The Mouse Knows Best Podcast

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Renaissance Era: Part 2 - 1995-2000

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Renaissance Era: Part 2 - 1995-2000

We now go on to the second phase of the Renaissance Era, which features some really underrated

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Loosely inspired by the Native American of the same name, Pocahontas fictionalized the Englishmen’s
journey to the New World and their encounters with the Native Americans.  The film was being worked
on during the same time as The Lion King and attracted most of the key animators to film because the
vision of the film was supposed to be more along the lines of the romantic epic in the style of Beauty
and the Beast.  Although the animation and songs - written by Alan Menken - are often praised, the
historical inaccuracies and racial undertones often receive criticism.
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Pocahontas tells the tale of the English settlers’ journey with the Virginia Company as they embark on
a new land under the leadership of Governor Ratcliffe.  Ratcliffe’s main goal on the journey is to find
as much gold he can to increase his wealth. The settlers, including the male lead of the story John
Smith, arrive near the Powhatan tribe in Virginia, where Pocahontas lives with her chief father.  Free
spirited Pocahontas has become increasingly worried that her father will force her to wed the Solomon
Kocoum, a sought after male in the tribe. Pocahontas tells her fears and dreams to her closest
friends: Meeko the raccoon, Flit the hummingbird, and Grandmother Willow, a spiritual-talking willow
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Once Ratcliffe’s men arrive in the new land, they quickly build Jamestown in a clearing in the woods
and start searching for gold.  John Smith, however, wants to explore the new land and heads out on
his own. It is there he encounters Pocahontas and the two quickly become fascinated with each other
and how different their worlds are.
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A love affair quickly blooms but all comes to an abrupt halt when Kocoum tries to stop John Smith
from kissing Pocahontas and is ultimately killed by Thomas, a friend of John.  John Smith orders
Thomas to flee and takes the blame for the killing when the tribe members arrive after hearing the
gunshot. They take him hostage with plans to kill him the next morning.  However just before his
execution, Pocahontas rushes to him and stops her father from killing him. The chief realizes his
daughter loves the man and stops the killing. Everyone seems to be grateful for the outcome...except
Ratcliffe.  Ratcliffe pulls his gun and attempts to shoot the chief but John Smith takes the bullet for
him. John Smith ultimately has to leave to go back to England to receive medical treatment but he
leaves with the chief’s blessing to return anytime.
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To help with the promotion of the film, the “Colors of the Wind” musical number was presented in front
of the theatrical release of The Lion King.  Disney also launched an 18-week tour of 25 cities where
they would bring a mall exhibit titled Pocahontas Animation Discovery Adventure.  Pocahontas, at the
time, had the largest premiere to date and the guest list included Michael Eisner, Rudy Giuliani,
Mariah Carey, and Caroline Kennedy.  The film was directed by Jim Pentecost and had a runtime of
82 minutes.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Based on the French novel by Victor Hugo of the same name, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is
considered by some to be the darkest films in Disney history as it deals with topics such as infanticide,
genocide, damnation, and lust.  It even features a song titled “Hellfire,” written by the fabulous Alan
Menken, of course. The film underwent several revisions before it’s theatrical release and was
ultimately given a G-rating.
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The Hunchback of Notre Dame begins Paris in the late 1400s where a gypsy puppeteer is telling the
crowd a story of a monster and a man.  He tells the story of a group of gypsies who were sneaking
into Paris illegally but were stopped by the evil Judge Claude Frollo and his soldiers. When the woman
in the group runs, Frollo chases after her and kills her on the steps of Notre Dame.  He tries to kill her
baby as well but is stopped when the archdeacon of the cathedral intervenes. Trying to make up for
his sin of killing the child’s mother, Frollo reluctantly agrees to let the child live and raise him as his
son. He names him Quasimodo.
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Cut to twenty years later when the gypsy puppeteer is getting ready for the Festival of Fools.  High in
the bell tower of Notre Dame, a lonely Quasimodo overlooks the crowd below him gathering for the
festival.  His only friends are a trio of gargoyles who come to life names Victor, Hugo, and Laverne.
The trio encourage Quasimodo to attend the festival and despite Frollo’s warnings not to leave the
bell tower out of fear people would mock him because of his deformities, Quasimodo heads to the
festival.  At the festival, he is crowded the King of Fools but it all backfires when Frollo has his men
start a riot where everyone begins throwing things at Quasimodo.
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Enter the beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda.  Esmeralda stops the riot, frees Quasimodo, and disappear with
a magic trick to evade arrest.  She’s followed by Captain Phoebus from Frollo’s guard into the
cathedral where he refuses to arrest her for witchcraft and instead forces her to stay in the cathedral.
It’s there she befriends Quasimodo who helps her to escape Notre Dame.  She gives him a pendant
with the map of the gypsy’s hideout, the Court of Miracles, as a way to keep it safe if she is caught.
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Meanwhile, Frollo sets out to destroy the gypsies once again and bluffs to Quasimodo that he knows
where the COurt of Miracles is.  Falling right into the trap, Quasimodo and Phoebus - who has
abandoned Frollo’s guard and been sentenced to death - go right to the Court of Miracles to warn the
gypsies.  However Frollo is right on their heels and starts to capture all the gypsies, including
Esmeralda. He sentences her to be burned at the stake but Quasimodo helps her escape.  As Frollo
pursues Quasimodo in the cathedral, the duo both fall over the edge - Frollo to his death and
Quasimodo into the arms of Phoebus on a lower floor. After his brave adventures, the townsfolk learn
to accept Quasimodo into their society and all is well with the world.
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The Hunchback of Notre Dame premiered at the New Orleans Superdome in June of 1996 and was
followed by a parade through the French Quarter that features floats and cast members from Walt
Disney World.  This was one of the first films in which Disney also sold tickets to the movie at its
Disney Stores around the country. The film was produced by Don Hahn and had a runtime of 91

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Who put the ‘glad’ in ‘gladiator’?  Hercules!  Loosely based on Greek mythology, Hercules went
through several rewrites before the screwball comedy script that we know today came into existence.  
The production team made several trips to Greece and Turkey for inspiration for the film. Computer
animation was also used in several scenes in the film, mostly in the Hydra battle scene.
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The story begins with Zeus and Hera welcoming their son, Hercules, on Mount Olympus.  Everyone is happy about the young child except for Hades, Zeus’s brother and ruler of the Underworld.  Hades plots to overthrow the throne and seeks the counsel of The Fates, who tell him that in 18 years he will be able to gain control of Mount Olympus….but only if Hercules is not around to protect it.  Knowing he must get rid of the child, Hades sends in his minions - Pain and Panic - to complete the task. Only problem is, the duo fails to ensure that Hercules ingests the whole potion which failed to remove his superhuman strength.  They abandon the child just before a couple arrives and takes him in as their own.
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Years later, teenage Hercules has become an outcast among everyone in his earthly village due to his
immense strength.  Knowing their son is unhappy, his adoptive parents tell him about how they found
him with a necklace around his neck that was from the gods.  On a quest to find out where he truly
belongs, Hercules sets out to visit the temple of Zeus. When Hercules arrives at the statue of Zeus,
the statue comes alive as father and son are reunited.  Zeus tells Hercules that he can become a god
again and become a true hero. He sends Hercules to Philoctetes (Phil for short), a satyr who has
been known to train legendary heroes.
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At first, Phil is unwilling to help Hercules after a series of unsuccessful heroes had went through his
training.  Hercules however convinces Phil to train him and when Hercules has buffed up, they fly to
Thebes with Pegasus, Hercules’s childhood friend.  It’s there Hercules rescues the sarcastic damsel
Megara (Meg for short) from a centaur. After the trio leave Meg, it’s revealed that she is actually one
of Hades’s minions, having sold her soul for an unfaithful lover.
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As Phil and Hercules arrive in Thebes, the townspeople don’t believe he’s a hero until Meg says that
two boys are trapped in a gorge.  Unaware the boys are Pain and Panic in disguise, Hercules rescues
them which allows Hades to summon the Hydra. Hercules fights the monster but each time he cuts of
its head, it grows another one.  Finally, Hercules kills the monster by causing a landslide and is
deemed a hero. However, Zeus tells him he isn’t a true hero, not yet at least. Depressed, Hercules
confides in Meg, who is starting to fall for the zero to hero.  When Hades finds out about her feelings,
her offers a deal to Hercules that gives up his powers for 24-hours and Hercules accepts on the
condition that Meg will be unharmed. It’s not until after Hercules gives up his strength - on the eve of
Hades’s takeover of Olympus, nonetheless - that he learns that Meg has been working for Hades.
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As Hades sents the Titans to storm Mount Olympus, a cyclops is headed for Thebes to kill Hercules.  
Phil encourages Hercules to find the cyclops and in the fight, Meg is crushed by a pillar as she tries to
save Hercules which breaks the condition that Meg wouldn’t get hurt.  Hercules regains his strength
and flies to Mount Olympus with Pegasus as they free the gods and vanquish the Titans. However
his beloved Meg has died before his return to earth and her soul is now in Hades’s possession.  
Hercules breaks into the underworld and offers to sacrifice his soul for Meg’s, which makes hims a true
hero. He regains his god status and is invited back to Mount Olympus but instead decides to stay on
earth with Meg.
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Hercules premiered in June of 1997 in New York City and was followed by an electric light parade in
Times Square.  The parade went from 42nd Street to Fifth Avenue and passed spectators such as
Andy Garcia and Barbara Walters, along with many Olympic athletes who had been invited to the
event.  Hercules was produced by Alice Dewey, John Musker, and Ron Clements and had a runtime
of 93 minutes.  
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To read why Hercules is my personal favorite Disney movie, click here!

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Mulan was based off the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan in which a young woman takes her father’s
place in the army and fights for 12 years before retiring to her hometown.  The Studios took creative
liberties to the legend to make it their own movie; many animators even traveled to China for
inspiration in 1994. A majority of the film was produced at Disney-MGM Studios in Florida.  
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Mulan begins by the Huns, lead by the fearsome Shan Yu, invade China by breaching the Great Wall.  
A decree is sent out that one man from each family has to join the Chinese army to stop the invasion
of the Huns.  When Mulan finds out about the decree, she takes her father’s place in the army behind
his back so he does not have to fight.  Mulan’s family prays that the Great Stone Dragon will protect
her. Mushu, a small dragon, is sent to wake the Great Stone Dragon but fails by destroying the
dragon accidentally.  Mushu then takes the responsibility of training Mulan on himself to make the
ancestors respect him.
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At training camp, Mulan passes as a man but struggles to conceal her lack of military skills.  The army
is under the command of Captain Li Shang who trains all the men in his army to become warriors.  In
an attempt to make Mulan look like a hero, Mushu sends a fake order to Shang to follow the Imperial
Army into the mountains.  Shang’s army follows the Imperial Army only to discover they have been
ambushed by the Huns and all killed.
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As Shang’s army is leaving the mountain, they are ambushed themselves by the Huns.  Mulan uses a
canon to create an avalanche on the mountain which traps most of the Huns in the snow.  However,
during the battle Mulan’s true identity is revealed and Shang sends her back to the Imperial City.
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At the Imperial City, the Huns have devised a plan to capture the Emperor.  Despite the fact Mulan
overhears the plan she is unable to convince Shang of the plan so the Huns capture the Emperor and
seize the palace.  With the help of some of her army friends, Mulan is able to rescue the Emperor and
save China in the process. Mulan goes back home to her father, who is happy she is home safe.  
Having fallen in love with Mulan, Shang arrives shortly after and the two seemingly live happily ever
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Mulan was nominated for Golden Globe Awards for Best Original Song for “Reflection” and for Best
Original Music Score.  The film was produced by Pam Coats and featured music by Jerry Goldsmith
and Matthew Wilder. Mulan has a runtime of 87 minutes.

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The last film in the Disney Renaissance Era is Tarzan.  Tarzan was based on the story by Edgar Rice
Burroughs titles Tarzan of the Apes.  The voice cast included Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn
Close, and Rosie O’Donnell.  Phil Collins was brought on to compose and record songs for the film to
go with Mark Mancina’s score.
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Tarzan begins with a couple and their infant escaping a shipwreck in the Africans rainforests.  The
couple crafts a treehouse from the wreckage but are killed by Sabor, leopardess. Kala, a female
gorilla who had recently lost her son to Sabor, finds the infant and takes him to be her own.  The
leader of the troop, Kerchak, disapproves of the new arrival but Kala is insistent he stays and names
him Tarzan.
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Five years later, Tarzan has befriended Terk, a young gorilla, and Tantor, a paranoid elephant.  Tarzan
is treated differently by his animal friends because of his different appearance but he does his best to
fit in.  
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When Tarzan is 18, he manages to kill Sabor and gain the respect of Kerchak.  The troop of gorillas
think they have finally found peace but the arrival of human explorers from England unsettles them
once again.   Professor Porter, his daughter Jane, and Clayton the hunting guide have descended
upon the rainforest to study the gorillas. Jane gets separated from the group and is chased by
baboons until Tarzan saves her.  Tarzan recognizes the similarities between him and Jane and
becomes intrigued.
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Jane leads Tarzan back to her camp when Porter and Clayton become interested in him; Clayton for
science purposes and Clayton in hopes that Tarzan will lead him to the gorillas.  Kerchak warns Tarzan
to be wary of the humans but Tarzan keeps going back to the camp to see Jane. They begin to teach
Tarzan English and about the human world but Tarzan is reluctant to take them to the gorillas because
he fears Kerchak.
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When the explorers’ ship returns, Jane asks Tarzan to return with them.  Tarzan, however, asks Jane
to stay with him. Meanwhile, Clayton convinces Tarzan that Jane will stay with him only if he leads
them to the gorillas.  The explorers mingle with the gorillas until Kerchak returns and tries to attack
them. Tarzan holds him at bay while the explorers escape. Kala takes Tarzan to the treehouse where
she found him and tells him about his past and that she will love him no matter if he stays or goes.
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Putting on a suit that belonged to his father, Tarzan heads to the ship.  However, they are all
ambushed by Clayton and his bands of thugs who plan to seize the gorillas.  Clayton locks Tarzan,
Jane, and Porter away but Tarzan manages to escape and rushes to his family.  Clayton fatally shoots
Kerchak before engaging in a battle with Tarzan. He meets his own fate when he is hung by vines
while trying to escape.  With his dying breath, Kerchak names Tarzan the new leader of the gorillas
and accepts him as his son.
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The next day, the ship is set to return to England but Jane’s father encourages her to stay with
Tarzan.  She jumps overboard and returns to Tarzan, which her father shortly behind her to start their
new life in the rainforest.
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Tarzan  won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for best song for “You’ll Be In My Heart” by
Phil Collins.  The song was also nominated for a Grammy Award. Phil Collins and Mark Mancina won
a Grammy Award for Best Soundtrack album.  Tarzan was produced by Bonnie Arnold and had a
runtime of 88 minutes.

Now that we've covered the last five films in The Renaissance Era of Disney Animation, it's time for
you to tell us your favorite!  Tweet your favorite film to @TMKBpodcast!

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney
fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When
she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in
love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263.