John Lasseter and co. at Disney have a huge-ish task before them - to return the crown back in the House Of Mouse, at least where animation is concerned.
Their previous effort - "The Princess And The Frog" - went back to traditional animation but was shy from the levels of the likes of "The Lion King" and "Aladdin." Their latest, although CGI'd rather than hand drawn, is not a step in the right direction... but a huge bounding leap towards the heights that a mermaid and a beauty achieved during Disney's 2nd coming.
Yes, it's that good! You name anything that made the classics a classic and you'll see it represented up on the screen. Strong heroine: check. Non-human comedic character: check. Love interest that's more than a bland Prince Charming-type: check. Songs that actually stay with you after the film: present.
Now don't be fooled; when you list it like that it sounds a tad formulaic, but that magic set of ingredients have been lacking, unless of course the name Pixar was attached - but even they couldn't/wouldn't touch or attempt toe-tapping, smile-inducing songs. Menken who gave "The Little Mermaid" her voice and "Beauty & The Beast" their surprising falling-in-love, hits 2 home runs with "I have a dream" (comparable to Beauty's rabble-rousing "Gaston") and "Mother knows best."
And the humour is delivered in spades for all ages - TV's "Chuck" Zachary Levi does smarm for adults ("here comes the smoulder") and pratt-falls for kids (trying to be shoved into a closet whilst unconscious) but the honour must go to Max, the horse who thinks he's a bloodhound who dislikes Levi's thief to the point of obsession. When a horse sword fights a thief involving a frying pan, you know you're witnessing something bizarrely special!
A delight in all senses - animation, story, characterisation, song and humour - all that there is left to say is welcome back Mouse! Welcome back!
UK release date: 28/01/11