Tuesday, December 14, 2021

"Belles on Ice"

YOU FOOLS!  Little did you know, Christmas had already started!  Except for Pan Miluś.  Somehow, improbably, he knew.  Why can't the rest of you people be maniacs like him?  Boy, I don't know.  So yup.  Having covered the DTV movie known only as Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas or possibly just Once Upon a Christmas or possibly, if you want to get fancy, Disney's Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas.  But why would you?  And now, we are covering the comic-book adaptation of that movie's sequel, where "once" is replaced with "twice."  Actually, that comic book was my introduction to the franchise, if you want to call it that.  I guess I kind of vaguely figured, insofar as I did, that there had to be a "once" out there somewhere, but I never bothered to check it out, and I think I thought that "twice" might be a comics-only thing.  So I've exposed myself to some new media this holiday season, for better or worse.  You decide.  This includes five stories, so we'll cover one every few days.  Also, I cannot absolutely guarantee that there won't also be something or other at the cartoon site.

The first thing that will jump out at you here is wow does this ever look seventy billion times better than the movie.  Or if, like me, you read it before seeing the movie, your reaction to said movie will be, good god is this ever hot garbage.  Not that I love this art, but compared to the movie...well, you can't compare it to the movie, as there is no comparison.  Very, very inexpressive, charmlessly plasticine character models.  If you want to give them a break in, because of, like, Christmas spirit or something, you might say, give them a break; they were still learning.  Remember the terrifying baby  in that early Pixar short?  They'll get better.  Which, yeah, but in this particular case, "getting better" is going to mean completely jettisoning traditional animation, an artistic loss of incalculable proportions.  So screw 'em!  Actually, there is one--small--part of the movie that I kind of like: between shorts, we see the characters as two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs, which is a bit of all right.  Why can't it all be like that?  I ask you.

I guess the second thing you'll notice is this little framing sequence, which is not in the movie.  It's fine!  I was surprised--though I really don't know why; Disney has a long history of this--of the extent to which it departs from its source material--generally for the better.  The dialogue is also substantially altered to give it a somewhat more comic-y feel.

Well, to the story itself.  I say "story," but it's not much of anything in that regard.  However, I do kind of love the premise.  It's not complicated, but the concept of Minnie and Daisy competing like this could be a showcase for some great animation...

...especially--and this is the main thing--when it brings in the hippos and crocodiles from the "Dance of the Hours" segment of Fantasia.  Did you know that that music originally comes from Ponchielli's La Gioconda, a grim tragic opera?  True fact.  Man, I know it's lame and myopic to be bitching about the good ol' days, but damn, man, Fantasia.  Disney only wishes they could do something that impressive nowadays.  Fantasia 2000 doesn't count, and even if it did, I doubt they could even manage that these days.  Feeble.  The idea of bringing these characters into Duck/Mouse continuity is silly yet delightful.  Though I guess, depending how you look at it, maybe they were already part of said continuity by way of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."  Either way.

Of course, loving the premise is not the same as loving the result.  The problem is that the movie remains hideous, and the comic, lacking the kinetic properties of animation, never really rises above the level of "mildly pleasant."  OH WELL.

Blah blah, Christmas.  Has the idea that Minnie and Daisy have this special friendship really been evinced anywhere other than latter-day cartoons?  Anyway, enjoy.  If you want.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minnie and Daisy knowing each other at all is mostly a modern cartoon thing. In the classic shorts, Daisy never really appeared outside Donald shorts while Minnie never really appeared outside Mickey shorts, and the comics kept the mice and ducks far more separate than the horts, so they rarely appeared in the same stories there either.

December 14, 2021 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 15, 2021 at 1:26 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 15, 2021 at 1:32 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I recall when this came out in 2004, me and other fellow Disney fans found it... nice looking (!) and overall opinion was that the movie is fine. In retrospect, a LOT of CGI animation that feels horrific today (“Chicken Little”) was seen as Ok when it came out. I think it’s the general problem with the medium, that it ages quickly and you didn’t had that much of what to compare it at the time to notice the flaws (“Toy Story” is a classic but it feels more and more cheap looking every time I revisit it, same for “Shrek” or "Monsters Inc")

Also I think Me and other fans where just hungry to see something with our favorite characters, especialy when it had Scrooge or someone like that appear ("The Three Musketeers" that came the same year had the Beagle Boys) and a direct-to-DVD movie with plenty of bonus stuff was the WOW back then.

Looking at this now – Yeah, this movie feels cheap (both animation and storywise), but in my opinion the opening “Bells on Ice” segment is the best looking. The colors are nice and it's dynamic. I like when the Hippo’s jump out of the box and the use of the music. You can tell they put this one in front to showcase how “cool” their animation is. I remember that the DVD had some feature where they did talk about deleted segments/ideas for the movie and they shown storyboards which felt like made for any other cartoon at the time. It wouldn’t shock me it a lot of decisions where made cose some ideas where to complicated or expensive for CGI.

And yes, – Newer cartoons tried to make Minnie and Daisy friendship a thing. “Mickey Mouse works” (later repackage as “House of Mouse”) did had few shorts where Daisy was made into Minnie’s well-meaning but annoying friend (the type that can’t shut up on the phone etc.) and now we have all the CGI shows for younger kids where they are always presented as a duo (notable in “Mickey and the Roadster racers” and “Mickey Mixed-up adventures” they have company “Happy Helpers” where they work as help for hire) Do to some rule that kids between 5 and 8 can’t handle negativity so all characters HAVE TO BE NICE TO EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME there isn’t ever any conflict between the two, but Daisy is always presented as the more clumsy/silly one. I do however like the addition of Cuckoo-Loca, a female tiny bird, that accompany them in some of their misadventures (she at least have more feisty
personality and I like the voice)

“Mickey Twice Upon Christmas” is the only time I think Daisy was presented to be this antagonistic/rival towards Minnie. Yeah, they back to being friends at the end and Mary Christmas and all, but for most of this short Daisy really comes of as a real bi… bitter person.

December 15, 2021 at 1:43 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

"I guess the second thing you'll notice is this little framing sequence..."

That was actually my doing as writer. The animated version presents its component stories as flashbacks introduced by a narrator; then finishes, almost unexpectedly, with a "present-day" closing segment of the gang together now, sharing presents and goofing around.

I felt strongly that the start and ending were a bit mismatched; like it needed an equivalent "present-day" opening segment with the gang introducing things at the outset. (Besides, I really wanted to see Scrooge kvetch about Mickey's expensive TV, and Minnie bop Donald on the head with a giant candy cane.)

To my pleasant surprise, Disney TV Animation agreed with me, greenlighting my proposal for this new bit at the start.

I only learned much later that at a pre-production stage, the cartoon version apparently included this kind of intro segment as well—why they removed it (or how close it might have been to mine), I may never know.

Disney TV Animation didn't agree with all my comics innovations, as any animation-to-comics port-over has some give and take. If you're going to analyze some of the later stories in this book, I'll note a few of the tweaks...

The only significant one with "Belles on Ice" was that in production, both the short and Minnie's performance were titled "Carol of the Bells," after the piece of music they used.

(Biggest "tweak" had nothing to do with me or DTVA, though: France and Italy would only co-fund this adaptation, thereby helping us budget it at Gemstone, if we kept it to 28 pages! This forced a few of the segments to be a little too short...)

December 15, 2021 at 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That could well be the ugliest comics coloring I ever saw in my life. The inking is also awful, but not quite that bad.

December 15, 2021 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

That "ugliest" color is an attempt to make the art look more like the CGI animation—and in 2004, it looked a lot better, brighter and cleaner on our computer screens. The Gemstone printing on rough, uncoated paper did it a terrible disservice.

(Of course, this is all water under the bridge if you also despise the CGI animation of the film. I'm not a fan of it, but as the adapter, I had to roll with what I was given...)

December 15, 2021 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I think your idea for framing it is very nice Ramapith and it would been improvment in the movie (not to mention having some jokes about Scrooge being cheap, which was almost non present in the movie, where they tried to play him as nice and resanable compering to Donald)

As far I recall there is a running gag with a grumpy guy who get's spill by a coffey in two or three of the shorts (who also appears as package dilivery guy in another one) so in a strange way he was the only element that conected all the shorts.

December 15, 2021 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

And hey—one more revision: in my original script for "Belles On Ice," Mickey's opening verse was a little shorter, and sounded a little more like his 'voice.' I didn't think there was room to incorporate the entire verse from the animation, which originally went to the non-Mickey narrator.

But what the hey... in it went! (I can't exactly argue, insofar as it still mocks Minnie and Daisy for their battle.)

December 15, 2021 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

Interesting fact: I had ordered this comic when it came out, but I never received my copy from Amazon, as it got lost in the mail. Why I never complained about it, I’ll never know. So I’ve never read this one, as I never found a copy of it.

December 15, 2021 at 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

In response to Pan Miluś on the animation being thought OK at the time...I saw this when it first came out, and while I didn't mind how Minnie, Mickey and Goofy looked because I don't much care about them, I *hated* how the Ducks looked. Creepy. Rubbery.

And yet, I have very happy memories connected with the show, due to having watched it on Christmas visits to my young godson. So I was very pleased with the comic book adaptation, because it allows me to experience the nostalgia associated with the stories without having to watch those creepy ducklings. Also, the dialogue is better! The only drawback is the Very Dark coloring--it's good to have an explanation of sorts for how that went wrong.

December 15, 2021 at 5:59 PM  

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