Saturday Matinee #100: 100 Weeks of Saturday Matinee - A Retrospective
Published December 1, 2012
by Albert Gutierrez
Happy 100 Weeks from Saturday Matinee!
As much as I'd love to provide a traditional article with pictures and analysis of a cartoon, my computer troubles have continued to prevent me from taking screen captures from a DVD. I would prefer all my articles to be accompanied by relevant images from the Disney cartoon or short feature that I'm covering. Since I am still deprived of that option, we won't be writing about a new cartoon this week. Ironically, my very first Saturday Matinee was sent to Brent without any pictures at all, and he opted to include one himself:
However, I do subscribe to the belief that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. As it turns out, lemonade also happens to be my favorite beverage. I usually experiment with the lemon:sugar:water ratios in order to get that perfect balance, and sometimes even include a bit of orange juice to give it some color, but I digress. Not being able to write Saturday Matinee as I normally would has allowed me to get a bit more creative with this week's article. Rather than celebrate 100 weeks with a look at one cartoon, I decided to revisit the past 100 weeks of articles. Not only does this allow me to cannibalize past articles for images, but made for a wonderful trip down memory lane. I can think of no better way to celebrate 100 weeks than to share a "behind the scenes" look at some of my favorite Saturday Matinees.
Saturday Matinee #2: "A Cowboy Needs A Horse" (November 6, 1956)
Originally published January 22, 2011
My second article is really where my basic "formula" for Saturday Matinee was born. I'd write a paragraph or two that introduces the reader to the week's cartoon, followed by a summary of the cartoon, then behind-the-scenes information or analysis, usually both. I would then conclude with a paragraph about where the short is available on home media, and the entire article gets peppered with relevant images from the short itself. Occasionally, I'd deviate from the formula in later articles, but it has generally remained the same and continues in that format today.
But Saturday Matinee #2 very nearly had an entirely non-Disney introduction. I sent the article to Brent with a note that he could delete the first paragraph if he felt it wouldn't be necessary. That first paragraph essentially had no mention of Disney to it at all. The original approach for week two would have seen an introduction the Western genre in its most basic form, followed up with how Disney approached it. Brent wisely opted to delete the introduction to the introduction, as it did end up being superfluous. On a Disney site, we want to get right to the "Disney" of things, after all. And in retrospect, the introduction does work better with an immediate look at Disney+Western. As a writer, I save everything, so readers now have the chance to read that introduction that almost was:
The Old West as told by Hollywood never really existed. It was romanticized as an era that promised exciting gunfights and high adventure. The cowboy was the epitome of heroism, the bandit twirled his mustache or hid behind a bandana, and the Indian was either a tamed sidekick or nameless savages that howled and ululated as they attacked. It's one of the more fascinating genres in American film, as many fans of the western didn't mind historical inaccuracy and repetitive stories. After all, how many stagecoaches can be robbed and how many women tied to a railroad track? How many duels are at high noon and how many cattle trails take you from Arizona to Montana? And yet, there is still an enduring appeal to the western, it serves to turn ordinary people into extraordinary heroes, and provides a place that can be more exciting than the real world.
Believe it or not, the use of screen caps here was not intended to be a regular occurrence. I had felt bad that Brent had to look for a picture he took to attach to the first week's article, so I decided to include a few screen caps as filler. Plus, it gave me a chance to include the Sing-Along Song version of the short, which is how I grew up watching "A Cowboy Needs A Horse." I intentionally chose the lyric "And he ouugha' have a song" in tribute to Brent's weekly, ever-changing W.E.D.nesday Show theme song.
This shot was selected because Johnny always looked like he's about to sneeze.
Saturday Matinee #11, CinemaScope Special: "Grand CanyonScope" (December 23, 1954)
Originally published March 26, 2011
As thrilling as it is to watch a Disney cartoon each week, sticking to the aforementioned formula does make the writing rather repetitive at times. To counter that, I experimented with themed series throughout the past 100 weeks. The first of these series was "CinemaScope Special," which took a look at all of Disney's CinemaScope shorts. The widescreen process had always fascinated me, not merely as a tool in moviemaking, but in its various incarnations by various studios. Disney and widescreen is something of a mixed bag for me, since a great deal of their catalog DVD releases often presented 1.33:1 ratios (be it pan&scan or open-matte) on material clearly made for widescreen.
Writing about the CinemaScope shorts proved eye-opening for me. Not only would I have to look at how a cartoon's story worked, but if its production and framing merited the wide vista that CinemaScope offered. I still feel that "Grand CanyonScope" provides the best example of Disney's use of the process, at least where its animated shorts are concerned.
Donald is still shocked that I regard this CinemaScope short so highly.
Saturday Matinee #24: "Mickey's Trailer" (May 6, 1938)
Originally published June 18, 2011
Shortly after I wrote this article, I posted a status on Facebook that amounted to "I just sent in my longest - and possibly favorite - Saturday Matinee." At the time, ten paragraphs seemed exuberantly long for a weekly column that usually could get written with six. Future articles would not only flirt with ten paragraphs, but several would exceed that without batting an eyelash. Of course, we should remember that writing should be measured by its quality, not it's quantity. Ten lousy paragraphs would still be worth less than six good ones. Re-reading Saturday Matinee #24, there are still some things that I'd like to change, but overall, I'm still satisfied with it as a whole.
This article stands out not only for being the first Saturday Matinee to reach double-digit paragraphs, but to also feature non-Disney images. The use of "Mickey's Trailer" in The Outsiders was one of the primary reasons I decided to cover the short that week, although the added fun of searching for our old ViewMasters and slides was another. I'll have to cover Mickey's appearance in Hollywood Party in the future, as I want to revisit that film again.
In addition, as a tease for what to expect from a future SatMat, be on the lookout for a Saturday Matinee that will feature NO Disney images whatsoever, although Disney will still be the focus of the article.
To date, this is still the only Saturday Matinee to feature the back of Tom Cruise's head.
Saturday Matinee #44: "Ocean Breeze Soap Will Get You Clean" (July 13, 1984)
Originally published November 5, 2011
To say I was excited for 2011's The Muppets would be a gross understatement. The Muppets are one my favorite entertainment franchises, and the newest film would be my first opportunity to see our old-school friends in the theatre. I had grown up with them in various forms, although I knew them best through a best-of compilation tape for "The Muppet Show," the incomparable cartoon "Muppet Babies," and near-endless viewings of The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Muppet Christmas Carol. November ended up becoming a Muppet Month for me, as each Saturday Matinee before the film's theatrical release was written with a Muppet theme.
However, it was also entirely accidental. The first week's Muppet article was written merely because I wanted to have a Saturday Matinee entitled "Ocean Breeze Soap Will Get You Clean." When I was first writing the article, it was intended to be a one-off in which I'd cause a bit of mayhem by looking at the importance of soap in Disney films. After all, if Kermit's "Ocean Breeze Soap" slogan was so crazy it just might work, perhaps my article could as well. I did not anticipate it would lead to a month of Muppetness. Naturally, once I realized I could extend this joke to last me throughout November, I rewrote portions of the article to make it seem like it was my intent all along.
It gets you clean.
Saturday Matinee #55, Beauty and the Beast Week: One Story, Three Interpretations (October 29, 1946 / September 25, 1987 / November 22, 1991)
Originally published January 21, 2012
When the Days of the Week writers were throwing about ideas for our January themed week, Pap suggested Beauty and the Beast in order to capitalize on the film's 3-D theatrical release. Incidentally, I suggested a "Revisitations" week to commemorate one year of Days of the Week, and we ended up doing both themes. Between the two, I greatly enjoyed writing for Beauty and the Beast week more than revisiting "Steamboat Willie." Don't get me wrong, I loved that I could expand my original "Steamboat Willie" article into something more in-depth (check it out here: http://fromscreentotheme.com/SaturdayMatineeSteamboatWillierevisited.aspx), but I relish any chance to write about Beauty and the Beast.
Since Beauty and the Beast week was based on the 3-D theatrical release, it seemed only natural that I cover the three best-known film/television versions of the tale. In the interest of preserving space, I also limited my discussion to only three aspects: the curse of the Beast, the characterization of Belle, and the music. Had I been given carte blanche on this article, I'd have also focused on the different opening narrations in each film, the role of Belle's suitors, and Beast himself. But that would have ruined my running theme of the number three. Also, comparing Disney's Beauty and the Beast to the Cocteau film and Hamilton/Perlman show proved to be more difficult than I imagined, especially given that I only had a week to write the article. I took on that challenge head on, if only because I knew such an opportunity might never come again. I'm just grateful I didn't have to cover 2011's Beastly. The original YA novel by Alex Flinn is good, but that movie was terrible.
I wish Catherine and Vincent's show was produced by Disney so I could do more about them.
Saturday Matinee #78: "Lighthouse Keeping" (September 20, 1946)
Originally published June 30, 2012
Sometimes, I pick Saturday Matinee shorts not based on my Disney mood, but on my non-Disney mood. When CBS canceled "Guiding Light" in 2009, it began a domino effect that led to the cancellations of "As the World Turns," "All My Children," and "One Life to Live" all within a year of each other. Such a decimation of a beloved television genre is still shocking to me, especially as the format flourishes in other countries ("Coronation Street" and "EastEnders" are among the highest-rated television programs in Great Britain). This year would have been "Guiding Light"'s sixtieth anniversary on television, and I wanted to honor it in some form. Since I couldn't exactly talk about a "Guiding Light" episode on a Disney site, I had to opt for the next best thing, and thus, took a look at Donald Duck in "Lighthouse Keeping."
In writing about "Lighthouse Keeping," I threw in a few soap opera references, which would have likely flown over any reader's heads had they not been aware of them. The most obvious reference is the discussion of "Guiding Light" itself in my introduction, although others would be much more subtle. For example, I opened with Edward Bulwer-Lytton's famous purple prose, "It was a dark and stormy night." While that phrase is not directly tied to soap operas, it does emulate three: "Dark Shadows," "Days of our Lives" (which aired a primetime special entitled "One Stormy Night"), and "The Edge of Night." Another reference was in the line "There are no distractions in details, we need only see how each character reacts to the other." Many soaps in the 1950's featured sparse sets and the barest of props. This was not only because they were cheap to produce, but because emphasis was always on the characters and story rather than what their world looked like.
No lighthouses were harmed in the writing of this article.
Well, there we have it. 100 Weeks, 100 Saturday Matinees. It's been a memorable ride, and I look forward to our next 100 weeks. In keeping with the theme of the last article revisited, I can think of no better conclusion than to tell you, loyal readers, "Tune in again next week for the continuing story of Saturday Matinee..."
Despite what Oswald's posterior says, we've only just begun...