Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Live-action edition. Around the World in 80 Days

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: Around the World in 80 Days

Year: 2004

Source materials : Based on Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

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Budget: $110 million

Box office: $72.2 million

Plot: In 1890, England, a Chinese man, Lau Xing robs the Bank of England. To evade the police, Xing becomes the valet for Phileas Fogg, an inventor, taking the pseudonym Passepartout. Phileas, just before Xing arrived, had been trying to break the 50-mph speed barrier, and after succeeding with the help of Passepartout, they head to the Royal Academy of Science. There, Fogg is insulted by the other “brilliant minds”, in particular Lord Kelvin who believes that everything worth discovering has already been discovered. After a debate between the scientists about the bank thief, Phileas is pressured into a bet to see whether he can travel around the world in 80 days. If he wins, he will become Minister of Science in Lord Kelvin’s place, if not, he will destroy his lab and never invent anything again. Phileas and Xing start their journey around the world, taking a carriage and leaving London after a confrontation with Inspector Fix, a corrupt officer hired by Lord Kelvin to stop them.

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Xing and Phileas journey to Paris, France. Pretending to take Phileas to a convention with Thomas Edison, Xing leads him to an art school where Phileas meets Monique La Roche, a would-be impressionist. There, Xing is attacked by disguised warriors, the Black Scorpions, sent by General Fang, a warlord from China who is after the Jade Buddha that he stole. Fang had previously given it to Kelvin in exchange for military assistance in China. When Monique learns of Phileas’s ambition, she convinces them to take her with them. They depart in a hot-air balloon, chased by Fang’s warriors.

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Whilst on the Orient Express, Monique learns that Xing is trying to return the Jade Buddha back to his village, and is travelling with Phileas to get there quickly. Monique keeps his secret in exchange for him convincing Phileas to let her travel with him. They travel to Turkey, where the train stops. Guards climb onboard and inform the trio that they are greeted by Prince Hapi. During the Prince’s banquet, he orders Monique to stay as his seventh wife while the men are ordered to leave. The men blackmail Prince Hapi into releasing Monique using a prized but apparently flimsy “The Thinker” statue of the Prince. The statue is destroyed, much to Hapi’s anger, but the trio escape from the guards.

Lord Kelvin, learning that Phileas has been abetting a thief’s escape, orders the British colonial authorities in India to arrest both. Xing notices this and warns his companions, disguising themselves as Indian women to evade capture and successfully flee to China. On the train Xing tells the story of the Ten Tigers of Canton to children. Fogg tells him legends are meaningless and Xing tells him that him traveling around the world in eighty days is a legend.

Xing leads his friends to his village, Lanzhou, where they are happily greeted. Phileas, however, finds out Xing stole the Jade Buddha and leaves, but is immediately captured along with Xing and Monique by the Black Scorpions. With them is a man who was imprisoned for public urination. Xing challenges the leader of the group to a fight, during which he is joined by the martial arts masters of the “Ten Tigers of Canton”, of which Xing is a member. The Tigers drive the Black Scorpions from the village and free the Westerners. The Buddha is returned to the village temple.

07

Phileas, feeling used by Xing and Monique, leaves for San Francisco, United States, alone, only to be proven wrong when the latter decide to help him win his bet. In New York City, Fang’s disguised minions trick the trio to an ambush site. Fang reveals the nature of their arrangements with Lord Kelvin to take Lanzhou and tap the jade reserves underneath it. A battle against Fang and her minions commences in the workshop where the Statue of Liberty is being assembled, resulting in Phileas missing a boat to help Xing. Fang’s minions were defeated and Xing nearly dies to save Phileas. Fang also survives but is knocked out by Monique with a punch and Xing jokes that she is the 11th Tiger. Phileas feels he has lost, but the other two say they may still make it if they catch the next ship.

They board an old ship and Phileas convinces the captain to let him build a plane out of the ship’s old wood in exchange for a new ship. Using an altered version of the Wright brothers’ plans, Phileas builds the plane while the ship’s crew builds a catapult to launch it into the sky. They reach London, where the machine falls apart and they crash in front of the Royal Academy.

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Lord Kelvin sends police to arrest them for robbing the bank, in order to stop them from making it to the top step of the Academy, and proclaims himself the victor when Big Ben strikes noon, seemingly ending the wager. Monique, Fix and other ministers attest to Kelvin’s unfair methods and his bullying nature, but Kelvin scoffs at them. In the process he insults Queen Victoria, who arrives on the scene. She learned that he had sold her arsenal to Fang in exchange for jade mines in China thanks to one of his aides. Kelvin is arrested and sent to prison, and Phileas realizes he is one day early thanks to crossing the international date line. He victoriously ascends the stairs of the Academy and kisses Monique.

Changes from the Source Material: It might be easier to discuss what the film keeps from novel. There is a robbery in London, but the robber is confused with Fogg. The ending with the International Date Line is true to the novel.

Cast:

Jackie Chan as Passepartout / Lau Xing / Tiger #10. He is one of the best known action stars in the world. At seventeen, he worked as a stuntman in the Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon under the stage name Chan Yuen Lung. His first Hollywood film was The Big Brawl followed by a minor role in the The Cannonball Run. He also appeared in Police Story, Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour, and its se sequelsqueks, The Accidental Spy, Shanghai Noon, Shanghai Knights, The Tuxedo, The Medallionl Karate Kid, Railroad Tigers, The Foreigner, and Bleeding Steel. Steve Coogan as Phileas Fogg. He appeared in The Parole Officer, 24 Hour Party People, The Trip, The Trip to Italy, The Trip to Spain, A Cock and Bull Story, What Maisie Knew, The Look of Love, and Stan & Ollie. In 2013, he co-wrote, produced, and starred in the film Philomena.

Cécile de France as Monique Laroche. She appeared in French hit films such as L’Art (délicat) de la séduction and Irène. Her international breakthrough came with the horror film High Tension. She won two César Awards for Most Promising Actress in L’Auberge espagnole, and Best Supporting Actress in Les Poupées russes. Jim Broadbent as Lord Kelvin. He won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his supporting role as John Bayley in the feature film Iris, as well as winning a BAFTA TV Award and a Golden Globe for his leading role as Lord Longford in the television film Longford. He played Horace Slughorn in the Harry Potter films and joined the cast of Game of Thrones, playing a role of Archmaester Ebrose, in the seventh season. His other notable roles were in Bullets over Broadway, Topsy-Turvy, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Moulin Rouge!, The Gathering Storm, Hot Fuzz, Another Year, The Iron Lady,Cloud Atlas, Brooklyn, and the Paddington films.

Ewen Bremner as Inspector Fix. His appearances include Julien Donkey-Boy, Trainspotting, and its sequel T2 Trainspotting, Black Hawk Down, Wonder Woman, Pearl Harbor, Snatch, and Death at a Funeral. Kathy Bates as Queen Victoria. Her breakthrough performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. She appeared in Dolores Claiborne, The Waterboy, Fried Green Tomatoes, Titanic, Primary Colors, About Schmidt, and Richard Jewell. On television she appeared in Harry’s Law, Two and a Half Men, and American Horror Story. Her directing credits include several episodes of Six Feet Under and Ambulance Girl.

Arnold Schwarzenegger 1 as Prince Hapi. His breakthrough film was the sword-and-sorcery epic Conan the Barbarian. His most famous role is the title character in The Terminator and the sequels Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Genisys, and Terminator: Dark Fate. He has appeared in a number of other films such as Commando, The Running Man, Predator, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, True Lies, Jingle All The Way, Batman & Robin, End of Days, The 6th Day, and Collateral Damage. Ian McNeice as Colonel Kitchener. He found fame portraying government agent Harcourt in Edge of Darkness, and went on to feature in popular films and shows such as The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Rome, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Valkyrie, Doctor Who, and Doc Martin.

Mark Addy as Steaer Captain. He is known for roles including Detective Constable Gary Boyle in The Thin Blue Line and Hercules in Atlantis. He made his film debut as Dave Horsefall in The Full Monty. Other notable roles include Fred Flintstone in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, Bill Miller in Still Standing and King Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones. Rob Schneider as San Francisco Hobo. He appeared on Saturday Night Live, and appeared in films Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, The Hot Chick, The Benchwarmers, Grown Ups, The Waterboy, Little Nicky, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, and Bedtime Stories.

Luke and Owen Wilson appear as Orville and Wilbur Wright. John Cleese, Richard Branson, Maggie M. Quigley, Will Forte, and Macy Gray make cameos.

Critical Reception: The Guardian critic Rob Mackie, criticized it for having little to no resemblance to the novel it is based on. Roger Ebert praised it for its visual style and for being “goofy fun”.

My take: This is an excuse for Disney to make a Jackie Chan movie, which isn’t a bad thing. In addition to being an excellent martial artist, he is also a gifted physical comedian. Part of the fun of watching a Chan film is watching him integrate everyday objects into the action (a fight using a bench is particularly fun). Coogan plays Fogg similiar to the book, fastidious and fussy, and it actually works. I liked it more than I thought I would.

Available on Disney +?: Yes

Next Week: Gnomeo and Juliet