Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hollywood and Animals.

In many movies you see the stereotypical family with a dog, or a cat. In most Disney films there will be a singing animal, singing its troubles away. But animals deserve so much more than just to be in the background, so today, I will take a look at animals in film.

In Howard Hawk’s delightful comedy, Bringing Up Baby, Baby is a leopard with a penchant for escaping, and in his misdemeanours and scatterbrained Katie Hepburn and uptight Cary Grant’s attempt to find him, they are drawn closer together. Nyssa the leopard is great, and very cute, even when fierce, and their romance, though fitting, owes a lot to her/him.

Another animal that brought love, although of a different kind, was Kes, the kestrel in Kes. Billy Casper, an under performing schoolboy with a neglectful mother and violent brother, is seemingly beyond redemption. That is, until, he finds an injured kestrel, and starts caring for him. Soon, Kes proves to be the embodiment of everything that Bill never had – love, friendship, and hope. That their beautiful friendship is hard lived is heartbreaking, but his impact on Billy is easy to see.

Heartbreak comes in another film, arguably Disney’s most mature piece of cinema, The Lion King. There are messages aplenty abound, about people’s roles in life, and being grateful for what you have, and they are presented beautifully with lions. Here, Simba is a na├»ve, ambitious cub, bowled over by the apparent joys of being a king. However, it’s not all gravy as he discovers, with uncle Scar murdering his own father, making it Simba’s job to get justice. The voice actors for this film are amazing, as are the songs, namely Elton John’s “Can you feel the love tonight.”

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Under the ground, and under the water, is my favourite animated film of all time, the delightful Finding Nemo. It’s a very cute cartoon, but it’s also deftly written, with some smart anthropomorphism using fish – Marlin is the good but over-protective father, Nemo is the excited child, desperate to prove their strength in the world. That Nemo finds that he was wrong is one thing, but in Marlin’s quest to find his son, he discovers that, perhaps, his fussiness was not entirely right either. The witty one-liners and exciting pace make this piece appeal to adults, the message that children can be adults too bode particularly well with kids.

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To look at dogs, I was torn between writing about My Dog Skip – a slight but wonderfully played look at how one dog made such an impact on a young boy’s life, and Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit, a hilarious Ardman animation with one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever met. So honours will be bestowed to both movies.

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Disney will undoubtedly bring us more tales of creatures and their features, live action films will use a dog and a cat now and then as a device to help the comedy along. But, as I say, they deserve better, and these 6 films I have mentioned are some great examples of when an animal gets a starring role they deserve.



Just dropping in to say hello

Jay said...

This is one of those situations where you do all hard work yourself, and we're left with not much to do but agree. Nice piece of writing! I thought you'd talk about All the Little Animals, but I understand its non-inclusion. Anyway...

My Dog Skip was the one to instantly spring to my mind the moment I saw this entry's heading. As you know, not many films have moved me to the point of tears (perhaps five, but that's it), but this was one of them... not just because it's a heartbreaking film in itself, but since a lot of it has reminded me of my favourite film; one scene where I immediately drew a parallel between both movies was the heart-rending one where the protagonist had to leave everything behind and start a whole new life. In My Dog Skip's case, it was the sadness in the cute little animal's eyes what filled me with a sense of despair - he knew he was being left behind.

Now, I'm not sure whether this one qualifies, but it'll have to do. Ladyhawke. A beautiful romantic fantasy where the actors who play the lovers are no more than a few minutes together on screen, after an evil bishop has cast a spell on their characters, turning the woman into a hawk by day and the man into a wolf by night. That the actors in question (Rutger H and Michelle P) manage to show true love and genuine affection for an animal that is there to stand for their loved one is a true testament to their acting skills.


Oh btw, for the next Oscar awards, please do 2004. There are just way too many good movies that year.

Anonymous said...

If insects were eligble, I'd have included A Bug's Life.

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Disney cartoons are the best in the world. A lot of people try to make cartoons, and some of them are really great, but only Disney can make any cartoon great and interesting for kids.