Tag Archives: Walt Disney

The B.R.A.T. Patrol (1986, Mollie Miller)

The B.R.A.T. Patrol is about a group of kids on an airforce base who discover one of the MPs is selling military hardware to literal junk yard arms dealers. None of the adults believe them because it’s a “Wonderful World of Disney” movie and there are rules. There are limits and there are rules. B.R.A.T. Patrol frequently bumps into the limits–if director Miller just had wider establishing shots, the movie would have some scale. But it plays well with the rules. Miller and writers Chris “Yes, the ‘X-Files’” Carter and Michael Patrick Goodman never lose track of the main kids, even when some of them get crap duty.

Nia Long gets the most crap duty, but then she gets to be part of the awesome chase sequence at the end. She gets to ride the dirt bikes. She doesn’t get to do anything cool on the dirt bikes, but then neither does Jason Presson, who kind of has the biggest role. He’s the kid who doesn’t just want to go along with what lead kid Sean Astin says. Sean Astin–and his stunt bike rider–are the only ones who get to do cool things during the dirt bike sequence.

There’s probably a lot to unpack in “Wonderful World of Disney” episodes. Let’s just say Astin is the William Shatner of the bunch, only Miller doesn’t direct a performance out of him and so his deliveries are all flat. He’s an Eddie Haskall type, from the era of rehabilitating the trope. He should be funny, but he’s not. He’s not even mean in his callousness. He’s just got a role to play.

At least Presson tries a little. His part’s terribly written–B.R.A.T. Patrol has adults but no parents and Presson gets the subplot about being afraid of punishment. Fail to stop an arms deal? Get stabbed? Presson’s parents might ground him. Without the parents, there’s nothing to back up the fear. And Miller doesn’t even try to help with it. She’s got a hands off approach with the actors, which does work to her favor. Since the teleplay has so little for the other three kids–Long, Dylan Kussman, and Dustin Berkovitz–seeing the kids mug without trying to mug passes the time. It gives them some personality, even if the script doesn’t.

Astin doesn’t have any personality. He’s just supposed to be obnoxious, but adorable obnoxious. Versus Joe Wright as the leader of the base’s Young Marines. He’s just supposed to be obnoxious without being adorable. Watching Astin and Wright bicker is one of the movie’s most frequent irritations. Once it’s established the Young Marines aren’t actual threats, the interactions are increasingly tedious. Wright and Billy Jayne are trying to stop Astin and company from winning a “Youth Service Award,” which Astin and company don’t seem to know anything about.

They’re stopping the arms dealers for the right reasons, not to get any awards.

Tim Thomerson is the MP who secretly thinks Astin and the gang are all right. Brian Keith is the base commander who’s flummoxed by children’s behavior. Keith’s fine. Thomerson’s almost better; the first act implies he might get an actual part, but he doesn’t.

And Stephen Lee is good at as the dirty MP. You believe he wants to harm Astin, making him an actual threat. Same goes for junk yard arms dealer John Quade. B.R.A.T. Patrol’s thriller thread is pretty darn effective.

Good photography from Fred J. Koenekamp, even if Miller needs to open up the establishing shots more. It’s a Disney TV movie, it only has to look so good but Koenekamp is far above the bare minimum. Fine editing from Barbara Palmer Dixon and Glenn Farr. The editing gets good for the last third, even if the script dawdles.

The B.R.A.T. Patrol is sort of racing with itself. Can the movie end before Astin hits critical mass and becomes too obnoxious. No. But it does acknowledge Astin’s too obnoxious. That acknowledgement is something.

Wait, can’t forget the production design. Ray Storey’s production design is outstanding. Since Miller’s establishing shots are so problematic, the locations never get established. But the way Storey’s able to match the actual air base exteriors with the plot set pieces? Outstanding.

But, yeah, B.R.A.T. Patrol is fine. Enough.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Mollie Miller; written by Chris Carter and Michael Patrick Goodman; “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” created by Walt Disney; director of photography, Fred J. Koenekamp; edited by Barbara Palmer Dixon and Glenn Farr; music by Jonathan Tunick; production designer, Ray Storey; produced by Mark H. Ovitz; aired by the American Broadcasting Company.

Starring Sean Astin (Leonard), Jason Presson (McGeorge), Nia Long (Darla), Dylan Kussman (Bug), Dustin Berkovitz (Squeak), Joe Wright (Newmeyer), Billy Jayne (Whittle), Tim Thomerson (Maj. Hackett), Stephen Lee (Phillips), John Quade (Knife), and Brian Keith (Gen. Newmeyer).


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Alice’s Wonderland (1923, Walt Disney)

Depending on the process director Disney used to marry live action with animation, Alice’s Wonderland is either mediocre or just plain bad. If it’s the latter, Disney has no concept of perspective or, you know, shadows.

The first three minutes are awesome. A little kid (Virginia Davis, in an awful performance–it’s probably Disney’s fault) visits an animation studio and is amazed at how the cartoon characters come alive on the animators’ panels. Disney’s conception of the studio is something technology still hasn’t produced (and probably never will). It’s spellbinding.

Then it becomes about Davis and gets bad. All the little cartoon animals love her and applaud her lame, poorly directed dance. The technical wonders of the first few minutes become lame and cheap tricks, a couple of shocking incompetence.

The animation’s mostly lame with occasional exceptions. Unfortunately, a couple great gags can’t make up for all of Alice‘s failings.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, directed and produced by Walt Disney; directors of photography, Rudolf Ising and Ub Iwerks; animated by Hugh Harman, Ising, Iwerks and Carman Maxwell; released by Margaret J. Winkler.

The Saga of Windwagon Smith (1961, Charles A. Nichols)

There’s nothing good about The Saga of Windwagon Smith. The best thing about it is the extended opening titles, which eat up some of the runtime and lessen the cartoon’s awfulness.

The animation happily plays at the nexus of lazy, incompetent and bad. Director Nichols–who cowrote–at least could’ve come up with an interesting visualization for his dumb story.

Instead, he relies on singing narration. It, and the dialogue, all rhymes. Except they’re bad rhymes, which makes one wonder how much time anyone spent on Windwagon. It’s like they wrote the dialogue first and the couplet at some later point.

Rex Allen is equally obnoxious as the protagonist and narrator.

The most striking thing about the cartoon, however, is the rampant racism. There are multiple Native American jokes, a Chinese one, but it also mocks the Kansas townspeople as moronic rednecks.

Windwagon‘s a dreadful way to spend twelve minutes.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Charles A. Nichols; written by Lance Nolley and Nichols; animated by Julius Svendsen and Art Stevens; music by George Bruns; production designer, Ernie Nordli; produced by Walt Disney; released by Buena Vista Releasing Company.

Starring Rex Allen (Windwagon Smith) and J. Pat O’Malley (Mayor Crum); narrated by Allen.

Working for Peanuts (1953, Jack Hannah)

As if Donald Duck couldn’t get weirder, he’s apparently got the hots for a female elephant in Working for Peanuts. But it’s not actually a Donald cartoon, it’s a Chip and Dale cartoon. The boys are after the peanuts–a delicacy they’ve just discovered–and the zoo has them.

Donald’s the zookeeper, the elephant’s got the peanuts. Chaos ensues.

Director Hannah and his animators must have either been on a tight deadline or completely disinterested, because Peanuts is terrible work. The animation on Donald and the chipmunks is fine, but on the elephant and the other zoo animals it’s awful. There’s one shot of a group of people standing around with the same face and expression. The zoo itself has no personality (or cages).

As for the gags… they’re tepid. The final one’s kind of funny, but the dumb elephant’s in the scene; she ruins it.

These Peanuts are stale.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Jack Hannah; written by Nick George and Roy Williams; animated by Volus Jones, Bill Justice and George Kreisl; music by Oliver Wallace; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Dessie Flynn (Dale), James MacDonald (Chip) and Clarence Nash (Donald Duck).