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.