Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Teacher's Pet (2004)

If Teacher’s Pet doesn’t feel like any other Disney animated feature there is a good reason for that. Instead of being made by the main Disney animation studio that makes all the big budget animated features, this film was done by Disney Television Animation. The reason for this is really simple it was based off a TV show that the studio had made also called Teacher’s Pet. This film is a rarity in the popular trend of turning a TV show into a feature film, because this movie is actually even better than the series.

Spot is Leonard’s dog, who is constantly dreaming of being a real live boy. On the other hand Leonard wants him to be just his dog. Spot dresses up as Scott, a human boy and attends school in the same class as Leonard. Leonard’s mom is the teacher (hence the film’s title), but naturally can’t tell that one of her students is her own dog. Leonard’s mom is given a trip to Florida for a teacher award. However she is not allowed to bring along any dogs. Spot sees a Dr. Ivan Krank on TV, where Krank says he can turn animals into human beings. Krank is in Florida. So dressed as Scott, Spot hitches a ride to Florida, but when he meets Dr. Krank, he discovers he is in for much more trouble than he bargained for.   

This film is the wildest and craziest Disney animated feature since The Three Caballeros made 59 years earlier. The art style (created by artist Gary Baseman) is appropriately wacky and strange. This is an animated movie that is not ashamed to be a cartoon. The jokes come fast and furious, impossible gags happen regularly and characters constantly talk to the audience. While the film does have a basic story, that story is used as a simple basis to see how many gags the filmmakers can get out of it. The film parodies everything, even Disney itself. These parodies however are extremely elaborate and show great respect for what they are kidding. For instance in the opening scene that parodies Disney’s own landmark movie Pinocchio, the attention to all the details of that earlier feature is very clear and there is no doubt that the filmmakers have seen that classic animated movie many times and have a fondness for it themselves. One of the best Disney in-jokes involves Spot (or Scott) telling Leonard they need to use “the twilight bark” to solve a problem. When Leonard says that he doesn’t know what this is Spot (or Scott) tells him they need to start renting him more classic animated movies. Also adding to the fun of this film is a fantastic voice cast, who all give phenomenal and extremely energetic performances here. While Nathan Lane also voiced Timon in another more popular Disney movie (The Lion King), you completely forget about that watching this movie and only see the character on screen. There is just so much to recommend about this film. It is fast paced, funny, smart, wacky, unique and just all around fun.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

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