Posts Tagged ‘Mulan’

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 7

November 28, 2020

Anna and Aladdin hurried across open ground toward what was deemed the most likely place to find fireworks. They had opted to go on this mission since most everyone else was occupied or too valuable to be risked. Anna had gotten a taste for adventure after helping to save her kingdom twice, she was enjoying the thrill far too much. Aladdin was used to sneaking around but he was glad to be doing something proactive. He was glad to have a plan instead of winging it and holding out until somebody thought of something. Both of them wished Mulan could have come along but nobody wanted to risk the most competent soldier China had left on a mission. They had backup not far away but Aladdin had insisted on a two-person team because it was stealthier.

When they reached the wall, they both pressed against it and looked up at a nearby cliff. Merrida was up there with her bow ready to go if need be for cover fire. If one knew what to look for, they could spot a tuft of red hair blowing a bit in the wind. There was also a small group of soldiers at the base of the cliff that would be signaled when Aladdin and Anna found the fireworks. Anna pulled out a rope with a hook and tossed it up the wall and pulled it so it would latch onto the top of the wall. It was something that Rapunzel had briefly tutored her in and something she would find more exciting if they were not in mortal danger. The two of them started to climb and slipped easily over the top of the wall.

Inside the wall was a group of warehouses and Anna half expected to spot the fireworks out in the open. Unfortunately, this was not the case and everything was very tidy. While their mission was not simply achieved, the place did look and feel deserted. Hopefully, this was a little pocket of the land that the army of monsters had ignored. Fireworks sounded like magic and maybe they could turn the tide in this fight. For the first time it gave everybody hope again and this mission was worth it if only for that. Aladdin walked to the first door and started to pick the lock.

“Wow,” Anna said, clearly impressed and not a bit judgemental. “Where did you learn to do that?”

“Once a thief, always a thief,” Aladdin said. “I did a lot to survive before Jasmine made an honest man out of me.”

“I can’t imagine you were all that bad,” Anna said. “You seem like you have a good heart. Believe me, I have become a good judge of character from horrible experiences.” The lock opened and the two of them slipped carefully inside.

“I did what I had to in order to survive and that’s it,” Aladdin said. “All I did was not starve.” He was not ashamed of his past. Agrabah was changing under Jasmine’s leadership and the theft he had committed would not be something future generations would be forced to do.

“You kind of remind me of my husband, Kristoff,” Anna said. “It sounds like you two might get along. He grew up in the wilderness and talks to a reindeer.”

Aladdin was about to be offended when he thought of something. “I guess I do talk to a monkey,” he said. “It’s actually a fair comparison.”

“It’s fun to be strange,” Anna said. “My best friend is a snowman named Olaf. Of course, he can actually speak my language.” She was teasing a little but Aladdin already knew that their little makeshift group was full of strange people. Normal people do not end up on adventures.

They slipped in among the boxes of the various warehouses, searching for the fireworks based on the drawings that they had been provided. They were very careful but fortunately the place was quiet. The monster army had no use for the things in these warehouses. Anna and Aladdin did each pick up a sword. Anna grabbed up a wooden pot lid.

“To use as a shield,” Anna said with a smile and a shrug. “Mattias has been teaching me combat lately back home and I have gotten used to using a shield.”

“I’m no great sword fighter,” Aladdin said. “I’ll just have to wing it.”

Anna gasped. “Wait,” she almost yelled. “Are these the fireworks?” she asked. She looked excitedly at Aladdin who hurried over.

Inside the box were long red cylinders with pointy tops with little strings poking out of the other end. “That matches the drawing,” Aladdin said. “I think I’ve actually seen these things in action before. Didn’t know the name. This should be really exciting.”

“Let’s signal the others,” Anna said. “We can’t carry all of these boxes by ourselves.”

“Yeah let’s do it,” Aladdin agreed.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 6

November 7, 2020

“So do we have a plan?” Aladdin asked. “We haven’t been here long but we have to do something before that monster army comes and smashes this place. I’ve been out there. I’ve seen it from above and it is really bad.”

“I’m familiar with how big the army is,” Mulan said. “Shang and I dodged a lot of patrols getting out of the palace. I’m open to suggestions. I’ve got plenty of soldiers but I’m short on advisors.” Mulan was not too proud to accept help and, from the sound of it, these people all had

“Obviously, there is some sort of dark magic afoot,” Merrida said. “What do we have to counter that?” Her eyes showed that she knew the pain of magic gone awry.

“I am not actually that familiar with magic,” Mulan said. “Just a little bit, really.” She knew that her family had guardians and that her ancestors helped from beyond but magic was not in her everyday life. It showed itself in little ways in big moments.

“My sister has a lot of magic but I have no idea where she is,” Anna said. “I only know a little how magic works. It just kind of works. In my world you usually have to be born with it. I wish the trolls were here.”

“I was born with magic,” Rapunzel said. “A lot of it is gone now.”

“When I messed with magic it went poorly,” Merrida said. “I really blundered my way through it. It has to be done by the experts or it all goes wrong.”

“If only my friend Genie was here,” Aladdin said. “He can do just about anything. He used to grant wishes but he’s still pretty powerful without all of that.”

“Come to think of it, my magical companion Mushu is missing,” Mulan said. “He’s a dragon. A family guardian.” Mushu’s absence was really glaring as he rarely let a moment go by without offering comment on the situation. The talkative little dragon had hurt things as much as he had helped but he had behaved himself more recently. Mulan found herself missing him.

“We could really use that kind of firepower,” Anna said. “We need something to fight back with.”

“Last time I used fireworks to finish the fight,” Mulan said. “If we could get a hold of enough of that we could surprise the army.” She thought back to wiping out Shan Yu’s army with fireworks in the mountains.

“If we could reverse whatever happened to send us here or keep our friends away, Genie and Mushu could come help make things even.”

“And Elsa too!” Anna said excitedly. “How do we make these things happen?”

“I’m totally on board with whatever we’re doing!” Rapunzel cried out. Mulan could tell that Anna and Rapunzel were both very excitable people and would need somebody to rein them in. They were like lit fireworks ready to explode. She needed that passion but she also needed cooler heads to prevail.

“With proper planning,” Mulan said, trying to invoke calm in the room. “We have to obtain the fireworks and we need to get into the palace. I have a feeling that whatever needs to be done is in there.”

“I agree,” Anna said. “If we can just sort of open the door, our friends can come help us.” It sounded so easy when she said it and that optimism was refreshing.

“And we can help them,” Rapunzel said. “I hope everybody back home is alright.” That gave all of the visitors from beyond pause. Mulan felt grateful that she knew where Shang was but it did make her worry about her family. They were smart enough to go to ground if things got dangerous but they were far far away from the Imperial City.

“I guess I could scout for fireworks,” Aladdin said. “Somebody will have to tell me what they look like.”

“I can do that,” Mulan said. “I can also ask around the camp to see who might know of some.”

“I can help with that!” Rapunzel shouted happily.

“Actually, I can help with that,” Anna said. “You’re much more valuable as a healer.”

“Agreed,” Mulan said. “Please do what you can to heal Shang and any other injured. We will need everything we have to win this fight.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 5

August 22, 2020

Mulan sat at the table sipping a cup of tea. She had made the tea herself, not willing to flag down a soldier or other refugee during such a tense time to make the tea. She had been taught to make tea by her mother and she really needed a cup to calm her nerves. Seated around the table were the foreigners. Mulan had called a meeting with them because she trusted members of the Emperor’s army but these people were mysteries that Mulan would need to solve before she could effectively lead what may be the only resistance left in China. The fort was out of the way but this monstrous army would eventually find it.

Anna was sitting directly to Mulan’s right with her hands folded neatly and trying to look professional. Aladdin was sitting to her left, relaxed and slumped back in his chair a bit. Rapunzel leaned heavily on the table, obviously exhausted from working hard in the medical tent. Merida sat on a windowsill nearby, looking half at the room and half out the window. Mulan could not really catch her eye because the redhead was wearing a hood to keep the sun out of her eyes and presumably to hide her shocking red hair. Merida had also declined a cup of tea when the others had accepted. Mulan was not offended but curious.

“Thank you for meeting with me,” Mulan said. “I am Fa Mulan, agent of the Emperor and formerly of the Chinese army. The soldiers here have chosen me as their leader temporarily.”

“Temporarily?” Aladdin asked. “Until what happens?”

“My husband is General Li Shang,” Mulan said. “I am much more comfortable with him leading.”

Merida snorted. “A woman can lead just as well as a man,” she said. “Sometimes better.”

“I agree,” Aladdin said without explaining further.

“I agree with you,” Mulan said. “but having my husband lead is a matter of logic rather than tradition. He has much more experience leading and I am much better when I have time to myself to think.”

“Of course, too much time alone can be bad for you,” Anna said pointedly, glancing over at Merida. Merida either did not hear the comment or chose to ignore it.

Mulan took a sip of tea for serenity. “Why don’t you tell me again who you all are and what you are doing here at the fort.” She gestured to Anna who seemed most excited to speak.

“My name is Anna,” she said. “I come from Arendelle. My parents were the King Agnarr and Queen Iduna of Arendelle but they died on a trip to solve the mystery of the source of my sister Elsa’s magical ice powers. My sister Elsa became Queen of Arendelle and she accidentally froze our kingdom. I had to go on an adventure with my current fiance and a snowman to stop a wicked prince who happened to be my fiance at the time. My sister and I reconnected and then she unfroze Arendelle. After that we journeyed to the Enchanted Forest and the not-so-mythical Ahtohallan to solve the mystery of the Enchanted Forest and our parents. After that, Elsa made me Queen of Arendelle.” Anna looked around and then tensed. “Sorry, sometimes I talk a lot when I’m nervous.”

“That’s alright,” Mulan said. “What are you doing around the fort?”

“I’ve just been making myself available,” Anna said. “I had been learning to cook back in Arendelle so I have been helping in the mess tent a lot. I don’t have a lot of experience in battle but I’m ready to help however I can.”

Mulan nodded and gestured to Aladdin.

“My name is Aladdin, I am a Prince of Agrabah,” he said. “I have been using my friend Carpet to search for surivors and supplies. I know what it feels like to be chased and to be hungry.”

Mulan nodded and gestured to Rapunzel who sat up and rubbed her eyes.

“My name is Rapunzel and I am from the same world as Anna although we first met here,” she said. “I am a Princess of Corona although I spent a long time lost in the woods so I am new to the whole royal thing. I used to be able to heal magically but when I lost that ability, I tried to learn as much as I could about other magics and natural healing. My, um, godmother’s journals taught me a lot about herbalism. I have been trying to heal the sick and wounded.”

“How is that going?” Mulan asked.

“It’s going well,” Rapunzel said. “The forces here are almost back to full fighting force.”

“And my husband?” Mulan asked with as much patience and calm as she could conjure.

“Your husband will recover soon,” Rapunzel said. “However, his wound was really bad. Oh by the way, I am pretty good in a fight.”

Mulan nodded and breathed a sigh of relief.

Without prompting, Merida climbed down from the windowsill and pulled her hood down. “My name is Merida of DunBroch and I suppose I’m a Princess too,” she said. “I’ve been up on that tower shooting innae thing that moves. It’s my job to alert everybody when they finally find us.”

“I feel that you have been up there too long on your own,” Mulan said. “When do you sleep?”

“I sleep in bits here and there,” Merida said. “I make it through.”

“I’ll take a turn above,” Mulan said. “You consult with Rapunzel and get some rest and at least one proper meal.”

“Nobody’s a better shot than me,” Merida said. “I can’t take a break for too long.”

“Trust me, I am a pretty good shot myself,” Mulan said. “I’ll call you if there is an emergency. Get some rest. That’s an order.”

“I don’t do well with orders,” Merida said. “but I suppose I’m a guest here. Fine. I’ll play along.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 3

July 18, 2020

Mulan was a little surprised when Yao hugged her when she entered the hastily assembled war room of the fort. The usually grumpy Yao pushed away after only a moment but was still grinning from ear to ear. Mulan found herself smiling even though Shang was still down in the medical tent. Mulan, Shang, Yao, Chien-Po, and Ling had been through a lot of adventures together. It made Mulan’s heartache and worry about Khan and Mushu who were still missing in action. Still, it was good to be in a stable environment with a friend in front of her although they were not always exactly friendly.

“Mulan!” Yao croaked out in his somewhat raspy voice. “I am so glad to see you. I was worried about a lot of our friends and the Emperor’s forces. I made it here with some of our soldiers but I am out of my element in command.”

“You seem to have done pretty well,” Mulan said. “The soldiers looked orderly and the fort is running smoothly and is fortified.”

“Do you know where Shang is?” Yao asked. “He could take over. He could even counterattack through this chaos.”

Mulan took a deep breath. “My husband is in the medical tent,” she said. “He is injured and unconscious but I am hopeful that he will recover.”

“I’m sorry,” Yao said. “I have great respect for General Shang.”

“We all do,” Mulan said. “Is that white healer really any good?” She instinctively looked over her shoulder back toward the medical tent. Her husband had been in pretty bad shape but she had thought him dead before and had been glad to have been wrong. Shang was a fighter and she had to count on that.

“Yes,” Yao said. “I wouldn’t have put her in charge there if she wasn’t. Rapunzel has magic when it comes to healing and she’s so damned perky it’s hard to beat her optimism. It kind of gives me the creeps. We rescued these foreigners and they have come in useful. They all claim to be royalty so it made sense to let them make themselves comfortable. In return, they have helped us operate more smoothly without trying to take over. Believe me, I tried with that Aladdin.”

“He seems capable but I’m not sure if we can trust them that far,” Mulan said. “As far as we know this is the last major holdout after the attack on the Imperial City.”

“Then you should take over, Mulan,” Yao said. “You’d be a much better leader.”

“I’m not even officially in the military,” Mulan said. “I don’t know if that’s proper.”

“You’re an advisor to the Emperor!” Yao said.

“I turned that post down. Remember?” Mulan asked. “I’ve helped out in an unofficial capacity but I don’t really have the skills to lead here.”

“Who cares?” Yao said. “You’re a hero of China. They’ll accept you. Your country needs you Mulan and I know you have always stepped forward.”

“That’s hardly fair,” Mulan said. “I’ll do what it can but I’m not sure if that isn’t too far.”

“It’ll work,” Yao said. “You’ll be better at it than I am.”

“Fine. If the soldiers agree then I will lead until Shang can take over,” Mulan said. “He is much better in command and I am much better at doing my own thing. It’s how we work.”

“It’s a deal,” Yao said excitedly. “I’m sure you won’t have to shoulder the burden for long. Shang will be up on his feet quick. Where should we start boss?”

Mulan sighed. “I guess I should meet with these foreigners and get the lay of the land,” she said. “I have to admit to being very curious. How many are there?”

“Only four so far,” Yao said. “Rapunzel is a healer and spends most of her time in the medical tent although she’s handy elsewhere. Anna is a really hard worker and apparently really well-read and is always there with a helping hand. Aladdin is an accomplished fighter and he and his carpet have been going on scouting missions to bring back more survivors.”

“What about the one up in the tower?” Mulan asked. “The one whose speech I can barely understand.”

“Merida is a wild woman but is a crack shot with a bow,” Yao said. “She’s better than anybody I saw in the military and that includes you, Mulan.” He caught a look in her eye. “But not by that much.”

“She needs to learn more manners,” Mulan said. “but it is good to have an accomplished warrior keeping a wary eye on anybody who approaches.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 2

July 11, 2020

The carpet approached a large fortress far outside the outskirts of the Imperial City. Aladdin was determined and Mulan just held tight to Shang, trying to keep him still and stable on the fluttering fabric. It was at this point that an arrow whizzed past them, managing to nick Aladdin’s ear making him wince in pain. It was a good thing he was not the one actually controlling the carpet. The carpet slowed down and approached the guard tower where the arrow had come from. A young woman with striking, frizzy red hair and shockingly white skin came out of hiding carrying a massive longbow. She had a fierce look in her eyes as she leveled the bow toward them and drew back an arrow halfway and held it.

“Halt and declare yerself,” the woman said. “I cannae let you pass.” She had a thick accent and the posture of a warrior of some renown. Mulan sensed that the woman was used to people watching her, something Mulan was just starting to get used to.

Aladdin slowly maneuvered between the woman and his passengers. “Stand down Merrida,” he said. “You know me. It’s Aladdin. We just saw each other a little while ago.”

“Oh. Yer back from scouting too quick,” Merrida said, squinting a bit at Aladdin. “Can you blame me for getting a wee bit twitchy?”

“I guess not,” Aladdin said. “I’d probably be angrier if you had actually aimed for me.”

“Nae,” Merrida said coldly. “You wouldna feel a thing. You’d be dead.” Then she smiled and shrugged.

Aladdin smirked. “Tough talk,” he said. “I came back early because I spotted these two. One of them is injured.”

“Who do ye got there?” Merrida asked and Carpet rotated slowly to reveal Mulan and Shang.

“My name is Mulan,” she said. “This is Shang. He’s bleeding out. Please let us go.”

“If yer good with Aladdin here then yer good with me,” Merrida said. “Go on to the healers and give my best.” She relaxed her draw on the bow, un-nocked her arrow, and slipped back inside the tower without another word.

As soon as she was gone, Carpet floated over the fort’s walls and down toward a small building toward the rear. As they descended, there was shouting from below. Another white girl came rushing out of the building. She had light brown hair that was cut very short in a style that Mulan kind of wished she could adopt. The girl had big, beautiful eyes full of optimism even in grim surroundings.

“Get the injured inside and on a table!” the girl called out. “We need to stop the bleeding immediately. Bring bandages and herbs.” She clapped her hands and everybody started running around. Mulan and Aladdin helped carry Shang inside but then the short white girl pushed both of them back outside. Mulan fumed and was about to head back inside when Aladdin caught her by the arm. She almost took a swing at him but backed off.

“He’s in good hands with Rapunzel,” Aladdin said. “You’d do best keeping out of her way. I need to scrub the blood out of Carpet before I do anything else.”

“Who put you people in charge?” Mulan asked. She was still on edge and she was tired of having to trust absolute strangers in the midst of danger.

“We’re not in charge,” a young woman said, walking toward Mulan and Aladdin. She swept her hood back and Mulan could see that she was also white and had a long braid with a single shock of white hair running through it. Mulan had seen more white people on this day than she had seen during her entire life to date. Something very strange was going on even beyond the destruction of the palace and a strange gray army swarming over everything. “My name is Anna. We’re just trying to help out since the soldiers took us in. If you’re looking for who is in charge, that would be Lieutenant Yao.”

“My name is Fa Mulan,” she said. “Yao’s here? I know him. Where is he?”

“I can take you to him,” Anna said. “I’m sure he’d be glad to see a friend. We’ve been trying to help but this land is very foreign to us. It’s weird.”

Mulan shrugged. “It’s all I’ve ever known,” she said. “Lead me to Yao so we can start getting to the bottom of things.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 1

July 4, 2020

Mulan wrapped a cloth around Shang’s wound and felt his forehead. He was fading in and out of consciousness and he did not look bad. She needed a cool damp rag but she had very little since they had barely gotten away from the Imperial City with their lives. Those things had been terrifying and seemed to come out of nowhere and then part of the palace had exploded into green flame. Mulan and Shang had been able to flee with many soldiers into the countryside but they had been separated from everyone in the madness. Things were not looking good when suddenly she heard a voice from above her.

“You look like you could use some help,” a young man said. Mulan looked up and saw a man dressed in slightly torn clothing standing on what seemed to be a rug floating in the air. He had kind eyes and a reassuring smile.

“Those things came out of nowhere,” Mulan said. “They overtook the city and destroyed the palace. They can’t be far behind us.” Her eyes were wild and she tried to calm down as best as she could. She took deep breaths.

The man and the carpet floated upwards a short distance and he scanned the horizon. He floated back down. “I can’t see them but you’re probably right. We need to get out of here. I was only scouting

“He got hit with a spear,” Mulan said. “It went all the way through. He needs medical attention quickly.”

The carpet lowered to the ground and the man leaned down to look at Shang. “You’re right. It doesn’t look good,” the young man said. “There’s a fort near here where we can get him help. Carpet can take us.”

Mulan looked dubiously at the flying carpet. “Are you sure?” she asked. “Is it safe?”

“Yeah,” the man said. “Do you trust me?” Something about his eyes made Mulan want to say yes but trust should not come so easily.

“I don’t even know you,” Mulan said. “I could hardly trust you.” She wanted to, but her head was spinning and she was equally likely to lash out as she was to accept a favor.

“Let me put it this way,” the man said. “Do you really have any better options right now?” Mulan had seen that the man wore a curved sword but she had a feeling she could outfight him if she had to even in her exhausted state.

“No,” Mulan admitted. “I’m willing to let you prove yourself. Thank you for your help.” She ran her hand along the fabric of the carpet and it responded as if it was a big friendly dog. “This is magic, right?” She only had a little bit of experience with magic but Mushu was nowhere in sight lately. Her guardian had disappeared and she was worried about the little guy.

“His name is Carpet from the Cave of Wonders,” the man said. “My name is Aladdin, by the way.” He offered her his hand. Mulan had never heard of such a cave but it sounded like a place that would have a flying carpet in it. The man looked foreign and Aladdin was definitely not a Chinese name but she and Shang were in a tight spot. She would have to trust him and hope for the best. She took his hand and shook it.

“My name is Fa Mulan,” Mulan said. “This is General Li Shang. Please help us.” Cards were on the table and it was either sink or swim now. She clutched her sword tightly.

“Of course,” Aladdin said. “I’m at your service.” He reached down and helped Mulan get Shang onto Carpet as gently as possible. Mulan knelt down and Carpet took to the air. She was amazed to see that Aladdin was able to stay standing, keeping a wide stance.

They flew over the countryside, shooting through the air as fast as Carpet dared. The ride was surprisingly smooth but all the same, Mulan held onto Shang. She was so worried about him and the blood that was slowly soaking the bandage on his shoulder. She could barely process what had happened. With transport taken care of, she almost passed out from the stress and exhaustion. She hoped that Shang could hang on. Her husband was dear to her.

March Madness 4: The Disney Quarterfinals Pt. 2

June 23, 2018

Bracket

Aladdin vs. The Little Mermaid

Aladdin is a streamlined and musical take on a classic tale from the 1001 Arabian Nights which is, of course, some of the most well-known folklore from that region. An invention of that region, genies (or ‘djinn’) have permeated popular culture and this is one of the most famous mainstream takes on the myths. This is a tale about class differences, the artificial barriers we place between each other, trusting your own self-worth, being honest, and true friendship. The lead character of the movie is Aladdin who is played by Scott Weinger who has made a good living playing the character in a lot of material. He gives such a fun but vulnerable performance especially when he is singing. It is not a stretch to say the star of the movie is Robin Williams as Genie. This was my first exposure to Robin Williams and I was instantly a fan. I cannot stress enough how much the character of Genie makes this movie special. Linda Larkin plays Princess Jasmine and does a great job of playing a confident, independent woman. She was kind of the first example of a woman like that in fiction for me. The villain, Jafar is played by Jonathan Freeman and he has to be in the top 10 of Disney villains (which is another post I could write hmm). The animation is very fluid and felt like a new era of a marriage between CGI and traditional drawn animation. The movie is entertaining from start to finish.

The Little Mermaid is adapted from an original Hans Christian Andersen fairytale but the story was given a much happier resolution. It uses a different mythical creature, this time the mermaid often spoken of by sailors. This is the last fully drawn Disney animated movie and while earlier movies were rotoscoped from live models, this one was drawn freehand. Of course, they still used the live models. In this movie, the princess of Atlantica has become curious and obsessed with the world of the surface and makes a devil’s deal to try and achieve her dream of walking on land. Princess Ariel is played by Jodi Benson, a young relative unknown who really embodied a young woman pushing against literal and figurative boundaries of her world. Her voice is so pure that it is a shame that she only gets to sing one great song. Samuel Wright plays Sebastian, a crab who advises the King and is tasked with watching over the headstrong princess. He sings two very memorable songs in a very musical Jamaican accent. Finally, the villain is Ursula who was apparently patterned after Baltimore’s Divine (a local drag queen). She is great as the scheming witch who easily engages in mind games. In fact, she sings her villain song directly to the protagonist without scaring her away. One of the main things keeping this movie from winning this particular matchup is that Ariel does not really have any internal conflict. She has conflict with Ursula and her father but never really learns anything new about herself.

Lead Character: Aladdin is a fun, lower class individual who learns lessons about honesty and friendship which beats the fact that Ariel does not really learn anything but things work out for her anyway.

Supporting Characters: Genie, Jasmine, Abu, and the Sultan beat Sebastian, Flounder, Eric, and King Triton.

Villain: This one is close but Jafar is far more twisted and his almost pathetic, weaselly nature beats Ursula’s admittedly complicated, witchy villainy.

Music: Legendary musical writer, Alan Menken, wrote some great, fun songs and even wrote two songs that built off of Robin Williams’ legendary motor mouth. Unfortunately, there is no villain song (it was cut out) but the rest of the soundtrack more than makes up for it. Menken also wrote the music for Little Mermaid but it makes sense that the music he wrote three years later would be better. For me, it comes down to better instrumentation and Robin Williams putting it over the edge.

Story: I still feel like a tale of a diamond in the rough realizing his worth is better than the tale of a young woman achieving her dream.

Animation: While Little Mermaid has some beautiful drawings but Aladdin wins with absolutely fluid animation mixed with early but smooth CGI.

Winner: Aladdin

 

Mulan vs. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Mulan is the story of a young woman in feudal China who poses as a man to enlist in the army to both cover for her family and to find herself. This was another in a long line of Disney animated films trying to explore other cultures. This was probably to make up for the first eleven or so animated films (with humans in them) being about white Europeans. However, the first two were Pocahontas which was an insult and Aladdin which unfortunately cast only white people as Middle Eastern people. This was also part of a movement to make more proactive female characters which would get better in small increments through Disney’s history. It also based on the tales of Hua Mulan, which are not talked about much in the US. The power behind the movie lies mostly in how well-crafted the character Mulan is and that has a lot to do with the animation and the vocal performance by Ming-Na Wen and the singing performance of Lea Salonga. They show both Mulan’s weaknesses and strengths to create a more interesting character. She is unsure of who she is or what she wants but is also strong and smart. BD Wong does a great job as Captain Shang, the superior officer that falls in love with Mulan (and possibly the first bisexual Disney character). Eddie Murphy is also part of the cast at the absolute height of his powers and you could definitely do much worse casting a Disney sidekick (although casting somebody actually Chinese would have helped). As I mentioned in the first round, the movie has beautiful music including one of Disney’s catchiest songs which was sung by Donnie Osmond.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a story about a man who is suffering from depression and ennui but nobody understands and worst of all he does not understand. By embracing something new he starts to come out of his depression. This movie is the awesome combination of musician Danny Elfman and animation director Henry Selick. Selick is a genius director when it comes to animation and, when he has a good script, he always knocks it out of the park (see Coraline). Danny Elfman is known both as the frontman for the band Oingo Boingo and the composer for most Tim Burton movies. The heart of the movie is Jack Skellington as played by Chris Sarandon with his singing done by Danny Elfman himself. Every single time I watch the movie, I feel everything Jack feels as he talks and sings. He is joined by Catherine O’Hara as Sally, the ragdoll-like Frankenstein-esque monster woman who is experiencing a similar sadness and longing. The two are opposed by Ken Page as Oogie Boogie, the actual boogie man who wants to stomp all over everything. This is the only stop motion film in any of the brackets which makes it stand out. In fact, it is one of only three stop-motion films that Disney has done period since the process costs a lot of money and time. However, here it is done so well as each model is artfully crafted to breathe life into every frame. It is an astonishingly good movie.

Lead Character: Jack’s journey to find what is missing from his life beats Mulan’s similar but less emotional journey.

Supporting Characters: Mulan has Captain Shang, Mushu and a few soldiers who get a few lines which is beaten by a whole town full of characters who feel very fleshed out. Lock, Shock, and Barrel alone beat Mulan’s entire cast.

Villian: Shan Yu is more of an elemental force and we do not learn much about him beyond the conflict he starts. In contrast, Oogie Boogie is charismatic, has motivations, and depth.

Music: The power of Donnie Osmond pales in comparison to the magic of Danny Elfman at full power.

Story: Both movies have interesting stories about self-discovery and both movies have a character posing as something they aren’t to try and fix their life. However, Jack’s story resonates with me more.

Animation: The stop-motion technology of Henry Selick blows traditional drawn animation out of the water.

Winner: The Nightmare Before Christmas

I have a couple of notes here as I realized two interesting things since I wrote the previous post in this series. First, I realized that three out of four of the Disney Quarterfinalists were written and directed by the same two guys. Ron Clements and John Musker wrote and directed Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog, and Moana. They also wrote and directed The Little Mermaid which unfortunately had to lose its match in this post. That really says something that these two guys were able to have such great success. The other thing that I remembered is that two of the quarterfinalists were movies that I watched on heavy drugs. I watched Aladdin in the Intensive Care Unit of Johns Hopkins after heart surgery in fifth grade. More recently, I watched Moana while recovering from getting my wisdom teeth removed. Neither of these viewings was the first viewing but they were memorable.

March Madness 1: Disney

April 14, 2018

Bracket

So March has come and gone but March Madness lives in people’s hearts forever, right? The thing about that is that I am not a basketball fan. While I played pickup games in middle school, I was never a fan because Baltimore does not have a team. If Baltimore does not have a team, I quickly lose interest in those sports. What I am a big fan of is Disney animated films and Pixar (before and after acquisition by Disney). I heard about this bracket and how it was driving everyone crazy and I thought it would be fun to fill it out and then explain my choices. Art is subjective and ranking things is absolutely just an exercise in examining your personal tastes. In other words, don’t get mad at me for my choices.

 

Lion King vs. Tarzan

This was an easy one to start of with. Tarzan has an interesting story about discovering one’s place in the world and also the evils of poaching. Lion King tells the story of a son’s love for his father and is basically Hamlet but with lions. While both are adaptations of established stories, Lion King has a lot more to say. Lion King also talks about duty vs. enjoyment and overcoming your fear to do what is right. It is a much more inspiring story. Lion King also has better music as Elton John and Tim Rice beat Phil Collins any day of the week, at least in my opinion. The Lion King also is funnier when it tries to be funny and more touching when it needs to be touching.

The Princess and the Frog vs. Lilo and Stitch

This one was a little harder. I like that Lilo and Stitch does not have a romantic subplot and it depicts Hawaii more as it actually is. It is a movie about sisters and misfits finding a family. It is honestly a really great movie. The Princess and the Frog is a movie about working hard for what you want but also trying to find the fun in life. The work/life balance message is something that is important to me. Also, The Princess and the Frog is a musical which uses great jazz tunes including a song actually sung by Dr. John. That definitely edges it ahead. It also does not hurt that Tiana is the first African American Disney Princess.

Tangled vs. Big Hero 6

It got difficult again. Big Hero 6 was a comic book series I read when it first came out. It was a charming and fun series with a lot of brand new heroes, Silver Samurai, and Sunfire. The movie version was really fun and had a different take on the character Baymax that knocked my socks off. It also did a great job with the theme of dealing with death. I also love superhero movies a lot. However, Tangled is an underrated movie that kind of paved the way for a new wave of Disney Princess. This new take on the Rapunzel story is really strengthened by the undeniable, bouncy energy of Rapunzel and the offbeat, goofy humor of the movie. This movie was a go to for a while when I was depressed to try and get me out of it.

Frozen vs. Moana

This was a totally unfair first round matchup. When I first saw Frozen, it blew me away. It was a total game changer when it came to Disney Princess animated movies. Setting aside that it had Kristen Bell in it, it also was the first of those movies that did not have a real romantic subplot. It was more about the love between sisters than the love between two people who had just met. Moana has even less of a romantic subplot and it is about being true to yourself and following your passion while staying true to your roots. It is a truly beautiful movie both visually and figuratively. It also has songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda who does so well that he ended up defeating the unstoppable catchiness of the songs of Frozen. That alone is saying something.

Aladdin vs. Hercules

Like most people, I love Hercules. It has a lot of snappy humor and is a great adaptation of various Greek myths with a slick modern style to it. The animation style is fun and it has an interestingly complex love story that comes second to a story about believing in yourself and becoming a hero. However, I have a big history with Aladdin. Back then I was a superfan of Robin Williams but the event that really cemented my love for the movie is when I watched it on drugs. To be fair, I watched it as I lay in the ICU after heart surgery in fifth grade. The movie has absolutely beautiful art and awesome voice talents. The story is also about believing in yourself but it is also about seeing people as they are and the power of friendship. The songs by Alan Menken are leagues above most Disney movies as well.

The Little Mermaid vs. Pocahontas

This one was easy. I really dislike Pocahontas. It is the only major release Disney Animated Movie that I dislike and that’s saying something. It is a historically inaccurate portrayal of a woman who was mistreated as a Native American by European colonists. The art style is also kind of off-putting to me for some reason. Also, I never liked the music very much. The Little Mermaid, on the other hand, is a really fun movie and a happier take on the Hans Christian Andersen tale. The music is all so fun to sing along to and the humor is cute and enjoyable. I love the theme of feeling like you are in the wrong place and yearning for a place that just feels right to you. It also has some interesting magic spells and supernatural powers go along way with me.

Mulan vs. Zootopia

This is a weird matchup. Zootopia is a really interesting movie that has a lot to say about racism and affirmative action. It disguises that message behind really well-animated animals living in a big city together. I love the world building involved in that and the story is a great roller coaster that has a lot of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Mulan is a great tale about the clash between following tradition and being who you feel you need to be. It also has the first Disney Princess who could fight. The animation is also really pretty with its own style that clearly illustrates that we are in China. What edges Mulan ahead as the clear winner is the music. Mulan has a lot of great, singable songs. Mostly I am thinking about I’ll Make a Man Out of You which was written by Donny Osmond of all people.

Beauty and the Beast vs. Nightmare Before Christmas

This one is not even fair. Beauty and the Beast is a beautiful movie. The art is a shining example of what 2D animation can be and the art style was so unique. It also introduced us to a heroine who was smart, brave, and who would not back down. It also introduced a romantic couple who believably wanted nothing to do with each other who were also both questionable individuals. The story does a good job of showing two parallel character arcs with a satisfying conclusion. The songs are also among the best in Disney. Nightmare Before Christmas is a movie that I watch every year at some point between Halloween and Christmas. It is yet another movie that I have used to battle depression because the movie itself is about battling depression. It is also the only movie on this list that uses stop-motion animation which is done so well I sometimes thought of it as live action. On top of all of that, it has music from Danny Elfman at the peak of his abilities. Every song is awesome and portrays so much emotion that I cannot ever let this movie go.

Alright, this one is getting a bit too long so I will have to continue it at another time. Of course, part 2 will have to wait until sometime after April but I am excited to get back to it! In the meantime, feel free to offer your own opinions. As I said, art is subjective and I am not “right” and you are not “wrong”.

Interview Questions 2

February 13, 2016

Alright, this one is the Disney edition.

Which Disney animated villain would you be? Why?

I would have to go with Hades. He keeps a calm demeanor despite being a literal hothead who explodes into violent rage at times. I have had my own anger problems in the past and I know what that fiery rage feels like. I am putting all of that behind me so I won’t let it impair me like Hades. He has a subtle sense of humor that sometimes borders on morbid. I have a sense of humor which can sometimes get dark though I realize I have to curtail that in polite comedy. I love a good laugh as it can quickly bond strangers together and make everyone feel good. He is also tall and I have always been somewhat envious of people who are physically tall. He has magic powers as he is a god and is in tight with the Titans. In a world where I could be King of the Dead, I no longer fear death. He is also good at making plans as evidenced by his near victory over Hercules. I always want to get better at strategy. Like Hades I would strive to better my situation and not be shelved by the other gods.

Who is your favorite Disney Princess? Why?

My favorite Disney Princess is actualy Mulan since I finally watched the movie recently. I had a lot of misconceptions about the character before I watched the movie. Mulan defies a lot of expectations about her but that is not what she sets out to do. She wants to find a good arranged marriage because that is what is best for her family and herself. She’s not excited about the idea but at no point does she rebel against it and even tries her best in her own way. When push comes to shove she does what she feels is right by upholding her family’s honor. Instead of relying on brawn, she puts her intelligence and creativity to the task and excels at combat. She even puts her duty above romantic attraction for a time. Even when she is disgraced and banished she still manages to steel her courage and ride to the rescue. In short, Mulan is a good example of honor, intelligence and determination.

Which Disney location would you most like to live in? Why?

Given the choice I would love to live in Atlantica which is the underwater setting for a lot of The Little Mermaid. Atlantica is nestled safely deep under the sea, specifically the Atlantic Ocean. The ruler of Atlantica is the fair and just King Triton. King Triton is a confident ruler who protects his subjects with intelligence, trust and a magical artifact. Although he is a monarch, he is not completely unwilling to admit that he is wrong and tries his best to rectify the damage he indirectly causes. That is the kind of decisive but thoughtful ruler that I would like to live under. Atlantica is also quite musical as what looks like half the population joins in Under the Sea. That song also illustrates how happy everyone is to live where they are even if they are part of the servant class. That’s an amazing approval rating if only one character out of nearly a hundred is dissatisfied.  On top of that, the deep sea is still a mystery to us humans and I would like to explore that some.

Media Update 1/14/2016

January 14, 2016


Mulan

Here is another Disney Animated Feature Film that I had missed when it came out. I love Disney films but almost nobody ever wants to see them with me. I knew the basic plot points of Mulan because I’ve played Kingdom Hearts II and I fought alongside Mulan and Mushu. Lately the movie was referenced by both Ross O’Donovan and Daisy Ridley and I knew it was finally time to catch up on this one. I wasn’t prepared for it to be so good but I really should learn my lesson because I have yet to watch a truly bad Disney Animated Film (that isn’t a sequel). The music was all great as usual but “Let’s Get Down to Business” and “Honor to us All” and the score itself really stand out. Ming-Na Wen and BD Wong were excellent but the supporting cast were great too. Even Eddie Murphy was funny and not annoying. The movie was touching, funny and then it got serious and awesome and then back to touching. Definitely check it out if you can.

 


The Expanse

I didn’t know what to expect with this one. I’m historically less enthused about science fiction stories but my friends said it was really good. Since there were a ton of episodes on demand, I jumped at it. There is plenty of science fiction and that’s ok, it’s interesting and imaginative while being kind of grounded. However, there’s a ton of world building as the Earth and Mars are locked in a cold war. I really like the fragile politics at play, both on a wide scale and from person to person. They do a great job with big and little philosophies. They also do a really great job with character development. The characters really come alive and feel close to people I’ve met or have feelings I’ve had. If you’re worried about it being too science fictiony, it’s fine. If you’re worried about it being overly grim like a lot of other new sci-fi shows, don’t. It’s got some humor and passion to it. I suggest you at least give the pilot a try.

Vixen

I’ve stated before that I love what the CW is doing with DC Comics property. They’re creating a little DC Universe of their own that is so much fun to watch. They have created Arrow, The Flash and soon will release Legends of Tomorrow which all play in what most call the Arrowverse. The way they’ve constructed everything, it makes magic, advanced science and the mundane fit together so well. I never read much about Vixen in the comics but I was a fan of her in Justice League Unlimited. Here they’ve basically done an animated pilot which mixes her into the Arrowverse but in Detroit so she doesn’t interfere with the other shows’ plots. They also give her her own compelling story and the acting and writing is really compelling. I’ll be looking forward to Season 2 since Season 1 was only 30 minutes long.

 

Links of the Week:
Water Bedlam Prank
Unleash the Archers – Tonight We Ride
Starbomb – The Simple Plot of Metal Gear Solid
Ice Cube, Kevin Hart And Conan Help A Student Driver
David Bowie – Dance, Magic Dance (RIP Goblin King)
Weekly Updates:
– After seeing a proper trailer, I’m now intrigued by Zootopia
– I’ve discovered Adam Savage’s podcast. I’m in love.
– I’m listening to Welcome to Nightvale again. Excellent.
– it’s a whole year until Moana is released. Ugh. Can’t wait.
– I’m gaining such an appreciation for lawyer characters now
– I love The Muppets (2015) more and more and they’re about to reboot
– So excited for the weekend. I can get my nose out of my textbook


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