Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Classic animated Disney musical about cute talking animals and international stereotypes.

It's one of those movies that has always been just there in the background of my life.

In 1980 (at age 9) without having even seen the film, I found myself collecting its associated Figurine Panini stickers, in an album that I'd received free with the UK's Mickey Mouse comic. Years later I would send off for the remaining umpteen missing numbers, and then spend enjoyable times finally completing the album, before at long last getting to sit down and read the thing.

In 1991 (at age 20) I purchased a copy of the six-minute musical extract Everybody Wants To Be A Cat on Super 8 film, for the purpose of screening with other shorts at a couple of orphanages in the recently-liberated country of Romania.

The kids, many of them terminally ill with HIV and/or hepatitis, had never seen moving pictures before. Most initially turned away from the screen, to where the sound was bizarrely coming from behind them. Some of them ran up to the screen to touch the pictures. Some clapped and, by the end, were actually singing along in English to the chorus. Some cried, and so we had to turn the projector off. Well, of course I will always associate this movie - and that scene in particular - with that fortnight.

In 2004 (at age 33) I think I found myself watching that excerpt again on another life-changing international flight - this time a Cathay Pacific flight to New Zealand. (I don't have a picture of that)

Somewhere along the line I'm pretty sure that I even watched the whole movie from start to finish… on a rerelease at the cinema that I used to work at? The event has faded from my memory now, but I do remember discovering that, on the big screen, some of the characters had different names. In my sticker album, the movie's British geese Abigail and Amelia had instead been named as 'Gwendoline' and 'Adeline'. Hmm. Had there, at some point, been some sort of a UK version of this film, that subsequent rereleases have been ignorant of?

I completed watching it again tonight in 2012 (at age 41) from a VHS recording off of TV, with a logo in the corner and the sound half a second ahead of the pictures. (thanks Channel 5) I found that I was taking particular interest in said geese's similarly British 'Uncle Waldo'. They really couldn't have given that character a name any more American! Again, my sticker album dubs him 'Uncle Reginald'. Alas, I have never solved this mystery. Perhaps Uncle Wally was so tipsy that he got everyone's names wrong, including his own?

Disney films have a bit of a reputation for being timeless, and yet I was equal parts disinterested and relieved to watch this 1970 outing's mellow pace in frantic 2012. It struck me as quite slow, which is two-faced of me given how I often criticise modern productions for their frenzied storytelling.

All the same, this is still one charming movie which I hope continues to orbit back into my life once each new decade.

(available here)

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