140 Character Movie Review – #140RVW
One of the greatest stories seldom told, required viewing for fans of Disney, animation and filmmaking. Underappreciated genius no more…
Spoiler-free Movie Review of The Hand Behind The Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story:
Written and directed by documentarian Leslie Iwerks, granddaughter of the groundbreaking filmmaker, The Hand Behind The Mouse is clearly a labor of love. One can imagine why Ub’s family might hope to reflect a little of Walt Disney’s spotlight back on his less famous partner, but all of the individuals interviewed seem simply overjoyed to have the opportunity to pay their respects to the man. It seems that this piece is long overdue – the principals involved are so eager for everyone to know Ub’s marvelous story and his place in cinema history.
Produced in 1999, The Hand Behind The Mouse was the first feature documentary from Iwerks and was later included on DVD in the 2007 Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit DVD set. A book of the same name by Iwerks and John Kenworthy was released in 2001.
The story of Ub Iwerks is so closely intertwined with that of fellow Missouri native Walt Elias Disney that it is rather remarkable that it isn’t common knowledge. Theirs was one of those lightning in a bottle partnerships that are such a fascinating part of the human experience. They quite truly completed each other as well as complementing each other. I’m sure both men could have made contributions to the world without each other – they were both geniuses after all – but nothing like the output and impact achieved by their pairing.
The film itself is very well made. It looks dated in a way you might not expect from a 1999 picture, but that is simply a reflection of the huge strides in production values that have come in recent years.
Narrated by Kelsey Grammer, the doc is packed with a who’s who of animation legends, all very happy to acknowledge the art form’s debt to Iwerks. It’s filled with lots of rare clips of Ub’s work that would make it worthwhile even without the interesting narrative.
I loved this film. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is my favorite animated character, and I thought I knew the story of the man behind Oswald and Mickey, but there is so much more to Ub Iwerks. It is impossible to overstate his importance not only to animation, but to film itself. This is a man who not only created the most iconic cartoon character of all time, he created a visual style that essentially defined the medium and brought it to the mainstream. His studio launched the careers of many luminaries and inspired many more. When he felt he had mastered cartooning, he turned to groundbreaking effects work in live-action. He even designed many of the effects at Disneyland. He designed the multi-plane camera and the technique for animation/live action traveling mattes. The man was a genius.
Rather than go on and on about the man’s accomplishments, I’d recommend you make time to watch The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story. Since it’s a little harder to find, I’m including a link here.
Better yet, start by just watching some of Ub’s most famous works:
The first Mickey cartoon: Plane Crazy (1928)
Steamboat Willie (1928 – first fully synchronized sound cartoon)
Silly Symphonies: The Skeleton Dance
The Representation Test Score: n/a
|Main Cast||Kelsey Grammer Himself/Narrator (voice)
Mark Kausler Himself
John Lasseter Himself
Russell Merritt Himself
|Release Date||Wed 17 Dec 2008 UTC|
|Plot||A documentary on the life of the under-appreciated animator Ub Iwerks, who played a major role in the creation of Mickey Mouse.|
|Writers||Leslie Iwerks (written by)|