For Reel

The Reluctant Dragon (1941)
August 20, 2016, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Alfred L. Werker & Hamilton Luske
2.5 Stars
The Reluctant DragonThe financial losses of Fantasia and Pinocchio led Disney to release this quick, cheap feature as a showcase of their new animation facility, complimenting the studio tour with a handful of already completed shorts. Disney had not yet worked with live-action, and so Robert Benchley and a production team from Fox were brought onboard to film a “documentary” sequence involving Benchley’s trip to the Disney studio with the intentions of selling a story idea. The live-action portions are undoubtedly the film’s highlight—although they are nothing but a fantasy (in reality, hundreds of the studio’s workers picketed outside the studio the same year), the glimpses of the cell animations and the multiplane camera do allow one a genuine peak backstage. Disney enthusiasts are also treated to early looks at Dumbo, Bambi, and the reference models for films like Peter Pan (which halted production for years after this film was released). Unfortunately, the animated segments of The Reluctant Dragon are just not particularly good, with cheap, rushed animation and subpar storytelling. The one exception is Baby Weems if only for its interesting aesthetic—the film introduces the short as a series of storyboards, and therefore the animation is simple and rendered in muted colors (it looks somewhat like the recent Studio Ghibli film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya). Little more than a commercial for the dream factory, The Reluctant Dragon is a hugely unique historical artifact of the studio at the brink of collapse, but ironically does better at its own myth-making than seducing one with exceptional animations.

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