DVD Patrol: Our favorite Disney movies

How does the idea for a Toddster Team Up come about? I often wonder myself and it’s not always easy. Trying to come up with an idea once a month or when the timing is right is never easy. The Toddster often gets good ideas driving in the car. Other times it just hits you on the spur of the moment. It hit me when I was reviewing “Tron: Legacy” which was reviewed a couple of weeks back. “Let’s do our favorite live action Disney movies,” I thought. My team and I grew up on these movies and it’s funny they can come from an original idea or even one that can be done again. It’s time to see what Disney movie made us want to see it. See if you like these! 


“The Parent Trap” 1961

I didn’t realize how many of my all-time favorite movies were Disney features until we took on this latest Toddster team-up. Reviewing a list of the iconic studio’s non-animated films was a trip down memory lane for me. I fondly remember trips to the Colonia Theatre to see some of them. Others I curled up in front of the TV to watch on Sunday’s Wonderful World of Disney. Some we rented at the little Victory Video kiosk at the Oxford Great American and watched on our first VCR. (Yes, I’m dating myself. I know.)

Deciding which to write about was a bit of a challenge, but in the end, I knew the ultimate honor in this category had to go to The Parent Trap. (The original 1961 film, not the 1998 pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan remake. Although I like that one too.)

I’ve whiled away many an afternoon watching this Disney classic, starring Hayley Mills, Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith and, well, Hayley Mills.

The movie got two Oscar nods, one for the editing which allowed Mills to convincingly play her twin role as Susan Evers and Sharon McKendrick.

The long-lost sisters arrive at summer camp unaware that they are in fact twins, separated not long after birth by their divorcing parents. The two instantly butt heads, but when, as punishment they are confined to an isolated cabin, they discover the truth of their identity.

Driven by a desire to get to know the parents they have never met, the girls switch places - with Sharon shearing her locks and heading to California to meet father Mitch (Keith) and Susan brushing up on her Bostonian accent in order to fool Maggie (O’Hara).

Hilarity, of course, ensues. Particularly when Sharon discovers dear old dad plans to tie the knot with his gold-digging, child-hating fiancee Vicky - a role played to perfection by Joanna Barnes. The sisters put their heads together and decide its time to reunite their parents, so Susan comes clean to Maggie and the two head to California where, or course, even more hilarity ensues as the girls work to sabotage Vicky’s plans to marry their father while at the same time trying to rekindle their parents’ relationship.

As a kid, I completely fell in love with the story line. I mean, who doesn’t dream of discovering a long lost twin? And, of course, every teen thinks they are smarter than adults. Everything I know about the subtle art of manipulation, I learned from this movie. It is definitely a must see.


“Freaky Friday” 2003

Sure, there’s a giant pantheon of live-action Disney films to choose from, but one of the first that came to my mind is this 2003 remake, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and a pre-jail Lindsay Lohan. I have only vague memories of the 1976 original which starred Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster (wasn’t she in every Disney movie at the time?), other than that I saw it at the Norwich Drive-In. Good times, there.

The story remains virtually unchanged, just updated for the new millennium. Curtis is uptight mom Tess Coleman; Lohan her surly daughter Anna. The two never see eye to eye, a classic generation gap impasse. If only they could see things from each other’s point of view ... which is exactly what the owner of a Chinese restaurant thinks when she sees the mother-daughter duo in a heated imbroglio. Summoning some sort of “ancient Chinese secret,” she manages to get the two to switch bodies. Anna wakes up in her mom’s body the next morning, and vice versa. Hilarity ensues.

And it does, really. It’s ultimately a cheesy movie concept, and you know exactly how it’s going to turn out – it’s a Disney film, after all – lessons will be learned and everyone will live happily ever after. But along the way, both Curtis and Lohan give hysterically spot-on performances as the generation-reversed. Throw in Mark Harmon and Chad Michael Murray as the dreamy significant others bemused by the sudden personality shifts, and you’ve got a fantastic, family-friendly film. Classic Disney.


“Dragonslayer” 1981

I’ll admit, when informed our latest Toddster Team-Up would feature a non-animated Walt Disney film, I drew a complete blank. I suppose I’ve always associated the legendary company with its animated features, never realizing the number of live-action motion pictures it’s produced or been a part of over the decades. Even better is the fact that one of my all-time favorite movies fell into that category – “Dragonslayer.”

Released in 1981, this medieval adventure features everything a good fantasy flick should – a wizened old wizard and his young apprentice, swords, sorcery, romance and of course, a dragon.

When Galen Bradwarden’s sorcerous master Ulrich of Craggenmoor willingly allows the dastardly warrior Tyrian to take his life, the young apprentice – with the aid of a mysterious magical amulet – takes upon himself the quest to destroy the dragon Vermithrax. 

The kingdom of Urland has long avoided the creature’s wrath thanks to a brutal lottery, held twice a year, which determines the identity of that particular drawing’s female sacrifice. Now, however, King Casiodorus is seeking a permanent solution to his kingdom’s fire-breathing nemesis.

Filled with non-stop adventure and featuring an absolutely fantastic twist at the end, “Dragonslayer” remains to this day one of my top five sword-and-sorcery films. The special effects employed in the creation of Vermithrax are truly impressive, especially for 1981, and some reports claim that approximately 25 percent of the film’s budget were utilized to accomplish this. A definite must see for any fan of the fantasy genre.


“The Three Musketeers” 1993

As I flipped through countless Disney films on the Internet I couldn’t in good conscience go any further when I came upon this childhood gem. It’s a great family movie and I’ve always been a dire fan of the motto, “All for one, one for all.” 

The movies is packed with the swashbuckling adventures and antics of Athos, Porthos and Aramis as they meet the fourth main character, D’Artagnan. The group uncovers a pretty straight forward plot of Regicide and seeks to save the king, a Musketeer’s sworn duty. With the king caught in a plot where he doesn’t know his friends from his foes the Musketeers are forced outside of the law. Meanwhile the conniving, power-hungry Cardinal Richelieu sets plans in motion to ensure the king’s demise. With actors, Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Oliver Platt forming the heroic trio the movie is a good mix of mature and adolescent humor. At all times it revolves around the group’s unbreakable loyalty and trust for each other. Chris O’Donnell plays the group’s newest recruit, the young, cocky and skilled D’Artagnan. The sinister cardinal is performed in the exaggerated Disney-bad-guy-style, by a maniacal Tim Curry.

It’s a well-rounded movie that attempts to fold in a few more serious scenes involving   violence, love and betrayal. Yet over-all, the movie hardly moves very far away from the laugh-packed family adventure it was designed to be. For example, despite the fact about a hundred people get stabbed with swords throughout the film’s many action scenes,  I don’t think a single drop of blood is ever seen being spilt. There are a few parts with scattered corpses in the background but the lack of graphic content could easily lead an impressionable young mind to think they were just sleeping. My favorite part of the movie is its great moral themes. 


“Condorman” 1981

As people who read my column often know, I loved comic books and still do to thie day. (Believe it or not, I’m just weeks away from celebrating my 40th birthday). Comics know no age. Anyway, when I was reviewing my lists and wracking my brains trying to think of a Disney movie that really stood out, I had to do this one.

Woody Wilkins (Michael Crawford, the original Broadway Phantom of the Opera) was a comic book writer and artist who created the character “Condorman” and always thought it had to be done with some old world realism. If it couldn’t be done in real life, then it couldn’t be done in the comics. Woody got inspired to send him to Europe He decides to visit his old pal Harry (James Hampton). Harry was just a clerk for the CIA but he Woody didn’t care. The CIA was all you needed to be a spy. Harry is asked to drop off some papers in Istanbul but he gets the bright idea to send Woody so he can get his wish to get everything he needs for his research. Woody also a tendency to go a bit overboard and tends to get into character a bit too well. 

He delivers the papers to a beautiful spy named Natalya (Barbara Carrera) but after dodging some trouble, Woody makes it back and really makes an impression. His impression goes over so well that the Spy he met wishes to defect and she wants only “Condorman” to handle it. Reluctantly, the CIA gives Woody the help he needs and Condorman is born for real. Everything from the equipment to glide to a super car all tricked out to take care of the bad guys. Can Woody handle the real world with his comic book expertise?

I loved this one and it was made during a time when comic book movies weren’t liked as much they are now. This was fun. The movie contains just the right amount of action and comedy that any Disney movie is sure to have. A great one for the collection.

Most of our choices here can be found in stores now or go online and check some of your favorite outlets. I hope you like some of them. My pals did and this was the first one for 2011. What’s up next? Stay tuned and see!

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