Legacy Content

Jim on Film
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by Jim Miles (archives)
February 4, 2005
Jim looks at some of the more fun recent Disney characters.

Characters Development

When we think of the great classic Disney characters, there is always the set of characters that we see in the theme parks and see promoted in merchandising. We’ll probably always have an abundance of plastic Sebastian figures, plush Mushus, and Cinderella costumes at our disposal. We can count on Belle to get her own storybooks and for Baloo to appear on the cover of the next book on Disney animation. Unfortunately for other characters and their creators, if a film isn’t a smash its first run in theaters or is no longer favored by the studio, the characters kind of disappear from memory despite some very memorable performances. While the world can probably go without more Disney merchandising, the lack of attention to these characters are really a result of a lack of appreciation for their films and the blood, sweat, and tears used in creating them. Below are some of the most fun characters with the most marketing potential that have gone un-noticed.

(c) Disney

Koda, Brother Bear—Cute Disney animal characters have been given a bum rap by ardent Disney fans. It’s an often complaint of The AristoCats, Robin Hood, and The Fox and the Hound that they are marred by formula cuteness. I, personally, like cute animals, and kittens, rabbits, kits, and puppies are, by their nature, cute. Koda is a proud member of the cute Disney animal tradition. One key to Koda’s cuteness is his voice, provided by Jeremy Suarez, who speaks with a natural lisp. Suarez has a naturally cute voice, but he also imbues Koda with a sense of childhood wonder. This is equaled by skillful animation, which channels human childhood traits into the cub. Not only does Koda never stop talking, he also never stops moving. One minute he’s climbing on Kenai, then he’s running around him, then he’s on to exploring the world. It also helps that Kenai gets the funniest lines in the movie, such as when he corrects Kenai is saying “Bucky,? when he gives him the lesson on which colors of snow to avoid, and when he has clearly planned the story to tell at the salmon run and how to entice clamors for more. Like the kittens in The AristoCats, Koda works because his cuteness comes from his personality. Little children are very cute, and I have met my fair share of kids who never stop talking, never stop moving, and are hopelessly annoying and endearing at the same time.

It’s too bad Brother Bear never earned the acclaim it deserved and never earned the audience it warranted. Koda was a sure-fire audience pleaser for those who got a chance to know him, and his characterization rests memorably with great Disney animal pals of the past—Thumper, Tibbs, Tito, Meeko, and others.

(c) Disney

Vinny, Atlantis: The Lost Empire—No doubt, much of Vinny’s fun is derived from actor Don Novello’s inspired improvisation. As stated in the Collector’s Edition DVD of the movie, Novello only spoke the written lines once before going off on his own improvised tangents. The result is some of the most hilarious lines in the whole movie, lines that are derived from Vinny’s character development. Vinny is not a character like Mushu or Timon, who get funny one-liners like stand-up comedians and a personality derived from a voice actor, but he is a unique character who rarely realizes that he’s saying anything laughable. To him, it seems natural that dynamite, cherry bombs, and paper clips should be on the same list. But Vinny is more than humorous. He also has heart. He loves a good laugh, such as when he tells Milo that he just drank nitro glycerin, but he does it for the sake of having a good laugh, not really to bully Milo. The signature Vinny moment is when he helps Milo fix his tent. He realizes Milo can’t do it himself, so he just steps in and does it. On the outside, he would seem to be just a cold person, pushing Milo the bedroll and moving to the tent without a word, but Vinny doesn’t vocalize his kindness. He just acts on it. He’s a little rough around the edges, but Vinny is a really nice guy.

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