Finding Nemo (2003)
Jaws and Lady and the Tramp are the best movies ever, but it’s like talking about Citizen Kane; it’s almost embarrassing to pontificate about them because everybody has. I tried to do something a little left-of-center for the fifth film, and Finding Nemo is a nice balance. I wanted to cover terror, emotions, competition, winning, an underdog film, and comedy, so this is a little bit more wholesome and family-driven. Being able to humanize fish is a testament to the Pixar temple. The fish I love the most is Dory. No matter what path we’re on, we can all relate to feeling a little lost and scared and trying to figure out our bravery. Pixar has the ability to set up such hard-hitting emotions about the tragedies that happen in life, but then you go on an amazing adventure that gives you so much hope and optimism.
I love a dog that will open up a cap of whoop-ass on people, and how the movie predominantly takes place in the junkyard field of a house, and a car. It’s about a mother and a son, but it’s really more like a three-person play.
Every Which Way but Loose (1978)
Not to be mistaken with Any Which Way You Can. I loved this movie because it was sort of a tough-guy caper, and then you’ve got from Ruth Gordon coming down the pike. Everything about it is so ‘70s, ‘80s, blue jeans, white T-shirt, hop into my truck kind of vibe, and then there’s an orangutan named Clyde. Mayhem will ensue—and you’ve got the cool Clint Eastwood. I love when tough guys do something that’s comedic. I appreciate when people will come off the unattainable or serious pedestal and play around. I thought as a kid that it was just a fun ride. You’re looking at Clint Eastwood one second and the next you’re seeing an orangutan making armpit jokes. I used to watch it over and over again on a Betamax.
The Black Stallion (1979)
The Caroll Ballard movie is a masterpiece. I saw it when I was a young kid, and it was one of the hardest times I ever cried at a movie. The scene of him running bareback on a beach is my favorite way of cinematically portraying joy and freedom. I swear to god, I’m welling up just talking about it. I also love the moment when they’re drowning on the ship and the black stallion is submerged in the water—how terrifying that was as a kid, but also beautifully cinematic and lush. I remember being obsessed with that and The Champ. It’s just a great, great story.
Old Yeller (1957)
This film that made me cry so much. I love the backdrop, a sort of old world Western frontier, and the son and the brother relationship. Old Yeller is the greatest dog ever. The film creates a phenomenal dynamic that only a boy and his dog could ever have, and then the boy has to turn and kill that dog. It’s a harsh lesson and rakes you through the emotional coals. It’s really a story about how you can’t love, and now you love so much, and now you have to kill the thing you love. It’s very multi-layered for a Disney film.