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  • Age of Believing, The: The Disney Live Action Classics (2008)

    *** (out of 4)

    Angela Lansbury narrates this documentary that takes a look at the live action films coming from Disney after Walt determined they'd be easier to make and would keep cash flowing into the studios while they also worked on their more difficult animated productions. Film critics Leonard Maltin and Richard Schickel are interviewed as well as actors Kurt Russell, Dean Jones, Dick Van Dyke, Hayley Mills, Tommy Kirk, Michele Lee and James MacArthur among others. Director Fitzgerald does a very good job at keeping the film moving and I was fascinated with the stories of Disney and why he decided to enter the live action pictures. I must admit that I haven't seen too many of the film discussed here so on that level this worked perfectly at spiking my interest in certain films. We see clips from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Parent Trap, Pollyanna, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Old Yeller and many more but I guess it's worth noting that Song of the South is never mentioned.
  • During World War II, the Disney studio had just had some great success with feature-length cartoons but the war effort changed Disney's strategy for awhile. He started combining live action with the animated cartoons and produced films for the war effort like VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER and cemented our South American relations with SALUDOS AMIGOS and THE THREE CABALLEROS.

    By the '50s, with the European market closed, he had money in England that he decided to free by filming some live action features in Great Britain with a mostly British cast. He began with TREASURE ISLAND, which was a great success, and then THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD, THE SWORD AND THE ROSE and 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. Meanwhile, he was also doing his TRUE-LIFE ADVENTURES, beginning with SEAL ISLAND which won an Oscar, the first of many such nature studies.

    Then, in order to defray costs for his Disneyland theme park, he decided to take advantage of TV by using it for promoting his films. The studio also began all the merchandising tactics that brought in more money and continued to produce popular live action films like DAVY CROCKETT, OLD YELLER, THE SHAGGY DOG and SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON.

    Angela Lansbury does the narration and various Disney players give their insight into working for Disney, including people like GLYNIS JOHNS, DEAN JONES, DICK VAN DYKE, KAREN DOLTRICE and KURT RUSSELL. All of them appreciated working for the man whom they considered a genius and, as someone aptly remarked, "The single greatest visionary." Clips from some of the later successes include Lansbury's turn as a witch in BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS, before she played Mrs. Potts in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

    Summing up: Delightful and informative.