Cavalry) finishing the cats and Mousey off.  Shouldn’t the mice be worried about dogs, which kill mice being in their wall?  A dull brief scene at the beach ends the film.

The songs are bad, the plot is too Scooby-Doo, the mystery is not a mystery, the lesson about bravery is extremely basic, and this might be worse than The Land Before Time 13.  It lacks any of its complex moral attempt and scattered but some good scenes.  It has inferior humor, but it gets its major attacks on its own franchise out of the way quickly, and it is overall better acted.  It also has more complexity in its plot, and it is actually pretty fun to make fun of this, so I think it is a little better.  It is certainly not as bad as The Lion King 2, but certainly bad.  This was a poor way for a franchise to end, and Universal Cartoon Studios quickly went back to the Land Before Time, and a new franchise, Balto. 

 

 

 

 

DTV Wonders: An American Tail III


 

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First thing is this could be more accurately titled An American Tail I 1/2, as they made the very understandable choice to be a sequel in New York instead of the Wild West.  Fievel’s American Tails was a TV show that came out to directly after the second movie, and it stank.  Also the first film made considerable more money despite four years of inflation and renewed interest in animation, so it takes place in New York and is modeled after the first film.   Both the franchises’s wiki and TV tropes says this movie recons the second film, but that is false.  The second movie started with Fievel dreaming of being in the Wild West and being a famous gunfighter, which is way more accurate to the opening dream of the second film than the actual second movie.  That gives it a connection to both films.  It is directed by Larry Latham (nothing else important) and written by Len Uhley (writer of The Land Before Time Seven).

I heard (with an unreliable source) that The Land Before Time Six The Secret of Saurus Rock was supposed to be the last Land Before Time film, and both an American Tail DTV sequels came out with two Alvin and Chipmunk movies cam out within two years.  Considering they went back to The Land Before Time so quickly after these came out I think that production liked making Land Before Time films more.

The commercials are very similar to those in The Land Before Time Six only it has one for October Sky.

Tail 3.png                                 The first song is “We Live in Manhattan,” and this song actually really sticks out for the studio.  Unlike The Land Before Time, An American Tail is a musical, in fact this film got accused of using too few songs.  Also this is a crowd song, and I just counted that four of the forty-four songs in The Land Before Time franchise are crowd songs.  The song itself is really forgettable unless the viewer already knows the plot, as they sing about how happy they are to work, which will be contradicted later.  When it cuts to the family more good news, they got most of the actors back.  Papa, Mama, Tony, and Tiger all have heir actors back leaving Fievel and Tanya as the only exceptions.  This is Tanya’s third actress, so it is not like that is new.  For Fievel they cast Littlefoot’s singing voice from the fifth film and full voice all the way to Nine, Thomas Dekker.  That does not make it a good choice, as Littlefoot like Dekker’s voice is less assertive and more meek.  Ironically Dekker’s Littlefoot in the sixth film is more like Fievel than he is in the next An American Tail film.  The basic plot is first revealed that the working conditions are too hard (they had fourteen hour days then), and Papa is overworked along with most of the blue collar workers.  This scene mainly works due to how it obviously does take a toll on the family, yet they are still proud Americans due to America’s many chances to get ahead.

I love America.

If someone is not an American I think they will not care for this much mostly because it is very American dream focused and loses the parts from the first film about being foreign immigrants.  Also I keep unintentionally playing the game of guessing whether the music is from the first film (“Somewhere out there” plays frequently) or which Land Before Time movie.         

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Fievel, Tony, and Tiger then find a treasure map (and remind me that the old subways were powered by a fan).  Some fans have wondered why Tony is hanging out with little Fievel, but I always just presumed that saving the mouse population of a city brings very good friendship bonds.  They bring it to Dr. Dithering who realizes it is from the Delaware Indians.  His assistant is a fat mouse named Scuttlebutt.  Why do you love names that are so hard to spell Uhley?  First Pterano and Sierra and now these two.  Scuttlebutt’s grumpiness is pretty funny, and they decide to go on a treasure hunt for whatever is down there, but Tony quickly realizes he is late for work, and the main villains, his and Papa’s bosses, are introduced.

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The lesser villains want to fire him, but the main one (middle of course) wants to keep him around thinking it will make him the definition of punctual if he gets to keep him job.  Yes robber barons are the villains, and they are mice, not cats.  Earlier mice were immigrants and cats were established Americans, so I guess with the old rich gone thanks to Fievel these guys took over.   It is later established they also took a week’s pay from him, and then shown that they own the police and Scuttlebutt.  Also they have an overly long scene about getting Mama to let Fievel go look for the treasure.  Thus Tiger, Fievel, Dithering, Tony, and Scuttlebutt are going.

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No wonder he hates his boss if that is what he constantly has to do.  At least Fievel constantly encourages him.  They then get stuck in an exciting and comedic booby trap scene, which is probably too cartoony.  The best part is Scuttlebutt giving his boss all the supplies and leaving until he realizes the supplies are a great shield.

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They eventually get through and find an underground Indian civilization.  Based on the pictures I just saw of the Delaware tribes these clothes look accurate except for the feathers.  The chief discusses how they hid to avoid the upper worlds greed from the Europeans, and in a nice touch Scuttlebutt yawns throughout it.  One criticized aspect is that Tony was falling in love with Bridget in one, and in a cameo he was showed married to her in two.  In this film he flirts with Cholena, the chief’s daughter.  I explain this as he temporarily broke up with Bridget, and then they got back together.  The Indians give them a feast, but Scuttlebutt is caught stealing food.  At least steal potentially valuable items you idiot thief.  Oddly if Scutlebutt was not prone to dumb mistakes and pushed around so much he could be a great villain.  This leaves Fievel turning on his American ways considering them to be centered on greed.  Cholena counters that the American Dream is great despite some not “taking it to heart.”  The theme is advancing your own life is good, as long as it does not get in the way of others living their life.  It is very basic to me, but definitely something everyone I know has problems with acting on.

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This leads to the film’s only remembered song “Anywhere in your Dreams.”  It is better than any from two, but inferior to all songs from one.  It does have very good visuals, and the singing voices are very good.  Fievel and Cholena come up with a plan for Cholena to come with them to the surface to see if it is kind enough for the Delaware tribe to return.  Unfortunately Fievel tempts fate by asking “besides, what can happen?”

First problem is the main villains now have a complete monopoly, and when a worker speaks out against the new longer hours he is beaten by the police.  This movie seems to have too much plot.  Papa speaks against revolting and villains somehow interpret it as being against them.  Yeah, how did these idiots get a monopoly?  Well after showing Cholena enjoying New York dressed in some of Tanya’s clothes the main five villains are discussing plans as Scuttlebutt (clearly their second most useful member) told them about the Indians, but the police chief is certain his little army would beat them if they ever invaded, but absolute main villain has a plan that is actually good.  Make everyone think they are being invaded, and they will be set up as the heroes who discovered and stopped it.  Again teaching children that people in authority are likely evil is a good message they have to learn eventually, but the first film already taught it.  They then sing a poor villain song.  William Anderson wrote the first song as well, and he did not do a good job.  They tell the workers about in an invasion from within New York, a young female spying on them, and traitors in their midst.  They also appeal to it being their American duty, and the workers are off.  The police lead them and hand out weapons.  They also go after Papa, as Scuttlebutt told them he is harboring Cholena.

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Well Fievel got his escape ability from somewhere, and Papa gets away.

Dr. Dithering is captured and surprised when Scuttlebutt does not help him.  Next time carry some of the load you bad boss.  Papa reunites with Mama and Tanya saying he will get help, and since help is not Gussie I assume she died between movies.  Cholena is caught, but Fievel and Tony save her by… Smashing a window on the cops.  More on that later.

Scuttlebutt and the Robber Barons put Dithering on a trial to be made guilty, but Tiger (the help) saves him, and blows away members of the mob.  This could be seen as contradicting Tiger’s cowardice in Two, except standing up to cats is no where near as heroic as standing up to mice, and Two just made that character flaw up anyway.  The only problem is Tiger barks at first, which is just a terrible continuity nod.  Papa then turns the workers on the Robber Barons, by pointing out how they have always been their enemies and are now trying to kill dithering.  After escaping the villains send the police to destroy the tribe worried they will side with the workers in an uprising, and Scuttlebutt is forced with them as a guide, and Scuttlebutt and the chief are very funny together.

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Fievel, Tanya, and Tony are taking Cholena back underground, and Fievel always being the hero finds out how to skip the booby traps.  The police go though them, but all live.  These traps are nearly useless.  The chief is certain they will die, but through Fievel’s plan of throwing food at them the police all run off but the chief and Scuttlebutt who is being held back.  Despite sounding dumb the food is nearly as big as the mice are, they are worn out, and they do not know the Indians have no normal weapons.  New plan is Fievel, Tony, and Tanya will blow up the pathway, as the Indians can still return in a future date with other secret routes.  They have little Fievel, nearly adult Tony, and in between their ages Tanya, so naturally little Fievel is given the job of using the match.  Well, Scuttlebutt and the chief show up.  Scuttlebutt is overweight and weak, while the chief is incredibly muscular so naturally Tanya and Tony double team the non threat leaving Fievel to face the powerhouse.  It is no harder than facing Warren in the first film.  In a fine fight scene Fievel beats him hard enough to regain the match and throw it at the fuse presumably killing the chief and Scuttlebutt in the explosion, which nearly kills Fievel.  A universal workers’ strike organized by Papa and Tiger taking over as police ruin the Robber Baron’s power.

This is too comedic of a tone for its dark plot, but at least it has some good comedy and a child friendly lesson on the good and bad of the American dream and economics that only has boring parts in the beginning along with a complex plot that always has something going at multiple angles.  It is not as good as The Land Before Time II.  It has inferior designs due to no dinosaurs and well inferior songs than what The Land Before Time franchise had been giving.  I think it is around the quality of the eighth film in the series.  On the bright side it does not feel like a Disney, but instead a Bluth like Universal Cartoon Studios film helping the studio to have an identity beyond The Land Before Time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DTV Wonders of Summer 2017

School is done meaning DTV wonders is returning.  The first step is to edit some older posts for spelling errors.  I will also redo The Land Before Time 14, 13, and 12 in the style I started using for 11.  I may do the same for Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.

For new videos they will be done in this order.

An American Tail III

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It will be followed by the fourth film in the series.

After that will be Balto II

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It will be followed by the third film in the series.

Afterwards will be Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase

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After this it is time to return to Disney with The Lion King 1 1/2.

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This will be continued with Aladdin 2.

I will then work on more Warner Brothers films afterward.

DTV Wonders: Dragonheart a New Beginning

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Sure I have a glaring very negative review, but I have mostly reviewed DTV sequels where they work nearly best, as an animated film.  The place they would natural work worst is as a live action fantasy to a film that a sequel just feels wrong, like Dragonheart.  As a live action film they cannot simply replace actors, and with a  lower budget key special effects would be cheaper, and it is a harder to simply adopt a cheaper style.

The one returning presence is this film has the same producer as the original.  The film is directed by Doug Lefler, who besides this has directed no movies, but at least he directed some episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journies, and The Last Legion seven years later.  By direct to video standard this was an expensive film, as it cost 11.4 million dollars (one fifth of the original’s budget), and based on what I heard that is way more than an animated sequel.  A live action fantasy film is the worst thing to make work with a low budget, but sometimes looks are deceiving, but sadly this is not one of those times.  I think what this movie needed was mystery, and it gave none.

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For the viewers who will not see the original Dragonheart, or need their memory refreshed it ends with the Dragon, Draco, one of the two main characters dying.  This makes further adventures hard.  This film takes place years alter, and through exposition old Bowen got this egg from his old cave.  Apparently Draco who had been away from his cave for twelve years never checked on the egg or told Bowen about it despite having ample time before dying.  Also it is specifically mentioned Bowen found it right before dying of old age.  For being on his death bed Bowen looks incredibly strong.  The egg hatched in Brother Gilbert’s monastery, which is now controlled by Friar Peter.  Also there is a two tailed comet and according to a prophecy (no explanation for whether it is reliable) says that when it passes the moon in a week an evil will use a dragon’s heart.  Finally a sable boy named Geoff wants to be a night.  Despite having quite a bit of tell, do not show the exposition is actually not a weakness.  The events are both shown and told later, and it is surprisingly both quick and easy to follow.

The film’s real opening is Geoff watching the knights pass, as Friar Peter reminds him to accomplish his chores.  We then get to a problem with a lack of unity in plot.  Quickly the film cuts to Lord Osric being promoted to main advisor, and it is practically stated by the narrator the king is suffering from a mysterious mental illness caused by Osric, and Osric is running the kingdom.  Osric can actually be kind of entertaining, but for everything else this film needed a mysterious villain instead of an obvious one.  To describe his basic plan is that he wants a Dragonheart to make him immortal.  For now he is settling for simple power, and everyone in the kingdom will wear a tunic color coded based on class.  He will also make everyone live by the old code, which is actually quite villainous, as Bowen was against that since it cannot be forced.

 

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Mansel, our narrator, is a monk in charge of watching the young dragon, but Geoff gets by him to explore a place that he knows Mansel refuses to talk about, hence it must be important.  He finds a sword and…

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bad special effects.  His name is Drake, and drake as never been outside or done anything that dragons are expected to do.

I know I am changing to different character too much, but that is because the film changes around every thirty seconds, and I cannot talk about drake and Geoff’s next discussion without first revealing how bad Friar Peter.  Kwon and Lian, two strangers from the East, arrive to discuss the prophecy.  They heard about Drake due to Brother Gilbert’s old writings about dragons and want to stay until the prophecy’s time is gone.  First Friar Peter calls Brother Gilbert moderately dumb, okay.  He then calls him a bad poet. what? Brother Gilbert is quoting The King James Bible over six hundred years before it will be written probably meaning in the Dragonheart Universe his old poetry was used to make it.  Worst of all friar Peter says he does not believe in dragons, due to the Bible.  I have only read the Bible three times, and I know there are hordes of dragons in it described as real beasts.  Friar Peter asks them to see Osric, and he asks them to leave to avoid a peasant panic.  If he was not an obvious villain the audience would see him as a reasonable authority figure with a classist flaw.  Mansel tells Drake Friar Peter is dead, presumably struck dead by God.  Drake takes the news badly, but he does go outside the next day making his mood seem better than usual.

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In outrage at being deemed a commoner with no chance at moving up and becoming a knight Geoff throws his tunic off a cliff and demands that Drake fly him away  Drake refuses and Geoff goes to get his tunic except he gets cornered by some of Osric’s men who are angry at him for not having his uniform tunic.  Basically they are running things like high school with lashings instead of demerits.  Also the secret dragon talked in plain view where the Easterners saw him, and they decide to save Geoff as he can lead them to the dragon.  Lian unarmed wipes out all of the knights, which is probably the worst fight scene I have ever seen.  It does not make Lian seem awesome, but Osric’s minions look like incredibly weak.  It also last a reallllllllllllllly long time.  This whole horrible fight is practically useless except giving them a reason to be allies, s Geoff is again corned by knights and knocked off a cliff.  This time Drake lies and saves him, and Geoff thanks him by telling him to pull quite so hard.  To make it worse the flying effects are really bad.  Already no one is likeable with the possible exception of Mansel (he has nothing important to do, but he offers some comedy), the story is really predictable, and the action and special effects are really bad.

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Everyone saw it, and the peasants are mad, but obvious villain to the rescue.  He wants Drake as “Protector of the Realm,” and Geoff is now in a huge position of power.  He tells them to let the Easterners stay, and can now wear a red tunic of a knight.  This flaw does not really go anywhere, but Geoff has a problem with only accepting something if it suits him.  When the tunic marks him as a peasant he hates it.  When it marks him as important he loves it.  When Osric considers him unimportant he hates him, and when Osric values him he thinks Osric s better than Drake.  I do not think this goes anywhere other thank making Geoff seem selfish, but it is at least fun to notice and shows potential with a better script.

Mansel being the narrator decides he had better become important.  He says Drake is the subject of the prophecy.  Geoff says Drake is too innocent.  Mansel has a comeback that the prophecy states it will use a dragon, but Geoff says he will protect drake, and finally Mansel accuses Geoff of helping it.  If not for the narration I would have no idea these two are supposed to be best friends.  Also by not describing everything Geoff is being edited to be way nicer than he is.  Kwon and Lian decide to kill Drake, but Drake knows something I wrong, and ignores them.  They then decide Drake gets to live, as he passed a test.  Again Geoff was too busy training to be a knight with Osric to notice making his protecting abilities beyond horrible.  Also Osric has gained his trust with bare minimum flattery.

The Easterners agree to train Drake, and tell him about Dragon hearts, like how they can be split in two to help a human.  Also they are carrying around with no security the heart to an ancient evil dragon named Griffin, which can still be put in a human, and… Why have they not destroyed this obviously evil thing that fits the prophecy so well?  They wanted to kill drake with minimal evidence he was evil, so why is this inanimate object that can fulfill the prophecy, but not fight back yet burned already.  It is made clear later fire can destroy it.  There is no mention of it having any type of value.  At least do not carry it with only two guards around literally all the way from China to Britain where anyone could use I to fulfill the prophecy of bringing evil back.  Well, this twist that Griffin is the villain is pretty obvious except for how he fits with Osric who is constantly working on his evil plan on camera.  What the audience knows is he will now replace the king if he dies, he wants half of Drake’s heart, and he wants a war.  Griffin wanted the extermination of humans, so maybe an evil vs. evil fight.  Maybe instead of being a knight who slays an evil dragon Geoff will have to get an evil knight to turn good making him a hero maker to ironically his mentor.  Two obvious villains with no common goals can surprisingly make many options.

 

The training scenes can be funny, and Geoff does get called out on not helping Drake enough.  Also due to borrowing his suspicious full body coat Mansel gets mistaken for Kwon, and Osric’s men kidnap him, and Mansel is now in the dungeon. Osric sends more men to capture Kwon and Lian resulting in another horrible fight where Osric’s men look like complete incomptetents.  Lian and Kwon are winning easily with fans (that are like shields as they deflect sword blades).  The Easterners get swords and now have an even easier looking win, but Osric arrives.  Again as Geoff does what is best for Geoff unlike last time he fully trusts Osric’s wonderful argument that… “These foreigners are not like you and me.”  Geoff surrenders and Kwon and Lian follow.  I guess they are different, considering that is all it takes for them to surrender.  Maybe if Geoff came off as important to their fight or even goals now that drake was close to them too, or if the guards were not so horrible.  To make their surrender even more ridiculous when marched to the dungeons tied up and weaponless the guards are still terrified of them and not trying to hide it.  Also Mansel is wearing a diaper like thing, and only a diaper like piece of underwear.

After awful fight after awful fight we finally get a legitimately well done plan and wording by Osric, genuinely good stuff from Geoff and Drake, and a very good battle scene. To add to the good without the bad script and plot being around it is easier to notice that the angles, cinematography, backgrounds, and sets look very similar to the original and still match this film.  This is not a horrible film, but besides this scene over an hour into the movie it is just consistently bad or poor.  If the whole movie could capture the cost effective and exciting nature of this fight, the intelligence of both hero and villain, and emotion of nearly repeating Draco’s mistake in the original.  Osric’s plan is for some of his minions to pretend to be enemy warriors.  He will save Geoff from one of the, and he will pretend to get injured in the process.  As Geoff trusts him now and will feel indebted to him and get Drake to give him half of his heart.  This plan was not revealed, making me wonder if he did do a legitimate heroic act, get injured, will get the heart, and will turn into a hero later. Instead Geoff discovers he is faking and gets Drake to not give him the heart.  All of the troops turn on Drake and Geoff, but Drake finally masters fire breathing, and he gets them out of there.  Finally this movie is turning around, unless this was just a fluke great scene, but…

 

This film wastes no time confirming it was just a fluke.  Lian uses a bad humming sound to woo a guard into getting close enough for him to be knocked out in one punch, and of course he is the only one, and he loses the keys.  They find Griffin’s heart, and Osric gets back and realizes it is a dragon’s heart.  Out of nowhere Osric reveals what would have otherwise been a good villain backstory.  Griffin was cursed before he died to be reborn into the form he hated, most, man.  Osric is Griffin reborn.  Besides coming out of nowhere it also has the flaw that he was reborn a wealthy lord, instead of say a stable boy.  He grabs the heart after Lian throws it in a fire (should have done that years ago you idiots), Osric kills Kwon with an arrow, and he puts the heart in his chest cavity turning him into

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I owe Drake’s design an apology.  To the movie’s credit the dragons do not look horrible, they just smile and fly horribly and look bad.  I can still believe they are talking and there.  He says he will enslave humanity…

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It has been well established a really good knight is a perfectly good match for a dragon.  One dragon is not powerful enough to take out 100 knights, much less sixty million people.  Drake is mesmerized by a fellow scaled fire breather and nearly joins Griffin until Geoff points out how evil he is, and Drake remembers how he was nearly ticked into giving him half of his heart.  Instead they have a very bad looking duel (a low budget live-action film should stay away from fantasy action), and Drake wins, Geoff gets injured, and Drake shares his heart with him.

That was Dragonheart a new Beginning.  It had good sets, an okay human villain, and not much else.  There was a good movie getting ready to come out in the seventy-five percent the way through battle scene, and Ostric had plenty of potential, but Geoff never learned his lesson about not being selfish.  Mansel and Lian never really go anywhere.  Drake trusts too much, and learns to trust the right people, at least he had a complete arc.  It is no where near as bad as Lion King II, but it is worse than The Land Before Time XIII.

DTV Wonders: Pooh’s Grand Adventure, the Search for Christopher Robin

There is one Disney DTV sequel that I have as much nostalgia for as most of The Land Before Time movies.  This is it.  Despite having some sequel elements I always thought it was more of a film of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh partly due to having more of its actors and animation style.  When I was younger I really loved it, and today I still like it and enjoy the songs.

Right away the trailers talk about how Disney always offers “something new and exciting.”  It then does ads for lots of films that are at least eight years old.

The storybook look is gone, a butterfly looks ahead in fright foreshadowing the coming darkness, and the coloring is now darker.  As expected it begins with Pooh being happy, and he gets even happier when he runs into Christopher Robin.  Christopher Robin has a British accent unlike the TV series but like the film.  Pooh Bear is still voiced by Jim Cummings from the TV series.

An incredibly versatile actor.

Christopher Robin has to tell bad news, but Pooh does not want to hear it.  He sings “Forever and Ever” about how long it can wait.  It is the least good song in the film, but it has plenty of the charm that the character naturally brings.

They then “do nothing.”  A reference to the first film.  It also contains the quote “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  I have heard this originated here, not in the book, and I could not find it in the book, making this movie the birth of many senior quotes.  Pooh cannot remember it, but some of his attempts (“longer than a goose”) are funny.

He then awakens the next morning to find it is Autumn (when school starts).  He finds a honey pot and wonders who sent it.  He starts to doubt he can eat it, and he decides to ask Christopher Robin, but he is not around there, or here, or anywhere.  With him gone he is becoming lost.  It is Pooh’s main arc.  He then goes to Piglet (still played by John Fiedler).  He is trying to conqueror his fear of heights like Christopher Robin said, but he is now stuck on top of the tree.   until he is bounced by the greatest Disney character ever, Tigger.  Tigger is still voiced by Paul Winchell.  Hi arc is introduced as not being strong enough, which is similar to Rabbit’s but not Piglet’s arc.  Piglet is the odd one as his is something he often struggles with, while Rabbit and Tigger have issues with their own gifts not being enough.  He tries to bounce up and rescue Piglet, but he cannot and Piglet falls from the tree where Tigger does save him.  at the meantime Eeyore makes his appearance.  Eeyore is not important to this film actually.  Rabbit’s arc about going by the book too much is briefly shown.

Even rabbit cannot read the note on the honey pot so they go to Owl who proceeds to misread it that Christopher Robin is in danger from Skull.  I would think that with the ending reveal that there was no real danger this would be lighter on a rewatch, but the colors are so dark, the characters are so dramatic while still clearly being themselves, and the images are similar to that of a haunted house to makes this very intense even on a rewatch.  Owl says they must go on a quest, and he sings about it.  As a kid I loved this song, and as an adult I still love I.  I have hummed it many times.

The animation is creepy, and Owl comes off as sadistic talking about how they will all die like it is great, and I love every second of it.  It somehow does this while feeling so natural to the main series by keeping everyone in character.  Owl does refuse to actually go with them, as he salutes them away.  Some fans are mad that Kanga, Roo, and Gopher did not appear, but I thin they are unnecessary characters for this story, and Roo seems to have a major role in every Winnie the Pooh film since this one.  Owl did write them a map, which Pooh is carrying.  It is constantly saying an area is full of dangers and writing objects like trees with scary eyes on them.  He also warned them about the Skullasaurus, which we later learn that even though they constantly hear it, the Skullasaurus was actually Pooh’s tummy.  That was referenced in The Tigger Movie.  When they hear it everyone runs around in circles except Pooh until Rabbit takes the map and goes to what the map calls “This lovely meadow.”

    The map is clearly a little off, but eventually Piglet flees and he arrives at the real meadow.  We now know the map is a little off, as the meadow was a little further than it was on the map.  Piglet plays with butterflies until they carry him off like a flock of hawks.  I know this sounds like a comical scene, but it comes off as incredibly dark.  Even the most innocent looking things in the most peaceful place may kill you.  Pooh while misquoting the earlier quote eventually gets Piglet down.  One little problem is Pooh is so good at solving their problems he does no actually seem very lost.  Rabbit, Eeyore, Tigger, and Piglet seem more lost.

We then get to the rabbit’s song “If it Says so.”  I am having bad memories of “Say Soes” from The Wisdom of Friends when typing that, but this is actually my favorite song in the film, and I have hummed it and sang it many times.  Rabbit’s problem with taking the map at face value instead of thinking to himself is a major problem I also have.  As you can probably tell from the picture the compass is wrong, and the map constantly says to go the unnecessarily long way.  Rabbit accidently loses half of the map and Tigger chases it over a gorge.

Despite that poorly animated still the gorge scene’s animation is very good.  Tigger cannot get the map, and the log falls.  He is now miserable about not being able to get it and he rescinds himself to death.  Pooh then tries to get him out resulting in a stuffed animal ladder.  Somehow Piglet is holding both Pooh and Tigger.  Eventually Eeyore lets go of the root, and they all fall.  Piglet sees his friends rising from the mud and thinks their monster until Pooh points out that they are his friends.  It does help further solidify Pooh as the most important member.

Even with the other half back the map is nearly useless, and Rabbit cannot figure it out.   He gets really depressed and for a third tie Pooh cannot remember Christopher Robin’s comforting words right.  They eventually find a cave to sleep in, while they are very depressed.  After a little comic relief from Tigger and Rabbit Pooh sings “Wherever you are.”  It gets hard to believe that his actor did this and some notable villain songs like “In the Dark of the Night” and “Be Prepared.”  The song has many verses that are a dark reprise from “Forever and Ever,” and it is very sad to see Pooh so depressed.

They wake up to see Skull.   It is not worth the build up on the outside, but the inside seems like a bottomless pit.  They go inside and split up.  Some mist looks like a waterfall going up.  Eeyore gets stuck in a piece of wood making him look like a monster.  Tigger is chased by bats.  Rabbit falls down a hole, but the last one is played more for comedy than drama.  Pooh can just hear their screaming.  Besides Pooh they accidently run into the eye of skull, but it is way too high up for them, and pooh falls down a cliff like area.  Everyone else hears his screaming and assumes he is dead.  This is really getting dark.  In order to make Pooh happy the main characters minus Eeyore finally overcome their problems to get to the Eye.    Meanwhile Pooh…

This shot is the worst part of the film.  He gets out only to get stuck in a  huge chasm.  He eventually realizes he will just starve to death in it.  I have mostly neglected the honey pot in this review to save it to hear.  It represents Pooh’s thoughts that he is forever separated from Christopher Robin, and he clings to it.  They are only reunited when he is willing to abandon it.  Pooh finally remembers Christopher Robin’s words and he realizes in a way they will never be apart.

The rest of the group are all up thanks to Rabbit’s plan, Tigger’ strength, Piglet’s bravery, and Eeyore’s… extra weight slowing them down?  They then see a scary shadow thinking it is the Skullasaurus, but it is Christopher Robin.  I still do not know how he got there, but at this point I am happy to finally see the characters be happy again.  Christopher Robin takes the note and reads out loud what it actually says.  He also finds Pooh, and he rescues him with a huge honey pot he somehow carried over there and a rope.

They leave Skull and see it is not scary looking anymore, and other places from the movie are shown to no longer be scary as well.  The ending song is “Everything is Right.”  I always really enjoyed it.  It is very happy and the characters are shown using their new confidence and waving goodbye to the audience.

Despite its late plot holes and misuse of Eeyore I really love it.  It is by far the best of the Disney DTV films so far, and it is almost as good as the early odd numbered The Land Before Time sequels.  The characters are still lovable, and I got to see them going through something harder than ever before.  The writing is very good.  The songs are great.  I loved it so much as a kid I know most of the lines by heart.  I heavily recommend it for children because of its dark yet child friendly tone.