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Resurrecting “The Great Mouse Detective.”

Resurrecting “The Great Mouse Detective.” (photo)

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When Tim Burton arrived at Disney in 1979, fresh out of CalArts, he was put to work on 1981’s “The Fox and the Hound,” one of the more forgettable films of the Disney cel animation era. It was rough for him: working on a story he had no connection to, thematically or visually, he ended up sleeping 14 hours a day, sometimes sitting in a closet or under his desk to avoid seeing anyone.

It’s a neat metaphor for how Disney’s animation department was beginning to feel. The new documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty” is dedicated to untangling the corporate rivalries and in-fighting that got Disney out of its animation slump and into the so-called Renaissance era of “Beauty and the Beast” and so on. By the time that had happened, of course, Burton was off and running — given the freedom (in a what-the-hell kind of spirit) to experiment within the studio with “Vincent” and “Frankenweenie,” he began his career. By 1985, he’d knocked “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” out of the park.

He should’ve stuck around a little longer. In 1986, Disney released “The Great Mouse Detective,” the most unfairly forgotten and mischievous movie that isn’t among the accepted childhood classics. A surprisingly meticulous Sherlock Holmes pastiche with mice instead of men, it was bright, witty and decidedly averse to the kind of saccharine instincts that were driving Burton off the wall.

In the first minute, it might be tempting to run screaming — father and “adorably” squeaky and breathy daughter bonding in poverty, a sort of sub-Dickens sentimentalization of poverty — but just wait. Not two minutes in, a toothy rat with dragon-size teeth rears its ugly head and makes off with the father. It’s a genuinely freaky moment, and from there on “The Great Mouse Detective” lightly plays for keeps, producing as precise a pastiche as you could wish for while still hitting the kiddie-film marks.


But what really makes you regret that Burton didn’t stick around to work on it is the presence of Burton’s personal god Vincent Price as “Professor Rattigan” — as showy a camp part as he ever had, but appropriate for children. (He sings. Twice.) If “Vincent” was the unlikely Disney tribute to Price as icon, “The Great Mouse Detective” is an even more unexpected homage to someone whose iconic status would normally be too adult for the Disney studios. (Price even gets to keep the same cigarette-holder as “Vincent,” something that would never happen now but the crowning touch.)

It’s proof that even in a time written off as a slag-heap — one now being raked up in an inside-baseball documentary — work was being produced as iconoclastic as anything in the company’s history. And, dare we say, more so than anything Burton’s attempted lately. The convergence would’ve made sense for once.

[Photos: “The Great Mouse Detective,” Disney, 1986]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.