Friday, April 11, 2008

The Reluctant Dragon

This is an almost-forgotten Disney movie that they rushed out to fill theaters because their next animated film (Dumbo, I think) wasn't ready yet. Normally, I would disdain that sort of thing, but it turns out to involve a fascinating tour of the Disney movie studios, and the person doing the touring is Robert Benchley, who's one of my favorite writers. I think he should have stayed in New York, but presumably doing pratfalls in movies paid more than writing humor pieces for The New Yorker.

I liked a lot of things about this movie. I liked the fact that Benchley was escorted around the studio by a young man of such military bearing that he was clearly a member of what can only be called "The Disney Youth". I liked the surprisingly bawdy jokes about the "Life Drawing" class. I liked the Goofy short that happened in the middle of the movie.

And, to my surprise, I even liked the actual "Reluctant Dragon" portion of the movie, which was an adaptation of the children's book (by Kenneth Grahame, who wrote The Wind in the Willows!). I figured it was going to be whimsical and twee, but it was actually incredibly charming. There's this dragon, see, and he doesn't want to fight. He conveys this via the extremely subtle method of mincing around, drinking tea, reciting poetry, and giggling like Ed Wynn. And it's awesome. Anyway, then there's a young boy and a knight and a fixed fight and an elaborately disgusted horse.

My point is that I love the dragon. Here's a clip of one of his poems, during which the boy is getting a little fed up:

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