Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Short Subject: The Cat Who Looked at a King (2004)

It comes with the Mary Poppins’ DVD.  The opening cords are from ‘Feed the Birds’, it’s based on one of the books, and it makes several references to the original film so I’m counting this towards sequel summer.  And since it’s not the 21st yet it’s technically still summer too.

So according to Julie Andrews the opening of her and the kids in the park is the same matte painting from the original film and I think that is such a great touch for this short.  The musical touches are also lovely and I like all the visual call backs to Mary Poppins like the chalk drawings, Julie’s shadow being Mary’s, using the same typeface for the credits, and the way Julie steps over the paintings heel first just like she did in the original film.  The reuse of dialogue I’m less fond of as I find it too on the nose.  For me it breaks the flow of the work as if the creators are saying ‘look, look! It’s a line from the movie did you get it!’ yes I got it and it’s annoying.   

Staying on the vocal train though I think the acting, voice and full, are both very good here.  Julie Andrews is excellent as always there’s a fine performance from David Ogden Stiers a Disney voice acting veteran at this point and some nice work by Tracey Ullman as the cat.

The overall look of the short is good too. Though I do question why the queen is wearing Ariel’s dress and has her hairstyle in the flashback.  Really random crossover or bad character modeling, you decide.  Also all the guys look like the came off the same character model with the long sharp noses and elongated face shape.  Despite some rather lazy character design however I have to say that I really miss seeing this type of animation.  Seriously Disney bring back 2D animation in feature film format not just TV, it has a look that 3D just doesn’t.  Not better not worse just different and I enjoy the variety.  The only down side here is the live action and animation combination.  Mary Poppins though it’s forty years older in my opinion looks better.  Maybe it’s the difference in budget between film and shorts or the sodium vapour or Xerox process gives more texture, but I get the feeling Mary, Bert, and the kids are really in Bert’s chalk picture.  Here it couldn’t be any more obvious that the animation is a back drop on a screen when Julie and the kids are sitting on the bench, because the interaction is so minimal; although the transition from animated back to the live action cat at the end looked great.

The story itself is fun with the play of wits and wisdom between the cat and the king and the quick slapstick timing of the movements of the characters.  The resolution of the king rediscovering his love for his wife is too swift I think, but it’s a short time is obviously limited and it doesn’t spoil the overall work for me.
So all in all I find this a fun short the works within the universe as established.  The voice work is excellent Julie Andrews is suburb and aside from wanting the story to be longer to expand on things and have a little bit more time and effort in the character designs and live action animation combinations I still like this production and think it works as a sequel, so guess what Disney?  You don’t need to make a sequel to Mary Poppins now you already did!

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