Saturday Matinee #127: "Disney Family Movie Night - Summer in June" (Various)
Published June 8, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
The presentation of a film should hold as much importance for a viewer as the quality of the film itself. For example, would you prefer to watch Lawrence of Arabia on an iPod while sitting in a loud and rowdy commuter bus? Or would you rather be in the darkened theatre, comfortably seated, with a nice box of popcorn and milk buds to munch on? These days, the art of film viewing seems to have taken a backseat to the mobility of it. Gone are the days when a roadshow engagement required booking tickets in advance, dressing up for the evening, and being treated to a true theatrical experience. Now, a studio puts a movie in theatres, which people will flock to, or wait four months to get it on no less than three formats: Blu-Ray for the home theatre, DVD for the laptop, and Digital Copy/UltraViolet/Cloud for on the go.
While I am grateful for these multiple formats, I sometimes miss the lure of devoting an entire evening to a special night at the movies. Then again, I'm also romanticizing such a practice; my family rarely went to the theatres when we were younger, and if we did, it was a very special occasion or a movie that we collectively wanted to see. That's what made film-going an "event" for me, and not just another way to spend a Saturday night. For this week's Saturday Matinee, and for columns in the future, we're going to recreate a special night at the movies. These special themed nights will help a viewer enjoy Disney's wide range of filmmaking. Much like the theatrical engagements of yore, this evening will consist of a trailer for a film, a couple shorts, and a specially-selected feature film. You can even recreate such an experience at home if you own/rent these shorts and films (provided they are available). For this inaugural edition of "Disney Family Movie Night," let's have a thematic evening devoted to Disney shorts and/or films with a summer setting, and released in June, my favorite month of the year.
Trailer: The Parent Trap (June 21, 1961)
We start off with Disney's lengthy trailer for their 1961 hit The Parent Trap. This trailer runs over four minutes, and generally reveals the entire plot, surprisingly including shots from the ending. However, the lure of this film - as advertised - is for the opportunity to see Hayley Mills not once, but twice! Fresh off her Honorary Oscar win for Pollyanna, Mills plays Sharon and Susan, two young girls separated at birth and reunited at summer camp. They conspire to get their divorced parents back together; it should be no surprise to anyone that they succeed. Disney would remake this film 37 years later, with up-and-coming Lindsay Lohan now playing the dual roles.
Cartoon Short: "Beach Picnic" (June 9, 1939)
After getting primed with a recommendation for a future movie night, now it's time to get ready for our feature presentation. Donald Duck and Pluto are on hand to help viewers get acquainted with the beach scene in their 1939 cartoon "Beach Picnic." Donald has set up his own beachfront picnic, complete with an inflatable sea horse aptly named Seabiscuit. He has trouble trying to mount the rubber floatie, so he decides instead to scare a formerly-napping Pluto. The dog sees Seabiscuit, his curiosity immediately aroused. Unfortunately, Pluto believes it to be real, and attempts to battle with the ever-floating toy. As if that weren't enough, a tribe of ants spy Donald's picnic spread and decide to take it for themselves. Donald and Pluto's attempts to stop the ants only bring them... closer together.
Live-Action Short: "Water Birds" (June 26, 1952)
A two-reel "True-Life Adventure" takes us to various islands in the world, as we examine the lives of several water birds, be it their community behavior, mating rituals, or raising their young. For most Disney fans, they'll recognize the albatross, thanks in part to 1977's The Rescuers. But we also see the lives of cranes, pelicans, and one of my favorites: the sandpiper. They certainly have rhythm! Regular TLA narrator Winston Hibler makes sure to provide thoughtful, educational, and sometimes dryly humorous commentary. Not one of the most engaging of True-Life Adventures, but one that certainly provides a broad vista of scenery, especially as the majority of these birds live on the beach, the perfect summer setting.
Feature Film: Lilo & Stitch (June 21, 2002)
Now it's time for our feature presentation. While the theme of summer had been predominant in the trailer and shorts, the greater theme of companionship also pervades throughout the three. Now, we see summer and companionship literally come together in Disney's 2002 animated hit Lilo & Stitch. Two misfits learn to like each other, forming a bond that creates a new family among the fractured remains of their original. Set against a beautiful Hawaiian landscape, the film makes sure to invite viewers to become part of their family. After all, they are ohana, which means nobody gets left behind.
And with that, our first Disney Family Movie Night has come to a close. The Parent Trap offered a future recommendation of family viewing. "Beach Picnic" shows us two characters that normally don't co-star together sharing the screen. "Water Birds" gives us some educational insight into bird families. And Lilo & Stitch ties it all together by showing how we can embrace our differences, change for the better, and create a family. May you have a happy Disney Family Movie Night.