White Fang Revisited

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

Walt Disney was famously not a cat person, which is as important to note as the fact that he liked dogs. Think of how cats are portrayed in some of the films released by his animation studio. Think of the sneaky Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp; even if they weren’t racist by literal design, they’re cruel to our heroic Lady and try to destroy the house while pinning the crime on her. Or think of the cat owned by Cinderella’s stepmother. You know, the cat literally named Lucifer. Disney: not a cat person.

Thus, once the era of Disney live-action films dawned, one of the natural types of stories to tell would be between man and his true best friend, the dog. (It’s a heartbreaking movie, but Old Yeller remains one of the most memorable Disney live-action films they ever released.) Even years after Walt Disney died, this basic concept would lead to plenty of live-action films. Just recently, the streaming service Disney+ released another man-and-dog movie, Togo, in which a gruff man living in Alaska learns to embrace a particularly ornery Siberian husky. That film, both in its setting and its depiction of the burgeoning friendship between one man (played by an overqualified lead actor) and one dog, feels like it owes a debt to another such Disney film: the 1991 drama White Fang.

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It’s a crazy, mixed up world and we are thankful for movies, sans New Moon, that offer proof. Weekend Weirdness takes a look at such films, whether it’s via a new trailer for a provocative indie, a mini-review, or news of an excavated cult classic. The works discussed herein tend to make cinema a little more interesting, and in the best cases do the same for life or at least a blown weekend.

The year, 2009, delivered a number of knockout documentaries that were better made and more meditative than their premises let on. For over a year, The Rock-afire Explosion has popped-and-fizzled on my radar, until a screener finally arrived in the mail last week underneath a hate letter from my ex, Sallie Mae. Pop Candy’s Whitney Matheson—a cool guest on the /Filmcast—also received one, a screener that is, and she promptly called Rock-afire the best film of the year for a documentary or otherwise. I wouldn’t go that far, but Rock-afire Explosion makes for true-life entertainment every bit as tasty as a slice and a cold beer to a divorced, thankless, balding dad tolerating a Showbiz Pizza in the late ’80s. In other words, this isn’t some  Chuck E. Cheese shit.
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