A recent trip to the canon of Disney-animated classics took me to Sword in the Stone. Although it had not been in my previous Disney related lists that I have created over the years: My Favorites (done twice); Disney Villains; and Disney music – nevertheless, I took it down from the shelf because I wanted to see the very funny exchange between Merlin and Madam Mim.
The scene is hysterical, with each wizard repeatedly changing appearance to engage in a battle of wits.
But once I got into the film I realized that this film is loaded with very funny, funny scenes! Perhaps even funnier than the Merlin/Mim scene is the sequence when Merlin and Wart are transformed into squirrels, and each in turn is pursued by a female squirrel.
And there are more funny scenes when Merlin and Wart are fish, and then birds. Or when Archimedes the Owl at various times gets sucked into the mayhem.
So I got to thinking… with all these funny bits, is Sword in the Stone the funniest of Disney’s animated films? And what constitutes “funny’? Is the drawings? The script? The voices? A combination thereof? I started to comb thru my Disney collection looking for other examples.
My next stop was Alice in Wonderland. The film is constructed in series of neat independent vignettes, each with their own unique characters, music and settings. My favorite involves the hookah smoking caterpillar. Hysterical!
And I find the oyster loving Walrus hilarious. Drawn perfectly with top hat, vest covering his expansive girth, and white gloves and cane that complete the picture of a “down at the heel” Victorian gentleman gourmand!
And who can forget the Queen of Hearts? The Cheshire Cat? Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum? In short, Alice in Wonderland comes off as an extended Disney “vaudeville act!” Funny set pieces with great drawings and music.
But even in films where a light-hearted “drama” story line is played out, there are comic moments, and more to the point here… outright laughable scenes. One of my favorite laugh-out-loud scenes is in Tangled when Rapunzel attempts to hide Flynn Rider in the wardrobe
And in Ratatouille there is a scene that dissolves me into laughter. Remy, the mouse chef, is in Linguini’s hat, and has to direct Linguine in the preparation of a highly detailed Gusteau recipe. What follows is outright descent into classic slapstick humor.
And no mention of “funny” can ignore Robin Williams’ portrayal of the Genie in Aladdin. But maybe more funny in script, because Williams was given license to improvise, and then animators were tasked with matching the image to his dialogue. And while funny, because Williams’ delivery is so rapid fire, you don’t have time to digest the truly funny aspects of a scene
In Sword in the Stone the characters of Wart, Merlin and Mim retain elements of their appearance in their transformed states. In Aladdin, as Williams whips thru a variety of voice impressions, the animators change the Genie into a caricature of the person Williams is imitating, funny and clever… just not laugh out loud funny. Here is Williams doing Woody Allen.
Some of my favorite funny lines in Disney’s films are given to Maui in Moana. But the scene that ranks highest in my book is when he imperfectly changes shape into other forms. The associated script is pretty funny, too. But it’s the drawing here that is a pure win!
But maybe this begs the point. There are always wonderfully funny moments in virtually all the Disney animated films. But a comic interlude here and there do not make for an entire (or mostly entire) film that you’d point to and say, “Now that’s a funny movie!” And my task at the outset was to identify the funniest film (or films).
p.s. There are other funny sequences in other films that I have not included here (that would have necessitated reviewing each film for their best funny moment).
But here are the films that for me, finish in the “funny money”:
Win: Sword in the Stone
Place: Alice in Wonderland