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"The Dead Hand of Walt Disney": Harlan Ellison Reviews 'Saving Mr. Banks'

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire December 17, 2013 at 5:26PM

The author and lifelong Disney fan saw the Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson production, and he was not charmed.
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Back in November, Variety published an article by science fiction author Harlan Ellison temperately titled "Awards Shows Must Die!" in which he argued:

Those who give the awards exchange ballots among each other's categories, provide a pasha's fortune to publicity flak-providers, logroll, solicit and hustle shamelessly to pit every talent against every other talent, making it a transparent and debased three-card Monte scam. Phoney deified. Ass-kissing sanctified. As Bogart called it: "A mugg’s game."

But when he had a few things so say about Saving Mr. Banks he didn't even bother pitching the industry Bible. Instead, he set up a video camera so he could express his feelings about the film without going through an editorial filter.

Those views, as you may imagine, are not especially moderate. "I am not given to obfuscating," he warns. "I am not given to ice skating around the edge of the rink."

Wearing a Jiminy Cricket watch beneath a print of Disney's Pinocchio, Ellison calls himself "a child of the Disney era" whose first movie, when he was three years old, was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But by the time he's referring to Disney as "the octopoidal matrix," it's pretty clear where he's going to come down.

Tom Hanks, he allows is very good as Walt Disney. And Emma Thompson, as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, is "absolutely breathtaking." But the character she's playing is "a hateful, spiteful, obstinate, intransigent woman" whose desire to protect the character she created ends with an invented scene where she sees the error of her ways. Ellison admits he's biased against those who try to change an artist's work, but as for the film, well... "The word bullshit keeps coming to mind."

Here's Ellison's full review:

This article is related to: From the Wire


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