A Year in Shorts Day 87: "Aquamania"
While Goofy may not be as undeniably great as Donald Duck or as simply iconic as Mickey Mouse, he has still more than earned his status as a Disney legend. And while unfortunately A Goofy Movie was not nominated for any Oscars (despite the fact that “I2I” and “Stand Out” were far more deserving of a Best Song nomination than that year’s winner, “Colors of the Wind”), he still managed to have two shorts nominated for Oscar gold. And while today’s film, 1961’s Aquamania, may not be the best of Disney shorts, it’s still pretty entertaining in its own right.
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, who would go on to direct several Disney films such as The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book and Robin Hood, Aquamania more or less perfectly encapsulates the 60s Disney aesthetic. After the 1950s produced a series of artistically beautiful but not remotely cost effective films and shorts, efforts were made in the 1960s to keep costs down. Most notably was the use of "xerography", in which the studio could Xerox images to prevent them from having to draw every one by hand. This resulted in a major artistic shift for the studio, and that can definitely be seen in Aquamania.
Your mileage may vary on the art style, but I think it's pretty good here. No one can accuse the Disney films from this era of being their most attractive, but some of them do have a certain charm to them. Aquamania might look rough in spots, but I think it's still a fairly good-looking short, even if the budget cuts show in places. This style of animation would only get uglier as time went on (suffice it to say, I'm not a fan of The Aristocats), but it worked perfectly fine when they were starting out.
And as for the short itself, perfectly fine describes it pretty well. The faux documentary format always suited Goofy well, and it's fun here too, even if the short abandons it halfway through. The sight gags of Goofy water skiing (oh, did I forget to mention what the short is about? Goofy buys a boat and accidentally enters a water ski race) are all decently funny, and it's altogether a fine way to kill eight minutes. It's not revolutionary stuff, but you'll have a good enough time.
The 1960s were not a great time for the Walt Disney company, either financially or artistically. One only has to look at the Best Animated Short category to notice that. In a category he once effortlessly dominated, Walt Disney only received four nominations that decade. His only win came after his death, for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Still, Disney managed to produce some great films in that time (Mary Poppins in particular), and plenty of ok ones too. Aquamania belongs in the latter category, and maybe that's enough.
Or maybe I'm just happy to be watching anything other than a Tweety short and I'm just grading on a curve. But it's my blog so who cares?!
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"Aquamania" is NOT available to watch on Disney +, which makes no sense to me. It's not even racist!
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Also, come on, listen to this song and tell me the theme song from "Dead Man Walking" (a movie which decidedly did NOT need a theme song) deserved an Oscar nomination more: