Monday, December 26, 2011

Un-Happily Ever After: Melody Time

Ah, Christmas. The past four Christmases weren’t white and were way too warm. But this year is different. This Christmas is our first Alaskan Christmas. And it will definitely be white.
            My love for Disney permeates every area of my life-- including my Christmas decorations. I’ve got my Mickey and Minnie cookie jar, my Mickey and Minnie platter, my Disney tree decorations. I love Disney Christmas.
            Melody Time isn’t very Christmas-y. Sure, it opens up with a wintry scene that was enjoyable. But, like the rest of the package films, the lack of flow was really distracting. The only thing I don’t like about old movies is the pre-movie credits. With the package films, there’s pre-movie credits with every short! Definitely doesn’t put me in the mood for rocking around the Disney-Christmas tree.
            MT didn’t put me in the Christmas spirit for another reason: it’s a tad depressing. To be honest, I got bored half way through watching it and finished it another day. The only short I really remember is the last one, about Pecos Bill. Being from Oklahoma, I enjoy the South-Western themes and stories. When I first saw Roy Rogers (with Trigger, of course!) I mixed him up in my head with Will Rogers, who is a huge deal in Oklahoma. Then I had to look up both Roy and Will. Turns out Roy got married in Oklahoma, so at least there's some connection (it’s a stretch, I know).
            Disney often gets criticized for their Happily Ever After endings. Well, peeps, you know to watch Melody Time. Roy Rogers is telling the tale of Pecos Bill as an answer to why coyotes howl at the moon. In my opinion, this segment is hands-down the best of the film. Everything ties together nicely…until the end.  Pecos and his love are separated, causing Pecos to howl at the moon while the coyotes follow suit (This makes sense, as coyotes raised him, so they’re close like that). And that’s the end. The sad, sad end.
            I’m curious to see what other films have sad endings. Other than the lost boys of Pinocchio, that is. When I first saw the next film on the list, Atlantis, I loved it. I hope that’s still the case and my expectations don’t get the best of me. Of course, when I watch Atlantis, it will be in our new house—we’re closing tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stitches of Laughter: Lilo and Stitch

I saw Lilo and Stitch when it first came out in theatres in 2002. It was released the summer between sixth and seventh grade. I clearly remember going to the theatre with my friend on one of those unbearably hot days when all you can do is escape into a cool, dark theatre and wait it out. What else do I clearly remember? Hating the movie.
            I wish I could tell you why I didn’t enjoy it. Over the years, the parts that I remember were solely Stitch ruining everything. I completely forgot the redemptive side of the story. Plus I’m not usually one for sci-fi or aliens unless Will Smith is saving the planet (again and again).
            So once again, I’m here before you, eating my words. Lilo and Stitch is one of the animated movies I was dreading watching. In my defense, Pinocchio was one of the others I was dreading, and I was still right on that one. I guess my 12 year old self couldn’t appreciate the wit and humor found in Lilo. I’m already plotting when I can use Cobra Bubbles’ (Best.Name.Ever) line,Thus far, you have been adrift in the sheltered harbor of my patience.” Love it. I also love that there are more Elvis songs in this Disney movie than there were in any of his own movies. I do love Elvis and Hawaii in the same movie. I also now have an even deeper desire to go to Hawaii. No surprise there.
            I watched Lilo and Stitch twice this week. That’s how much I now love it. I watched it first with my dear friend, Kelsie. She pinpointed what makes this movie so great: thorough characterization. Each character is completely unique and enjoyable. They are believable as real people, which makes their crazy story believable as well. As the audience, you’re rooting for Nani and Lilo to stay together. And while you’re frustrated at Stitch, you still don’t want any harm to come to him. Lilo is probably the one person who could change Stitch. She’s able to relate to him, to get him to see himself through her eyes. The irony is that while he’s programmed to destroy, he isn’t trying to destroy anything when he does any real damage to her life.
            Although I do have to say, the story of The Ugly Duckling that Lilo shares is drastically different from the one I remember. Or that anyone else remembers, for that matter. If they had just called it something else, like Little Duckling, or Lost Duckling, or the Duckling Who Didn’t Know his Home, it wouldn’t have bothered me. But calling it the The Ugly Duckling and not having it be that story was just distracting.
            Part of what made Dumbo so enjoyable was the beautifully painted watercolor backgrounds. The animators of Lilo and Stitch specifically used the same style of backgrounds in a different setting to relay that simple, beautiful feeling. It works. The backgrounds are beautiful but not distracting. Hawaii is well-known for being stunningly gorgeous; having Hawaii as a setting could easily distract the viewer from the plot. But the elegant watercolors allow the audience to enjoy animated Hawaii without losing focus of the story. It also lent a certain timelessness to the film, which nicely balanced out the modern setting.
            Another refreshing aspect of this movie was the realistic look of the characters. They may be animated, but they don’t look like they’re ready to be turned into Barbie dolls. Their noses are imperfect, their stomachs not six-packs. They look like real people. A recurring theme in the movie is the sun-burned tourist whose ice cream keeps falling off his cone (I mean, really, you’d think he’d wizen up and use a bowl!). Lilo may look normal, but she doesn’t feel normal. She questions everything and stays true to herself, even though her interests are different than other girls her age. Because of the loss of her parents (of course, it is a Disney movie. Missing parents are kind of a theme), part of her was forced to grow up and deal with her emotions before normal 6 year olds would have to. She’s in this odd place of being six years old with the burden most people don’t have to deal with until much later in life. We see both sides of her. When she demands dessert after not eating her sweet potatoes, we see the six year old. But when she asks Stitch what happened to his parents and follows her question with, “I know that's why you wreck things, and push me.” Her psycho-analysis of Stitch, while adorable, is also sad. She’s projecting her own feelings on him: she pushes people because of her anger over her parents’ death.
            And of course I have to love any movie that mentions a collie. Lilo says Stitch was a collie before he got hit by a truck. I’m hoping that along with her Elvis obsession, she also loves Lassie. How else would she be familiar with collies?!
            The special features were so-so. The informative ones on Hawaii were interesting, but not spectacular. The most important information I learned about the movie I read on IMDb. Apparently, the original chase scene between Stitch and co. and Gantu’s spacecraft (in which Lilo is trapped) involved Stitch using an airplane to chase Gantu’s spacecraft, in which many buildings were damaged. Lilo and Stitch was in production when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred. While the chase scene was already fully animated, the production crew scrapped it and had Stitch on a spacecraft instead, and the chase took place over mostly natural landscapes with few structures. Good call, Disney.
            Lilo and Stitch has all the ingredients for a terrific Disney movie. It’s funny, has many great messages delivered by well-developed and interesting characters set against a beautiful backdrop of natural beauty. It is a terrific movie, and I love it, and you should go watch it. Right now. Go. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mickey's Back! Fun and Fancy Free; The Multiverse Debate of 2011

      Heretofore (I love using that word, as it makes me sound like a super smarty pants. As opposed to someone who uses phrases like ‘super smarty pants’) I haven’t really been able to share my Mickey love, because he’s only made on other (much too brief) appearance (in Fantasia). But I’ll say it loud and clear now: I L-O-V-E M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e (I was actually singing that, FYI). In case reading songs isn’t your thing, I’ll even say it again: I love Mickey Mouse! Surprisingly, I didn’t know that Walt himself—yes, THE great and powerful Walt Disney—voiced Mickey Mouse up through Fun and Fancy Free. F&FF is actually the last time Walt does Mickey’s voice. And in the special features, there’s even a video-in-video showing Walt voicing and Mickey talking. It’s crazy cool.
      F&FF is another package film of the 40’s. I both like and dislike these films. I like them because they are very clearly from the 40’s, and I love the 40’s (obviously not the war aspect, but the music and culture of America during that time of transition). I also love that the package films are what financed Cinderella, which I loved when I was little (the mice probably reminded me of Mickey). I dislike the package format itself. I like flow and transitions, and the first of the package films (Saludos Amigos, Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music) don’t have the stellar transitions that would make them really shine. The individual segments are good, but the way they’re linked together isn’t. I’m glad the package films were made, because otherwise we wouldn’t have these snippets of what were supposed to be feature films in their own right before the war.
      F&FF definitely improves on the transitions. The stories are told in the frame format—there’s a beginning intro, the story, an intermission that leads the intro for the next part, and it finishes back with the frame. In other words, the story within the story is framed by a story. I totally just won a how many times can someone say story in one sentence and still make sense contest. If such a thing existed, that is. Anyway, moving on. Bongo the circus bear.
      As someone who’s been in a couple circuses, you’d think I’d be sick of hearing circus stories. Wrong. I loved Dumbo for being set in a circus. When Bongo was on a trapeze, I got super excited. Then he juggled plates and fruits and who knows what else while upside down on a tight-wire, and I was like, pshah, I’ve so done that! (To be honest, I totally haven’t. But I have done tight-wire). I didn’t love how mean the handlers were to this incredibly talented bear. So when he breaks free and escapes into the (clearly Alaskan) wilderness, I was happy for him. But I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t take his silly circus clothes off. I’d also like to educate the animators about the size difference between brown bears (aka grizzly bears) and black bears, because so far every black bear in Disney animated films (okay, the only other one so far is Brother Bear) is larger than the brown bears/grizzly bears, and that’s just not true. Also, not all bears can climb trees (it’s another divide between black bears and brown bears). But LuLu Belle ( is a tiny brown bear, and she can climb the tree. Yet Bongo, also a tiny brown bear, can’t. It’s just inconsistent.
      James laughed at me every time I pointed out a bear inconsistency. Here’s the thing: when we first moved to Alaska, I was convinced we’d see bears all the dang time. So far, we’ve only actually seen one. In Denali National Park. And he was… going number two, so to speak, and so wasn’t that scary. Anyway, I was rather afraid of them (this has now downgraded from debilitating fear to healthy fear—because it’s silly to NOT be afraid of a bear in the wild), and so I learned pretty much everything I could about them. I’m not this way with my other fears (crabs, spiders). But how you handle a bear encounter depends on the kind of bear, so knowing their differences is important. Since I’m not Dwight Shrute, I will not educate you on the differences between bears.
      Back to Bongo. It was a cute story, and who doesn’t love bears showing their feelings by slapping each other? (This came in handy later. Wait for it). But other than being cute, it didn’t really stay with me. I didn’t really see a lesson, other than standing up to bullies and being aware of cultural differences. But even those are pretty buried.
      Jiminy Cricket brings the audience back into the non-framed portion of the story and commits a felony. Don’t worry, it’s a cricket-sized one: he reads someone else’s mail. And it’s already open. And just lying around, begging to be peeked at. So basically, the cricket is human. Jiminy takes us across the street to this weird ventriloquist, whose mouth you can always see moving when his creepy dolls talk. Apparently he was famous, as were his dolls, but the version I remember seeing on Disney Channel of Mickey and the Beanstalk was without the creepy puppets, and my non-puppet-scarred childhood is thankful for that. There’s a reason Mickey and the Beanstalk was re-released twice and the puppets were omitted both times.
      The puppets are weird and slightly inappropriate, and seeing live action coupled with animation always kind of weirds me out. To answer your question (I’m also a mind reader; didn’t you know that?) no, I haven’t seen Mary Poppins. Please close your mouth, I’m aware it’s atrocious. I’m a bit busy watching the Disney animated films though, so it’ll have to wait. I’ve also never seen any of the Star Wars movies. And you thought my lack of Mary Poppins was bad.
      On to Mickey! He gives a stellar performance in Mickey and the Beanstalk. Goofy is hilarious, especially in the gelatin scene. I can only ever understand fifteen words Donald says in any movie, so I can’t really comment on his performance. But he does act crazy really well.
      Mickey and the Beanstalk was slightly interrupted by a Google search. James had this distinct memory of having seen Mickey and the Beanstalk before, and repeatedly, but he’d never seen F&FF and knew no creepy puppets were involved. He was also convinced I didn’t believe him, and so he kept telling me random plot points from Jack and the Beanstalk. I totally did believe him, because I’d seen it before too, but it was much too fun to watch him catapult through childhood memories trying to remember where he saw it. Also, every time I tried to tell him it was on Disney Channel in the 80’s and 90’s, he’d interrupt me because he thought I didn’t believe him. His face was priceless when the puzzle was solved (via Wikipedia, which I in no way endorse because I could go on and say pink elephants live in trees and then some second grader would always be looking for pink elephants in trees and that’s just wrong, folks). Mickey and the Beanstalk was re-released in the 60’s, sans creepy puppets. Then it was released via T.V. on the Disney Channel in the 80’s. Which means those of us with VCRs recorded it on VHS tapes and watched it over and over again because it’s so dang awesome. James had it on VHS, I didn’t, so he watched it repeatedly and thus remembered it more than I did.
      So yeah. Mickey and the Beanstalk was my favorite, because it has Mickey Mouse and Walt’s voice and who can beat that? Sadly for me, my Wikipedia search led me to Walt’s page. I knew he had died young (65 is young, peeps) and that it was fairly sudden and the sun shone a little less bright for a while after he died. I didn’t know he had died of lung cancer. I kind of want to sue the tobacco companies for killing Walt Disney and making the whole world a lot sadder. Mostly because it many photos and videos of him, he’s smoking. And that makes me sad. Imagine what we could have today if his imagination and ambition was around for longer.
      I also finally realized that Walt wasn’t just talented, creative and an imaginative genius; he had the ambition to realize those dreams. If you can dream it, you can do it. So now I’m going to try and be more like Walt in the ambition department.
      I was being all sad about Walt as James and I were going to sleep last night. To get my mind off my sadness, we started talking about Mario. Specifically, Super Mario Galaxy 2 (for the Wii, because it’s awesome and I love it and if Nintendo ever reads this, you seriously need to make a Lion King game for Wii. I totally endorse Nintendo. If the company were a person, and not a famous one but a normal one, we’d totally be BFF). But here’s my beef with Mario Galaxy 2. The ‘World’ (level) is full of galaxies (stages within the level). Each galaxy has multiple planets, so it’s clearly properly named. However, the term World does not include multiple galaxies. My idea was that it be called levels, but James said it had to be space related, since the whole thing takes place in space. So then I said galaxy was right for the stages, but the worlds should be called universes.

James: There’s only one universe. Uni- one, verse. One verse. (Mr. Fancy-Shmancy took Latin in high school and occasionally it comes out to haunt me).

Me: Um, I’m pretty sure there are multiple universes. For reals.

James (laughing derisively. Or maybe just laughing): No, there’s not!

Me: Okay, fine. I’ll prove it.

James (knowing my distrust of Wikipedia): Okay, but no Wikipedia  (in his defense, I doubt every piece of information he’s ever gathered from this source and refuse to let him use it, so I earned this comment. I had it coming).

Me (pulling out iPod): Fine by me, their liars anyway. (scrolling through Google search results). Aha! NPR! Hahaha!

James: (I’m fairly certain a curse word slipped out and his face paled considerably, but it was dark (we were supposed to be sleeping, after all)).

Me: (I don’t actually remember what I said, but I quoted the NPR article, which was interviewing a physicist who has written a bunch of books, and proved me right talking about parallel universes and calling it a multiverse (take that, Latin!)).

James: Okay, so here’s how I’ll prove you wrong—

Me: I am so not done. (Continues reading evidence that supports my claim which I made up and am really glad I was somehow right about)

James: (a long time later, as I was trying to talk about physics and string theory so much he would just fall asleep. Clearly I forgot he’s a) trying to prove me wrong and b) interested in science) Okay, so here’s how I’ll prove you wrong—

Me: I am so not done. (I think you can see what my plan was here. I was just going to keep doing this).

James: Ok-so-here’s-how-I’ll-prove-you-wrong: If the universes are parallel they are still a part of this universe, meaning there is only one universe.

Me: (I begin to give some final quote on quantum physics and string theory (still not sure what exactly that is, to be honest), when he starts tickling me. I grab his hands and stop him, then say: How do bears say I love you? With a slap! (and gently touch his face, as I’m not a monster and don’t slap my husband).

Thankfully he laughed and our debate ended. For about thirty seconds. Then he said something else about it, to which I replied, “This is supposed to be my quiet time! How the heckfire did I end up reading about quantum physics and string theory at 11:37 at night?!”

And that, folks, is how you end up in a debate about quantum physics from already debating the proper names for Mario levels.

Nothing like a multiverse existence debate to lull you to sleep. At least I got a final Disney reference in for the night. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What's in a name? Everything. Absolutely everything.

Disclaimer: With the combination of not having a Disney movie for over a week and discovering a new, even snarkier blog ( Go there. But finish reading this first, it will help my self-esteem), I myself am feeling quite snarky. You've been warned.

I've decided that if you name your child Stewart, he will be super smart. This means he'll have 14 bazillion degrees and still be getting even more college degrees when he has white hair. It also means he will be charming and funny, and be super nice to all of his fellow tutors. I know this because I know a Stewart, and he is super smart and everything else I said two sentences ago. And you must spell Stewart without the -ua- (Stuart) because the -ua- is clearly the pretentious spelling and you don't want your Stewart to be that guy. Also, don't call him Stewie or he'll turn into a cartoon (which in itself would be kind of cool, but so not worth explaining to strangers and other frightened children) and spend his life attempting to kill you and your family while simultaneously planning an evil world domination.

Huh. That could be distracting from his little genius-baby cuteness.

I'll stick with Walt. Or just have girls. Or..both?