Let's set the record straight from the get go: we are a Disney-loving family.
We've spent enough money on Disney movies, vacations, toys, clothing and other assorted paraphernalia that our children ought to be entitled to Disney-funded college scholarships. When we travel to Disney World, we schedule and map the experience ad nauseam. We know which park we are visiting on what day, where we will be eating at exactly what times, and we carry a customized itinerary with us lest we forget.
Some time in early 2011 we will board the brand new Disney Dream -- our first Disney cruise. Not that we're obsessing, but my Lovely Wife and I have read every blog post and watched every snippet of construction video Disney has thrown out to the cyber world. I could probably walk the ship, bow to stern, with my eyes closed and tell you exactly where I was.
Such is our fascination with and admiration for all things Disney.
So, when the German and the Italian selected a classic Disney feature cartoon for our family movie night this evening, I was suitably pleased. Which one did they pick? No, not Cinderella. Not Dumbo, either. Not even Jungle Book. The Italian nominated and the German seconded The Sword in the Stone.
Released in 1963, The Sword in the Stone was the last animated feature released while Walt Disney was still alive. It was a financial success at the time and fairly well received by the critics. Of course, this was only one year before Gilligan's Island premiered on national television and won the hearts of millions, which goes to show even fifty years ago you couldn't put much stock in public opinion.
It might seem strange to those of us too young to recall but the Disney studios did not always sustain the film-a-year average the company has maintained since 1985. At the time of its release, The Sword in the Stone was only the third animated feature film from Disney since 1955's magical Lady & the Tramp, and it would be another four years before the release of the passable Jungle Book. This makes it all the stranger to me that the film should lack not just one or two, but all the ingredients that make other Disney films delightful. You'd think with that much time to pull the project together it would work on at least one level.
But our sons had happily and jointly selected the mercifully short film for our viewing. Although I know they were more excited about the prospect of a shared family experience than which movie we ended up watching, I still didn't want to hurt their feelings by ragging on the film they had picked. I remember my younger days spent playing songs for all in the house to hear and thinking how much fun everyone else must be having listening to my music. Doesn't everyone want to hear "The Tennessee Birdwalk," "You Can't Roller Skate In a Buffalo Herd," or the flip side of the "New Zoo Review" album for the millionth time?
If my parents could humor me way back then, then I can do the same for my children now, especially when all they really want is to snuggle up next to us and share an hour or two. Unfortunately, our love for our children didn't make the movie any less painful to watch. After 79 minutes of horrendous story-telling, screeched dialogue, and mind-bogglingly disassociated musical interludes, the only reward necessary for our time served was the smiling faces of our boys as they thanked us for letting them climb into our bed for a movie night.
© 2010 Mark Feggeler