The Disney Taint

Tonight after work I decided to go see Chicken Little at The The The El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. I’ve been wanting to see the theater for a while now, and I had to do something to make up for not going to Disneyland this trip, and it was showing in Disney Digital 3D! I’m not familiar with the details, but apparently the theater is all historical and shit. It’s not as big as Grauman’s main theater, but they make up for it by making a big production out of everything.

When we went in they gave us all the Chicken Little 3D glasses to keep as a souvenir — and because you don’t want to be wearing the same glasses that some freakshow off Hollywood Boulevard came in and wore before you. As we went into the theater the guy was already playing on his swinging organ on stage. That was really cool — he did a whole Disney medley and they had it somehow hooked up in stereo so it was like being surrounded by organ. Yes I used the same dumb double entendre twice in a row. Then the theater manager came out and welcomed everyone and announced upcoming shows. And then we saw trailers of some movie about snow dogs that get lost in the Arctic, and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

So far it sounds like great old-time movie house experience. Well, that was before the cute young singer in a short skirt ran out on stage and started dancing to one of the songs from Chicken Little and she brought out two people dressed as Chicken Little and the Ugly Duckling to dance on stage with her. And then she asked everybody in the audience to stand up and dance with her. Sure, it’s a G-rated kids movie. But it was at 10pm on a Thursday night, too. I didn’t go out to dance, and I didn’t go out to feel curmudgeonly, either, dammit. Luckily, nobody else stood up either. At the end of three minutes of dancing they launched the confetti cannons and started the movie.

And the problem is that that whole attitude of forced commercial whimsy carries on through the whole movie. The movie’s technically very well done, and the 3D is neat without being overdone. But it’s all just kind of flaccid and weird and formulaic and forced. It’s not even Dreamworks bad, like a mean-spirited Shrek movie that’s desperate to show how hip it is. This wasn’t cringingly unfunny; in fact it was pretty clever in some places. But there was no spark to it. Not just because of a lack of imagination; it feels like the imagination was actively supressed to make room for the songs and the commercial tie-ins.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it was, because the movie doesn’t have the usual Disney formula but still feels completely formulaic. I had somewhat high hopes, too. Not because I’m rooting for Disney in the whole Disney vs. Pixar thing, but because I’d like to see more good CGI movies coming out. Pixar can only release a movie every so often, after all, and I can’t say I’ve got high hopes for Cars. I’d even be rooting for a Dreamworks movie to be good if they ever announced one with any potential.

My point, I guess, is that I’ve been a Disney fan for so long that I tend to automatically filter out the stuff that people complain about the company. It’s vaguely unsettling to see it all laid bare.

(I won’t mention the bit about how I don’t know my way around Burbank and Glendale like I thought I did so I ended up driving all over the place for an hour and missed the 7:30 show and had to wait two hours for the 9:45 one so I missed a whole night of writing and I’m feeling all guilty about it).