Tag: Disney

Classic Disney

I have always been a huge Disney fan. I love Disneyland and eagerly look forward to new animated films each year. My favorite movie is almost always animated with Tangled being in my top 5 movies of the last several years.  I love the music, artistry and characters we get in any Disney film.  As a child my favorite movies were The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

Recently I have been getting classic Disney films on netflix and watching them in order of release date.  It is a fascinating exercise.  I just finished Bambi and one of the things that stuck out to me is how dark the films all are.  All of them have near-deaths or deaths and are painted with a somewhat somber tone.  This is interesting because you would think the last thing audiences in the 30s would want is a sad picture?   Perhaps there was something cathartic about going to the cinema and seeing animated characters persevere through tough times?

For example, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi are basically all about orphans.  There is also a very clear distinction between right and wrong.  In Pinocchio you are either lying or telling the truth, no in-between half nose growth!  In Bambi there is the menace of mankind that is always bad.  There are no friendly humans.  There is just evil and good, and the evil destroys the family.  Interesting.

Snow White is perhaps the most commercial of the early pieces but it still has some unusual touches.  Just as Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi are all abandoned by their mothers, Snow White is left with no mother but one that wishes to kill her. I wonder if this is saying the people in the 30’s felt an extra need for the comfort of a mother’s nurturing, that somehow there was a void of this type of nurturing in darkness of the Great Depression?  Perhaps there were groups who wished they could fall asleep until true love saved them.  I can see how that would be a very appealing notion.

Also the dwarfs with their hard working, mining, singing ‘hi, ho’ must have been easy for a depression-era audience to relate to.  The idea of ‘whistle while you work’, a terrific notion for those that often did not have work.

Its fascinating that Disney did not produce another princess movie after Snow White until Cinderella in 1950.  Instead they proceeded to release one artistic, risky venture after another, with none of them having the same easy schtick as a Dopey or Doc in Snow White.  (They did not learn that lesson in the 90s with the ever wearisome sidekicks that muddled pictures like Pocahontas).  From all I can tell Walt Disney was a true artist as well as an entrepreneur and was not satisfied to make mere money but wanted beauty also.

Dumbo is particularly interesting especially when you consider it was released the week of Pearl Harbor.  As a modern viewer it feels very sad but it was looked at as the time as a hopeful piece. The New York Times described it as the “most genial, the most endearing, the most completely precious cartoon feature film ever to emerge from the magical brushes of Walt Disney’s wonder-working artists!”.  Strange how the tone in pieces can change when it is viewed in different eras?

I think Dumbo was hopeful because it was about someone facing insurmountable odds and becoming a star.  It is a very simple story and not much happens but someone who is different finds acceptance and success. The speech by Timothy Q Mouse to the crows must have been especially moving to a nation at war, facing a bully.   Its like Disney was talking directly to the Pearl Harbor bombers and Hitler in Europe.

“You all oughta be ashamed of yourselves. A bunch of big guys like you, pickin’ on a poor little orphan like him. Suppose you was torn away from your mother when you was just a baby. Nobody to tuck you in at nights. No warm, soft, caressin’ trunk to snuggle inta. How would you like being left out alone, in a cold, cruel, heartless woild? And why? I ask ya, why? Just because he’s got those big ears, they call him a freak. The laughing stock of the coicus. And when his mother tried to protect him, they threw her into the clink. And on top of that, they made him a clown! Socially he’s washed up! Aw, but what’s the use of talkin’ to you cold-hearted boids? Go ahead! Have your fun! Laugh at him! Kick him now that he’s down! Go on! We don’t care.”

Dumbo, like  other early films, is an artistic achievement.   Painted on watercolors it has a surrealist quality that is not found in any other Disney film.  Bambi is gorgeous using layered backgrounds and the most realistic animals that had ever been drawn (look at the difference between Snow White in 37 and Bambi and 42 and the animals are quite astounding).  Both Bambi and especially Fantasia were light on dialogue and heavy on music but as visual paintings they work.  In Fantasia they create whole ballets to classic music.

As a child I grew frustrated with Fantasia because of its lack of plot but as an adult I can appreciate it as the work of art it was intended to be.  It is remarkable to think that enough kids were interested in classical music to even justify beginning such a project.  You could never get a new movie like that made today (I know there is Fantasia 2000 but that was geared mainly to adults nostalgic for the original.).

Disney’s boldness in choice of subject, character and tone is especially interesting when you think of the small window of influence the films had.  There was no Disneyland, no large-scale product merchandising.  The film was it.  If it did not do well there were no DVD sales to back it up or large over-seas markets (especially pre WWII).  So the fact they would pick such bold and unorthodox pieces to work on is truly remarkable.

The only Disney classic that I must own to not caring for is Pinocchio.  I found it terrifying as a child, especially the part where the kids turn into donkeys.  Not that I was a lying child but its a pretty grim, scary scene!  Still, watching it as an adult I enjoyed the artistry and risk that such a film took.  The depth of the drawings and level of details are amazing. Also, the scenes inside the whale, while beautiful, are terrifying for a little girl!

I do love When You Wish Upon a Star. One of my favorite Disney songs ever.

I think such a song must have wrung true for the generation of 1940 with war, poverty and despair, a lot of wishing and hoping must have occurred daily.   In a world where we face some of these same challenges perhaps it worth while to view what uplifted them and see if it can do the same for us now?  At the very least its been an entertaining and enriching experience.   I highly recommend it!  Bambi and Dumbo go into the vault (such an obnoxious advertising technique by Disney) soon so act now while you have the chance.

What classic Disney do you like? Do you view them differently now than as a child?  What is your favorite all-time Disney movie?  Do you think we’ve lost something with the death of hand-held animation (I do)?

Snow White- 1937

Pinocchio- 1940

Fantasia- 1941

Dumbo- 1941

Bambi- 1942

Ichabod and Mr. Toad- 1949

Cinderella- 1950

Alice in Wonderland- 1951

Peter Pan- 1953

Lady and the Tramp- 1955

Sleeping Beauty- 1959

101 Dalmations- 1961

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Pixar

While I was away on break one of my most anticipated events of the summer occurred- Pixar Studios released its latest pick, Cars 2.  Unfortunately, this appears to be their first dud with a 35% rotten rating on Rottentomatoes.com.  This comes after a remarkable winning streak with 16 years of fresh movies.  Their previous low was the original Cars at 74%.

I’m actually a little sad to not have my summer Pixar movie (although I will probably see Cars 2 eventually).  As any reader to this blog knows I love movies- particularly films with good writing and interesting characters.  You wouldn’t think this would be a difficult request but of the thousands of films that come out each year it seems only a handful are truly special.

My favorite Pixar movies have it all.  The animation is stunning, the characters funny and interesting and the story is good.  Even a movie like WALL-E, which is very different still drew me in.   On Rotten Tomatoes the first two Toy Story movies have 100% fresh ratings with Toy Story III, Up, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, Wall-e, and The Incredibles all over 95%.

Part of the reason I have always felt connected to Pixar is when I was 9 0r 10 my uncle Mark worked there and gave us a video of their  animated shorts. When Toy Story came out I felt like one of the few people who knew what the jumping lamp in their logo meant because I had seen the short years earlier. We also saw Tin Toy, Red’s Dream and Knick Knack years before they were featured as introductions to various films.

It’s always fun to be ‘in the know’ before others- makes you feel special.  I know my Mom and Sister felt this way when Harry Potter became popular.  I’m not sure how she heard about it but they had been ordering the books on the UK Amazon.com for years before they hit US markets.  That was certainly a find!

Anyway, I thought I would give you my list of favorite Pixar movies and try to explain why but truly I love them all.  I will let you know what I think of Cars 2.  After all, I might like it.  Roger Ebert gave it a great review, so you never know. He actually liked it better than the original.

1.  Up- I have seen this movie so many times and it still moves me.  It is funny, sad, and tender-hearted.  Particularly the opening montage depicting a marriage is for my money the most beautiful five minutes ever in film.    The other day I was watching it at the gym and started crying (and I am not a movie crier).  It was funny because I think everyone thought I was having quite the emotional work out!

2.  Finding Nemo- I just rewatched this movie and was blown away once more.  Just the artistry is beautiful.  If you stop to watch each frame the animation of the ocean continues throughout every inch of the screen.  Every character in this movie is funny and sincere- I particularly like the sharks at fisheaters anonymous. It also has terrific voice actors, funny dialogue and a heart tugging story.  Never did a dentist look so sinister!

3. Toy Story- Great voices, endearing characters and a story pleasant for adults and children.  Are there better characters than Woody and Buzz? Teaches so many lessons about friendship and the danger of pride and competition with others. A game-changing classic.

4. The Incredibles- As previously stated in my review of Summer movies, I do not like super hero movies. Leave it to Pixar to win me over with the Incredibles.  A great movie about a family of super heroes that are living on the down-low as normal citizens.   The best part of the Incredibles is it uses the cliches while still making them work- giving us a weaselly villain, a gadget/clothing guru and action scenes mixed with humor.

5. Toy Story II- Rarely does a sequel equal the predecessor but this one does.  The great characters of the toy collector, cowgirl Jesse and the Barbies are wonderful plus the best music of any Pixar.  You would have to be made of stone to not feel emotion during Jesse’s song, When Somebody Loved Me.

6. Ratatouille- How do you make a movie about a rat and still make it appealing?  I hate rats but love Ratatouille.  Some of the best voice work in all of Pixar and a wonderful depiction of a critic with the duplicitous Anton Ego (I love how his office is a coffin!).  I really want to go to Paris someday and movies like this make me want to go even more…

7. Toy Story III- For my money the best part 3 sequel ever.    How do you take the same characters and make them engaging and funny a full 15 years after the original?  Even the Star Wars and the Godfather movies got weaker at the 3rd entry.  I love the addition of Sunnyside Daycare and all the characters and plot points that setting provides.  I also love the idea of the complicated emotions of growing up- it is exciting and sad at the same time.

8.  Bugs Life- The forgotten Pixar film but I recently rewatched it and found it funny, charming and very creative.  Great voice work and who knew grasshoppers were so evil?

9.  WALL-E- Probably the most controversial Pixar, with some loving it and others finding it a big bore.  It reminded me of an old silent movie.  I like that it didn’t tell you everything.  It just presented images and you were free as the viewer to fill in story details.  In a world where original ideas are few and far between I appreciate the gumption it took to make WALL-E.  To me it was a work of art in film-form.

10. Monsters Inc- Its strange this movie is so low on my list because I really liked it. In truth all of the Pixar movies were on my favorite movies of the year when they came out, so they are all winners.  Monsters Inc is a brilliant idea- taking the classic notion of kids fearing monsters in their closet and creating a great story.  I love the voices and dialogue of Mike and Sully.  Also, Boo is so cute.

11. Cars- I think I would have liked Cars more if it had not been about a world with only cars.  Why not make it like Toy Story where the humans don’t know the cars exist?  Its just hard to make a full spectrum of emotions with a car- partly because they don’t have arms or bodies.  I did like the story and the theme of small-town America being forgotten.  The vistas and artistry is beautiful as well as good voice work throughout.

So there is my list…Enjoy some great movies (All are available on Netflix with Toy Story III being a stream). All of these movies I could watch again and again (and I have!)

Disney’s Back: Tangled

I just wanted to do a quick shout out for Disney’s new movie Tangled.  It goes back to the Disney tradition of telling  fairy tales with princesses.  There are a few modern touches to Tangled, but none of the winking humor to adults seen in the Dreamwork’s pictures.  (I hate that- just be funny for kids and adults).  Tangled tells the old Grimms fairy tale, Rapunzel.  As everyone knows Rapunzel has magic hair so she is abducted by a witch who wants to control the magic.  As part of her control the witch hides Rapunzel in a tower where the witch emotionally manipulates her into believing this is all “for her own protection.”  The character of the witch in Tangled is great. Probably the most icy, manipulative Disney villain ever. (She will teach children to believe in their mother’s love! Does it get more evil then that?).  Her song is also wonderful. Donna Murphy has a great voice.  It is the best villain song since Poor Unfortunate Souls.  Its perfect!

The music is written by Alan Menken who penned such classics as Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.  I think the music in Tangled holds up to those high standards.  All the performances are also great.  Mandy Moore is wonderful as Rapunzel and her voice is beautiful.

Aside from the big eyes (which aren’t my favorite) the animation is great throughout Tangled.  Particularly beautiful is the scene with the lanterns.  It reminded me of the Kiss the Girl scene in The Little Mermaid.

Tangled also does a good job with the script.  The story is funny and the characters have warmth and believability (even the witch has an icy believability).   There also weren’t too many colorful sidekicks or cute critters.  (Disney’s previous offering the Princess and the Frog got had way too  many sidekicks- and plot lines- too many characters shouting and joking.  The whole picture felt cluttered, loud, and long).

I wonder if Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods was an inspiration for Tangled? While Into the Woods incorporates many fairy tales into its plot, its sly style can be seen throughout Tangled.   The witch is particularly similar to the mother in the play.  The dry wit  is also present in Tangled but as I mentioned without the humor made just for adults.  It is funny, romantic and even has enough adventure to please both boys and girls.  The characters aren’t too smartalicky.  Tangled keeps the feeling of an old fashioned fairy tale that could have been made years ago.   You almost expect there to be a book with a narrator in the beginning like they did in so many of the old Disney’s!  Its been so long since Disney has done a traditional fairy tale so I think Tangled was especially pleasing for me.  I love Disney fairy tales!

It was interesting the other day Anna and several of our friends went to dinner and began chatting about our favorite Disney films.  It was amazing how animated (ironic use of words!) the discussion got.  People feel passionately about Disney because their films  impacted our lives as children.  I will always love The  Little Mermaid because I loved it so much as a girl.  Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast are the only movies I remember seeing as a child.  I’m sure I saw many but those are the only 2 that stick in my mind.  I was mesmerized by them- by the characters, the romance, the animation and of course the music!  I am excited that with Tangled a whole new generation will have a Disney princess experience.  I hope Disney keeps up the good work and doesn’t rely only on the brilliance of  Pixar. (btw, can’t decide which I like better Tangled or Toy Story III?  Tough one!).  What Disney’s are your favorites?  The only one I don’t like is Pinocchio.  The scene where they turn into donkey’s always freaked me out. Anyone else feel that way?

Anyway, go and see it and let me know what you think.  I hope you all like it as much as I did.

California, Disney, Great Friends

Isn’t that nice of them to put an R out for my arrival! Ps. Don’t I look skinny in this picture?!

I haven’t posted for several weeks because last week I went on a trip to Southern California.  This trip was made possible by the fact I had a free ticket for which I had volunteered my seat for last year (more on that later).  Plus, my dear friend Emily Whitman agreed to be my host and let me stay in her home.  It was a wonderful trip- the perfect get-away after 2 months of relentless overtime at work!

The trip started last Monday the 22nd.  Through planning on Emily’s part we coordinated our flights so we both arrived at the airport minutes from each other.  She was coming back from visiting her mother in Texas and I of course was coming from Utah.  I admire the energy Emily had after a long day of travel.  Plus, she was such a good hostess even though she was probably exhausted from having been on vacation (I swear it takes me a week to recover!).  Her mother, Maria, also flew back with her and she was kind enough to give me her room during my stay.  Maria has a lovely home with lots of space and a very homey feel.  I can’t say enough about how accommodating and kind they were to me.

After our day for travel we relaxed and had a couple of leisurely days in the Temecula area.  On Wednesday we went to downtown Temecula where I particularly enjoyed all of the fun gourmet food stores.  We went to a root beer store (I had birch beer for the first time since living in Maryland- that brought back memories!), nut shop, cheese shop, jerky store, olive oil bar and a candy shop!  Since my entire trip was so cheap I indulged and bought some amazing vanilla and fig balsamic vinegar.  I’ve already made a salad with it and it is delicious!  They have so few independent shops like the ones in Temecula in Utah that it was a nice treat and a fun afternoon.  (my camera was out of batteries but Emily took some photos that I will post when I get them).

On Thursday and Friday Maria was kind enough to watch Emily’s little one, Jackson, so myself, Emily, and her husband Derek could go to Disneyland.  They had a special Southern California 2fer ticket where for $80 you get 2 parks in 2 days.  This is not a park hopper, so you can only do one park each day.  However, this worked out fine for us- doing California Adventure Thursday and Magic Kingdom Friday.  It was the perfect time of year to go to Disneyland.  The weather was gorgeous and the crowds manageable.  I think we only waited longer than 20 minutes once for the new Toy Story ride.

Going into the trip I wondered if I would feel a like a bit of a third wheel being a single with a couple.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Emily and Derek are such an awesome couple.  They are funny, interesting and good conversationalists.  I did not feel excluded at all.  It’s always a good experience as a singlite to watch  couples and see how they interact and gel.   Emily and Derek are very thoughtful and are always making one-another laugh.  Along with my sister Megan and her husband Seth, Emily and Derek go on the list of my favorite couples.  They also always had a smile on their face- even when waiting for me (I’m a slow walker!).

The park itself was great.  I know that some of my liberal friends feel disdain for Disney and its brand of corporate cheese it sells to children.  While I admit this is true, I still enjoy it.  I love Disney films and love Disneyland. It’s hard to even explain why.  I just think it is fun!  I even like all of the schlock cheese of  Main Street and Sleeping Beauty’s castle (I found out Sleeping Beauty’s castle is in Disneyland and Cinderella’s Castle is in Disney World).  I guess I must admit to being pretty mainstream- I love Disney and shop at big box stores like Walmart, Target and Costco.

Anyway, we had a great trip.  We were very thrifty and only ate one thing at the park- the Dole Whips at the Tiki Room.  We had to eat these because the only other place you can get them is at the Dole Plantation which is about 5 minutes from my beloved Hawaii house! (Plus, amazingly enough they were a great deal $2.79 each!).   The rest of the food at the park was exorbitantly priced.  $6.99 for a hot dog! Oh my!  Most of the time we packed a lunch and ate breakfast at the hotel.  We did go to Tony Roma’s across from the park on Friday for dinner. 

On Friday I had the treat of meeting up with my friend Melissa Noyes.  I have not seen her since July because she is a first year law student at LaVern law school in Ontario, California.  Since I was flying out of Ontario (and Emily had a baby shower on Saturday- I know the woman never sleeps!) I stayed at Melissa’s house Friday night.  Even though it was just one night it was a lot of fun to catch up with an old friend.  Melissa was my MTC companion and we have remained close ever since.  She is working so hard in law school, and I really admire her dedication to her studies.  She seemed happy and as well-adjusted as a first year law student might hope to be! I’m very excited for this June and July she is coming back to Utah for an internship with the Provo Courthouse!  It will be so much fun to have another friend close by.  (By the way, Emily and Derek might be moving to Provo so Derek can go to BYU.  We will see!  I hope they do!).

This trip was perfect in many ways.  It was very inexpensive, fun, relaxing and full of great friends. I don’t know what I did in the pre-earth life to deserve such wonderful friends.  I’m particularly grateful for the friends that have lasted the longest.  As a single person my world feels constantly in flux.  There isn’t that solid companion that others enjoy.  It is a sad reality that some, maybe most, friends come and go quite quickly.  The friends that last are worth more to me than they will ever know.  Thank you to all such people in my life and particularly thanks to Emily, Derek, Maria and Melissa for making my trip so much fun! You’all are the best!

So, I almost forgot to mention the exciting news about the plane flight.  On my way home I was able to volunteer my seat again!  This means that the following has happened:

2008- Got a free ticket to Hawaii off of my grandparents mileage plus- It was a gift for my graduation.

2009 (January)- Used the free ticket and volunteer twice on my flight home from my cruise.  That means 2 free ticket.

2009 (October)- Used one of the free tickets to visit Megan for the roommate reunion.

2010 (February)- Used last free ticket to go to Southern Cali, got another free ticket.

2010- Where will I go? and can I keep the free tickets alive!  This is now my 5th free ticket from United!  Wahoo! Plus, I volunteered for Delta once in 2008 but they don’t tend to over-book like United does.  I think I am the only person who is happy when I have a connection because it gives me more opportunity to volunteer and get free tickets.  Plus, connections usually happen at hubs which ups your chance at volunteering. I should write a book- How to Never Pay for Travel!