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It’s Tough To Be A Fan
(or, Caught in the Disney Doldrums)

I hate to sound like a grumpy old fan, but the upcoming Disney animated feature Planes is exactly what’s wrong with the current box office.

A sort-of spin off from the Pixar Cars, this new film looks like a blatant attempt to expand their toy sales.

It’s not original, the animation looks garish and its massive ad campaign gives me hives.

Whenever these projects come out of Walt Disney Animation, as they often do, I like to remind myself that they have done plenty of amazing work, and a lot of it in the past few years.  Bolt signaled a new direction, with sharp computer animation and even sharper storytelling.  Tangled was a blast for audiences, especially the die-hard Disney fans, with its self-aware humor.  Last year’s Paperman short was a rare wonder of simplicity, only surpassed by its vision.

The vast, rich history of the studio gets restored each year with new titles given the HD treatment (not to mention some 3D conversions), but there’s one short I’d love to see dusted off perhaps for the video release of Planes.

Before you take the kids to Planes, see how they’ll react to this original tale of natural-flight by our avian friends–It’s Tough To Be A Bird.

Part documentary with live action and part animation, this Ward Kimball directed short won an Oscar for Best Cartoon Short Subject.  It’s a favorite of modern Disney animators and much regarded in the Disneyana camp.

What’s notable about the short is its inconsistent style, but in a good way.  Definitely a product of its time, this trippy tale about the birds has cell animation at its core, but utilizes stop motion of photographs frequently.  It’s a style that is now associated mainly with Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

You can thanks director Ward Kimball for that.  One of the original Disney animators (known as Disney’s Nine Old Men), Ward is most famous for the crows in Dumbo, Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio and the musical title sequence from Three Caballeros.  Needless to say, his own brand of humor was well reflected in his creations.

It’s Tough To Be A Bird is currently not available on DVD or Blu-ray, but did once surface on VHS in a Wonderful World of Disney release.  Below is an upload of it found on Vimeo.

Enjoy it while you can.

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