Sharing a Vid: ‘Walt vs. Disney’

Got put onto this video the other day and heartily recommend it. The narrator compares the films of Walt Disney with those of the renaissance and modern Disney corporation (well, 2017 modern) to show how artistically superior Uncle Walt’s films were, in the process calling attention to just what a great filmmaker the man was.

In The Wisdom of Walt Disney I focused primarily on the thematic side of Disney’s work, but really you could do a whole other book delving into the technical and storytelling artistry on display: that is, their quality as films. I honestly think Uncle Walt is one of the top-tier filmmakers of all time, but he tends to be overlooked in this regard owing to the ‘family’ nature of his work (as well as the less-defined nature of his input). This video is a useful reminder of the fact.

I especially like this guy’s description of modern Disney as being so proud of their own cleverness that they have to hit the audience over the head with it by more or less stating it directly in the dialogue. Uncle Walt, in contrast, generally trusted the audience to get his (often more nuanced and mature) themes simply through the course of the story.

(Also, do people really consider Zootopia to be one of the studio’s best works? Because wow: politics aside, it’s solidly ‘good, not great’ at the most).

That said, he also does something I would caution against: the rhetorical comparison. “A is better than B,” where B is an acknowledged master in the field and A is the subject of the discussion. You really should not do this, because in the first place if you really mean to defend that position, it would extremely difficult and time-consuming to adequately make your case. E.g. he claims that Bambi is superior to Casablanca. That would require a massive, Mauler-length video to even attempt to prove (I don’t think I would agree either, though both are first-rate films), meaning he more or less has to simply toss it out there unsupported.

In the second place, and more seriously, if you simply say “A is better than B,” the most likely result of this will be to create a backlash in the mind of the hearer if he is a fan of wretched meritorious B. This will lead him to doubt the speaker’s judgment entirely and possibly to dismiss him from then on out as a simple fanboy. If you simply say “A a great film”, most people will be willing to consider it. If you say “A is better than B, which you really like,” people will start to feel one has to ‘win’ over the other and begin hunting for flaws in happy undeserving A.

Now, this is different from a genuine, supported comparison, and the narrator makes a couple very astute ones between Bambi and The Lion King (excellent subjects for such a comparison, given how similar their plots are). Taking a single scene and comparing it directly to another, similar scene is useful; saying that film A is simply better than film B is not. It isn’t an argument, it’s just a rhetorical device, one that’s likely to alienate your audience unnecessarily.

Apart from that, it’s overall a very good introduction to the artistry and unique style of Walt Disney, and comes highly recommended.

(Bonus for his pointing out that the Queen’s transformation in Snow White is directly based on Dr. Jekyll’s first transformation in Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, my favorite horror film)

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