“Be as Strong as the Seas are Stormy, and Proud as an Eagle’s Skeen”

Brave

Pixar’s contribution to the Disney princess line, the film did win a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Oscar for Best Animated Film. It features an all-star cast, headed up by Kelly Macdonald (Evangeline from Nanny McPhee and Helena Ravenclaw from Death Hallows Part 2), who voices Merida; Billy Connolly (Il Duce from The Boondock Saints [I’ve seen that movie precisely once, and loudly exclaimed – at ten ‘o’clock at night – “That’s Dain!”] and Dain from Battle of the Five Armies) is her father, Fergus; the ever-brilliant Emma Thompson (amongst other roles, the titular Nanny McPhee, also Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies) is Queen Elinor; Julie Walters voices the witch (I did not know that; and Julie Walters may be most recognized as Mrs. Weasley), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid, and an ally-of-sorts for James Bond) is Lord Dingwall; and Lord Macintosh is voiced by Craig Ferguson (Gobber from How to Train Your Dragon and host of his Late Show).

The film takes place in a mysterious age in Scotland [which is a huge reason why I love the movie]; there are elements of Scottish history and culture from every age thrown into the movie (i.e. Vikings and corsets are not from the same era). It’s not a true musical, as the characters don’t sing to further the plot, but it does feature three songs on its soundtrack and piqued and interest in Julie Fowlis. There is also a fun drinking song that the men sing; and a lovely lullaby that mother and daughter share; overall I simply love the soundtrack – I love Celtic music.

The story opens on Elinor playing with a young Merida on her birthday. Her father gifts her with her own bow and the little red-head eagerly practices firing arrows. One goes astray and she ventures into the woods to fetch it. She encounters will o’the wisps that lead her back into camp. Just in time, for a hulking scarred bear emerges behind her – Mor’du. Fergus and his men attack as Elinor and Merida ride away. Merida narrates as we fast forward in time (while watching beautiful vistas…visiting Scotland is top of my bucket list)

“Some say our destiny is tied to the land, as much a part of us as we are of it. Others say fate is woven together like a cloth, one’s destiny intertwines with many others. It’s the one thing we search for, or fight to change. Some never find it. But there are some who are led.”

merida family
Clan Dunbroc Family Portrait

Fergus lost a leg to Mor’du, but cheerfully vows revenge on the beast. Elinor bore triplet sons, who are the definition of mischief. And Merida is in training to become a proper princess; she has duties, responsibilities, expectations; her whole life is planned out. And she sounds none too pleased about it. But on her birthday, she can do whatever she wants, which means riding her horse Angus through an archery course. At home, her mother chastises her for setting her bow on the table; in her opinion, a princess should not have a bow. Important mail is delivered; all three clans have accepted their invitations. Invitations to what, Merida asks. Fergus hems and haws about telling her, so Elinor simply states that all three lords will present their sons as suitors to win Merida’s hand in marriage. This is news to Merida; she does not want to think about betrothal or marriage. She storms off in a huff, working out her frustration by hacking at her bedpost with a sword.

Elinor tells the legend of an ancient kingdom, ruled by a wise and just king who was much beloved. When it came time, he decided to split his kingdom into four equal sections and give a part to each of his sons. But the eldest, wanted to rule all the land by himself. “He forged his own path and the kingdom feel to war and chaos and ruin.” When Merida passes it off as a simple story, Elinor chides that “legends are lessons.” The two women separate, venting their frustrations to their companions. They insist that the other does not listen. Merida does not want to get married yet, or maybe even at all. She feels like marriage is an end; she does not want her life to be over. Elinor maintains that marriage is not the end of the world, this is the culmination of everything they have been preparing Merida for. [Personally, I think it was an unwise decision to spring the whole concept onto Merida suddenly. It should have been discussed prior to the invitations being sent.]

The gathering continues as planned and Elinor stuffs Merida into a new fancy dress and corset [as someone with a bit of experience in a corset; they take some getting used to and another thing that should have been prepared in advance. The dress is beautiful, but not Merida’s style.] The visiting clans: MacGuffin, Macintosh, and Dingwall, compete against each other in rowing before they even arrive. They compete in announcing their respective sons, making each to sound like the finest warrior. The triplets get bored and cause mischief which sets everyone to fighting. Fergus shouts “Shut It!” and all is still for a moment. Then one man lets out a yell and it all starts back up. Elinor calmly settles everyone and announces the rules. Merida perks up when she discovers that it’s all first born who have a right to compete; and she gets to pick the challenge. She announces archery.

Young MacGuffin misses, young Macintosh just misses the bull’s-eye, but young Dingwall happens to hit a bull’s-eye. Fergus leans over to jokingly congruatluate this daughter, shootin for own handonly to find her not there. Merida steps out, hair freed from its wimple, annoucning “I’ll be shootin for my own hand!” She has to tear the dress at the seams in order to allow arm movement, then proceeds to shoot three bull’s-eye in a row, splitting Dingwall’s arrow. Elinor is furious and throws Merida into a room in the castle. They shout at each other and Merida calls her mother a beast; she will never be like her, and slashes a tapestry. In retaliation, Elinor throws Merida’s bow into the fire. Merida rushes off in tears and Elinor realizes what she did. She pulls the bow out, but it’s too late; it’s cracked.

Angus and Merida pelt across the landscape and Angus throws Merida. She’s inside a standing stone circle and Angus is not pleased. She spots wisps again and follows. They lead her to a cottage in the woods. Entering, she discovers its filled with bear carvings, a crazy old woman working in the corner. Merida’s already wary of the place, then witnesses the woman’s broom sweeping on its own and the crow talks. She calls the woman a witch and barters for a spell the change her mum in order to change her fate. (She buys the whole lot of bear carvings with a pendant) The last customer the witch had was a young prince who wanted to change his fate as well and wished for the strength of ten men. Merida receives a cake and mysteriously ends up back at the standing stones.

Elinor greets her return in the kitchen and Merida persuades her mother to try her cake as a peace offering, pestering the whole time if she’s changed her mind. Elinor gets sick off the cake and the two women retire to her chambers (Fergus is “entertaining” their guests with The Song of Mor’du). Underneath the covers, Elinor rumbles and grows, emerging as a bear. Merida screams and backs away and the bear reacts as Elinor would. It takes a few confusing moments before Elinor realizes that she’s been turned into a bear. Merida blames the witch. Elinor is not impressed. They have to sneak out of the castle and get the witch to turn Elinor back. Along the way, they bribe the triplets for help after Fergus has caught the scent of bear.

The two ladies manage to find their way to the cottage, but it’s empty. A cauldron issues a message from the witch, something she forgot to tell Merida earlier; the spell will be permanent by the second sunrise, unless they med the bond torn by pride. They can’t accomplish anything that night, so Merida erects a shelter. A memory comes to her as it rains, of another storm years ago, being comforted by her mother and sung a lullaby, Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal). In the morning, Elinor has attempted to gather breakfast, but didn’t realize that they were nightshade berries, which Merida informs her are poisonous. The water was also dirty. Merida shows Elinor how to fish and the two share a pleasant morning. Though as they’re getting ready to leave, Elinor’s eyes change, growing darker and for a moment, she wasn’t human inside. She shifts back quickly, but they understand that time is urgent. They follow the wisps that have appeared, hoping they’ll lead to answers. They enter a ruined kingdom and Merida falls into an old throne room. A carving is smashed, showing the eldest prince separated from three brothers. Merida realizes that all the tales are joined, the ancient kingdom and the prince wishing for the strength of ten men, meaning the prince became Mor’du. Who appears. Merida escapes and she and Elinor end up back at the stones. They must now sneak into the castle and mend the torn tapestry.

Elinor leads them into the castle, but the clans are fighting in the great hall; the visitors insisting Fergus decide which of their sons marries Merida, Fergus declares none of the boys fit. Taking inspiration from her mother, Merida calmly enters the fray, allowing Elinor the opportunity to sneak upstairs. When the clans gets restless again, she now takes after her father and yells for everyone to “Shut It!” She opens with the legend of the ancient kingdom and continues to say that she has learned her lesson. Their kingdom is young and while their stories are not yet legend, a bond was struck when they joined together to repel invaders. Each clan leader saved the other (sometimes by accident) and when Fergus rallied all their forces, they made him king. Now Merida will do her part to mend the rift that was created, but her mother stops her and pantomimes a new idea. They will break tradition – and let the young people choose their own love, write their own stories. All three sons agree and everyone is happily onboard. Before Elinor can be discovered, Merida sends everyone to the cellar for spirits to celebrate. Elinor pantomimes how proud she is of Merida and they head to the tapestry chamber.

Before they can stitch up the tear, Elinor reverts back to a true bear and attacks Merida. Fergus has come looking for Elinor and discovers the scene. Merida tries to stop Fergus from unknowingly attacking his wife. Elinor comes back to herself and flees. Merida takes a moment to attempt to explain the situation to her father, but Fergus doesn’t believe her. He’ll avenge his wife, and locks Merida in the room. Three little bears wander by a few minutes later; the triplets found the cake. Merida once more enlists their help and they’re soon racing back to the stones, the boys steering as Merida sews.

merida fight

Elinor is surrounded at the stones; they manage to tie her down, but before Fergus can strike a killing blow, Merida shoots the sword out of his hand (Cool!). Fergus pushes Merida aside, letting Lord Macintosh hold her. She flips him, draws a nearby sword and takes down her father (also cool!) “I’ll not let you kill my mother.” The three bears jump on their father and he realizes that they’re his sons, making Merida’s story true. Mor’du shows up and the clans rally again. Deprived of a weapon, Fergus declares “I’ll take you with my bare hands!” Merida tries to assist, but her arrows are no good against the large bear. Elinor has the most luck against Mor’du, coming to her daughter’s aid. The two bears have a go at each other, though Elinor ultimately outwits Mor’du and has one of the standing stones fall on him. The ghost of the prince rises, nods to Merida, and turns into a wisp.

They haven’t much time now, the second sunrise is fast approaching. Merida drapes the mended tapestry over her mother and the light touches the mend. However, Elinor’s eyes darken. Merida heartbreakingly apologizes to her mother; “you’ve always been there for me.” “I love you.” She cries and everyone around her gets teary-eyed. Then a hand rests on her hair. Elinor is back! She kisses her daughter’s face and Fergus cheers and kisses his wife and they’re soon joined by three naked boys.

The movie ends with Elinor working on a new tapestry with Merida. The clans are leaving (the boys trying to sail away as well). Merida echoes her opening speech while riding with her mother,

“There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own. But I know better. Our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it.”

brave ending
Notice Elinor’s new hairstyle; an indication that she has relaxed

Overall, I like this movie. I love the message of choosing your own destiny; that Fate is not set in stone. It’s actually akin to story lines that I have been reading for years [I will admit, I read Scottish romances; that’s where my interest in Scottish history developed]. I think it was great that the movie did not end with Merida choosing one of the suitors, a break with Disney tradition. The dynamics between Merida and both of her parents is nicely complex: she seems to take more after her father and he indulged in teaching her to use a variety of weapons, and the mother/daughter relationship is shown to have gone through stages. They were close when Merida was young (as shown in the flashback), then they became strained when Elinor became more demanding on Merida to conform to tradition. At the end, they’re on their way to a close relationship again. Even the relationship between Fergus and Elinor is adorable; Fergus doesn’t mind when Elinor takes over duties he’d rather not do and they seem to genuinely love each other.

As already stated, I love the soundtrack and the animation. And I don’t mind the mixture of Scottish elements. However – I have a few small points of contention. I got so excited before the movie to see this action princess who shoots arrows…and then the story revolves around bears. Yes, the way that both Elinor and Merida have to save each other is wonderful, but I just found Merida whiny at times, and as already mentioned, Elinor and Fergus could have brought up events earlier. My biggest peeve about the movie is the witch. They’re in a land with a history of wonderfully complex witches [Arthur’s sister, Morgause, was married to King Lot of Orkney; the Orkney Isles are under the jurisdiction of Scotland]…and we get a joke. I realize a lot of this was done to make it acceptable for kids; I wish they’d make version of the film for adults with a proper witch that you can’t decide if she’s good or bad and a truly kick-butt princess. Thus, Brave still ranks high on my list, but does not hold the top position.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Up Next: Frozen

Post Script: I remembered that there is a huge crossover that came about between Rise of the Guardians, Brave, Tangled, and How To Train Your Dragon, called either “The Big Four,” or “Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons.”  It’s not sure how the crossover was started; crossovers are not uncommon in the fandom and fanfiction worlds; we can cross anything over.  My guess is that they were all popular at the same time, all depicted as teenagers, and all willing to fight to change their futures.  So, fans figure out a way to team them up to fight a big bad.  There’s a whole slew of fanart [some of it is saved on my Pintrest boards].  Some fans also pair Hiccup with Merida [I saw a video somewhere years ago, of a fan asking Merida at Disney if she had ever heard of Hiccup; I don’t think the actress had].  At one point, I was a fan of that; historically, Vikings had invaded Scotland, then settled, so not that outside the realm of possibility.  But, Astrid and Hiccup make such an adorable couple!  For me, a cool idea, but I’m also fine just enjoying each movie on its own and exploring those worlds.

“Cause Way Down Deep Inside I’ve Got a Dream”

Tangled

Disney’s 50th animated motion picture and first to use a three-dimensional computer animation style. Leading the voice cast are Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember) and Zachary Levi as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. (Disney changed the title from Rapunzel to Tangled to make it gender-neutral with the hope to attract boys to watch the film). It’s also considered part of the Disney Revival and is a return to the musical set-up that Disney is known for (Alan Menken, from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas returned to compose for the film).

The film is occasionally narrated by Flynn, opening with “This is the story of how I died.” But he’s quick to add that it’s a fun movie and goes into the tale of the golden flower. It held magical healing abilities, and with the right words, also had the ability to keep one looking young for an eternity. A selfish old woman, Mother Gothel, hid the flower from sight for hundreds of years, so she alone could benefit. However, the current queen fell ill as she was due to deliver a baby. The flower was found and saved the queen. She bore a princess, Rapunzel, who had golden hair, like the flower. The old woman snuck into the castle, intent on using the infant’s hair. Yet, when she went to cut the hair to take with her, it turned brown and did not contain the magic. So, being a selfish woman, Mother Gothel kidnapped the child and hid them away in a tall tower. She raises Rapunzel as her own and warns her that “the outside world is a dangerous place, filled with horrible, selfish people.” The king and queen light lanterns each year on their daughter’s birthday, hoping for the day she’ll return.

Fast forward several years, Rapunzel is on the brink of turning eighteen (older than some other princesses). Her pet chameleon, Pascal, urges her to venture outside, but she insists that they are happy in their tower. They both know she’s lying. Rapunzel explainsrapunzel painting (sings) her daily schedule, which includes a lot of painting and brushing her hair, and wonders When Will My Life Begin? Mother Gothel returns home and calls for “Rapunzel, let down your hair!”, the classic line. And I further dislike the hag for her use of mean teasing; it’s a pet peeve of mine. One has to wonder how Rapunzel turned out sweet and kind with that kind of influence.

Rapunzel informs her mother what she wants most desperately for her eighteenth birthday is to see the floating lights. Mother Gothel attempts to dispute her wish by stating they are stars; Rapunzel has been busy in her tower and has tracked stars; these lights cannot be stars since they only appear on her birthday (and as it’s been pointed out; why did Gothel not change Rapunzel’s birthday?). Gothel insists that the world outside is scary and Mother Knows Best. At the end, she commands Rapunzel “don’t ever ask to leave this tower again.”

We break away to meet Flynn Rider and his accomplices, the Stabbington Brothers (really Disney? Stabbington? Far too obvious) as they steal the crown from the palace. Flynn despairs about his wanted posters and their ineptitude of getting his nose right, double crosses the brothers and keeps the crown for himself, but runs into a very determined guard horse, Maximus. On the run, Flynn finds Rapunzel’s tower and climbs in order to escape Maximus. He’s greeted with a blow to the head from a frying pan. Rapunzel gives a little squeak at her actions. She cautiously approaches her captive, and discovers, contrary to her mother’s warning, this man does not have pointed teeth. She briefly investigates the satchel and discovers the crown, and tries it on. For a moment, it seems like memoires might be returning, but she puts the crown down, then hides the man in her closet, very pleased with how she handled herself.

Gothel returns and Rapunzel brings up the lights again, to which Gothel sternly yells “You Are Not Leaving This Tower…Ever!” Gothel plays the victim; it was Rapunzel’s fault for upsetting her. Rapunzel backtracks and asks for special paint for her birthday; a trip that will take Gothel three days.

rapunzel tie up flynnOnce Gothel is gone, Rapunzel puts her plan into action. Flynn wakes thanks to Pascal’s tongue in his ear, to find himself strapped to a chair, by hair. Rapunzel reveals herself, asking “Who are you and how did you find me?”, believing that he is there for her hair. Flynn starts very charming, then falls into more modern flirting, which is a bit humorous (I do like that he is not like any other prince or leading man and he’s very sarcastic). But he’s concerned for his satchel. He guesses Rapunzel’s hiding spot, so she knocks him out again (that never gets old) and he’s woken by Pascal’s tongue again. Rapunzel feels that fate or destiny brought them together, Flynn cracks “a horse,” and points out that it’s terrible idea to simply trust him (works out this time, but not a theory to be tested often). She strikes a deal with Flynn once she finds out he’s not after her hair; he takes her to see the lanterns, she’ll return his satchel; without her help, he will never find it. Flynn attempts his “smolder” [I side with Rapunzel; not terribly impressed]. He agrees, Rapunzel drops him on his face: “You broke my smolder!” [ha ha! That is always funny].

Rapunzel marvels at everything in the outside world; “for the first time every I’m completely free.” She’s ecstatic to be outside, but begins to think about how she is disappointing her mother. She goes back and forth and Flynn tries to convince her to go back to the tower so he can have his satchel and be on his way, telling the young woman that rebellion is a natural part of growing up. Rapunzel insists on seeing the lanterns. They venture to the Snuggly Duckling. Meanwhile, Mother Gothel comes across Maximus and is frightened to find a palace horse so close to her tower. She races back home and when Rapunzel doesn’t let down her hair, she has to unblock a door and climb up the long way. Rapunzel is not home when she opens the door. Gothel too discovers the crown and is even more afraid…she could lose her ticket to everlasting life. In the satchel with the crown is one of Flynn’s wanted posters; she knows who to search for now and grabs a knife.

In the Snuggly Duckling, Flynn and Rapunzel are faced with ruffians and thugs, as Flynn expected. He is recognized from his wanted posters and they begin fighting over him, but Rapunzel steps in and pleads with them to stop; she has a dream to see the lanterns and needs Flynn to accomplish. “Haven’t any of you ever had a dream?” Indeed, they have; deep down, they all have soft spots. Gothel appears in the window at one point as Rapunzel sings of being free. The fun is cut short when the warning comes that the palace guards are on their way. The leader of the ruffians shows Flynn and Rapunzel a secret passage, encouraging Rapunzel, not Flynn (because his dream stinks) to fulfill her dream. The pair gets a bit of a head start, but not long when Maximus shows up and points the way.

flynn fight maximus

Everyone; the guards, Flynn and Rapunzel, and the Stabbington brothers, end up at a dam. Rapunzel gets away first, handing her frying pan to Flynn, who then fights the guards and Maximus, who holds a sword in his teeth – somehow. She rescues him and they escape into a cavern, which is shortly blocked by a huge bolder, thus allowing the chamber to fill with water. Facing their death, Rapunzel moans that it was all her fault. She apologizes to Flynn, who corrects her that his real name is Eugene Fitzherbert. In the spirit of sharing secrets, she reveals “I have magic hair that glows when I sing.” Which gives her an idea! They manage to find a way out and now Eugene has to keep calm. Rapunzel heals his scratched hand; we’re better able to hear the lyrics to the little song: Flower gleam and glow/ let your power shine/ make the clock reverse/ bring back what once was mine. Heal what has been hurt/ change the fate’s design/ save what has been lost/ bring back what once was mine. She then explains the backstory she was fed by Mother Gothel, that a gift like what she has, has to be protected. Eugene questions whether she will go back. Her initial response is “no,” but she’s really not sure; it’s complicated. Eugene shares that he’s an orphan and got the idea for Flynn Rider from a book he used to read to the younger kids, tales of a great hero with money to do whatever he wanted; for a kid with nothing, it seemed like a better life. Rapunzel states that she likes Eugene better than Flynn, but won’t spoil Flynn’s reputation.

Meanwhile, Gothel meets the Stabbington brothers and promises them a reward bigger than a simple crown and revenge on Flynn Rider besides. She finds the couple’s camp and when Eugene goes to gather firewood, she has a conversation with her daughter, demanding they return to the tower. Gothel counsels Rapunzel that she can’t trust Eugene; it’s demented to think that he likes her. She should have never left the tower; she’s too naive. When she starts to say “Mother knows best,” Rapunzel interrupts, insisting, “no.” Oh, now Rapunzel knows best. Well, if she’s so smart, she should give Eugene the crown. Gothel cautions, once he has the crown, he’ll leave her in a flash. Gothel disappears into the woods. Rapunzel doesn’t give Eugene the crown quite yet.

Morning dawns; Eugene is woken by a dripping Maximus. Rapunzel to the rescue, again. She charms Maximus and bargains that she just needs Eugene for the day; afterwards, they can chase each other to their hearts’ content. Now Maximus has joined their party kingdom danceinto the kingdom. It’s quickly discovered that incredibly long loose hair is not good in a town center; Eugene enlists the help of a few young girls to braid Rapunzel’s locks. They have wonderful little adventures throughout the day; Rapunzel showing off her art skills, reading books in the sunshine, learning about the lost princess in front of mosaic of the royal family, culminating in a dance [my favorite part of the soundtrack]. Eugene and Rapunzel finally end together at the end of the dance, but before they have a chance to act, the call goes out to head to boats for the lanterns.

The next few sequences are beautiful. Though the king and queen never speak, the animation is such that you can plainly read all the emotion in their faces, their despair for their lost daughter, almost not wanting to participate in the ceremony, but still clinging to hope. Eugene takes Rapunzel for a romantic boat ride, to get the best view. She’s quiet at the time draws closer; what if it’s not everything she’s dreamed? What if it’s better, Eugene poses. Then what does she do? She finds a new dream. As the sky lightens from the multitudes of lanterns, the couple sing how at last I See the Light. Before they set their own lanterns aloft, Rapunzel reveals that she has Eugene’s satchel. She’s no longer scared. Eugene just smiles and lowers the satchel; the lanterns are more important. It becomes clear to both of them, that they are better around each other, their feelings are reciprocated: “And at last I see the light/ and it’s like the fog has lifted/ and at last I see the light/ and it’s like the sky is new/ and it’s warm and real and bright/ and the world has somehow shifted. All at once/ everything is different/ now that I see you.”

i see the light
(There is a beautiful version of this done by Thomas Kinkade; there’s actually a whole series of Disney drawings that he did…go check them out!)

Eugene is about to kiss Rapunzel, but he catches sight of the Stabbington brothers, lit by a creepy green light on shore. He takes the satchel, telling Rapunzel he just needs a minute to take care of business. She hesitates, but believes him. Eugene goes to hand the crown over to the brothers, but they ask about Rapunzel instead. They knock him out and go after Rapunzel. They tell her that Eugene left her, pointing to a figure on a boat in the fog. Gothel saves Rapunzel from being captured by the brothers. Thinking Eugene abandoned her, she willingly goes with her mother, crying that she was right about everything.

Eugene was tied to the boat and comes to when he reaches the dock. He’s immediately taken into custody, Maximus hearing the whole thing. Eugene is far more worried about Rapunzel than himself, straining to get back to her. He’s locked in a cell and the next morning is collected; “it’s time,” the leader states. He sees the brothers locked up as well and demands to know about Rapunzel; who told them? One reveals that it was an old woman. Eugene instantly knows that Gothel betrayed her daughter. He fights harder to get free to save her.

Back in the tower, Gothel removes all of Rapunzel’s flowers from her braid, like it never happened. Dejected, Rapunzel lays on her bed, examining the small cloth she held onto of the crest of Corona. Her eyes drift between the sun and her paintings. And she realizes that there are suns all through her paintings. Small memories click; she saw the crest as a baby in her cradle. Hazy images of her parents and she deduces that she is the lost princess. She stumbles out of her room and states her discovery to Gothel; “I am the lost princess.” All this time, she had been hiding from those who would use her hair for evil and she really should have been hiding from Gothel. Gothel crushes any idea Rapunzel would have of going to Eugene, revealing that he will be hung for his crimes (we even catch a glimpse of the noose…continuing to be shockingly blunt, aren’t we Disney). Gothel goes to comfort Rapunzel, but the teen won’t have it anymore. “You were wrong about the world, and you were wrong about me. And I will never let you use my hair again.” She forces Gothel away and she crashes into a mirror. “Alright, now I’m the bad guy.”

We cut to the ruffians rescuing Eugene, which is quite humorous. They flip him onto Maximus and the horse takes off. They come to the tower and Eugene calls up for Rapunzel. When he gets no answer, he begins to climb, then the hair descends. He climbs up, but is met by a chained and gagged Rapunzel. Gothel comes behind him and stabs him, her secret will die with him. Rapunzel works out of her gag and struggles against Gothel. She will continue to do so, forever, unless Gothel lets her heal Eugene. If Gothel allows it, she will never fight; she promises. Gothel gives in, but chains Eugene to a post as a precaution. Eugene can’t let her heal him; she can’t let him die. But if she heals him and goes with Gothel, she’ll die, Eugene asserts. He asks her to wait a moment and leans closer…and uses a broken shard from the mirror to cut off her hair. Rapunzel wonders and Gothel freaks out. She quickly ages (a la Donovan from Last Crusade) and Pascals trips her as she backs towards the window (Rapunzel reaches for her). She’s dust before she hits the ground.

Rapunzel turns back to a still Eugene. She tries the song, but it doesn’t work. “You were my new dream,” are his last words (yes, he dies). He was Rapunzel’s new dream as well. Rapunzel softly sings the song again. A tear drops onto his cheek, and glows. His wound begins glowing and soon the tower is filled with light. Eugene’s wound is healed and his eyes slowly opens. Did he ever mention that he has a thing for brunettes? Rapunzel is ecstatic and throws herself in Eugene’s arms. Breaking apart, she pulls him in for a kiss.
A guard bursts into the king and queen’s chambers and simply nods. They race to the balcony and greet their grown daughter. The small family is tearfully reunited, sinking to the ground in a loving embrace. The queen pulls Eugene into the hug. The young couple narrates the ending, stating that the kingdom rejoiced at the return of their princess; Rapunzel went on to rule as kindly as her parents; the ruffians got their dreams; but most importantly, they did get married (there is a short that was released, showing their wedding).

tangled wedding

Eugene is healed at the end because of the true meaning of the song. Yes, “make the clock reverse,” is typically used by Gothel to reverse time and make her young, but it also means reversing the damage done to Eugene by the knife. “Change the fate’s design/ save what has been lost” easily translates to saving Eugene. “Bring back what once was mine,” is Rapunzel’s plea. I thought it was very smart of the writers to phrase the song in such a way that it makes sense for Gothel; or when she finds it, she only reads it the way she wants, but it also has the deeper magic to change more momentous events.

Another aspect of the writing that I enjoyed in this tale of Rapunzel is that Rapunzel does a lot of the saving. It can be argued that she saves Eugene from himself, but I shan’t be delving that deep into the story. But I thought her actions at the dam were impressive and Flynn/Eugene is no slouch either. The frying pan is a hilarious touch. Rapunzel and Eugene are a more modern couple and relevant to today’s audience. Gothel’s control issues and manipulation also flesh out the story, but make me really dislike her (someone with a psychology major could have fun dissecting her; I do not hold that major, so I shan’t). Overall, the music of Tangled is not my favorite, but it has a decent story that I enjoy re-watching.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Next Time: Brave

“You Can’t Take Me and Throw Me Away”

Treasure Planet

Adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island [another classic literature book that I have never read], it features a bit younger Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the leading role of Jim Hawkins, Tony Jay (previously Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame) as the Narrator at the beginning of the film, comedian Martin Short as the robot B.E.N, Emma Thompson (later to be Mrs. Potts in the live action Beauty and the Beast) as Captain Amelia, David Hyde Pierce as Doctor Delbert Doppler (well-known by most people as Dr. Niles Crane from Fraiser; I’ve never watched the show, but I recognize him from the commercials), and Laurie Metcalf as Sarah Hawkins (recently she has portrayed Sheldon Cooper’s mother in The Big Bang Theory). It is a rather cool idea, to set a pirate movie is space, though we’ve seen elements of it in other films (piracy exists in Star Wars), but the film brings a bit of warmth as the ships remain fashioned out of wood, rather than encased in metal as most sci-fi films. It is another Disney movie that combines CG and traditional animation.

I first saw this movie in theatres with my best friend when we got out of school early before break (a man joked that we were playing hooky). And upon re-watching, I remember thinking that Jim was a “cool” character, being a rough and tumble, slightly bad boy. Flying a hoverboard, to a teenager, is thrilling with just a hint of danger. His clothes played to that image as well, longer hair in the front, a ponytail and earring, oversized jacket and boots. And I also discovered that I kind of like the score to the film; there are a few Celtic elements that pique my interest, but the “adventure theme” is just what you want, the strings and brass passing off to build tension and combing for the triumphant arrival. There’s also a bit of electric guitar for Jim’s adventures, rebelling just a little from traditional orchestral scores. Still not enough to outrank Lord of the Rings, How to Train Your Dragon, or even some of my favorite Disney musicals.

The prologue opens with a space battle: notorious pirate Captain Flint looting another merchant ship, then disappearing without a trace. Legend states he hid all of his loot in one place, in the farthest reaches of the galaxy: Treasure Planet. Young Jim Hawkins is amazed by the stories and adorably informs his mother that Treasure Planet is real and we can just tell that he dreams of finding it. We’re next informed that twelve years have jim flyingpassed and witness Jim take off on a hoverboard of some sort, weaving about bits of machinery. He’s clearly ecstatic, until robotic cops catch up. He’s taken home to his mother’s inn, filled with a variety of odd creatures. Sarah Hawkins is overworked and we can tell times have been difficult and she’s not terribly pleased to have her teenage son brought home by cops, again. She had just been telling a family friend, Dr. Delbert Doppler, that Jim was turning around. The cops inform her, and Jim, that one more stunt will land him in juvenile detention. Then the stupid bots call him a loser. Sarah just doesn’t want to see Jim throw away his entire future; Jim’s retort is “what future?” We find out, from a conversation between Dr. Doppler and Sarah, that Jim is very bright, but he took his father leaving them as a boy very hard (as has been pointed out, that is rare for a Disney movie, for a parent to have left, instead of died).

Mean while, Jim is on the roof and watches a spaceship crash land. He rushes to help the hurt passenger. The old creature, a Billy Bones, mutters about a cyborg after his treasure. Jim helps him into the inn, where Bones collapses and dies, handing a wrapped object to Jim, breathing a final warning “beware the cyborg!” Another ship lands and Jim rushes his mother and Dr. Doppler out of the inn as pirates crash in. When they have a moment to turn back, the inn is in flames. They are able to recover at Dr. Doppler’s large home. Jim unwraps the object to reveal a sphere. Delbert cannot decipher its meaning, but Jim fiddles with it for a minute, finally revealing a map. That leads to Treasure Planet. Jim is instantly excited and tells his mother that all of their problems are solved. He admits that he has screwed up and let her down, “but this is my chance to make it up to you.” She refuses at first to let him go, but when she asks Delbert for help, she instead finds the professor eagerly packing. He will finance the expedition. Between the two men, Sarah gives in.

rls legacy

Delbert, for some odd reason, wears a clunky spacesuit to board the ship, the RLS Legacy (RLS for Robert Louis Stevenson). She’s captained by Captain Amelia and her trustworthy first-mate, Mr. Arrow (those of you who don’t know, ships are typically referred to as “she”). Neither of them trust the crew that Delbert hired and keep mum on the exact nature of their expedition. Jim is forced to hand over the map, to be kept locked in Captain Amelia’s stateroom and he will be the new cabin boy, under the watchful eye of Mr. Silver. Mr. Silver, the cook, is a cyborg, piquing Jim’s interest. He drops subtle hints, thinking that Silver is the one who attacked the inn (if you’re sharp-eyed, you’d recognize the shadowy figure). Silver puts him off, and we’re distracted for a moment by Morph, a very cute pink blob that can morph into anything. Silver dismisses Jim so the lad can watch the launch. A few quirks about ships in space; they require artificial gravity, and solar sails to catch light, instead of wind.

The crew is decidedly unfriendly, picking a fight with Jim, but Silver steps in. He finds out that Jim’s father wasn’t the teaching type; he was the leaving type (we see a flashback, featuring one of two songs from the soundtrack, I’m Still Here). So, Silver will watch over Jim, keeping him busy so as to not get into trouble. And Jim thrives under Silver’s attention and we’re treated to endearing moments like Silver covering a sleeping Jim with his large coat. Yet, Silver’s interest in the boy is not entirely out of charity; he’s leading the crew in a mutiny later and needs to keep Jim from finding out. The ship encounters a star going super nova, then falling into a black hole. Jim’s job is to secure the life lines. But one of the crew, a creepy spider called Scrupe, cuts Mr. Arrow’s line, then pins blame on Jim afterwards. Captain Amelia doesn’t seem to blame Jim personally, stating that they all know the risks of sailing. (Dr. Doppler was also helpful to Amelia in rescuing the ship, utilizing his knowledge of astrophysics.) But Jim is disheartened anyway. He mentions to Silver that for once, he thought he could do something right; he still screwed up. Silver consoles the lad that he has the “making of greatness,” he just needs to take the helm of his own life and chart his own course. And when Jim has the chance to really prove himself, Silver hopes he’ll be there, to catch some of the light. Jim falls into Silver and lets a few tears fall. Silver hugs the lad after a moment.

Trouble brews when the rest of the crew confronts Silver. He passes off his kindness to the boy, assuring them that the lad means nothing to him and he won’t let anything get in his way of finding Captain Flint’s “loot of a thousand worlds.” Unfortunately, Jim was playing with Morph and ended up in a barrel in the galley and heard everything. Silver finds him a few minutes later and discerns that Jim heard. Jim acts, stabbing Silver’s robotic leg with a knife (yeah, this Disney hero wields a knife, and later a gun), running to the Captain’s stateroom. He, Delbert, and Captain Amelia manage to escape the ship after Silver’s mutiny begins. Jim is charged by Captain Amelia to guard the map with his life, though Morph gets a hold of it. Jim has to jump out of their skiff to retrieve it and faces off with Silver for a moment. Silver has the lad in his sights, but can’t pull the trigger; he really has a soft spot for the boy. Amelia is hurt when they crash land the skiff onto Treasure Planet. Delbert looks after her as Jim scouts about (they’re a bit of an odd pairing, he being a humanoid canine creature, and she a humanoid feline creature; but they’re both smart and Amelia is sassy).

Jim feels like he’s being watched; indeed he is, by B.E.N: Bio Electronic Navigator, a chatty robot with a few screws loose. He is missing his memory bank, but manages to give Jim a few clues about the treasure. Jim also discovers that the map he grabbed, was Morph playing. He has to sneak back aboard and get the real map. B.E.N accompanies Jim and causes the teen a few problems, but does ultimately aid in Scrupe being lost to the galaxy. When they get back to their hideout, they find Silver waiting. Amelia and Delbert are captured and Jim gives in to Silver’s demand to save them; on one condition, he is the one to use the map. Considering Silver can’t work it, he has to agree. Jim goes along with the pirates, following the course the map lays out until they come to cliff. While the pirates argue, Jim works out B.E.N’s clue and opens a portal, revealing Flint’s secret for how he could attack ships and then vanish. The portal leads them to the treasure and while the pirates begin gathering the loot (and silently setting off an alarm), Jim makes for Flint’s old vessel. The skeletal captain is holding B.E.N’s memory chip, which is helpful so the robot can remember the booby trap. Flint didn’t want anyone getting a hold of his treasure, so the entire planet is rigged to blow. The countdown has started.

Silver’s crew is vaporized for the most part, but he catches Jim trying to get the ship flying again. Jim pulls a sword on his friend, but Silver lacks his typical smile, sternly informing Jim he’s come too far to let the boy stand in the way of his treasure. Tension is broken for a moment when a blast from the machinery knocks them off the ship. Silver tries to keep a hold of the ship and his treasure, but Morph informs him that Jim is about to fall. Silver continues to hold onto the ship and tries to reach for Jim, but he has to give up the treasure to save the boy. They somehow manage to make it back to the portal, where B.E.N is waiting with Amelia and Delbert aboard the Legacy. They being their final escape, but there’s not enough time, particularly when their main mizzenmast is damaged. Jim cobbles together a makeshift hoverboard with the idea to go back and change the portal’s location to get them out of there. And his plan works, until the makeshift parts start failing. He sinks closer to the explosion until he can jumpstart the engine and he’s racing back, hitting the button at the last possible moment. He high-fives Silver and whoops in delight.

Captain Amelia commends Jim’s unorthodox, but effective plan and tells him she will recommend him to the Interstellar Academy. Delbert congratulates him, and mutters jim and silver hugthey won’t tell his mother about the life-threatening bits of their adventure. Jim discovers Silver a few minutes later, attempting to steal the last skiff. He aids Silver, but turns down the man’s offer to go with him; following Silver’s earlier advice to chart his own course. Silver is proud of the lad, telling the lad he’s glowing; “you’ll rattle the stars,” he tearfully encourages. They share a last embrace and Silver tells Morph to keep an eye on Jim. One last token, Silver tosses Jim a handful of treasure, for his mother to rebuild her inn. The movie ends with the inn being rebuilt; Amelia and Delbert are married, with four children; the cops show up with Jim, showing off his new uniform. Bonus features reveal that Jim went on to become a captain. Where You Are closes out the film.

I personally feel like this a hidden gem of Disney’s. Like I’ve been experiencing with a few other movies lately, I’ve forgotten how well I like this movie. I was just the right age to really connect with Jim and his desire to prove himself. I think that’s a concept that still rings true today. I loved the bond that Silver and Jim created, with Silver becoming a father-type figure to Jim, helping guide him just when Jim needed it the most. He taught Jim to be proud of hard work and doing a job well and praised the teen when he did something special. I think Silver having a more gruff exterior helped facilitate Jim’s acceptance of him; he didn’t need another well-intentioned person in his life scolding him about his decisions. I enjoyed Captain Amelia’s banter and appreciated the fact that she was female, and the fact that no one batted an eye that she was female and a captain. So, for me, this ranks above Hunchback of Notre Dame; I love Hunchback‘s music, but I’d rather watch the story of Treasure Planet again. Still can’t top some of the other Renaissance hits (and that’s mainly due to nostalgia credit).

Who was your hero as a teenager? (We’ll go with fictional characters) What element did you most relate to? As always, open for further questions or comments.

Up Next: Winding down with a few of Disney’s most recent films, starting with Tangled

“Flyin’ by on the Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride”

Lilo and Stitch

A cute film from the early 2000s that spawned two sequels and a cartoon series. David Ogden Stiers voices Jumba (knew he sounded familiar; a lot of other voices sound familiar but I cannot place how exactly I would know them). Another sci-fi adventure, this time ending in Hawaii, which was novel to me as a pre-teen, not being familiar with that culture [I have recently started watching the rebooted Hawaii 5-0 series, but I would still not call myself terribly familiar].

The “prologue” essentially, since the title doesn’t appear until after the sequence, begins at a space trial, where mad scientist Jumba is accused of illegal genetic experimentation; their evidence: Experiment 626. The little blue creature was built for destruction and most deem him a monstrosity. The Grand Councilwoman asks for a sign of any sort of good in the creature; 626 does not cooperate. Jumba is jailed and 626 is sentenced to exile. Captain Gantu oversees the prisoner transport, and 626 brilliantly escapes, stealing another ship and crash landing on Hawaii. Earth has been deemed a protected wildlife preserve as a host of the mosquito (it makes sense later). Humans are simple, unintelligent creatures, but to protect them the Grand Councilwoman barters with Jumba; his freedom for 626’s capture.

Meanwhile, we meet Lilo, a young girl who is not like everyone else. She gives peanut butter sandwiches to a fish, who supposedly controls the weather. She’s creative and imaginative and does not fit in with her peers: she punches and bites one who calls her “crazy” during hula lessons. When the instructor says he’ll call her sister, she begs to be included: “I’ll be good. I just want to dance; I practiced.” A determined little girl, she walks home instead of waiting for her sister. Unfortunately, a new social worker is on his way to visit and discovers older sister Nani attempting to get into the house which Lilo has nailed shut. Mr. Cobra Bubbles is not a patient man and is not impressed by the situation Lilo appears to be in; he informs Nani she has three days to improve things.

Nani and Lilo are typical sisters who fight, compounded by the stress that Nani is now Lilo’s guardian as well. Once they have both cooled down from their yelling, Lilo admits that Nani makes a better sister than mom and Nani consoles Lilo that she does love her little sister; she’s just afraid that Lilo will be taken away. Lilo reveals that people treat her different since their parents die. They strike a deal to not fight and yell as much. A “falling star” streaks across the sky (actually, 626’s stolen spacecraft) and Lilo insists on making a wish. Nani overhears Lilo wish for a friend, someone who won’t run away, maybe the nicest angel. Next image is 626 leaping out of the wreckage (he is not an angel).

send me an angel

The next day, Nani takes Lilo to the dog shelter to adopt a dog. Lilo finds 626 (all of the other dogs are cowering because they don’t know what 626 is and he appeared dead earlier) and instantly likes him, to Nani’s chagrin. Lilo promptly names him Stitch and Stitch finds the arrangement convenient for the moment, since Jumba and Pleakley (an “expert” on Earth) are hunting for him. Stitch is disappointed to find out that there are no large cities for him to destroy on the Hawaiian island and Lilo figures out that his “badness level” is high. Later that evening we meet Nani’s friend, David; they both work at a luau for tourists, but an incident between Stitch, Jumba, and Pleakley causes her to lose her job. Stitch’s behavior doesn’t improve once they get him home and Nani wants to take him back. Lilo insists that he is ohana; their father used to say “Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten.” Nani gives in and allows Stitch to stay. Stitch starts calming down when he discovers a book of fairy tales opened to The Ugly Duckling and starts pondering the idea of a family.

Cobra Bubbles stops by the next morning, displeased and further so when Stitch throws a book during their introduction. In order to train Stitch to be a “model citizen,” Lilo is inspired by Elvis and teaches Stitch his traits. He does pretty well, until the bright flashes of photographs cause him to go nuts. David stops by to cheer them up and takes the girlssurfing surfing. Stitch dislikes water but when he notices Lilo’s happiness with David and Nani, he eventually asks to be taken out. Unfortunately, Jumba decides to strike and pulls Lilo down along with Stitch. The adults act quickly and rescue Lilo and David goes back for Stitch. They’re all safe, but Mr. Bubbles saw the whole incident. He quietly tells Nani he will be back in the morning for Lilo. [I don’t remember crying the first time I watched this movie!] David seems to blame Stitch for everything getting messed up; I personally feel that’s unfair. There was no way to tell that the incident in the midst of surfing was Stitch’s fault and while he was not a well behaved “dog,” he made Lilo happy and was a sign that Nani was trying to settle Lilo.

stitchs_lost_momentThat evening, Lilo offers to Stitch that they could be his family; he could be their baby and they could raise him to be good. But if he wants to leave, he can. He does, taking the fairy tale book, stating he’s lost when he finds a clearing in the trees. Jumba, who has just been fired, comes upon Stitch and insists that his experiment will never belong, he has no family. Stitch runs, just missing Nani and David running by on their way to a job offer. He runs back to Lilo’s house, but Jumba follows. I find their fight hilarious: like Lilo calling Cobra Bubbles, and we can tell that Stitch is trying to protect Lilo (the line: “oh good, my dog found the chainsaw” hilarious; I almost made it the title of this blog, but that it could be misconstrued). But as an adult, I can also emphasize Nani’s horror at finding the house blown up and despair when Bubbles puts Lilo in the car.

Lilo runs off and discovers that Stitch is an alien; she’s mad that he ruined everything, she didn’t want to leave Nani. However, Captain Gantu returns, charged once again with capturing Stitch; he ends up capturing Lilo as well (not that he cares) and straps them to his ship. Nani sees Lilo disappear into the sky and confronts Stitch, who managed to escape, again. She finally breaks down, witnessing Jumba and Pleakley capturing Stitch. Stitch tells Nani Ohana, and bargains with Jumba to rescue Lilo. They do manage to rescue everyone, even Gantu when his ship blows up (though kids: do not drive a flammable truck into a volcano; Stitch can survive, humans cannot).

The Grand Councilwoman shows up in the aftermath to square everything away. Stitch quietly begins to board her ship, but politely asks to say good-bye. When the Grand Councilwoman asks “who are you?” Stitch replies: “This is my family. I found it, all on my own. It’s little and broken, but still good.” [Which is just about the most adorable thing ever and has been adopted by fandoms in general]. He continues to board the ship, but the Grand Councilwoman makes the decision for Stitch to serve out his exile on Earth (influenced by Cobra Bubbles pointing out that Lilo bought Stitch). As caretakers of Stitch, his family of Nani and Lilo are under the protection of the United Galactic Federation and cannot be separated. And Cobra Bubbles we discover, was once part of the CIA in 1973 and saved the planet in an incident in Roswell, convincing an alien race that mosquitoes were an endangered species.

stitch family

A happy ending all around. Jumba and Pleakely stay on Earth and help rebuild Lilo and Nani’s house. Cobra Bubbles seems to be an extended part of the family as well and there are snapshots of a happy domestic life for all. I don’t mind this happy ending because the alternative would be heart wrenching.  Lilo, Nani, and David are realistic characters and what makes them that, particularly the sisters, is that they are flawed.  Again, I find the surfing scene utterly adorable and I begin rooting for the little makeshift family; which makes the idea of them being separated so heartbreaking – Nani spending what little time she has left with her sister, just singing a lullaby.  David being patient and understanding; not a lot of guys would do that.

While I cannot sing along with the two main tracks from the soundtrack, I do enjoy them and their upbeat flair. I put this movie on par with Atlantis; a good story, a bit different, which is fine, but doesn’t quite match the splendor of Disney’s Renaissance hits.  However, the little clips that Disney made including Stitch in their other movies, were funny.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Up Next: Treasure Planet

Geeks Are Adorable

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

A 2001 release, it was Disney’s first animated science fiction movie and has a different animation style than previous releases, relying more on CG, Atlantis was also inspired by the writings of Jules Verne [I have not read any of his works; my brother might have]. It features Michael J. Fox as the lead character, Milo Thatch; David Ogden Stiers returns briefly as the brusque, portly museum director, Harcourt; James Garner as Rourke; Cree Summer as Kida (while the name is unfamiliar, I recognize the voice as Valerie Gray in Danny Phantom and Max Gibson in Batman Beyond) and Leonard Nimoy is Kida’s father (yep, bit surprised myself).

The prologue takes place in ancient Atlantis and shows how the city was lost to the sea; the “why” not described, yet. Kida’s mother is called to the large crystal. Next, we’re introduced to Milo, practicing his presentation for a expedition involving Atlantis. It shows both how “nerdy” he is, but also how passionate. The board of directors at the museum are annoyed and purposefully change his appointment time so they can decline his request without meeting him; but they have no problem using him to repair their boiler, though it is certainly not part of his job description. Milo returns home to find a strange woman flouncing about his apartment. Miss Helga Sinclair represents a Mr. Preston Whitmore, who is interested in what Milo has to say. Turns out, Whitmore was best friends with Milo’s grandfather and wanted to find out if Milo had the same spirit and drive in order to settle a bet. He does. Perfect! He can use Mr. Whitmore’s assembled team; they’re already retrieved the Shepherd’s Journal, a tome that details the location of the lost city.

The team is comprised of Commander Rourke, Lieutenant Helga Sinclair; Molliére, or “Mole” considering he is their digging expert and slightly disturbing obsession with dirt;Audrey Ramirez, a young sassy mechanic; kindly Dr. Joshua Sweet; munitions expert “Vinny” Santorini; their cook is “Cookie,” whose food does not look edible; and communications officer Wilhelmina Packard. And the writers do a nice job of introducing and expanding the characters, so they become a whole cast of supporting characters that we want to learn more about. Their sub has a very 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea vibe (considering it is Verne’s’ inspired) and they begin their venture to Atlantis. This hidden city is guarded by a Leviathan, surrounded by a graveyard of ships from “every era”; Milo imagines that it would be a simple carving meant to only scare intruders. Nope. And not a full-blooded creature either; it’s actually a machine that still moves like a living creature. To me, the creators were delving into the steampunk vibe a little, which I am alright with. The main characters escape and continue their trek. We, the audience, catch brief glimpses of darting figures from time to time.

Milo is originally excluded and teased by the rest of the crew; being a nerd as many of us are, not the most socially adept. But he proves himself, fixing a boiler and working tirelessly. He’s eventually brought into the group and we discover most people’s backstory and a sense of camaraderie grows. Then, their camp is attacked by a sort of lightning bug, that lights the whole place on fire. In the ensuing chaos, after which Rourke calls “Sound off, who’s not dead?,” Milo is separated. We get a better look at the figures; people wearing large masks, one of whom removes her mask and heals Milo. The crew discover Milo and the figures run off. Milo gives chase, ultimately ending up in a lush underground cavern, a floating island surrounded by magma, in the center. They have come to Atlantis. The figures; Atlantians we know now, reappear and Milo is able to speak with them, actually, going through a variety of languages. Rourke announces that they are peaceful explorers and Kida, the leader takes them into Atlantis. (There is a small aside between Sinclair and Rourke hinting that crew may not be entirely peaceful). Milo is geeking out, which is adorable, Michael Fox brings a wonderful quality to Milo; eager and excited, but wicked smart.

milo thatch

When Kida brings the crew before the her father, the king; the king is not pleased. The outsiders threaten their way of life. Kida argues that their way of life is diminishing; these people may be able to help, may be able to unlock secrets f the past in order to save the future. The king orders the crew to leave; Rourke counters with one night. Rourke then volunteers Milo to speak with Kida so they may obtain their objective; some sort of power cell the Atlantians are rumored to possess. Kida takes Milo around the city and ultimately to an underwater cavern with writing n huge columns. The Atlantians are not able to read their written language, so they are excited to have Milo translate. But the couple are greeted with guns upon their arrival back at the entrance (Milo already knew that his friends were mainly in the hunt for the paycheck, but the betrayal still stings). Rourke reveals he had the missing page from the Journal about the mysterious crystal, the “heart of Atlantis” all along. Milo argues that the crystal is the Atlantians life force, it’s the only thing keeping them alive. He finally gives into the Rourke’s demand to help when the commander threatens Kida.

They burst into the throne room and Rourke demands the king’s help. He refuses and a hit from Rourke knocks him down. Doctor Sweet stays behind while Rourke figures out the puzzle of where the treasure chamber lies. He, Helga, Milo, and Kida venture down. A glowing crystal, surrounded by carved faces on stone hovers overhead. Kida is drawn to the crystal, telling Milo all will be fine, then she floats up and crystallizes. She descends and is taken hostage by Rourke. Milo guilts his friends into staying, but Rourke still leaves, blowing the bridge behind him. As the heart of Atlantis departs, the Atlantians crystals dim. Back in the throne room, the king dies from injuries from Rourke, but he passes on his crystal to Milo, explaining that “in times of danger, the crystal will choose a host, one of royal blood, to protect itself and its people (this is what happened to Kida’s mother in the prologue).” The crystal “thrives on the collective emotion of all who came before” and in return, provides power, longevity, and protection. He tried to use the crystal to expand their borders and create weapons. It grew to powerful to control, it overwhelmed them and led to their destruction. The king begs for Milo to return the crystal and save Kida. Milo accepts the challenge and rallies the Atlantians. He figured out how their flying fish machines operate and catches up to Rourke in the volcano cavern.

Proving that he does have a touch of crazy, Milo and Vinny act as a distraction so Sweet and Audrey can attempt to cut Kida loose. They have to abandon their efforts when Helga dumps a torpedo at them. Milo leaps onto the balloon, managing to make the balloon drop. Helga dumps the excess weight, but Rourke demonstrates that he will do absolutely anything to win, including throwing his lieutenant off a hot air balloon, twice. It’s “nothing personal,” he argues. Well, that comes to bite him when Helga manages to get a shot off, echoing his sentiment, blowing the balloon. Milo went after Rourke, their fight leading to the container holding Kida. An axe hit from Rourke cracks the window and Milo uses the glowing piece of glass to cut Rourke. He begins crystallizing and Milo thinks he’s free, but Rourke rises again. He’s tipped into the whirring propeller of the balloon…and no more Rourke. Milo shoves the container out of the way of the impending crash of the balloon. He risks his life further, jumping off a flying fish the ensure Kida arrives back at Atlantis after the crash triggers the volcano. They make it back to the city and once Kida is out of the container, she rises and triggers the guardian totems; the erect a bubble of protection as the lava covers it. They’re encased, for a moment, but the solidified magma cracks and Atlantis is safe.

Atlantis

Kida, no longer a crystal, descends into Milo’s arms. Later, the crew is preparing to depart, laden with golden treasure from Atlantis. They return to the surface as heroes, decked in fine clothes, sitting in Whitmore’s house, going over their story to the press. Rourke and Sinclair are declared “missing,” as is Milo, who elected to stay in Atlantis. He does pass along proof to Whitmore; an Atlantian crystal.

There was a sequel, with poor animation and a storyline of a few short adventures. I was not impressed. Actually, re-watching this movie, I’m reminded that I kind of liked it. I like the characters; Milo is adorable. I love a geeky hero [part of the reason I love TNT‘s Librarian series; can I have that job, please?] I actually liked Helga Sinclair as a badass woman. Kida is a good heroine as well, being more action-prone than Milo, but also kind. Of course I want to punch Rourke in the face because he’s a scumbag mercenary. And influenced by a post on pintrest (which I sadly cannot locate at the moment…I’ve got a lot of fandom posts, because that’s how I use pintrest), I can see the similarities between Atlantis and the original Stargate movie and TV series (and also now being familiar with that TV show a bit; you can thank my best friend). The “A”s are practically the same. I just accept it all as part of that type of story; with a geeky main character that gets involved in action. It’s even a bit like Indiana Jones in that respect. So yes, overall, I enjoyed the movie and would willingly watch it again.

 

Hopefully I will get back into the swing of posting, at the very least once a week. There are a few more Disney movies I want to cover (I really like a few of the newer ones; we’ll get there soon), then into some live action and some of my favorite categories and onwards. Once again, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Up Next: Lilo and Stitch

Boo-Yah-Hah-Hah

The Emperor’s New Groove

all about meA play on the title Emperor’s New Clothes, it incorporates Incan elements and teaches a pretty straight-forward lesson about being a kind person. The opening scene (“long ago, somewhere deep in the jungle”) actually starts in the middle of the movie and the commentary states that this is a story about the lonely llama, who is the main character. Rewinding a little, the llama is actually Emperor Kuzco (who we later learn was almost eighteen and was referred to as a “prince”). Kuzco’s life is “all about me,” his servants are there to do his bidding (there’s odd step dancing for some reason); he has his own theme song guy. He throws an old man out the window for throwing off his groove. He’s supposed to choose a bride but nonchalantly dismisses all the assembled ladies.

We’re briefly introduced to Pancha, but swiftly swing to Yzma, his royal advisor and “proof that dinosaurs once existed.” Yzma has the bad habit of trying to run the kingdom behind Kuzco’s back (not entirely explained; is this necessarily a bad thing? Though she couldn’t be bothered with a peasant not having food and feels that he chose to be a peasant). Kuzco fires her and invites Pancha in, sweet talking him about his village, getting the inside scoop so he…can build his summer vacation home where the village currently sits. Pancha attempts to argue, but he’s kicked out.

Furious at her dismissal, claiming that she practically raised Kuzco (so, what happened to his parents?) and as Yzma’s assistant, Kronk sarcastically points out, you think the young emperor would have turned out better, she decides to poison Kuzco so she can rule the kingdom. (Her first idea was to turn him into a flea, put him in a box, put that box in a bigger box, mail it to herself, and then smash it with a hammer! Let’s just say, overkill). They take the lever to her lab (well, the wrong one first) and concoct a poison. Then invite Kuzco to dinner. The poison doesn’t kill Kuzco; it turns him into a llama. Yzma orders Kronk to take Kuzco and finish the job. Kronk proves to be a nicer person and can’t let the young man drown. He loses the bag however; it lands on Pancha’s cart as he departs the city and makes his way home.

The peasant greeted by his loving family and can’t bring himself to tell them their home will soon be destroyed. At that time, he discovers “demon llama!” stowaway. Kuzco wakes up and discovers he’s a llama and feels Pancha is responsible and kidnapped him so he can’t build “Kuzcotopia!” Pancha refuses to take Kuzco back to the palace until he makes a deal to not demolish the village. He warns the young man about traversing the jungle alone, but the selfish prince sets off, feeling he knows best. The emperor runs into a squirrel, angers it, falls into a den of jaguars, the squirrel returns, the jaguars wake up and Kuzco runs for his life. Being the good guy that he is, Pancha rescues Kuzco, in a roundabout manner. They manage to get wrapped around a tree trunk, fall into a river, and go over a waterfall (Kuzco is so deadpanned about that aspect, it is a bit funny). (Pancha’s kids have dreams about their father’s escapades).

Back in the city, Yzma holds Kuzco’s funeral and life immediately carries on. No one seems to miss Kuzco; their loyalty easily switches to Yzma. But when Yzma gloats to Kronk, he reveals that Kuzco is not fully dead. Now they have to find him and end him.

After a cold night, warmed by Pancha draping his poncho over Kuzco, Kuzco “shakes hands,” agreeing to find somewhere else to build his summer vacation home so Pancha Llama-Walk-1will lead him back to the palace. When Pancha falls through a bridge, Kuzco attempts to leave him, revealing he lied. Kuzco ends up stuck, they scuffle for a bit, then the bridge collapses, they get stuck right above crocodile infested water and have to work together to get out of the situation. The alternative way to get to the palace will take four days. When a cliff face gives way under Pancha, Kuzco saves him and we start seeing a friendship develop.

Kronk meets the squirrel that Kuzco angered, who gleefully tells Kronk (but not Yzma) where Kuzco went. All four characters end up at the same diner. Pancha overhears Yzma and Kronk talking about getting rid of Kuzco; Kuzco doesn’t believe him and tries to go after Yzma. But he overhears the same thing, but Pancha has disappeared. He comes within sight of the palace, but turns back, realizing that Pancha was right, he’s alone and it’s all his own fault. We’ve now come back to the first scene and the movie Kuzco tells commentary-Kuzco to shut it, his situation is his own fault. Long after the diner incident, Kronk realizes he recognized Pancha, which leads him to the village and Pancha’s home. Yzma claims to be a very distant relative, and Pancha’s family must keep them occupied while Pancha escapes with Kuzco (they reunited in a llama field). That bit is honestly the funniest part of the movie, and demonstrates that the big strong man is not the only one to get things done. The bit with the trails being marked on a map is a bit funny as well.

Pancha and Kuzco manage to sneak into Yzma’s lair (discovering the wrong lever along the way). Yet somehow (movie logic) Yzma and Kronk have beat them and already have the potion that will change Kuzco back to a human. She once again orders Kronk to finish the job, and he discusses it with his shoulder devil and angel again. She grows tired of his ineptitude, insults him, which pushes him to drop a chandelier on her. It doesn’t work, but the lever to another trap door does and Kronk disappears. There’s a scuffle, the guards are turned to animals, and Pancha and Kuzco start trying different potions. It finally comes down to two vials while they hang on to a giant carving. Pancha is the first to fall down the carving, grabbing a handhold for a minute. Yzma grabs one of the vials, which turns her into a fluffy cat, meaning the vial left is the correct one. She can’t get the cork out, sending the vial plunging over the side. She falls too, catches it, but is shot back up, losing hold of it and it’s now within Kuzco’s grasp. But Pancha’s precarious hold is slipping and Kuzco has to make a choice. He rescues Pancha, proving his character growth and they work together again to retrieve the vial (and perfectly timed interruption from Kronk assists).

The next day reveals that Kuzco is once again human, but far kinder. He apologizes to the old man he threw out a window and glibly declares he will build his vacation home on another hill. The ending shows that he now has a house next to Pancha and seems to be part of the family.

I just feel that the movie is…flat. It beats us over the head with the “don’t be selfish” lesson. I found it a lot funnier as a kid; now, I’m just really annoyed by Kuzco. He’s the only character to really have growth; Kronk was always a softie, it was just never tested until now. He features in a sequel movie that I may have caught once, and there was a brief cartoon that I caught a few episodes of. In the grand scheme of Disney movies, for me, this falls at the bottom.

As always, I welcome questions or comments. I am not entirely sure when the next post will go up, due to the holidays and retail schedule. But I wish everyone a happy holiday (whatever you celebrate) and a merry new year.

We’ll pick up next time with: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

“But with Faith and Understanding, You Will Journey from Boy to Man”

Tarzan

Based on the Tarzan of the Apes novels (which I have never read), it is considered the last movie of the Disney Renaissance. The film features Glenn Close as Kala, Brian Blessed (a famous British actor who I am not as familiar as some of my compatriots) as Clayton, and Rosie O’Donnell as Terk. Music was done by Phil Collins, who I was unaware until years after the film, already had a successful music career in the eighties.

An overarching theme of the movie is the notion of two families; it’s even mentioned in the opening song; “two worlds, one family/trust your heart, let fate decide, to guide these lives we see.” The film opens on two families; Kerchak and Kala and their son, happy. Then we see Tarzan’s parents bravely escape a burning ship. They make a life in the jungle. But both stories end in tragedy; the leopard Sabor first kills Kala and Kerchak’s child. As Kala mourns the loss of her son, she hears a strange cry. She’s led to the human’s tree house [which that whole bit reminds me of The Swiss Family Robinson; I know the old Disney version] and discovers the bodies of Tarzan’s parents (never realized we actually saw the bodies until recently, though it’s probable that I didn’t notice them as a kid). She then discovers an adorable baby Tarzan, but looks up to startlingly find Sabor lying in wait. The leopard attacks and Tarzan’s giggles distract kids from realizing that Kala and the baby are in danger. Gorilla and child manage to escape and Kala goes to introduce her find to her troop. However, Kerchak argues that the baby is “not our kind;” but Kala persists and he reluctantly agrees that she may keep the child, but warns that it “doesn’t make him my son.”

baby Tarzan (2)
Isn’t he so sweet and adorable?

 

Kala soothes baby Tarzan that evening with a lullaby, You’ll Be in My Heart, “this bond between us/can’t be broken.” “From this day on/now and forevermore.” As Tarzan grows, he struggles to find his own place in his world. Kala encourages him to find his own sound; which is how his famous yell comes to be. He doesn’t quite fit in with the gorillas, but he’s brave…and reckless. He causes an elephant stampede that crashes through the gorilla troop. Kerchak takes him to task, stating to Kala he will “never be one of us.” Tarzan splashes mud on himself in an effort to look like a gorilla, but Kala patiently points out he has two eyes, like her. And a nose, like her. Their hands are similar, but there are distinct differences. The most important thing is that they both have a heartbeat. During Son of Man, Tarzan uses his own flair to accomplish what other animals do, “someday you talk with pride/son of man, a man in time you’ll be.” We Tarzan tree surfingwitness Tarzan transform into an adult man. He figures out a spear – Kerchak doesn’t quite approve. His typical vine swinging comes about since he can’t keep up with gorillas on the ground; and new for this interpretation, Tarzan uses the moss-covered trees to glide on [I remember watching some clip on Disney channel of one of the artists being inspired by his own son’s skateboarding and that was how that bit was created].

An old enemy makes an appearance: Sabor attacks near the gorilla troop. Kerchak first tries to fight the leopard, but he stumbles after some swipes. Tarzan grabs his spear and jumps into the fray. Both combatants land strikes on each other. Tarzan loses the top of his spear and it seems like Sabor will be victorious; they fall into a pit and leopard is the first thing the gorillas see emerge. It’s followed by Tarzan, who holds the body aloft and lets out his cry. He then lays his defeated enemy before Kerchak and we can see that Kerchak is starting to respect Tarzan and he almost speaks, when a strange sound fills the air.

Kerchak leads his troop away, but Tarzan is curious. He investigates and comes across a shell, sniffing and tasting it (kids, do not try that at home; it’s also not the first time we the audience have seen a shell casing; there was a discarded rifle and shell in the treehouse when Kala discovers Tarzan and we even heard the muted echo of a gunshot). He eventually comes upon Jane, who got separated from her group: her professor father and Clayton, their hired protection (who seems too pleased with destroying the jungle). Jane had stopped to draw a picture of a baby baboon, but wouldn’t let the little monkey keep the picture. His cries bring his whole family of baboons who chase Jane. Tarzan swings to the rescue! Jane’s not terribly pleased at first, screeching several times. They eventually take shelter in a tree branch, the dispute with the baboons settled thanks to Tarzan. Tarzan is even more curious now; this creature in front of him resembles him. Jane, being a properly brought up British woman is appalled at her invasion of personal space, but becomes excited once Tarzan mimics her speech. Introductions are simple: Jane…Tarzan [brings back a memory of my dear French teacher who would harangue us to learn proper sentence structure because “you cannot always go around ‘You Tarzan, Me Jane.'”]

Meanwhile, Terk, Tantor, and their other gorilla friends stumble into the humans’ camp while looking for Tarzan and are utterly fascinated by all the sounds the strange things in camp (the teapot set is reminiscent of Mrs. Potts) and begin Trashin’ the Camp (the pop version is Phil Collins and N*SYNC; again, it was the nineties, we liked our boy bands). Tarzan and Jane arrive, breaking up the party. Jane’s amazed at Tarzan’s interaction with the gorillas. But Kerchak has found them and the animals leave. Leaving Jane to describe her rescue to her father and Clayton as: “I was saved by a flying wild man in a loincloth.”

Kerchak orders the gorillas to stay away from the strangers; Tarzan argues that they’re not dangerous, demanding why Kerchak is threatened by anything different. The leader’s final word on the matter is to “protect this family.” When Kala approaches her son, all he can do is dispiritedly ask “why didn’t you tell me there were creatures that look like me?” He begins sneaking off to the human camp to learn more about these Strangers Like Me. “I just know there is something bigger out there/I wanna know/ can you show me?/I wanna know about these strangers like me/tell me more/please show me/something’s familiar about these strangers like me.” Jane is thrilled to teach Tarzan, hoping it will foster a link to the gorillas she and her father are studying.

But the time comes that the boat has arrived to take them back to England. Jane wants Tarzan to come with them to London; he should be with his own kind. Clayton puts the idea in Tarzan’s head that if Jane sees the gorillas, she’ll stay. So Tarzan arranges for Terk and Tantor to distract Kerchak and introduces the Brits to his mother and the troop. Clayton marks the spot on his map and Kerchak thunders back into the nest. Tarzan holds off the leader to let the other humans run. Afterwards, he’s mortified of what he did, holding off Kerchak and the troop leader claims that the young man has betrayed them all.

Kala determines it is time to show Tarzan the truth, where she found him. Tarzan discovers his baby blanket, and a picture of his father, and mother. He comes out of the overgrown treehouse in presumably one of his father’s suits. All Kala has ever wanted for her son is for him to be happy. He bids her a tearful farewell, “no matter where I go, you will always be my mother;” Kala replies “and you will always be in my heart” and Tarzan proceeds to the beach and boards the ship for London. He walks into a trap. Clayton has staged a mutiny and he and his men are taking cages into the forest to capture Tarzan’s gorilla family “at 300 pounds sterling a head.” Terk is upset at Tarzan’s leaving, but Tantor hears Tarzan’s shout and drags the gorilla to rescue their friend. Clayton has locked Tarzan, Jane, and the others in the hold where Tarzan is frantically trying to escape; but he can’t climb metal in his shoes. Jane gets him to stop, stating that Clayton betrayed them. No, Tarzan betrayed his family, he responds. The ship rocks as Tantor heaves aboard, a well placed foot breaks through the hold and Tarzan is out and leaping overboard.

At the gorilla’s nest, Clayton and his men net and cage the gorillas, capturing Kala. Kerchak fights to protect his family and Clayton announces “I think this one will be better off stuffed!” As Clayton cocks his shotgun, Tarzan’s yell echoes, followed by a stampede of animals (they gathered as Tarzan ran through them, removing his human clothes). Tarzan kicks Clayton down and cuts Kerchak’s bonds. “You came back,” the leader remarks. “I came home,” the man corrects. He sets about freeing the rest of the gorillas, but Kala is already caged and on her way back to the boat. Jane spots her and swings to her rescue, her old baboon friends help, Tarzan arriving just in time to knock the last man out. A shot rings out, grazing Tarzan’s arm; Clayton has declared “I have some hunting to do.” Enraged, Kerchak charges the man; another shot, Kerchak drops. Tarzan checks on his leader and he too charges at Clayton. He dodges the bullets and leads Clayton higher into the trees. The gun is dropped at one point; Tarzan gets a hold of it and levels it at the hunter. “Go ahead, shoot…be a man,” the hunter dares. He flinches at Tarzan’s imitation of a gunshot, then Tarzan smashes the gun, declaring “not a man like you.” Incensed, Clayton starts hacking at Tarzan with his machete, Tarzan backs away, but starts flinging the vines at Clayton, tangling him. A short standoff, then Clayton is back, hacking at the vines, but not paying attention to the order. He creates his own noose, ignoring Tarzan’s warning, and drops. In the flickering shadows of the coming rainstorm, we see the outline of a now dead Clayton, his machete sticking up from the ground.

Tarzan checks on Kerchak, the other gorillas of the troop gathered around their leader. The man begs forgiveness; “no, forgive me,” the dying gorilla breathes, “for not understanding that you have always been one of us. Our family will look to you now….Take care of them, my son,” placing his larger hand on Tarzan’s shoulder. It falls as Kerchak closes his eyes; Tarzan gathers the large gorilla in his bulky arms, embracing the only father he ever knew. Looking to the rest of the troop, he takes his place, striking an intimidating gorilla pose, thumping his chest, and the rest of the gorillas follow him from Kerchak.

Jane and her father attempt to leave again, bidding farewell to Tarzan. Jane argues with her father that she belongs in London. “But you love him,” her father retorts. Her glove blows away and she makes up her mind, swimming back to shore. Her father soon follows and politely ignores his daughter kissing Tarzan. Two Worlds reprises, showing Tarzan’s new family, which includes Jane and Kala; Jane now in less obtrusive clothing. The movie closes on the echo of Tarzan’s yell.

While Tarzan is not a favorite of mine, I enjoy the characterizations and the music. It’s a fun soundtrack to listen to. Tarzan is a very good hero; he has both brains and brawn. I would argue that his mistakes that bring about the climax of the story are made out of innocence; he has never dealt with someone who is manipulative and deceitful. Who hasn’t gotten excited about something new and ignore the old for a while? While Kerchak was harsh, he was a leader of a troop of gorillas and saw Tarzan as an outsider and thus dangerous. (Though really, a baby? He was adorable and blew spit bubbles. It’s a bit like Jungle Book; even though Mowgli is young, he’ll grow into a man and man is dangerous…then one could get into the whole ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate…and I won’t).

Kala was a sweet mother and what would be gained from telling Tarzan that there were other creatures like him when they were dead and she was unaware new ones had come to the area. She had a little boy who was insecure enough as it was; she focused on what was similar, not what was different (a very good lesson, and not beaten over our heads like some other Disney parables). Jane…not my favorite Disney female, a little stuffy at first and a bit pompous, not letting the baby baboon have the drawing. But she’s smart and not afraid of hard work. She and Tarzan do make a good pair and I was happy that Tarzan chose to stay with his original family, and pleased that Jane chose to stay with him (because after the adventure she had, what else would compare? You are already fascinated with gorillas, now is your chance to study them full time).

Tarzan ending

There was a sequel in 2002, Tarzan and Jane, and a prequel, Tarzan II: The Legend Begins in 2005, along with a TV series, The Legend of Tarzan [and apparently a Broadway musical…no idea that existed]. I have not seen any of those films and I don’t recall the cartoon. Out of curiosity’s sake, I did watch the 2016 film The Legend of Tarzan, which involves the characters going back to Africa after being in England for several years. Being unfamiliar with the original book material, I was a bit confused by the film and it seemed to focus heavily on big action sequences. Though, the villain was stupid: he knows what Tarzan is like, so let’s piss him off.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Next Time: The Emperor’s New Groove