The Walt Disney Company's former film, The Black Cauldron, was a disappointment. None of this concerns the vintage 1986 film The Great Mouse Detective which is back in line with the greatest of the classics. But, the history of this mischievous mouse also marks the arrival of the computer realm of dreams. This week, Star TV offers you ten stickers bearing the likeness of the little people of this unforgettable blockbuster.
Uncle Walt is back. Since the arrival of nephew Roy Jr. to the company in 1984, a brand new breath of freshness sweeps through the Burbank studios in California. No more financial problems, attempted takeover and behind the scenes intrigues. The staff now works in the spirit of Uncle Walt’s "Fun for the fun of it," a theme that was somewhat forgotten in the making of The Black Cauldron. That movie was too violent, had disturbing hybrid characters and was, overall, a mixture of scenes filmed, redrawn and pure graphic research. A superb film, but far too scary.
With Basil, Disney returns to its sources. It’s more humane, but with mice. It presents little to no actual violence, but comes with suspense. It has one villain, but one who was dressed in ridiculous colors. And it had gags, a multitude of gags. One hundred twenty-five artists have worked "with enthusiasm" to bring to life the twenty-three characters inspired by the "Basil of Baker Street" series by Eve Titus. The zany story of a mouse, whom shares an apartment with the great Sherlock Holmes, eventually became the greatest detective story the world has ever produced.
It took just over a year for the movie to be completed. An absolute record when you know it takes at least three years to make a decent feature-length film. The enthusiasm again must have had a key role in this. Still, far more important was the use of new technology and the advancement computer animation has brought. The magic of micro-processor served in bringing Disney’s spirit onto the screen. "What we do best," says Phil Nibbelink, "is character animation. If one of our animators tries to draw a wheel, a car or a house, it's not going to come out perfect."
For the sequence inside London's clock tower, the characters run around the pieces of the great clock which consisted of fifty-four wheels. "We have completely rebuilt the inside of the Big Ben clock with the help of our new computers," says Nibbelink. "With traditional animation, we would have been forced to stick with a single moving trajectory, from left to right. The computer, however, has given us the possibility to perform a rotary motion around the clock mechanism. For the first time we were able to simulate the indoor notion of space; the 'camera' was floating in a space above the wheels and was capturing the characters in action. We printed the computer animation of the wheels on special pieces of paper, which were then photocopied onto cells and later colored the traditional way. We tried to color them on the computer, but there was a too great a difference between the computer result and the rest of the film."
This new technique (which will be further used in Oliver and Company, a film that is still in its production state) is being used for the nineteenth time in Disney features. Films among which we must also mention distinguished classics such as One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Aristocats and The Rescuers, three of which directors Burny Mattinson and Dave Michener have also left a mark on, a fact that had separated themselves from Cauldron. A coincidence not as innocent as it seems.
Roy Disney, who is currently responsible for the restructuring and development of the animation department, officially saw to the welfare of the set. Some animators may be gone, but others keep coming along, determined to prove that the spirit of Disney animation is not dead. All their projects are now underway in this direction of pure traditional magic. Just now, Steven Spielberg (a great admirer of Uncle Walt) signed a contract for producing a film in which there shall be a mix of animation and live-action characters, a forgotten art ever since the production of Pete's Dragon completed nearly ten years ago.
Two signs are unmistakable: the shares of the Walt Disney Company have drastically grown during the last two years. The film department continues to reap the benefits and the number of productions has been multiplied by three. If only two feature films were released in 1984 and six such movies came out in 1985, Basil marks a turn in the indisputable Disney policy and it is only for the greater good of the company. After more than sixty years, the company is offered a new youth. A return to the old recipes of Uncle Walt, which proves that old school animation was, undoubtedly, a good tradition. Elementary, my dear Disney?
The perfect dream: Meet Douchka, a Russian name which means "little soul" in French, and blessed with the Christian name Bojidarka, the name of a heroine from a Bulgarian legend. Possessing the physique of the little mermaid immortalized /described by Andersen, she appears to distill the magic around her. Thanks to her five year contract with father Mickey, Donald and others, this allows her to record her first album along with three other Disney "children."
In a new stage dress decorated in pink and white gingham - much like the one Brigitte Bardot wore on her wedding day with Jacques Charrier - today, she sings about the adventures of the little genius mouse born in Sherlock Holmes’ basement, "Basil, the detective." Douchka also travels, in her music, on "Weekends in Burma", "In Singapore," or on other "Summer Night" invitations throughout the world. That is, before picking up her suitcase for good.
"Initiating in the art of a professional singer does not mean that one must stick to the same tunes as yesterday. On the contrary! The song "Basil" combines the magic of the classical Walt Disney tunes, with an arrangement worthy of those of Jeanne Mas or Stephanie."
With wand in hand, she proves that she possesses a strong punch and personality in her life. Despite her unique 'star among the stars' physique, Douchka shows that she can proudly stand on her own two feet after only a little time spent in front of the mirror. "I think I'm a 'good person,' if you catch the quote marks. I am not a crook; I do not work in this profession to get rich."
She sees a fairy in her future: "I know have ambition, but I don’t know if I have everything it takes to pursue my dreams. I want to go for what’s exceptional and record in only English, Italian and Spanish. Sing and sing again. "
Anything is possible. Since her performance in a magic show - with Humbert Mémé Ibach as its producer - they've kept a close eye on her career. And one must take into account: first, her grandfather was Vincent Petit, a conductor; second, her father, Gianni Esposito, an actor-singer; and third is her mother, Pascale Petit, a film star.
Note: Her name was spelled "Douchka" in the entire article, however, the singer's official site spells it as Doushka Esposito Bojidarka. She's come a long way since her Disney days. Check out her site to see what she's been up to lately.
Photos courtesy of Tele Star