By the end, i was deeply moved by what i'd seen, but as the credits rolled, i was astonished; directed by Roger Allers; executive produced by Roy E. Disney?! Who would've thought that the company currently responsible for such tat as "The Wild" and "Chicken Little" are still capable of such profound work as this? I thought that this kind of animation only existed in Japan. Apparently, Disney is still alive somewhere under all that commercialism. In a western culture that thrives on bland, generic animated comedies (fot the most part), in short and feature length, seeing this, and from the company that seems to have finally submitted its guard to that culture, is a breath of fresh air (to use a well worn cliché).
Get "The Little Mermaid" Platinum DVD release and give it a glimpse, the only place your likely to see this in an acceptable format. This is an improvement from Disney, hands down, not just on their most recent stuff, but from all their modern works. While the majority of the 90's showcased impressive and at times classic examples of Disney's animated division working at their best, no other film from their modern catalogue tackles such real ventures in human desperation and suffering. True, this is mostly due to the source text. But several of Disney's other adaptations of literature containing disturbing and tragic content have all but washed out those elements, so while the result was still universally great entertainment in an innocent way, it definitely missed out on the more emotionally rich possibilities that Japanese animation mines frequently, and Disney itself used to acquire from time to time in their earlier classics (Dumbo and Pinocchio to name a few). Not so here, Disney seems to have acknowledged this revelation from the east. In fact "The Little Matchgirl" is actually comparable to the profoundly depressing Studio Ghibli war time anime, Isao Takahata's "Grave of the Fireflies", in its sophistication, while also remaining fairly inexplicit to appeal to all but the youngest audience. Stuff like this has very rarely found its way into western animation, and pretty much never in the ones released as mainstream features. This may be only a short, but if Disney can somehow stick to this path of much more sophisticated and imaginative movie-making and implant that thinking into their feature output, we may well see their next Golden Age in animation sooner than planned. Fingers crossed.