Monday, June 17, 2013

Day One Hunded and Sixty-eight - Disney Animated Classics, Vol. 2: Three Little Pigs, "LAMBERT!"

Having watched The Muppet Movie, my childhood nostalgia button has been pressed, most assuredly. I'm afraid that means a lot of this week's blogs will be similar romps backwards in my personal entertainment timeline. Hopefully, said romps won't be boring or too self-indulgent.

Today, I was in the mood for old timey cartoons... the kind of toons that I used to see only on vacation at my grandparents' place down in Florida because they had premium cable channels like Disney and HBO. Since my parents didn't think I was old enough for HBO's programming back in the 80's (and I'd probably have agreed with them), Disney Channel it was.

But it wasn't the Disney Channel of today, filled to the brim with modern cartoons and tween oriented sitcoms made from their ever-flowing stable of child actors. No, back then, The Disney Channel was mostly long blocks of Magical World of Disney made-for-tv movies and classic cartoons from the era of Silly Symphonies (not to be confused with the Warners' Merry Melodies) on to the afternoons of Rescue Rangers and Gummi Bears (among the very few modern shows produced in that era).

In this collection, I recognize really rather few, the main standout being Lambert the Sheepish Lion. Sure, everyone knows the story of The Three Little Pigs and Chicken Little, but these versions aren't all that interesting.

That's not to say that there aren't the occasional bits of subversive content that sneak in as static background jokes, like the Three Pigs' family portraits that portray their father as a string of sausages and their uncle as a football ("pigskin," get it?), but all in all the first three shorts of the collection, all staring the Three Pigs, is boring as all get out... and random to boot.

I mean, take the last of their three episodes of the collection, for instance, where The Big Bad Wolf, in a state of parentage not hinted at in previous shorts, has his wolf pups masquerade as lambs while he dresses up as Bo Peep. This manages to fool Wood and Straw who weren't at all snookered by the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing in the first short.

Then there's the "Wolf Pacifier" that saves the day, a giant Rube Goldberg machine that is improbable, impractical, and entire hinged on getting the wolf to chase the third pig, Brick, who is in disguise as a stereotyped Italian produce vendor.

That it's silly, as in the series' moniker "Silly Symphonies," is true... but it's also very uninspired.

The story of Lambert makes me a bit happier. It has little in the way of an actual story, just a lion cub mistakenly delivered by a stork (cause we were still perpetuating that myth to children back then) to a ewe without a lamb of her own. He grows up in typical Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer fashion, as an outcast... who only shines when his mother is in danger and he gains the courage of his bloodright... the power to roar as a lion should.

Of all the feelings brought back by seeing this familiar favorite, it's the plaintive calls of the mother ewe for her son that hit me the most. Those wails instantly take me back in time... even though it makes no sense that she calls in English as none of the other sheep have spoken so far, but still... we forgive a little to take in a lot.

As for the rest, well, Chicken Little has a tremendously pleasing ending that is so very dark. No way in hell Disney would pull that kind of twist nowadays. A decent end to an otherwise worthless short. The Three Blind Mouseketeers was also meh, as it tried to capture more Goldbergian antics and compete with Tom and Jerry for cat/mouse gold.

There was also a weird short about jungle animals at a birthday party and a bullied elephant who eventually saves the day and get's the girl. A decent enough moral, but you'd think the villains of the story would get some comeuppance. Sadly, no.

I think Lambert is the only true gem of the series of shorts. You can watch them all together in a row with the first track of the series on Netflix, but also pick them out individually if you were so inclined. If I were to go back again in the near future, it would only be for Lambert, so I'm glad of that option.

Still, I can think of worse ways to entertain myself with old remembrances (MacGyver, anyone?).

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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