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The Toon Talk Top 10 of 2002
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
January 2, 2003
Kirby looks back at the the year’s best Disney films and videos

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

Tho Toon Talk Top 10 - 2002
The Year’s Best Disney Films and Videos

2002: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …

It certainly was an eclectic year for fans of Disney movies … for every gem like a Lilo and Stitch or a Vault Disney Collection, we also got a Country Bears or Mickey’s House of Villains. But, all in all, 2002 was a good year, as was apparent when it came time for me to compile the annual rite of passage for any critic, the year end ten best list.
Out of the 40 films and DVDs reviewed this year, 21 rated a B+ or better … quite a challenge to narrow it down to a just a mere ten. But as you can see from my list below, I managed to squeeze in a few more … call it a writer’s prerogative to spread the wealth.

But before we get to the main event, first The Year in Review:

  • For Disney movie fans, 2002 began on January 1st, with the IMAX/Large Format Special Edition of Beauty and the Beast, a new venue for the animated classics that continued later in the year with Treasure Planet (which simultaneously debuted in standard theaters as well) and The Lion King.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire was just the first of many fine DVD Collector’s Editions, adding to the enjoyment of your favorite Disney films with hosts of extras. While some (Peter Pan, Oliver and Company, The Great Mouse Detective, The Santa Clause) weren’t as successful, many others (The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Newsies; Tron; The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; Monsters, Inc., Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas) inarguably proved that DVDs are an excellent way to preserve the histories of each film for both die hard fans and casual viewers alike.
  • Original direct to video releases continued to be controversial this past year, with Disney’s American Legends the only entry garnering a modicum of acclaim. The rash of inferior sequels bore on, with such efforts as Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, both about as uninspired as their titles.
  • Return to Neverland became a surprise hit for the Studio, prompting an increase in the future of theatrical releases for direct-to-video-level animations as The Jungle Book 2 and Piglet’s Big Movie, an unfortunate move that may, regardless of the end results, further erode the general public’s perception of Disney quality.
  • The crowd-pleasing (and G-rated) The Rookie (featuring a career-reviving performance from Dennis Quaid) started the year off with a homerun for Disney live action films … only to fumble with subsequent fair such as Snow Dogs, Reign of Fire, The Country Bears and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. But the holidays brought two very special presents to make up for the dog days of Summer, with the hugely successful The Santa Claus 2 (proving that sequels can be better then the original) and the critically acclaimed musical extravaganza Chicago (Disney-owned Miramax’s bid for Oscar glory this year).
  • Dick Tracy, Babes in Toyland, Blackbeard’s Ghost and the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids trilogy were just a few of the many films from the Disney catalog that were unceremoniously dumped into the DVD market with bare bones editions. Sure, a fast buck to be made, but at what cost to the fans?
  • With next-to-no promotion, yet with a heap of nostalgic love behind them, the first of the Vault Disney titles hit the video shelves this year. Four of Disney’s greatest live action classics (Swiss Family Robinson, Pollyanna, Old Yeller and The Parent Trap) were feted in grand fashion with these 2 disc DVD sets, and actually surpassed the Walt Disney Treasure titles in terms of breadth and over-all quality.
  • Walt Disney Feature Animation had a great year with the artistic and critical success of Lilo and Stitch and Treasure Planet. But whereas the little adventure of a girl and her alien went on to challenge such box office behemoths as Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg, the expensive science fiction epic became lost in a sea of an overcrowded holiday marketplace. Thus it was two steps forward, one step back for the perceived future of traditional animation.
  • Turning to television for inspiration for their latest home video releases, Disney fumbled with the lackluster collections represented in Tarzan and Jane and Mickey’s House of Villains. Instead of merely repackaging existing footage and labeling it ‘all-new!’, in the future one hopes that Disney Home Video will take a cue from the successful releases from other studios and start producing ‘Complete Season’ sets for their television ventures.
  • The Disney-branded release of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away became a critic’s darling (it has already won three critic’s association awards for Best Animated Feature), but didn’t quite win over this critic, who wondered what all the fuss was about …
  • The second wave of Walt Disney Treasures made their debuts, with the hotly anticipated Wartime Disney set postponed to next year. Leonard Maltin continued his noble efforts with sharp collections featuring Mickey’s black and white period, behind the scenes Studio films, and the entire cinematic oeuvre of Goofy.
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