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Secrets of Life (1956)
Topic Started: Apr 17 2009, 09:16 PM (493 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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The fourth and most diverse of the Walt Disney True-Life Adventure documentary features of the 1950s, Secrets of Life begins with an animated sequence showing the creation of the earth and ends with a spectacular Cinemascope display of fireworks as a volcano explodes (the picture "opens up" on screen in a truly spectacular effect); in between we're introduced to plant life, the insects that harvest the plants, mainly bees and ants, the li'l one-celled jobbies that live in the oceans, some unusual fish that look more like poodles than anything else, crabs and other unpleasant mollusks, and all kinds of stuff like that. It seems that nearly everything was placed on earth for two reasons: to eat other things that were placed here on earth for two reasons, and to make babies that will grow up and start the cycle anew. Because of the story being told and the diversity of the subject matter it's not exactly a riveting film; frankly, a cute li'l fox cub or baby egret trapped in a forest fire and looking for its mama (staples in other of these types of films) would've helped, but the Disney folks had gotten some criticism for using camera tricks and staged events and the critics should've shut up and let the Disney folks do their jobs entertaining us, I say.

We watched Every Cowboy Needs a Horse with this; it's the cartoon originally shown in the theatres with Secrets of Life back in '56 (along with a short called Cow Dog or something like that: not on DVD, or I'd have shown that one, too). The cartoon was fine, a musical number about a little boy who wants to be a real cowboy, and in his dreams he gets to fight some wild Injuns and bank robbers and cactus thieves and whathaveyous. Done in the clever but sparse UPA style of the '50s.
Edited by Laughing Gravy, May 4 2009, 07:15 AM.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Laughing Gravy
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Secrets of Life (1956) Dir. James Algar

A Walt Disney True-Life Adventure
70 min. / Technicolor / 1.37:1 - 2.35:1
Part of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series

I watched this again and enjoyed it even more; the opening sequence with seeds that "walk" to where the ground is fertile is both fascinating and creepy. I noted that the cartoon paintbrush has a much more active role in this picture than the earlier ones in the series, too. And despite a lot of babies being made, the focus is on the ones where babies are conceived without mommy and daddy, y'know, needing to actually touch one another.

Million-dollar Narration:
Mr. Hibler: "Enter the drones. These are the lazy male bees who do no work, yet they're necessary in nature's scheme of things."

In addition to rewatching A Cowboy needs a Horse we watched another early Mickey, Mickey's Choo-Choo (1929, with lots of music and singing by our Mr. Mouse) and Polar Trappers (1938), a Technicolor short with Donald Duck and Goofy as trappers in Antarctica. Goofy is trying to beat a walrus to death while Donald is trying to catch and eat penguins in what is one of the most unpleasant and most nauseating cartoons I have ever seen from the Golden Era. Yecccch.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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