Where’s Mickey?

What, you may ask, I am talking about? The leader of the club of course, Mickey Mouse. There seems to have been a plot to keep the Disney Corp’s most visible star off our screens for years.

Apart from straight to video Xmas specials Mickey has been conspicuously absent. Even Goofy has had his name in lights.

But fans of the “Mouse” need not fret because Disney has released Fantasia 2000 with Mickey reprising his role as the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. This update to Disney’s 1940 classic is by far the biggest event in years for the company and is being treated as such.

The film, which includes seven new sequences, is premiering on 1001 MAX cinemas across the US. four months before it’s general release. Why such a fanfare? It’s simple; Fantasia 2000 appeals to adults, probably more then kids. This is in stark contrast to the output of the studio over the last fifteen years or so. Yes the films are great to look at, the kids love them but you don’t see adults going “Wow!” after a viewing.

The exceptions to this are Toy Story (1995, 80min.), A Bugs Life (1998, 93min.) and Toy Story II. For the generation that thought the Commodore 64 and Atari 800 were cool, to see computer animation at that quality is simply amazing.

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Thank god for Pixar. For along with Dreamworks who produced Antz (1998, 83min.), they are leading the way in feature length animation Stateside.The rest, I’m afraid, are also-rans.

Warner has tried to clone Disney and the results have been fair, but they could try harder. There is no doubt that Space Jam (1996, 87min.) was a major success, but that may be due to Mr. Franchise himself; Michael Jordan, appearing next to Bugs and crew. But other output has been less successful, Anastasia (1997, 91min.), The Magic Sword (1998, 82min.) and The King and I (1999, 89min.) were no where near the competition at Disney.

Maybe we should look further afield to find our animated entertainment. Long gone are the days when Japans exports to west consisted of only “cheap Saturday working folder for the kids”. The event that changed all this was Akira (1988, 124min.). Theatrically released, this epic based on the graphic novel of the same name tore a hole in the market for it self and the other Manga films to follow. With devastating visuals and attention to detail, Akira was not for the kids.

The graphic violence that is common to Manga was blasted onto screen in a film that had more in common with live action cinema then the animated fluff we had seen before. The ten years that it took to make was time well spent.

Elsewhere there have been attempt to usurp the dominate forces of pen and ink. The collaborative effort Heavy Metal (1981, 90min.) was interesting, if somewhat sexist. The first Lord of the Rings (1978, 133min.) and American Pop (1981, 97min.) by Ralph Bakshi have their devoted fans. The former, however beautiful to look at, unfortunately lost direction half way thorough and lost a lot of money at the box office as a result.

And Ferngully (1992, 76min.) made in Ireland on the cheap, stood out even though it was a Disney clone, mainly for Robin Williams insane vocal abilities. The competition is there and Disney knows it. Everyone likes a cartoon, but remember one thing. The next time you watch a film with special effects and computer generated images, dinosaurs and dragons, spaceships and far off worlds, all things is animated.

Just the great-great-grandchildren of Mickey in Steamboat Willie.

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