Toon Talk: Top Ten of 2004
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
The Year’s Best Disney Films and Videos
For Disney in 2004 it was, once again, a year for highs and lows. Huge successes such as The Incredibles and the special edition DVDs of Aladdin and Mary Poppins were offset by a mostly dismal year for theatrical releases and continuing headline-making shake-ups behind the scenes, including the apparent end of the Pixar pact and the announced pending resignation of Michael Eisner. How these events will affect the quality of Disney films and videos in the future remains to be seen. But as for 2004 …
The Year in Review:
- For animation on the big screen, the year began with a throw back to the ‘small screen’, with the Teacher’s Pet movie, followed closely by a ‘real’ animated film, the unexpectedly delightful Home on the Range. DreamWorks dominated the rest of the year with their two hits, the (inexplicably) phenomenally successful Shrek 2 and the more modest Shark Tale. That is until Pixar returned in November with their high-flying Incredibles. (At the Oscars next year, it looks like it will be déjà vu to the Animated Feature Award's first year, with DreamWorks’ ogre versus Pixar’s own heavyweight do-gooder ... with Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks’ The Polar Express watching from the sidelines.)
- As for live action, well … thank goodness for Anne Hathaway. Her Ella Enchanted (released by Miramax) and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, along with the sports-themed Miracle, were the only unquestionable hits. Stars such as Viggo Mortensen, Dennis Quaid, Jackie Chan, Keira Knightley and Lindsay Lohan couldn’t save their respective films (Hidalgo, The Alamo, Around the World in 80 Days, King Arthur and Confessions of a Teenaged Drama Queen) from critical barbs and audience indifference.
- On the home front, Disney DVDs fared better this year, with a nice set of special editions including Alice in Wonderland, Brother Bear, Mulan and the aforementioned Aladdin and Mary Poppins. Even such direct to video fare as The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride got the two-disc treatment …
- Which brings us to The Lion King 1 ½, that rare bird amongst video premieres … one that is actually quite entertaining. The two other direct to video features released in 2004 were ostensibly in conjunction with the 75th birthday of Mickey Mouse: The Three Musketeers and Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (with the Mouse in his computer-animated feature debut). But those weren’t so much celebrations as reminders of how good Mickey can be in his original form, as seen in …
- The dual waves of Walt Disney Treasures we were treated to this year. Mickey was present in three of the seven sets, representing his color, black and white and television years (unfortunately, the later two were not made available for Toon Talk to review). His pals, Donald Duck and Pluto, also got their first volumes of shorts released, as well as sets collecting Disneyland’s science-themed episodes and what was possibly the most eagerly-awaited Disney DVD of all-time (well, except for maybe a certain zip-a-dee-doo-dah movie), which leads us directly into …
The Toon Talk Top 10 of 2004:
#1 - WALT DISNEY: ON THE
Walt Disney Treasures DVD
With a score of ultra-rare animated shorts from the World War II era, including such little seen gems as Der Feuhrer’s Face and Education for Death, this two-disc set would have been worth the price alone. Add in military insignia galleries, voluminous production information and the complete feature Victory Through Air Power, and you have an invaluable collection that not only recounts the history of cinema and animation, but of our nation itself.