Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nala's Paw-Stand

Okay, so this is another non-Disney related post. I'm going for diversity? Okay, fine. Nala just did something adorable and I want to talk about it because it made me giggle.

Because we moved our furry family from Florida to Alaska, and only one of them has a nice thick coat (Charlie the collie), we got little coats for our short haired black labs, whom we fondly refer to as 'the girls'. This is because they are, in fact, girls. Nala and Layla are their names, but they're often in cahoots so it's much easier to say, "Girls, no!" than it is to say, "Nala NO! Layla No! Stop that right now!" See what I mean?

The gymnast in her coat.
Anywho, it's now late November--quite nearly December- and in Alaska, we already have lots of snow. The snow plows have created little snow-mountains in parking lots. Since we live in a four-plex, or an apartment building with no soundproofing and four apartments, we have a little parking lot area. The perimeter of this area is now encased with a wall of snow about three feet high, higher/lower in some places than others. Of course Nala, our 45 pound black lab mountain goat-- I mean, dog-- loves to scale these snow plow mounds. I used to think she was just playing, but now I see that's her tumbling routine for the floor exercise.

I didn't always know she was a doggy gymnast. I mean, she's always been goofy and rambunctious (when she's not passed out), but I assumed she spent most of her day upside down because she was too lazy to move, not because she was conditioning herself for gymnastics. Clearly, I was wrong.

It all started yesterday. Being bored and not wanting to go sledding alone, I decided to start watching a new T.V. show on Netflix instant. I chose ABC Family's "Make it or Break it", about gymnasts. Well, Nala clearly loves the show. She laid by my side, upside down (of course) and twisted like a pretzel, throughout two episodes. After the end of episode two, I realized it was time for a puppy walk. Of course, the presence of snow and the time of year mean that our pups must wear their little coats. Nala was standing on the couch, very excited as I got her coat out and walked toward her. I was about to put it on her when she jumped off the couch, ran in circles and then jumped back on the couch within four seconds. I fastened the front and belly velcro as she stood with her front paws on the arm of the couch and her back paws on the cushion. All of the sudden, Nala was doing a paw-stand between me and the couch. Her front paws were on the floor, her head was pointed down, and her back paws were-- in the air. Then she righted herself and ran to the door.

Our future Olympian gymnast, looking guilty.
This paw-stand has made me look at Nala in a whole new light. She always lays twisted in odd positions; I thought it was because she was too lazy to move or perhaps she was working on becoming a contortionist. Apparently, she was working on improving her flexibility for her doggy gymnastics career. She regularly lays with her head upside down, hanging off the couch.

I thought I had a lazy weirdo for a dog, but apparently I have the world's premier doggy gymnast. Who knew?! Hmm... Perhaps Pedigree will be her sponsor!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Odd but Enjoyable: Make Mine Music

This is the one title that I didn’t own that wasn’t available on Netflix. So of course I bought it. I ordered it on the 3rd of November, it shipped the 4th. Yet now it’s the 16th and I’m still missing it. Because it has yet to arrive and I haven’t watched a Disney movie for…two days… I’m having a bit of a problem. Nightmares.
            I love books. Since graduating college last year, I’ve been averaging reading three books a week. Thank goodness for libraries. Otherwise I’d be living in a fort made of books and covered in tarp (so they don’t get wet, obviously). Before moving to Alaska, I worked for a major book retailer for three and a half years. I’ll give you a hint: not the one that went bankrupt and not the one only found in the South-East. While working there, I made lots of fellow-reader friends and was recommended books as often as I recommended them. One of these books, that was recommended to me and then by me quite often, is the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.
            Ah, the mystery section. See, I had always avoided it because I (wrongly) thought all the books would be scary. And as we all know well by now, I can’t handle scary. This is why I’m watching Disney movies. Well, one of the reasons why. In any case, this week I finished (in two days, it is that good) the newest Flavia de Luce mystery, I am Half Sick of Shadows. It didn’t scare me while I was reading it, but once I thought about it afterwards I got quite frightened. Thankfully the nightmares didn’t start until James’ night off, as otherwise I don’t know what I would have done.
            I won’t go into the weirdness of scariness of the dream; there are certain things no one should know. I will say that I have the most amazing husband, whom when I woke him up to say I had a nightmare, quickly got me talking about something else for at least fifteen minutes until I had forgotten it enough to go back to sleep. I can’t say I’ve ever doubted he’ll make an amazing father, but sometimes I get a glimpse of how amazingly well he’ll fit that role. Last night, post-nightmare, was one of those glimpses.
            Right before finally letting my poor, dear husband go back to sleep, I said, “You see, my mind goes to dark places without the magic of the wonderful world that is Walt Disney.” And he loves me so much, and thought I would want to remember saying that, that he opened up his iPhone and made a voice recording of what I said. See what I mean? Aren’t you ladies jealous he’s taken? He’s thoughtful and good with nightmares. What more could a girl ask for?
            Well, obviously I’d like my movie to arrive. But I don’t think there’s much he can do about that, is there? 

            After calling Disney Movie Club twice, they re-submitted my order with a tracking number and signature required. Of course, within a week it arrived. Not the one they re-submitted, but the original order. I was a bit disappointed by the Lion King ornament, mostly because my expectations were universe-high (I’d say sky-high, but that would be an understatement).
            I really tried to keep my expectations for Make Mine Music in check; truly, I did. I began watching it the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when I wasn’t feeling particularly well and my self-prescription called for cuddling with a puppy and watching a Disney movie. Thankfully, I had both. Nala (our black lab who thinks she’s a puppy and a lap dog, not the lioness from Lion King—though I would also cuddly with her, were she real and not vicious) cuddled in next to me on the couch.
            I love parts of Fantasia, but as a general rule, I like dialogue in a film. Especially when I’m not feeling well. There are a few parts of MMM that have a narrator, if not dialogue. Those I liked best. Except for the baseball one—I go the message (don’t be overconfident or you’ll disappoint everyone, including yourself), but it just didn’t resonate with me. I loved Peter and the Wolf, though I was a bit mad that they made it look like Sonya died when she didn’t. I mean, they show her going into duck-heaven! Then at the end, they’re all, everyone is happy! And I thought except for Sonya as the narrator said, “except for the wolf”. Then, magically, she’s not dead, was just hiding? Uh-uh, implied death is fine and dandy, but you showed her at the pearly gates. That’s not implied, it is downright blatant.
            It was still an entertaining one, though. Much better than the musical instruments chasing each other. I obviously wasn’t a fan of that one. I did love seeing the name Benny Goodman outside of swing dance class, though. And his main one—All the Cats Join In-- it had swing dancing in animation, so I loved it. It’s the one I recommend you look up on YouTube, it’s so good. It shows a pencil drawing the animation, and as the music speeds up so do the characters; but then the pencil can’t keep up. It’s funny and original and I love it.
            My favorite of them all was the “Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met”. It had a tragically sad ending, but was so whimsical and just Disney to the core, and I loved it for those reasons. Also, an operatic whale? Yes, please! It’s a beautiful story as well; although I must admit, I felt terrible for the sea gull. He told the whale the impresario was looking for him, so it’s kind of his fault. Wouldn’t he feel guilty? And sad, to have lost a friend? Like Fantasia, it ended on a bittersweet note. Ha! A pun! And it wasn’t even intended!
            Ahem. Moving on. Overall, I can’t say I loved MMM. But I didn’t fall asleep, I wasn’t bored, nor did I count the minutes until it was over (I may have done that with Pinocchio). It was entertaining and enjoyable, and for once, it showed it’s age. It was made in the ‘40s, and I could tell. I also loved Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet. Next to the whale one, and the swing dancing one, it may be my favorite.
            Because many Disney employees were at war, and the rest of the studio was working on war advertisements, this was the last segmented film of the war. It was released in 46, after it ended, but was made during the war. Walt didn’t want the feature animation department to fall into the background, so he produced four segmented films to be released during the war. The animation is less advanced, the same techniques are repeated (lots of water, dilution), the animation itself is more cartoon-y, and the plots are unrelated. My complaint with this film, and the last three, has been their segmentation. They don’t flow well, there isn’t an over-arching plot point to tie them all together. This is most prevalent in MMM, to the point where every story has it’s own introduction and mini-credits. As someone with little patience for beginning of movie credits, this wasn’t conducive to me liking it.
            But, when you love someone you love everything about them—even their flops. So even though most of MMM didn’t appeal to me, it was still good stories with great music and fun animation. So overall, I still enjoyed it. Though I don’t know how much use that DVD will get. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Space Pirates: Treasure Planet

   I was really prepared to dislike Treasure Planet. For one, a movie critic (I know, I know, never listen to movie critics) said they would forgive the directors of Treasure Planet due to some spectacular film they made after that apparently made up for it. Plus, it’s a pirate story set in space. Which means it will either be completely awesome, or absolutely terrible.
      This goes back to expectations. I had high expectations, built up by Netflix taking forever, of Home on the Range. Conversely, Treasure Planet arrived in lieu of HOTR, so it has been sitting on my dining room table for about two weeks. The grass is always greener, and I wanted to watch the next movie in sequence, instead of out of order.
      The cold hasn’t really helped. It has been unusually cold for Alaska in November. I mean cold--- minus 13 at night, highs of one or two during the day. I’ve been listening to Christmas music (who wouldn’t? It is too cold to go outside and there’s snow on the ground—it feels much more like Christmas than Thanksgiving. Also, Thanksgiving music is a pretty small genre). In that spirit, while anxiously awaiting Make Mine Music (my whole project has been messed up by the Disney Movie Club, who mailed my movie over two weeks ago. Yet still I haven’t received it. Yet when I call, it should arrive that day. Netflix doesn’t have it, so I had to buy it, and now I can’t get it! It’s a very frustrating process), I’ve been delaying watching TP and have instead been watching Christmas movies.
      Then my dear friend Kelsie invited me over for dinner and a movie, and welcomed me to bring my current Disney movie. Since all I had was Treasure Planet, I took it with me, not expecting her to want to watch it. To say I was surprised to see that not only has she seen it, but she also likes it, would be an understatement.
      Watching a movie with someone who likes it versus someone who has never seen it are two very different experiences. Watching Brother Bear with James allowed me to regress into my first time watching it (in theatres with a childhood friend). Watching TP with someone I knew who liked it made me more inclined to like it.
      I really lucked out with the friends I made when we moved here. I see Kelsie and Alyssa most often, and not only do they not mind my oddities, but they like Disney movies too! Alyssa and I like to practice our Spanish on each other (though she’s much more advanced than I); before the project started, we watched Bolt together in Spanish.
      So I lucked into finding these two amazing women who love to cook and love Disney. Well, Kelsie made a delicious dinner (one of the things I love about her is her ability to just move on—when she didn’t have everything she needed for a side dish, she just picked something else.) We ate while watching Treasure Planet, with Alyssa joining us midway through the movie.
      I was enjoying myself so much—these ladies are a lot of fun to spend time with—that I didn’t pay attention to the movie that much. I was vaguely irritated at the lack of explanation on why there were anthropomorphic alien animals and how they could breathe the same air as humans. Also, in 2002 the braided rat tail was definitely no longer in fashion, and the protagonists’ hair just annoyed me to no end. I just wanted to sneak up behind him and shave that little thing off.
      I did like the combination of old and new—the pirate culture and the space-age culture.  I loved the book that read itself to you and the little kid version of Jim.
      But because I was joking around with friends and we were pausing to make dinner and chat and just have fun, I wasn’t really paying super attention to the plot. Plus Kelsie’s dog is adorably distracting (mostly because she’s so independent and I’m used to having a dog permanently glued to my side—in fact, right at this moment, Charlie is laying on one side of me and Nala is laying on the other) that her absence distracted me. Because something just isn’t right if I’m not cuddling with a puppy while watching my Disney movie.
      I put off exploring the special features because the main thing I remembered about the movie was the rat-tail and utter lack of an explanation for so many creatures sharing the same atmosphere. When I finally did decide to explore them, just getting to the special feature was so annoying I gave up. A special features menu—on a space voyage film, no less—should not be hard to navigate.
      I decided to go ahead and just watch the film again. This time, James joined me. The dialogue is funny and witty, the characters individual and well developed, and there is only a single fart joke in the whole thing (not bad, considering the fall of Disney with the udders joke in HOTR). Once again, my viewing companion enhanced my experience. He enjoyed it so much I forgot how much I hated the rat-tail and atmospheric details and I enjoyed it, again.
      I don’t think it’s one I’ll want to own or watch again and again, but it was enjoyable to watch it a couple of times. I like the Disney addressed a parent who chose to leave—all the other single-parent heroes lose their parent to death or an evil force.
      I have to say, Disney nailed the villain this time. Of course, there’s a death—it is Disney, after all. The spider-crab-lobster villain is the epitome of my fears. It’s like Disney saw into my darkest nightmares…and made them real. I mean, come on. The villain is a giant spider, with crab-lobster claws and the same hair as the skeleton dude from Tales from the Crypt. It’s like they invaded my mind and took my deepest, darkest fears to make the worst, scariest villain ever. Okay, maybe not ever. But pretty dang close.
       I was a bit surprised the love story didn’t involve the main character. I was glad Jim got his act together. He looks much better at the end of the film, sans rat tail and with a military-esque haircut. Much better.
            I’m not usually a fan of futuristic plots, but I did like this one. Of course, I do have a soft spot for space. I love Lost in Space, the live-action one where the kids at space camp accidently go into space. I can’t say sci-fi/fantasy appeals to me, but there are always exceptions. And while I had a little trouble suspending my disbelief at first, in the end Disney won. And that’s how it should be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Til the Cows Come Home: Home on the Range

           Do you remember when your mom said that age-old phrase, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? Well, if I listened to my mom right now, this chapter would be very, very short. In any case, I’ll try by starting with the better. But prepare yourself.
            So far, there has only been one other film in this project that I didn’t like: Pinocchio. Unfortunately, for the most part I didn’t even like watching Home on the Range. I know, I know—I’m as surprised as you. But I think expectations have a big role to play here. You may remember, I actually watched HOTR after Three Caballeros and Brother Bear because good ol’ Netflix kept messing up the order. Prior to the Netflix movie mix-up, I wasn’t really looking forward to watching it. I vaguely recalled the trailers for it, and I distinctly remember thinking, well no point in seeing that one. Which sounds mean, I know. And I’ve been proven wrong before by trailers. Heck, I didn’t expect to like Meet the Robinsons, and I’m still making big-head, little arm jokes weeks later. But that’s where expectations come into play. After such a long and arduous process of just getting Home on the Range to my mailbox (okay, PO Box, the USPS doesn’t deliver to our apartment because we live so dang far out of town. Yes, it does stink.)
            So thanks, Netflix. You made me look forward to a movie, therefore increasing the chances that I’d dislike it. The more I look forward to something, the more likely I am to be disappointed. Now, before you go calling me a pessimist or saying I cause myself not to like things, hear me out. I have a crazy overactive imagination. So when I look forward to something, I build it up in my head a lot. Way more than is normal or even healthy, for that matter. I know I do this and often I try to avoid it by reminding myself to keep my expectations in check. I was even a little let down by Princess and the Frog the first time I saw it; the return to hand drawn animation made me so excited  I was expecting something better than The Lion King (as if that’s possible!). So really, my expectations played at least some role in my dislike of HOTR.
            You know I don’t like a movie when I spend paragraphs at a time talking about other movies. Funny how that works.
            On a positive note, I love Alan Menken, the composer for the film. I liked about half the songs, mainly “Will the Sun Ever Shine Again” and “Little Patch of Heaven”. I liked the music for the others, but not so much the lyrics. While some of them were great, they weren’t consistently great. Ugh, I hate saying bad things about anything Disney related. I feel guilty for not liking it, I do. It’s terrible how terrible it is. Also yodeling? Really? They’re cattle, not sheep on a Swiss hill. I just didn’t buy it. Though I do love listening to Dame Judi Dench, not enough to make up for the sound of Roseanne Barr’s voice for 100+ minutes.
            And what makes it so terrible? For once, they couldn’t get me to suspend my disbelief. I didn’t for a second think that they wouldn’t save the farm, because they weren’t acting like cows. They didn’t move like cows. They did Tae Boe and a horse did karate and their limbs kept bending in the wrong ways. It just didn’t compute. Films like Brother Bear, Bambi and The Lion King (of course, how could I not go there?) kept the animals looking and moving like the actual animals (for the most part). They didn’t want to make the animals too human or else the story would be unbelievable. We’re supposed to be learning through metaphor and seeing human experiences through another species’ eyes. HOTR just didn’t do that. I mean, if a yodeling cattle thief ever steals my cattle, forces me to go bankrupt, subsequently buys my property and….oh, wait. That’s terribly unlikely, isn’t it? So…umm… friendship is good? Yes?
            Also, the movie was way too dumbed down. It has Shrek-esque humor right from the beginning (Roseanne Barr saying “yes, they’re real” in reference to her udders), but the plot was way too laid out. There weren’t any surprises or twists. The villain kept explaining to his nephews how clever his plan is, repeating it over and over again. I mean really. Children are smarter than that, and that’s your target audience. Also, burps are only funny so many times. At some point, you’ll need witty dialogue. Just a suggestion.
            Overall, I was thoroughly disappointed. It pains me to say it. But at least now it’s over. Unfortunately I also didn’t think highly of the Treasure Planet trailers, and that’s the next 2000’s release on the list. Ruh-ro. Good think Make Mine Music is next.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bear Hugs: Brother Bear

Veteran’s Day weekend is always a big deal at our house. Since my husband is a veteran, I always try to make the day special. To start off the weekend right, we watched Brother Bear together. He watches some of the Disney project films with me, but not all of them. I’ve been trying to get him to watch Brother Bear for ages. The fact that it takes place in Alaska finally won him over.
      I distinctly remember seeing Brother Bear in theatres, crying my eyes out and thinking, this is it; Disney is back! I even waited to see it at the dollar theatre in the town where I lived; it didn’t even rate enough to see it in the nice theatre (which, at the time, charged $5 a ticket; that says a lot!). Despite the hard chair, sticky floor and smelly room of the dollar theatre, the film was worth it all. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d cried in a Disney movie.
      Part of what I love about BB is the Native American connection. Only one other Disney film (that I’ve seen) contains Native American heritage, and it’s Pocahontas. I’ll talk about my childhood thrill of Pocahontas in that chapter, but I loved it mostly because it had some connection to my own Native American heritage. BB has both that heritage and it takes place in the state where I live, so it’s pretty high up on my favorites list at the moment.
      It was interesting to watch the film with James. At the same moment when Kenai realizes what happened to Koda’s mother, James realized it as well. He was shocked. He was also pretty surprised when a character dies pretty early on. As Sitka sacrificed himself for his brothers, I turned to him and said, “Oh, I should have warned you—this movie is super sad.” And it is. But it’s also incredibly beautiful, both in story and visual aspects.
      The character names are all connected to Alaska in some way. Sitka and Kenai are places, for example. Denahi is awfully close to Denali, the largest mountain in North America. The Canadian moose are spot-on visually, with their clumsiness, but also provide a lot of humor in moments that could become overly serious.
      Basically, it has the balance between humor, moral lesson and touching moments that make Disney movies so spectacular.
      It was very cool—and meaningful—for us to see the landscape we live in painted on the screen. The scenery and depiction of wildlife were terrific. However, in summer, the Northern Lights aren’t actually visible because the sun is out for 18-23 hours a day, depending on where you are in Alaska. The salmon only run in the summer, and they swim upstream (at the salmon run in the film, it shows some going downstream. I instantly defended Disney and said the fish were swimming away from the bears, but who knows). The Northern Lights are magical in the film, so I can let their summer-presence slide.
      Of course I watched the Special Features, and discovered that multiple research trips were taken to Alaska and California. I also learned that aspects from multiple Native American cultures were used, which I actually rather like—it appeals to a broader audience by including a broader audience. It was really cool to see their research trips to Alaska, with actual video footage. There’s one scene of someone sketching on a hillside in this huge area of mountains and sky and view, and it looked just like Hatcher’s Pass—an area we frequent for hiking and scenic photography. It could have been, and that’s part of what makes watching the film so interesting. We try to guess where they were and what they were inspired by. A film studio is actually shooting Frozen Ground, a horror movie based on actual events, in Anchorage this month. It stars John Cusack and Nicholas Cage. But it’s scary and not Disney and scary, so I won’t be seeing it (sadly). I love seeing places I’ve been or lived on film. Seeing it in animation makes it even more special. At some point, I’ll probably start dreaming in animation.
      It’s mid-November and we have at least a foot of snow on the ground. We ran out and bought a $6 sled at Target and I took James sledding for the first ever (well, he claims he’s been the one time in snowed in Tallahassee; but his ‘sled’ was a cardboard box, so I don’t think it counts. We used a smallish hill behind our apartment, and it was lots of fun. There’s something about flying down a snowy hill on a small piece of plastic, getting covered in snow, feeling like your fingers will fall off from being so cold that just makes you feel five years old again. Well, for me it does. It was crazy cold—in the teens or twenties—but it was even colder this morning (7) (no really, it was literally seven degrees outside. See, it’s less than ten so I have to spell it out). Will we go sledding again when I get home from work and before James goes into work? Most likely.
      I began watching Rutt and Tuke’s commentary on the film, but since I’d just watched it I didn’t really want to watch the whole film again right away. But it was absolutely hilarious. If I loved BB as much as I love The Lion King, I probably could watch the commentary back-to-back with the film. But, while it is currently in my top list, it’s still not The Lion King.
      I have to say, I really love the message of BB. Love is often looked up as a weak emotion, but it’s really quite strong. And vengeance? Not so great. It might feel good for a minute, but is a minute of feeling good worth a lifetime of guilt? I don’t think so. That’s why Kenai’s lesson is so important—he started the fight (with a bear! Who does that?!), he put his brothers in danger, he blamed the bear for his brother’s death, killed the bear…only to discover she was only trying to protect her cub. Then he learns that this adorable, funny ball of fur has lost his mom, and it’s all his (Kenai’s) fault. It’s a hard truth to grapple with. It’s this huge moment when the audience realizes Kenai killed little Koda’s mom.
            Something that interests me is how psychology interweaves with Disney films. By making the characters, especially the baby animals, all cutesy and drawing that white reflection in their pupil, as an audience we’re more likely to feel sympathy for them. They humanize the animals so we feel for them. In BB, the bear’s eyes before Kenai becomes a bear are just small black dots. He doesn’t see them as empathetic creatures, so neither do we (the audience). We’re seeing his story through his eyes, and he sees the bear as a monster, thus we do as well. When Kenai becomes a bear, all the bears become cuter; their eyes become more human. It’s interesting how we empathize with those most like us. Like Pocahontas shows John Smith, sometimes nature and humans can live together in harmony-- but only if they recognize the wild as their equal.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Case of DW (PETA and the Whale, Cruising Craigslist)

Oh, Netflix. Why must you hate me? Because of Netflix once again messing up my (re)Discovering Disney Project order, I've gone FIVE whole days without watching a Disney movie.

I know. It's official. I've got DW, and it's bad. What's DW, you ask? Oh, thankfully for you, you've never had it. DW is Disney Withdrawals. The lack of happiness, innocence and overall wholesome goodness has left a void in my life that has been temporarily filled with snarkiness and sarcasm. Thus, the following post will be a little different than my usual sunny fare. It's also a bit hodge-podge, since it's been awhile since I've posted anything non-Disney related.

PETA and the Whale(s)
     About a month ago, I read an article that PETA, you know-- the crazy people-- were suing SeaWorld for using slaves.
     What, you say? Sweet SeaWorld, who over-charges for stuffed whales and coffee mugs? Yes. SeaWorld is being sued for having slaves.
      Who are these slaves?! What madness! How can this go on?
      These slaves are...wait for it... Whales. The orcas that live at SeaWorld, you know, the ones who live much longer lives, have intellectually stimulating toys, are safe, are regularly checked out by a whale-vet and get loads of attention. Yep, PETA thinks those whales are enslaved. Because they perform. But what of living expenses and food? The whales don't pay for those. And tank cleaning, and training. The whales don't pay for those. So perhaps it's a bartering relationship?
       PETA is declaring that the U.S. Constitution doesn't state that those rights belong only to humans, therefore the whales are slaves.
       One of the whales listed is Tilikum, the whale responsible for the death of the SeaWorld trainer last year. In that vein of thought, perhaps we should try him for murder? But was it involuntary? Voluntary? Premeditated?! Oh wait-- we can't ask him. Because he's a WHALE. Which means he can't TALK. If we have no way of communicating with him, however will we try this 'slave' for murder?
       And PETA, what about those manatees? You know, the ones rescued by wildlife groups and given sanctuary at SeaWorld and Disney World, fed immensely and who float around in their tanks eating all day? Are they slaves? Those same manatees who are covered with deep gashes, some healed, from motor boats in the ocean? Should we try each of those motorists for a hit-and-run? Even though they may not have seen the manatee or even known they hit it? Perhaps the manatees can each give a description of each of the boats that afflicted them.
      Oh--Wait a minute. THEY CAN'T TALK EITHER. Huh. Whatever will we do? Oh I Know!!! We can provide them a safe place to live, educate the public on the dangers that we, the public, pose to their health and wellness in the wild, encourage breeding and conservation, keep them well fed and make sure they are always comfortable and--- oh, that could get quite expensive. Wherever could we find a facility to house all these animals and educate the public about them?
     Right-- I know of one. SeaWorld. Uh-Oh PETA-- I think you're in over your head here. Perhaps this great white whale(s)--oops, wrong story--is just an obsession? Oooh, I love literary and life parallels! PETA is the obsessed captain--with an entire chapter on the whiteness of the whale-- and the SeaWorld whales are...the whale. Obsession, obsession.

The problem is, quite honestly, if PETA weren't so crazy they might actually accomplish something. Perhaps if they put their efforts into outsing Michael Vick as Nike's continued spokesman-- seeing as how he served time for animal cruelty and whatnot-- then people might respect them instead of mock them. Heck, I'm all for animal rights. But I'm not throwing red paint on anyone, am I? Perhaps the best way to draw attention to your cause is by installing public faith in your cause. You'll get a lot more done with a larger group behind you than you will by people mocking you about suing for whale-freedom. The more people who support you, the more people who will work together to get things done. Power in numbers. We learned that in elementary school. Of course, I'd tell them this, but I think red paint would look a little too Christmas-y with my green eyes.

Cruising Craigslist
     Ah, Craigslist. That slightly creepy but often useful website for getting someone else to pay for your junk. Okay, it isn't all junk. I've sold stuff there and bought stuff there. Sometimes I cruise CL  looking for treasure amongst the rubble, oftentimes I'm just looking for entertainment. Either way, the spelling and grammar errors will always make me groan and cringe and wish I could e-mail the post-er an edited version of their ad.
    I was looking for entertainment the day I looked at their Art/Media/Design postings under Jobs. A major motion picture is being filmed in Anchorage right now (I'd want to see it, but it's both a horror film and based on a true story, so it looks like I won't be, seeing as how I'm a wuss and all) and I wanted to see if they needed extras or whatever.
    I shouldn't have been surprised by what I found. I really shouldn't have. But I was. An ad looking for "Quirky Alaskans" for a reality T.V. show they're filming; preferably ones with guns.
     Every single person I've met in Alaska owns a gun. For real. So do I (though it's only technically, because my husband owns two. So I'm claiming one so I feel like I belong).
     I tried to find the ad, but it's gone. Sad day. In any case, they were very specific about who they wanted. Without knowing it, they wanted sourdoughs. There are a lot of Alaska terms used frequently here that you kind of have to live here, know someone who lives here or have been here  to know. Sourdough is one of them. A sourdough is a person who's lived in Alaska for a long time, an old-time Alaskan.
      What concerned me about that post wasn't that it was yet another  terrible reality T.V. show set in Alaska, but rather that it's reality T.V. yet they know exactly what the plot will be already. And that's when I realized the problem with 'reality T.V.'. It isn't reality because they already know exactly what they're going to convey. It's not a collection of interesting stories about amazing people who happen to live in Alaska; they want to present Alaska as one big state full of crazy gun owners with fish bones still in their beards, antlers on the wall and a bear knocking on the front door.
       Reality T.V. should be more like a research project; a collection of interesting tidbits that you string together by a single commonality (in this case, living in Alaska). I know a ton of interesting people up here who would be interesting to the whole country. But will they be on the show? Of course not. They don't fit the pre-determined mold that the producers decided they want. Who will be on the show? Actors. Actors who live in Alaska and want to be on T.V. The ad detailed exactly who they wanted-- the actors have a part to fill. So be prepared, when you see T.V. shows about living in Alaska, that it isn't really like that.
     In fact, when we first moved here there was a big hoopla about a show being shot here. I forget the show, something about looking for gold or being an outdoorsman or fishing. Anyway, a group of men were camping. A bear came near their camp. They presented it as dangerous, when really the bear walked away. In the show, they made it look like the bear came back. They shot the bear. They're heroes! No. They got a PERMIT to shoot the bear, it was a different bear than the one that had come near their camp; in fact, they went looking for it. So a bear died when it didn't do anything to deserve being killed. It didn't charge; it didn't even go near their camp. Thanks, reality T.V. A bear in Alaska NOT bothering anyone was shot, while one that was interested in the human camp wasn't. Great job.

So there you have it: what happens when I'm denied my Disney fix. I'll hopefully be watching Brother Bear tonight, unless Home on the Range actually arrives. Thus snarky/sarcastic narrator will retreat and Disney-centric one should return. Until then.... :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Change is Constant: Three Caballeros

           You can tell a lot about a person by the animation/cartoon test. If they refer to Disney animated features as cartoons, then they just don’t quite get it. But if they call it animation, then they realize it’s more than just a drawing, some music, maybe some humor. Like all good films, animation isn’t just an escape or entertainment; it also makes you think. It challenges how you see the world; it makes you change your perspective, even if only for a few hours.
            Word is just beginning to spread about my project. At least amongst people I know, colleagues, acquaintances. Some people don’t understand, at least not at first, why I want to watch 50 ‘cartoons’. For me, they aren’t just cartoons. It’s not just curiosity about the films I haven’t seen or nostalgia causing me to revisit the ones I’ve seen hundreds of times.
            I wish there were some cut and dry explanation for my project like that. But there’s not. Instead, I feel compelled to give myself a Disney-ducation. At the same time, I know it’s more than that. That’s the simple reason; the one that makes me sound least crazy. But to be honest, this chapter in my life is not one I was prepared for. Since I was three years old, I’ve been in school. From three to twenty-three, I was part of something. I was a student. It was part of my identity. Suddenly, a year ago, I was finally free. After twenty years and five graduations (preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, college), I am no longer called a student. I will always be learning, but I no longer have an arena in which I excel, even when everything else may be going wrong.
            I was terrific at school. I can understand why some people never want to leave the safety of the education system. Last year, I couldn’t understand. I was excited to graduate, to be done, to get to choose my reading material. Now, four billion changes in one year later, I’ve seriously considered going back. School is my safe environment—I know what to do there. There’s no uncertainty, no unknowns.
            Disney is my source of comfort and hope. Don’t twist my words here—my faith is not Disney based. When I’m worried, concerned or upset, I don’t get on my knees to Walt. But when I finish praying (I’m not going to go into detail about my faith because it’s too personal and, well, this is public) I may watch a Disney film to cheer me up. Faith brings me peace, animation brings me cheer and hope. Disney and Pixar always give me hope. If Simba-- who watched his father die trying to save him-- can keep going, then so can I.
            This project is about finding hope and making hope. Terrible things are always going to be happening.  Things will always be changing—life isn’t static. Having the ability to find hope and cheer yourself up is quite valuable. Or at least it is to me. That’s why this project, on animation, is important to me. This will sound terrible, but once someone refers to it as watching cartoons, their opinion is lost to me; it’s invalid. If they don’t actually understand what I’m doing, then they can’t really comment or critique it.
            In this new state with new weather and new things to be afraid of (earthquakes are not my friend), in a new job, in an apartment instead of a rental house, finding new grocery stores, driving a new car, essentially living a new life. There are new dangers (moose and bears), new neighbors (so far, we’re short on luck in this department), new everything, it feels like. In a time of change, taking comfort in the familiar is quite nice. Not all these films are familiar—I only own 17, many of the pre-1950 films I hadn’t even seen.
            The Three Caballeros is one I hadn’t seen. The technological advancement once again fascinated me—animation and live action are used simultaneously. It’s different, as Saludos Amigos was different. But what I realized is that I don’t really like either of these films. They were enjoyable to watch and I always like getting to practice my Spanish skills. But the lack of a narrative was irksome to me. I felt more like I was watching a Silly Symphonies cartoon than an animated feature. They were enjoyable, but not ones I’d want to own. Were they not animated features, and were they separated and presented individually as short films or cartoons, I think I would have enjoyed them. But I found myself growing disinterested towards the end.
            While there is definitely more of a story arc in Three Caballeros than there was in Saludos Amigos, I still group them together and probably always will. They are the result of the three months Walt and 18 artists, musicians and story artists spent in South America encouraging good will towards the U.S. right before the U.S. officially entered WWII. The historical context fascinates me. The movies…not so much.
            It could very likely have something to do with the fact that I grew up with Donald Duck in cartoons, so seeing him in an animated feature changes the feeling of the movie. It’s odd, because seeing Mickey Mouse in Fantasia didn’t do that. It still felt like a film as opposed to T.V. Then again, Fantasia is actually presented as separate short films grouped together.
            Every now and then, I experience a magical moment that has nothing to do with Disney. Today was one of those days. James and I were began walking the dogs with just light snow drifting down. While we were walking them, it actually began to snow quite a bit. Because we’re still new to having snow, and Charlie the collie clearly loves it so much, we were excited. We ended up walking them for quite a bit, the second day in a row thanks to the snow, and just letting them play in the snow. I caught snowflakes on my tongue and played chicken with the snow.
            How do you play chicken with the snow, you ask? Well, I’m so glad you did. What you do is stand in the quickly falling snow—not a blizzard, mind you, just a substantial amount—and close your eyes. Look upwards in the direction the snow is falling. Then open your eyes and don’t blink. It sounds easy, but when thousands of unique snowflakes are flying at your exposed eyeballs, it’s a little frightening.
            Anyway, we had a lovely afternoon playing with our dogs in the snow. We had been stressed due to house complications, but then we got to go into our new house and we ended up, unexpectedly, meeting the sellers. They were there doing the required repairs. They were so nice and lovely, and then we got to play with our dogs in the snow, and just like the snow that landed on Charlie’s sable back, the stress melted just like the snow when we came inside.
            Some days start out and you feel as though you’re in a tragedy. Then, unexpectedly, you find yourself standing in the snow, catching snowflakes, and it feels more like a romantic comedy. That’s life—always changing. But at least we have Disney to guide us through.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Saying Hola: Saludos Amigos

              I’d like to say I planned to watch the documentary Walt and El Grupo before watching Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros, but I’d be lying. I didn’t even realize the three films were related until after watching the documentary.
            Walt and El Grupo follows the goodwill tour that Walt took of South America, from which he returned only two months before Pearl Harbor. Walt and a group of artists, consisting of animators and story Disney people, went on a U.S. government all-expenses-paid expedition to encourage goodwill towards the U.S. The Nazi’s were also trying to sway South American governments toward their side.
            I’m really glad I happened to watch that documentary before the two films that resulted from it. Walt said he didn’t really know how to do the political stuff, but he’d go down there and talk to people and make some films about it. At the time, the Disney studio was on strike. The strike hurt Walt deeply, as his daughter explains in the documentary. Although this film wasn’t on my list for this project, I’m so glad I watched it.
            Saludos Amigos was definitely not what I was expecting. A lot of footage I saw on the documentary was actually in the film. And it wasn’t solely animation; that’s what surprised me the most. It was like a narrative of the South American trip, with Walt himself narrating. I’ll admit—listening to Walt talk for most of the film was incredible. I felt like I was sitting in an easy chair, next to a roaring fire with snow drifting outside, with Walt sitting across from me and telling me about this trip, almost as if he were showing me a scrapbook. This film felt more personal than the others.
            Undoubtedly I feel this way because I love Walt so much, and so hearing his voice for a prolonged period of time has an effect on me. In reality, I watched a film on my television, with no fireplace, I was sitting on the couch, it wasn’t snowing (though was certainly cold enough to), and Walt died over fifty years ago. Yet the film left me feeling as though I’d spent the evening with a dear friend who had just returned from an interesting three month journey. Walt’s magic never ceases to amaze me.
            It’s now early November and our first real snow came and stuck the day before Halloween. It was a little odd, making a pumpkin cheesecake with snow on the ground. And it was a little odd to be transported to South America with Walt for an hour when all the snow was blowing away.
            Ah, here’s something about Alaska you may not know: Chicago is the windy city, but Alaska is the windy state. The little dusting to one inch of snow we’d received on October 30th was completely gone by November 2nd. It didn’t melt—no, it blew away. We had a windstorm for two days that just picked up all our snow and carried it away. I don’t know where. We live in the Mat-Su Valley, but I work in Eagle River, which is near Anchorage. It’s about a 50 minute commute. Eagle River does not have the wind problem to the same degree that the Valley does. There is still snow on the ground here; they may have even gotten more. I’m terrible at measuring snow without hearing the amount the meteorologist decrees, so you’ll have to bear in mind my estimates may be off. Or probably are off.
            In any case, I was both excited and disappointed by the snow. I was excited because, well, it’s snow. I lived in Florida for over four years and I was excited to see it actively snowing. I love the seasons and enjoy each one in its time, but I also always look forward to the change. I like looking at the decorations out for the next holiday, and changing the wreath on the door and all of that silliness.
            So then why was I disappointed? And what kind of crazy woman am I to be excited and disappointed simultaneously? Well, I was disappointed because the house we’re buying—and closing on in roughly three weeks—does not yet have a fenced yard. And it will be much easier to put up a temporary fence without a foot of snow on the ground. So I was excited for the change but disappointed for the difficulty this change will add to our temporary-fence construction. We have three dogs; why yes, we will be constructing the temporary fence the day we move in. However did you know?
            I’m about to explode with excitement over moving into our first house. That is, the first house we’ll own. I’m also super excited to not have to deal with crazy woman upstairs (and you know she must be crazy if I, excited and disappointed at the same time crazy woman myself, can identify her as crazy).
            I’m also excited to watch Three Caballeros and see what’s going on there. I wonder if it’s the same half-live action, half-animation combination as Saludos Amigos? Thanks to Netflix (once again, causing trouble), I will be watching Three Caballeros this evening—before Home on the Range. What, you say? Well, Netflix only had the South American films on one disc, so I’d have to send off the disc I have, with both Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros, wait for Home on the Range, then wait for the combined disc of South American animation to work its way back to me. No, thank you. I’ll just watch them out of order (sadly). But once again, they will be here in the proper order, not the Netflix-skewed order.
            Adios, Amigos!