The Spookiest Place On Earth

Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Magic & Misadventures Halloween post. It’s a… ghost post, if you will. 

You may have heard, my dear readers, of the lamp in Walt’s Disneyland apartment. Situated in a window above the Main Street Fire Station, Walt would turn that lamp on so folks would know that he was there, and since his passing  it’s been kept on all the time. A touching tribute, to be sure, to the man who created the park.

What if, however, there’s actually a more… supernatural side to this story?

There are stories of a custodian who, shortly after Walt died in 1966, went in to clean the apartment. As was normal at that time, she turned his lamp off as she left. When she got outside, however, she looked back and saw that the light was still on. Assuming that she must have forgotten, she went back inside and shut it off again. Once more she went back downstairs, once more she saw that the lamp was lit, and once more she went into the apartment to turn it off. The story goes that this time she stood there for a few minutes and, without being touched, the lamp turned itself back on.

There’s even a version of this eerie anecdote that claims she then heard a familiar voice telling her “I am still here.”

The creeped-out custodian left the apartment in a hurry and never returned, and since that day the lamp has remained on. Officially, it’s to honor Walt Disney, and officially the apartment is empty. Yet, in the years since his death, many cast members have claimed to hear footsteps and knocking from within the vacant apartment. Sometimes, out of the corner of an eye, they’ll catch a glimpse of the curtains twitching. As if, they say, an ethereal observer just stepped back from the window. Could it be that the ghost of Walt Disney is still there in his apartment, watching over the magic kingdom that he created?


Is there a pixie-dusted poltergeist residing in this Disneyland apartment, or is it just a fanciful fable?

Frightening folklore? Perhaps. There are whispers, though, passed between guests and cast members, suggesting that the happy haunts of the Haunted Mansion aren’t the only ghosts in the Happiest Place On Earth.

So turn on all the lights and muster your courage, my friends, because it’s time to go on a tour of spooky stories about some specters that may dwell within the Disney parks.

There’s no turning back now…

Of course, we all know that the Haunted Mansion is full of grim grinning ghosts. Nine hundred and ninety nine, to be exact. They do say that there’s room for a thousand, and ask for volunteers, but maybe that last slot has already been filled?

Some people believe there is at least one more spirit, that of a creepy crying child, stalking the halls of Disneyland’s haunted house. As the story goes, a young boy died and his mother asked if she could spread his ashes inside his favorite attraction–the Haunted Mansion. Naturally, Disney said that she couldn’t, but supposedly that didn’t deter her from doing it anyway. After that, rumors of a ghost haunting the ride began to surface. Guests have claimed to see a tearful tot by the exit, but he ignores them when he’s spoken to and sometimes even vanishes altogether. Even cast members have said they’ve heard weird sounds, felt chills, and seen things out of the corners of their eyes while working at the attraction.


Does a sobbing spirit haunt the exit of the Haunted Mansion, or is it all a morbid myth?

Some ghosts, it seems, may have been around long before the theme parks were built. One such spirit is said to be an old man holding a cane who rides Florida’s Haunted Mansion late at night. Though not much is known about him, it’s rumored that this apparition is in fact a pilot whose plane crashed in the 1940s on what is now Walt Disney World property. Many cast members claim that they’ve tried to talk to him, but he never responds. The ghost, known as “the man with the cane”, will more often than not just disappear.

Our last Haunted Mansion ghost story stems from a picture taken in 2004 and posted on this WDWMagic forum.


Is this phantom only Photoshop, or is it actually an apparition?

According to the photographer, the face staring back from the doombuggy ahead can only be that of a spirit. This child was not there when the photo was taken, they claim, and in fact there was no guest of that age visible anywhere ahead of them in line. To add to the mystery, they say that they were not using a flash or external light source of any kind. So who could this kid be, why is their face so well-lit in the dark hallway, and why are they staring straight back at the photographer? Other guests claim to have also seen this ghostly youngster looking back at them from a few doombuggies ahead, even though they knew that they were the very first rider of the day.

The first living one, anyway…

I didn’t mean to frighten you prematurely. Many more chilling tales are coming. As they say, look… alive, and we’ll continue our little tour. 

Over in Adventureland, in Pirates of the Caribbean, resides one of the best-known Walt Disney World ghosts: George. In life, George was supposedly a construction worker back in the early ’70s who died while working on the attraction (though any details of his demise are lost to legend). Since then, many believe that his spirit lingers within the ride. Cast members say good morning and good night to George every day over the PA system, and it’s widely believed that he’ll get a bit mischievous if they don’t. The ride might stop, or a phone call may come from an empty control room. There’s even a door, near the jail cell and the key-holding dog, called “George’s door” because it will often open on its own after being closed. It’s not just the cast members who say they’ve experienced George’s hijinks, either. If a guest claims they don’t believe in him while riding the ride, the boats may suddenly stop (sometimes, according to reports, for an extremely long time). Saying his name three times while on the attraction is rumored to cause stops as well, and one guest who chose to taunt George early on swore later that their boat rocked much harder as it went down the waterfall. Cast members have claimed to see shadows moving where there weren’t any people, felt cold air blowing as if something was passing through them, and some have even said they’ve seen weird lights appear on photographs and security monitors.  Overall, cast members do maintain that George is basically harmless as long as you’re polite to him. If you don’t show this spectral swashbuckler respect, however, he can be a really bad egg. 


Dead men may tell no tales, but does one creep through Pirates of the Caribbean?

Of course, you may expect ghosts in a haunted house or amid the bones of buccaneers, but what about among the stars? Some speak of a spirit, known as Mr. One-Way, who haunts Space Mountain in Disneyland. This futuristic phantasm, often described as a large man with red hair and a red face, will hop into the empty seat next to single riders but will have vanished by the time their rocket reaches the end of the trip. There have also been reports of cast members seeing Mr. One-Way in the Space Mountain locker rooms.

Interestingly, while Mr. One-Way is the most well known of Space Mountain’s ghosts, there’s also talk of a young boy who has been seen in the queue for the ride. Guests who have witnessed this particular wraith say that he’ll actually wait in line and talk to the people around him, though his information seems quite dated and he doesn’t seem to know about all of the changes to the park that have happened over the last few decades. He’ll even get on next to an unsuspecting mortal, but, like Mr. One-Way, will have disappeared before the end of the ride.

Space Mountain at night

Are there really rocket-riding revenants on this iconic attraction, or should we be skeptical of these Space Mountain spirits?

Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding. Are these terrifying tales true, or are they only imagination? 

Even Disneyland’s Main Street USA, that charming collection of shops and restaurants, is said to be home to its own eerie apparition. This spirit has been spied by both guests and cast members throughout the years, and they describe a woman dressed in a white dress that appears to be from the early 1900s. This silent specter wanders around the stores, and some even state that she guides lost children to the Baby Care Center. Though this helpful haunt’s clothing fits well within Main Street’s theme, it’s suspected that she’s actually from the turn-of-the-century and that she’s been there far longer than the theme park.


Is Main Street USA home to an old-fashioned apparition, or is this poltergeist just poppycock?

Our tour of the supernatural is not only limited to the lands of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy. There are stories of spirits residing in other Disney parks as well.

EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Maybe, though, we should replace “prototype” with “paranormal” since it’s said that a pair of phantoms can be found there. Described as ghostly children, they are most often seen playing in front of Spaceship Earth. The boy will run ahead of the girl, and then they will simply vanish. Both the girl (often said to have long blonde hair, a fairly consistent detail) and the boy have also been seen riding Spaceship Earth as well. While many claim to have seen them, nobody seems to know who these ghostly kids are or where they could have come from, or why they spend all of their time at EPCOT’s most iconic attraction.


Are there phantoms frolicking in Future World, or would science-minded skeptics scoff at those who claim to have seen such shadows?

Hollywood Studios, too, could very well be haunted. As the story goes, a Tower of Terror cast member died of a heart attack on the loading platform for the “Delta” shaft and his spirit hasn’t moved on from the attraction. Cast members claim that, during their nightly ride-throughs on that particular elevator, all sorts of spooky scenarios can play out. They suddenly find themselves in complete darkness, though on the security screens in the control room the lights never seemed to go out. The music fades in and out. Sometimes, out of the corner of their eye, they’ll see a shadowy figure that vanishes when they turn to look. Some supposedly won’t ride Delta alone, and at the end of the night will wait for others to complete their own tasks and then go through as a group.

Consider the screenshot below, taken from a maintenance video that was posted on YouTube. At exactly 26 seconds, and only for the blink of an eye, a figure seems to momentarily materialize behind the cast member. Is it a trick of the light, a reflection, or some sort of glitch in the recording? Or, for the briefest of flashes, does a ghost actually appear behind this unsuspecting man?


Does this tape tell that there’s terror in the Hollywood Tower, or should we just drop it?

From cast members who greet George every day to guests who claim to have seen a specter on Space Mountain, these spine-tingling stories (and more like them) have taken on an afterlife of their own to become a real part of the mythology of the Disney parks. Whether you think that they’re terrifyingly true or just silly superstition, of course, is up to you.

Our tour is almost at its untimely end, but before we reach our frightening finale I will leave you all with one last morbid mystery. Is this video eerie evidence of an entity walking through Disneyland late at night, or should we be somewhat skeptical of this recorded revenant? Watch, and decide for yourself. And the next time you’re at a Disney park, remember… beware of hitchhiking ghosts!

Hurry back… hurry back…

Posted in Attractions, Magic, Misadventures, Nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out Of Toon

Have you seen the recent live-action Jungle Book movie? I went to see it while it was still in theaters. It took aspects from the animated movie–as well as elements from Rudyard Kipling’s original tale–and overall it was a fun moviegoing experience. It was clear to me that the creators of this version really loved the story and wanted to do it right, and while it was told in a new way it retained (some of) the heart that made its cartoon predecessor so special. Sure, I still personally prefer the original, but I think this new take was worth seeing. Bill Murray made an awesome Baloo. I didn’t go in with high hopes, though, and therefore I was honestly (and pleasantly) surprised when it turned out to be better than I expected.

Why didn’t I go in thinking I was going to see a good movie? Because, in my opinion, the recent live-action Disney films had set up that fairly low expectation.

In particular, I’m referring to the remakes of other animated classics, Cinderella and Maleficent. I was excited for them both, I saw them in theaters, and I was disappointed each time. Instead of thinking that Disney had wondrously revitalized these classic tales, I mostly just wondered why we needed these new versions at all.

Spoilers ahead for both Maleficent and Cinderella, by the way.

I really did want to like Maleficent. I thought that the concept–the story as told through the eyes of the villain (especially one of the most iconic of Disney’s baddies) was really cool. In the animated feature we never learned anything about her other than that she’s evil and she’s miffed over not being invited to Aurora’s birth party (from what I’ve read, the original fairy tale didn’t add much more to that). So in the live-action version they added in an elaborate backstory for her, which included a history with Aurora’s father Stephan, to try and explain how she became the evil character that we know from Sleeping Beauty. It was a bit forced at times, but it wasn’t overly terrible, and it succeeded in actually making her into a sympathetic character of sorts. In the animated movie, of course, Maleficent turned into a massive dragon and went head-to-head with Prince Phillip. She lost, she died, and everybody (else) lived happily ever after. In Maleficent, however, she was redeemed in the end and became all happy and cheerful. Angelina Jolie did a great job portraying the character, and it was all very visually stunning, but ultimately I was more than a bit disappointed. I just felt that the new ending was too much of a deviation–even though I was willing to accept all of the other changes–and it was too drastic a departure for the character. I mean, she didn’t even turn into a dragon, and that’s pretty much what she’s known for!

Sure, some changes are to be expected in a remake, but altering the entire ending is a pretty big one. Then again, keeping Maleficent alive and giving her that redemption does allow them to make even more money off the franchise with the sequel that’s apparently happening.

Cinderella I really didn’t like. In the animated movie, we meet the character of Cinderella when she’s already a young adult. We’re given enough history to understand what’s going on, and then the movie is all about her eventually becoming a princess (with the help of some talking mice). The live-action version starts further back, though, and shows us her childhood. Her early life is fleshed out, and… sorry, it just doesn’t work. They try to add depth, and yet she just comes off as a one-dimensional character. We’re introduced to her parents in this version, and early on she’s told by her mother to “have courage and be kind”. This advice carries her through her childhood and her adult life, and it becomes basically the reason that she lets these bad things happen to her. You’d think that maybe “be nice but, y’know, stand up for yourself now and again” would have been a better life lesson. When her wicked stepmother and mean stepsisters are wicked and mean to her, she just recites her mom’s words and then keeps letting it all happen. True, her being abused by her step-family is the basic plot in every version of the story, but the addition of her oft-recited “mantra” made her (in my eyes) less of a sympathetic character and more of a doormat. I just couldn’t root for her. The animated movie added a healthy dose of Disney whimsy to her journey (again, talking mice) and it’s an important element of fun to what’s basically a rags-to-riches tale. Without that, the live-action version simply isn’t very interesting.

Let’s look at another recent example: Pete’s Dragon.

I may have, prior to its release, called the remake of Pete’s Dragon an “abomination” on my Facebook page. I really like the original (I’m not saying that it’s a great movie, but I’m saying that I personally find it entertaining) and in the trailers the new version looked to be a pretty drastic departure. The original was a bizarre, over-the-top campy musical, and the remake appeared to take itself far more seriously. Plus, no singing. I’ll admit that, based on my limited information, I was dubious.

Well it turns out that, while definitely very different from the original in just about every way, the new Pete’s Dragon wasn’t an abomination. It’s not actually that bad at all (even if there’s no Doc Terminus, who’s my favorite part of the 1977 film). It’s the story repackaged for modern audiences who may not be as receptive to a snake-oil salesman singing about chopping up a dragon to sell its part for medicine, or alcoholism used as a comedy device, or people who basically bought a child to use as slave labor.

OK, I think I get why they opted to go in a different direction here…

What’s interesting about Pete’s Dragon is that many people I’ve talked to didn’t even know that there WAS an ‘original’ version. So while some moviegoers may have gone to see the remake because they saw the old one, others were seeing this story (in any version) for the very first time. In that respect, Disney’s decision to make a new Pete’s Dragon was definitely a smart one. It put the franchise back on the map. It may be very different in tone, but it’s a new version of the story for a new generation.

This is all probably a bit (or a lot) grumpy and get-off-my-lawn sounding, I know. Though I think it poses an interesting question: when watching a remake, are we going in hoping to see a shot-for-shot recreation of the original, or are we expecting a new take on the story and are willing to accept the changes that are made? Jungle Book kept pretty close to the original, while Pete’s Dragon was very different (it had Pete, and a dragon, and that’s about it), and both were decent films. They took on the subjects in their own way but, like their predecessors, at their core they both had heart. Cinderella took that heart out almost completely, and the result was a bland retelling of the story. Maleficent had its moments, and they managed to add some real depth to her saga, but in redeeming her at the end they managed to just stray too far from the true soul of the character.

So what’s coming next for Disney live-action remakes? Everything, it would seem. Beauty and the Beast is slated for release in March of 2017. From what I’ve seen in teasers and photos, this one looks like it’s sticking pretty close to its source material. I’m sure that there will be changes, but I’m actually optimistic about it and I’m looking forward to seeing it. Jon Favreau is remaking The Lion King in the same live-action/CGI style as the recent Jungle Book (which he directed and co-produced). Tim Burton is recreating Dumbo, which is probably going to be… weird. There are also live-action remakes of Mulan, Sword in the Stone, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, and Pinocchio in the works. A movie about Genie from Aladdin is coming, plus a remake of Aladdin itself. There’s one about Tinkerbell, and another about Cruella De Vil. There’s even one about Chernabog from the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence of Fantasia, and supposedly there’s also going to be a movie about Snow White’s sister–dubbed Rose Red–coming at some point in the future. Additionally, sequels to Maleficent and Jungle Book have been announced.

It appears that, for better or worse, the live-action remake train has no intention of slowing down.

I mean, I guess I get why they’re remaking their classic films. They want a new generation to enjoy these stories (and, more cynically, to continue to make money off of these franchises) and remaking them is a way to do that. Entertainment has changed over the decades, so recreating these tales with modern sensibilities is a way to bring them to a new audience.

I think my issue with some of these live-action remakes can be summed up like this: when watching the animated originals, there’s a sense of magic about them that makes them special. They have a heart that captures the imaginations of kids and adults alike, and when those kids grow up they can’t wait to show the films to the next generation. It’s why they’ve remained so popular so long after their release. Most of these new versions, though, lack that spark. They feel kind of like many big-budget movies that have come out in recent years, lots of style but not much substance.

Will any of these live-action remakes still hold up years from now like the originals have? Recently, a local movie theater showed the original Sleeping Beauty on the big screen and the house looked to be mostly sold out with people from all ages there. Sixty years from now, will Maleficent garner that same kind of attention?

I don’t know if I have any answers to the questions I’ve posed here (or even if I have a real point to this rant). I’ll still go see the remakes when they get released. I’ll probably still walk into each one with low expectations, I’ll be pleasantly surprised when they turn out to be decent movies, and I’ll be disappointed when I don’t think they work.

Ultimately, though, I just don’t know if I’ll ever see them as exciting new takes on these classic tales, or if I’ll keep thinking they’re just largely unnecessary and then go back and watch the originals.

Posted in Ranting and Raving | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Five Forgotten Features

Over the years, Disney has released a whole bunch of animated features. It’s kind of their thing. Many of these films are much-loved classics, while others have more or less fallen off the radar.

In the interest of science, I watched five Disney animated features that you may not have known existed (or at least they’re not ones that you think about very often). I had seen them all before, but I sat through them all again so that I could share my opinions about them.

 The Black Cauldron (1985)

In The Black Cauldron, a young boy by the name of Taran starts out as an assistant pig keeper and ends up on an epic quest to save the land from the evil Horned King and his army of bloodthirsty skeletons. Along the way he meets a princess, a bard, and a scruffy little creature named Gurgi, all of whom join his journey as he battles the bad guy’s henchmen. The film also has fairies, the undead, witches, and a magic sword–pretty much all the fantasy trappings.

I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for The Black Cauldron. As a kid, I loved the novel that it’s based on (which is part of a five book series called the Chronicles of Prydain). It also came out when I was about eleven and I was really into sword-and-sorcery fantasy stories, so the tale of a scrawny kid going up against a skeletal king and his undead legion was very much up my alley.

Here’s the thing, though, that I’ve noticed in watching The Black Cauldron as an adult: it’s not a fun movie. It’s exciting, sure. It can be funny at times. It has a bit of romance. But I wouldn’t call it fun. In fact, it’s downright dark for a Disney film, and actually pretty scary. Sure, Snow White and Bambi and others may have scary moments, but they don’t have an undead army, and they’re balanced by lighter elements that The Black Cauldron just doesn’t really have. The Horned King himself, too, is very creepy-looking and pure evil (and without that comical element that later villains like Jafar and Ursula brought to the screen). Really, it’s by no means a bad movie. The animation is good, and it certainly tells a compelling story. It’s just not what one expects when they think of a Disney movie.

As a side note, too–it’s generally considered to be the film that almost killed the Disney Animation Studio. It cost $44 million to make, and only made back around $21 million of that. That loss nearly resulted in the animation department being shut down. It then took about ten years before Disney released it on home video. It did enjoy a bit of park presence, though: costumed characters appeared, and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom briefly had a restaurant called “Gurgie’s Munchies and Crunchies”. Also, on rare occasions, the Horned King pops up with the Disney villains and he’s appeared in other Disney animation (like House of Mouse) as well as in some Disney video games.

So is it worth embarking on this journey? I would actually say yes. It is a piece of Disney Animation Studio’s history, so it’s kind of worth it just for that, and overall it really is a pretty good movie. If you’re the type who prefers happy musical tales full of humor, it may not be your thing, but if you love strong storytelling and a great adventure than it could be right up your alley.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Atlantis: The Lost Empire tells the story of Milo Thatch, a young researcher in the early 1900’s who is obsessed with the titular lost city. He teams up with a ragtag group of mercenaries aboard a submarine, goes searching the depths, and locates Atlantis and finds that people still live there. Hijinks ensue.

This movie is… weird. Don’t get me wrong, I love weird films, but in the case of Atlantis it’s almost like a bunch of different people had a bunch of different ideas and they opted to just shove all of these concepts into the movie and hope they’d mesh. You’ve got mechanical monsters, magic, golems, a volcano, an aerial battle inside said volcano, and of course a civilization hidden under the sea. At times it does all work together, but just as often it seems a bit disjointed. There is some cool stuff happening throughout, but there are also a few points where I was wondering what was going on.

There’s actually a lot to like in Atlantis. The exploration story itself, which has a very Jules Verne vibe, is cool. The characters are voiced by a great cast that includes Michael J. Fox and Leonard Nimoy. The art style, by comic book artist Mike Mignola (who created Hellboy), is really neat. Unfortunately, there’s a lot to not like as well. For the most part, the supporting characters are one-dimensional (even when they try to flesh them out). At no point did I feel emotionally connected to the characters or their plight, like I do in many other Disney stories. The script seems to add bizarre mystical elements as needed, which don’t always make a whole lot of sense, and it made the story seem a bit all over the place at times.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire got mixed reviews, and ultimately didn’t do that well at the box office. However, it’s developed a bit of a cult following since then. At different fan conventions (Disney, comics, etc) you can even sometimes see cosplayers dressed up like characters from the film.

Should you take the plunge and watch Atlantis: The Lost Empire? I’d say pass on it, unless you’re a Disney completionist who feels the need to see every movie the studio has ever put out. It’s a decent enough adventure, and there’s some fun to be had, but overall it’s just not good enough to warrant going out of your way to check it out. Even Disney themselves rarely acknowledge the film: the characters never really show up (despite Kida, an Atlantean, technically being a Disney princess) and there are virtually no references to the movie in the parks or other media.

 Treasure Planet (2002)

Recipe for  Treasure Planet: Take the classic story of Treasure Island, put it in outer space, and a motley assortment of aliens and robots. Add in a mix of hand-drawn animation and CGI. Throw in a random power ballad by John Rzeznik (of the Goo Goo Dolls). Mix well.

The star of Treasure Planet is a young man named Jim Hawkins. Jim is extremely smart, but a little troubled, and causes no shortage of headaches for his single mom. A chance encounter with an old swashbuckler puts Jim in possession of a map which supposedly leads to the legendary treasure of infamous pirate Captain Flint, and Jim sets out on an adventure involving fantastic locales and bloodthirsty buccaneers.

Treasure Planet is a surprisingly faithful retelling of the classic pirate tale Treasure Island, reimagined as a science fiction story. Some creative liberties are obviously taken to fit it into the new setting (I’ve read the book, and I don’t recall any mention of Long John Silver being a cyborg), but amid the alien planets and spaceships the core of the story is more or less intact.

I think Treasure Planet is a blast. I’m a big fan of the original book, so I figured that I would either love the film for being an exciting new version of the story or I’d hate it for wrecking the fun and adventure of the novel. In my opinion, though, this galaxy-spanning take on the tale worked and brought the story to a new generation. The animation style–a mix of styles in which hand drawn characters are set against CGI backgrounds–is pretty cool, and the voice cast included stars such as David Hyde Pierce, Emma Thompson, Martin Short, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It was written (as well as directed and produced) by John Musker and Ron Clements, the same duo who wrote/directed/produced The Little Mermaid.

Sadly, Treasure Planet didn’t exactly resonate with movie-goers (despite a 2002 Oscar nomination for Best Picture). In terms of box office dollars it was actually a spectacular bomb, and the reviews ranged from really good to fairly terrible. As a result, Disney opted not to pursue their ideas for a direct-to-video sequel and a television series (and, as far as I’m aware, it never had any park presence), meaning that a potential Treasure Planet franchise was done before it ever took off.

I highly recommend checking out this one if you get the chance, though. It’s a fun adventure with some cool characters and impressive visuals, and it is (loosely) based on a literary classic.

 Dinosaur (2000)

An orphaned iguanadon, raised by lemurs, treks across the prehistoric world after a meteor destroys his home. He and his furry family join up with a large group of other dinosaurs as they all migrate to the safety of the lush”nesting grounds”. It wouldn’t be an adventure without conflict, though: starvation, velociraptors, and some carnivorous carnotaurs stand between them and their goal.

Dinosaur has a few things going for it. The animation technique, featuring CGI characters set against real-life backgrounds, is impressive. The voice performances–by actors such as DB Sweeney, Ossie Davis, Alfre Woodard, and Julianna Margulies–are solid. Disney even had enough faith in the movie to very loosely base an Animal Kingdom attraction on it: the ride formerly known as Countdown to Extinction was renovated into DINOSAUR shortly after the film’s release, and Aladar (the lead dino) was put out front.

Unfortunately, while it’s not necessarily terrible, Dinosaur just isn’t that good either. The story is lackluster, and for the most part the characters just aren’t fleshed out. There are some weird choices that were made, too. Like, why can all of the good dinosaurs talk but the velociraptors and carnotaurs (the villains of the piece) just growl and roar? Why utilize a really cool animation technique that uses real-life locations and then set most of the movie in a barren wasteland? Why is the funniest part a recurring joke about someone being urinated on?

If you’re really into dinosaurs and you want to see Disney’s take on them, then it could be worth digging this one up just for curiosity’s sake. Otherwise, just ride the DINOSAUR attraction the next time you’re at Animal Kingdom. It’s honestly more exciting than the movie it’s based on. 

Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Meet the Robinsons is about a futuristic family, time travel, and a villain in a bowler hat. Lewis, a young inventor living in an orphanage, ends up traveling into the future and crossing paths with a very unusual family. Along the way he combats the machinations of a time-traveling bad guy who seems particularly motivated to steal his inventions and cause all sorts of mischief. There are lounge singer frogs, a tyrannosaurus rex, and a meatball cannon. Oh, and the bowler hat is a robot named Doris.

Full disclosure: I love absurdity. The weirder my entertainment, the more entertained I generally am. Meet the Robinsons is bizarre even by my standards, which is simply glorious.

The thing is, all the oddity works, and the story is cohesive despite all of the absurdity. It’s a really fun movie with a lot of laughs and even a few Disney in-jokes (like the futuristic city being called Todayland). It has heart, too, and does a great job of balancing the humor and weirdness with some touching moments. The characters are great, and the story itself is pretty intelligent. It actually requires you to pay attention to the plot points simply because there’s so much going on, but that can be a bit tough when you’re laughing at the hilarious moments (of which there are plenty).

Meet the Robinsons was animated entirely via CGI (and was shown in 3D in properly equipped theaters), and the cast includes Tom Selleck, Angela Bassett, and Adam West. It got generally positive reviews, and it did respectably in theaters though it wasn’t necessarily a blockbuster. It’s pretty much fallen off of the radar since then, with no follow-ups and nothing in the parks to remind people that it exists.

Seriously, watch this one. It’s so weird, funny, moving, and just a lot of fun. I’m a little disappointed that it didn’t take off–I’d love to have seen Imagineers incorporate the “weird futuristic inventions” theme into Tomorrowland.

Plus, the villain wears a robotic bowler hat!

So, here’s my final summary:

The Black Cauldron: It’s not exactly a fun movie, but it’s still very good. It won’t leave you with a happy fuzzy feeling like many other Disney films do, but it’s definitely worth watching. It’s a fairly important part of Disney animation history, too, in its own way.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire: There are interesting concepts here, and it’s a cool adventure tale, but it just doesn’t really come together. Unless you’re really into stories about Atlantis, or you want some obscure cosplay ideas, you can skip this one.

Treasure Planet: A great retelling of the classic pirate tale, with 100% more cyborgs and spaceships. It’s a fun movie that I think has something for everyone (as long as everyone likes swashbuckling aliens and adventures on strange planets).

Dinosaur: A neat animation technique can’t save this one. The film just isn’t very compelling or entertaining, thanks to a lackluster story and some odd choices. If you need to see everything that Disney has ever released, go for it, but otherwise you can pass on this.

Meet the Robinsons: It’s so bizarre, but it’s really a lot of fun. Amid all of the weirdness there’s a very Disney-esque story about family in there, too. There’s also a tyrannosaurus rex. I really recommend this one, especially if you’re as big a fan of absurdity as I am.

While some Disney films are considered cinematic masterpieces, others–like the five listed here–have all but been forgotten. In a couple cases that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but some of the others (in my opinion) deserved better.

Also, let’s be honest–more Disney features (and movies in general) could use robotic bowler hats.

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