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Monday, November 9, 2015

THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER (1990)

Ever since Mickey Mouse was tamed from mischievous rodent to corporate symbol/family man, Walt Disney & Co. have never quit trying to reintroduce him as leading player rather than interlocutor. (Walt did it best himself on THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE in FANTASIA/’40.) For this attempt, Mickey gets a double-role as Mark Twain’s famous lookalike Tudor-boys from different parts of town. And while the traditional hand-drawn animation is sprightly & colorful, the characterizations, gags, songs and storytelling are anodyne as all get out, depressingly so. Even Mickey’s voice is gentled down from Walt’s original falsetto squeak. Fortunately, the current release in a Classics Shorts Series features a rude, scrappy Mickey (b&w/1933/vocals by Walt) fighting Dippy Dawg (a sort of pre-Goofy) for Minnie’s hand in a Knightly operetta called YE OLDEN DAYS. It’s not great Mickey, but next to PRINCE, it looks darn lively. Three other shorts round out the program (each about 7 minutes to PRINCE’s 25), but only the remarkably creepy PIED PIPER operetta (also from ‘33, but in color) really grabs you. Even as Germanic Fairy Tales go this is one from the darkside. With it’s No Way Out ending intact. Show it to three-yr-olds to keep ‘em up all night.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Errol Flynn had an unintentional test run for ROBIN HOOD in Warners 1937 version of THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, made with real twins rather than photographic trickery. And what a score from Erich Wolfgang Korngold!

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