Friday, January 30, 2015

Disney for all seasons

We're still new to Tennessee, which means each season is a surprise. Winter so far has been a bit of a disappointment. We've only had two snows that actually stuck, and even that only lasted a few hours. We've had a handful of other snowy days with none lingering, the trees are all half-naked and dried leaves are still swirling around. Each day, I can't tell if it's going to feel like winter or early spring. Since the weather can't make up its mind, how am I supposed to make up mine about what Disney movie to watch? 101 Dalmatians is great for snowy days, and Pocahontas fits better on the days that feel more spring-like. Since my indecision has been irritating me, I've compiled a list of each animated Disney feature, sorted by season. I'm beginning with winter, since it's still January and therefore should feel wintry.

The movies selected for winter usually occur during colder, snowier times. They make us want to snuggle under blankets with hot cocoa (extra marshmallows, please!), and wish the scenes outside our windows were as beautiful as those on the screen.

Make Mine Music
101 Dalmatians
The Sword in the Stone
Beauty and the Beast (this falls into fall and winter, as it begins in fall and extends into winter)

Spring movies are much like the season: warmer than winter but softer than summer. They may depict spring-like seasons, or just begin in the spring, or somehow remind us of spring.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Fun and Fancy Free
Melody Time
Alice in Wonderland
Sleeping Beauty
The Aristocats
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
The Rescuers
Fantasia 2000
Brother Bear
Wreck it Ralph

Summer movies are brighter and louder than spring ones. They're adventures into leafy jungles, onto the hot pavement of city streets, or through dusty deserts so well depicted your mouth feels dry just thinking about it.

Saludos Amigos
The Three Caballeros
Peter Pan
Lady and the Tramp
The Jungle Book
Robin Hood
Oliver and Company
The Little Mermaid
The Rescuers Down Under
The Lion King
The Emperor's New Groove
Lilo and Stitch
Home on the Range
Chicken Little
Meet the Robinsons
The Princess and the Frog

Fall movies remind us of apple cider, crisp breezes and long walks in crunchy leaves. It makes you want to curl up with a good book in front of a roaring fire, or bake something yummy.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
The Fox and the Hound
The Black Cauldron
The Great Mouse Detective
Beauty and the Beast
Treasure Planet
Winnie the Pooh (2011)

Confession: I haven't yet seen Big Hero 6 (I KNOW! It's a travesty, it is. It's just… I have a toddler.  I refuse to risk ruining someone else's movie experience, or an entire theatre's movie experience, just to see a movie I want to see. But I'm working on it!). Since I haven't seen it, I can't categorize it. I only included the Disney Animation Studios films, to keep in line with the (re)Discovering Disney project. Maybe I'll embark on a Pixar project in the future, just so I can include those too!

What do you think? Would you move any of these around? Do movies make you think of a certain season too?

Stay warm, friends! Or watch one of the spring/summer movies to get you into the warm spirit (if that's where you want to be. Stick with the winter ones if you like feeling wintry in winter!)

Friday, January 9, 2015

K.C. Undercover pilot review

The newest Disney Channel original series, K.C. Undercover, is currently only available for viewing through the app Watch Disney Channel, and will debut on Disney channel January 18, 2015.

It's no secret that I adore Disney. Still, I was a little hesitant to see Zendaya's newest TV series. Some Disney channel shows are amazing, like Jessie, ANT Farm, Hannah Montana (remember, this is before Miley went, ah, anti-Disney), and Girl Meets World. Then there are shows like Fish Hooks that I just don't see the appeal, and can't sit through more than the few minutes during the ad. K.C. looked promising, but I still had my worries.

I needn't have worried. The pilot was GREAT. Truly entertaining, without being terribly predictable. It's also not merely a re-make of The Famous Jett Jackson that cuts the famous-actor plot. The show centers on teenager K.C. I won't give away any spoilers, but the plot line offered in promotions reveals that she is a teenage spy. It's a fun concept that Disney flawlessly pulls off. It's also well-written, beautifully executed and left me looking forward to the rest of the season. Here's why.

Zendaya's character, K.C., is her own girl. She's super smart, yet also stylish, but also gets tongue tied around the male half of the species. The well-written, fully rounded characters don't end with her. The side characters are also thoroughly developed. Her best friend, though a little stereotypical, is far from the archetype that often plagues shows with teenaged main characters.

What I'm most excited about are K.C.'s parents. I know, right: you know you're old when the parents on the TV show are what grab your interest. But there's been a long series of dud-dads and bimbo-moms with overly-teasing, borderline hurtful relationships. K.C.'s parents are not only intelligent and treat each other respectfully, but also show a loving partnership with joint-decision making and mostly responsible parenting. It's nice to see parents presented positively. They aren't perfect, but who is? As well as having positive parents, K.C. provides inside jokes from the grown-up spy realm for any parents watching from home.

With the exception of the whole spy plot line, the show is incredibly realistic. Girls can be mean. Friends can be pushy. Parents can be confusing. Boys can be manipulative. It's a great way to show how to adapt and overcome adversity in regular life, as we see more struggles with non-spies than spy work.

 Diversity is often either neglected, or overly emphasized. When shows do add multi-cultural, or even multiple races, to a program, it tends to be as a focal point instead of as a, "hey, we live in a melting pot, maybe we should represent that," type of way. K.C. does a decent job of including multiple races without having great neon signs pointing that say, "Hey! Look at us! We're including characters of multiple hues!" What's especially refreshing is the lack of stereotypes within those hues. Many shows focus on what I call the Kanye or Urkel effect: any character of color is either super cool or super dorky, with very little balance to achieve an actual, realistic personality. K.C. avoids the Kanye or Urkel problem by avoiding 2D characters in general, and instead creates 3D, believable and relatable characters. It also promotes owning who you are, and being honest about your flaws instead of ashamed of them.

Avoiding stereotypes of teenagers and parents is crucial to a show made for teens. What they see on screen and in life is often similar; life may be less over-the-top, but the relationships they see on TV affect how they're going to treat people. This doesn't even just apply to the under-18 set. We all allow what we see to influence how we act. That's how TV catchphrases stay relevant to our language, even once the TV show is no longer on the air (for example, just from How I Met Your Mother: Legendary, Challenge Accepted, Bro Code, etc).

I was truly delighted with K.C. Undercover. The originality of the plot, thoroughly developed characters and witty dialogue make for an enjoyable show for all ages.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Empty shelf challenge or the books of 2014

Last December, a friend shared a post by Jon Acuff called the empty shelf challenge. The concept was to take an empty shelf and fill it with books you read in 2014, and take a photo to share. I read quite a few library books and ebooks, so I adapted it to a list instead.

Looking back, 2014 was my year of Mary Kay Andrews. Her original series published under her true name was re-released, and I went to town! Sadly, I didn't finish two books on my list, but I'm including them because although they're long, they're enjoyable and I'm still reading them with the intent to finish them. There's another one I started but gave up on, a rarity for me, because the plot just couldn't draw me in. If I ultimately make it to the end, I'll add it to 2015's list.

So without further ado, here's my life in books for 2014:

The Book Thief, Marcus Zusack
To Live and Die in Dixie, Mary Kay Andrews 
The Girl in the Mirror, Cecelia Ahern
Homemade Sin, Mary Kay Andrews
Happy Never After, Mary Kay Andrews
Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
*Walt Disney, Neal Gabler (incomplete)
The Choice, Nicholas Sparks 
Twisted Sisters, Jen Lancaster
The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, Alan Bradley 
Heart Trouble, Mary Kay Andrews
The Secret Lives of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
Kingdom Keepers VII: The Insider; Ridley Pearson
Strange Brew, Mary Kay Andrews 
Midnight Clear, Mary Kay Andrews
Irish Eyes, Mary Kay Andrews
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, Susan Gregg Gilmore 
Bridge to Haven, Francine Rivers
Save the Date, Mary Kay Andrews 
Someone Else's Love Story, Joshilyn Jackson
The One and Only, Emily Giffin
Baby Proof, Emily Giffin
Walking on Water, Richard Paul Evans
The Arsonist, Sue Miller
A tail of Vengeance, Spencer Quinn
The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen 
The Blood of Olympus, Rick Riordan 
*Creativity, inc, Ed Catmull
Where the Heart is, Billie Letts
Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen 
Sopaholic to the Stars, Sophie Kinsella 
The Girl who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen
The Fixer Upper, Mary Kay Andrews
The Year I Met You, Cecelia Ahern

There it is: my year in books. What have you been reading lately? Do you ever have an author take over your year, where you have to read everything they've written?

I intend to continue to keep a list of the books I've read each year-- it's a great way to look back and see where you were that year. Plus, it'll keep me from forever searching for a book I've forgotten the title of! Will you participate in 2015's book list challenge?

Happy reading in 2015!