Apr 17, 2006

The Truth Hurts

Did you watch Saturday Night Live this past Saturday? You didn't? Wow, guess you figured that it was going to be yet another lame celebrity trying to do lame sketch comedy, which it was. However, if you did miss it, you missed one of the most scathing pieces of animation since, well, Conspiracy Rock. And if you did miss it, you're never going to see it again. Not on NBC, not on E!, not even on You Tube anymore.

This week, Robert Smigel lampooned the ridiculous practice The Walt Disney Company continues of putting films in the mythical Disney vault, a place where classics are locked away. You know, classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Bambi, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and 101 Dalmations as well as "classics" like Cinderella 2, Bambi 2, The Lion King 2, Beauty and the Beast 2, Aladdin and the Return of Jafar, and 101 Dalmations: Patch's London Adventure all rest for a period of 10 years.

How did the guy who introduced the world to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog do this? Simple. He made two little fans of Disney films join Mickey Mouse to a journey to the Disney vault in a movie called, um, Journey to the Disney Vault. Mickey showed the two kids some of their favorite movies, including Beauty and the Beast: Hawaiian Vacation, but curiousity gets the better of them as the kids discover the frozen head of Walt Disney. It's been an urban legend for decades that Walt Disney was frozen beneath his Florida theme park. It's so in our subconscious that a network that used to be all-animation is using it as a thesis for a live-action/animated movie that's a backdoor pilot of sorts.

But wait, it gets interesting. The kids also discover the head of Vivian Leigh, whom Mickey said was going to be reanimated along with Disney so they could be married. Then, the boy found files from Disney's HUAC testimonies. He discovered that Disney ratted out numerous animators for being communists, to which Mickey, with edited out images of movies like the Ursula wedding scene from The Little Mermaid, the nude woman in the window from The Rescuers, the "pickaninny" centaur from Fantasia, and Jessica Rabbit's "Basic Instinct" pose from Who Framed Roger Rabbit behind him in frames, said that they were rabblerousers trying to unionize or something.

Then, the kids found a film they've never heard of, Song of the South. But it wasn't the original theatrical version of the film, but rather the one Disney played at personal parties, which is really racist. After seeing that, and looking at the kids' reaction to that and everything else they've witnessed, Mickey Mouse says that Walt Disney was who he was, but they have to remember all of the laughs his greatest creation, Mickey Mouse, has given to generations of kids.
The little girl asks something that is perhaps the unspoken truth in the animation industry about Mickey Mouse.

"You're supposed to be funny?"

FINALLY! Somebody said it. Mickey Mouse is the most bland cartoon character on the planet, and he has basically become a living logo rather than a character. That single question is something that many companies, not just Disney, have never admitted needed to be answered. Kids aren't as stupid or as innocent as these companies think they are. The kids, though enlighted about the truth, aren't completely ready to accept it, but they're definitely a lot smarter than they were before.

Sure, it was a short cartoon, no more than three minutes, but it definitely shed a new light on the state of the animation industry, at least from Disney's side. Perhaps it was a little too close to home as Disney (or somebody representing a part of Disney) are trying hard to make sure it'll never be seen again. If you haven't seen it, you probably never will again. Just like Conspiracy Rock before it (which mocked how media conglomorates try to hide their dirty little secrets and dealings with the government from public view by the news outlets they own), NBC, who was skewered in that segment themselves, will likely never repeat Journey to the Disney Vault, and neither will E!, who owns cable rights to SNL and, coincidently, majority owned by Disney.

Guess they can't handle the truth sometimes.


Jorge Garrido said...

I hated the part where they suggested he was an anti-semite. From the horses mouth:

"HAS: Have you ever made any pictures in your studio that contained
propaganda and that were propaganda films?

WD: Well, during the war we did. We made quite a few-working with
different government agencies. We did one for the Treasury on taxes
and I did four anti-Hitler films. And I did one on my own for air

ANTI-HITLER. And Disney approved every frame of every production that came from his company. There's rumours but they're all rubbish.

I feel they should have made fun of the modern day Disney corporation instead of Walt Dsiney and his animation studio of the olden days. I don't like Disney that much but his animation, technically, is brilliant. Even if it is bland. He was a revolutionary and I don't think Walt the artist deserved these jabs. He was just an artist.

jh said...

Yeah, that anti-Semitic crack WAS a little crass. But the overall message I got from the short was that this was a commentary on the cheapquelitus they've been suffering from since Return of Jafar and the whole "vault" system to an all-out attack on the man and his politics. Was he anti-union? Yes. Was he racist? Maybe, but that was a different era of intolerance and people weren't all integrated like they're supposed to be now, and other voices weren't given much credence as they are generally today. They focused on the urban legends more because of comedic effect. Some were true, some weren't. But if Smigel did just a criticism on the cheapquels and vault system, NBC would probably just say, "Meh" on the whole thing and it probably wouldn't have been made.

Honestly, why are Disney's animated films put under lock and key, even the cheaply-made sequels? I mean, you don't see them throw their live-action films away under darkness like that. They'll just keep them out there until they make a better version of them.

I mean, there are some films from other companies I'd like to see thrown in the incinerator, but that's neither here nor there.

Confidentially speaking, I would have at least seen them mention Ub Iwerks, even to get a "Who's he?" comment out of one of the kids.

Mary said...

You can be an anti-semite without wanting to exterminate the Jews. For years, Disney refused to hire any Jewish people fearing "Jewish nepotism." That's definitely a bigoted sentiment.

Jorge Garrido said...

^But there's no evidence of it.

I feel they should have made fun of the modern disney crop primarily.

Enoch Allen said...

I really should watch SNL more, but I miss the old cast--the new ones don't do it for me.