Survival is an Instinct

Mighty Joe Young (1998) brought the lovable 15 foot tall gorilla back when ape movies were all the rage. The 90’s saw the development of another King Kong remake, a Planet of the Apes remake, and of course Mighty Joe Young. Disney obtained the rights, but the defunct RKO Pictures still have their name on it. Terry Moore and Ray Harryhausen even make cameos. Like many family films released in the late 90’s, I have vague childhood memories of watching the movie. I might of even seen Mighty Joe Young (1998) in theaters, but I never got a straight answer. I didn’t realize it was a remake until I saw my parents watching the original.

Creature effects from the legendary Rick Baker are literally the biggest draw. Joe’s enormous size is addressed as a form of gigantism. He was achieved through a combination of stuntman John Alexander in a realistic gorilla suit, very convincing animatronics, and DreamQuest CGI to blend it all together. It was of course nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards, but the rest of the movie doesn’t compare. Director Ron Underwood has a very hit or miss track record. Mighty Joe Young (1998) is more environmental with Joe never performing in shows. Joe is only ever taken to an L.A. nature preserve.

Jill Young is now orphaned the same day as Joe by a ruthless poacher that was also added to the remake. Charlize Theron was born to play Jill since she is in fact South African. Bill Paxton is a fine zoologist version of Gregg with more of a romantic subplot. Joe causes a rampage while enclosed and on the city streets, but he proves himself a hero similar to the original. It’s just a burning carnival instead of an orphanage. Mighty Joe Young (1998) is a harmless live-action Disney movie, but it’s not quite as spectacular as the 1949 classic.

Mighty Joe Young 1998

Joe Young in Africa with Jill Young

Remake of: Mighty Joe Young (1949)

Beautiful Dreamer

Mighty Joe Young is more than just an imitation of King Kong. I always assumed it was, but it was actually made by the exact same production team. Mighty Joe Young was distributed by RKO Pictures, directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, produced by Merian C. Cooper, stars Robert Armstrong, and was even written by Son of Kong screenwriter Ruth Rose. The similarities are undeniable, but Mr. Joseph Young is perfectly lovable all on his own. Unlike Kong, it was beauty domesticated the beast. Jill Young is an adorable caucasian girl living in Africa with her father. One day she adopts a baby gorilla from African locals.

12 years later, the ape named Joe Young becomes larger than an average gorilla, but significantly smaller than King Kong. Stop-motion artist Willis O’Brien lent his assistance, but all animation was handled by his legendary protégé Ray Harryhausen. Despite being his first film, Joe Young is so charming that the movie won a much deserved Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Joe only attacks when provoked, but luckily he has Jill to calm him down. “Beautiful Dreamer” is especially calming for him. Terry Moore is a feisty leading lady who’s very different from Ann Darrow. Unlike Kong, Joe’s chance for fame isn’t forced upon him.

Rodeo performer Ben Johnson plays the friendly Gregg who helps convince Jill to bring Joe to Hollywood. Armstrong’s Max O’Hara is similar to Carl Denham, but he’s an honest nightclub owner who comes around near the end. Joe performs on stage until his act becomes increasingly humiliating. A bunch of idiots get him drunk and he goes on a rampage. The effects are especially impressive when Joe tosses around actual lions. Even more impressive is a red filter climax where Joe heroically saves orphans from a burning building. Unlike Kong, everyone cares enough to take Joe back where he belongs. Mighty Joe Young is a refreshing giant ape movie with a heartwarming payoff.

Mighty Joe Young

Joe Young on stage with Jill Young

It Was Beauty Killed the Beast

King Kong (2005) is the most affectionate remake I’ve ever seen. After the immense success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, everyone wondered what Oscar winning director Peter Jackson would do next. I don’t think anyone was expecting the third remake of a 1933 classic. As I said in my King Kong (1976) review, the rights were split between two seperate studios. Universal first approached Jackson with a Creature from the Black Lagoon remake in the 90’s, but changed their strategy when they learned King Kong (1933) was his favorite movie of all time. Even as a child Jackson had nothing but sympathy for the big ape. Skull Island is actually referenced in his movie Braindead.

When Godzilla (1998) failed and other ape remakes started to come out, production was halted. Until The Return of the King made Jackson the most bankable director in Hollywood. King Kong (2005) is a rare passionate remake made with nothing but love and respect for the original. All Jackson did was give it the same level of dedication he did with The Lord of the Rings. Detail in every frame, breathtaking special effects, three-dimensional characters, and a lengthy 3 hour & 21 minute runtime. King Kong (2005) was a major obsession for my brother and I growing up. After our mom showed us the original, the three of us saw the remake in theaters and fell in love with it. I had a Kong doll, a Skull Island field guide, and my brother was especially obsessed with completing the official tie-in video game…

7. King Kong 2005

King Kong holds Ann Darrow

King Kong (2005) is part homage, part epic. Only Peter Jackson could take an hour and a half film and make it three hours. Even though there are several new additions that could’ve been trimmed down or removed, I can safely say I was never bored. The perfect three-act structure is maintained with each act being roughly an hour long. That means more than an hour until we finally get a glimpse of Kong. In the meantime, an almost excessive amount of time is spent in New York and on a very long boat ride. Unlike the 1976 remake, King Kong (2005) is a period piece set in 1933 like the original. Basic ideas are either elaborated upon or given added depth. Ann Darrow is now a struggling vaudeville actress who falls on hard times during the Great Depression. Naomi Watts looks the part of the classic beautiful blonde woman, but Ann is more than just a pretty face. Her motivation for accepting a movie role is much more understandable.

Carl Denham has the same passionate motivation to complete his picture on Skull Island, but his recklessness gets him blacklisted and nearly arrested. Casting singer/comedian Jack Black as the iconic 1930’s director is one of the most bizzare casting choices of all time. Most of the time I can accept his Orson Welles-esque performance, but other times it feels like he could go full School of Rock any minute. Denham hires Ann with the promise that she’ll meet her favorite playwright. Rather than a strapping first mate action hero, Jack Driscoll is now an average screenwriter forced to stay on the Venture. Adrien Brody is more than capable of playing the charming love interest and the unlikely hero. The Venture is full of mystery and a crew with far more characterization.

Captain Englehorn is now a no-nonsense hands on German ship captain played by Thomas Kretschmann. Colin Hanks plays Carl’s undervalued personal assistant Preston. Jamie Bell is given an entire subplot as a troublemaking teenager named Jimmy who wants to prove himself. Evan Parke plays his African American mentor Hayes who has World War I training. Andy Serkis does double duty by physically playing the crusty ship’s cook Lumpy. Lord of the Rings composer Howard Shore originally returned before he was replaced by James Newton Howard. The role of strapping action hero is literally filled by Kyle Chandler as famous actor Bruce Baxter. Some of the more sexist dialogue from the original is cleverly worked into the remake as a scene in Denham’s picture. Jack has nothing but respect for Ann as he writes her a play and they fall in love. When they finally reach Skull Island, Englehorn is adamant about turning back.

Denham leads a small crew through what appears to be the ruins of a lost civilization. The always necessary island natives are a no win situation no matter the interpretation. These natives are much more tribal and savage. Their skin is dark brown, but each native is actually portrayed by a variety of non-white ethnicities. They kill crew members before returning to capture Ann. Her sacrifice is grander with a complex bridge extending from their great wall. Kong is at first veiled in shadow, but his first full appearance doesn’t disappoint. Kong is often labeled a monster due to his burly upright appearance. Jackson instead made the creative decision to focus on a Kong that was essentially a massive 25 foot tall silverback gorilla. This Kong is still a little monstrous with black fur, sharp teeth, and many battle scars. My very in-depth Skull Island field guide explains Kong’s origin as a 100 year old Megaprimatus who is the last of his kind.

This is by far the most sympathetic King Kong ever put to film. His relationship with Ann is more than mere infatuation. Ann screams at first, but they come to form a deep mutual understanding. She even surprisingly makes him laugh by performing her vaudeville routine. Kong’s lifelike ape mannerisms are thanks to the always brilliant stop-motion work of Andy Serkis. After Gollum, Serkis was sure to bring just as much dedication to even the most subtle gorilla movements. The CGI is absolutely stunning on Kong, Skull Island, and a 1930’s New York. It’s part of the reason King Kong (2005) was the most expensive movie made at the time. Just as much detail is given to the dinosaurs that inhabit Skull Island. Each with a fictional name like Vastatosaurus rex that separates it a bit from something like Jurassic Park.

The only iffy effect is a herd of stampeding Brontosaurus baxteri that Denham and his crew are somehow able to survive. They’re also chased by raptor-like Venatosaurus saevidicus. Other terrifying creatures like the Piranhadon didn’t make the final cut. What did make the final cut was a scene that was originally intended for the 1933 original. After Kong overturns a log with the crew, they fall into a disturbing pit full of giant insects. The Carnictis worm thing that eats Lumpy is particularly icky. King Kong (2005) doesn’t recreate everything, but the fight between Kong and a T-Rex was an absolute must. The primal fight is increased big time with not one, not two, but three V. Rexes against Kong. It’s a truly exciting match that sees Kong juggle Ann from his hands to his feet in a desperate attempt to fend off the beasts. Each are killed one by one until Kong breaks the last ones jaw just like the original. Concluding with a satisfying chest pound.

Ann willingly stays with Kong and even teaches him the sign for beautiful. She’s still rescued by Jack when Kong is distracted by attacking rat-bats called Terapusmordax. Although I still wouldn’t label him a villain, Denham does begin to make rash decisions when his camera is destroyed. He lures Kong to the wall where the natives are nowhere to be seen. Not that Kong doesn’t kill a few of the attacking crewmembers. When stunned by chloroform, Denham makes his classic declaration to put “Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!” on broadway. The New York show has all the familiar beats of Denham making a statement, Kong chained up on stage, and everyone in town coming to see it. Since Ann feels for Kong, she doesn’t take part in the show. A stage number pays homage to the dancing natives, but Kong breaking loose is now caused by another actress playing Ann. Kong rampages through the city with most of his anger focused on Jack. Kong does grab blonde women that look like Ann, but he drops them from a safer distance.

Unlike any other interpretation, Ann walks directly to Kong and they enjoy a moment together before the military arrives. Kong makes his way to an epic climax atop the Empire State Building. The sequence honors the original by having Peter Jackson cameo as an airplane pilot. The fight is both thrilling and emotional. Much like the V. Rex battle, Kong manages to take out three airplanes instead of one. Ann desperately pleading for them to stop and Kong falling to his death makes me cry everytime. In fact, Jackson loves Kong so much that he created an alternate ending where he survives just for the video game. Unfortunately, Kong meets his iconic fate and Denham delivers his final line that “It wasn’t the airplanes, it was Beauty killed the Beast.” Something Fay Wray nearly said before passing away. Although not the same kind of Academy Awards favorite as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong (2005) nevertheless won 3 Oscars. Best Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and of course Visual Effects. King Kong (2005) is a larger than life companion piece that appreciates cinematic history.

8. King Kong 2005

King Kong vs. the V. Rex

Remake of: King Kong (1933)

Gorilla Warfare

King Kong Lives gave the fallen ape the second chance he never needed. King Kong has been resurrected before, but it’s kind of hard to survive a fall from two of the tallest buildings in New York. Former producer Dino De Laurentiis couldn’t settle on a single method that made sense. Director John Guillermin returned 10 years later in 1986, but King Kong Lives was hated by audiences, bombed at the box office, and holds a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Proving that even an icon as big as Kong needs a good story to back him up.

King Kong Lives is practically a lost film that I couldn’t find anywhere. My only option was to buy a cheap copy on eBay. Despite a runtime closer to the 1933 original, King Kong Lives is almost torture to sit through. Most of the 1976 climax is shown before the opening credits. Followed by the nonsensical revelation that Kong has somehow been in a coma for 10 years. Post-Terminator Linda Hamilton is a more reserved beautiful woman who isn’t the object of Kong’s affection. Not that she doesn’t get topless despite the PG-13 rating. She plays Dr. Amy Franklin, a surgeon who brings back Kong with a giant artificial heart.

More ridiculous is lesser known actor Brian Kerwin as adventurer Hank Mitchell discovering a Lady Kong. Basically King Kong with boobs. The sight of Kong interacting with a lady his own size is almost so bad it’s good. When seperated, Kong is forced to face an aggressive military and a band of hillbillies in more rural areas. Sometimes the ape suits look fine, but most of the time they look cheaper. The sequel ends exactly the way I assumed it would, with the birth of a new Son of Kong. King Kong Lives kept the franchise on life support.

6. King Kong Lives

King Kong escapes

Preceded by: King Kong (1976)

Monkey Suit

King Kong (1976) isn’t the remake the great ape deserved. Since monsters as iconic as King Kong never truly die, a reimagining of the classic 1933 film wasn’t entirely out of the question. Kong remained relevant throughout the 60’s thanks to being licensed in Japan. Toho made King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes. Meanwhile, the rights to Kong in America were split between two seperate studios. The idea for a remake was pitched to both Paramount and Universal. Since RKO Pictures barely existed anymore, the rights were basically public domain.

There was apparently a big legal battle that allowed Paramount to make their version before Universal (29 years later in 2005). While I do have my mom to thank for introducing my brother and I to the original, I can’t say the same for the 1976 remake. I didn’t watch it because she warned me it wasn’t very good. King Kong (1976) is different, but bad is a strong word. 1933’s King Kong is an old fashioned larger than life adventure, while 1976’s King Kong is a contemporary light hearted romp. King Kong (1976) takes the basic structure we’re familiar with and changes it enough to be mostly memorable…

4. King Kong 1976

King Kong looks at Dwan

King Kong (1976) was developed by major Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis and directed by John Guillermin. Directing a movie that involved an enormous skyscraper wasn’t exactly new for him after The Towering Inferno. Their goal was always to make something different, but familiar to the original. It’s so different that you never know what iconic scenes will be kept, altered, or removed entirely. The biggest change was setting events in present day 1970’s. Rather than follow a film crew on a mysterious voyage to Skull Island, King Kong (1976) takes advantage of the current energy crisis. A decision that doesn’t always make as much sense as simply wanting to capture exotic wildlife. Carl Denham is replaced by Charles Grodin as equally reckless Petrox Oil executive Fred Wilson. He mounts an expedition to Skull Island with the belief that it’s rich with oil. Jack Driscoll is replaced by a very young Jeff Bridges as hippie primate paleontologist Jack Prescott. He stows away on the boat just to warn them against disturbing the giant creature that lives there. They ignore his pleas, but keep him aboard anyway as a photographer.

Since a Beast is only as good as his Beauty, a beautiful blonde woman literally drifts onto their ship. Ann Darrow is replaced by Jessica Lange in her very first film role. Although calling her Dwan instead of Dawn is dumb regardless of explanation, she is right about being memorable. Unlike the original crew, everybody loves Dwan’s fun loving personality. Despite being PG, I can’t blame them for giving her partially obscured nude scenes. Jack falls in love with Dwan and becomes her hero similar to the original. The build up to Kong is even longer, but it doesn’t drag too much. Skull Island natives are almost exactly the same with grand rituals and a desire to trade their women for Dwan. She’s quickly kidnapped and sacrificed nearly an hour into the 2 hour & 14 minute movie. Kong is slowly revealed with a signature chest pound, but his appearance is a mixed bag. Although often depicted as brown on posters or in Toho productions, black & white has always made him appear black.

This Kong stands upright with dark brown fur worn by a stunt performer. An ape suit can’t beat the meticulous effort of stop-motion, but he is expressive and it is impressive to see him in the same frame as the humans. Kong lumbers around at an even bigger 55 feet tall. A lot more attention is given to Kong’s love of Dwan. Their romance has less subtle sexual undertones shown when Kong bathes and undresses her. Dwan isn’t exactly afraid of Kong, but she doesn’t want to stay with him either. Their relationship feels like a screwball comedy at times. Kong protects Dwan by overturning a log like the original, but the remake’s lamest decision is leaving out all of the dinosaurs. The only creature Kong has to fight is a giant snake. Kong doesn’t even terrorize the native village when he crashes through their wall.

Another change is actually seeing Kong’s boat trip to New York. Wilson makes the unusual decision to use Kong as a promotional tool to sell oil. Dwan wants to be a star, but she and Jack can’t help but feel sorry for Kong. In fact, Dwan is actually split between her two loves. She comforts Kong when he gets rowdy, but still participates in the show. Kong is instead locked in a giant cage with a crown on his head. He escapes captivity and steps on Wilson. A train is destroyed and a woman thought to be Dwan is tossed aside, but the most major deviation is Kong scaling the World Trade Center instead of the Empire State Building. You can imagine the changes that were made to the poster after 9/11.

Kong takes Dwan to the Twin Towers where Jack thinks he’ll be netted by helicopters. Little does he know they plan to shoot him down. The change in venue only succeeds in giving Kong 2 buildings to jump from. Otherwise, Kong meets an even bloodier fate after barely defending himself at all. Dwan cries for Kong since an attempt was made to make him more sympathetic. The iconic final line is replaced by Jack unable to approach Dwan in a sea of photographers. Although critics were split, King Kong (1976) was a rare successful remake with another Special Achievement Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. King Kong (1976) left its footprint on cinema regardless of quality or personal opinion.

5. King Kong 1976

King Kong prepares to climb the Twin Towers

Remake of: King Kong (1933) & Followed by: King Kong Lives

Kong’s Kid

Son of Kong is one of the earliest sequels ever made. King Kong was such a big hit that RKO Pictures didn’t even wait a year to make it. Son of Kong was released a mere 9 months into 1933. Despite its close proximity, audiences didn’t embrace it the way they did with the original. Although the runtime is only 1 hour and 9 minutes, I never felt the need to watch Son of Kong until now. Only Ernest B. Schoedsack returns as director, but the production feels almost exactly the same with Willis H. O’Brien continuing to do stop-motion.

A lot of props were carried over from King Kong, but the primary difference is tone. Little Kong is an albino gorilla who is a lot more comedic than his father. His roars are childish and he makes silly expressions. I wouldn’t label Son of Kong a comedy since it does seriously attempt to follow the aftermath of Kong’s rampage through New York. Carl Denham is genuinely remorseful as he faces several lawsuits. Robert Armstrong becomes the new heroic lead as one of a few returning cast members.

Frank Reicher also returns as Venture Captain Englewood who takes Denham on a new voyage. They run into new beautiful woman Hilda in a performing monkey show. She stows away when they foolishly return to Skull Island in search of treasure. Since Little Kong is friendly, the untrustworthy Helstrom is the human villain. Denham finds closure by saving Little Kong’s life. So Little Kong fights off a new batch of man eating dinosaurs in return. Including a not as intimidating giant bear. Still it’s hard to believe the special effects look this good after only 9 months. Little Kong isn’t an endearing icon, but his watery fate is just as tragic. Son of Kong is the original unnecessary sequel.

3. Son of Kong

Little Kong in the jungle

Preceded by: King Kong

Eighth Wonder of the World

King Kong is the greatest giant monster movie ever made in Hollywood. Nothing feels more cinematic than a 24 foot tall gorilla scaling the Empire State Building. Decades before Godzilla, King Kong became one of the most iconic characters in film history. Since jungle movies were all the rage back then, directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack developed their own picture. Their simple, but ambitious idea was to follow a giant ape from a prehistoric island and into the modern world.

Although almost 100 years old, King Kong has aged surprisingly well. It wowed audiences with state of the art stop-motion special effects, a tragic monster, and a genuine build up. King Kong was a major hit that led to sequels, remakes, cartoons, video games, and several giant ape imitators. I have my mom to thank for introducing my brother and I to the 1933 classic. Unlike most remakes, our mom encouraged us to see the original first. No matter how many times I watch King Kong, it never fails to give me a chest pounding cinematic experience…

1. King Kong

King Kong vs. the airplanes

King Kong has a perfect three-act structure. It all begins with a 4 minute overture that I usually skip. Though Max Steiner’s score is wonderfully thrilling for the adventure ahead. The first act takes place in New York Harbor where director Carl Denham prepares a voyage on the ship Venture. Denham is a reckless director known for swell pictures filmed in exotic locations full of dangerous wildlife. Robert Armstrong manages to give Denham honest passion without him seeming like a bad person. He’s joined by a crew of rugged shipmates including first mate Jack Driscoll. Bruce Cabot fills the role of handsome action hero. Much like the movie itself, Denham knows the only way to sell his picture is with a beautiful woman at the center.

King Kong is in many ways a romance. Beauty and the Beast in its most primitive form. Ann Darrow is found on the streets by Denham and immediately cast with promises of adventure. Although her performance is at least 60% screaming, Fay Wray is truly the human face of King Kong. Her blonde hair was specifically chosen to stand out opposite her tall, dark, and handsome co-star. Despite initially objecting to dames aboard the Venture, Jack can’t help but fall in love with Ann. It may seem like a lot of time is spent on the boat, but it’s all worth it when they reach the ominous Skull Island. The second act sees the crew reach their exotic destination where Denham plans his shoot.

They’re first greeted by natives performing a mysterious ritual. Having black natives may suggest racial implications, but I don’t believe that was the intention. They’re a simple people that keep Kong out with a giant wall and sacrifice their women to him. When bargaining for Ann doesn’t work, the natives kidnap her instead. A screaming Ann tied to two pillars is one of several iconic moments that finally gives us Kong in glorious black & white. Although Kong’s design is modeled after a gorilla, he is given more upright positions. Willis H. O’Brien’s stop-motion animation is the true star of the show. O’Brien trained Ray Harryhausen himself, so you know he knows what he’s doing. Kong is fully expressive when he sees Ann. Drawn by her beauty, the beast takes her deep into Skull Island where the crew encounter a variety of prehistoric creatures.

There’s a definite divide when special effects start to take over. Schoedsack directed most scenes with dialogue and Cooper directed the miniature dinosaurs. Since King Kong is pre-Code, many violent or suggestive scenes were cut for many years. Denham, Jack, and the crew encounter a Stegosaurus and a particularly dangerous Brontosaurus in the water. Kong famously protects Ann in a fight against a Tyrannosaurus. Their fight only ends when Kong breaks the jaw of the T-Rex and performs his signature chest pound. Kong seemingly kills most of the crew when he sends them falling off a log. I say seemingly because a lost sequence would’ve seen them devoured by large insects. Denham survives along with Jack who tries to rescue Ann. After fighting off an Elasmosaurus snake creature in his lair, Kong undresses Ann. An innocent act that I mostly see as curiosity. Jack saves Ann when Kong is distracted by a Pterodactyl. It’s clear that Ann wants nothing to do with Kong, but he pursues her anyway. Kong breaks through the native wall and terrorizes their village. Denham gets particularly reckless when he gas bombs Kong and somehow takes him back to New York City with the moniker “Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!

The third act is in New York where patrons pay to see Kong tied up in chains. Another iconic moment that ends badly when flash photography causes him to break loose. Despite often being labeled a villain, Kong is a misunderstood creature who should never have been forced to leave his home. Though it is hard to excuse Kong eating people, stepping on villagers, attacking a train, and throwing an innocent woman out a building in an attempt to find Ann. When Kong does find Ann, he creates one of the greatest moments in movie history by climbing the Empire State Building. Airplanes are sent to gun down Kong at the very top of the building. Though he manages to destroy one, Kong protects Ann one last time before falling to his death. Ending with Denham’s famous final words that “It wasn’t the airplanes, It was Beauty killed the Beast.” Even though King Kong screams Hollywood, it wasn’t nominated for a single Academy Award. The only Oscar it got was a Special Achievement Award. Regardless of accolades, King Kong has left an undeniable impact on the movie industry.

2. King Kong

King Kong meets Ann Darrow

Followed by: Son of Kong

Come Play with us, Danny

Doctor Sleep brings The Shining back to life (in more ways than one). Since Stephen King notoriously hated Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his horror classic, no one knew how a sequel could be made. King wrote Doctor Sleep in 2013 as a direct continuation of his novel. So respected modern horror director Mike Flanagan compromised between both visions. Although I’m a big fan of The Shining, Doctor Sleep is part King weirdness and part Kubrick nostalgia. Characters are recast without feeling like an imitation and the Overlook Hotel is recreated just as well as in Ready Player One. Jack Nicholson obviously doesn’t return.

Danny Torrance and his mother Wendy deal with the aftermath of The Shining. The ghost of Dick Hallorann tells Doc more about the “shining” since he was supposed to be alive in the novel. Danny literally locks up his trauma and grows into an alcoholic Ewan McGregor. Even though I was more invested in Shining references, the sequel story is interesting enough on its own. Flanagan fills the 2 hour & 32 minute runtime with a creepy atmosphere, strong characters, another mangled hand, and a refreshing absence of jump scares. The King weirdness is the ambiguous nature of “shining” and a nomadic cult of psychic vampires that feed on the “steam” of children. Rebecca Ferguson turns Rose the Hat into a memorably intense villain.

With a few exceptions, the True Knot don’t have a lot of characterization, but I knew I’d be uncomfortable if children were involved. Dan cleans himself up and gains the titular Doctor Sleep nickname as an orderly. A new “shining” kid named Abra Stone played well by newcomer Kyliegh Curran befriends Danny with messages of “REⱭЯUM.” Together they seek to stop Rose the Hat in a very familiar location. The Overlook climax wasn’t in the book, but it is technically part of the original. Danny ends up with an axe, the twins return, there’s a bloody elevator, the naked woman, and other iconic moments are brought back just to adapt the true end of The Shining. Doctor Sleep can’t always bridge the gap, but fans like me should be pleased.

Doctor Sleep

Dan sees REⱭЯUM on the mirror

Preceded by: The Shining

Shake Your Groove Thing

An Extremely Goofy Movie is an extremely strong follow up. Although not officially part of the Disney Renaissance, A Goofy Movie nevertheless earned an unnecessary direct-to-video sequel. Unlike other Disney sequels released in the 2000’s, An Extremely Goofy Movie is just as good as the first movie. My brother and I actually valued both movies equally growing up. The animation remains relatively cinematic and the core voice cast remains intact. An Extremely Goofy Movie continues to follow Max’s life as he goes off to college. It’s just as timelessly dated with a strong focus on totally radical extreme sports.

Max, P.J, and Bobby are now into extreme skateboarding and end up performing in the X Games. My only frustration is a glaring lack of Max’s girlfriend Roxanne. After an entire movie spent building up their relationship, it feels wrong to leave her out. P.J. is instead given a girlfriend in the form of a poetic beatnik Beret Girl. Bobby is given a fresh cut and a ton of extra attention with Pauly Shore doing his thing. Goofy of course misses Max when he leaves, but Pete can’t wait to get rid of P.J. When Goofy loses a job to his usual antics, he makes the relatable decision to return to college to get a degree. Much to the embarrassment of his son Max.

Sure it’s similar to Back to School, but that’s not a bad thing. Together Max & Goofy also deal with the cheating head of Gamma Mu Mu Bradley Uppercrust III. He’s just a preppy jerk supported by his muscle tank. They compete against Gamma in the X Games and another father/son lesson is learned. More unexpected is Goofy having his very own love interest in the form of cute librarian Sylvia Marpole. Since they both love the 70’s, they end up dancing to “Shake Your Groove Thing” on the disco floor. An Extremely Goofy Movie is both groovy and goofy.

An Extremely Goofy Movie

Goofy dances with Sylvia

Preceded by: A Goofy Movie

On the Open Road

A Goofy Movie is the goofiest, most heartfelt father/son adventure you’ll ever see. Unlike DuckTales, Goof Troop was never a major Saturday-morning cartoon. It only lasted 2 seasons and I honestly never knew it existed for a long time. So how did A Goofy Movie gain a stronger cult following than DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp? Although Scrooge McDuck is an icon in his own right, there’s no beating a classic character like Goofy. His goofy antics have been a mainstay of Disney since the early 30’s. Along with his popular How to… series, Goofy became something of an everyman with a job and family in the 50’s.

Goof Troop similarly turned Goofy into a single father with a son named Max. Since A Goofy Movie was made in the middle of the Disney Renaissance, soon to be fired Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg gave it the same treatment. Turning Goofy into a loving father just trying to connect with his son. Even though Walt Disney Feature Animation worked on the movie at the same time as The Lion King, no one believed in the project. Making it the second Disneytoon production. A Goofy Movie wasn’t an instant hit, but thankfully my generation has given it a second chance…

A Goofy Movie

Goofy on the road with Max

A Goofy Movie is just as much a childhood favorite as the rest of the Disney Renaissance. My brother and I watched it on VHS before it was cool. Something about A Goofy Movie really speaks to millennials such as myself. Maybe because it was one of a few contemporary Disney movies made in the 90’s. A Goofy Movie is filled with 90’s slang, pop songs, modern technology, and celebrities like Pauly Shore. Sure it’s dated, but timeless at the same time. A Goofy Movie picks up years after Goof Troop when Max is an average 14 year old dog. Jason Marsden replaces Dana Hill a year before her untimely death. Marsden gives Max all the attitude and awkwardness of a teenager. His biggest fear is turning into his father. Which is especially embarrassing when his dad is literally Goofy. Although strangely asked to tone down his goofy voice, Bill Farmer manages to make Goofy sincere without losing his “Hyucks.” Cartoony antics are maintained, but the story remains relatable. Goofy also remains a single father, but Pete is a different story.

In Goof Troop, longtime Disney villain Pete was Goofy’s brutish neighbor with a son named P.J, a daughter named Pistol, and a wife named Peg. Only Jim Cummings and Rob Paulsen return as Pete and P.J. in order to enforce the themes of fatherhood. Pete rules by fear, while Goofy prefers affection. All Max wants to do is impress his crush Roxanne. Roxanne has nerdy friends like Stacey and is just as shy as Max, but she does return his feelings. Max & Roxanne are honestly one of the cutest Disney couples. It’s literal puppy love. With the help of his friends, Max manages to put on a concert at his school dressed as their favorite popstar Powerline. Singer Tevin Campbell voices Powerline as a cross between Michael Jackson and Prince. P.J. is still Max’s best friend, but they’re joined by Bobby aka Pauly Shore as himself. Wallace Shawn voices the mildly villainous Principal Mazur who worries Goofy to the point of starting a father/son fishing trip. Max doesn’t want to go, but he makes things worse when he tells Roxanne he’ll be at a Powerline concert. A Goofy Movie is a particularly wacky road movie with references to Walt Disney and cameos from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Even a movie as zany as this isn’t exempt from creepy Disney moments. The opening is a dream turned nightmare that somehow manages to make Goofy’s laugh scary. Goofy taking Max to a corny hillbilly possum show always upset me when I was younger. Goofy later tries to bond over teaching Max the perfect fishing cast, but it only succeeds in finding a vicious, albeit rambunctious Bigfoot. Leading to a genuinely heartfelt connection ruined by Max changing the map. As they start to compromise over the things that they enjoy, Max starts to have second thoughts. When he doesn’t act on them, it leads to an appropriately goofy father/son talk that sends their car off a canyon, plunges them in a river, and nearly takes them over a waterfall. Max performs a perfect cast and Goofy takes his son to the concert. Ending with Max telling the truth, getting an innocent kiss from Roxanne, and fully embracing his dad.

A Goofy Movie may have outsourced its animation, but I honestly can’t tell the difference between other Disney movies of the era. The open road feels grand and concerts feel like actual events. A Goofy Movie is a contemporary musical with a seriously underrated soundtrack. “After Today” highlights the high school experience and Max wanting to stand out. “Stand Out” is a fun Powerline single that helps Max get noticed. “On the Open Road” gives Goofy his silly showstopper, while the “Lester’s Possum Park” theme is just cringy. “Nobody Else But You” is the right song to bring Goofy & Max together. Until the much more energetic and catchy “I 2 I” performed by Powerline on stage. A Goofy Movie took a forgotten show and made something special out of it.

A Goofy Movie 2

Max sings to Roxanne

Followed by: An Extremely Goofy Movie