Legacy Content

Toon Talk: The Top of 2003
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by Kirby Holt (archives)
December 31, 2003
Kirby gives his top ten list from 2003.

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

The Toon Talk Top 10 - 2003
The Year’s Best Disney Films and Videos
2003 was a year of change for the Walt Disney Studios. Sure, there were big hits released in both animation and live action in theaters, and several record-breaking video releases, but there was also some losses, not the least of which being the unexpected resignation of Roy E. Disney from the company (a huge loss which, I’m sure, will be felt for years to come, most especially … and frightfully … in the animation department). Factor in the cancelled My Peoples project, the shaky future of the Florida Animation Studios, and the still up-in-the-air resolution of the continuing Pixar negotiations, and it’s easy to see 2003, as a certain clownfish might say, as “half empty?.

But, as a certain blue tang would say, “there, there … everything will be all right? … just take a look at the slate of upcoming releases for 2004 at the end of this article if you don’t believe me. Thanks in part to a trio of high profile postponements from this year (Hidalgo, The Alamo, the third wave of Walt Disney Treasures DVDs) and a host of other exciting projects both on the big and home screens, 2004 looks to be a banner year for Disney entertainment … even if it is at the expense of this year’s.

So in the spirit of celebrating the year that was: The Year in Review:

  • Direct to video projects continued to flourish, beginning with the better then average 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure. But even with turning to live action sequels (Inspector Gadget 2, George of the Jungle 2), the quality of most ranged from fun diversions (Atlantis: Milo’s Return) to out-right embarrassments (Stitch! The Movie).
  • Speaking of direct to video, a pair of these projects found their way to theatrical releases with lackluster results: the depressingly pedestrian The Jungle Book 2 and the just plain boring Piglet’s Big Movie. Lets hope future endeavors can at least stay on video shelves and out of the multiplexes.
  • As evidenced by its strong presence in my Top Ten, live action ruled this year, with such popular hits as Holes, The Lizzie McGuire Movie and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, not to mention a slew of Special Edition DVDs: Who Framed Roger Rabbit; The Love Bug; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; The Apple Dumpling Gang; the two Witch Mountain movies (the latter five more or less Vault Disney titles) and Frank and Ollie.
  • Then there was the one-two-three punch of the summer blockbusters Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Freaky Friday. Everyone expected the little Nemo to be successful, but no one predicted just how big a fish it would end up being, eventually surpassing box office king of the jungle The Lion King as the highest grossing animated film of all time. From the get-go, Pirates already had two things going against it: not only was it an adaptation of a theme park ride (remember The Country Bears?), but it was also a pirate movie, not the most successful of genres (remember Cutthroat Island?); but it went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year anyway, both in theaters and on video. And who knew that a remake of an old Disney chestnut, Freaky Friday, would not only pack ’em in at the box office, but would also be so darn good?
  • Disney animation had a diminished presence all around this year, most notably on home video, with only four DVD debuts: Treasure Planet, The Rescuers, Sleeping Beauty and The Lion King. The results were mixed, most notably in the latter two Special Editions: while the vintage Beauty got the royal treatment, the so-called Platinum Edition of King was less then regal.
  • The year rounded down with two high-profile theatrical releases from Walt Disney Pictures, Brother Bear and The Haunted Mansion. Both received mixed reactions from diehard animation fans and Mansion buffs, respectively, although they did continue Disney’s impressive run at the annual box office. (And for the record, Phil Collins’ Bear songs have grown on me.)
All in all, 2003 was not a bad year for Disney, as seen in the official Toon Talk Top 10 of 2003:
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