Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

Talking Kings and Successions

August 12, 2019

Lately, I have been thinking about the Lion King a lot. It is not because of the recently released full CGI version in theaters right now. People are all up in arms about it but I will eventually see it and form my own opinion. Actually, I have been thinking about the original Lion King movie because the music is in regular rotation on my Pandora account. Well, really, it is just two songs. I had the cassette of the soundtrack when I was a kid. The movie came out when I was about ten years old. I played that cassette until it wore out.

The song I listened to the most was “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”. It is by far the most uptempo, fun song musically in the whole movie. The other song I listen to a lot now that I’m older is “Be Prepared”. I’ve felt that I love the villain songs more and more as I have gotten older. I still love both songs but recently I have realized they are kind of the same song from different angles. I will warn you that this post is now going to get a little political but not really specific to our current climate. Although, you can draw your own conclusions. Also, Lion King spoilers.

“I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is a song sung by young Simba as he plays with Nala. He sings the song mostly as a way to distract his chaperone, Zazu, the King’s advisor so that he and Nala can sneak away to explore the Elephant Graveyard. Zazu and the King have forbidden he go there but he cannot help himself. He sings about how excited he is to become King (leaving out the part where his father needs to die in order for that to happen). He thinks about how he won’t be pushed around anymore when he is in charge. He will be free from responsibility now that nobody will be in charge of him.

This is the short-sighted thinking similar to your average political candidate. Someone who is excited to have the glory of a leadership position but does not think of the burdens. I think this is obvious to most viewers. Simba has no plan on how he will rule as the only monarch in a large area of Africa. He is thinking of freedom and legacy and glory and no responsibility. Zazu and his father continuously try to rein him in. The King’s subjects join in the song but mainly because of fun and because when the prince sings, you join in.

“Be Prepared” is a song sung by Scar, the King’s brother and Simba’s uncle. He is the villain of the movie, heavily inspired by Claudius in Hamlet. The song is a literal command to his secret hyena army. He is telling them of his plan of regicide and succession. As soon as the King is dead, the hyenas need to be ready to protect Scar’s claim to the throne. Scar knows how people think about him and needs the extra muscle to support his new regime.

It is clear that Scar also has no clear plans on ruling the Pridelands. I mean, he certainly has sinister plans but no plans on how to rule efficiently. It is clear that he does not want to burn everything down (even though that is how it ends up). He wants fawning subjects and glory. He wants the easy life of luxury that only a successful monarch gets. When we find him later in the story after he has gotten what he wanted, he has screwed it up and has already descended into madness.

The thing is, at the time that both songs take place, neither Simba or Scar would have made good leaders. Obviously, Mufasa was a great leader and everybody was weirdly happy with his bloody rule as a predator over the Pridelands. However, Mufasa was not an option anymore as Scar and the hyenas had to go and kill him. If Simba stayed in the Pridelands and had been tapped to become King, he would have been out of his depth even with the help of his mother, Zazu, and Rafiki. This was actually explored in Kingdom Hearts 2 showing the events soon after the end of the movie where Simba has a crisis of confidence because he does not have the wisdom to lead. So neither choice was especially good and this is why rulers should not be murdered. As if Julius Caesar had not already taught us that.

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Snow White’s (Scary) Adventures

August 5, 2019

Recently, I have been watching shows like Defunctland and Yesterworld and I am starting to branch out from there to like-minded shows. All of these shows delve into the history of theme parks and their rides and attractions. They mostly explore those attractions that have been removed from theme parks. As I explained in my review of Defunctland, they explore things through business decisions, tactical decisions, and creative decisions. All of these decisions effect each other, obviously. It has been endlessly fascinating and has inspired me a lot in my own creative choices. However, it has also served another purpose. It has let me know in great detail that my memory was correct when I was scared by rides.

I have spoken before on a particular nemesis of mine when I was a little child but let us set the scene a little more. There was a time before my brothers when I spent a lot more time taking joint vacations with my mom, my uncle, and my cousin, Brantley. Brantley is the oldest of the cousins on my mom’s side and over time she became a sort of leader when there were eventually six of us. Early on, there were just the two of us though and she and I were fast friends. I remember in particular a visit to New York City together and a visit to Walt Disney World. The visit to the Magic Kingdom (aka the real happiest place on Earth) had a lasting effect on me even though I cannot remember a lot of it now.

Disney parks are an experience as many of the good theme parks are. When you enter, you are entering another world, a self-contained city of pure entertainment. There is so much to do that you could spend a week there and not finish doing absolutely everything. It has always been this other world that I have been interested in and not exactly the actual thrill rides. I do not remember riding Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or any of the particularly big rides. I know we went on some of the more sedate rides for sure. I vividly remember It’s A Small World and I am strangely not very annoyed by the song now because I was inoculated to it young. I think I almost remember going on the Jungle Cruise which seems like it would be a fun time. Journey Into Imagination is an attraction that has really stuck with me. I remember going on Pirates of the Carribean and getting scared while in line but once the ride started, I was enamored by the fun scenes unfolding in front of me.

When Disney created the Fantasyland section of the park, they wanted to adapt their movies based on popular fairytales. That is why the icons of Disneyland and Disney World are both storybook castles (Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella respectively). They ended up creating a bunch of rides based on Disney animated movies where the riders took the place of the main character of the movie. (Which ended up flooding the park with complaints). When I visited in the early nineties, one of those rides is the focus of this post: Snow White’s Adventure. While on the trip, at some point my mother and my uncle went off to do something. In order to occupy we children, we were put on one of the dark rides. How scary could Snow White be? Well, there is a reason why they changed the name of the ride to The Scary Adventures of Snow White in 1994.

The ride would not be so bad if they had simply followed the movie. Instead, they made it into a straight horror movie. Instead of only showing up once, the Wicked Witch (the Evil Queen in disguise) shows up tons of times. Her animatronic jumps out at the riders over and over, cackling with murderous glee. Among other things, she tries to offer the riders the iconic poison apple, tries to ram them with a minecart, tries to attack them head-on, and finally tries to smash them with a giant boulder. She is more like Wile E. Coyote than the sneaky witch she is in the movie. My little heart could not take it. The relentless witch and the ominous darkness of the ride sent me into full-on panic mode. I ended up covering my eyes and crouching down into the vehicle to make myself as small as possible. If I had even thought of coming back up for air, I swear I heard the witch cackle and call out “Don’t Cover Your Eyes, Sweetie!”

I swear that last part happened even though I cannot find it anywhere on the Internet. In fact, the first results in google are my own blog from a previous claim I made. Still, I have irrefutable and well-researched evidence that proves that the ride was scary. Many people have backed up those words and I have now seen plenty of footage. The witch was relentless and hilariously and needlessly aggressive. I look back and laugh now but I was pee-my-pants scared during that ride. I really believe that it was one of the formative moments that led to me being a fan of the Horror genre. Which is not to say that I was scarred by the experience but maybe somewhat inspired.

I do not blame the Imagineers who made the ride for making it scary. In fact, that was kind of a theme in Fantasyland. The rides there were scarier than the Haunted Mansion ever was. Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan’s Flight were originally also pretty scary. It is alright to scare children a bit. A little darkness shows them about the world in a safe way. I also don’t blame my mother as she had no idea and was there to hug me afterward and assure me that it was going to be alright. I was in the sunshine and everything was safe. At least, safe from the Evil Queen and all the imaginary horrors that would become an obsession later in life.

Media Update 7/11/19

July 11, 2019


Defunctland

I am one of the biggest fans of amusement parks who also does not really like going on rides. I did not like them as a kid and I have shied away from them ever since. However, I am a huge nerd when it comes to the construction and design of amusement park rides, attractions, and haunted houses. Recently, I discovered this YouTube documentary series which charts the rise and fall of amusement park elements and whole parks. It explores the creation and destruction of rides and attractions that range from the nostalgic to the super obscure. The show tackles all of the creative, bureaucratic, and logistical decisions that led to each subject and their demise. For example, the series charts the entire career of Michael Eisner, a household name from my childhood. While the series is largely Disney-based so far, it also covers Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and some more obscure independent parks and attractions. There are also two companion series in the form of DefunctTV and podcasts. The podcasts are often hour-long interviews with people like puppeteers, Imagineers, urban explorers, cultural historians, and many other experts in their fields. DefunctTV is a series of deep dives on now-defunct television shows, usually involving puppets. They are currently telling the entire history of the Jim Henson Company from Sam and Friends currently up to the Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and everything in between. I definitely recommend this series.


Slasher

I love horror movies and the slasher movie is part of the popularity and longevity of the horror genre by giving the genre a boost in the seventies. This show is a tribute to that subgenre with each season exploring a different story about a costumed serial killer. Each season also has to do with the main characters having to deal with the buried past and what happens when that past comes back to haunt you. I am currently on the first season which concerns The Executioner and it definitely feels like a comfortable tribute to horror. There are elements of The Silence of the Lambs, Scream, Halloween, Sleepaway Camp, and Prom Night. The show definitely has both horror and mystery elements as the main characters try to figure out who the killer is and who will be targeted next. As a horror buff, I do not find the show to be very scary as the jump scares are not frequent. However, there is definitely quite a bit of gore in some of the kills. Not insane amounts but a few so far have surprised me a bit. The show has a great ensemble cast but a special shout out to star Katie McGrath who struggles between playing detective and running from her past believably. I definitely recommend this one too.


Agatha and the Truth of Murder

It took me a long time to do so but recently I finally read some Agatha Christie books and now I see why she is so iconic. While not all of her books are for me, I recognize that she is one of the true giants who helped grow the Mystery genre. A while ago I discovered the famous tale about 11 days that were missing from Agatha Christie’s life. She had apparently blacked out and could not remember where she had been for nearly two weeks. This urban legend has now been proven false by historians. The truth is that Christie checked into a spa for that time while trying to mentally deal with her failing marriage. This movie tells a story trying to fill in those 11 days by sending Christie on a real-life murder case. The story dips into the real reasons behind her disappearance but in a more fanciful, positive way. The movie starts slowly with a lot of nods toward Christie’s early career. I was about ready to give up on the movie but then it kicked into gear and I ended up really liking it. It plays with a lot of Agatha Christie tropes and archetypes but also real-life criminal investigations. Ruth Bradley is a great, spirited Agatha Christie who learns how to turn things around in her darkest hour. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Billie Eilish – ilomilo

Logic – 1-800-273-8255 ft. Alessia Cara, Khalid

Blue October – How to Dance in Time

Chloe x Halle – The Kids Are Alright

Ed Sheeran – BLOW (with Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars)

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Digging Up the Past”
– I watched more Game of Thrones Season 3
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more How to Get Away With Murder Season 1
– I watched more Losers Season 1
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I finished Legends of Tomorrow Season 4
– I started watching Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I started watching Designated Survivor Season 3

Media Update 19.6.6

June 6, 2019


Aladdin (2019)

If you have paid attention to this blog, you will know that I have an intensely personal relationship with the original animated Aladdin. I watched it once on heavy drugs in an ICU and it was one of the main reasons that I became a Robin Williams fan before I was old enough to listen to his standup. I love that movie and because of that, I was intrigued and not dismayed when the live action adaptation was announced. When Will Smith was announced as the Genie, I actually thought it was pretty perfect casting. Nobody was ever going to out-Robin Williams the original so they had to go a different direction. Like the original Genie evolved from Williams’ stand up, this new Genie is very much an extension of Will Smith’s acting. In that regard, he created a likable and different character with the same heart. Mena Massoud’s Aladdin had all the charm of the original and, if possible, was even more animated in my eyes. My favorite part of the new version is Naomi Scott’s Jasmine who was given way more to do in this version and comes out as a better character. The rest of the cast is really good as well. Overall, the movie was definitely not bad and was just a bit different from the original. There were some things added and some things taken away. I definitely recommend it but only if you have an open mind.


The Greatest Showman

When I found out that there was a movie musical coming out starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Effron, and Zendaya, I was immediately interested. On top of that, it was a musical about the genesis of PT Barnum’s Circus. While that story is not actually all sunshine and roses, I was on board for a sanitized version. I love the circus aesthetic (even after working for one) and the poppy music in the trailer sounded good. Hugh Jackman was so, so likable as Barnum and he has such a good singing voice and a smile that is hard to resist. Zendaya had a smaller role than I wanted her to have but she was really good. Effron had a darker role than I expected but he was also really great in his role. Michelle Williams was kind of a surprise with how prominent and good her character was. There was also an ensemble of literal ‘freaks’ many of whom were given great supporting roles. I would say that the movie went on a little long for me but they had to jam a lot of songs into it so I understand. This led to me not really knowing where the movie was going next as the storyline I thought it had was accomplished very early in the movie. Overall, it was a good movie but not as good as I expected it to be. I definitely recommend it, though.


The Accountant

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it looked pretty good. I am a Ben Affleck fan and it looked like a thoughtful action movie. What it turned out to be is part mystery, part crime film, and part action film. It was way more thoughtful than I thought it would be. I should have realized that a movie called The Accountant would have some thought behind it. The movie is about a criminal tracking criminals while also being tracked himself so the movie has layers. Affleck is interesting since he is playing a man on the autistic spectrum who uses savant skills to accomplish all of his goals. JK Simmons plays a hardened Department of the Treasury investigator and is always great. Anna Kendrick plays a dorky normal accountant who balances out Affleck’s flat delivery. Jon Bernthal plays a very charismatic and charming hitman and was kind of my favorite character. Jeffrey Tambor plays Affleck’s mentor briefly. John Lithgow plays a somewhat hardened CEO. I definitely recommend the movie as it was really interesting.

Music of the Week:
Blackbriar – Snow White and Rose Red

Lil Pump – “Be Like Me” ft. Lil Wayne

PUP – Kids

Carly Rae Jepsen – Too Much

Psychedelic Horseshit – We’re Pink Floyd, Bitch

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Lying”
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 2
– I watched more Tuca and Bertie Season 1
– I watched more Game of Thrones Season 2
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I watched more Charmed Season 1
– I started watching Supergirl Season 4
– I started watching Legends of Tomorrow Season 4

Zombies (2018)

April 30, 2019

(I just realized that I am starting and ending this month on a Disney musical)

Anyone who actually reads this blog regularly knows that I am a huge fan of Halloween and supernatural-themed fiction. Recently, I was thinking about a post I wrote on this day in 2015 as part of this event. I had talked then about how I did not really care for zombie movies as they were slow and plodding like the monsters that inhabit them. I guess I also felt that fiction about infection and loss of self were not quite my cup of tea. However, I have developed a policy of not dismissing categorizations of entertainment out of hand. I hate when people put down what I like so I owe it to all of the zombie fans out there to keep sampling things to see if I can find something I like. So far, I have actually been successful. Last Halloween I watched Train to Busan and I a couple Halloweens ago I fell in love with the Red Snow franchise and the television show iZombie. Just this year there are two zombie moves coming out that I actually really want to see. One is Little Monsters which is a movie about a kindergartner teacher who has to deal with zombies. The other is The Dead Don’t Die which has an all-star cast and is opening Cannes.

I am also a huge fan of Disney. I grew up reading Disney storybooks, watching Disney movies, and singing along to Disney soundtracks. I was just the right age for the dawn of Disney Channel Original Movies and I ended up watching a lot of them. At some point, I dropped off but when I worked up in New Jersey, I was often furloughed for two months in January and February. I spent a lot of time back in Baltimore and I helped around my mom’s house. This meant that I was alone in the house a lot during the day. I ended up watching a lot of Disney Channel because it was upbeat and it kept my depression at bay. So it was that I ended up watching a lot of musicals on Disney. Yes, I watched the High School Musical series and many others. It is when I discovered a love of pop music. More recently, I have watched the Descendants franchise which was basically made for somebody like me. I do not have cable television anymore but from time to time I do check on the big events to keep up with things. I missed this one but I guess it is time to remedy that.

I really liked the comic book-style opening which gives the exposition (speaking of iZombie). If I have to sit through exposition, I prefer for it to be pretty instead of a wall of text. Since it is Disney, the art direction has a particular look but it feels like this one went even further. Since this is a movie about culture clash, the movie takes the same tactic as Crybaby and makes the two cultures look radically different. Zombies are poor and punk while normal people are straight and clean. The movie actually did feel a bit like a John Waters musical. The acting is very on the nose and straightforward while also being pretty corny. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is also Disney so while the zombies are stated as having eaten brains in the past, they have largely resolved that problem. Also, zombies are no longer rotting and are instead pale with bright green hair. This is good as otherwise there would be human/zombie interaction with zombies having body parts falling off.

The music is pretty good if you like Disney pop music. Modern pop groups and Disney musicals have set a precedent for signing and dancing because they inspire people to try it at home. This is a great thing as it allows fans to get involved. I watched a “Sing Along” version of the movie and it really helped to get into the songs. The movie stars Meg Donnelly as a pretty self-aware young human girl who aspires to be a cheerleader and fit in. It also stars Milo Manheim as a zombie who is kind of dumb but likable. Trevor Tordjman plays one of the villains, an egomaniac male cheerleader who is ruthless. Carla Jefferey plays Donnelly’s best friend and she plays the nerdy, excited best friend so well. Kylie Russell plays Manheim’s best friend and she is the perfect example of a student (zombie) activist. The rest of the cast is great at being funny character actors.

Overall, I thought it was a good movie. It was a lot of goofy fun with poppy, upbeat music, and upbeat acting. People complain about the Disney formula but why fix what is not broken. The movie gives a pretty good message of tolerance which is a good thing to show to young audiences. It also shows that no matter how far we go, there will always be prejudiced people. For a poppy teen movie, it also showed some subtlety in how the “other” are treated. It is a pleasant enough movie with some catchy tunes and some funny acting.

(Written on 4/29/19 – Cutting it Close, huh?)

The Nightmare Before Christmas

April 16, 2019

(SPOILER ALERT for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Go watch it and come back or read on at your own risk)

I am a huge fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas. I have written about the movie several times before. Last year, during the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I started a tournament bracket for best Disney Animated film and I took Nightmare Before Christmas all the way to the finals and the movie won the whole thing. You can find those words in the First Round, Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals, and Finals. Basically, I talked about how I have dealt with both anxiety and depression in my life and how the movie mirrored a lot of moments in my life. I also talked about how Danny Elfman’s music was probably the best he will ever achieve in this movie. I also related how I had experienced my own job-based depression and I learned to better balance my life and work. I also finally found a job that I love doing which allows me to kick ass by day and be creative by night. I am almost always thinking about this movie in one way or another so I want to express some of that.

A thought I literally had last night as I was driving home from work was sparked by the lyrics of “Town Meeting Song”. The song suddenly resonated with me even more when I realized a few things. First, I feel like the song is mostly about cultural differences but I will set that aside for the moment. The song takes place about halfway through the movie and Jack has just arrived back from Christmas Town. He is bubbling over with excitement about this huge discovery that he has made. Then he tries to explain something that he does not fully understand himself. He talks too quickly and when his audience does not get it, he keeps plowing forward instead of going back to clarify. This is so relatable. The more excited I am, the more I tend to ramble and throw things out there. It is excitement through the lens of anxiety. When I have a moment to breathe and maybe write things out, I do so much better at explaining everything in a linear manner. Part of the real emotional conflict of the movie begins here.

Even if Jack explained himself better, his endeavor would probably still be doomed. Jack loves Christmas because it is a shiny new toy but he does not really understand it himself. He proves that in “Jack’s Obsession” when he experiments and tries experiments to dissect Christmas. As I got older, I grew to appreciate this scene better. Jack is trying too hard. Christmas is not world peace or famine relief. It is a holiday intended to be a simple and good time. Sometimes you just learn to enjoy things by taking a deep breath and a break and coming back to things later. I have solved a lot of my problems by letting my mind wander and coming back to things. A problem that had bested me previously was now something I easily dominated. Jack also isolates himself from everybody else in the town. Sometimes another perspective can help you figure out a problem. Another set of eyes could have been just what Jack needed.

Continuing along that line of thinking, I was trying to think of what Jack could have done to actually succeed at his mission in this movie. He clearly got the citizens of Halloween Town excited about the possibilities of Christmas but he was having trouble getting everybody to see his vision. At first, I thought that Jack should have taken the townspeople in small reconnaissance groups to actually show them Christmas Town. That way they would have actually seen and understood what Jack was telling them about. Then I realized how stupid that idea was. It is just spreading the problem around. The secondary conflict of this movie is between Jack’s vision of Christmas and the rest of the world’s vision of Christmas. In order for Jack to succeed, those two visions should be one. If he had actually stopped to talk with Santa Claus then he could have set up a cultural exchange between the two towns. Of course, that would have stopped him from having a huge life event that allowed him personal growth and allowed him to overcome the main conflict of the story.

Of course, he does not stop and talk to Santa Claus because he does not believe he needs to. I feel that this is because he has a confidence problem stemming from depression. Jack has been the King of Halloween for a long, long time. We are never told but I always thought it was probably since the advent of the holiday (whatever that means). He has gotten really good at his job which means that everybody is always looking to him for guidance and saying what a good job he is doing. Part of his depression is that he is disinterested in his job because he is too good at it. He discovers Christmas and is happy at a possible new challenge. However, he is still stuck in that mindset where he is the king of all he sees. So he dives into Christmas with overconfidence. Shaking loose from depression is not that easy and he literally crashes and burns. It is only when he accepts who he is and learns to not be complacent that he truly starts to find happiness.

So those are a few thoughts I have had recently and I hope they let you love this movie a little bit more. Please tell me what you think about The Nightmare Before Christmas or tell me why I am wrong about it being the best Disney movie.

 

(Written on 4/11/19)

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (2009)

April 2, 2019

When Saving Mr. Banks came out in 2013, it renewed public interest in Disney history. It feels like back then, the public did not have as much backstage information as we do now. While I am not interested in that sort of information ahead of seeing a movie, I am intensely interested in all of that information. I especially enjoyed the movie’s depiction of the Sherman Brothers, two guys I did not really know about before the movie came out. The Sherman Brothers seemed like blue-collar guys who worked a long time at banging out songs for Disney and eventually for other studios. At the time, this documentary was suggested to me to learn more about them but I never got a hold of it. While I was looking at The Aristocats as a movie to watch this month and also after watching Mary Poppins Returns, my interest was renewed. Thankfully, streaming has gotten better and more accessible and I could now easily rent the documentary.

The Sherman Brothers spent the majority of their careers and in fact their lives working for Walt Disney. Among other awards, they won two academy awards both for Mary Poppins. However, even some huge Disney fans like did not realize how prolific they were. They are most famous for stuff like Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Parent Trap, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Winnie the Pooh, and also the Disney park attractions It’s a Small World and The Enchanted Tiki Room. But the documentary stunned me pretty quickly by pointing out that they also wrote a hit song for Ringo Starr. Also, outside of Disney, they wrote the music for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Snoopy Come Home, and Charlotte’s Web. Those are just the cream of the crop selections. Their work together was so much more than that. They wrote hit songs, they scored whole movies and put a lot of the soul into very good films. They also did a bunch of stage musicals. However, they are most known for films and they still hold the record for most scored musical films. They also hold the record for most performed song of all time for It’s a Small World.

Their story is a reminder that, under the surface, Disney is not always the saccharine sweet world that appears to be. Two guys who worked together for most of their life ended up having a fractured personal relationship with each other even as their professional relationship flourished. Part of what made them successful was their clashing personalities. In fact, the two of them come off as two sides of the same coin to me. Dick Sherman was fairly manic and enjoyed more positive and optimistic songs. Bob Sherman was a little dourer and lowkey and had more of a traditional writer’s soul and embraced tragedy more. Maybe each was inspired differently from one of their most formative experiences, the US Army during World War II. Dick was drafted into the Army and spent his entire tour of duty working with the Army Glee Club and the USO and never even left the United States. On the other hand, Bob enlisted at age 17 and ended up getting shot in the knee and sent home with a Purple Heart and in a severe amount of pain.  He was one of the first American soldiers to walk into Dachau.  However, even if they did not like each other, they always pushed each other and supported each other.

The story of the two brothers is supported by the great production values I have come to expect from Disney. The first big thing is that they were able to secure the rights to most (if not all) of their music. That allowed them to underscore each little part of their story with a song from their vast music library. Much like the songs’ original purpose, the songs help tell their story in an emotional way. It also serves to astonish with how much they contributed to projects I knew about and ones I had never even heard of. It also highlights how much their songs were influenced by what they went through in their lives. Additionally, the movie was high profile enough to get big names to talk about how the Sherman Brothers influenced them. I was astonished to see John Williams pop up and comment on two fellow film composers, giving them a lot of credit for what American movies sounded like. Same goes for Randy Newman, Kenny Loggins, and Alan Menken. Of course, performers like Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews get to talk as their careers owed a lot to the brothers. Same goes for Hayley Mills who also benefitted from the brothers’ songs.

Of course, the center of this documentary are interviews with the brothers themselves. Both Bob and Dick were still alive when this movie was made and it is so good that they could get their story down on film in their own words. This was made possible through the efforts of their children who got together years into their own lives, feeling too much distance from each other because their fathers were estranged. Everybody involved was interested in telling a complete story, with both the good parts and the uglier parts. And frankly, the ugly parts could have been way worse. The story also makes clear how many lives the brothers changed with their music. Mary Poppins alone changed people for all time and is still changing people generations later. It also shows how infused they were with the Disney spirit and how much they influenced that same Disney spirit for the better. They attacked their work with enthusiasm and it really shows.

Overall, I loved this movie. The movie paced itself and told their story beat by beat without going over the top in celebrating two people that I could spend two hours gushing about. It is really inspiring to see how their minds and process worked. They really were compliments for each other, with the dark meeting the light and joining together for something great.  Their creativity came from conflict which is astonishing.  They created a lot of stuff for family entertainment but it had heart, soul, and intelligence.

(Written on 3/30/19)

The Aristocats (1970)

April 1, 2019

Except for a single dog when I was little, our family was always a cat family. We got our first cats while we were on a family trip to visit a Great Aunt who we were not particularly close with. I only really remember two trips. During one trip we got a Nintendo Game Boy and on another trip, my two brothers and I each got a kitten. Pretty strange now that I think back on it. I wonder if my parents were even notified ahead of time. Anyway, we were pretty young and we each got a kitten. We were not the most imaginative little kids so we named them Andrew (mine), Blondie, and Baby. Baby stayed with us the longest and was the only cat who left us due to natural causes. We had plenty more cats over the years. Hans, Everest, Velvet, and many more. Sadly, many of them ran away and more than one was hit by a car. We were city kids but we did not have the heart to keep them inside and they lived full lives before they met their untimely demises. Still, we really liked our cats and they loved us in the way cats do.

Anybody who reads this blog or browses my archives should know by now that I love Disney. Pretty much anything they do is up my alley. Even the less good stuff is more enjoyable than the output of other companies. This movie was one that I had missed during my childhood probably because of the way the Disney vault works. For those not aware, the Disney vault was a policy where Disney would only sell copies of their animated movies for a limited time before hiding them away again in order to drive up demand. Thanks to streaming, that policy has now ended. Anyway, I always loved the older animated films because of their use of accessible, commercial jazz and show tunes. Movies like The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, and Oliver and Company were a bit jazzier than the run of the mill Disney Princess film (not that those weren’t great too). When I saw that the Aristocats has more of a swinging jazz soundtrack, I wanted to check it out. It makes sense, this was the last movie with music written by the Sherman Brothers. (More on them tomorrow).

So the first thing I noticed was that they brought Maurice Chevalier out of retirement to sing the opening song during the opening credits. This is something akin to what Disney would do later by having Dr. John sing the opening song to The Princess and the Frog. The movie is full of great, memorable characters. The star of the movie is no doubt Eva Gabor. She and her sister Zsa Zsa had distinct accents that just immediately screams class and sophistication. Her kindness just shines through her voice. Phil Harris plays the alley cat who comes to the rescue. He has such a fun and laid back voice that I could have heard him talk much longer than he did. He is a Disney veteran as he was both Baloo and Little John. The three child actors did well. Their voices and animation made them really come to life as both kittens and children. The other big standout voice is Scatman Crothers who is doing a Louis Armstrong impression. Apparently,. Louis Armstrong was supposed to do the part but was too sick and Crothers filled in. Still, having Phil Harris, Maurice Chevalier, and Scatman Crothers in the same movie is a great musical achievement in itself.

The animation is really beautiful, not only for the time. While the technology back then was leagues behind where we are now, drawing talent never really changes. I had always thought that this movie was just standard fare, similar to the art style of movies like The Rescuers. However, a lot of the art direction looks like Toulouse Lautrec artwork I saw in the Louvre. I definitely saw some nods to earlier animation, though. For example, the cats look similar to Figaro of Pinnochio and Dinah of Alice in Wonderland. However, they do not look like Lucifer from Cinderella so maybe cats can be matched by alignment. An interesting theory. The art is paired up with some great music. As I suspected, there is some great jazz and some great show tunes each showing a different world. The jazz was inspired by greats like Louis Armstrong and Herbie Hancock and it is definitely very playful. The show tunes are more in the style of musicals like the Sound of Music, prim and proper but pleasant.

Overall, I loved this movie. It was a sweet little movie in the classic Disney style. There is just so much positive energy in the movie that it is hard not to smile. However, it is not too saccharine sweet like the Sound of Music. It just felt like a good movie with a pleasant story filled with pleasant characters. The villains are even more comical than cruel. It has so many cute moments and some genuine laughs that it earns. It shows that Disney always had a way about it, a tradition they continue to follow. All of it is tied together with great artwork, good music, and interesting voice actors. Well, except for the racist Chinese caricature.

(Written 3/29/19)

Media Update 3/14/19

March 14, 2019


Captain Marvel

I was not a huge fan of Carol Danvers growing up but I think for good reason. Writers did not know how to use her and used her too infrequently. When Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy, and Emma Rios had their run on Captain Marvel with Jamie McKelvie’s redesign, they breathed new life into the character. This was the first time she called herself Captain Marvel and was the birth of a whole new fandom, the Carol Corps. After that, I really loved the character and when they announced this movie, I was excited. This movie absolutely does justice to the spirit of that character. Part of that is the absolute brilliance of Brie Larson in the lead role. She is just so charismatic and perfect in the role. It also does not hurt that we have Samuel L. Jackson as a younger Fury as her co-star. We also get great performances from Jude Law, Anette Benning, Lashana Lynch, and Ben Mendelsohn. Like most big Marvel releases, I saw this with my friends in a theater and I spent the thing either grinning or laughing the entire time. It was such a great adventure from beginning to end. This was a movie that cannot be denied. I cannot wait to see where they take this character next both in Avengers: Endgame and hopefully beyond. For now, I will bask in the joy of this movie. I wholeheartedly recommend it.


Battle Angel Alita

I was wary of another live-action anime adaptation but I heard some good buzz. I really liked the interesting mix of CGI and live action that created a somewhat unique art design for this movie. This is a world where humans coexist with cyborgs. Cyborgs are accomplished with a combination of CGI and practical effects. Similar to Astroboy, there are a sky city and a dirty city below which is a pretty common trope in science fiction. However, they pull off a gritty and lawless future city very well. This is a collaboration between two famous directors. The first is James Cameron who has awesome technical know-how but went artistically bankrupt a while ago. The second is Robert Rodriguez, a guy who was able to figure out this script and utilize the technical wizardry to create spectacle that also has a good story. Rosa Salazar plays the title character and her voice acting and motion capture are so charming. Christoph Waltz is on top of his game as usual as the hardened but kind mentor. Mahershala Ali gets to play an insidious and sneaky villain. Jackie Earle Haley plays to his strengths of being a psychotic villain. Jennifer Connelly plays a bitter and cynical woman. I also liked some smaller performances from Idara Victor and Keean Johnson. The animation moves seamlessly with the live action stuff and it all follows a great little story about self-discovery and the warrior’s way. I definitely recommend it.


Mary Poppins Returns

Over and over, I have proclaimed on this blog to be a big Disney nerd which is easier to be now that Disney basically owns everything. Mary Poppins is a movie I remember well from my childhood and I still listen to the music from it to this day. The Sherman Brothers were an amazing songwriting team. So when a sequel was announced, I was definitely interested in it. The trailer made the movie look a lot like the original. The original was whimsical but it had a lot to say about its characters, mostly the Banks family. This movie picks up the story years later with the Banks children now grown up and Michael has three kids of his own. Emily Blunt is an awesome Mary Poppins, strict but fun, confusing but enlightening. She is every bit the enigma she was in the original movie. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays a lamplighter who used to be Burt’s apprentice (with the same ludicrous accent). The three children are delightful as Michael and Jane were. Ben Whislaw plays Michael Banks, a befuddled and clumsy artist who is just trying to keep his family afloat. Jane (played by Emily Mortimer) has inherited her mother’s activist spirit and is supporting the labor unions. The music is so good. It feels like the Sherman Brothers songs and yet feels new as well. I was also really happy to see hand-drawn animation again. Not that I hate CGI but a movie like this just deserved a return to classic Disney animation. The art style felt like the original but with a little extra polish that new filming technology inherently brings with it. I definitely recommend this movie.

 

Music of the Week:

Wiley, Sean Paul, Stefflon Don – Boasty ft. Idris Elba

Bailey Bryan – Perspective

The Cranberries – All Over Now

Hozier – Dinner & Diatribes

Dorothy – Missile

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Women Heroes”
– I finished Fate/Apocrypha Season 2
– I finished Carmen Sandiego Season 1
– I finished Unsolved: Biggie and Tupac
– I finished The Umbrella Academy
– I finished Lorena
– I started Grimm Season 5
– I watched more Lucifer Season 3
– I watched more The Seven Deadly Sins Season 3
– I watched more Russian Doll Season 1
– I watched more Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 1

Top 11 Favorite Disney Villains Pt. 2

November 3, 2018

We now return you to regularly scheduled programming.

Top 11


5 Ursula (The Little Mermaid 1989)

Ursula was a sea witch who lived near the kingdom of Atlantica somewhere under the sea. From the looks of it, she lived on the outskirts of the kingdom where few people dared to go. She lived among the bottom feeders and decay of the ocean. She lived there because she had been banished by King Triton, the ruler of Atlantica. Her crimes are unexplained but, based on her actions during the plot of the film, she probably deserved her banishment. Even so, she has plotted her revenge against Triton for a long time. She is a practicer of magic and, like Dr. Faciler above, has great power to make magical bargains with merfolk. She is akin to a crossroads demon. Through the power of the bargain, she has been able to punish merfolk who were foolish enough to leave Atlantica to visit her. She makes magical bargains with these poor unfortunate souls and when they cannot hold up their end of the bargain, she is able to transform them into helpless sea polyps. Eventually, she targets Triton’s youngest daughter Ariel who wishes to connect with the human world. She agrees to transform Ariel into a human in order to pursue Prince Eric but she stacks the deck in her favor by taking Ariel’s voice in the bargain. Without the gift of speech, Ariel finds it more difficult to make a true connection with the object of her affection. When Ariel comes close to beating the odds, Ursula uses her magic to hypnotize Eric to win the wager. She then uses Ariel as a bargaining chip in order to take Triton’s power. Now having succeeded in her revenge, she remains petty and tries to kill Eric and Ariel and that leads to her getting killed in the tussle. If she had simply gone back to the sea and consolidated her power, she could have easily killed Ariel, Eric, and the rest of both royal families.


4 Jafar (Aladdin 1992)

Jafar was the Royal Vizier of Agrabah, a Middle Eastern-flavored land ruled over by a Sultan. In many Muslim countries, the Vizier is a high-ranking political advisor and Jafar had somehow made sure to ascend to this position. He was the Sultan’s most important adviser and he wielded great political power acting often as the Sultan’s voice. Based on what we know of the Sultan from the film, Jafar may have been the most direct cause of the disparity between economic classes in Agrabah. While it is not completely his fault, he has an obvious disdain for the working class and the poor and probably never did anything to help. He uses the country’s rules to help him manipulate the Sultan into making decisions favorable to Jafar’s plans of domination and power. His magic seems to be derived mostly from researching and obtaining enchanted objects. Eventually, his goal becomes to find the legendary Cave of Wonders where he will find a genie who will grant his wishes for the power to achieve his goals of domination. When that plan initially fails, he becomes desperate and tries to force marriage on the Sultan’s daughter, Jasmine, in order to inherit the power he wants. He uses mind control and manipulation to try to achieve that. Eventually, he successfully obtains his wishes and becomes a powerful sorcerer and seems to have more ready access to magic. He uses that to punish those he felt wronged him, damage the city, and even tries to enslave the mind of Jasmine. He tries to kill her when that does not work but he is felled at the last minute by his own hubris. Jafar always desired power and used the rules to manipulate those around him but, in the end, he was captured by somebody else’s rules.


3 Hans Westergaard (Frozen 2013)

Hans was born as the thirteenth son of the king of the Southern Isles. His family would often mistreat him and he always felt that he got lost in the shuffle when it came to the royal family. As one would expect, he was bullied by his older brothers and he felt neglected by his parents. As a result, he grew bitter and desperate for some sort of path to power so he could finally be above his brothers. The problem was that he was so low in the line of succession that he would never become king of the Southern Isles. He decided to try and marry the newly crowned queen of Arendelle, Elsa, in order to escape his position. When Elsa proved to be inaccessible, he targeted her naive younger sister Anna. He used her desperation for human contact and her storybook outlook of love to manipulate her into agreeing to marry him the first day they met. He planned to use this love as an open door to become the heir to the throne of Arendelle. His marriage proposal caused friction between the sisters and caused the Queen to curse the land into eternal winter. He used that crisis to further ingratiate himself to the citizens of Arendelle by leading relief efforts. He allowed the Duke of Weselton to drum up anti-Elsa sentiment which led to an assassination attempt on the fugitive Queen. He later decided to let Anna die, blame it on Elsa, and then execute Elsa for the crime and also to bring back summer. That plan ultimately fails as the sisters are able to reunite and refute his claims of marrying Anna and he is defeated and captured. He is sent back to his former life to be punished by his father and his brothers. In the end, he tried to escape a bad situation the wrong way and he made it worse.


2 Mother Gothel (Tangled 2010)

Gothel was a witch living alone in the wilderness when she observed a single drop of sunlight fall to the Earth. She tracked the point of impact and found a flower infused with its magic and she found that being near the flower had healing properties and stopped the aging process. She hid the flower’s existence and used its magic for hundreds of years to stay young and healthy. Eventually, the kingdom of Corona came into existence nearby and she avoided it. When the Queen of that kingdom grew deathly ill, Gothel was powerless when guards found the legendary flower and it was used to heal the Queen. The flower’s magic passed on to the Queen’s daughter, Rapunzel, and her hair gained the healing properties. Gothel decided to kidnap the baby and raise her in her tower in the wilderness in order to maintain that healing magic for herself. So, first she kept the flower a secret so that only she had access and then she kidnapped a child for the same reason. She positioned herself as Rapunzel’s mother in order to control her but never loved the child. She constantly ground Rapunzel down with passive-aggressive and sarcastic behavior and kept her isolated and ignorant. When Rapunzel convinced Flynn Rider to guide her away from the tower, Gothel was furious and desperate. She hired mercenaries to track the pair down, perfectly willing to let them harm Rapunzel and kill Flynn. Even at the end, she tried to manipulate her false daughter who was also her kidnapping victim into choosing to be re-imprisoned in exchange for Flynn’s life. She dies when Flynn does what she could never do and sacrifices the magic for somebody else’s happiness.


1 Oogie Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993)

Obviously, the world of Halloween Town is different from ours and morality plays out a little differently. However, when it comes to Oogie Boogie, he is clearly on one side while the rest of the town is on the other side. The citizens of Halloween Town like to scare and disgust the humans of our world but none of them seem to actually want to harm anybody. Obviously, our world responds well to being scared on Halloween but not the rest of the year. However, Oogie has a different idea about Halloween and his kind of fear and desire for harm are not fun for anyone. Because of this, Oogie seems to have been banished and ostracized by the rest of Halloween Town except for his minions. He is constantly scheming to take over Halloween and he would probably make it a much darker holiday. It is obvious that he has taught his minions to be more violent than the other citizens as demonstrated in their song. If he was successful in his plans, it is sure that the world at large would suffer and humans might die. He is constantly kept in check by the presence of Jack Skellington, the only thing he seems to actually be afraid of himself. When Jack gets distracted by depression and Christmas, Oogie sees his opening and convinces his minions to give him Santa Claus. He tries to consume Santa Claus. Although it is unclear what this would have achieved, at the very least it would have at least magically damaged Christmas if not outright killing it. In the end, he was defeated (but not killed) because fear made him run from Jack and he was defeated by his carelessness.


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