Okay, Disney. The Lion King (1994) is my, like, second-favorite Disney cartoon. How are you going to handle it? Hopefully with great care.
You want to change the jokes?
Great. That’s a must.
You want to give Nala some kind of “Lion Queen” status, more agency, even her very own second-tier villain?
Fine. Do that. Yay for us wimmin.
But then, you also want to take away Rafiki’s words of wisdom? You’d better have a good reason!
You know what I’m talking about… right?
Continue reading The Lion King (2019)
This was at least the second time I have watched this movie. Here are some scattered thoughts about it (no spoilers).
I like it. It’s fun. Some young people get superpowers because science! (Cue the Arthur C. Clarke quote about sufficiently advanced technology and magic.)
I liked the alternate universe of San Fransokyo.
I keep wanting to call the inflatable healthcare robot “Betamax”, even though his name is “Baymax”.
The scene where Baymax emerges in Hiro’s room for the first time really made me laugh.
The whole movie dances knowingly on the border between parody and wry self-reference: not only does the audience know that the characters are in a superhero team’s origin story, the characters do, too.
The choice of bad guy was a pleasant surprise, and the motivation they gave him made a lot of sense. He wasn’t just evil for the sake of being evil.
Hiro goes on a believable emotional journey. The movie has real heart.
Anything with an airborne joyride in it gets a thumbs up from me.
Oh, where to start. I’m stuck. I am, as it were, frozen.
Right. Well, when all else fails, go back to the beginning.
Frozen, like The Little Mermaid, is a Disney adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen story. As a child I watched the low-budget Faerie Tale Theatre Snow Queen, which is a lot closer to the Andersen story. The Disney version of the tale has some stunning visuals and one good song, but—for reasons having nothing to do with other versions—I think its story is deeply flawed.
Though some say it’s a story about the problematic relationship between two sisters, I’d say Frozen is one girl’s coming-of-age tale or rite-of-passage story. Rite-of-passage stories have a life problem, a wrong way of addressing it, and a moment of acceptance. Anna’s problem is her sister’s unwillingness to face the world. Anna spends the whole movie wrongly acting as if she can soothe her sister’s fear, and totally fails because Elsa has to master her fear herself. Anna grows up when she accepts her sister as-is. Seems simple, right? Disney went and made it all complicated.
See below for more on why I thought Frozen was disappointing, including a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
Continue reading Frozen (2013)
Disney’s Cinderella has more cat-and-mouse antics in it than us grown-ups tend to remember it having; Disney’s Robin Hood, similarly, seems to have more marching in it than I would have thought possible. It’s a charming story, though, possibly in part because of all that celebratory marching!
I love the despicable babyishness of Prince John, the adorable aspirations of the rabbit kid who wants to be just like Robin Hood, Marion’s demure wistfulness about her childhood sweetheart… and the way the snake somehow has eloquent body language despite not having a body. (Snakes are so awesome!)
Keep reading for a detailed plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat as well as a few other thoughts on the movie.
This post is part of a series on versions of the Robin Hood legend.
Continue reading Robin Hood (1973)
Beauty and the Beast is one of my four favorite Disney animated films. I love the wistfulness and bookishness of Belle, the over-the-top bluster and brawn of Gaston, and the romance that’s anything but love at first sight. The talking objects, frankly, I could do without, but the ballroom scene with its unbelievably realistic computer-generated architecture and magical blue and gold colors will never cease to be utterly breathtaking.
I don’t remember whether I saw the movie in a theater in 1991, but I know I had the VHS tape because I still do. I also have the soundtrack. I watched the relaunch with the superfluous song scene (“Human Again”) in 2002 in the IMAX Theater at Navy Pier in Chicago with my then boyfriend, now husband. I am looking forward to the 2017 live-action version with Emma Watson; I enjoyed Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016), so I assume they won’t mess up this remake either.
See below for some things I noticed on this rewatch, including SPOILERS, as well as what I learned from an entire DVD’s worth of Bonus Features.
Continue reading Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Yes, that’s a VHS tape of The Jungle Book, and I just watched it at home using my VHS player. (Nothing beats a video that starts off with “Coming Soon in 1997.” Did you know that they released the 1989 movie The Little Mermaid back into theaters that year? Best Disney movie ever.)
I have mixed feelings about the Jungle Book cartoon. On the one hand, I love watching Bagheera slink around and roll his eyes. Shere Kahn is delightful as well. The voice of Baloo is just perfect. The animation of Kaa the snake is hilarious. On the other hand, I can’t get over the fact that Kaa speaks with the totally incongruous voice of Winnie the Pooh, a character who is the opposite of sneaky and threatening, while the Mowgli in this story does absolutely nothing but sulk and giggle and sulk and giggle the entire time. The only time he makes a decision is in the tacked-on ending invented by Walt himself—about which, more later—and his use of tools is limited to the aimless swishing of various twigs.
SPOILERS, including a detailed plot summary and comparisons with the 2016 movie, below.
Continue reading The Jungle Book (1967)
I do not know how, but Disney made a fantastic cartoon mystery about gender, race and law enforcement. Oh, wait, I do know. They made it about animals instead of people, they did an amazing job of fantasy world-building, they got all the plot points in place, and they somehow made the theme explicit without—in my opinion—letting it get sickeningly didactic.
Premise: In a world where anthropomorphic mammals live together in harmony regardless of whether they are predators or prey, a bunny from a carrot-farming family becomes the first bunny police officer in the big city. Her victory turns to ashes when she’s merely made a meter-maid and tricked by a fox who’s as sly as a—well, as a fox. Meanwhile, fourteen mammals have disappeared in the city and no one knows why.
Zootopia is another full-on American movie about freedom of choice, but in this case the “be anything you want” message is tempered with uncannily realistic reminders that nobody—and no melting-pot, not even one with a utopian reputation—is perfect and that people will surprise you in both good and bad ways.
SPOILERS BELOW, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
Continue reading Zootopia (2016)